Friday, August 30, 2013

The root of all evil? Money fosters a spirit of COOPERATION by encouraging strangers to trust each other, claim experts

Academic economists discover what market advocates have long said

Money may be considered the root of all evil, but it fosters a spirit of cooperation in modern society, according to new research.

Scientists conducted experiments which showed how spontaneous cooperation ebbs away as societies get larger.  Money overcomes this tendency by encouraging anonymous strangers to trust each other.

Without it, large industrialised societies may never have evolved, the research suggests.

The team, led by Professor Gabriele Camera, from the Economic Science Institute at Chapman University in Orange, California, wrote: ‘This study has identified a behavioural reason for the existence of money.

‘Our research suggests that norms of voluntary co-operation are difficult to use in a society of strangers, unless they are mediated by some institution.'

Historically, humans have only survived by binding together in close-knit groups - yet modern society depends on the cooperation of complete strangers.

The U.S. study involved 448 volunteers playing a ‘helping game’ designed to examine the impact of money.

In one of a series of experiments, participants could choose whether or not to offer ‘help’ to fellow players in the form of gifts of ‘consumption units’ (CUs).  Later the CUs were swapped for real money, providing an incentive to acquire more of them.

Being generous increased the chances of receiving reciprocal help and units in the future.

But this voluntary ‘give and take’ system only worked when groups were small and individuals dealt personally with each other.

Co-operation fell from almost 80 per cent in groups of two to 49.1 per cent in groups of four, 34.2 per cent in groups of eight and 28.5 per cent in groups of 32.

The introduction of worthless tokens brought about a dramatic change.  Volunteers instinctively started using the tokens as ‘money’ - rewarding help with a token or demanding one in exchange for help.

With tokens included in the game, the average rate of co-operation remained a constant 52.1 per cent even when groups increased in size, the scientists reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Professor Camera said: 'In the experiment, monetary exchange, one of the most basic economic institutions, emerged endogenously and supported a stable level of co-operation in small as well as large groups.

‘Inherently worthless tokens acted as a catalyst for co-operation, acquiring value because of a self-sustaining belief that they could be exchanged for future co-operation.’

But the study also exposed the dark side of money, showing how it led to a social cost. Voluntary helpfulness was replaced by mercenary values.

‘Once the convention of money took hold, participants replaced norms of voluntary co-operation with a norm of exchange, i.e. trading co-operation for a token, quid pro quo,’ said the researchers.  ‘This damaged co-operation whenever monetary trade was unavailable.’



When 'never again' turns into 'yet again'

DURING A VISIT last week to Dachau, the former concentration camp near Munich, German Chancellor Angela Merkel laid a wreath in memory of the tens of thousands the Nazis murdered there. The memory of their fate, she said, "fills me with deep sadness and shame."

Dachau — the original concentration camp, established in March 1933 — radiates a constant reminder about the bottomless human capacity to commit evil, or to look away when evil is committed. "How could Germans go so far as to deny people human dignity and the right to live?" Merkel asked. "Places such as this warn each one of us to help ensure that such things never happen again."


As Merkel spoke, Copts and other Christians in Egypt were reeling from a wave of attacks more savage than any in modern Egyptian history. Islamist mobs across the country torched scores of churches — some more than 1,000 years old — along with convents, monasteries, and Christian-owned homes and businesses. A Franciscan school near Cairo was looted and burned, said Sister Manal, the principal; then she and other nuns were paraded through the streets "like prisoners of war" to the jeers and abuse of the mob.

Shades of Kristallnacht.

Merkel's speech also coincided with the latest evidence of a chemical-weapons attack by the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Graphic video clips posted online by anti-Assad rebels east of Damascus showed rows of corpses, including those of women, children, and babies. Hospitals in the area described a sudden influx of patients gasping for breath and suffering from convulsions, nausea, and vomiting — symptoms consistent with chemical-weapons poisoning. The humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders put the death toll at 355; other estimates ranged far higher. The massacre took place one year to the week after President Obama's warning that any use of chemical weapons by Assad would be a red line. In fact, as even the Obama administration has conceded, Assad crossed that line months ago. Last week's attack was not the first, only the most brazen.

Shades of Halabja.

While Merkel was recalling the lessons of history in Dachau, a United Nations commission of inquiry was holding hearings on human rights abuses in North Korea. Survivors of Pyongyang's ghastly network of slave-labor camps recounted the horrors that take place there: starvation, torture, rape, public executions. There is nothing secret about the camps' existence or location; detailed satellite images have long been available in the West. So have accounts of unspeakable atrocities the North Korean regime inflicts on its victims. Among those testifying before the UN panel was Shin Dong-hyuk, who spent the first 22 years of his life in the North Korea's notorious Camp 14 before a miraculous escape in 2005. Shin told the harrowing story of a six-year-old girl, a classmate, who was publicly beaten to death by her teacher for stealing five kernels of corn. Other witnesses testified to other savageries, from forced abortions to medical experiments performed on dwarfs.

Shades of Auschwitz. Of the Gulag. Of the Cambodian killing fields.

"Can this really be happening? In the 21st century?" exclaimed the Israeli columnist Ari Shavit as news broke last week of the latest chemical-weapons attack in Syria. "No decent person can ignore what's happening."

That's what we always tell ourselves when "never again" turns into "yet again." But man's inhumanity to man is no more unthinkable in the 21st century than it was in the 20th. Decent people can and usually will ignore what's happening, and the indecent count on their apathy.

"Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?" Adolf Hitler is said to have remarked in 1939.

There are always reasons not to act in the face of a growing evil. There are always reasons to believe that atrocities are being overstated, or that tyrants can be persuaded to reform, or that common sense will prevail, or that meddling in the "internal affairs" of others will only make things worse. Then we are shocked to find we have enabled monsters.

The burning of houses of worship didn't end with Kristallnacht, nor the gassing of civilians with Halabja, nor concentration-camp butchery with Dachau. And we aren't finished building memorials to the dead, and solemnly declaring, as we lay our wreaths, that next time we won't forget the lessons of history.



Judge Strikes Down Obama’s ‘Improper’ NLRB Recess Appointment

A federal judge struck down one of President Obama’s highly controversial recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle ruled in a case involving a Washington State firm charged with unfair labor practices that that “the Board is without power to act because it lacks a properly appointed quorum.”

On August 12, four new NRLB members appointed by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate were sworn-in, but Settles' August 13th decision invalidates all previous actions taken by Obama’s recess appointees.

In July, Obama was forced to withdrew his 2012 “recess” appointees, Sharon Block and Richard Griffin, because they were named to the NLRB while the Senate was still in session and their appointments were subsequently ruled unconstitutional in federal court.

Obama named Lafe Solomon acting general counsel in 2010, then re-nominated him as the agency’s top lawyer in 2011 and 2013, although he was never confirmed by the Senate. (See NLRB press release.pdf)

But Settle ruled that Solomon’s appointment was invalid because the Federal Vacancies Reform Act requires that the appointee serve “as a personal assistant to the departing officer” within the year prior to the appointment, which  Solomon did not do.

The ruling “recognizes what the NLRB has failed to acknowledge: that former acting general counsel Lafe Solomon’s authority was questionable and came at an extreme cost to America’s job creators, like Boeing and Wal-Mart,” Dan Epstein, executive director of government accountability organization Cause of Action, commented.

Solomon came under fire by business groups after filing a 2011 complaint against Boeing, claiming that the aviation giant’s opening of a production plant in right-to-work South Carolina was an improper response to threats of a strike by its unionized employees in Washington State.

Judicial Watch released documents revealing emails about a deal the NLRB offered Boeing, in which it would drop the complaint if Boeing agreed not to lay off unionized workers. The union employees were later granted a contract extension and the complaint was formally withdrawn.

