Saturday, March 24, 2012

Is America run by psychopaths?

The writer below used the more "correct" term "sociopath" but I prefer the older term "psychopath" because I believe that the psychopath really does have something missing in his brain. In one of my academic papers on the subject, however, I pointed out that the attribute almost certainly exists on a continuum from mildly psychopathic to criminally psychopathic and that most psychopaths ("sub-clinical" psychopaths) manage to get by without falling foul of the criminal justice or mental health systems.

Knowing psychopathy as I do, however, it seems clear to me that both Bill Clinton and Obama are sub-clinical psychopaths and other Leftist leaders are too. I look at that in detail here.

The writer below, however believes that psychopathehy is a much more dominant influence in society than that. I fear that he may be right. The way the Obama administration picks and chooses which laws (including constitutional ones) it will obey (e.g. here) is not only of concern in itsef but is also of concern in that people mostly seem to accept such behavior

In this article, I'm going to argue that the US government, in particular, is being overrun by the wrong kind of person. It's a trend that's been in motion for many years but has now reached a point of no return. In other words, a type of moral rot has become so prevalent that it's institutional in nature. There is not going to be, therefore, any serious change in the direction in which the US is headed until a genuine crisis topples the existing order. Until then, the trend will accelerate.

The reason is that a certain class of people – sociopaths – are now fully in control of major American institutions. Their beliefs and attitudes are insinuated throughout the economic, political, intellectual and psychological/spiritual fabric of the US.

What the ascendancy of sociopaths means isn't an academic question. Throughout history, the question has been a matter of life and death. That's one reason America grew; every American (or any ex-colonial) has forebears who confronted the issue and decided to uproot themselves to go somewhere with better prospects. The losers were those who delayed thinking about the question until the last minute.

I have often described myself, and those I prefer to associate with, as gamma rats. You may recall the ethologist's characterization of the social interaction of rats as being between a few alpha rats and many beta rats, the alpha rats being dominant and the beta rats submissive. In addition, a small percentage are gamma rats that stake out prime territory and mates, like the alphas, but are not interested in dominating the betas. The people most inclined to leave for the wide world outside and seek fortune elsewhere are typically gamma personalities.

You may be thinking that what happened in places like Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, Mao's China, Pol Pot's Cambodia and scores of other countries in recent history could not, for some reason, happen in the US. Actually, there's no reason it won't at this point. All the institutions that made America exceptional – including a belief in capitalism, individualism, self-reliance and the restraints of the Constitution – are now only historical artifacts.

On the other hand, the distribution of sociopaths is completely uniform across both space and time. Per capita, there were no more evil people in Stalin's Russia, Hitler's Germany, Mao's China, Amin's Uganda, Ceausescu's Romania or Pol Pot's Cambodia than there are today in the US. All you need is favorable conditions for them to bloom, much as mushrooms do after a rainstorm.

Conditions for them in the US are becoming quite favorable. Have you ever wondered where the 50,000 people employed by the TSA to inspect and degrade you came from? Most of them are middle-aged. Did they have jobs before they started doing something that any normal person would consider demeaning? Most did, but they were attracted to – not repelled by – a job where they wear a costume and abuse their fellow citizens all day.

Few of them can imagine that they're shepherding in a police state as they play their roles in security theater. (A reinforced door on the pilots' cabin is probably all that's actually needed, although the most effective solution would be to hold each airline responsible for its own security and for the harm done if it fails to protect passengers and third parties.) But the 50,000 newly employed are exactly the same type of people who joined the Gestapo – eager to help in the project of controlling everyone. Nobody was drafted into the Gestapo.

What's going on here is an instance of Pareto's Law. That's the 80-20 rule that tells us, for example, that 80% of your sales come from 20% of your salesmen or that 20% of the population are responsible for 80% of the crime.

As I see it, 80% of people are basically decent; their basic instincts are to live by the Boy Scout virtues. 20% of people, however, are what you might call potential trouble sources, inclined toward doing the wrong thing when the opportunity presents itself. They might now be shoe clerks, mailmen or waitresses – they seem perfectly benign in normal times. They play baseball on weekends and pet the family dog. However, given the chance, they will sign up for the Gestapo, the Stasi, the KGB, the TSA, Homeland Security or whatever. Many are well intentioned but likely to favor force as the solution to any problem.

But it doesn't end there, because 20% of that 20% are really bad actors. They are drawn to government and other positions where they can work their will on other people and, because they're enthusiastic about government, they rise to leadership positions. They remake the culture of the organizations they run in their own image. Gradually, non-sociopaths can no longer stand being there. They leave. Soon the whole barrel is full of bad apples. That's what's happening today in the US.

It's a pity that Bush, when he was in office, made such a big deal of evil. He discredited the concept. He made Boobus americanus think it only existed in a distant axis, in places like North Korea, Iraq and Iran – which were and still are irrelevant backwaters and arbitrarily chosen enemies. Bush trivialized the concept of evil and made it seem banal because he was such a fool. All the while real evil, very immediate and powerful, was growing right around him, and he lacked the awareness to see he was fertilizing it by turning the US into a national security state after 9/11.

Now, I believe, it's out of control. The US is already in a truly major depression and on the edge of financial chaos and a currency meltdown. The sociopaths in government will react by redoubling the pace toward a police state domestically and starting a major war abroad. To me, this is completely predictable. It's what sociopaths do.

Sociopaths completely lack a conscience or any capacity for real regret about hurting people. Although they pretend the opposite.
Sociopaths put their own desires and wants on a totally different level from those of other people. Their wants are incommensurate. They truly believe their ends justify their means. Although they pretend the opposite.

Sociopaths consider themselves superior to everyone else, because they aren't burdened by the emotions and ethics others have – they're above all that. They're arrogant. Although they pretend the opposite.

The fact that they're chronic, extremely convincing and even enthusiastic liars, who often believe their own lies, means they aren't easy to spot, because normal people naturally assume another person is telling the truth. They rarely have handlebar mustaches or chortle like Snidely Whiplash. Instead, they cultivate a social veneer or a mask of sanity that diverts suspicion. You can rely on them to be "politically correct" in public. How could a congressman or senator who avidly supports charities possibly be a bad guy? They're expert at using facades to disguise reality, and they feel no guilt about it.

Political elites are primarily, and sometimes exclusively, composed of sociopaths. It's not just that they aren't normal human beings. They're barely even human, a separate subspecies, differentiated by their psychological qualities. A normal human can mate with them spiritually and psychologically about as fruitfully as a modern human could mate physically with a Neanderthal; it can be done, but the results won't be good.

It's a serious problem when a society becomes highly politicized, as is now the case in the US and Europe. In normal times, a sociopath stays under the radar. Perhaps he'll commit a common crime when he thinks he can get away with it, but social mores keep him reined in. However, once the government changes its emphasis from protecting citizens from force to initiating force with laws and taxes, those social mores break down. Peer pressure, social approbation and moral opprobrium, the forces that keep a healthy society orderly, are replaced by regulations enforced by cops and funded by taxes. Sociopaths sense this, start coming out of the woodwork and are drawn to the State and its bureaucracies and regulatory agencies, where they can get licensed and paid to do what they've always wanted to do.

It's nonsensical to blather about the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave when reality TV and Walmart riots are much closer to the truth. The majority of Americans are, of course, where the rot originates – the presidential candidates are spending millions taking their pulse in surveys and polls and then regurgitating to them what they seem to want to hear. Once a country buys into the idea that an above-average, privileged lifestyle is everyone's minimum due, when the fortunate few can lobby for special deals to rake something off the table as they squeeze wealth out of others by force, that country is on the decline. Lobbying and taxation rather than production and innovation have never been able to sustain prosperity. The wealth being squeezed took centuries to produce, but it is not inexhaustible.

With sociopaths in charge, we could very well see the Milgram experiment reenacted on a national scale. In the experiment, you may recall, researchers asked members of the public to torture subjects (who, unbeknownst to the people being recruited, were paid actors) with electric shocks, all the way up to what they believed were lethal doses. Most of them did as asked, after being assured that it was "all right" and "necessary" by men in authority. The men in authority today are mostly sociopaths.



The Executive Order Controversy

On Friday, 3/16/2012, President Obama issued an executive order called "National Defense Resources Preparedness" (NDRP), posting it on the White House's official website. Almost immediately, the blogosphere exploded with the news. Citizens began calling their TV stations, radio stations, and newspapers, demanding coverage. At the time of this writing, the furor has yet to abate.

The NDRP traces its origin to the Defense Production Act (DPA) of 1950, which attempted to establish a framework for placing the nation on a "war footing" as quickly and in as efficient a manner as possible should events warrant. In an age of highly industrialized warfare, the basic building blocks of military success are composed of mundane elements such as supply chains, resource availability, parts, access to raw materials, and skilled labor.

Over the years, the DPA has seen many revisions, and the executive orders issued to implement those revisions presupposed an imminent threat of war. In 1994, then-President Clinton issued Executive Order 12919, which expanded the provisions of the DPA rather dramatically, declaring its applicability to peacetime.

