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Saturday, February 28, 2009

High Taxes And Union Pensions Are Killing Rhode Island. Duh!

The New York Times has run a story on the travails of my home state, Rhode Island. The Times pays homage to the good things about Rhode Island, which is a quirky state with beautiful landscapes and beaches, in which everyone seems to know everyone else, or at least knows someone who knows someone. Rhode Island should be the jewel in this country's economy, but Rhode Island is in an economic death-spiral. If you want to see this country's economic future under high-tax, punish-the-rich, union-giveaway policies, come to Rhode Island.

While The Times beats around the bush on the cause of Rhode Island's economic problems, The Times finally gets to a point I have made before - high taxes and union pensions are killing Rhode Island's economy:
Organized labor remains a powerful force, and the state’s unfunded pension liability, $7 billion, is among the worst in the country....

[RI has a] tax structure, which is generally considered uncompetitive with those of neighboring states. State leaders cringed last fall when Jack Welch, the former chairman of General Electric, said on Fox News that Rhode Island’s tax structure made it “the 48th-most-acceptable state for business.”

In fact, a study last fall by the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan group in Washington, ranked Rhode Island’s business climate the fifth-worst in the nation.

Union pensions for state employees are the single biggest problem, as a 2006 study showed. For decades, policies allowed state union employees to retire on full pensions with cost of living adjustments after 30 years regardless of age, based on a formula from the last three years of work. This system has saddled the state with ever-increasing payments with a shrinking work force paying into the system.

By way of example, a unionized public employee who started working for the state out of college, say age 23, could retire at age 53 on a full pension for life, and could increase the amount of the pension by working overtime in the last three years. Other perks, such as getting retirement "credits" for taking classes, or buying credits, allowed employees to game the system. After "retirement" the state employee could simply get another job while collecting a state pension. It is likely that this person would spend almost as much of his or her life on a state pension as working for the state.

Such a system was great for the individual employee, and made state employment a coveted goal. Handing out state jobs was an important means of political patronage, mostly for the Democrats who control the state legislature. The system, however, was not sustainable. Attempts to change the system were opposed by the unions, which fought tooth-and-nail, with the overwhelmingly Democratic state legislature siding with the unions.

Is it union-bashing to point out that what is good for the unions may be destroying the state? Do the unions even know or care that they have created a house of cards which looks great to their members, but is on the verge of falling down? High taxes are a reflection, in part, of the need to fund these ever-increasing costs. This is an economic death-spiral which is picking up steam as it falls.

There are other problems, such as public corruption, but high taxes and unsustainable union pensions dwarf all other issues. Sounds like Obama's plan for the United States. We have seen in Rhode Island a microcosm of how these big-government, punish the rich, class warfare policies play out, and it is not good.

Support The Commissioner

Another conservative secretly takes to the internet. The Commissioner: Where sports and politics collide. Ouch. But one thing, another new blog in the Ithaca area without name, rank and serial number. How can people attack you if you don't identify yourself? Maybe that's the point.
I'm starting to think the GOP are the Detroit Lions of American politics . . . they are simply averse to winning.
Wait a second. We won Minnesota, didn't we?

But at least he does say "I am a first year student at Cornell Law School who has an unhealthy obsession with sports and politics." Hmm ... Will I stand accused of corrupting young minds?

(Photo, above right, of Ithaca conservatives meeting in secret to plot.)

Hollywood Stars Open "Dialogue" With Iran

A delegation of Hollywood stars, headed by Annette Bening, is traveling to Iran to open a dialogue on behalf of the Obama administration:
Thirty-eight years ago, a ping pong team sent by US president Richard Nixon to Beijing opened the door to Communist China. February 27, 2009, president Barack Obama launched his bid for dialogue with Iran with an Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences delegation from Hollywood. It is led by the actress Annette Bening, AMPAS president Sid Ganis and his predecessor Frank Pierson who flew in just after the Oscar award ceremony. Visiting in the framework of "US-Iranian culture exchanges," they will hold talks in Tehran Saturday and Sunday.
While the Hollywood stars are in Iran, I'm sure they will meet with the thousands of opposition political candidates who have been excluded from elections, the students who protested at Tehran University against repression, the homosexuals whose conduct is punishable by death, and the women who risk being stoned to death for adultery.

Hollywood is going to Iran, one of the most repressive states in the world, but I'm sure we'll hear hardly a peep of dissent; after all, we want the mullahs to like us, and everything that has happened the last 30 years is our fault:
While the Hollywood team's visit to Tehran is not political, it does show the openness of Iran toward the expansion of cultural relations with the US.
How ironic that the Academy of Motion Pictures is going to one of the most repressive anti-homosexual countries on earth just days after awarding Sean Penn an Oscar for his portrayal of gay San Francisco mayor Harvey Milk. Do they not see the irony? Will they have the courage to speak up, much like Hollywood stars bashed George Bush at every opportunity? Perhaps the stars can visit the factory where Iran manufactures explosively formed projectiles used to kill our soldiers.

When Obama pledged to make the world like us again, what he meant was that we would willingly sacrifice the populations of countries like Iran to perpetual repression so that its repressive leadership liked us and stopped attacking us.
UPDATE: Michael Barone's article, Liberals Turning Blind Eye to Human Rights, is worth a read. Barone points out that Obama's foreign policy is an embrace of maintaining the status quo with dictatorships and repressive regimes, which represents a change from prior Democratic and Republican administrations from Jimmy Carter through George W. Bush, all driven by Bush-Derangement-Syndrome:
Not even when the cause of human rights was taken up by Ronald Reagan, in the Philippines as well as against the Soviets, did liberals declare that we should be indifferent to the cause of expanding democracy and freedom in the world. But now they seem to have done so in the desire to repudiate root and branch every policy espoused by George W. Bush.