Last year, the NLRB’s Office of the Inspector General reported on a conflict of interest case involving Solomon, who held a substantial amount of Wal-Mart stock but participated in a decision on whether to file a complaint against Wal-Mart’s social media policy.

NLRB personnel polices prohibit individuals “from participating personally and substantially” in matters in which they have a financial interest.

Noting that “The DOJ can bring criminal or civil actions against Solomon,” Cause of Action condemned the OIG’s decision not to hold Solomon accountable because of “defects in the ethics process at the NLRB."




Are you a “potential terrorist?”:  "Are you a conservative, a libertarian, a Christian or a gun owner? Are you opposed to abortion, globalism, Communism, illegal immigration, the United Nations or the New World Order? Do you believe in conspiracy theories, do you believe that we are living in the 'end times' or do you ever visit alternative news websites (such as this one)? If you answered yes to any of those questions, you are a 'potential terrorist' according to official U.S. government documents."

The French model:  "Sometimes the impact of a set of policies is not obvious immediately. When Japan was riding high in the late 1980′s, a lot of people suggested that their model was one to emulate. Their public/private partnership with lifetime employment seemed to be working well. Japan had high growth rates and their future seemed limitless. It was only a matter of time before their economy surpassed America’s. It didn’t turn out that way. France is another example."

FL: Zimmerman will seek to recover legal fees from state:  "George Zimmerman's attorney said Tuesday that he is going to ask the state of Florida to pay for some of his client's non-lawyer legal bills, including for experts, printing and court reporters, and that the price tag could reach $300,000. Zimmerman was acquitted last month of all charges in the 2012 fatal shooting of Miami teenager Trayvon Martin. The decision in the nationally televised trial touched off protests across the country. Since he was found not guilty, Zimmerman is entitled under a Florida law to recoup the defense costs, minus private attorney fees, said his lawyer Mark O'Mara. It also says that any costs already paid can be refunded with the approval of a judge, he said."


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Truly Great Phony

Thomas Sowell

Many years ago, I was a member of a committee that was recommending to whom grant money should be awarded. Since I knew one of the applicants, I asked if this meant that I should recuse myself from voting on his application.  "No," the chairman said. "I know him too -- and he is one of the truly great phonies of our time."

The man was indeed a very talented phony. He could convince almost anybody of almost anything -- provided that they were not already knowledgeable about the subject.

He had once spoken to me very authoritatively about Marxian economics, apparently unaware that I was one of the few people who had read all three volumes of Marx's "Capital," and had published articles on Marxian economics in scholarly journals.

What our glib talker was saying might have seemed impressive to someone who had never read "Capital," as most people have not. But it was complete nonsense to me.

Incidentally, he did not get the grant he applied for.

This episode came back to me recently, as I read an incisive column by Charles Krauthammer, citing some of the many gaffes in public statements by the President of the United States.

One presidential gaffe in particular gives the flavor, and suggests the reason, for many others. It involved the Falkland Islands.

Argentina has recently been demanding that Britain return the Falkland Islands, which have been occupied by Britons for nearly two centuries. In 1982, Argentina seized these islands by force, only to have British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher take the islands back by force.

With Argentina today beset by domestic problems, demanding the return of the Falklands is once again a way for Argentina's government to distract the Argentine public's attention from the country's economic and other woes.

Because the Argentines call these islands "the Malvinas," rather than "the Falklands," Barack Obama decided to use the Argentine term. But he referred to them as "the Maldives."

It so happens that the Maldives are thousands of miles away from the Malvinas. The former are in the Indian Ocean, while the latter are in the South Atlantic.

Nor is this the only gross misstatement that President Obama has gotten away with, thanks to the mainstream media, which sees no evil, hears no evil and speaks no evil when it comes to Obama.

The presidential gaffe that struck me when I heard it was Barack Obama's reference to a military corps as a military "corpse." He is obviously a man who is used to sounding off about things he has paid little or no attention to in the past. His mispronunciation of a common military term was especially revealing to someone who was once in the Marine Corps, not Marine "corpse."

Like other truly talented phonies, Barack Obama concentrates his skills on the effect of his words on other people -- most of whom do not have the time to become knowledgeable about the things he is talking about. Whether what he says bears any relationship to the facts is politically irrelevant.

A talented con man, or a slick politician, does not waste his time trying to convince knowledgeable skeptics. His job is to keep the true believers believing. He is not going to convince the others anyway.

Back during Barack Obama's first year in office, he kept repeating, with great apparent earnestness, that there were "shovel-ready" projects that would quickly provide many much-needed jobs, if only his spending plans were approved by Congress.

He seemed very convincing -- if you didn't know how long it can take for any construction project to get started, after going through a bureaucratic maze of environmental impact studies, zoning commission rulings and other procedures that can delay even the smallest and simplest project for years.

Only about a year or so after his big spending programs were approved by Congress, Barack Obama himself laughed at how slowly everything was going on his supposedly "shovel-ready" projects.

One wonders how he will laugh when all his golden promises about ObamaCare turn out to be false and a medical disaster. Or when his foreign policy fiascoes in the Middle East are climaxed by a nuclear Iran.



15 Moronic Things Liberals Call Racism Since Obama Was Elected

Bizarrely, racism in America is no longer mainly about race. Sure, race is involved in a peripheral manner, but racism has mainly become an excuse, a dodge, a way to escape responsibility.

When a black liberal is criticized, he cries racism. When liberalism fails, liberals cry racism. When the Democrat Party gets in trouble, liberals cry racism. It has become the ever present background noise of politics, like birds chirping in the forest.

Racism does still exist and always will, but once the Democrat Party joined the GOP in being opposed to racist policies, appealing to racism became a dead dog political loser in this country. The very fact that we've become so hypersensitive about it as a country is evidence of how far it has been pushed to the fringes.

Keep in mind that we live in a nation with a black President and a black Attorney General. Furthermore, the government is legally allowed to discriminate against white Americans based on the color of their skin and it happily does so; yet you can't go a day in this country without hearing liberals howling about what a racist country they live in. It has almost become a circular, faith-based argument. America is racist because so many liberals say it's racist because they've heard other liberals say the country is racist.

Well, if our country is so racist, why is it that the Left has to reach so far to find examples of racism? People didn’t have to do any reaching to find examples of racism in the fifties and sixties, did they? So, if racism is such an all powerful force in America today, how is it that liberals have gotten so desperate to see race in every issue that they've had to latch on to pitiful issues like these to support their claims?

    1) Criticizing the IRS: "Republicans are using [the IRS scandal] as their latest weapon in the war against the black man. ‘IRS’ is the new 'N****r.'" -- Martin Bashir

    2) Having a Republican National Convention during a hurricane: "They are happy to have a party with black people drowning." -- Yahoo News Washington bureau chief David Chalian on the Republican National Convention, which was going on at the same time as Hurricane Isaac.

