Sunday, January 31, 2010

“Turkeys voting for Christmas”

That's what the intellectual elite think of working class conservative voters. They think that voting Left is OBVIOUSLY in the best interests of the workers and cannot understand that the base of support for the GOP is mainly among the less affluent. They think that working class people are cutting their own throats by voting conservative. It's an old claim but an extended version of it has just appeared -- where else? -- on the BBC.

So what is the reason for this incredible folly among conservatives? Mental illness, emotional disturbance etc., of course. I can't be bothered to excerpt any of the nonsense this time. Suffice it to say that Drew Westen and Thomas Frank -- the usual suspects -- are trotted out to give their versions of the "explanation". How the BBC missed out on getting a comment from George Lakoff is the only mystery.

To give the author -- David Runciman -- his due he does point to the elitism and arrogance of the Democrats as a reason why ordinary people might not vote for them and he does reject the old but very extreme Hofstadter claim that it is all "paranoia". But, even, so, the explanation he gives is that conservatives are voting with their emotions and not their reason.

I am confident that in ten minutes I could give Runciman enough reasons for the rationality of conservatism to jar even him but why stray into politics when we are discussing political psychology -- which is my academic specialty? As some measure of how long Runciman's nonsense has been around my paper on the subject dates back to 1972! and it appeared in The British Journal of Political Science. So if Runciman -- who claims to be a political scientist -- were a competent scholar he would already be aware of it and would mention the evidence in it. But what Leftist is bothered about evidence?

What I found was that it was the working class conservatives who were "normal". It was the working class Leftists who were particularly rebellious and haters of the society in which they lived. That characterization of Leftist voters is of course not at all surprising but it does put the boot on the other foot for Runciman. It is the Leftist voters who are emotion-driven, not the conservatives. And my conclusions were based on carefully validated survey research using a representative general population sample, not the vague inferences of Thomas Frank, Drew Westen etc.

What a laugh they are!


Obama's contempt for ordinary Americans

DENOUNCING the Supreme Court's Jan. 21 ruling in the Citizens United campaign-finance case, President Obama called it "a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics" and "a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies, and the other powerful interests." He denounced it again in his State of the Union address last week, saying it would "open the floodgates for special interests" and adding: "I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests."

The Senate's top recipient of special-interest contributions is outraged by the Supreme Court's ruling. The president's rebuke was not without chutzpah. In his 2008 White House run, he became the first candidate in the modern era to reject public financing, thereby freeing himself to amass a staggering $745 million in campaign contributions. Much of this was "special interest money" -- according to the Center for Responsive Politics, Obama's record-breaking campaign haul included $43 million from lawyers and lobbyists, $19 million from donors connected to the health-care industry, $18 million from investment and commercial banking, $10 million from real estate interests, and $9 million from Hollywood and the television industry.

Obama isn't the only critic of the high court's decision whose outrage at the thought of corporate influence in political campaigns seems a trifle ... contrived. Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, condemned the court for having "predetermined the winners of next November's elections. It won't be Republicans. It won't be Democrats. It will be corporate America." Coming from Schumer, that's a curious complaint: He is the Senate's leading recipient of campaign contributions from political action committees and other donors in nearly two dozen industries, including real estate, construction, securities, liquor, insurance, and hedge funds.

Worse than hypocrisy, though, is the condescension for voters that underlies so much of the fury aimed at the Supreme Court's ruling.

Newsweek's Jonathan Alter wailed in alarm that "if Goldman Sachs wants to pay the entire cost of every congressional campaign in the US, the law of the land now allows it." (Actually, it doesn't: The decision left intact the ban on direct corporate donations to politicians.) Alan Colmes, the house liberal at Fox News, predicted a "corporate takeover over of America." Monica Youn of the Brennan Center for Justice, writing before the ruling was handed down, warned that if the justices deregulated corporate political speech "voters will be forced into a couch-potato role, mere viewers of the electoral spectacle bought and paid for by wealthy companies."

But voters are not mindless dolts. Campaign advertising doesn't turn them into automatons, blindly voting for whichever candidates "approve this message" the most. American politics is replete with candidates and campaigns that lost handily, notwithstanding the fortune spent on newspaper ads, radio spots, and TV commercials promoting them. The court's decision simply allows corporations, like countless other associations and groups, to have their say during election campaigns. It has no effect at all on the ability of voters to ignore what those corporations may choose to tell them.

You wouldn't know it from all the hyperventilating about dastardly corporate advertising, but Americans are perfectly capable of thinking for themselves. Why do so many smart people find that hard to accept? It's an old story. In 1958, John Kenneth Galbraith published The Affluent Society, a bestseller that argued among other things that big business had grown more powerful than the laws of supply and demand, since corporate advertising could always generate the demand needed to keep production high. As it happens, 1958 was also the year that the Ford Motor Company decided to pull the plug on the Edsel, the new car model it had introduced the previous fall with great fanfare and a vast ad budget -- but that American drivers steadfastly refused to buy.

Whether corporations will walk through the door the Supreme Court has now opened for them is not clear. Many corporations will doubtless avoid taking sides in heated election campaigns for fear of antagonizing their customers; others may decide that government-relations budgets are better spent on quiet lobbying than on open electioneering.

But even those that do choose to advertise during an election cycle will not make the mistake so many of the court's detractors are making. They know that Americans are not sheep, easily herded by means of clever commercials. If corporate advertising was irresistible, after all, we'd all be drinking New Coke.



Autocrats Of The World, Rejoice!

Why Obama's State of the Union has America's enemies smiling

In Beijing General Secretary Hu Jintao is sporting a big grin. Kim Jong Il is breaking out another case of his favorite Hennessy in North Korea. And in Tehran, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is celebrating in, well, the way that dour theocrats kick up their heels, however they manage to do that.

The cause for all this cheer? On Wednesday Barack Obama delivered his first State of the Union message, and although he surely did not intend to do so, he essentially let these villains--and others--know they can do whatever they want. The president unfortunately will not be doing much to stop them from destabilizing the international system--or even from threatening the United States.

America, whether it should be or not, is a nation at war. There are two obvious ones, Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as a general struggle against Islamic fanaticism taking place across the globe. Then there are especially consequential confrontations. Two nuclear rogues--North Korea and Iran--threaten to upend everything, while others--Syria comes to mind--wait in the wings.

Finally, to take another example from current headlines, there is a silent conflict waged every day against the United States, an unprecedented program of state-sponsored cyberattacks against defense, civilian and corporate networks. This hostile and never-ending campaign gives rise--or at least should give rise--to a state of emergency. Yes, I'm referring to the People's Republic of China.

Yet in a long oration the president devoted just nine minutes--out of 69--to discussing foreign policy and external threats. In that short time, he didn't provide much assurance when it came to Afghanistan and Iraq. He wasn't even particularly candid about how long American soldiers would be in the latter country. "As a candidate, I promised that I would end this war, and that is what I am doing as president," Obama said. "We will have all of our combat troops out of Iraq by the end of this August." Yet as Larry Johnson of the No Quarter blog pointed out on WABC's John Batchelor Show just after the address ended, American soldiers are slated to remain in the country for at least another year.

With regard to nuclear rogues, President Obama is trying to both keep fissile materials out of the hands of terrorists and rid the world of its most destructive arms. "These diplomatic efforts have also strengthened our hand in dealing with those nations that insist on violating international agreements in pursuit of nuclear weapons," he declared. "That's why North Korea now faces increased isolation and stronger sanctions--sanctions that are being vigorously enforced." Unfortunately that's not true: Beijing has, especially since last October, become a sanctions buster by ramping up material assistance to Pyongyang and facilitating its arms sales, now prohibited by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874.

What about the Islamic Republic of Iran? On the most urgent and critical question facing the world today, the American people--and people around the world--got 41 words in three sentences. "They, too, will face growing consequences," Obama said. "That is a promise." That's actually more an applause line; it's certainly not a policy, something we need.

And about the emerging hegemon that is mounting attacks against us each and every hour of each and every day? There was not one word on the most extensive and continuous attempt to intrude into our computers, disrupt electronic infrastructure and steal technology and information. The president had exactly two things to say about China: "There's no reason Europe or China should have the fastest trains or the new factories that manufacture clean energy products," followed by "Meanwhile, China is not waiting to revamp its economy."

Actually the Chinese are not reforming, restructuring or revamping their economy, though the U.S. should make better trains. Nonetheless we needed to hear more about the country that is supposed to replace the U.S. as the global superpower in 10 years' time, the nation his administration says is essential to the solution of every major global problem.