Perhaps someone should suggest that a stony indifference to the freedom of others is not a very liberal -- not a very generous, not a very attractive -- thing.

UPDATE No. 2: This is too good for words. No sooner had the Hollywood stars landed, then the Iranian regime announced that there would no meetings unless the stars apologized:

The art advisor to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad urged a visiting Hollywood delegation to apologise for "insults and slanders" about Iranians in films, the ISNA news agency reported on Saturday.

"(Iranian) cinema officials will only have the right to have official sessions with... Hollywood movie makers when they apologise to the Iranians for their 30 years of insults and slanders," Javad Shamaghdari said.

"The Iranian people and our revolution has been repeatedly unjustly attacked by Hollywood," he said, citing '300' and recent Oscar nominated movie 'The Wrestler' as among offending films.

UPDATE No. 3: Gateway Pundit is reporting on a massive Iranian crackdown on students in Tehran, just as the Hollywood stars are visiting, and asks the question whether the stars will express solidarity? Yes, the stars will express solidarity, the question is, with whom?

Friday, February 27, 2009

Pork Brains In Milk Gravy Got Nothin' On Testicles In Béchamel Sauce

The internet is abuzz with photos of Pork Brains In Milk Gravy, allegedly the "worst food product ever." I beg to differ with these pundits, who obviously have not heard of The Testicle Cookbook: Cooking With Balls, by Serbian chef Ljubomir R. Erovic, who dedicates the book:

To my parents and my grandmother Ruza Macic for introducing me to the delicious world of testicles, even if they did lie about it!

You can order your e-copy here, and listen to words of wisdom from the chef. According to one review, Chef Erovic has tasty recipes for more than 30 dishes, including "a rustic testicle pizza to a more refined dish of testicles with béchamel sauce."

The Telegraph newspaper in Britain has hailed the book as "the world's first recipe collection of its kind." I'll bet.
Erovic also organises the World Testicle Cooking Championship held annually in Serbia since 2004. It draws in chefs from Australia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Norway and Serbia. One metric tonne of testicles are prepared during the contest.

Obama's Trickle-Down Marriage

Will it never stop? The deification of Obama, is what I'm talking about. Now it's Obama's marriage that is historic and a teaching lesson for the rest of us dim-witted wife-beaters. This, from a column in the Ithaca Journal written by Elizabeth Einstein (what else!):
Never has a presidential marriage created such a commotion.... For those of us in the field of marriage education, the real excitement from the election is in witnessing the healthy marriage model the Obama family presents to our citizens.
The "field of marriage education." Is there really such a thing? But I digress. Has there never been a decent presidential marriage in modern history? Well only if you ignore the marriages of Republicans (Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush '41, Bush '43) and one Democrat (Carter), or if you are so consumed with the need to adulate Obama that you choose to ignore history in discussing history. Or is there an unspoken, racially-tinged subtext here: How nice to see a healthfully-married black couple.

But it gets worse:
This is important because, in 1996, Congress followed findings that said marriage is the foundation of a successful society and that marriage is an essential institution of keeping a society strong.
Oh, Congress made findings that marriage is an essential institution to keep society strong. Absent such a congressional finding, would marriage still be essential?
Obama already teaches important realities we in the marriage movement have long promoted in our books, classes and programs - awareness and skills.
Good thing Obama teaches us to have healthy marriages. Absent such a lesson, we all would be lost.
Hopefully, the effect of observing this fine marriage model trickles down and encourages couples to strengthen their marriages and gain the benefits that social scientists identify... And there are many. Researchers find that children who live within a healthy marriage succeed more academically, have fewer behavioral problems and are more likely to attend college.
There we go. Trickle-down marriage so that we can justify social science. And that may be the most important benefit of the Obama marriage: Justifying what social scientists do. And by the way, this columnist better be careful. All the harping on the benefits to society of stable marriages with children is not politically correct. Why do you hate single moms?
Married men and women also fare better. Many adult benefits parallel the children's, but two significant ones are that they live longer and are wealthier. Ultimately, when we have a higher percentage of couples in healthy marriages, this trickles down to our communities. Physically and emotionally healthy couples enjoy a higher rate of education, home ownership and property values so communities benefit from lower crime statistics, domestic violence rates, teenage pregnancy and juvenile delinquency. The need for social services decreases.... The best gift you can give your child is a healthy family - like the Obamas!
Now you've gone and done it. You mentioned married "men and women." Please call the nasty right-wing conspiracy. They need a speaker at their next convention.

On reflection, I'm being too harsh on Einstein. Her website is good. She makes sense in a lot of what she says. It's just that the Obama-maniacal twinge taints the point. You can promote healthy marriages without the need to justify what you are saying by crediting Obama for the revelation. But then again, without the Obama-angle, the article probably would not have made it into the newspaper. So maybe Obamamania is just a means to an end.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Biden Gives Stimulus

Add Joe Biden to the list of people giving stimulus:

Obama Victory Chart

An article at American Thinker lays out a chart showing how Obama won the election by overwhelming Republicans. The author compares Republicans to Ethiopian spear-carriers who, under an onslaught by Italian mechanized troops, didn't know what hit them. I like the analogy, but I don't like the chart:

I have my own chart, and it is easier to follow. In fact, it's not even a chart, just a formula:

(A) Mainstream media adoration of Obama and demonization of Republicans;


(B) Use of race as a political weapon both to inspire supporters and silence critics;


(C) Creating a climate of fear while selling hope;


(D) Victory by a few percentage points.

This is the same formula used to ram through the "stimulus" package. Witness the mainstream media's continued cheerleading of Obama and demonization of Republicans (such as Bobby Jindal), together with the use of the race card by Eric Holder and James Clyburn to silence debate over Obama's policies.