The Executive order issued by Obama on 3/16 is largely a restatement of the 1994 Clinton order with a few functional changes. It moves the authority for implementing the provisions of the DPA from the director of FEMA to the Department of Homeland Security, which did not exist at the time of Clinton's presidency. There have been pedestrian additions of renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, to the purview of the secretary of energy (as well as a curiously specific redefinition of bottled water as a "food resource" rather than a water resource), but nothing is particularly out of step with the order Obama's EO supersedes.

So what is the problem? Well, considering that the authority of the DPA has never been meaningfully exercised, and that the pre-emption of authority claimed by the Clinton-era EO 12919 has been similarly dormant, why would the Obama administration choose this particular time to update an obscure and unused authority? It is this question many believe must be asked and answered, and sooner rather than later.

In an attempt to provide that answer, allow me to don an appropriately stylish tinfoil hat before I present a plausible scenario.

1) In early March 2012, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told the Senate Armed Services Committee that it is the position of this administration that international organizations such as NATO or the United Nations have at least as much, if not more authority to deploy U.S. troops, with or without congressional notice or permission.

2) A week later, the NAACP petitioned the U.N. Human Rights Council to involve themselves in our election process -- specifically our November presidential election, in order to monitor the vote for instances of voter suppression. It is the fantasy of the NAACP that laws requiring presentation of a photo ID to cast a ballot are in actuality thinly veiled efforts to keep the poor, elderly, and non-white populations from voting, presumably for Obama.

3) Attorney General Eric Holder has spent his tenure creating a hair-trigger system of race-conscious prosecutions, most notably in reference to cases involving voter fraud. His previous employee, J. Christian Adams, has built a second career from simply exposing the injustice of Holder's Department of Justice.

4) Most recently, Holder struck another blow against the concept of verifiable voting by forestalling Texas's proposed Voter ID law, saying it "goes against the arc of history." Aside from the attorney general basing his decisions on perceived "historical arcs" rather than clear and established law, the end result is the same: the creation of an air of uncertainty surrounding the upcoming election.

Now (as I adjust my tinfoil hat to a jauntier angle), let me tie these points together.

By employing repetitive reporting of "uncertainty about the reliability of the presidential election tally" by the major media, compounded by expressions of the same uncertainty by administration officials, the left could install that narrative amongst the segments of the population that pay little or no attention to the day-to-day practice of politics.

Could the NAACP then, with support from the Department of Justice and the administration, make the case to the U.N. that the election was in fact tainted, and subsequently persuade the member nations of the U.N. to declare the election invalid? It is possible, and such a declaration is certain to bring chaos to the streets of every major city in our country, as well as a great deal of smaller ones. To restore order, the president might need to deploy troops. Should the Congress resist the move, the administration might simply appeal to the U.N., which could request/order the deployment of troops by a willing and complicit Secretary Panetta.

And of course, President Obama would simply continue in office, for the sake of stability, until this could all be sorted out.

Perhaps it now makes sense for the administration to have updated an unused executive order, preparing their legal argument and framework for the imposition of peacetime martial law. Liberty, once lost, is seldom regained.

Yes, it is far-fetched, but it is also distressingly possible. The sad fact in America today is that we have a president so disdainful of our foundational law and freedoms as to make the far-fetched seem queasily reasonable.

The timing of this executive order is jarring, even if the specific changes to the order are not. The power it conveys is staggering and cannot be safely entrusted to a single branch of government, much less to a single man. The Congress needs to reassert control over the exercise and implementation of the Defense Production Act before it can be utilized by a power-hungry cabal of leftists eager to fundamentally transform America. There is a door no one has locked, and our home is not secure. Close the door, lock it, and throw away that key.




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Friday, March 23, 2012

Another desperate coverup by the media

I doubt that the article below -- dated Mar. 20th. -- will stay up for long so I am pleased to reproduce exactly below its headline and opening comments. As far as I know ALL killings of Jews in recent years have been by Muslims but that must be ignored and blame must be deflected onto Nazis, who are an insignificant minority these days. We now know of course that the Toulouse killer was indeed a Muslim
French hunt school killer, suspect neo-Nazi ties

TOULOUSE, France (AP) — Police searched southern France on Tuesday for an expert gunman suspected of fatally shooting seven people in the head at close range in attacks that may have been motivated by neo-Nazi ties or grudges against minorities.

The shooter is suspected of carrying out three deadly attacks: leaving four people dead on Monday at a Jewish school in Toulouse, three of them young children; killing two French paratroopers and seriously wounding another last Thursday in nearby Montauban; and fatally shooting another paratrooper in Toulouse on March 11.

All the victims in the school attack were Jewish with duel French-Israeli citizenship, and the paratroopers were of North African or French Caribbean origin. The shots were fired at such close range that the gunfire burned the skin, prosecutor Francois Molins said Tuesday.

"We are confronted with an individual extremely determined in his actions, an armed individual who acts always with the same modus operandi," he said, "in cold blood ... with premeditated actions."

He added the crimes appear to be premeditated due to the killer's "choices of victims and the choices of his targets" — the army, the foreign origin of the victims or their religion.



The True Perpetrators of the Antisemitic Attacks in Toulouse

Jew-hatred is back with a vengerance -- and not only among Muslims

by Barry Rubin

What a tragic, evil joke. A drive-by shooter in the beautiful, almost magical, city of Toulouse, France, murders three Jewish children and a teacher in front of their school. Various VIPs issue statements about how terrible is this deed, how unspeakable.

And yet at that very moment, the next round of murders, the next slanderous and inciting antisemitic lies, are being perpetrated by respectable people and institutions. There is no real soul-searching, no true effort to do better, no serious examination about how the anti-Israel and anti-Jewish hysteria is paving the way for murder and fueling dreams of genocide.

The street thugs, fanatics drunk on the interpretations of Islam they are being fed, and the mentally twisted may be pulling the trigger but the distinguished, the powerful, and the honored are providing the ammunition.

Here are three examples of such deeds in nominally democratic countries — not Iran, not Syria, not Pakistan, where such things are even more intense — but in supposedly rational places.

1. The Turkish Editor

Meet Mahir Zeynalov, an editor at Today’s Zaman, a Turkish Islamic newspaper that is supposedly moderate. Meet the modern art of tweeting. Here is Zeynalov’s response to the murders:

"Mahir Zeynalov ‏ @MahirZeynalov: Gunmen attack Jewish school in France, vandals attack Jewish cemetery in Poland, Jews burn mosques and Quran in Tunisia. What’s wrong?"

There are two ways to read this tweet. The more outrageous is this: How can it be wrong for gunmen to murder Jewish children or vandals to attack a Jewish cemetery in Poland if Jews are burning mosques and Qurans in Tunisia? One act balances the other.

The other interpretation is this: What a world in which there is so much hatred! Gunmen murder Jewish children, vandals attack a Jewish cemetery, and Jews desecrate mosques and Muslim holy books.

Yet the second interpretation is almost as inciting to violence as the first. We know from many experiences — including Afghanistan right now — that anyone who burns or does anything to a Koran would set off massive riots and bloody killings. And as for burning a mosque, such a deed might well result in the massacre of every Jew living in Tunisia.

Tunisian Jews today are a couple of thousand terrified people who would run in the other direction if they saw a Koran in front of them lest they be accused of looking at it funny. What Zeyanlov has done is called a “blood libel,” a lie that might lead to the murder of Jews.

A Muslim taking Zeyanlov’s tweet to heart would feel justified in murdering Jews, say children standing in front of their school.

2. The Dutch Cartoonist

De Volkskrant is one of Holland’s leading newspapers, favored by the intellectual elite. Here is a cartoon that it has just run. The cartoon shows Geert Wilders, leader of the conservative party that is very critical of Islam, getting loads of cash from a hidden hand that is clearly referring to Jews or Israel. Yes, the cartoon was written with a Hebrew text balloon, helpfully translated into Dutch as Wilders saying, “Thank you very much.”

So we have here the stereotype of the Jewish money behind the scenes conspiring, in this case against Islam and against Holland. And of course it is also designed to discredit Wilders. As with the Turkish editor’s tweet above, this is based on a total falsehood. There is hardly any Jewish support for Wilders’ party, which is, by the way, a legitimate political force, and there has never been the slightest evidence — even rumor — of Jewish financing for him, or Israeli financing.

Holland is a country where two political leaders have been assassinated and Wilders needs round-the-clock protection against potential assassins.

What is the message here? That Jews and Israel are trying to destroy Islam — as in the Turkish tweet — and are nefarious plotters attacking innocent people. Isn’t it just, therefore, to murder Jews and Israelis in self-defense?

3. Europe’s Foreign Minister

Exhibit three is Catherine Ashton, whose career was originally built on running the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament which favored unilateral Western disarmament in the face off Soviet tyranny. She is now the EU’s foreign minister. In response to the Toulouse shooting, she has issued a statement here that spends more time reciting the sufferings of children in the Gaza Strip than about antisemitism and the demonization of Jews and Israel.

Left out is the fact that Gaza is ruled by an organization, Hamas, that is openly antisemitic, openly preaches genocide, frequently has carried out terrorist attacks against Israelis and Jews, and then glorifies those who did the murders. Remember that the only reason Hamas can rule Gaza is that Israel voluntarily withdrew from the territory in a gesture intended to promote peace, something Ashton and much of the Western media and governmental elites usually don’t mention.