Maybe he thought we would not notice or would not care that he neglected China in the State of the Union. But Obama's failure to address the challenges posed by that nation and by others sends a chilling message to America's allies and friends. While the global community faces daunting tasks, Obama devoted almost all of his address to swaying a domestic audience and to scoring points against Republicans.

By doing so he told everyone beyond our borders that the U.S. was turning inward, becoming uninterested in their concerns. If the president intends to exercise global leadership or even participate in multilateral solutions, he did an excellent job in hiding his intentions. As Bill Roggio of the Long War Journal said Wednesday night on the Batchelor program, "The administration is treating these critical foreign policy issues as an annoyance."

So the world's worst leaders will see a big green light for their plans. That is the most important thing you need to know about President Obama's first State of the Union address.



Obama's fake freeze folly

President Obama made a big deal last week about his purported federal spending freeze, but not enough has been said about how meager the supposed savings actually are. Historical context shows that any savings from this public-relations gimmick will be tiny. Frugality, apparently, is a concept Democrats have a hard time understanding.

The Obama freeze is projected to "save" $15 billion from expected spending next year. This is not a cut of $15 billion in existing spending, but only a decision not to raise spending (to match inflation) on certain accounts. Those accounts supposedly are to be frozen for the following two years as well, but they are being frozen only after a decade-long spending orgy that included an 8.2 percent increase in domestic discretionary spending this year. And they don't apply to any new purported jobs bill or to any other new item on the president's priority list.

Now, let's consider the $15 billion itself. By most people's reckoning, that's a big number. By government reckoning, it's child's play. In 1995, for instance, Congress rescinded - took back - $18.9 billion that had been signed into law but not yet doled out. Whereas the Obama plan is a mere pledge not to let government grow by $15 billion in certain programs, the 1995 rescissions actually cut about $19 billion from existing programs. And that was back when the dollar was worth far more. That $18.9 billion then would be worth $26.6 billion today.

That amount was trimmed from a budget of about $1.5 trillion, making it a real, honest cut of 1.27 percent. The Obama freeze is from a much larger budget of about $3.6 trillion, meaning a paper "savings" of barely more than four-tenths of a single percent.

Look back again to 1995 and 1996. The 1995 rescissions, combined with further cuts in domestic discretionary spending in those two years, amounted to just shy of $50 billion of honest-to-goodness debt reduction - not from projected spending levels, but from prior spending levels. Using the president's version of accounting, that Republican Congress saved almost another $50 billion - or $100 billion total - from the projected growth in spending.

Yet the cuts didn't leave little old ladies freezing in the streets, didn't leave orphans without food or water and indeed had no noticeable ill effects. In fact, as Congress moved toward a balanced budget, the nation's economy boomed and, happily, the poverty rate fell. That era of progress came without government "stimulus" or "jobs" programs or bailouts or any other central-planning flapdoodle.

What the president is proposing now has the aspect of a toddler putting a single foot beyond the water's edge at the beach for the very first time and then proudly reporting to everybody that he "swam in the ocean." If he really wants to swim with the economic tide, Mr. Obama should learn from the 1990s that government is not the engine of prosperity and that when it comes to saving taxpayer money, boldness works far better than puny half-measures.



BrookesNews Update

How an American recession vindicated the Austrian School of economics : One thing is absolutely clear. America's political class and the economic commentariat have learnt precisely nothing from previous recessions. After each recession we get the same old thing: an incessant call for Keynesian nostrums, a cry for greater regulation, and the usual claim that greed-driven markets cause the boom and bust
The Australian Business Council gets it wrong on recessions : Wage rate flexibility can never stop unemployment rising once recession takes hold. From this we can see why implementing the Australian Business Council's scheme of linking wages to profitability in order to avert unemployment would have the unintended consequences of discrediting the argument for free labour markets"
Why mainstream economics is a dead end : There is no such thing as the economy which can be moved by the government and the central bank. It follows then that mainstream economists are engaging in a fiction which they are dressing up by means of various statistical artifacts like Gross Domestic Product. This results in government and its central bank policies that undermine the well-being of human beings
The Party of Abraham Lincoln v. the Democrats' hate machine : The final irony is that the vast majority of blacks have turned against the Party of emancipation and individual responsibility and now support the Party of slavery that imposes dependency and racist quotas. The same Democratic Party that tells them they cannot succeed on their own. A Party whose policies express its own deep-rooted belief that blacks are not good enough to intellectually compete with whites
What has Brown done for us? : A year ago today, Barack Obama was all too anxious to accept his victory and read deep meaning into it. Today, it appears like that is not even willing to acknowledge his incredible defeat of last night, let alone learn from this teachable moment. This is especially true as it relates to his legislative agenda
Democrats' interests are special too : The Supreme Court's decision in favour of free speech has enraged the Democrats. The are now railing against the intrusion of 'special interests'. What they really fear is that their advantage in funding from special interests will be eliminated by the Court's ruling
Scott Brown's win: Color me happy : Nancy, Harry and other political 'elites' have a terminal case of inside the beltway syndrome- also known as cognitive dissonance. They have bought into their own version of reality. A reality that doesn't allow for the possibility that their own narrow world view isn't the universally accepted view they believe it is
Obama's chump "change": "Brown's election was not as much an endorsement of him or his positions on the issues, as it was a furious and unequivocal repudiation of President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and their positions. Just look at the grassroots, conservative groundswell driving this 'throw the bums out' rejection of the Democratic juggernaut


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, January 30, 2010

Newspaperwoman Regrets Voting for Obama‏

By Jill Dorson

I am a registered Independent. I voted for Barack Obama. And for that, I am sorry. I'm not sorry for you. I'm sorry for me. Because I voted for Obama for me, not for you. I voted for hope and change and all the intangibles that Obama was peddling in the wake of the financial crisis, Sarah Palin, Sept. 11 and all the other ills that shook our country in the last decade. I wanted something new. Something different. What I got was, I suppose, exactly what I voted for - a spin doctor. And not a very good one at that.

Before John McCain unwittingly picked a tabloid-magazine cover girl for his running mate, I was leaning toward going Republican this time around. I did the second time Bush was on the ballot and I very nearly did the first time, too. But as soon as Palin climbed out of her igloo and onto the national scene, well, there was no turning back for me.

You see, I felt my choice was to risk McCain dropping dead and letting the world's most well-known hockey mom run this country, or to believe that Obama would surround himself with educated people and that he was smart enough to take their advice.

I was right. He is smart enough to seek counsel. I'm just outraged at the counsel he's seeking these days. Key financial leaders who are tax cheats come immediately to mind, but as the recent terror attack made clear to me, the idea that a president of the most powerful nation in the world could think it was OK to have a Homeland Security chief with such a loose grasp of what terrorism is and how it works is troubling.

I was right there laughing when George W. Bush struggled with the names of countries around the world early in his tenure. And while my knowledge of foreign policy is limited, I thought Bush's was lousy, too. But after Sept. 11, I saw a man with no charisma step up and fight for this country, its citizens and its freedom. Bush became a leader.

Seven years later, I am ashamed to say that I was blinded by charisma. Obama was so convincing that I stopped caring about what he knew and started getting caught up in the euphoria. Imagine having a president who came from a broken home, who had money troubles, who did grass-roots community service? A young father. The first black president. It pains me to admit I got caught up in the hoopla.

But McCain made it easy. He's a smart man, I don't doubt that. But between picking Palin, suggesting that the first debates be delayed and, well, picking Palin, he made it easy for Obama to win. As Election Day drew near, all Obama had to do was keep his mouth shut to win.

All that changed when the Obama campaign became the Obama administration. I was a small business owner during 2008 election and my business ultimately failed under the weight of a horrendous economy. I am not ashamed. I worked hard. But I believed that Obama would try to level the playing field between big business and small, between thieves and honest business people, between greed and moderation. Instead, he bailed out the most wicked and left the rest of us fail.

I watched with horror as Obama followed Bush's lead in bailing out banks, auto makers, insurance companies, all of those companies deemed "too big to fail." What does that mean? My small company got thrown under the bus and my savings were ravaged - perhaps Wall Street is using them for bonuses this year.

Not to mention President Obama is recklessly spending our country's future into oblivion.

It was clear after just 90 days what a mistake I'd made. My taxes have gone up and my quality of life has gone down. Hope has given way to disgust and I see now that change is simply a euphemism for "big government."