This is a formula that works, so expect more of it as Obama seeks to nationalize education and health care to create a government-dependent generation which will vote Democratic because the alternative would be unthinkable: Working for a living and living within one's means.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

$1 Trillion "Downpayment" For Health Insurance Announced

An Obama spokesman has just announced that the likely "downpayment" on Obama's plan to expand health insurance coverage over the next decade will exceed $1 trillion. That's above and beyond what presently is paid through medicare and medicaid.

The question is, what percentage of the total bill does this "downpayment" represent? Will this be another social-engineering loan with a low downpayment? 5%? 10% How much are we putting down, or should I say, are our children and grandchildren putting down as a percentage of the total cost?

Obama's speech before Congress spoke of universal health insurance and education through college for everyone. What comes after a trillion, just so we can get our vocabulary straight in advance?

Nationalization of education and health care for everyone through age 22 or so. That pretty much covers everything. What do kids, teenagers, and college students do? They go to school, and sometimes to the doctor. These plans for "free" education and health insurance put an entire generation of people on the government dole for much of their social and economic lives.

Raising a government-dependent generation. That sounds like a plan to me. And not a good plan.
UPDATE: Don't be fooled by the headlines touting a $646 billion price tag (as if that's not enough). The$646 billion represents the tax increases being proposed: "President Barack Obama will propose $634 billion in tax hikes on upper-income taxpayers and cuts to government health spending to pay for health-care reform over the next 10 years, an administration official said Wednesday."

Obama's Day In Three Words

Will AP's Cheerleading Never Stop?

Will AP's cheerleading never stop? AP cheers the "audacity" of Obama's speech to Congress last night, while Marketwatch reports on the reality of Obama's massive plans for spending.

UPDATE: Drudge Report gets it right:

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Bobby Jindal

Back by popular demand, Bobby Jindal and his family

Media Still Campaigning For Obama

Nothing has changed. The mainstream media still is campaigning for Obama. On Obama's announcement of troop withdrawals from Iraq, the AP headline screams "US troops to exit Iraq by August 2010." Read several paragraphs into the story, and you will see that the headline and opening paragraphs lie. Obama plans on keeping 30,000-50,000 troops in Iraq beyond August 2010. The troops which will be withdrawn are "combat" troops, which is a false distinction.

All troops will not be withdrawn until the end of 2011, the date already agreed upon by the Bush administration and the Iraqi government:

The withdrawal plan — an announcement could come as early as this week — calls for leaving a large contingent of troops behind, between 30,000 and 50,000 troops, to advise and train Iraqi security forces and to protect U.S. interests.

Also staying beyond the 19 months would be intelligence and surveillance specialists and their equipment, including unmanned aircraft, according to two administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because the plan has not been made public.

The complete withdrawal of American forces will take place by December 2011, the period by which the U.S. agreed with Iraq to remove all troops.

Obama plays word games and politics as usual, and the mainstream media sings along.

UPDATE: AP has changed the headline to "Officials: Most troops out of Iraq in 18 months" and has moved into the second paragraph the disclosure that 30,000-50,000 troops will stay in Iraq. But since AP is so widely distributed and used by other sources, the original headline and story will linger.

Will Democratic Cavalry Rescue Federal Control Of Indian Lands From Supreme Court Decision?

In an important ruling, which may not get many headlines but which holds implications for the ability of states to exert control of federal Indian lands, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (the official name of the state -- great for trivia buffs). Some background on the dispute is here.

The American Bar Association Journal explains the significance, and likelihood of a legislative response to re-establish federal authority:

The U.S. Supreme Court has limited the authority of the federal government to transfer land in trust for the benefit of Indian tribes.

The decision is a victory for states seeking to prevent such transfers in an effort to control development on Indian lands .... The ruling today by Justice Clarence Thomas held that the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act applied only to tribes recognized by the federal government at the time the law was enacted.... In the case before the court, Carcieri v. Salazar, the state of Rhode Island had argued the Narragansett Indian Tribe was not authorized to transfer 31 acres of federal land into a federal trust because it did not obtain federal tribal status until 1983.

State officials feared the tribe wanted to build a casino on the site and that the transfer into the trust could remove state authority to ban construction.

Guy Martin, a partner at Perkins Coie who was formerly commissioner of natural resources for Alaska, told the ABA Journal that today’s decision could affect “dozens and dozens” of tribes that weren’t recognized or under federal jurisdiction in 1934. He sees the potential for more litigation over the meaning of "federal jurisdiction" if the U.S. government or third parties move to invalidate trust acquisitions by these tribes. He points to opinions by four concurring and dissenting justices raising the issue, including a concurrence by Justice Stephen G. Breyer. The Breyer concurrence said some tribes not recognized by the federal government in 1934 law might still have been under federal jurisdiction "even though the federal government did not believe so at the time"....

Martin also says there will likely be calls for a legislative solution. “This decision is strong enough and creates so much doubt that there’s no question there will be calls for congressional action to try to resolve this before it turns into a series of very contentious court actions.”

Catch that last paragraph -- calls for a legislative solution. In other words, if the Democratic Congress and President do not like the decision, they will pass a new law reasserting federal control, like happened with the Supreme Court's ruling on suits for back pay. So will the Democratic legislative cavalry come to the aid of reasserting federal government control?

That's a bet I might be willing to take. You see, for Democrats, it works both ways. When they don't like a legislative decision, they ask the courts to overrule it; when they don't like a court decision, they ask the legislature to overrule it. When Republicans try something like that, they are accused of not respecting "the rule of law."

Not Again - I Agree With NY Times Columnist

Second time this week, I'm in agreement with a NY Times columnist, at least on the language I quote if not the overarching Obama-maniacal subtext. First, it was Maureen Dowd writing on the cowardice of Eric Holder. Now David Brooks, warning that the administration's economic plans may be one large social experiment which ends badly:

The political history of the 20th century is the history of social-engineering projects executed by well-intentioned people that began well and ended badly....