When Hamas maintains a war with Israel, firing rockets, missiles, and mortars, Israel defends itself. Hamas also deliberately sites military arsenals and weapons in residential areas. Thus, civilians and even children are accidentally killed by Israel in the fighting. This is precisely what happens in other wars, including those being waged now by EU countries.

Yet Ashton does not defend Israel or its right to defend itself. She does not take sides against the terrorists. At best we get spurious neutrality that is actually anti-Israel propaganda. Note that she even refers to Palestine as a currently existing country even though the EU recognizes no such country. So much for diplomatic responsibility. Her “apology” and “clarification” came after criticism but she meant exactly what she said and will do the same thing next time as she and other EU officials have done many times on previous occasions.

Indeed, while Palestinian children are killed during fighting in Gaza, let’s note the two most notoriously publicized examples of the last week:

–A photo sent around, in one case by a UN official, purporting to show a little girl as being injured this week was in fact a photo of a girl injured in an auto accident several years ago.

–The claim that Adham Abu Selmiya was killed by Israelis has now been shown to be false. He was killed by a bullet fired into the air by Palestinians during a funeral.

–And what of the recent photo widely published purporting to show an Israeli soldier menacing a child despite the fact that the man was wearing a concocted Israeli army uniform and carrying an AK-47, a weapon used by terrorists against Israel but never by Israeli soldiers, showing that the photo was a phony?

–The downplaying or omission of the fact that Israel was defending itself from a barrage of missiles. In one case, a prominent Dutch newspaper published a photograph with the caption that showed a rocket being fired by Israel into Gaza, instead of the exact opposite.

In short, Ashton and many others are contributing to the demonization of Jews and Israel. If Israel is so horrible that it makes little children in Gaza suffer for no reason, shouldn’t Israelis and the Jews who support them be shunned, harassed, attacked, and murdered?

These three examples are only a small sample of the hate poured out against Israel and Jews in the Middle East and elsewhere. I could go on with dozens more and so, perhaps, could you. From Sweden’s largest newspaper claiming Israel murdered Palestinians to harvest their organs to a Harvard professor’s tales of Jewish-Zionist conspiracies to control U.S. foreign policy to the dozens of “academic” conferences on Western campuses that demonize Israel, paid for by student fees.

What is needed is not more hypocrisy or professions of innocence or expensive conferences where long speeches are made about the evils of antisemitism by those who do nothing but get free plane tickets and nice hotel rooms. The real solution is a real change in the behavior of the mass media that pours out lies, the academics who slander and distort, and the governments that refuse to stand by a democratic country and people beset by terrorism and the world’s oldest hatred.

Oh, and one more thing is needed: the admission that the greatest threat of hatred, “racism,” dehumanization of the “other,” and threat of persecution today — as the statistics for Europe and North America show — is not “Islamophobia” but antisemitism.

And none of those things are going to happen because the liars, haters, apologists, and enablers will not acknowledge their own behavior while those who are supposed to supervise them will not act. Hating and lying about Israel and the Jewish people is too useful politically and too entwined with the version of left-wing ideology, not to mention Islamism and the dominant interpretation of Islam, currently so powerful in the world.

It would be an exaggeration to say that Europe is no longer a safe place for Jews to live. Yet it is accurate to say that it is becoming an unsafe place for Jews to live, and certainly for those who wish to express mainstream Jewish views and to practice their religion openly. Meanwhile, the EU and various governments dare not admit that the principal cause of antisemitic activity is radical Islam, and the principal inspiration for popular antisemitism is trendy leftist ideas that now dominate much of that continent and are spreading in North America.

Thus, Jewish children are deliberately murdered by a terrorist in the midst of France. In response, come get the formal statements and the crocodile tears. Yet at the exact same time as the bullets are entering the children’s bodies, as the victims fall to the ground, as the ambulance sirens sound, the incitement and the lies and the slanders continue, laying the groundwork for more hatred and more murder.



Human Nature: The Question behind the Culture Wars

Culture wars can produce nasty rhetoric. Political discourse quickly becomes emotionally charged and divisive. We are tempted to view those with whom we disagree as not only irrational but evil. The culture of demonization of our political opponents is what moral psychologist Dr. Jonathan Haidt seeks to dismantle with his new book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. Haidt, who serves as professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, believes that we demonize opponents because we do not recognize that everyone values fairness. Moreover, we justify our positions from antithetical moral foundations.

In one sense Haidt is not saying anything that religious leaders and economists haven’t been saying for centuries, namely, that at the root of our understanding of politics are fundamental beliefs about human nature and definitions of morality. In recent decades, Americans have increasingly turned to psychologists as experts on morality and human action. As such, religious and economic texts like Pope John Paul II’s Centesimus Annus, Abraham Kuyper’s Problem of Poverty, and even Thomas Sowell’s Conflict of Visions, which all explain political conflicts as extensions of antithetical views on human nature and morality, are ignored. However, now that a psychologist remixes these themes Americans are willing to listen.

Haidt’s research team identified six moral foundations to analyze and thus explain the differences between progressives (modern liberals) and conservatives: care, liberty, fairness, loyalty, authority, and sanctity. After several years of research, Haidt’s team discovered that progressives scored high on their commitments to care, liberty, fairness, and low on loyalty, authority, and sanctity, whereas conservatives evenly care about all six. The result is that progressives and conservatives do not understand each other. They usually talk past each other because issues like welfare, universal health care, and the like, are not where the real disagreements lie. Each side fails to understand the other’s definition of fairness.

Conservatives, for example, value fairness in terms of whether or not free people are able to take advantage of the same processes made available to them in society. Progressives tend to define fairness in terms of equality of material outcome or equality of proportion. Conservatives, then, are more concerned about whether all citizens are free to exercise their gifts and talents, under the law, to meet their own needs through participation in free markets. Progressives, on the other hand, conceptualize fairness as whether people have similar incomes, whether people have the same luxuries in life. They envision a world where the force of government intervention eliminates disparities.

In a recent interview with Bill Moyer, Haidt, a self-proclaimed “centrist” confesses that, “When I began this work, I was very much a liberal. And over time, in doing the research for my book and in reading a lot of conservative writing, I've come to believe that conservative intellectuals actually are more in touch with human nature. They have a more accurate view of human nature. We need structure. We need families. We need groups. It's okay to have memberships and rivalries.” Competition creates the conditions for economic growth, Haidt says, because “cooperation and competition are opposite sides of the same coin. And we've gotten this far because we cooperate to compete.” In other words, competition has moral implications.

In the book, Haidt concludes that conservatives have an advantage in connecting with American values because conservative morality equally rests on all six moral foundations. They are more willing to embrace the reality of trade-offs and sacrifice in order to achieve “many other moral objectives.” Moral psychology, says Haidt, also explains why the Democratic Party had struggled to connect with the American people since the 1980s because Democrats have no compelling moral case for their ideas. The lopsided morality of progressives in the Democratic Party is something that Haidt hopes moral psychology can address.

If Haidt’s moral psychology research is right then progressives will be forced to reject long-held presuppositions about human nature. Perhaps moral psychology can help call a truce to the nasty culture wars so that we can stop and discuss what it means to be human—a discussion conducted in the hope that conservatives and progressives can return to sharing the moral foundations that shaped America’s liberties and prosperity.




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Thursday, March 22, 2012

FCC joins the attack on Limbaugh and other conservative broadcasters

Radio spectrum will be given to low power "local" stations which Leftists hope to dominate. They may well do so but will they get an audience? On past form it will be negligible

A Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decision issued Monday (PDF) will clear the runway for hundreds of new community radio stations that broadcast on low-power FM signals, bringing progressive, community voices to urban areas that have for decades only known what's being broadcast by major corporations and America's political right.

The FCC's decision on Monday wipes away a massive backlog of applications for FM repeater stations, which are transmitters that repeat signals broadcast by corporate and religious radio operators - many of which rake in big listening audiences for right-wing syndicated talk shows.

"So, what a lot of right-wing, conservative radio stations have been able to do is expand their reach out in communities by just having these translators out in the wild, which is why Rush Limbaugh gets the type of audience that he has - because the networks take one signal and repeat it over and over and over across the dial all over the country," Steven Renderos, national organizer with the Center for Media Justice, told Raw Story on Tuesday. "They're constantly looking for opportunities to expand that, so there were a slew of these applications pending at the FCC."

And that's been the case ever since the FCC's radio spectrum auction in 2003, which has led many activists to fear they would be forever choked out and kept away from the public airwaves. But after a long battle, activists with the Prometheus Radio Project have finally won.

"Now these right-wing radio networks won't keep getting their translator applications approved," Renderos added. "That will severely limit their ability to expand."

The FCC's decision also set clear criteria for community radio stations in heavily populated urban areas, which are otherwise bombarded by the endless droning of commercial media full of snide opinion masquerading as news.

"These [new, low power] stations can only be licensed to non-profit organizations, and you can only have one per customer," Brandy Doyle, policy director for the Prometheus Radio Project, told Raw Story. "That way we won't have these big corporate chains and media networks that are taking over the rest of the media landscape moving in on low power FM service. These stations have to be local, and they have to be independent. This clears the way for a real transformation of the FM dial."