    3) Wanting to own a gun to prevent break-ins: "I am loathe to bring up what is in our head because we don’t like to talk about it so much. But on this particular day, on Martin Luther King Day, I think this needs to be said. That imaginary person that’s going to break into your home and kill you, who does that person look like? You know, it’s not freckle-faced Jimmy down the street, is it really? I mean, that’s not what really, that’s not what really people, we never really want to talk about the racial or the class part of this, in terms of how it’s the poor or it’s people of color that we imagine that we’re afraid of. Why are we afraid? What is that, and it’s been a fear that has existed for a very, very long time." -- Michael Moore

    4) Mentioning the "Constitution" or "respect for the Founding Fathers:" "The language of GOP racial politics is heavy on euphemisms that allow the speaker to deny any responsibility for the racial content of his message,” Williams wrote. “References to a lack of respect for the ‘Founding Fathers’ and the ‘Constitution’ also make certain ears perk up by demonizing anyone supposedly threatening core ‘old-fashioned American values.’" -- Juan Williams

    5) Calling Obama "angry:" "That really bothered me. You notice (Romney) said anger twice. He’s really trying to use racial coding and access some really deep stereotypes about the angry black man. This is part of the playbook against Obama, the ‘otherization,’ he’s not like us. I know it’s a heavy thing, I don’t say it lightly, but this is ‘n*ggerization.’" -- Touré

    6) Saying that Barack Obama lies: "Surrounded by middle-aged white guys — a sepia snapshot of the days when such pols ran Washington like their own men’s club — Joe Wilson yelled “You lie!” at a president who didn’t. But, fair or not, what I heard was an unspoken word in the air: You lie, boy!" -- Maureen Dowd

    7) Noting that Obama is privileged: "Spotlighting his elite education is tantamount to racial bigotry because it insinuates that 'he took the place of someone else through affirmative action, that someone else being someone white.'" -- Jonathan Capehart

    8) Saying that unions boss Obama around: "The Republican Party is saying that the President of the United States has bosses, that the union bosses this President around, the unions boss him around. Does that sound to you like they are trying to consciously or subconsciously deliver the racist message that, of course, of course a black man can’t be the real boss?" -- Lawrence O’Donnell

    9) Supporting voter ID: “If you go back to the year 2000, when we had an obvious disaster and – and saw that our voting process needed refinement, and we did that in the America Votes Act and made sure that we could iron out those kinks, now you have the Republicans, who want to literally drag us all the way back to Jim Crow laws and literally – and very transparently – block access to the polls to voters who are more likely to vote Democratic candidates than Republican candidates. And it’s nothing short of that blatant.” -- Debbie Wasserman Schultz

    10) Saying "I want my country back:" "Do you remember tea baggers? It was just so much easier when we could just call them racists. I just don’t know why we can’t call them racists, or functionally retarded adults. The functionally retarded adults, the racists – with their cries of, ‘I want my country back. You know what they’re really saying is, ‘I want my white guy back.’ They apparently had no problem at all for the last eight years of habeas corpus being suspended, the Constitution being [expletive] on, illegal surveillance, lied to on a war or two, two stolen elections – yes, the John Kerry one was stolen too. That’s not tin-foil hat time. ” -- Janeane Garofalo

    11) Being fans of Herman Cain: "One of the things about Herman Cain is, I think that he makes that white Republican base of the party feel okay, feel like they are not racist because they can like this guy. I think he(he’s) giving that base a free pass. And I think they like him because they think he’s a black man who knows his place. I know that’s harsh, but that’s how it sure seems to me." -- Karen Finney

    12) Fighting for the 2nd Amendment: "I believe the NRA is the new KKK. And that the arming of so many black youths, uh, and loading up our community with drugs, and then just having an open shooting gallery, is the work of people who obviously don’t have our best interests [at heart]." -- Jason Whitlock

    13) Republicans trying to keep Obama from being reelected: "Look at, look, the Tea Partiers, who are controlling the Republican Party….Their stated policy, publicly stated, is to do whatever it takes to see to it that Obama only serves one term. What’s, what does that, what underlines that? ‘Screw the country. We’re going to (do) whatever we (can) do to get this black man, we can, we’re going to do whatever we can to get this black man outta here.’… It is a racist thing." -- Morgan Freeman

    14) Disliking the fact that Obama is President: "They can’t stand the idea that he’s president, and a piece of it is racism. Not that somebody in one racial group doesn’t like somebody in another racial group, so what? It’s the sense that the white race must rule, that’s what racism is, and they can’t stand the idea that a man who’s not white is president. That is real, that sense of racial superiority and rule is in the hearts of some people in this country." -- Chris Matthews

    15) Disliking Barack Obama: "I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he’s African-American." -- Jimmy Carter



North Korea Shows The Pervasive Evil of Communism…and the Moral Bankruptcy of Communist Apologists

I spoke earlier today at the 2013 Liberty Conference in Lausanne, Switzerland. But I don’t think anybody is going to remember my speech about the collapse of the welfare state, even though I presented lots of powerful data from the BIS, OECD, and IMF, and also shared a very funny cartoon showing what happens when there’s nothing left for interest groups to steal.

At a normal conference, my remarks may have resonated, but I freely admit that I was completely overshadowed by the presentation of Shin Dong-Hyuk, who is the only person to have successfully escaped from the North Korean gulag.

In the future, if I ever get discouraged and think the fight for freedom is too difficult, I will watch this video and realize that nothing in my life will ever compare to the horror of living under communism. It’s not nearly as powerful as today’s first-person presentation, but the video will give you some sense of the utter barbarity of the North Korean government.

Keep in mind, by the way, that North Korea is an awful and repressive country even for the people who aren’t in the gulags. Malnutrition is such a problem, for instance, that children are stunted and the North Korean army had to lower its requirements to allow soldiers as short as 4’8?.

So perhaps now you understand why I get so upset when people in the west glorify communist thugs such as Che Guevara, or use the Soviet hammer and sickle as a cutesy marketing gimmick.

I hope nobody would ever think to wear a Hermann Göring t-shirt or use the swastika in a value-neutral fashion, so why should it be okay to whitewash and/or rehabilitate communists?



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

MLK's 'Dream' at 50

Is THIS the dream?

Tens of thousands of people descended on the National Mall Saturday for the coming 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech. In King's 1963 speech, he eloquently declared, "I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." Unfortunately, that day has not yet come.

The biggest reason for that is the professional race baiters like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton who arose from MLK's socialist ranks to keep the embers of racial animosity burning. Martin Luther King III, MLK's grandson, shamefully pointed to Trayvon Martin's death as evidence that "the task is not done." King also decried the Supreme Court's June ruling striking down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), which the Court did because the law's formula for federal intervention in state election law hasn't been revised in 40 years. In many ways, that's the essence of the movement today -- it's still living in 1963.

Further evidence of that arrested development comes from Attorney General Eric Holder, whose Justice Department filed suit against Texas last week for allegedly violating the Constitution and the VRA through recently passed voter ID and redistricting laws. Holder justifies the suit under Section 2 of the VRA, which prohibits any voting qualification that "results in a denial or abridgement of the right of any citizens of the United States to vote on account of race or color." Pursuant to Holder's hostility toward voter ID laws, the Justice Department claims Section 5 authority to reimpose preclearance on Texas for the next decade.

Fortunately for Texas, the Supreme Court in 2008 upheld Indiana's similar voter ID law, and a lower court likewise upheld Georgia's. Neither law suppressed minority turnout, which certainly makes Holder's discrimination claim on that count difficult to prove. Voter fraud favors Democrats, which is why they oppose voter ID. It's also clear that Holder and the miscreants marching on the mall have turned King's dream on its head.



Why Your Boss is Dumping Your Wife

The United Parcel Service UPS +0.24%  will no longer cover employees' spouses on the company health plan. And while it's not the only company to have adopted the policy, it's among the largest. Some 15,000 UPS spouses who can obtain health coverage through their own jobs will be dropped from the plan. In a memo to employees, the company explained that the change was intended to offset the effects of the Affordable Care Act, which were expected to increase its health care costs by 4%. See: New Obamacare effect: working spouses taken off UPS health plans

By denying coverage to spouses, employers not only save the annual premiums, but also the new fees that went into effect as part of the Affordable Care Act. This year, companies have to pay $1 or $2 "per life" covered on their plans, a sum that jumps to $65 in 2014. And health law guidelines proposed recently mandate coverage of employees' dependent children (up to age 26), but husbands and wives are optional. "The question about whether it's obligatory to cover the family of the employee is being thought through more than ever before," says Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health. See: When your boss doesn't trust your doctor

While surcharges for spousal coverage are more common, next year, 12% of employers plan to exclude spouses, up from 4% this year, according to a recent Towers Watson survey. These "spousal carve-outs," or "working spouse provisions," generally prohibit only people who could get coverage through their own job from enrolling in their spouse's plan.