Like many others, my view is narrow. I vote for the candidate I think will be best for me. I often define myself as a fiscal conservative and a social liberal. But above all, I want to feel safe and I don't want to feel that I am being ripped off. I want a president who inspires me and cares about my contribution to the fabric of the country. I want a president with experience and savvy, a Commander in Chief who puts our country and its citizens first. I only hope the Republicans can find him the next time around.



Obama's psychopathic lies never stop

President Obama has been running his mouth a lot lately. Last week, he stabbed his lobbyist friends in the back and attacked his allies in Congress as if he were an outsider. Talking smack isn't boosting his low popularity though, even among his own erstwhile supporters.

During his State of the Union address, Mr. Obama attacked "lobbyists [who] game the system." When Diane Sawyer of ABC News asked him about shady deals used to try to get government health care passed, he threw the Democrat-run Congress under the bus: "Let's hold on a second, Diane. . . . I didn't make a bunch of deals. Right, there is a legislative process that is taking place in Congress and I am happy to own up to the fact that I have not changed Congress and how it operates the way I would have liked."

Mr. Obama's chutzpah is startling even by Washington standards. He must have forgotten about his deal with pharmaceutical companies that broke his promise to allow drug reimportation from Canada. The same goes for a recent deal to save unions $60 billion in taxes that other Americans with the same insurance plans would have to pay. The White House dispatched two aides - Jim Messina and Peter Rouse - to negotiate the notorious Cornhusker kickback deal with Sen. Ben Nelson, Nebraska Democrat, to get him to break his promise not to support any health care legislation that funded abortions. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel was directly involved in those negotiations too.

While Mr. Obama was bashing lobbyists during his State of the Union, his administration already had planned private briefings with powerful K Street lobbyists for the very next day. According to The Hill newspaper, the Obama Treasury Department invited lobbyists to "a series of conference calls with senior Obama administration officials to discuss key aspects of the State of the Union address."

Amber Lee Ettinger, whose racy YouTube video boosted Mr. Obama's campaign popularity, says she's disappointed with his broken promises. Comparing the president to a lying lover, the famous "Obama Girl" warns that when a boyfriend lies, "You kick him to the curb." Losing Teddy Kennedy's Senate seat didn't wake up Democrats to public outrage over their policies. Maybe losing "Obama Girl" will get their attention.



Racing towards a destination unknown

So it's full speed ahead, even if nobody knows where we're going. We can console ourselves that if we're lucky we might not get there. That's the main point of President Obama's eagerly awaited assessment of the State of the Union. He said, as all presidents do, that the state of the union is pretty good on his watch, considering that George W. Bush, his favorite bad boy, bequeathed a sad-sack union.

Mr. Obama now turns to jobs, jobs, jobs, and promises to do for job creation what he did for health care reform and what he's doing to protect us from terror catastrophe. Which may not be enough, but he's doing a bang-up job of protecting the rights of terrorists.

The president displayed an unusual array of friends and enemies. He lectured the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, six of whom were seated as a group on the front row, for their decision to uphold the First Amendment as it applies to corporations (which are comprised of individual citizens). No one can remember when a president ever breached manners and protocol in such a breathtaking way. When the president inaccurately asserted that the court had "reversed a century of law," Associate Justice Samuel Alito was captured on camera mouthing the words "not true," which is apparently the judicial way of saying "you lie!" But Mr. Obama is a onetime law professor and it's possible that his lecture was kindly intended to fill in the gaps of the legal knowledge of the learned justices seated before him. Professors are always eager to display what they know, even if what they know isn't so. We should give the president the benefit of the doubt, even if the stoic justices clearly did not.

Eric Holder, his attorney general also seated among house seats, appeared to be having a high old time, laughing and smiling and basking in the synthetic admiration that high government officials are accustomed to. Mr. Holder is the author of the remarkable decision to grant Miranda rights to the man who tried to celebrate Christmas by blowing up an airliner over Detroit. (Who says radical Muslims have no respect for the holidays of other people's religions?)

President Obama boasted of how much better he is at fighting terrorism than George W. was: "In the last year, hundreds of al Qaeda's fighters and affiliates, including many senior leaders, have been captured or killed, far more than in 2008." Since neither the Bush nor the Obama administration has published body counts (that's so Vietnam War), it's a claim that even the Associated Press concedes is impossible to verify.

What is easy to verify is how soft the Obama administration continues to be on terrorists. No waterboarding (not even when a grubby bewhiskered terrorist clearly needs a bath), no harsh questioning. No fair treating such a soldier of Allah like FDR was willing to treat a soldier of the Nazis or a Shinto warrior during World War II.

It's not fashionable in certain circles to notice this, but we can be sure the Obama treatment of terrorists is taken into account in other places. British intelligence officials say that over the past week an "unusually high number" of prospective evil-doers on the airlines' no-fly list have tried to board airliners bound for the United States. As a consequence, the London government has raised the assessment of the terror threat from "severe," which means an attack is reckoned "highly likely," to "critical," which means an attack is "imminent."

The London Daily Mirror quotes British security sources that an Egyptian man tried to board an American Airlines flight last weekend in London bound for Miami. The next day a Saudi man tried to board a United Airlines flight from London to Chicago. They were sent home.

All this is enough to give Americans nightmares, particularly when it's not at all clear that the high officials of the government are taking the threat as seriously as we expect them to. When Dennis Blair, the director of national intelligence, told Congress that it was a mistake that FBI field agents, and not specially trained interrogators (but not waterboarders), had questioned the Detroit bomber, he retreated later in the day to say his remarks were "misconstrued." Since so much Washington talk is electronically recorded now, government officials who blurt out inconvenient truths no longer have the luxury of saying they were "misquoted." Bureaucracy has become a dangerous game.



Kick out the RINOs

In an unprecedented move, the Republican National Committeeon Friday unanimously called onits chairman,Michael S. Steele, to "carefully screen" candidates for their adherence to conservative values before granting them RNC financial help. The resolution specifically calls on the national chairman to take into account the voting records and statements of all GOP candidates for evidence that they supportthe "core principles and positions" ofthe party's nationalplatform, widely regarded as a highly conservative document. "The brilliant part of the resolution is that it is tied to the party platform ... that has been thought out, debated and passed unanimously at our national convention," North Dakota GOP Chairman Gary Emineth told The Washington Times after he and his fellow RNC members passed the resolution.

There has been intense infighting for more than a month over the wording and the desirability of the resolution, even though it has no legally binding effect on Mr. Steele or on the chairmen of the GOP House and Senate campaign committees. But it does stipulate that candidates who fail the screening should not receive money and other campaign support from the RNC or its sister committees. The resolution also calls on Mr. Steele and leaders of the House and Senate GOP campaign committees to deny financial and other support support to "candidates who clearly do not support the core principles and positions" of the national platform as adopted atthe 2008 Republican National Convention.



Illinois, new Massachusetts setback for Obama?

If the Massachusetts special election was a kick in the shins for President Barack Obama, the political turmoil in Illinois, his home state, is a pain in the neck that never seems to go away. His former Senate seat, already stained by an ethics scandal, is a major takeover target for Republicans. So is the governor's office.

Going into Tuesday's Illinois primary, the first of the 2010 campaign season, Democrats are in disarray, with no political heavyweights in their lineup for the Senate seat that Obama gave up for the White House. Losing it would be a bigger personal embarrassment for the president than Republican Scott Brown's upset victory in Massachusetts, which took away the late Edward M. Kennedy's Senate seat.

The front-runner for the Democratic Senate nomination in Illinois, state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, describes Obama as his mentor. He is only 33 and hasn't served a full term in office, and his only previous experience was working for a family bank now in financial trouble. Mark Kirk, a five-term member of Congress who supports abortion rights and gun control, is by far the leading candidate for the GOP Senate nomination, but he has infuriated some conservative Tea Party activists.

Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn is in danger of losing in the primary because of his association with disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was expelled from office. Quinn twice ran as lieutenant governor on the same ticket as Blagojevich. He has also taken heat for proposing a tax increase to clean up the state's financial mess and for working with Obama to move terror suspects from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to an Illinois prison. His effort to cut costs by letting some nonviolent inmates out of prison turned out to include releasing violent offenders _ some of whom have been accused of serious new crimes.




Barack Bush: A remarkable table setting out how much of Obama's SOTU speech was a virtual recycling of things that GWB said. A great one to embarrass any far Leftists you know. Hilarious actually.