Instead of slowly grinding down thousands of repeater station applications that leave no room for community radio, the FCC essentially threw most of those applications away by limiting who can apply, how many filings a single entity can make, and which markets can consider new repeaters - all of which frees up the regulatory body to examine applications for new community stations. The regulatory agency still gave some deference to corporate broadcasters, however, by allowing them one shot at revising their applications to fit the new guidelines.



Race, rhetoric and reality

Thomas Sowell

One of the things that turned up, during a long-overdue cleanup of my office, was an old yellowed copy of the New York Times dated July 24, 1992. One of the front-page headlines said: "White-Black Disparity in Income Narrowed in 80's, Census Shows."

The 1980s? Wasn't that the years of the Reagan administration, the "decade of greed," the era of "neglect" of the poor and minorities, if not "covert racism"?

More recently, during the administration of America's first black president, a 2011 report from the Pew Research Center has the headline, "Wealth Gaps Rise to Record Highs Between Whites, Blacks and Hispanics."

While the median net worth of whites was 10 times the median net worth of blacks in 1988, the last year of the Reagan administration, the ratio was 19 to one in 2009, the first year of the Obama administration. With Hispanics, the ratio was eight to one in 1988 and 15 to one in 2009.

Race is just one of the areas in which the rhetoric and the reality often go in opposite directions. Political rhetoric is intended to do one thing -- win votes. Whether the policies that accompany that rhetoric make people better off or worse off is far less of a concern to politicians, if any concern at all.

Democrats receive the overwhelming bulk of the black vote by rhetoric and by presenting what they have done as the big reason that blacks have advanced. So long as most blacks and whites alike mistake rhetoric for reality, this political game can go on.

A Manhattan Institute study last year by Edward Glaeser and Jacob Vigdor showed that, while the residential segregation of blacks has generally been declining from the middle of the 20th century to the present, it was rising during the first half of the 20th century. The net result is that blacks in 2010 were almost as residentially unsegregated as they were back in 1890.

There are complex reasons behind such things, but the bottom line is plain. The many laws, programs and policies designed to integrate residential housing cannot be automatically assumed to translate into residentially integrated housing. Government is not the sole factor, nor necessarily the biggest factor, no matter what impression political rhetoric gives.

No city is more liberal in its rhetoric and policies than San Francisco. Yet there are less than half as many blacks living in San Francisco today as there were in 1970.

Nor is San Francisco unique. A number of other very liberal California counties saw their black populations drop by 10,000 people or more, just between the 1990 and 2000 censuses -- even when the total population of these counties was growing.

One of the many reasons why rhetoric does not automatically translate into reality is that the ramifications of so many government policies produce results completely different from what was claimed, or even believed, when these policies were imposed.

The poverty rate among blacks was nearly cut in half in the 20 years prior to the 1960s, a record unmatched since then, despite the expansion of welfare state policies in the 1960s.

Unemployment among black 16 and 17-year-old males was 12 percent back in 1950. Yet unemployment rates among black 16 and 17-year-old males has not been less than 30 percent for any year since 1970 -- and has been over 40 percent in some of those years.

Not only was unemployment among blacks in general lower before the liberal welfare state policies expanded in the 1960s, rates of imprisonment of blacks were also lower then, and most black children were raised in two-parent families. At one time, a higher percentage of blacks than whites were married and working.

None of these facts fits liberal social dogmas.

While many politicians and "leaders" have claimed credit for black progress, no one seems to be willing to take the blame for the retrogressions represented by higher unemployment rates, higher crime rates, and higher rates of imprisonment today. Or for the disintegration of the black family, which survived centuries of slavery and generations of government-imposed discrimination in the Jim Crow era, but began coming apart in the wake of the expansion of the liberal welfare state and its accompanying social dogmas.

The time is long overdue to start looking beyond the prevailing political rhetoric to the hard realities.



Demolishing Due Process

by Ron Paul

It is ironic but perhaps sadly appropriate that Attorney General Eric Holder would choose a law school, Northwestern University, to deliver a speech earlier this month in which he demolished what was left of the rule of law in America.

In what history likely will record as a turning point, Attorney General Holder bluntly explained that this administration believes it has the authority to use lethal force against Americans if the President determines them to be a threat to the nation. He tells us that this is not a violation of the due process requirements of our Constitution because the President himself embodies "due process" as he unilaterally determines who is to be targeted. As Holder said, "a careful and thorough executive branch review of the facts in a case amounts to 'due process.'" That means that the administration believes it is the President himself who is to be the judge, jury, and executioner.

As George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley wrote of the Holder speech:

"All the Administration has said is that they closely and faithfully follow their own guidelines - even if their decisions are not subject to judicial review. The fact that they say those guidelines are based on notions of due process is meaningless. They are not a constitutional process of review."

It is particularly bizarre to hear the logic of the administration claiming the right to target its citizens according to some secret selection process, when we justified our attacks against Iraq and Libya because their leaders supposedly were targeting their own citizens! We also now plan a covert war against Syria for the same reason.

I should make it perfectly clear that I believe any individual who is engaging in violence against this country or its citizens should be brought to justice. But as Attorney General Holder himself points out in the same speech, our civilian courts have a very good track record of trying and convicting individuals involved with terrorism against the United States. Our civilian court system, with the guarantee of real due process, judicial review, and a fair trial, is our strength, not a weakness. It is not an impediment to be sidestepped in the push for convictions or assassinations, but rather a process that guarantees that fundamental right to be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

I am encouraged, however that there appears to be the beginning of a backlash against the administration's authoritarian claims. Just recently I did an interview with conservative radio talk show host Laura Ingraham who expressed grave concern over using these sorts of tactics against Americans using the supposed war on terror as justification.

Sadly, many conservative leaders were silent when Republican President George W. Bush laid the groundwork for this administration's lawlessness with the PATRIOT Act, warrantless wiretapping, indefinite detention without trial, and other violations.

Similarly, as Professor Turley points out, "Democrats previously demanded the 'torture memos' of the Bush administration that revealed poor legal analysis by Judge Jay Bybee and Professor John Yoo to justify torture. Now, however, Democrats are largely silent in the face of a president claiming the right to unilaterally kill citizens."

The misuse of and disregard for our Constitution for partisan political gain is likely one reason the American public holds Congress in such low esteem. Now the stakes are much higher. Congress and the people should finally wake up!



What is Fair?

John Stossel

President Obama says he want to make society more fair. Advocates of big government believe fairness means taking from rich people and giving to others: poor people; or people who do things politicians approve of, like making "green" energy equipment (Solyndra); or old people (even rich ones) through Social Security and Medicare.

The idea that government can "make life fair" is intuitively appealing to people -- at least until they think about it. I'll try to help.

Obama says fairness requires higher taxes, but as The Wall Street Journal's Stephen Moore asks, "Is it fair that the richest 10 percent of Americans shoulder a higher share of their country's income-tax burden than do the richest 10 percent in every other industrialized nation, including socialist Sweden?"

Or as economist Art Laffer asked, is it fair that American corporations pay the highest corporate tax rate in the world?

Beyond taxes, again quoting Moore, "Is it fair that President Obama sends his two daughters to elite private schools that are safer, better-run and produce higher test scores than public schools in Washington, D.C. -- but millions of other families across America are denied that free choice and forced to send their kids to rotten schools?"

No. Parents ought to be able to spend their education money at any school they choose.

Big-government politicians bemoan income inequality, but would equalizing incomes make life fair?

To many, it is intuitive that such inequality is necessarily unfair. If someone makes his income by looting the taxpayers -- sure, that's unfair. His gains are ill-gotten, and honest taxpayers are out hard-earned money. But there's nothing unfair simply in making more money through productive work. People have a range of talents and ambitions. Some will serve consumers better than others and therefore make more money. Government should not worry about that.

It should spend its time abolishing political privileges so that people compete fairly -- in the marketplace.

You want to know what's unfair? Social Security. Progressives say Social Security is the best-working government program ever, but they are wrong.

"Think about Social Security in terms of what would happen if a private company came up with a deal like this," said Charles Goyette, author of "Red and Blue and Broke All Over." "The president of the company says, we've got to sell some new policies tomorrow to pay you what you're due when you cash in today. They'd lock these guys up."

Goyette was referring to the fact that your payroll taxes are not invested. The money is spent right away, and the government counts on new money from current workers to pay retirees. The touted trust fund doesn't exist.

"There's no trust. There's no fund. There's no security. And the really bad thing -- this is what's really destructive -- it has changed the propensity of the American people to save for themselves. ... We're creating a multigenerational calamity. And it's right at our doorstep."

We've taught people to be dependent. But dependence robs us of our dignity and keeps poor people poor.

Few politicians will touch the issue because seniors vote. And so trouble is not far up the road.

"We've loaded kids up with a debt that they will be burdened by for the rest of their lives," Goyette said. "What kind of people, what kind of country does something like that?"

It's even worse for Medicare. We're talking tens of trillions in unfunded liabilities. Where's that money going come from? Since seniors resist cuts, will politicians keep their promises by devaluing the currency? And why do the guardians of fairness never talk about this?