The people in the administration are surrounded by a galaxy of unknowns, and yet they see this economic crisis as an opportunity to expand their reach, to take bigger risks and, as Obama said on Saturday, to tackle every major problem at once....

All in all, I can see why the markets are nervous and dropping. And it’s also clear that we’re on the cusp of the biggest political experiment of our lifetimes. If Obama is mostly successful, then the epistemological skepticism natural to conservatives will have been discredited. We will know that highly trained government experts are capable of quickly designing and executing top-down transformational change. If they mostly fail, then liberalism will suffer a grievous blow, and conservatives will be called upon to restore order and sanity.

One big social experiment which likely will end badly. And this coming from Mr. Brooks, who counts himself an adoring admirer of Obama. Ugh!

Closet Conservative Spreads Bread Upon The Waters

Another fed-up, closet conservative has started a blog, Bread Upon The Waters. Check it out. Here's part of the first post, which expresses the frustration -- and fear of discovery -- so many of us felt before we liberated ourselves and came out of the conservative closet:
Not long ago a friend of some years confided to me, for the first time, that his political views are conservative. This was a sign of trust, and also an indication that he had found me out--my views are conservative too. "I don't tell people around here that I'm a conservative," he offered. "I don't want to lose friends. I like people with all kinds of beliefs, but in this town, if you tell someone that you're a conservative, they think you have fangs...."

Times being what they are, I am casting this small loaf upon the waters of the Internet, in the certain knowledge that there are many other conservatives like myself with few kindred spirits at hand with whom to have what Ben Franklin's sister Jenny referred to as "suitable conversation." Perhaps we can recognize each other as friends.
But this blogger is not completely out of the closet, yet. No personally identifying information on the blog. We'll know he/she has arrived when name, rank, and serial number are posted.

Stimulus Plan To Save The Ultimate Bridge To Nowhere

I wish this were a joke, but it's not. The town of Dryden, NY, near Ithaca, has plans to build a bridge in an area so remote that the town does not want to spend its own money on it, so it is seeking federal "stimulus" funds. Nothing surprising yet. Much of the stimulus package gives federal money for local problems on which locals don't want to spend their own money.

But there is a twist here. This remote river crossing currently is occupied by a 121-year old steel bridge, which even if renovated, cannot be used for modern vehicles. Since the existing bridge is historic, the town must move the old bridge someplace else if it is to get the federal funds -- but it hasn't yet found a place to put the old bridge. As reported in the Ithaca Journal:

The Red Mill Road bridge, which spans Fall Creek near Freeville, has been the subject of much debate since its closure to vehicular traffic 10 years ago. The 120-foot-long structure is a narrow one-lane bridge built in 1887, one of only a few remaining examples of its kind made by the nearby Groton Bridge Company.

But it was not designed to handle modern traffic or road maintenance, and when salt came into use it really took a toll on the bridge, according to town environmental planner Dan Kwasnowski.

The bridge became corroded and fell into disrepair - so much so that it was further closed to pedestrian traffic in 2005, and has been lying unused while the town and county, which owns it, consult on what to do...

At the urging of the State Historic Preservation Office, county officials considered rehabilitating the existing Red Mill Road bridge for use as a pedestrian crossing, and either building a new bridge alongside it or further down the creek. They even got provisional state funding for the project in 1999, said John Lampman, a county highway engineer.

But the plan failed to get local backing, as many thought the remote countryside location did not get enough pedestrian traffic to warrant two bridges, and the project was put on hold in 2002.

More recently, it made the state's Transportation Improvement Program list and went through extensive federal and state design processes but failed to get approval during the last round of consideration.

Proponents of the project have now been given renewed hope as the bridge has made it on to the "first list" of projects submitted to county officials by the Ithaca-Tompkins County Transportation Council to receive federal stimulus package funding. Because it has already gone through much of the federal design process, the project is in a unique position to be "shovel-ready" within months, Kwasnowski said....

One of the stumbling blocks could be deciding what to do with the old bridge. Lampman said the State Historic Preservation Office has stipulated that the county identify a site where the old bridge could be displayed before work begins on the new bridge. And the current $1.1 million proposal does not include money to move the bridge and rehabilitate it elsewhere, so there may be further funding issues depending on how it is ultimately used and by whom.

The historical society would like to see the bridge re-used in some way, possibly along a pedestrian trail or in a park. It would not necessarily have to span water, or anything at all, Kwasnowski said - it could be plopped in a playground or on someone's personal property, as long as it is visible to the public.

Anybody want a bridge so that Dryden can get its federal money? They'll plop it on your property for free.

Wait, I have an idea. How about plopping the bridge down on the lawn of the White House, as a monument to wasteful government spending.

Sharansky May Be Israeli Foreign Minister - What We Can Learn

The website DebkaFile is reporting that Bibi Netanyahu's choice for Israeli Foreign Minister is Anatoly (Natan) Sharansky, a hero of the Soviet refusenik movement. For those of you who are not familiar with Sharansky, his story is inspiring. In the weeks just before and after the U.S. election, I wrote about Sharansky, and that story is worth repeating now that conservatives are under attack from the media and the Obama administration for being "obstructionist."

Sharansky spent almost a decade in Soviet prison because of his activities on behalf of Jews who wanted to emigrate to Israel. Sharansky notoriously refused to obey even the most mundane orders from his captors. Sharansky understood that to compromise even a little would lead to compromising a lot. Throughout his ordeal, Sharansky kept his spirits alive by reading a small book of psalms.