Latin America: After the left: "The left is in trouble in Latin America. Sebastián Piñera’s recent election as Chile’s first elected center-right president in decades owes much to the inability of the center-left coalition that governed Chile after 1990 to rejuvenate itself. Yet across Latin America there is, as the Washington Post’s Jackson Diel perceptively observes, a sense that the left’s decade of dominance is unraveling.”

Inflation — how the Fed picks your pocket and raids your bank account: "While foreign nations and investors use money that is already a part of the monetary system to buy their Treasury Securities, the Federal Reserve does not. They are allowed to create money in a means similar to the ‘Let there be light’ mode of Biblical fame. From nothing, comes dollars. Billions of them. Trillions of them. Though, in this era of electronic money transfer, it may be a good long time before these mystical, out of thin air dollars actually take the physical form of paper. However, physical dollars or not, the Federal Reserve, which made record breaking profits in 2009, ‘earns’ interest on those dollars it is Congressionally blessed with the ability to create. And, while engaged in this process of creating money and earning interest, the Federal Reserve is devaluing the cash you have in your pocket and reducing the worth of the money in your bank account.”

Killer of abortion doctor found guilty of murder: "An American man who said that he shot dead a well-known abortion doctor to save unborn babies was convicted last night of premeditated murder. The jury took 37 minutes to find Scott Roeder guilty of first-degree murder for shooting George Tiller in the head as he stood by a snack table at his church in May. Judge Warren Wilbert rejected a defence request to allow the jury to consider the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter, noting that abortion is legal." [The judge undoubtedly erred in allowing only two possible verdicts. This will almost certainly go to a retrial]


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)


Friday, January 29, 2010

What fun! HNN has just run a "special" denying that Fascism/Nazism was Leftist!

It is Jonah Goldberg's book that has got them steamed -- and steamed is the word. Most of the "critique" is little more than abuse, liberally leavened with unsupported assertions. What has got them steamed is that a recognition of the philosophical affinities between historical Fascism and modern "liberalism" has become rather widespread among conservative writers and broadcasters. The Left tried to ignore Jonah at first but now that the cat is out of the bag they are desperately trying to stuff it back in.

I note with some amusement that Jonah seems to be the sole villain as far as the HNN writers are concerned. I have been aware since my late teens (now more than 40 years ago) that Nazism was simply national socialism whereas Stalinism was international socialism so the information has always been there for anybody who cared to look. Additionally, my monograph on the subject much preceded Jonah's book. My monograph was was originally written in the '90s and was available on the net from around the year 2000. And I noted a growing awareness among conservative writers about the Leftist nature of Fascism well before Jonah's book came out two years ago. But Jonah is a much more energetic communicator than I am so he rightly deserves pride of place in the matter.

If interested in the "debate", you can start reading here. There are five "anti-Jonah" writers and Jonah responds here. Jonah notes that there is only one substantial historian -- Paxton -- among his critics and so concentrates his return-fire on Paxton's effusions. Although Paxton knows a lot about history, however, he has always been heavily biased. He has explicitly claimed, for instance, that Hitler was "anti-socialist".

I think Jonah demolishes Paxton pretty thoroughly so will not try to add much to Jonah's remarks. I think, however, that Jonah could have said more about the American Left (the "Progressives") of the prewar era. The similarity between the American Left and the Fascists in the prewar era was crystal clear and the Progressives were actually in some ways the progenitors of European Fascism.

A knowledge of that history would go a long way towards removing what is the big stumbling block these days towards recognizing the Fascism in modern Leftism. The stumbling block is that the Nazis were white-racists, nationalists and eugenicists while the modern Left are not. So comparing the current Left with the Nazis does seem to be missing the central point of it all. But the prewar American "Progressives" WERE white-racists, nationalists and eugenicists. White racism, nationalism and eugenics are no longer central political issues. They were simply the important political issues of the prewar era. They were not of the ESSENCE of Leftism or Nazism. But when they WERE big issues, the American "Progressives" and the Nazis were on the same side.

So what is the essence that Nazism and the modern Left share? Simple: A devotion to comprehensive control of everybody and every thing important in the life of the nation -- a hatred of individual liberty and a yen for lockstep unity behind the current doctrines of the party. Hitler controlled everything in Germany by laws and regulations and that is the always-obvious aim of the modern-day Democratic party too. They positively SPROUT regulations of just about everything that moves. Hitler eventually had a party representative in every factory to make sure that everything done there was politically correct. America has not got quite that far yet but I am sure the Democrats would love to get there, given half a chance.

The lead author in the attack on Jonah was David Neiwert, also known as Orcinus. I have crossed rhetorical swords with him before and my demolition of his arguments was sufficiently savage for Instapundit to remark at the time: "Remind me never to get this guy mad at me". So I am going to be a bit self indulgent and reproduce below what I wrote back then in late November 2004:

I am indebted to the mini-Chomsky himself, the great Brian Leiter, for a recommendation of a long article by Orcinus about the probability of America "going Fascist". Seeing Hitler was a socialist and Mussolini was a Marxist, you might think Orcinus is worried about arrogant trends in the Democratic party but, no, it is the GOP that he thinks is likely to "go Fascist". The Leftist origins of Fascism don't get a mention, in fact, so one knows immediately that the article will be low on scholarship. And its chief scholarly source for the nature of Fascism is in fact R.O. Paxton, the "historian" (much lauded in the N.Y. Times, of course) who said Hitler was an "antisocialist" -- when the very name of Hitler's political party was (translated) "The National Socialist German Worker's Party"! I think I have already at this early stage said enough about the article concerned to dismiss it for the claptrap it is but I cannot resist having a bit more fun with it.

The body of the article is in fact made up of what is actually a rather good proof of the idiocy of its conclusions. Orcinus quotes a long line of sources from the 1930s which offer all sorts of evidence for the claim that America was on the brink of going Fascist then. But it didn't happen! America did get the Mussolini-admiring FDR but thanks to the U.S. constitution and the U.S. Congress there were lots of limits placed on what he was allowed to do. So if America did not go Fascist during the Fascist era despite the many pressures towards it that Orcinus ably documents, how likely is it to go Fascist now, when Fascism is thoroughly discredited? The question answers itself, I think.

But let's have a look at a bit more weirdness. Take this Orwellian statement: "This tendency has finally metastacized into a genuinely dangerous situation, one in which the GOP has become host to a Stalinist movement that exhibits so many of the traits of fascism that the resemblance is now unmistakable." Quite aside from the fact that this great intellectual cannot even spell "metastasized", he is asking us to believe that the people who opposed Communism for decades and finally destroyed it utterly are themselves communists! I guess it's not impossible but seeing that the GOP and their Christian allies have always advocated the exact opposite of communism, the writer is clearly in cloud-cuckoo land. If you can say that free-enterprise=Stalinism, you might as well say black=white. I guess that a Leftist "postmodernist" would have no problem in doing exactly that, however.

More fun: Orcinus also looks for the day when "the attack style of politics -- in which the smearing an opponent substitutes for the lack of any substance or accomplishment -- has been relegated to the ashheap of history". Well. He got his wish. I think John Kerry has now been so relegated. Whoops! In true Leftist "projective" style, Orcinus was actually referring to the GOP rather than John Kerry, it seems!

Orcinus also deplores the way that "families, longtime friends, and communities are being torn apart by the divisive politics of resentment and accusation". He must be talking about all those guys documented at length on Leftists as Elitists! You could not conceivably get more resentment and accusation than is documented there.

Orcinus is a real humanitarian by Leftist standards, however. He ends up conceding: "Conservative-movement adherents are still human beings, and seeing them in terms of participating in a kind of fascism should not render them into mere discardable objects". He must have written that for the benefit of those of his colleagues who still admire Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot.


The arrogant and insulting Obama

In his SOTU speech, he talked like a petulant child that is not allowed to get its own way

One strong piece of evidence to support our surmise about President Obama's character is his apparently unprecedented upbraiding of the U.S. Supreme Court, six of whose members were seated immediately in front of him (Justices John Paul Stevens, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas were absent). The occasion of this highly unpresidential outburst was last week's First Amendment victory in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission:
With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests--including foreign corporations--to spend without limit in our elections. I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people. And I'd urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to correct some of these problems.

How can you tell when President Obama is lying? Justice Samuel Alito's lips move. The Associated Press reports that "Alito made a dismissive face and began shaking his head," and this YouTube clip shows Alito saying what looks to us to be "simply not true."