It might seem reasonable for government to make life more fair. But when it takes your money and freedom trying to do that, life becomes less fair. Everyone is poorer and less free. As government grows, individual liberty shrinks. That's not fair.

It might help if instead of talking about fairness, we talked about justice: respecting other people, their freedom and their honestly acquired belongings. Real fairness, or justice, requires limiting government power. That means the same rules for everyone. No special favors. No handouts. Or, in Frederic Bastiat's phrase, no "legal plunder."




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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The world's dumbest bureaucracy

Israel does none of this stuff so there is an alternative

A THREE-YEAR-OLD boy in a wheelchair was left almost in tears after he was subjected to an invasive pat-down by airport security officers.

The incident occurred at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport as the boy and his family were on their way to Disney World.

Video footage shows the boy trembling with fear despite reassurances from his father that "everything is OK". He asks parents to hold his hand but security officers tell them not to come near or touch the boy during the search.

"My little boy wanted me to come over to hold his hand and give him a hug," the boy's father, Matt Dubiel, wrote in commentary embedded in the video. "He was trembling with fear. Instead, we had to pretend this was 'ok' so he didn't panic."

Mr Dubiel can be heard reassuring his son through the ordeal, which lasted more than three minutes. At one point, the agent swabbed the wheelchair, the child's cast and his hands, and even made the boy lift up his shirt.

"I was livid at this point," Mr Dubiel wrote. "I'm asking myself, 'Why the (expletive) isn't someone with a brain coming over to wave him through?' Someone in a position of authority needs to make the obvious decision this child is not a threat - right? You are swabbing a three-year-old's hands for explosives? Seriously?"

The incident took place in 2010 but Mr Dubiel only uploaded the video to YouTube at the weekend. It has since gone viral, with more than 81,000 views and 2100 comments.

"I didn't think I had the footage," Mr Dubiel said. "They didn't want me to record it with our regular camera. They made me put the cameras away but they allowed me to maintain with my iPhone."

Mr Dubiel said he decided to post the video after he rediscovered the footage over the weekend.

"I watched the video with my 10-year-old and my heart started beating real fast," he said. "I started getting angry - a rash of emotions and then I had to explain to my 10-year-old what was happening and why I allowed it to happen."

A spokesman for Transportation Security Administration said the agency was aware of the video but did not provide a comment. Rules governing searches of passengers under the age of 12 were revised in 2011.



Hunting for Scapegoats Won't Lower Pump Prices

When President Obama took office, regular gasoline cost $1.85 a gallon. Now it’s hit $4.00 per gallon in many cities, and some analysts predict it could reach $5.00 or more this summer. Filling your tank could soon slam you for $75-$90.

Winter was warm. Our economy remains weak. People are driving less, in cars that get better mileage, even with mandatory 10% low-mileage ethanol. Gasoline is plentiful.

Misinformed politicians and pundits say prices should be falling. Our pain at the pump is due to greedy speculators, they claim, and greedier oil companies that are exporting oil and refined products.

Their explanation is superficially plausible – but wrong.

Energy Information Administration (EIA) data show that 76% of what we pay for gasoline is determined by world crude oil prices; 12% is federal and state taxes; 6% is refining; and 6% is marketing and distribution. The price that refiners pay for crude is set by global markets.

World prices are driven by supply and demand, and unstable global politics. That means today’s prices are significantly affected by expectations and fears about tomorrow.

A major factor is Asia’s growing appetite for oil – coupled with America’s refusal to produce more of its own petroleum. Prices are also whipsawed by uncertainty over potential supply disruptions, due to drilling accidents and warfare in Nigeria; disputes over Syria, Yemen and Israeli-Palestinian territories; erroneous reports of a pipeline explosion in Saudi Arabia; concern about attacks on Middle East oil pipelines and processing centers; and new Western sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program and the mullahs’ threats to close the Straits of Hormuz.

Moreover, oil is priced in US dollars, and the Federal Reserve’s easy money, low interest policies – combined with massive US indebtedness – have weakened the dollar’s value. It now costs refineries more dollars to buy a barrel of crude than it did three years ago.

Amid this uncertainty and unrest, speculators try to forecast future prices and price shocks, pay less today for crude oil that could cost more four weeks hence, and get the best possible price for clients who need reliable supplies. When they’re wrong, speculators end up buying high, selling low and losing money.

Oil speculators play a vital role, just as they do in corn and other commodities futures markets.

Basic chemistry dictates that a barrel of crude (42 gallons) cannot be converted entirely into gasoline. Depending on the type of crude, some 140 refineries across the USA transform each barrel into gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, heating oil, asphalt, waxes, petrochemicals and other essential products.

This manufacturing process leaves them with excess diesel fuel, because American vehicles consume less diesel than refineries produce – due to air pollution laws that limit diesel use. US refineries export that excess diesel to Europe, which uses more diesel than gasoline, and Europeans ship their surplus gasoline to mostly East Coast consumers. US refineries also sell excess inventories of other manufactured products to overseas markets, but diesel is by far their principal export.

America exports $180 billion in finished products every month – $2.2 trillion annually in corn, wheat, cars, tractors, appliances, airplanes, pharmaceuticals and much more.

Last year, for the first time since 1949, America was a net exporter of fuel and other petroleum products. Those exports injected $107 billion into our economy and sustained thousands of refinery and other jobs that otherwise might have been lost, as refineries also struggled in our stagnant economy.

Farm and factory jobs would evaporate if we made exporting their products illegal. Prohibiting fuel exports, and demanding that refineries manufacture only what we need here in the States, would have the same effects on our employment, economy and living standards.

The USA has 1.4 trillion barrels of technically recoverable conventional oil, the EIA and other experts estimate, and enormous additional supplies in shale and tight sand deposits. The best way to keep prices down is to produce more of this American oil, and import more from secure, friendly, nearby suppliers like Canada.

However, our government prohibits leasing and drilling on nearly 95% of the onshore and offshore lands it controls. It is dragging its feet on leases and permits for the remaining 5% and over-regulating production on private lands. It vetoed the Canada-to-US Keystone XL pipeline. It is imposing layers of costly and unnecessary new regulations on every aspect of energy production it does not simply reject.

We are losing billions of dollars in bonus, rent, royalty and tax receipts, killing countless jobs, and impairing Americans’ living standards, health and welfare.

“More exports mean more jobs,” President Obama said recently. “We need to strengthen American manufacturing. We need to invest in American-made energy and new skills for American workers.”

His words ring hollow. Above all, President Obama and his environmentalist and congressional allies want to end our “addiction” to oil, “fundamentally transform” America, and “invest” billions of dollars (borrowed from us and our children and grandchildren) subsidizing efforts to turn corn, switchgrass, algae and pond scum into fuel.

Generating billions of dollars and millions of real jobs by producing American oil and manufacturing American oil products doesn’t fit this agenda. Even though one of every ten jobs created in the last three years has been in oil and gas, when it comes to petroleum, Team Obama wants to punish success, and reward failures like Solyndra, Fisker and the Chevy Volt.

To paraphrase a recent White House jab at Republicans who want more drilling and fewer obstructionist regulations: Every time prices start to go up, President Obama heads down to the local pond or cornfield, makes sure a few cameras are following him, and starts acting like he can wave a magic wand, throw a few more billions around, and have cheap, eco-friendly biofuels forever.

Meanwhile, Energy Secretary Steven Chu has made it abundantly clear that he wants to “boost gasoline prices to European levels” – $8 to $10 per gallon! He’s already half way to his goal.

Those prices would certainly force Americans to drive less, and “hope” the hype about “changing” to algae-gas becomes reality in less than twenty or thirty years.

Meanwhile, skyrocketing fuel prices will certainly “boost” the cost of transporting people, raw materials, food and products by wheels, wings and waterways; manufacturing anything still made in America; and preserving jobs, family and business budgets, and dreams that depend on affordable energy.

Hunting for scapegoats won’t lower pump prices. Reality-based energy policies will.



Firm sells solar panels - to itself, taxpayers pay

A heavily subsidized solar company received a U.S. taxpayer loan guarantee to sell solar panels to itself.

First Solar is the company. The subsidy came from the Export-Import Bank, which President Obama and Harry Reid are currently fighting to extend and expand. The underlying issue is how Obama's insistence on green-energy subsidies and export subsidies manifests itself as rank corporate welfare.

Here's the road of subsidies these solar panels followed from Perrysburg, Ohio, to St. Clair, Ontario.

First Solar is an Arizona-based manufacturer of solar panels. In 2010, the Obama administration awarded the company $16.3 million to expand its factory in Ohio -- a subsidy Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland touted in his failed re-election bid that year.

Five weeks before the 2010 election, Strickland announced more than a million dollars in job training grants to First Solar. The Ohio Department of Development also lent First Solar $5 million, and the state's Air Quality Development Authority gave the company an additional $10 million loan.

After First Solar pocketed this $17.3 million in government grants and $15 million in government loans, Ex-Im entered the scene.

In September 2011, Ex-Im approved $455.7 million in loan guarantees to subsidize the sale of solar panels to two solar farms in Canada. That means if the solar farm ever defaults, the taxpayers pick up the tab, ensuring First Solar gets paid.

But the buyer, in this case, was First Solar.