Such exclusions barely existed three years ago, but experts expect an increasing number of employers to adopt them: "That's the next step," Darling says. HMS, a company that audits plans for employers, estimates that nearly a third of companies might have such policies now. Holdouts say they feel under pressure to follow suit. "We're the last domino," says Duke Bennett, mayor of Terre Haute, Ind., which is instituting a spousal carve-out for the city's health plan, effective July 2013, after nearly all major employers in the area dropped spouses.

But when employers drop spouses, they often lose more than just the one individual, when couples choose instead to seek coverage together under the other partner's employer. Terre Haute, which pays $6 million annually to insure nearly 1,200 people including employees and their family members, received more than 20 new plan members when a local university, bank and county government stopped insuring spouses, according to Bennett. "We have a great plan, so they want to be on ours. All we're trying to do is level the playing field here," he says.



Abbott & Costello updated

COSTELLO: I want to talk about  the unemployment rate in America .

ABBOTT: Good Subject.  Terrible Times. It's 7.8%.

COSTELLO: That many people  are out of work?

ABBOTT: No, that's 14.7%.

COSTELLO: You just said 7.8%.

ABBOTT: 7.8%  Unemployed.

COSTELLO: Right 7.8% out of work.

ABBOTT: No, that's 14.7%.

COSTELLO: Okay,  so it's 14.7% unemployed.

ABBOTT: No, that's 7.8%.

COSTELLO: WAIT A MINUTE. Is it 7.8% or 14.7%?

ABBOTT: 7.8% are unemployed. 14.7% are out of work.

COSTELLO: If you are out of work you are unemployed.

ABBOTT: No, Congress said you can't count the "Out of  Work" as the unemployed.  You have to look for work to be  unemployed.


ABBOTT: No, you miss his point.

COSTELLO:  What point?

ABBOTT: Someone who doesn't look for work  can't be counted with those who look for work. It wouldn't be fair.

COSTELLO: To whom?

ABBOTT: The unemployed.

COSTELLO: But ALL of them are out of work.

ABBOTT: No, the unemployed are actively looking for  work. Those who are out of work gave up looking and if you give up,  you are no longer in the ranks of the unemployed.

COSTELLO: So if you're off the unemployment roles that  would count as less unemployment?

ABBOTT: Unemployment  would go down. Absolutely!

COSTELLO: The unemployment  just goes down because you don't look for work?

ABBOTT:  Absolutely it goes down. That's how it gets to 7.8%. Otherwise it  would be 14.7%.

COSTELLO: Wait, I got a question for you. That  means there are two ways to bring down the unemployment number?

ABBOTT: Two ways is correct.

COSTELLO:  Unemployment can go down if someone gets a job?

ABBOTT:  Correct.

COSTELLO: And unemployment can also go down if  you stop looking for a job?

ABBOTT: Bingo.

COSTELLO: So there are two ways to bring unemployment  down, and the easier of the two is to have people stop looking for  work.

ABBOTT: Now you're thinking like an Economist.

COSTELLO: I don't even know what I just said!

ABBOTT: Now you're thinking like  Congress.


When Jews And Arabs Sunbathe Together

Just as there are observant and unobservant Jews in Israel, there are all sorts of Arabs. Just as some Jewish women wouldn’t ever be seen in a bikini on the beach, there are plenty of Israeli Arab women who take advantage of Israel’s liberal nature and sunbathe on Israel’s many fine beaches.

So while the picture of the woman walking on the beach in a burka that did the rounds on social media a few weeks ago is accurate, it’s quite possible the girl in the bikini is an Arab too.

It’s normal. Here’s a typical story from one of my Facebook acquaintances, Bat Zion:

Shabbat in Eretz Yisrael and as is my custom on this Shabbat and every Shabbat, I go to the beach to enjoy the cooling water and the refreshing sea breeze.

Next to me in bright colourful skimpy bikinis, there situated themselves two beautiful young Israeli Arab women.

We exchanged common greetings (I talk to anyone:-)) and set to deepen the already evenly golden brown tan all three of us seem to have acquired.

One of the city inspectors, patrolling the beaches, approached us and reminded us to drink water so that we do not get dehydrated.

I told him I had forgotten mine. My beautiful beach neighbours seem to have also forgotten theirs.

“I will get a popsicle as soon as the vendor gets here,” I answered.

“So will we,” answered one of the young ladies next to me.

“Ok, ” said the inspector, “I will send him your way.” And left.

A few minutes later, all three of us were left with out mouths open.

There, in front of us was the city inspector negotiating his way barefoot on the hot sand, coming towards us.

In his hands were three popsicles!

Welcome to an “Apartheid” state called Israel!

The truth is, when girls are wearing bikinis, it’s hard to tell if they’re Jew or Arab and few people really care. You’d only notice if you spoke or listened for an accent and then again, most of them speak perfect Hebrew and with far less accent than my crappy Hebrew.

Another fine tale of normal, intermingled life in Israel. It’s not quite what you may have been mislead to believe.



The Price of a Preposterous Presidency

Just how much are we paying for the gooey warm glow of sanctimony liberals derive from Barack Obama’s “historic” presidency? The total cost is incalculable, but The Economic Collapse lists 33 documented facts that give a general idea in monetary terms, including:

    * When the Obama era began, the average duration of unemployment in this country was 19.8 weeks. Today, it is 36.6 weeks.

    * During the first four years of Obama, the number of Americans “not in the labor force” soared by an astounding 8,332,000. That far exceeds any previous four year total.

    * Median household income in America has fallen for four consecutive years. Overall, it has declined by over $4000 during that time span.

    * The poverty rate has shot up to 16.1 percent. That is actually higher than when the War on Poverty began in 1965.

    * When Barack Obama entered the White House, there were about 32 million Americans on food stamps. Today, there are more than 47 million Americans on food stamps.

    * When Barack Obama took office, the average price of a gallon of regular gasoline was $1.85. Today, it is $3.53.

    * Electricity bills in the United States have risen faster than the overall rate of inflation for five years in a row.

    * Health insurance costs have risen by 29 percent since Barack Obama became president, and Obamacare is going to make things far worse.

    * During Obama’s first term, the federal government accumulated more new debt than it did under the first 42 U.S presidents combined.

    * When you break it down, the amount of new debt accumulated by the U.S. government during Obama’s first term comes to approximately $50,521 for every single household in the United States.

Meanwhile, the media that put Obama in power and keeps him there despite his growing list of impeachable offenses tells us that we are in a recovery.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Does a police officer's race matter?

by Jeff Jacoby

CAN YOU judge a police officer's abilities by the color of his skin?

When Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis earlier this month promoted five officers to sergeant, the commotion it generated had everything to do with the officers' race. All five happened to be white, even though the pool of 21 officers eligible for promotion on the basis of their Civil Service test scores had included nine nonwhite candidates. The commissioner was blasted by a minority officers' advocacy group, which accused him of making a "conscious effort" to keep minorities from moving up.

Boston's mayoral hopefuls jumped on the issue. "How can we have a city of Boston that's 53 percent people of color," demanded City Councilor Charles Yancey, "and not have one person of color heading up any of the 11 police districts in the city of Boston?"

Davis pleaded in vain that there is more to police leadership than color. "I'm not going to promote every single time based on race, which is what they want me to do," he said. "I'm going to pick the best people for the positions." Nevertheless, he quickly added two black officers to the promotion list, and vigorously affirmed his commitment to a "diverse" police force. If his hands weren't tied by state law, which restricts most promotions to candidates who score well on the Civil Service exam, "our police force would look much more like the city in terms of diversity," the commissioner insisted.