In 1986, the Soviets finally agreed to release Sharansky from prison, in a deal in which he was exchanged for Soviet spies in the West. As Sharansky was being led to the airplane that would take him from the Soviet Union to East Germany for the exchange, the Soviets confiscated his book of psalms.

It would have been easy for Sharansky simply to keep walking towards the plane and freedom. But Sharansky understood that the Soviets confiscated his book of psalms not because they wanted the book, but because they wanted to show that even in this last moment, they were in control.

In front of reporters covering his departure, Sharansky sat in the snow refusing to move unless the Soviets gave him back his book of psalms. Here was this diminutive man, after 10 years in prison, on the verge of freedom, refusing to budge unless one of the world's two superpowers gave him back his book. And give him back his book of psalms they did. Sharansky proceeded to the plane, where he read Psalm 30: “I will extol thee, O Lord; for thou hast lifted me up, and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me.”

Jay Nordlinger's 2005 interview with Sharansky recounts not only the episode in the snow, but also the final moments when Sharansky walked to the car for the exchange:
Sharansky spent nine years in the Gulag, a harrowing time in which he demonstrated what resistance is. More than 400 of those days were spent in punishment cells; more than 200 were spent on hunger strikes. His refusal to concede anything to the Soviet state was almost superhuman. This was true to the very last. When they relinquished him to the East Germans, they told him to walk straight to a waiting car — “Don’t make any turns.” Sharansky zig-zagged his way to that car.

Sharansky's arrival in Israel was greated with jubilation. After thousands greated Sharansky at the airport, Sharansky went to the Western Wall in Jersusalem:

On February 11, 1986, he began the day as a prisoner of the Soviet Union. K.G.B. guards then flew him to East Berlin, and there he was told to walk across the Glienicke Bridge and into the West. Sharansky had grown so skinny on prison rations that, on worldwide television, his state-issued trousers nearly fell to his ankles as he walked to freedom. By nightfall, he was at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, carried along on the shoulders of hundreds of jubilant Israelis. At the Wall, he prayed from a tiny Book of Psalms...

Is it time for conservatives and supporters of free enterprise, individual liberty, and capitalism in the Congress and elsewhere to do the political equivalent of sitting down in the snow? When told by the administration, the majority party in Congress, and the mainstream media to walk straight, is it time to zig and zag? Or should we yield to policies which, once implemented, will cause enormous harm and take a generation to undo. We can learn a lot from Natan Sharansky.

Monday, February 23, 2009

How TARP Works - In Pictures

An Idaho "Racist" and Eric Holder

Larrey Anderson is a frequent contributor to, and an editor of, American Thinker. I've spoken with and corresponded with Larrey numerous times in connection with several of my articles published at A.T. One thing that always jumped out at me is how much Larrey talked about his kids and grand kids.

I guess Larrey is one of those people Eric Holder would characterize as a "coward" and "racist" without knowing anything about Larrey. Larrey's from Idaho, which in Eric Holder's Washington world is almost as bad as being from Alaska; he's involved with a conservative website; he's pro-Second Amendment, believes that "hate crime" legislation is unfounded since we should punish actions not thoughts, is a defender of property rights, and, horrors, questions the science behind the "global warming" hysteria. In all, Eric Holder would have a field day with Larrey Anderson.

Except that Larrey Anderson is having none of it. Read his article, published today at A.T., Racism, Eric Holder, my Son and Me. For the punch line, you'll have to read the article, but here are some of my thoughts, which somewhat echo Larrey's point.

There is a cottage industry of race consultants, hucksters and political flame-throwers who talk about race endlessly because it serves their hidden agendas. That agenda may be monetary, ideological, or political.

And there is the vast majority of people in this country who simply go about their lives treating everyone fairly without regard to, or need to comment on, race. This does not mean that there is no racism left in society, it simply means that talking about race may not be the real answer to the problem. The lack of comment on race does not reflect cowardice, but the fulfillment of what was supposed to be Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream.

But dreams die hard. Particularly for people with an agenda which necessitates perpetual agitation on race issues.

As for Larrey Anderson. Read the article. Then tell me if he is a coward or racist.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

OMG - I Agree With Maureen Dowd

The cold day in hell has just arrived. I agree with Maureen Dowd:

Yet Obama is oozing empathy compared with his attorney general, who last week called us “a nation of cowards” about race.

Eric Holder, who showed precious little bravery in standing up to Clinton on a pardon for the scoundrel Marc Rich, is wrong. We have just inaugurated a black president who installed a black attorney general.

We need leaders to help us through our crises, not provide us with crude evaluations of our character. And we don’t need sermons from liberal virtuecrats, anymore than from conservative virtuecrats.

In the middle of all the Heimlich maneuvers required now — for the economy, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, health care, the environment and education — we don’t need a Jackson/Sharpton-style lecture on race. Barack Obama’s election was supposed to get us past that.

I'll enjoy the feeling while it lasts, which likely will be only until her next column.

Whores and Whiskey

(Thanks for sending me this, Patricia!)

Jewish History In One Sentence

As reported by the putative first gentile Prime Minister of Israel:
"Quick synopsis of every Jewish holiday: They
tried to kill us; we won; let's eat."

Obama To Appoint "The Vacuum Cleaner" To Plum Ambassadorship

Ah, hope and change. Near silence from the American mainstream media, but this news item from the Brits about Obama appointing one of his key fundraisers as Ambassador to Great Britain:

Barack Obama has been embroiled in a cronyism row after reports that he intends to make Louis Susman, one of his biggest fundraisers, the new US ambassador in London.

The selection of Mr Susman, a lawyer and banker from the president's hometown of Chicago, rather than an experienced diplomat, raises new questions about Mr Obama's commitment to the special relationship with Britain.

American commentators denounced the selection of a rich friend to the plumb post, regarded as one of the most prestigious in the president's gift, as worthy of a "banana republic". They said it was proof that Mr Obama has turned his back on his campaign pledge to end politics as usual....