A small corporation called St. Clair Solar owned the solar farm and was the Canadian company buying First Solar's panels. But St. Clair Solar was a wholly owned subsidiary of First Solar. So, basically, First Solar was shipping its own solar panels from Ohio to a solar farm it owned in Canada, and the U.S. taxpayers were subsidizing this "export."

First Solar spokesman Alan Bernheimer defended this maneuver, saying this really was an export, pointing out that First Solar paid sales taxes on the transaction.

But this subsidy undermines the arguments for Ex-Im's existence. Ex-Im, whose authorization expires May 31, is supposed to be a job creator, helping U.S. manufacturers beat foreign manufacturers by having U.S. taxpayers backstop the financing.

"It is critical that we encourage more American companies to compete in the global marketplace," Ex-Im Chairman Fred Hochberg said about the First Solar deal, saying the subsidy "will boost Ohio's economy, create hundreds of local jobs and move us closer to President Obama's goal of doubling U.S. exports by the end of 2014."

The implication here is that First Solar was "competing" with foreign solar panel makers in order to sell solar panels -- to First Solar.

This isn't the first time Ex-Im has subsidized companies selling to themselves. In late 2000, for instance, the ill-fated power giant Enron won a $132 million direct-loan package from Ex-Im (that is, from the taxpayers) in order to sell "engineering services & process equipment" to a Venezuelan power company owned 49.25 percent by Enron. Enron was both the buyer and the seller in a 1995 sale to Turkey that Ex-Im financed through a $250 million loan.

Enron's healthy feedings at Ex-Im's trough before its bankruptcy also help poke holes in another Ex-Im defense: that it operates at no cost to taxpayers.

Sure, as long as the foreign buyer pays off the debt, then Ex-Im's loans and guarantees don't increase the deficit. But Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were profitable for years, too, before they failed and taxpayers had to bail them out. Once foreign governments and foreign companies start defaulting, taxpayers pick up the tab. At least one Enron deal resulted in U.S. taxpayers contributing to the Enron bankruptcy fund. Also, Ex-Im has ended up owning a 747 after Air Nauru failed to make its payments because the island nation's economy -- dependent on seagull droppings -- went under.

This week, First Solar unloaded its St. Clair solar farm to NextEra Energy, and so First Solar's financial troubles don't threaten to put the taxpayer on the hook for this deal. But the Ex-Im subsidy itself was a great case in point as to how national industrial policy pitched in the name of helping the U.S. economy often does nothing to help the broader economy, instead helping only those companies lucky -- or politically connected -- enough to get the handouts.

Obama, Reid and most of the Republican leadership want to reauthorize Ex-Im this month and boost the amount of debt it can have outstanding. The lobbyists at Boeing, the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers agree. They'll claim Ex-Im is crucial to prosperity. And for a few companies, it is.




Manufacturing an economic myth: "Barack Obama and Rick Santorum probably couldn't agree that August falls in summer, but on one important issue they are closer than the Winklevoss twins. Both regard manufacturing as precious beyond words, and both think the federal government should be making special efforts to promote it."

Expanding Ex-Im’s mandate is a big mistake: "Throughout its history, the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) has limited its activities mostly to financing and guaranteeing U.S. export transactions. But in anticipation of Ex-Im's charter expiry on May 31, 2012, the Obama administration has called for a massive and unprecedented new role for the Ex-Im Bank: to finance U.S. corporations' domestic sales, as well."

“I’m smarter than everyone else”: "'It’s a sickness,' said a friend of mine who until recently was an elected official in our city. 'It sets in after you’re elected the first time, or maybe even when you’re running for office.' That sickness is 'thinking you’re smarter than everyone else.' My friend made this statement after reading in our local paper that a newly elected member of the city council had questioned an entrepreneur’s decision to open a new outdoor multi-unit storage facility in our town. The councilman, a Republican, said that according to his 'investigation,' the facility is not needed in that neighborhood"



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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Is Liberalism Lazy and Immoral?

The best advocates are often converts. So it is with Arthur C. Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute.

Brooks has an important forthcoming book, "The Road to Freedom," which I'll discuss in a minute, but it's worth pausing over the unusual career of Brooks himself because it says much about happiness, free enterprise and the unique American spirit that Brooks has spent the last decade attempting to save.

The son of two liberal college professors, Brooks writes that when he was growing up in Seattle, "No one in my world voted for Ronald Reagan. I had no friends or family who worked in business. I believed what most everybody in my world assumed to be true: that capitalism was a bit of a sham to benefit rich people, and the best way to get a better, fairer country was to raise taxes, increase government services, and redistribute more income."

Brooks became a professional musician, playing the French horn with the Annapolis Brass Quintet and with the Barcelona City Orchestra. He also taught music. But a musical career didn't fulfill him. "I (had) what some considered the best job possible, yet was unhappy. ... My friends in the orchestra thrived on what they were doing. ... They spent their vacations at classical music conventions and heatedly discussed the most esoteric details of the lacquer on their instruments..."

Like most Americans, Brooks wanted more from his career than a paycheck. He wanted to derive a deeper satisfaction. Because he had skipped college to "go pro," he began taking courses at night, eventually pocketing bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees in social science.

By valuing work so highly that he was willing to diligently study music and then even more sedulously to master social science, Brooks was living out America's promise of the "pursuit of happiness."

In his new book, Brooks argues that it is part of the American character to value work. "Americans work 50 percent more than the Italians, the French, and even the Germans." Why? Cosseted socialists in Europe would say it's because we're terrified of losing our jobs. But Brooks points to research showing that the more hours Americans work, the happier they report themselves to be. Only 11 percent of Americans say they wish they could spend a lot less time on their jobs.

The American work ethic can be eroded though and will be, Brooks argues, by an expanding welfare state. It isn't just that people who believe life to be unfair demand that governments "equalize" outcomes. It's that once governments undertake to equalize things, people begin to believe that success is more a matter of luck than hard work. A 2005 study of 29 countries found that where taxes are high and wealth is redistributed through social programs, people are much more likely to believe that success is a result of luck.

When government confiscates from some to give to others, the givers are affected. Or maybe they start out that way. Redistributionists are a lot less charitable than free marketeers. A 1996 study found that people who disagreed that "government has a responsibility to reduce income inequality," gave four times as much to charity as those who agreed. And those who disagreed "strongly," gave 11 times as much.

Charity aids the giver as well as the recipient. Teenagers who volunteered their time were far less likely 5 years later to report serious life problems than those who didn't volunteer. Americans who donate to charities (time or money) are 43 percent more likely to describe themselves as happy compared with those who don't. When the state expands and soaks up more and more of the helping opportunities for those in need, it creates "learned helplessness" among the needy and deprives others of the improving possibilities of charity and service.

Americans remain, for now, an aspirational people, less seduced by the politics of envy than Europeans. But with every passing day, that spirit is being sapped by the government behemoth. Brooks relates a telling anecdote from the singer Bono.

"Ireland has a very different attitude to success than a lot of places...In the United States, you look ... in the mansion on hill, and you think ... one day, if I work really hard, I could live in that mansion. In Ireland, people look ... in the mansion on hill and go, one day, I'm going to get that bastard."

That's the spirit of the Democratic Party. It's the mode of President Obama's demonization of "millionaires and billionaires." If successful, Brooks warns, it will smother the greatest engine for prosperity -- especially for the poor -- in human history.



The Myth of "Middle-Class" Uncle Joe

Michelle Malkin

This has got to be the bazooka of all Joe Biden blowhardisms. The nation's vice campaigner in chief went on the attack against Republicans this week, clad in full populist armor. "These guys don't have a sense of the average folks out there," said The Everyman. "They don't know what it means to be middle class." But who was his audience?

Nope, not blue-collar workers in Allentown, Pa. Biden was speaking to an exclusive club of $10,000-per-couple campaign donors gathered at the home of the Senate's $200 million man, Democratic Mass. Sen. John Kerry, in Georgetown, D.C.

That's smack dab in the middle of Beltway America, where they like a twist of cognitive dissonance with their aperitifs.
The White House is once again drawing on the fantastical myth of middle-class Joe to portray Republicans as out-of-touch elitists. A Washington Post headline described Biden "digging back into his roots to move Obama forward." But the administration's leading populist poster child is a wretched symbol of entrenched Washington power. And his fables are getting oldy-moldy.

At another campaign event in Ohio, Regular Joe rolled up his sleeves and pumped out the common-man colloquialisms. "It's good to have a dad in the automobile business, man," he said. Yeah, man. Preach it, man. Oh, hey, weren't you the man who savaged average-guy Joe "the Plumber" Wurzelbacher in Ohio four years ago by lying about his income and mocking his American dream to own a small business? Man.

While Biden's family came from humble beginnings, the wheeler-dealer politician and his family (including two lobbyist sons) have reaped the benefits of public office for nearly a half-century. The entrenched senior senator from Delaware amassed wealthy donors and crooked cronies over six Senate terms. These are some of the stories, reported in my book "Culture of Corruption," that have been whitewashed out of the loquacious veep's campaign folklore:

--Biden's custom-built house in Delaware's ritziest Chateau Country neighborhood, assessed at $2.5 million four years ago, is the Bidens' most valuable asset. He secured the estate with the help of a corporate executive who worked for Biden's top campaign donor, credit card giant MBNA. In 1996, Biden sold his previous mansion to MBNA Vice Chairman John Cochran. The asking price was $1.2 million. Cochran forked over the full sum. Biden then paid $350,000 in cash to real estate developer Keith Stoltz for a 4.2-acre lakefront lot. Stoltz had paid that same amount five years earlier for the undeveloped property.