Even Linda Greenhouse, the ultraliberal former Supreme Court correspondent for the New York Times, admits that Alito was right:
The law that Congress enacted in the populist days of the early 20th century prohibited direct corporate contributions to political campaigns. That law was not at issue in the Citizens United case, and is still on the books. Rather, the court struck down a more complicated statute that barred corporations and unions from spending money directly from their treasuries--as opposed to their political action committees--on television advertising to urge a vote for or against a federal candidate in the period immediately before the election. It is true, though, that the majority wrote so broadly about corporate free speech rights as to call into question other limitations as well--although not necessarily the existing ban on direct contributions.

And if Obama has lost Linda Greenhouse, he's lost Middle America.

But the president's error--or lie--is worse than Greenhouse acknowledges. The laws whose provisions the court struck down, known as Taft-Hartley and McCain-Feingold, date back to 1947 and 2002, respectively. Greenhouse seems to understand him as claiming that the court had struck down a century-old law. But what he said was that the court had reversed a century of law. In the parlance of constitutional law--a subject Obama once taught--this means that the court undid its own precedent. And indeed the justices did reverse two earlier decisions, Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce and McConnell v. FEC, These cases, however, were less than 20 years old, having been decided in 1990 and 2003.

If the president of the United States is going to display his contempt for a coequal branch of government and the First Amendment, you'd think he could at least be troubled to get his facts straight.



"Time" magazine on Obama's SOTU speech

They are grinding their teeth about GOP confidence and Democrat demoralization

President Obama spoke the first 676 words of his State of the Union address on Wednesday night before the first hand clap. His tone was so somber, and the room's mood so grave, that no one moved when Obama said, "We must answer history's call." There were no ovations when he called for "Democrats and Republicans to work through our differences, to overcome the numbing weight of our problems." He got no love for saying, "The worst of the storm has passed."

By the time he announced that "we cut taxes for 8 million Americans paying for college," Obama was forced to go off script. "I thought I'd get some applause on that one," he said, looking over to the Republicans, who were sitting on their hands. There was some giggling, and some of them relented, offering the congressional version of a golf clap.

So it went all night for the President, who a year ago came before the same body to announce, "Now is the time to act boldly and wisely." That bold wisdom has, in the course of a year, been transformed into a much more qualified vision of something short of significant legislative failure. "To Democrats, I would remind you that we still have the largest majority in decades, and the people expect us to solve some problems, not run for the hills," he said.

While the Democrats at times seemed to be considering the exits, the Republicans in the crowd handled the event with a renewed sense of confidence. A few minutes before Obama arrived, Republican Representative Mike Pence, standing in Statuary Hall, explained that he had turned down a chance to run for the Senate so he could help lead Republicans back to power in the House. "This is a genuine, authentic, American movement," he said of the political winds that had won Republicans statewide races in New Jersey, Massachusetts and Virginia.

Inside the chamber, the GOP did away with the pranks and gimmicks they displayed the last time Obama addressed a joint session. Eschewing paper signs or rude interruptions, they seemed content to pass the time with the sort of cool confidence that accompanies a sense of ascendancy. House minority leader John Boehner, bronzed and cocky, kept making faces and spreading his hands in disbelief at Obama's applause lines.

When Obama spoke about creating jobs for small business, Boehner spread his hands and cocked his head as if to say, "So now you're getting it." When Obama congratulated himself for not raising income taxes by "a single dime," Boehner looked incredulous — as if to say, "Really, he wants credit for that?" When Obama asked "if anyone from either party has a better approach" to health care reform, Boehner shot out of his seat and raised his hand. He was not called on....

More here



Obama’s campaign finance rhetoric is misleading: "Actions will always speak louder than words. For instance, President Barack Obama preaching a minimal role for corporations in funding campaigns isn’t ethical when in fact he himself was a major recipient of corporate funds leading up to his presidential election in 2008. In fact, according to The Washington Examiner, ‘Obama’s $995,000 from employees and executives at investment bank giant Goldman Sachs is the most a politician has raised from a single company since the 2001 campaign finance reform law.’”

Obama to end NASA Constellation program: "When President Obama releases his budget on Monday, there will be a big hole where funding for NASA’s Constellation program used to be. Constellation is the umbrella program that includes the Ares rocket — the replacement for the aging space shuttles. A White House official confirmed Thursday that when next week’s budget is proposed, NASA will get an additional $5.9 billion over five years. Some of that money will be used to extend the life of the International Space Station to 2020. The official said it also will be used to entice companies to build private spacecraft to ferry astronauts to the space station after the space shuttle retires.”

Zogby Interactive: 53% Would Not Eliminate Senate's 60-Vote Cloture Rule: "A majority (53%) of U.S. adults does not support eliminating the U.S. Senate rule that requires 60 votes to close debate and bring a bill to the floor for a vote. Also, when asked which statement on cloture they most agree with, 50% felt the 60-vote rule insures broader support for legislation while 28% believed the rule was undemocratic. These results were part of a Zogby Interactive survey of 2,003 adults conducted from Jan. 15-18, 2010. The Senate cloture rule requiring 60 votes has been a key issue in the Democrats' efforts to pass healthcare reform. This poll was concluded one day before Scott Brown won the Massachusetts special election to fill the late Edward Kennedy's seat, lowering the Democratic majority from 60 to 59. Since the Senate and House of Representatives have passed differing healthcare reform bills, losing that seat becomes critical to the Democrats' ability to follow the usual procedure and pass a final bill produced by a House-Senate Conference Committee."

Crisis management: "One of the more confusing aspects of the great economic meltdown of 2008-09—even more confusing than collateralized debt obligations—has been the tortured logic of the blame game: the frantic effort, on the part of politicians and pundits, to demonize Wall Street, exonerate reckless government policies and restore the big-government ideals of John Maynard Keynes and the New Deal. George Melloan is having none of it—and, to judge by the Massachusetts poll result on Tuesday, neither are many voters.”

Honduras: Zelaya flies into exile: "Toppled Honduran President Manuel Zelaya emerged from months holed up in a Brazilian embassy compound and flew into exile on Wednesday, ending a months-long political crisis as a new elected president took office. Zelaya, ousted... last June, boarded a plane that took off for the Dominican Republic shortly after opposition leader Porfirio Lobo, elected in November, was sworn in as president.”

Publishing predictions: "One of the media transformations I expect to take place over the next 10 years, if not sooner, is that book publishing will become more blog-like — that is, micropublishing, the interest of the New York houses in putting out blockbusters, and the decline of the industry (and its retail counterpart) generally will lead to a proliferation of vanity presses that will, over time, lose their stigma. Publishing is still treated as if it ought to be a mass-market industry, but it has speedily been transforming into a niche-market industry. The idea that a book has to sell thousands of copies from a major house in order to be taken seriously is going to change. ”

Libertarianism and the British Conservative Party: "Mark Wallace on ConservativeHome argues that based upon British Social Attitudes Survey the people of this country are becoming increasingly libertarian. This would certainly be a welcome development, which if it were to continue would leave the Conservative Party in need of another rebranding.”


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)


Thursday, January 28, 2010

SOTU: The night of magical thinking

President Barack Obama's first State of the Union address answered the big question pundits were asking resoundingly. In the face of setbacks and growing opposition, in the face of the cap-and-trade energy bill being considered effectively dead, in the face of the loss of a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, in the face of increasing opposition to the health-insurance reform proposal that has yet to take final shape, would the president modulate his agenda to take account of a political climate that has changed radically since he took office a year ago, or would he double-down on the program of increasing the size, scope and responsibility of government?

He chose to double-down, to insist that the growing opposition to his programs is due not to serious concerns about the policies embodied in them, but in his failure to communicate effectively their constructiveness and loveliness. One might view this as admirable determination to stick by a program, or one might view it as stubbornness, defiance, even, dare we say it, a touch of arrogance.

Listening to this overlong speech Wednesday night that was remarkably flat in tone and pedestrian in delivery, one sensed a certain overarching sense of unreality. Almost all observers have considered cap-and-trade effectively dead, especially in the light of revelations about the likelihood that some of the data supporting the theory of climate change has been deliberately skewed, yet President Obama proclaimed utter fealty to it.

The health-insurance reforms his party has proposed were in trouble even before a Republican was elected to the Senate from Massachusetts, yet the president spent a good deal of time trying to make the case that, if we really understood how beneficial it would be, our doubts would melt away like yesterday's clouds.