The racial makeup of Boston's police force has long been a source of stress and frustration. For years critics have argued that the Civil Service exams —multiple-choice tests that reward memorized book knowledge — can't measure many of the qualities that effective police supervisors need, such as a knack for leadership, good communication skills, integrity, and sound judgment. Davis isn't the first commissioner to complain about the tests' inadequacy; his predecessors were vexed by them too. Last year Davis proposed spending $2 million on a project to overhaul the BPD's promotion system to advance more minority officers. Meanwhile, when it comes to his command staff — where he is free to disregard Civil Service scores — Davis has named the most diverse group in the department's history: White men account for fewer than half of the chiefs, superintendents, and deputy superintendents on his team.

The arguments for a more holistic means of screening officers for promotion sound plausible. Yet I never see the subject raised other than in the context of "diversity." The deficiencies of the existing test become an issue only when there are complaints about too few racial minorities being promoted. Does that mean that there is something wrong with the test? Maybe.

Or maybe what it means is that Boston's police department cannot readily escape the persistent racial gap in learning and test scores that has been so extensively documented in American life. The average black high school graduate reads and writes at the level of the average white 8th-grader; black students taking the SAT college entrance exam score (on average) 200 points below white students taking the same exam. It's easy to blame a test for the achievement gap it reveals. It's a lot harder to implant the educational values, habits, and skills necessary to actually close that gap.

It has become an unchallenged truism that police departments must "look like" the communities they serve, especially in cities with large minority populations. Plainly there is great value in having police officers who can move easily in minority neighborhoods or interview crime victims in a language they're most comfortable with. When there are minority cops patrolling the beat in minority neighborhoods, residents are less likely to resent the police as alien occupiers — and perhaps more likely to come forward with information that can prevent or solve a crime.

Yet it's one thing to say that a racially mixed police force can reduce public suspicion of law enforcement, or help in practical ways to make a city safer. It's something very different to suggest that racial diversity should be pursued for its own sake, and that there is something inherently foul about a promotion list that doesn't include a certain number of blacks or Hispanics. If the Civil Service test needs improving, improve it. But let's not be seduced by the false assumption that, ideally, the demographics of a police department should match those of the population.

On the contrary: Ideally, the demographics of a police department shouldn't matter. No one imagines that Boston's cops should mirror Boston's population in terms of religion or party registration. Boston needs to recruit and promote skilled, honest, and committed police officers; most residents would agree that it's irrelevant whether they happen to be Methodists or Mormons, Republicans or Democrats. Maybe it's still not possible to be quite so nonchalant when it comes to race. But shouldn't that be the goal? Fifty years after the March on Washington, shouldn't public officials be able to acknowledge that there is always a serious moral objection to treating skin color as a job qualification? Even if, for the moment, there is no easy way around it?



Yes, Black Is the New ‘Transparency’

Cass Sunstein is on the NSA "review board" so Federal spying on Americans will only be done judiciously  -- or will it?

The recently released secret FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] court opinion is supposed to promote the idea that the administration elected on a promise of "transparency" is now making good on that pledge. There’s just one problem: a good 20 percent of the 83-page document is redacted, including some key paragraphs. It is to a large extent unreadable. But what else are we to expect from this Bizarro World administration – the most secretive in our history – where black is the new "transparency"?

Yet that’s just the beginning of the White House’s weirdly inverted response to the public outcry against its massive domestic surveillance program. At his press conference promising to "reform" the spying machinery, President Obama announced a "review board" to be appointed that would supposedly reassure his critics there really is no domestic spying program: the goal, as he put it, would be to strike a "balance" between civil liberties and the safety of all Americans. A week or so later he made some appointments to this panel: former Counter-Terrorism Czar Richard Clarke, former special assistant for economic policy Peter Swire, former CIA Deputy Director Mike Morrell – and Cass Sunstein, a very close friend and confidant of the President.

Sunstein formerly headed up the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs: now a Harvard law professor, he has made something of a name for himself as an outspoken advocate of government spying. Being one of those really highbrow types, he calls it "cognitive infiltration." Sunstein wants paid government agents to penetrate ostensibly subversive “conspiracy minded” social networks: in other words, he wants to set up a police state system of government spies and provocateurs.

Sunstein is a singular figure: no one else in government (or academia, as far as I know) has pushed for measures so openly totalitarian in their implications. Here is part of the summary of an academic paper Sunstein published in 2008:

"Many millions of people hold conspiracy theories; they believe that powerful people have worked together in order to withhold the truth about some important practice or some terrible event."

What person in their right mind could possibly believe that powerful people are working together to withhold the truth about some important practice? Oh, wait! Isn’t that what the Snowden revelations have proved beyond what any "conspiracy theorist" I know of ever asserted? Thanks to the Snowden "leaks" we now know that is precisely what’s been happening.

According to Professor Sunstein, if you believe that, you’re creating "serious risks" for society at large, "including risks of violence." The mere existence of such people "raises significant challenges for policy and law."

James Clapper didn’t lie to Congress and the American people – you’re just imagining that, you conspiracy theorist wacko! Moreover, you’re a danger to society, and have to be combated by law enforcement agencies operating online and undercover. Sunstein proposes sending government spies into "chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups" to provide a bit of Attitude Correction.

These agents would be paid to infiltrate and counteract any "conspiracy theories" the Harvard Professor and his co-thinkers deem "dangerous." Sunstein stresses the importance of the covert aspect of this program: these Attitude Correctors must at least appear to be independent, all the while taking their marching orders (and their checks) from Washington. Think of it as a "stimulus" job-creating program. Their targets: anyone who "attempts[s] to explain an event or practice by reference to the machinations of powerful people, who have also managed to conceal their role." In short, the enemy is anyone who believes the government has covered up illegality and egregious violations of the Fourth Amendment for years – and anyone who suspects what Sunstein and his online KGB are up to.

As an exercise in ideological ambidexterity, Sunstein’s proposal is Olympic quality stuff: he is, after all, the author of an entire book about the necessity for dissent in a free society. Well, then how can he possibly advocate the creation of a covert government program to infiltrate, combat, and discredit these very same dissenters? Well, you see, there are good dissenters and bad dissenters, and as long as the Good Guys are in charge of the government, it’s cool to deploy government resources against those who believe in the wrong "conspiracy theories." As he puts it in his paper, imaginatively titled "Conspiracy Theories":

Rulers throughout history, including especially the worst tyrants, have touted their virtuous motives, and proclaimed themselves the guardians of "social welfare" – an oleaginous phrase that’s a code word for those ideologues (left and right) who long for a system of effective social control. Yes, there must be dissent – there’s the "liberal" gloss on a very illiberal idea – but it must be the right kind, our kind. Those crazy Ay-rabs, Sunstein avers, are rife with conspiracism, it oozes from their very pores, and here in America we have the homegrown "antigovernment" types, the very kind who hate Harvard professors and are potentially just as violent as Al Qaeda: indeed, perhaps more dangerous in the long run.

Well, then, "What can government do about conspiracy theories?" he asks:

"Among the things it can do, what should it do? We can readily imagine a series of possible responses. (1) Government might ban conspiracy theorizing. (2) Government might impose some kind of tax, financial or otherwise, on those who disseminate such theories. (3) Government might itself engage in counterspeech, marshaling arguments to discredit conspiracy theories. (4) Government might formally hire credible private parties to engage in counterspeech. (5) Government might engage in informal communication with such parties, encouraging them to help. Each instrument has a distinctive set of potential effects, or costs and benefits, and each will have a place under imaginable conditions. However, our main policy idea is that government should engage in cognitive infiltration of the groups that produce conspiracy theories, which involves a mix of (3), (4) and (5)."

In Sunstein’s world, censorship is just another option, but "cognitive infiltration" of targeted groups – and the public square at large – by paid "credible" government covert agents on the Internet is definitely on the table. This is the person the President is appointing to his NSA review board, a body set up to reassure us that there’s no reason to fear for our privacy and that Big Brother isn’t watching us.  Really?