Mr Susman's reputation for hoovering large amounts of cash from deep pockets saw him nicknamed "the vacuum cleaner" when he raised more than $240million for John Kerry's White House bid in 2004.

He was one of Mr Obama's biggest campaign cash "bundlers", fundraisers who collect contributions from hundreds of others. He also gave $300,000 to the president's inauguration fund.

More on Susman, a Kennedy crony, from the Brits:

Mr Susman, 71, is now tipped to occupy the grand surroundings of Winfield House, the US ambassador's residence in London which occupies a 12 acre site on the edge of Regent's Park.

He is no stranger to luxury accommodation. He and his wife Margie own a grand mansion on Chicago's exclusive Gold Coast, which in the late 1980s was the second most affluent neighbourhood in the US after Manhattan's Upper East Side.

The couple own another property in the millionaire's playground of Nantucket, bought in 1990 for $4.6m, just up the road from the holiday home of John Kerry, and a short boat ride from the Kennedy family compound at Hyannisport.

That proximity to family patriarch Ted Kennedy is no accident. Mr Susman's entree into Democratic presidential politics came when he raised cash for Senator Kennedy's 1980 challenge of Jimmy Carter for the party's nomination.

Who's next for an ambassadorship? Tony Rezko?
UPDATE: When I saw the number $240 million as the amount Susman raised for John Kerry, I thought that must be a typo, that it was $24 million. But no, the Telegraph story quoted above is accurate. This from the Chicago Sun-Times in January 2007 under the headline "Obama attracts big-bucks fund-raiser":

In star-struck, political America where Barack Obama is a supernova, other superstars can slip by unnoticed. See the guy in the picture? The one with the swhite hair and the Walter Matthau eyes?


If you want to be president of the United States, he is the one you want to call before you even talk it over with your own mother.

Louis Susman is his name. He lives in Chicago. And at this moment, he is ready to do whatever Illinois Sen. Barack Obama needs him to do to take the White House in 2008. If Obama is running (and he is), then Susman will be pivotal to raising the cash....

Susman has tried mightily to get Democrats elected president and raised prodigious amounts of money for them. He was Richard Gephardt's finance chairman in 1988, Bill Bradley's in 2000 and John Kerry's national finance director in 2004.

The Kerry campaign nearly killed him. ''I was with Kerry for 2½ years, gained 30 pounds, and my blood pressure shot up to 187,'' said Susman, who has since dropped the weight, lowered his heart rate and was trying with limited success not to eat the French fries he hadn't ordered but the waiter brought anyway.

How much money did Susman raise for Kerry? A bundle: $247 million.

A vacuum cleaner was how someone once described him for a 2005 Tribune article, saying Susman was able to ''Hoover'' money from ''deep pockets.''

I guess we should consider ourselves lucky that Obama is appointing Susman Ambassador to Britain, rather than Secretary of the Treasury.
UPDATE No. 2: Isn't Susman a kulak? Shouldn't his property be confiscated for the greater good?
UPDATE No. 3: Be nice. Over at Free Republic, someone posted the following comment: "Based on the title, I thought that the article was about Monica Lewinsky."
UPDATE No. 4: If you are worried where we are heading, check out The Last Bull Capitulates.

The Revolt of the Kulaks Has Begun

The beginning of a protest movement against Barack Obama's redistributive policies is underway. Though still small, every movement starts somewhere. While called the "Tea Party" after the Boston Tea Party, this movement is similar to movements throughout history where the producers of society refuse to have their property and income confiscated.

This movement can succeed if it does not stop at protest and includes changes in economic behavior. Obama's redistributive plans require higher taxation, but higher tax plans (to be announced this week by Obama) are based on the fallacy that the "rich" will not change their economic behavior in reaction to higher tax rates.

History tells us, however, that economic redistribution plans fail because the producers of society would rather not produce, than have the fruits of their production taken away and given to others. Obama can raise the tax rates on income, but he cannot force people to generate income to be taxed. People may just say "no." This resistance will not come from evading taxes, but from evading taxable income. In the end, as must all economic redistributors, Obama either will have to resort to repressive measures, or he will have to abandon his redistributive plans.

The best example of this phenomenon is the forced collectivization of farms in the Soviet Union. At the time of the Revolution, Russia was a largely agrarian society which allowed more productive farmers (so-called "kulaks") to prosper. Since the kulaks represented a political threat to communism, the collectivization of farming was a focus of communist policy. From the start, the kulaks resisted, requiring Lenin to resort to repression:
Comrades! The revolt by the five kulak volost's must be suppressed without mercy. The interest of the entire revolution demands this, because we have now before us our final decisive battle "with the kulaks." We need to set an example.

1) You need to hang (hang without fail, so that the public sees) at least 100 notorious kulaks, the rich, and the bloodsuckers.
2) Publish their names.
3) Take away all of their grain.
4) Execute the hostages - in accordance with yesterday's telegram.

This needs to be accomplished in such a way, that people for hundreds of miles around will see, tremble, know and scream out: let's choke and strangle those blood-sucking kulaks.

Telegraph us acknowledging receipt and execution of this.

Yours, Lenin

P.S. Use your toughest people for this.
From 1928-1932, Stalin pressed forward with collectivization. In some circumstances, peasants lost the private ownership of land to the collective, in other instances land owners where forced to give most or all of their production to the state or collective. The forced collectivization was more violent at some times than others, but the consistent theme was the use of government power to force the Kulaks to subsidize less successful farmers and the state (sound familiar?).