An emphasis on trying to rejuvenate a flat economy and create more jobs was understandable, given polling data that shows these priorities are uppermost in the minds of most Americans. Yet the president, aside from one rhetorical flourish, showed little or no understanding of the notion that the only jobs that are sustainable over the long haul are those created in the private sector as a result of businesses that flourish and make profits.

All of the jobs he claimed were saved by last year's stimulus bill were public-sector jobs – police, firefighters, teachers, construction workers on government-financed infrastructure projects. But all those jobs depend on the government extracting money and resources from the private sector. If the private sector languishes or is flat, none of them can be sustained over the long haul. Is there any evidence that President Obama understands this?

His proposal on students repaying loans for college was especially telling. He proposed that loans be forgiven after 20 years for people in the private sector but only 10 years for those students who go to work for some government agency. An Obama economy looks like one in which government and those who work for it receive special treatment and favors, whereas those who create the wealth that government must seize to increase the public sector are to be looked upon with suspicion and punished with more taxes and increased regulation.

Such a vision may be inspiring to some, but it is profoundly unsustainable.



President Obama's Lexicon of Rhetorical Devices

President Obama's friends call him the smartest man ever to occupy the White House (a dubious claim in light of the fact that John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Quincy Adams, Abraham Lincoln and Woodrow Wilson all had better intellectual credentials or were far superior writers, or both). According to his supporters, his command of the English language is supposedly unparalleled (when using a teleprompter, presumably).

There's only one problem: Obama is addicted to utilizing language that he has carefully tailored or perverted to obfuscate the truth. In other words, he uses double talk on a routine basis. In order to understand what Obama truly tells us when he speaks to us, it is necessary to grab our Little Orphan Annie Decoder Ring and decipher precisely what he means when he uses his pet phrases. This, then, is a list of his favorite linguistic flourishes -- and just what he means when he uses them:

"Hope and change": Socialism at home, surrender abroad. Obama uses this talismanic formula when he wants to activate his base, which responds to it like a jukebox when you drop in a nickel.

"False choice": A very real choice Obama wants to pretend doesn't exist. He uses this when he puts on his "pragmatic administrator" mask. Instead of facing up to the reality that we sometimes have to choose between scientific advances and morality, or between civil liberties and national security, or between environmental regulations and economic development, Obama pretends he can solve these conflicts through some sort of Hegelian synthesis only he is wise enough to comprehend.

"Deficit reduction": Deficit increases. Obama suggests that he will cut the rate at which the deficit is growing -- something he has never actually achieved -- and acts as though this is actual deficit reduction. It's the equivalent of a woman spending $2,000 on her credit card, then informing her credit card company that though she won't pay off her debt, she'll only spend $1,500 next month.

"Let me be clear": Let me lie to you.

"Make no mistake": See "let me be clear."

"Unprecedented": When he's doing something beneficial for the American people, Obama claims he is the first to ever think of it; when he's doing something harmful, he seems to always find a precedent for it in FDR or LBJ.

"This isn't about me": This is completely about me.

"Hitting the reset button": Refusing to learn from the mistakes of the past and acting as though a fresh start requires utter naivete.

"Reaching out to the other side of the aisle": Totally rejecting all ideas from anyone outside the Obama-approved bubble. Then suggesting that subsequent political impasses are their fault, and that they ought to bend down and grab their ankles to establish a new tone in Washington.

"Failed policies of the past": Don't blame me! Blame Bush!

"Teachable moment": I screwed something up, now I'll brag about it.

"Tax cut": Redistribution of money from those who pay a disproportionate amount of taxes to those who pay none.

"Transparency": Deliberate opaqueness, hiding crucial facts from the American public.

"Accountability": Don't worry, I'll fire someone.

"Stimulus": Payoffs to friends.

"Shovel-ready jobs": Jobs that no one wants and that last for two months.

"Green jobs": Imaginary jobs.

"Saved or created": Old Obama language used to futz the numbers on jobs.

"Recovery": Continued economic stagnation.

"Jobs funded": Jobs Obama will take credit for, even though he has done nothing to either save or create.

"It won't happen overnight": It will never happen.

"Progress": Redistribution.

"Cynics": Anyone who doesn't believe in the Obama radical agenda. Obama uses this word to disparage his critics as angry and lacking in basic qualities of human kindness.

Watch for these phrases while marveling at Obama's supposed rhetorical brilliance. They shouldn't be taken at face value, because Obama isn't a master of pure artistry of the English language -- he's a master at manipulation above all.




I have just put up something on my Paralipomena blog about Finland, for anybody who takes an interest in that country. I have also recently put up a bit on my personal blog for anybody who takes an interest in that.

SOTU: I will micromanage your life: "It's so sad to watch the State of the Union. I’m reading his speech as he reads it nearly word for word on the teleprompters. The president makes endless promises while Congress sycophantically applauds. It’s as if he’s saying, “We’re the magic politicians and we can solve all your problems. I will cut that deficit that I inherited from President Bush but simultaneously cut taxes for all of you! I will give you a new jobs bill: green jobs, subsidized speedy trains, hand-outs for small business, tax credits for big business. And then Congress applauds itself for spending more of your money. But we already have an idea of what this will really do: enrich accountants and tax lawyers. We’ve seen it in those stimulus “tax cuts” he bragged about."

Hot air is hard to remember: "Authors, editors and speechwriters interviewed by The Associated Press agree President Obama is indeed a gifted and effective speechmaker," the AP reports from New York. There's just one problem: Even admirers have a hard time remembering what he actually says. Ted Widmer, who edited an anthology of political speeches for the Library of America, praised President Obama for his "masterful" style, but could not cite a specific line the president said. Similar observations were made by Jeff Shesol, David Frum and Harry C. McPherson, who wrote speeches for presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Lyndon Johnson, respectively. "The speech he made in Cairo--I remember the intelligence, the breadth and the reasonableness," McPherson says. "But I can't tell you--and this is one of the shortcomings of the kind of speech he makes--I can't quote anything, or cite anything, off the top of my head." [That was a characteristic of Hitler's speeches too. They sounded great as he gave them but not so good the morning after]

Indonesia mulls tearing down Obama statue: "Indonesian authorities said Monday they are considering a petition to tear down a statue of US President Barack Obama as a boy, only a month after the bronze was unveiled in Jakarta. The statue of "Little Barry" -- as Obama was known when he lived in the capital in the late 1960s -- stands in central Jakarta's Menteng Park, a short walk from the US president's former elementary school. Critics say the site should have been used to honour an Indonesian and 55,000 people have joined a page on social networking website Facebook calling for the statue to be removed.... Members of the "Take Down the Barack Obama Statue in Menteng Park" group on Facebook say Obama has done nothing for Indonesia."

Excellent! Haiti government gets only 1 cent of US aid dollar: "Less than a penny of each dollar the U.S. is spending on earthquake relief in Haiti is going in the form of cash to the Haitian government, according to an Associated Press review of relief efforts. Two weeks after President Obama announced an initial $100 million for Haiti earthquake relief, U.S. government spending on the disaster has nearly quadrupled to $379 million, the U.S. Agency for International Development announced Wednesday.”

Who will pay for new child care spending?: "Some parents will probably welcome the news of more subsidized child care. But they need to remember that their children are the ones who will end up paying for the billions that will be added to the ballooning national debt, which is set to explode over the next decade. Put in that perspective, parents and taxpayers need to ask: is another ‘investment’ in child care or preschool really worth it?”

Death and taxes: "According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 30 percent of the world’s population lacks regular access to medicines, with this figure rising to over 50 percent in the poorest parts of Asia and Africa. Governments have often blamed this on the price of medicines, and have responded with a number of market interventions such as price controls and compulsory licenses. However, our new research released this week shows that governments themselves are major contributors to the final retail price of medicines, through import tariffs and a range of domestic taxes. While such tariffs are gradually declining around the world, they are still as high as 15% – thereby acting as a tax on sick people. Other low-income countries such as Ghana and Bangladesh increase the cost of medicines with import duties of between 6% and 8% - self-defeating in countries with such high disease burdens. Some countries levy especially punitive tariffs on antibiotics, hampering the fight against infectious disease. The worst offenders are Nigeria (20%), Burundi (15%), Nepal (15%) and Congo (15%). In contrast, countries like Rwanda, Kenya, Gabon and Saudi Arabia have recently abolished import duties on medicines"

Tennis and luck: " Being an avid tennis fan, it has irked me that Woody Allen appears to believe that whether you win or lose a match is a matter of luck. That seems to have been his viewpoint in the movie he made a few years ago, appropriately titled Match Point. Although I find nearly every work of his intelligent and stimulating, I also consider this positions he appears to be driving home to his audiences quite mistaken. And watching the matches at the Australian Open, as I have been doing these last few days, and many of them at the U. S. Open, the French Open, Wimbledon, and the other tournaments I try to catch year after year suggest quite strongly that Woody is wrong about how tennis matches are won, at least the majority of the time... And never mind how destructive it can be for people to come to believe this idea, possibly leading them to give up on trying, on learning, on training and so forth since by the tenets of the thesis none of that matters, it is all an illusion."