--Among Pal Joey's dearest old pals: campaign finance "rainmaker" William Oldaker, who showered generous benefits on both the elder Biden and his lobbyist son, Hunter; Baltimore-based Peter Angelos, whose law firm gave Biden $156,250; Wilmington-based Young Conaway Stargatt and Taylor, which kicked in $127, 979; and Pachulski Stang Zielhl and Jones, which donated $145,625, according to The American Lawyer.

--Disgraced trial lawyer Richard Scruggs donated $11,500 to Biden in 2008. After Scruggs was convicted of attempting to bribe a federal judge, Biden tried to show his ethical bona fides by donating the money to a worthy charity. But Biden couldn't steer clear of nepotism. The money ended up with the National Prostate Cancer Coalition -- a charity where, The American Lawyer pointed out, Biden's son Hunter sits on the board of directors.

--Another Biden family pal in the trial lawyers' community: Jeff Cooper. With his partner, John Simmons, the 39-year-old Cooper built one of the biggest asbestos litigation firms in the country. SimmonsCooper, based in Madison County, Ill., has donated a whopping $196,050 to Biden's campaigns since 2003, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics in Washington, D.C. In that same time frame, the firm poured $6.5 million into lobbying against a key tort reform bill -- which Sen. Biden worked hard to defeat. Without a hint of irony, Cooper extolled Biden's anti-tort reform stance: "He understands the plight of the little guy and is against huge corporate interest." But what Biden did was help fuel lucrative business for the tort bar. When courts in SimmonsCooper's home base in Illinois finally started cracking down on what had become "America's No. 1 judicial hellhole" for filing out-of-control tort claims, the firm turned East. And in Joe Biden's Delaware, they created a new sanctuary.

Back on Obama 2012 Fantasy Island, Biden insists on marketing himself as the humble "son of an automobile man." Give him this: He spins like a used-car salesman. His lot's full of lemons. And "bamboozle" is his middle name.



Exodus: California Tax Revenue Plunges by 22%

State Controller John Chaing continues to uphold the California Great Seal Motto of “Eureka”, i.e., 'I have found it'. But what Chaing is finding as Controller is that California’s economy as measured by tax revenues is still tanking. Compared to last year, State tax collections for February shriveled by $1.2 billion or 22%. The deterioration is more than double the shocking $535 million reported decline for last month. The cumulative fiscal year decline is $6.1 billion or down 11% versus this period in 2011.

While California Governor Brown promises strong economic growth is just around the corner, Chaing proves that the best way for Sacramento politicians to hurt the economy and thereby generate lower tax revenue, is to have the highest tax rates in the nation.

California politicians seem delusional in their continued delusion that high taxes have not savaged the State’s economy. Each month’s disappointment is written off as due to some one-time event.

The State Controller’s office did acknowledge that higher than normal tax refunds for February might have reduced the collection of some personal income taxes. Given that 2012 has an extra day in February for leap year, there might have been one day more of tax refunds sent out. But the Controller’s report shows personal income tax collections fell by $325 million, or 16% versus last year. Furthermore, leap year would have added another day for retail sales and use tax collection, but those revenues also fell during February-by an even larger $813 million, 25% decline from 2011.

The more likely reason tax collections continue falling is that businesses and successful people are leaving California for the better tax rates available in more pro-business states.

Derisively referred to as “Taxifornia” by the independent Pacific Research Institute, California wins the booby prize for the highest personal income taxes in the nation and higher sales tax rates than all but four other states. Though Californians benefit from Proposition 13 restrictions on how much their property tax can increase in one year, the state still has the worst state tax burden in the U.S.

Spectrum Locations Consultants recorded 254 California companies moved some or all of their work and jobs out of state in 2011, 26% more than in 2010 and five times as many as in 2009. According SLC President, Joe Vranich: the “top ten reasons companies are leaving California: 1) Poor rankings in surveys 2) More adversarial toward business 3) Uncontrollable public spending 4) Unfriendly business climate 5) Provable savings elsewhere 6) Most expensive business locations 7) Unfriendly legal environment for business 8) Worst regulatory burden 9) Severe tax treatment 10) Unprecedented energy costs.

Vranich considers California the worst state in the nation to locate a business and Los Angeles is considered the worst city to start a business. Leaving Los Angeles for another surrounding county can save businesses 20% of costs. Leaving the state for Texas can save up to 40% of costs. This probably explains why California lost 120,000 jobs last year and Texas gained 130,000 jobs.

California Governor Jerry Brown’s answer to the State’s failing economy and crumbling tax revenue is to place a $6 billion tax increase initiative on the ballot to support K-12 public schools. He promises to only “temporarily” raise personal income rates by 25% on any of the rich folk who haven’t already left.

Recent statewide poll show that support for the measure has fallen from 72% to 52% of likely voters since January. Democrats favor the tax increase by 71%, while Republicans are opposed it by 65%. But independent voter support is now down to only 49% favoring versus 41% opposed as these swing voters begin to learn the initiative also raises their sales taxes, and the initiative will also be available to fund public safety realignment and freeing up dollars for "other spending commitments."

According to Chaing, California has plenty of “other spending commitments”: “The State ended last fiscal year with a cash deficit of $8.2 billion. The combined current-year cash deficit stands at $21.6 billion. Those deficits are being covered with $15.2 billion of internal borrowing (temporary loans from special funds) and $6.4 billion of external borrowing.”

When it comes to bankrupt California politics, the Great Seal provides some good laughs. It was designed by U.S. Army Major Robert S. Garnett, who became the first general to die in the Civil War. The grizzly bear appears on the Seal to represent strength, but the last grizzly was shot 90 years ago. The miner using his sluice box dredge represents golden opportunity, but such mining became a crime as of August of 2009. Sadly, the five ships that once represented the state’s economic power now represent the relocation companies taking that power away.




Larger markets make us fairer to each other: "There's a rather odd idea common among lefty and greenish types about markets and their scale. Partially based on the ideas of Karl Polanyi, the thought is that if we restrict our trade, the market we deal in, to those we know and with whom we have a web of mutual obligations then somehow everything will be fairer. More lovely even. The problem with this is that, well, it just doesn't seem to be true ..."

NH: House to vote on rescinding homosexual marriage: "The House is voting this week whether to repeal New Hampshire’s gay marriage law and replace it with the civil unions law the state had in effect in 2008 and 2009. State Rep. David Bates, a Windham Republican, says his proposal would repeal gay marriage effective March 31, 2013, and replace it with civil unions. He said if voters decide in a nonbinding vote in November they want to keep civil unions for homosexuals, gay marriage would be repealed. He said if voters object to repealing gay marriage, lawmakers would have time to stop the repeal from taking effect."

Germany: Anti-Communist pastor elected president: "Joachim Gauck, a pastor-turned-dissident in the former East Germany, was elected Germany's head of state on Sunday, ending a political drama that nearly split Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right coalition government. The 72-year-old Mr. Gauck, an outspoken advocate of civil rights and personal liberty, was elected as Germany's federal president by an overwhelming majority in the Federal Convention, a special assembly of German lawmakers and representatives of the country's 16 states"

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



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Monday, March 19, 2012

Are Catholics less creative?

The article below has only recently been brought to my attention. It claims that Catholics are less creative. I guess Leonardo, Titian, Tintoretto, Canaletto, Vivaldi, Monteverdi, Puccini etc don't count. The claim is too silly for me to look at the article in detail so I will content myself with making one general point: There is no such thing as a general factor of creativity. It's all domain-specific, and usually VERY domain specific. Great painters don't make great composers and vice versa. I, for instance, have a small gift for writing publishable (and published) academic journal articles but I couldn't write a novel for nuts. So the article below purports to examine something that does not exist. You can speak of creativity in a narrowly-defined field only. Overall creativity does not exist.
Cross-national Comparisons of Catholic-Protestant Creativity Differences


It has been argued that personality factors associated with authoritarianism-dogmatism are antithetical to creativity. This study attempts to determine if these findings can be demonstrated in real or naturally occurring groups and if they are affected by socio-political contexts. The groups compared are matched samples of Roman Catholic and Protestant students from the United States, Northern Ireland, Eire and Scotland. Psychological evidence of relatively high authoritarianism in Roman Catholics and sociological indications of relatively low creative production by Roman Catholics lead to the general hypothesis that Catholic students will perform less well on mental ability tests of creativity factors.

A two-way analysis of variance design (country v. religion) is employed to test the hypotheses. The results indicate that there are large and statistically significant differences between Catholic and Protestant students in the U.S. and Northern Ireland. Catholic students in these countries evidenced less originality, ideational fluency and spontaneous flexibility than Protestants. There were generally no differences between the groups in Eire and Scotland. It is concluded that the antithesis of dogmatism-authoritarianism to creativity can be demonstrated in naturally occurring groups and that these differences are affected by the socio-political contexts in which the groups exist.

British Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, Volume 10, Issue 2, pages 132–137, June 1971


Red Ink on the Rise

When it comes to regulations, President Obama’s message to his conservative critics seems to be: Message received. Early last year, he vowed to crack down on over-zealous rule-making, noting that the “rules have gotten out of balance” and “have had a chilling effect on growth and jobs.” He’s right -- they have.

But actions speak louder than words, don’t they? For regardless of how tough the president may talk on regulation, his administration has enacted far more major regulations -- and significantly more expensive ones -- over the first three years of his presidency than the Bush administration enacted during its first three years.

This runs counter to what we’ve heard from the president’s apologists. Over the last several months, they’ve been bragging about his rule-making record. As the president himself said during his most recent State of the Union address: “I’ve approved fewer regulations in the first three years of my presidency than my Republican predecessor did in his.”

But a new report from The Heritage Foundation, “Red Tape Rising,” shows just the opposite is true. This administration has been on a rule-making tear.

Specifically, during the three years of the Obama administration, 106 new major regulations have been imposed at a price tag of more than $46 billion annually -- and that’s on top of nearly $11 billion in one-time implementation costs.

How does this compare to the number of major regulations that were imposed under President George W. Bush? It’s almost four times higher. And the cost? About five times higher. Something’s “gotten out of balance,” all right. With so many rules being laid on the backs of businesses both large and small, is it any surprise that job creation has been so slow for much of the latest economic recovery?

In December, the National Federation of Independent Business asked small-business owners to name their single biggest problem. The number-one choice, named by 19 percent of those who responded, was “regulations and red tape.” It came in ahead of “poor sales” (though it’s easy to see how all these new rules depress sales). That’s up from 15 percent a year ago. Clearly the regulatory burden is getting heavier.

And you can be sure that the weight of that burden is being shared. The costs of these regulations are passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices and limited product choices. Take the price controls that bureaucrats slapped last year on the fees that banks may charge to process debit-card transactions. It prompted banks to cancel many rewards programs and free services. And it has led to higher fees on checking accounts and credit cards.

Hardly an area of our lives goes untouched by regulation. The new rules for last year alone covered many activities, including refrigerators, freezers, clothes dryers, air conditioners, and energy standards for fluorescent lights. There were new testing and labeling requirements for toys, limits on automotive emissions of “greenhouse gases,” requirements for posting federal labor rules, and more explicit warnings for cigarette packages. The list goes on.

The main troublemaker? The 2010 Dodd-Frank financial-regulation law. It alone is responsible for 12 major rules. So far, that is. Hundreds more Dodd–Frank rules remain to be written. And then there the rules still to come from Obamacare, and from the Environmental Protection Agency’s global-warming crusade.

That’s why it’s crucial for Congress to take some common-sense steps now. They can start by requiring congressional approval of any new major regulations that agencies promulgate. Another why-haven’t-they-thought-of-it-sooner solution: requiring that all major regulations have an expiration (“sunset”) date.

“This regulatory tide is not expected to ebb anytime soon,” warns “Red Tape Rising.” Let’s act now -- before we’re all underwater.



Gallup Calls BS on BLS Unemployment Data

The latest BLS jobs report and the latest Gallup survey on jobs and unemployment are so out of line, that Gallup has commented on it in followup article Unemployment Numbers Suggest U.S. Economic Boom, or Not
A careful look at the government's unadjusted household unemployment data shows a stunning 740,000 jobs added to the economy in February -- three times the 227,000 reported based on the establishment payroll survey.

If this is economic reality, then the underlying economy must be growing much faster than most Americans currently believe. If the U.S. economy is surging, and jobs increased at the rate of three-quarters of a million last month, why haven't we heard a lot more about it? And, given a rapidly expanding economy, how can Gallup's nearly 30,000 random interviews with Americans across the nation show a significant increase in the unemployment rate?

This morning on CNBC, there was discussion about how the increase in payroll survey jobs is hard to reconcile with economists' growth estimates for the U.S. economy. If the payroll jobs numbers are right, then the economy is growing faster than estimated, or maybe, productivity is plunging. Of course, if there are questions about how we reconcile payroll jobs with other economic data, making economic sense of the household survey surge in jobs is even more difficult.



The Media Endorse Barack Obama

Writing in this space two months ago, I laid out the media advantage that President Obama has in his quest for reelection. According to a study done by the Pew Research Center, 32 percent of journalists say they are liberal, 53 percent moderate and just 8 percent conservative. Ask John McCain how the press treated him in 2008 if you want specifics on the tilt toward Obama.

A great illustration of media bias is the recent dustup over Sandra Fluke. She is the liberal activist trotted out by the Democratic Party to deflect the contraception issue away from the "church-state" controversy the White House was losing and into the more emotional "women's health" arena. Nancy Pelosi herself organized a press dog-and-pony show for Fluke, who portrays herself as a law student having a rough time paying for birth control pills. She wants the feds to pick up the tab through mandated insurance benefits even though the pills cost about $9 a month at places like Wal-Mart, and are distributed free at health clinics under Title Ten legislation.

But you won't find those facts being discussed much in the national media. No, for them, Fluke is a victim of a cruel system that wants to unduly burden American women.


Of course, Fluke was handed an enormous gift by Rush Limbaugh when he made demeaning comments about her. Immediately, the committed left-wing media machine, led by the amazingly dishonest Media Matters website, cranked up two themes: that Limbaugh should be deported to Tonga, and that he is the real power behind the Republican Party.

MSNBC, which is now partnered with Media Matters in the quest to disseminate left-wing propaganda, went wild, and so, to a lesser extent, did other national media outlets. The story line is that because the Republican candidates did not call for Limbaugh to be sent to Guantanamo Bay, they endorsed his attitude toward Fluke. The analysis was so hysterical that it could have been a Jon Stewart bit, and in fact it was.

The bigger picture is this: Voters who do not pay close attention to public policy and political controversies are at the mercy of so-called "prevailing wisdom" -- that is, what they hear around town, from their friends, etc. As long as most of the media, including the entertainment industry, promote one particular candidate for president, that person will have a major advantage in November.

But informed voters know the fix is in, although there's little they can do about it. A Pew survey taken in January found that 67 percent of Americans believe there is bias in news coverage. They are right, and it is toward the left.

Few in the press are reporting the truth about Sandra Fluke. That is an indicator of what the American media have become, as well as what is likely to come as the election campaign unfolds.



How We Can Keep From Going Broke

Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other social insurance programs are bankrupting America. They will produce ever-escalating deficits for as far as the eye can see.

So what can we do about it? All we hear out of Washington are "eat-your-spinach" solutions — both from Democrats and Republicans. These involve cutting benefits, forcing doctors to ration health care, etc. Naturally, the beneficiaries resist such change.

My colleagues and I at the National Center for Policy Analysis have been thinking about a different approach. Reform of entitlement programs should be a win-win proposition. That is, it should be good for the individual who agrees to accept fewer government benefits as well as for the taxpayers.

Here is part of the idea. People of any age should have the choice to opt out of social insurance in favor of alternatives that better meet their individual and family needs. In particular, they should be able to substitute assets and arrangements they have voluntarily chosen, and that they own and control, for the government systems they are now forced to be part of. In particular:

* People should be able to substitute private savings, private pensions and annuities, and private insurance for participation in Social Security.

* They should be able to substitute private insurance and private health savings for participation in Medicare and for participation in the federalized health care system sometimes called ObamaCare.

* They should be able to substitute private disability insurance for participation in the federal disability program.

* They should be able to substitute private savings, private pensions and annuities, and private insurance for participation in Medicaid’s long-term care insurance.

* At their place of work, employees and their employers should be free to choose private unemployment insurance arrangements, private disability insurance and private alternatives to workers’ compensation.

There is only one general condition that must govern these choices: They must not increase the expected burden for other taxpayers. This means (1) there must be a reasonable expectation that the direct tax burden for others will not rise as a result of an individual’s opting out and (2) there must be a reasonable expectation that the individual will not try to return to the government program (thus creating an additional burden for everyone else) if the private option turns out to be disappointing.




Crony capitalism comes with big government: "Economic policy issues often divide on 'pro-business' and 'pro-government' arguments, with the pro-government side arguing that we need big government to correct the failures of the market, regulate business activity, and stand up to crony capitalism. The problem with this pro-government view is that crony capitalism inevitably comes with big government."

The right way to make money: "If you focus on making money, you end up making a lot of bad decisions. Paradoxically, if your goal is to make money, it’s better to think about making a great product, making the customer happy and so on with the constraints of making money along the way. The best corporate cultures encourage excellence, not the bottom line."

CBO report says healthcare law could cause as many as 20M to lose coverage: "As many as 20 million Americans could lose their employer-provided coverage because of President Obama's healthcare reform law, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said in a new report Thursday. The figure represents the worst-case scenario, CBO says, and the law could just as well increase the number of people with employer-based coverage by 3 million in 2019. The best estimate, subject to a "tremendous amount of uncertainty," is that about 3 million to 5 million fewer people will obtain coverage through their employer each year from 2019 through 2022.



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)