"Stalin wanted to transform individual farms into large collective farms because he saw that the government was losing money to private traders. This required that the majority of farmers would have to work and live together on large state-run farms. Through these farms Stalin hoped to increase agricultural productivity, create grain reserves for Russia, and free many peasants for industrial work in the cities. In some cases the collectivization took the form of collective farming, in others forced reallocation of crop production." (Cite)

But the peasants, particularly the kulaks, refused to submit willingly, despite the promise that the contribution of their property would increase the collective good. "How did peasants initially respond to the idea of collectivization? Party agitators sent to the villages to persuade peasants of the benefits of collectivization often met with skepticism and mockery. Peasants who resisted the pressure of regional party officials to enroll in collective farms were labeled as kulaks; those who feared confiscation sold off their property as quickly as they could, in effect self-dekulakizing." (Cite)

In response to resistance, Stalin turned to terror. Yet resistance continued. Most significantly, peasants preferred to burn their crops and destroy their property rather than have it taken over by the government.
"But the peasants objected violently to abandoning their private farms. In many cases, before joining the kolkhozy they slaughtered their livestock and destroyed their equipment, The losses, as well as the animosity toward the Soviet regime, became so great that Stalin decided to slow down the collectivization process." (Cite)
The results of collectivization were food shortages and famine. Peasants preferred starvation and death to property confiscation.
"Peasant resistance to collectivization took many forms: wanton slaughter of livestock, women's riots (bab'i bunty), theft and destruction of collective farm property, and, perhaps most widely spread, an intentionally slow pace in carrying out directives of the kolkhoz administration. The tremendous loss of livestock through slaughter, inadequate fodder, and simple neglect made it virtually impossible for kolkhozes to fulfill their procurement quotas for meat and dairy products." (Cite)
Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress, who are so anxious to raise income taxes on the "rich," will be in for a rude surprise. There is nothing Obama can do about people who would rather not work than have the fruits of their labors confiscated, or who structure their lives to avoid taxation.

In addition to protest, supporters of the Tea Party would do well to change their economic behavior to deprive Obama of what he wants most, your tax dollars. Invest in municipal bonds, carefully manage your investments to minimize taxable income, do everything possible and legal to insulate yourself from creating taxable income. In so doing, you will doom Obama's plans because the inability to raise tax revenues will cause Obama to move to more confiscatory tactics, and then the political revolt really will begin, as it has throughout history. Can you say 1994?
UPDATE: The Soviet-era poster above says "Come, Comrades! With us to the Kolkhoz!"; other posters from the forced collectivization campaign are available here.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Another Obama "I Told You So"

Another Obama "I told you so," this time from Investor's Business Daily:

Last Oct. 13 [2008], in trying to explain why the market had sold off 30% in six weeks, we acknowledged that the freeze-up of the financial system was a big concern. But we cited three other factors as well:

• The imminent election of "the most anti-capitalist politician ever nominated by a major party."
• The possibility of "a filibuster-proof Congress led by politicians who are almost as liberal."
• A "media establishment dedicated to the implementation of a liberal agenda, and the smothering of dissent wherever it arises."

No wonder, we said then, that panic had set in. Today, as the market continues to sell off and we plumb 12-year lows, we wish we had a different explanation. But it still looks, as we said four months ago, "like the U.S., which built the mightiest, most prosperous economy the world has ever known, is about to turn its back on the
free-enterprise system that made it all possible."

Sounds familiar, huh?

Is "Gobbledygook" Racist?

I am about to tread where sane people in this society dare not go for fear of having their words twisted: Discussing race. Attorney General Eric Holder told us not to be cowards on the subject, so let's talk about whether non-racist cartoons or words can be twisted to create a false accusation of racism.

Exhibit A: The now-famous NY Post cartoon showing a chimpanzee being shot by two police officers, with the caption "Now they'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill." The cartoon clearly was referencing the attack by a chimpanzee in Connecticut, in which the chimp went crazy with rage. The "stimulus bill" reference was to the trillion dollar (including interest costs) stimulus bill drafted by Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats in Congress, which eventually was signed into law by President Barack Obama. Put together, the reasonable interpretation of the cartoon was that the artist was mocking Nancy Pelosi and Democrats in Congress for acting like out-of-control primates in drafting the stimulus bill.

But others had a different agenda. The "Reverend" Al Sharpton, of Tawana Brawley (photo) hoax fame, had a beef with the NY Post, which had exposed an investigation into possible criminal violations by Sharpton in the financing of one of Sharpton's non-profit groups. So Sharpton seized on the cartoon as an excuse to accuse the NY Post of racism, asserting that the cartoon compared Obama to a chimp. So much for an honest conversation on race. Others, afraid of being accused of not condemning "racism," followed Sharpton's lead.

The word that jumped into my mind in thinking about the racism accusations against the NY Post was "gobbledygook." As described by Wikipedia:

Gobbledygook or gobbledegook (sometimes gobbledegoo, gobbledeegook or other forms) is an English term used to describe nonsensical language.
Other sources define "gobbledygook" as "wordy and generally unintelligible jargon" (Merriam-Webster); "language characterized by circumlocution and jargon, usually hard to understand" originating in the early 1940's as a "fanciful formation from gobble" (Dictionary.com); and "talk or writing that is wordy, pompous, etc. and largely incomprehensible or meaningless" (Yourdictionary.com).

I'm not sure calling criticisms of the NY Post cartoon "gobbledygook" is a proper use of the term, in light of these definitions. But clearly, nothing about the word carries a racist connotation.

Yet I hesitated to use the word, because the last four letters clearly are a racist term for Asians. Would I be subjected to an accusation of racism for using a word which itself is not racist, but if taken apart and out of context, could lead to such a charge? One has to worry about these things, as witnessed by controversies over the word "niggardly" (which means "cheap" but sounds like a pejorative for blacks). Just like the NY Post cartoon, you could take a few letters out of a word, or take a word for what it sounds like rather than what it means, and create a false accusation of racism. Such things can ruin careers.