Britain is no longer free: "It’s official — the UK is no longer a free country. Well, semi-official, because the judgement comes from the independent Heritage Foundation, based in Washington DC, which has been compiling its influential Index of Economic Freedom for a decade and a half. … Sure, we are better than North Korea, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Eritrea and Burma, which make up the tail end of the Index. But in any index of free countries, it is a bit galling to fall behind Chile. Galling, but certainly fair.”

Laffer: Obama’s “train wreck” ahead: "Arthur Laffer, creator of the Laffer Curve that showed how low tax rates boost economic growth, is warning anyone who will listen that the economy is headed for a ‘train wreck’ in 2011 that will make the current recession look tame by comparison. The famed economist, whose supply-side, tax-cutting policies enacted by President Reagan in 1981 put the economy on a record-breaking, 25-year economic trajectory of growth and prosperity, is telling Americans not to be lulled by sporadic signs of growth this year, because the economy is headed for a sharper decline next year when tax rates are expected to jump sharply, sending the economy into a new tailspin.”

Conservatives should praise even a small step in the right direction: "The instinctive Republican response (see, e.g., this RNC release) to President Obama’s call for a domestic discretionary spending freeze is to dismiss it as not serious — saying, oh, no, it’s not a real freeze because the baseline is high, and anyway he doesn’t mean it, and here’s what he said in the campaign, etc., etc. However true this indictment in its substantive particulars, it strikes me as politically misguided. Republicans, in a spirit of bipartisanship, should praise the president for beginning to come to his senses about too much government spending (and for acknowledging at the same time that national security spending can’t be frozen).”


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)


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Stupid British Leftist policies have been self-defeating

More equality is the declared British Leftist aim but after 12 years of Labour Party rule, social mobility has DECREASED. The major road out of a poor background for capable kids was the Grammar school system: Government schools run on private school lines that took only academically brighter kids. They were a great success but the Labour government has done its best to destroy them because they were "elitist". So you mostly have to be rich to get a good (private) education in Britain these days. Even a bright working class kid now has to go to a sink school which will teach him virtually nothing and ensure that he stays mired in the poverty he grew up in. So the latest Labour Party idea is to FORCE barely-educated kids into positions where they are unlikely to cope

The gulf between the richest and poorest in society is at its widest since the Second World War, an official report has found. The National Equality Panel, set up by ministers to investigate inequality, says there are “very large” differences in wealth between the classes. Britain is now one of the world’s most divided countries with children born into a wealthy family having far more advantages than those who are not. The report shows that, while gender and ethnic background are all factors in determining a child’s success, it is the social class into which they are born that is still most important.

The report is an embarrassment for the Government as it shows how the gap between rich and poor has failed to narrow under Labour. It will be seized upon by Harriet Harman, the Minister for Women and Equality, who commissioned it two years ago. She is pushing for equality legislation designed to give the working classes better career opportunities.

The report sets out big differences between the haves and have-nots. It says: “It matters more in Britain who your parents are than in many other countries.” It suggests that the “scale of differences in wealth, for instance, may imply that it is impossible to create a cohesive society.” The report finds:

* Parents of public school-educated sons can expect their children to be paid eight per cent more by their mid-20s than boys educated at state schools;

* At school poor British white boys are well below the national average by the time they are seven, deteriorating further after they are 11.

* Women are paid 21 per cent less than the national average, despite women into their 40s having better qualifications than men;

* Britain has one of the most unequal societies in the world, with income inequality ahead of Ireland, Japan, Spain, Canada, Germany and France. Inequality is worse in England than Wales and Scotland;

* A typical professional on the verge of retiring is worth nearly £1 million compared with just £59,000 for someone who is long-term unemployed.

* Poverty rates are among the worst in Europe, with only Italy, Spain and Greece faring worse.

* Average and below average White British children are less likely than those from minority ethnic groups to go on to higher education.

* More than half of children educated at private schools, andmore than 40 per cent of those with professional parents, go to thetop Russell group of universities.

* Two-thirds of those with professional parents receive firsts orupper seconds, but only half of those with unskilled parents.

The panel identifies a number of areas, ranging from education and pensions to taxes and neighbourhood renewal, where action is needed to tackle inequalities.

Theresa May, the Conservatives’ women and equalities spokesman, said: “It is unbelievable that Labour thinks it can claim to be the party of aspiration when its failure to tackle the causes of poverty has let down so many lives.”

Miss Harman said: “We have made progress over the last 13 years, especially in tackling poverty, and halted the rising growth of inequality that dates back to the 1980s. "But we will do more to increase social mobility and tackle the barriers that hold people back unfairly.”

Brendan Barber, the TUC’s general secretary, said that while inequality “took hold” in the 1980s “even in recent years the best that can be said is that it hasn't got any worse”. He added: “We have now tested to destruction the theory that wealth trickles down - it doesn't. Politicians of every party must meet the challenge set by this devastating analysis."

Neil Kinghan, director general of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: "The value of this report is how it pinpoints the combinations of circumstance that create the most acute instances of disadvantage: that as well as socio-economic class, race, gender, disability and other factors still matter very deeply."



Obama Donor Gets Sweetheart Real Estate Deal from Obama's man in Chicago

Donations to Obama rewarded by a million-dollar discount on the sale of a public property

Chicago real estate developer Thomas Bennett thought he had a deal in hand to purchase the old Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) building at 626 West Jackson, just blocks from Union Station. Bennett thought he was paying a fair price for the property as he had a written commitment from two tenants –SEIU and ACORN- to occupy office space in the building.

Bennett was dealing with Chicago Housing Authority Chairman Marty Nesbitt on the attempted purchased and put forth an offer of $9 million for the building.

But Bennett didn’t put forth the winning bid. A company called Sterling Bay properties had the top bid. Actually, top bid is not the proper description. Sterling Bay won with a $7.7 million bid, $1.3 million less than Bennett’s $9 million offer....

But later Bennett discovered Nesbitt also had another role: treasurer of the Obama Victory Fund. Sterling Bay made a substantial campaign contribution ($28,500) to the Obama Victory Fund within months of the deal closing in late December 07. This $28,500 donation was after about $16,000 worth of campaign donations by Sterling Bay principals (Scott Goodman, Andrew Gloor and Craig Golden) to various Obama campaign funds going back to his U.S. Senate bid in 2004.

Bennett was willing to move on, but something keeps nagging him about the deal. “I put in the highest bid…a credible deal…and I lost to a party with a track record of contribution to Obama’s campaign and Nesbitt has a track record of being Obama’s money guy,” Bennett said. “Look at how political fundraising has evolved. This appears to be a very corrupt quid pro quo involving campaign contributions.”



Defending the SCOTUS decision on Citizens United

Bad arguments have been proliferating in the wake of this week's Citizens United case, which struck down restrictions on political expenditures by corporations and unions. The opinion leaves in place limits on campaign donations, but frees up corporations and unions to spend as much as they like to disseminate political messages. Here is a rogue's gallery of the most common arguments I've heard against the holding, followed by brief explanations of their profound misguidedness.

1) This 5–4 decision is a blatant example of judicial activism, and conservatives are hypocritical for supporting it.
Judicial activism occurs when judges abandon constitutional or statutory meaning and impose their policy preferences instead. A decision that faithfully applies the First Amendment is not activism but rather a proper exercise of the judicial responsibility to keep Congress within its constitutional bounds. The government argued in Citizens United that it had the power to outlaw books and movies produced by unions and corporations, both non-profit and for-profit, if they included even a single line addressing an election or a political issue. Such blatant censorship of core political speech falls well within the text and original meaning of the First Amendment, which supported an open marketplace of ideas by declaring in broad terms that "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech." Contrast this with the paradigmatic examples of left-wing judicial activism, which have manufactured a host of "fundamental" rights without anything resembling such a clear textual basis.