And it isn’t just the Fourth Amendment the new authoritarians are after: Sunstein opposes the First Amendment as presently constituted. Instead, he says, we need a "New Deal for speech," one that would recognize that technological changes have made the old marketplace-of-ideas conception of free speech outdated. What we need, says Sunstein, is a reformulated First Amendment because the current version isn’t "adequately serving democratic goals." And, no, he didn’t capitalize the "d" in democratic, but you get the idea.

Sunstein, in short, is the single most consistent academic representative of barefaced authoritarianism one could possibly find, short of unearthing some aging New Left Stalinist. Certainly he is the most highly placed, shuttling from Harvard to government and back again. His appointment to the NSA review board is an unabashed middle finger aimed directly at the Obama administration’s civil libertarian critics.

Sunstein’s extremism is on full display in an article published by Bloomberg News just the other day, which the editors gave the rather skeptical-sounding title of "Could Bowling Leagues and the PTA Breed Nazis?" In it, Sunstein tells us "social capital" – the links that bind us together socially – is not necessarily a good thing. There is a "dark side" to it. Citing a recent study by one of his fellow nutty professors, he avers that a "high level of social capital" led directly to the rise of …. wait for it! … Hitler and Nazism!

Citing this crackpot study, Sunstein points to a correlation between membership in the Nazi Party and membership in private social organizations – those German drinking societies! – to "prove" a definitive link between bowling leagues and the Holocaust. And, no, you can’t make this stuff up. Utilizing the methods of "sociological" pseudo-science and progressive anxieties about the rise of right-wing fascism, Sunstein posits that "dense social networks" in the US are a problem for our democracy:

Sunstein’s argument of last resort, you’ll note, is always the alleged threat of "terrorism": this is the Get-Out-of-Jail free card for our post-9/11 authoritarians, whether they be outright neocons or else "progressives" of Sunstein’s ilk: the deus ex machina of all their ideological morality plays is always the same. That theme is wearing a little thin, however, as the upsurge against the Surveillance State takes on momentum and the revelations continue – thank you, Edward Snowden! – in spite of recently stepped up strong-arm tactics to stanch the leaks.

In a halfway healthy society, Sunstein would be laughed out of polite society, and consigned to the margins, where fruit-juice drinking sandal-wearers and founders of utopian communes plot revolution in cheap cafeterias. In Barack Obama’s America, Sunstein divides his time between the halls of government and the lushest groves of academe, whispering in the ear of the President that the number of bowling leagues has grown quite alarmingly.


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


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Monday, August 26, 2013

26 August, 2013

Dead Souls of a Cultural Revolution

By Patrick J. Buchanan

Last Friday, Christopher Lane, a 22-year-old Australian here on a baseball scholarship, was shot and killed while jogging in Duncan, Okla., population 23,000. He died where he fell.

Police have three suspects, two black and one white. The latter said they were bored and decided to shoot Lane for "the fun of it."

As Lane was white and the shooter black, racism has surfaced as a motive. Thursday came reports that killing a white man may have been an initiation rite for the black teens in joining some offshoot of the Crips or Bloods.

What happened in Oklahoma and the reaction, or lack of reaction to it, tells us much about America in 2013, not much of it good.

Teenagers who can shoot and kill a man out of summertime boredom are moral barbarians, dead souls.

But who created these monsters? Where did they come from? Surely one explanation lies in the fact that the old conscience-forming and character-forming institutions — home, church, school, and a moral and healthy culture fortifying basic truths — have collapsed. And the community hardest hit is Black America.

If we go back to the end of World War II, 90 percent of black families consisted of a mother and father and children raised and disciplined by their parents. The churches to which these families went on Sundays were stronger. Black schools may have been largely segregated, but they were also the transmission belts of patriotism and traditional values rooted in biblical truths and a Christian faith.

Though such schools graduated hardworking, law-abiding and productive citizens, today they would be closed as unconstitutional.

Indeed, all of those character- and conscience-forming institutions of yesterday are in an advanced state of decline today.

Seventy-three percent of black kids are born to single moms. Black kids who make it to 12th grade may often be found reading at seventh-, eighth- or ninth-grade levels. In some cities the black dropout rate can hit as high as 50 percent.

Drugs are readily available. And among black males ages 18 to 29, in urban areas, often a third are in prison or jail, or on probation or parole, or walking around with a criminal record.

Where do the kids get their ideas of right and wrong, good and evil? In homes where the father is absent and the TV is always on. From radios tuned in to rap and hip-hop. From films where Hollywood values prevail and the shooting never stops. From street gangs that sometimes form the only families these kids have ever known.

Still, crime has fallen since 1990, we are told. And so it has. But that is only because the baby boomers, the largest population cohort in our history, passed out of the high-crime age group a quarter of a century ago, and because the jail and prison population in America has tripled.

What kind of leadership do we see today in Black America?

What can be said for an NAACP that was lately demanding a Justice Department investigation of a rodeo clown running around a bull ring in rural Missouri in an Obama mask, but cannot find its voice to address a black-on-white atrocity in Middle America?

When Trayvon Martin was shot to death in a murky incident in Sanford, Fla., Jesse Jackson rushed there to declare: "Blacks are under attack. ... Killing us is big business." Trayvon was "shot down in cold blood by a vigilante ... murdered and martyred."

After Chris Lane's cold-blooded murder, Jesse tweeted: This sort of thing is to be "frowned upon."

If I had a son, said President Obama, he would have looked like Trayvon; 35 years ago, I could have been Trayvon. Can the president not find his voice to speak to the parents of Chris Lane?

Since Lyndon Johnson took office, 50 years ago, we have spent trillions on his programs for health care, housing, education, food stamps, welfare and civil rights. Are we living in that Great Society we were promised?

In that same decade, we were told that the social, cultural and moral revolution bursting forth on the campuses would rid us of the repressive old-time morality and Old Time Religion, and lead to a more equal, just, humane and better America, a beacon to mankind.

Yet, are not the killers of Chris Lane who shot him for the fun of it the "do-your-own-thing!" children of that cultural revolution?

The death of Trayvon was said to be reflective of the real America, a country where black folks live in constant fear of white vigilantes and white racist cops. What nonsense.

In the real America, interracial violence is overwhelming black-on-white. Even if the media will not report it, everybody knows it.

And journalists will not dig into the numbers that prove it, for the truth would undermine their ideology and contradict the narrative that governs and gives meaning to their lives.

For liberals, America is always "Mississippi Burning." It just has to be that way.



It's Left-wing prats who are defending Britain's  freedoms

The visit by national security agents to smash up computers at the Guardian newspaper is shocking, like something out of East Germany in the 1970s

A few weeks ago, a British national newspaper was visited by a detachment of national security agents who demanded that its computers and hard drives be destroyed. The security men then stood over its staff while they smashed their equipment to pieces.

In the peace-time history of a free country, this incident is about as shocking as it gets. And yet, a remarkable consensus has grown up, including – I’m sorry to say – many on my side of the political fence, to the effect that this is no big deal.

The reasons that this scene – which looks, on the face of it, like something out of East Germany in the 1970s – is apparently perfectly acceptable seem to be: a) the data in the computers was a threat to the national security of this country and to that of our American allies; b) this information was stolen from the US government and published illegally by people who are narcissistic/eccentric/of dubious political judgment, and c) the newspaper in question was the Guardian, which is full of annoying Left-wing prats. Let’s consider these points in order of importance.

Taking a hammer to the hardware in the Guardian’s basement will make scarcely any difference to the dissemination of this data since duplicates reside in other locations around the globe. So presiding over the physical destruction of the newspaper’s property could only constitute a form of rather theatrical intimidation.

The official excuse for getting rid of the equipment – even though the data was known to exist elsewhere – was that the paper’s system might be insecure, so obliterating it meant that at least one source of potential leaks was eliminated. This would be far more credible if the National Security Agency (whose mass surveillance programme had been exposed) was as diligent in carrying out its prescribed function as it is in vindictively pursuing anyone who reports its unconstitutional activities to the world.

It is now an established fact that the US security agencies – while they were presumably busy trawling through the email traffic and telephone records of the general population – ignored explicit warnings that the Tsarnaev brothers were potential terrorists. In spite of the Chechen pair being specifically identified by Russian security experts, these dangerous young men – living in plain sight – were allowed to prepare unmolested for the Boston marathon bombings.

And in addition to such serious lapses of concentration, the NSA has had moments of comic ineptitude: at one point, it seems it confused the international dialling code for Egypt (20) with the area code for Washington DC (202) and ended up hauling in the records of every phone call that went through the nation’s capital. Indeed, the fact that Edward Snowden, who was an employee of an outside contractor, had access to its top-secret data, suggests that the standards of security at the agency were pretty lax.

Which brings us to: b) the individuals who transmitted and received this information. The personalities of these people, however self-righteous or psychologically flawed they may be, are of no relevance.

What Snowden exposed was a gross abuse of power by a secret policing agency. What the NSA was (is) doing is strictly prohibited by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which states that the citizen shall be free from “unreasonable searches and seizures” without probable cause. That is why the 2008 anti-terrorism law, which allows warrantless surveillance on domestic networks, specifies that this must be targeted at non-citizens abroad. (Reader, this means you if you have any digital or telephone contact with the US.)

In reality, this programme now involves the indiscriminate mass monitoring of innocent communications on a scale that is unprecedented in history. What we should be concerned about are not the personal quirks of Mr Snowden or his opportunistic embrace by Vladimir Putin, but the significance of what he revealed with the help of some journalists.

So here we are at c) and the particular problem that some commentators have with the Guardian newspaper. As regular readers will know, I do not balk at any opportunity to ridicule the self-regarding Left-liberalism of the Guardian. Nor do I support its attempt to place legal limits on the activities of the press – the irony of which is not lost on those who are now unconcerned about its fate.

But that is neither here nor there. When James Rosen, the White House correspondent of Fox News, was being threatened by the Obama administration’s Department of Justice, he was defended in the most robust and uncompromising terms by none other than the New York Times (which has now entered an agreement with the Guardian to share the Snowden data).

So a newspaper that was the quasi-official Obama fanzine, and which detests Fox News with every fibre of its being, stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Fox’s persecuted reporter against illegitimate bullying by the federal government. Neither his views, nor the political orientation of his employers, were of any consequence in the matter. That is how it has to be if freedom of expression is to survive these dangerous times.

And this is the justification of it all: that the dangerousness of the times means that we must temporarily suspend our basic freedoms and even our concept of private life. So let me make this clear. I recognise the unfathomable danger of a deranged, nihilistic enemy. If anything, the threat to civilian life seems greater now than during the Cold War, when both sides were quietly dealing all the time.

But where are we going with this? How much are we prepared to compromise with our idea of a life worth living in order to pursue the chimera of perfect safety?

An awful lot of people are saying that they don’t mind if their emails, Skype calls and mobile phone records are being collected. If that helps the state to protect them and their families, it’s OK.

Well, suppose we park a security officer at the door of every household to monitor who enters and leaves, who visits whom and how many hours they stay? The security men won’t actually enter the house, of course, unless they have reason to believe that there might be some activity taking place inside that could facilitate or incite terrorism – but they will keep records of all the comings and goings from every address. Will that be OK too?

The British degree of trust in their security agencies startles many other countries (like Germany and the US) where liberty is taken less for granted. An editor of the US National Review wrote last week of those “who steadfastly refuse to express anxiety unless they can actually hear jackboots”. Note: once you hear the jackboots, it’s too late.



Economic Ignorance OR Marxist Bona Fides?

Friday, President Obama said Republicans are spending too much time trying to repeal Obamacare. That won’t create jobs, that won’t help the middle class, and that won’t build ladders to the middle class.

Pure socialist rhetoric when we know businesses by the thousands have laid off full time employees, cut full to part time, and most announced new hires will be part time only ALL due to Obamacare mandates.

We also know about the jobs created since Obamacare passed in 2010, 7 of 8 jobs have been part time. Incomes are down 4.4% since the end of the recession.

This has resulted in the worst economic recovery in history. We are in the midst of the longest stretch of sub 3% GDP growth since 1929.

Health insurance costs have increased 29% since Obama became president, food costs are up 30%, gas has doubled, and electricity rates have risen faster than inflation every year since 2009.

Fewer jobs, fewer hours, lower wages, and skyrocketing costs of living. 76% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck and a record 16.1% are living in poverty.

Although the BLS says the unemployment rate for August was 7.4%/14.7% underemployed, Gallup polling indicates it is much higher at 8.9%/17.9% underemployed with an astounding 8,332,000 workers no longer counted.

Any reasonable person would understand this economy is an abject disaster for the working family, middle class, and the nation.

The reason we have this disaster is due precisely to the Marxist Obamacare law. For the president to say the Republicans are wasting time and it won’t create jobs or opportunity to repeal Obamacare is an insult to any thinking American.

President Obama is either economically ignorant or a dedicated Marxist intent on a government takeover of health care to fully implement the fundamental transformation of America into a socialist welfare state.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Avoiding prewar Germany’s Fate

Egypt’s military did not repeat the ghastly mistakes of its German counterparts in the 1930s.

I don’t often agree with a top Egyptian diplomat, but I thought Egypt’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, Ashraf el-Kholy, was right on target when he compared Egypt’s Moslem Brotherhood to the Nazis. As he told the Telegraph on August 19:

“Morsi was elected president and held office for one year, but in that time he tried to make everything Moslem Brotherhood-controlled…The Moslem Brotherhood are like a Nazi group that demand[s] that everything changes and people [do] everything their way.”

Fortunately the Egyptian army did not emulate the pre-World War II German army, which failed to overthrow Hitler after he came to power through democratic elections in 1933. Although the army was led by traditional conservatives who regarded Hitler and his Nazi thugs as little more than proletarian riff-raff, they continued to support him, even as it became increasingly clear that he was bent on dragging Germany into a potentially ruinous war.

Why did Germany’s generals fail to mount an anti-Hitler coup? After the war, German officers cited their oath of loyalty to Hitler, but that, I think, was a relatively minor reason. A more compelling consideration was that Hitler was immensely popular with the German people — a political rock-star of sorts — and that overthrowing him would lead to massive protests and considerable bloodshed. The German generals didn’t want to have rivers of German blood on their hands.

Another reason the generals didn’t act is that they couldn’t take the loyalty of the German army for granted. Germany’s senior officers might have despised Hitler, but junior officers idolized him. Would they obey orders to overthrow him, and turn their guns against his enraged civilian supporters? The generals weren’t sure.

For all these reasons the generals, despite their reservations, went along with Hitler, and the fact that — initially, at least — he went from one successful gamble to another appeared to justify their judgment. In the long run, however, the army’s failure to act brought about the most terrible war the world has ever seen.

But as I said, the Egyptian army didn’t follow Germany’s example. It overthrew Morsi knowing full well that far from meekly vanishing from the stage, the Moslem Brotherhood would never accept such a “humiliation,” and that the army would have to act forcefully and violently against Brotherhood supporters. I assume Egypt’s generals also recognized that the Muslim Brotherhood enjoys significant support among the army’s junior officers. After all, it was an Islamist army cell, led by Lt. Khalid Istambouli, that assassinated Egyptian President el-Anwar Sadat in 1981.

Nonetheless, the army decided that preventing Morsi from completing his Islamicization of Egyptian society justified their coup. It was a brave decision, and it has already transformed the politics of the region. Before the coup, it seemed that the spread of Islamist radicalism was irreversible. Today, that’s no longer the case. As the Chinese might say, the Islamists no longer enjoy “the mandate of heaven.”