2) Political expenditures are not "speech" and should not be protected under the First Amendment.
The force of this seductive argument evaporates upon the realization that spending money is an indispensable component of effective political speech, especially when it involves any audience above a trivial size. If the government could ban expenditures related to speech, it could easily circumvent the First Amendment simply by targeting the necessary funding underlying any communication. Imagine the New York Times being prohibited from paying for its writers, production, advertising, and distribution. Wonderful as this might sound in some of its particulars, you can see how the paper's right to free expression might be crimped. And so it goes for any person or group wishing to disseminate a political message through print or broadcast media, which is why the Court has properly subsumed the right to political expenditures within the right to free speech.

3) The protections of the Free Speech Clause properly apply only to individuals, not corporations.
Justice Scalia dispatched with this argument nicely in his concurring opinion by pointing out that the First Amendment has long been extended beyond isolated individuals to groups and associations whose members gather for a wide variety of purposes ranging from political to commercial. The Democratic party, the Sierra Club, and the New York Times aren't individuals, but their speech nonetheless falls under the umbrella of First Amendment protection. But the formalistic obsession with whether a corporation should have the legal status of a "person" with a "right" to free speech quite misses the substantive issues at stake, which concern how the principle of free expression should be applied to the political speech of certain types of social groups. In particular, is there something uniquely harmful and/or unworthy of protection about political messages that come from corporations and unions, as opposed to, say, rich individuals, persuasive writers, or charismatic demagogues? Which brings us to our next point:

4) A deluge of corporate and union speech will corrupt the democratic process.
The very idea that political speech in an open democracy can be "corrupting" rests on fundamentally illiberal assumptions about individuals' capacity for reasoned deliberation and self-government. The First Amendment was designed to allow all speakers to put their messages out into the public debate, be they rich or poor, vicious or virtuous. The underlying principle is that over the long run, a society of free individuals is best equipped to evaluate the merits of political arguments for themselves, and that a distrustful government cannot ban speech out of the worry that its citizens will be unduly swayed by it. Rich individuals and talented polemicists have always been permitted to put out quantities and qualities of speech that may exert a disproportionate influence on society, but political opponents and voters have always been trusted to evaluate these speakers' arguments for themselves, respond with counter-arguments, and ultimately make up their own minds about the truth of any matter of controversy. Especially with the explosion of diverse viewpoints and avenues of expression that have come from the Internet media revolution, it simply defies common sense to think that any corporation or union could ever hope to so overwhelm the political debate as to prevent dissenting voices from being heard and reasonably contemplated by the electorate. Of course, this freewheeling political dialogue may be messy, imperfect, and prone to abuses, but the First Amendment makes it constitutionally preferable to censorship targeted at disfavored groups.

5) This decision will radically increase powerful corporate influence in politics, compared to the status quo.
History and economics together suggest that powerful corporate interests operating under an extensive regulatory state will always find a way exert a strong influence in politics. Up until now, campaign-finance regulations have had two ugly impacts: First, they have imposed huge legal costs on those wishing to participate in the political process, effectively shutting out smaller voices who cannot afford to pay campaign lawyers and risk legal trouble in getting their messages across. Loosening legal restrictions on smaller businesses will now allow them to enter the marketplace of political ideas on a more equal footing with their larger competitors. Second, campaign-expenditure limits have driven corporate money away from public dialogue and into channels that have been more corrosive and less transparent (think lobbyists, lawsuits, and regulatory capture). While these more pernicious forms of corporate influence are not likely to disappear any time soon, they may be mitigated to the extent that corporations can now pursue their policy objectives through a more open, deliberative process.

6) Corporate political expenditures violate shareholders' rights to withhold funds from messages they disagree with.
Two problems here. First, like members of any free association, shareholders have an absolute and easy-to-exercise right to exit from any corporation — in this instance, by simply selling their shares and relocating their investments. It is true that mutual funds and retirement accounts can complicate things, but shareholders maintain the ultimate legal right of control over their assets, including initial investment decisions. In any event, the level of "message subsidy" involved in most of these cases will be so diffuse as to be negligible, especially when compared to government policies and messages that taxpayers must fund despite strong disagreement. Second, corporations commonly disseminate non-political messages and make corporate decisions, including charitable donations, that might strongly offend shareholders. This is tolerated as part of the trade-off inherent in the structure of corporate governance, wherein shareholders voluntarily surrender control of their companies' day-to-day operations in exchange for the efficiencies of corporate decision-making.

7) This decision will harm Republicans by rallying public opinion in favor of populist-progressive reform and against the "conservative" Supreme Court majority that decided the case.
While four members of the Citizens United majority might fairly be called conservatives, the actual author of the opinion was Justice Kennedy, who defies easy political categorization. In the past few years, he has been repeatedly toasted in liberal circles for penning such sweeping decisions as Lawrence v. Texas and Kennedy v. Louisiana, declaring a constitutional right to sodomy and forbidding the death penalty for non-homicidal child rape, respectively. At the very least, those opinions give him some credibility as an independent voice. But perhaps more importantly, a recent Gallup poll shows that a majority of the public actually agrees with the Court that corporations and unions should be treated just like individuals in terms of their political-expenditure rights, and that the government should not attempt to protect its citizens from hearing seductive messages put out by sinister, powerful interests.




Taxpayers should demand a permanent ban on funding to ethically-challenged Acorn: "If you think Congress stripped all federal funding from the ethically-challenged group ACORN, think again. Though it voted to ban federal funding for ACORN — aka the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now — this September, funding for the disgraced group could resume whenever Congress stops renewing the continuing resolution containing the funding ban. What’s more, ACORN could receive a windfall should the cap-and-trade legislation now making its way through the Senate eventually become law. In June, the U.S. House passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act — better known as Waxman-Markey for its Democratic sponsors, Henry Waxman of California and Ed Markey of Massachusetts — ostensibly to alleviate global warming by mandating an 83 percent reduction in U.S. carbon emissions by 2050. A similar bill, introduced in the Senate by Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and John Kerry (D-MA), has been approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Buried in both bills are provisions that would allocate vast amounts of federal money to community development organizations such as ACORN."

US suspends aid to Kenya’s education ministry (rather amazingly): "A U.S. diplomat says the U.S. has suspended a five-year plan to fund Kenya’s education programs because of corruption allegations. The U.S. made the decision based on claims late last year that Education Ministry officials misappropriated $1.3 million of Kenyan government and donor funds to finance the country’s much-lauded free primary school education program, U.S. Ambassador Michael Ranneberger told a luncheon of the American Chamber of Commerce in Kenya.” [After decades of sending billions to line the pockets of corrupt African government officials, they're stopping now?]

US redefines antiterrorism strategy for Yemen: "The terrorism incubator in Yemen, birthplace of the Christmas Day airliner attack, is forcing the United States and allies to pour millions of dollars into a shaky government that officials suspect won’t spend the money wisely and isn’t fully committed to the battle against al-Qaida. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other world leaders meet in London on Wednesday to hash out a plan.”

A more highly educated military now: "The number of new recruits who hold bachelor’s degrees jumped by nearly 17 percent last year, from about 5,400 in 2008 to more than 6,400 for the armed services, Pentagon statistics show. The number of enlistees with associate’s degrees from community colleges also increased, though more modestly, from roughly 2,380 to just over 2,570. The number of recruits with four- and two-year degrees represents 5.2 percent of the total 2009 military recruitment of 168,000. They are part of a strong recruitment year fueled by high unemployment, particularly when compared with two years ago, when the Pentagon struggled to fill its ranks despite offering five-figure enlistment bonuses and granting waivers to recruits who failed to meet its standards.”

Income angst? Not for public sector: "Last month, the US economy shed another 85,000 jobs. It marked a miserable end to a calamitous year in which an estimated 4.2 million American jobs were liquidated, and unemployment rose to 10 percent. In addition, more than 920,000 ‘discouraged workers’ left the labor force entirely, having given up on finding work and therefore not included in official unemployment data. Meanwhile, millions of Americans who do have jobs have been compelled to work part-time or at reduced wages; many others have not seen a raise in years. But not everyone is having a rotten recession. Since December 2007, when the current downturn began, the ranks of federal employees earning $100,000 and up has skyrocketed.”

Obama’s bank-busting regulation full of bugs: "President Obama’s proposal on Thursday to bring back 1930s-era separation of commercial and investment banking would do little to prevent the problem of financial institutions being too big to fail. What it would do is hurt economic recovery, reduce types of financing available to businesses big and small and give European and Asian financial services firms a huge competitive advantage over their U.S. counterparts.”


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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)