It’s probably too much to expected to expect the Obama administration — and the American political class in general — to understand the stakes in the Middle East, to recognize that Egyptian politics (like Arab politics in general) is a zero-sum game in which compromise is despised, and to give Egypt’s generals the support they need and deserve.

But of all people, the Germans should know better. That’s why I was surprised by Germany’s decision to suspend arms exports to Egypt. Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle justified the suspension by saying that there must be “consequences” to the bloody military crackdown. But in this wicked world of ours, there are also consequences to the military’s not cracking down bloodily, and it is a foolish person indeed who assumes that inaction is invariably the wisest course.



Putting Bicycles Ahead of People

This is a story of raw power, collusion and government corruption. A story that is taking place in countless towns all over America. A story of “reinvented” government, where self-proclaimed private “stakeholders” and pressure groups set the rules, local elected officials rubber stamp them, and non-elected regional governments enforce them, sometimes with an iron fist – all with no input from citizens, and apparently no rights for private citizens and property owners to stop them or even have a say.

It’s the story of the destruction of private property rights in America. Of injustice and tyranny. Of unaccountable government run amok. We need to take action! (See below, in blue, for what you can do.)

Jennie Granato is a tax-paying citizen of Montgomery County, Ohio. She and her family own a 165-year-old historic house and farm just outside of Dayton. They’ve lived there forty years. On July 31, Jennie’s front yard was demolished – thanks to local, county and planning commission bureaucrats!

The Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission (MVRPC) has begun seizing people’s private property for its latest “essential” project – a $5-million bike path extension! It has seized almost all of Jennie’s front lawn. The bike path will come within just a few feet of her front door!

Jennie and her family tried for over a year to negotiate and reason with this unelected planning commission. Unfortunately, their neighbors were advised by lawyers not to say anything publicly about the pending land grab, so the media viewed it as a non-story. The county and its appraisers kept stalling, saying they wanted a meeting with Jennie, even as they ignored her pleas and offered a pittance for taking her front yard, and likely driving the value of her home down by tens of thousands of dollars.

The meeting never came – and officials didn’t even allow Jennie’s uncle to speak at a hearing. But the bulldozers certainly came! Last week, with no warning, they just started demolishing trees. Jennie and her family still own the property – BUT the county has barged in, torn out their trees and destroyed their front yard! They will never be able to walk out their front door again, without worrying that they will be run over by bicyclists roaring by at 10 or 20 miles per hour, just inches from their bottom step.

The government trucks and bulldozers also precipitated an even worse tragedy. Jennie’s 85 year old mother became so upset over seeing the government’s heavy machinery destroying her yard and favorite trees that she suffered a heart attack and died.

Of course the government refuses to accept any responsibility for this tragedy. It was just promoting the “public welfare” of the private “stakeholders” and pressure groups it works with.

That too has become far too common. The government and these groups want more and more control over our lives, more power to tell us what we can and cannot do with our property and lives. But they accept no transparency and no accountability, responsibility or liability when their actions hurt … or even kill … someone – or when they destroy the property values, peace and integrity of a home.

The MVRPC is an unelected regional government force driven by federal Sustainable Development grant money. It never faces voters over its actions or positions of seemingly unbridled power. It simply deals with other government agencies – local, state and federal – and with private groups like the American Planning Association, ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability, and a hoard of other organizations that represent faux “conservation and environmental” interests whose real motivation is money, and the power to control our lives.

They are “stakeholders” only in the sense that they want something – and are holding the stakes that their government friends are driving through the heart of our constitutional rights.

With the assistance of Federal and State grant programs and willing politicians, who see another way to build their own power and get elected over and over, they rule over us like unaccountable dictators. It’s the same story in nearly every community in our nation.

Neither Jennie nor any of her neighbors voted to institute the agency or its policies.

* There was no vote for this bike path.

* There was no referendum on the ballot to approve this project or the spending of their tax dollars.

Yet the MVRPC imposed itself on privately owned property, giving the owner no say in the matter and giving her a pittance in exchange for the land it is taking away. Soon, strangers on bikes will be crossing her land, passing within seven feet of her front door. And she fears there is nothing she can do about it.

How does she secure her home? How can she ever hope to sell it? Who will compensate her for the loss of value, now that her once lovely and private front lawn is gone? Certainly not the MVRPC.

My American Policy Center has warned Americans over and over about the dangers of this fraud called “Sustainable Development” – and the enforcement of top-down control through non-elected boards and regional governments. Here is that reality, in all of its outrageous raw power.

Jennie’s neighbors, property rights activists and Tea Party leaders are joining forces to support her fight to stop this outrage. They have gathered at the property, to protest and take the issue to the news media – and will do so again. To its credit, the media are finally starting to notice what is happening. But if that is the extent of it, you know full well that these government officials will simply laugh, ignore the protests and news stories, wait for the attention to go away, and then grab someone else’s property.

That’s why concerned citizens across the nation need to join this fight and put power behind this effort to stop these bureaucrats from taking Jennie’s property. Freedom fighters need to build a huge protest fire and turn this into a national property rights issue.

Corrupt government officials use taxpayers as doormats, pawns, bank accounts and land holders for their agendas and power plays. If we continue doing nothing to stem the rising tide of government tyranny and corruption, we will watch our rights and property disappear, one by one.

Here’s what you can do to help

As the local Dayton area residents do all they can with sign waving, demonstrations and protests to call attention to this blatant property theft, outraged Americans from across the country can bring an avalanche of phone calls and emails on the perpetrators – the scoundrels who think they can prey on any citizen without consequences. Make them feel heat for their actions!!

Click here for the names, phone numbers and emails of the Montgomery County, Ohio Commissioners, the Washington Township Board, and the members of the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission. Then call them and let them know what you think!

Americans concerned for their own liberties need to bury these officials in calls and emails of protest. We need to make these dictators and thieves aware that what they are doing is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. We need to inform them that We the People have rights, and will fight for them.



Feds Threaten To Arrest Email Provider for Closing Rather Than Snoop on Customers

Big Brother doesn't like being thwarted

Recently, encrypted email provider Lavabit closed its doors rather than spy on its customers at the command of the United States government. Lavabit's action was almost immediately echoed by Silent Circle, which preemptively shuttered its encrypted email service and purged users' stored data without warning so that it couldn't be subject to a similar order.

Unfortunately, the government's position seems to be the same as that of the Mafia: If you're told to do business with the mob, you don't get to decide otherwise. Lavabit owner Ladar Levison reportedly faces arrest for his decision to shut down rather than cooperate.

From NBC News:

    "The owner of an encrypted email service used by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden said he has been threatened with criminal charges for refusing to comply with a secret surveillance order to turn over information about his customers.

    "I could be arrested for this action," Ladar Levison told NBC News about his decision to shut down his company, Lavabit LLC, in protest over a secret court order he had received from a federal court that is overseeing the investigation into Snowden.

    Lavabit said he was barred by federal law from elaborating on the order or any of his communications with federal prosecutors. But a source familiar with the matter told NBC News that James Trump, a senior litigation counsel in the U.S. attorney’s office in Alexandria, Va., sent an email to Levison's lawyer last Thursday – the day Lavabit was shuttered -- stating that Levison may have "violated the court order," a statement that was interpreted as a possible threat to charge Levison with contempt of court."

Among the people supporting Lavabit and its owner is Ron Paul. The former congressman and presidential candidate is championing Levison in statements to the press and on his new online news service. According to NBC News:

    "Among those now backing him is former Texas congressman and Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, who told NBC News on Tuesday that Levison's legal battle "should be in the interests of everybody who cares about liberty."

Levison may need that support. He says he has been "threatened with arrest multiple times over the past six weeks."



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