So I won't use the word "gobbledygook" because I am a coward. I'll just call the Al Sharptons of the world what they are: Race baiters.

Clinton Assures China on Investments: What About Us?

Hillary Clinton went to China to assure Chinese investors (i.e. the Chinese government) about the safety and security of investing in the U.S. (video here). Great. What about assuring U.S. investors? Don't we matter?

With the export-heavy Chinese economy reeling from the U.S. downturn, Clinton sought in meetings with Premier Wen Jiabao and other top Chinese government leaders to reassure Beijing that its massive holdings of U.S. Treasury notes and other government debt would remain a good investment.

"I appreciate greatly the Chinese government's continuing confidence in United States treasuries. I think that's a well-grounded confidence," Clinton told reporters at a joint news conference with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.

"We have every reason to believe that the United States and China will recover, and together we will help lead the world recovery," she said.

While Hillary smooth talks the Chinese, Obama continues to talk down our economy and markets to the point that Obama is creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of a looming depression as cover to push through his plans to remake our economic system.

A little hope? A little change? Hillary for President, anyone?

Stimulus Grants For Republicans? Say It Ain't So

This must be some sort of plot to undermine Republican opposition to Obama's stimulus plan. Online marketers of "free government money" get-rich-quick schemes now are targeting Republicans:

Where did I find this? Through a Google Ad over at Finkelblog. Seems like Mark's audience must have been marked by Google Ads as "Republicans" so ads targeting Republicans pop up on his blog.

Here's the Google Ad from Legal Insurrection Blog:This teaser link leads to a website targeting Taxpayers. So Legal Insurrection Blog readers must be marked as being Average Joe Taxpayers:

Legal Insurrection Blog is recognized by the geniuses at Google Ads as a home page for taxpayers in need of cash. Sounds about right.

One thing about this ad, though. Why spell taxpayers "tax payers"? "Taxpayer" is defined as: "One that pays taxes or is subject to taxation." When you separate out the terms, it might take on a deeper meaning. One of the definitions of "tax" is: "A burdensome or excessive demand; a strain." The definition of "payer" is: "One that pays." So put the two together, and you get "One that pays a burdensome or excessive demand." Is this on line marketer sending subliminal messages, or have I lost my mind, or both?

Regardless of whether you say "taxpayer" or "tax payer" one thing is clear. Legal Insurrection Blog must be the home of those who pay burdensome and excessive demands, or the algorithms at Google Ads wouldn't say so.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Last Bull Capitulates

There's an old saying on Wall Street that a bear market has not bottomed out until the last bull capitulates. News flash. The last bull has capitulated. Me.

I'm a true believer in capitalism and markets. There is no better measure of what an item is worth than the price reached by a willing buyer and willing seller. No Ph.D. in economics has come up with a better system. Every economic and political system which tinkers with this simple formulation either outright fails (the Soviet Union, for example) or relegates its people to generations of un- and under-employment (France, for example). Command economies don't work, they never have, and they never will.

There also is no better way to create wealth for a nation than to permit people to participate in economic growth through stock ownership. The companies which create jobs and economic activity benefit from investment; investors benefit from the companies' growth; and everyone is better off, even those who do not own shares.

My professional life has been dedicated to investor protection, first in private law practice and now by running a law school securities law clinic which represents small investors. Investor protection walks hand in hand with free markets, which are not free when subjected to fraud. Investor protection is more than rules and regulations, but also policies and practices which promote investment markets.

I don't give investment advice, so don't take what I am about to say as a recommendation that you do anything other than keep reading. You probably would be better off flipping a coin than following what I do.

I have lost faith in this government. I was no fan of Bill Clinton, but I felt he shared a common set of economic values, including a belief in capitalism and markets. I have no such faith in Barack Obama.

For the first time in my adult life, I am convinced that we have a President who sees capitalism and markets as the enemy. There is no other explanation for the hyperbolic rhetoric Obama has used to create a sense of economic crisis far in excess of reality. We are in a recession, but as others have documented extensively, to compare the current economy to the Great Depression is damaging.

Obama seems to be wishing so hard for a depression, he might actually get it. Obama is well along in the process of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy in which he so talks down the economy, and so shakes markets, that people are paralyzed with fear allowing Obama to push his political agenda of creating a command economy. Count me among the fearful. It's hunker-down and cut-back time not because I've lost a job, but because of the decline in markets.

The economy and the markets are intertwined, which is something Obama doesn't seem to get. As people see their investment and retirement accounts drop, they adjust their economic activity to compensate. Multiply that effect by tens of millions of investors, and you can turn a recession into a depression.

Yet Obama has done nothing to ease the pressures on markets. In the trillion dollars of spending and "middle class" tax cuts, there is nothing for investors. Nothing. We will spend more on Harry Reid's magnetic railroad to nowhere than we will spend to reassure markets.

One simple step would have been to include in the stimulus bill an extension of the current capital gains tax rate, or better yet, a small cut as a signal to the investors that they have a friend in Washington. But Obama's zero-sum view of the economy -- where one person's gain must result in another person's loss -- does not allow for such pro-market measures.

From an investor protection perspective, Obama's stubborn adherence to this zero-sum economic philosophy has caused more harm to investors than all the Bernie Madoffs and Enrons combined. Hundreds of billions of dollars of investment fraud are dwarfed by trillions of dollars of investment losses from market declines, exacerbated by claims of "crisis" and "catastrophe" which flow from Obama's lips so easily. Combine this rhetoric with runaway government spending and give-aways to labor unions at the expense of businesses, and you have the makings for a real catastrophe.

Not all of this market decline is attributable to Obama's rhetoric and policies, but much of it is. Markets look forward, and what the markets see is a federal government out of control with a skipper who sees bringing markets to heel as an emotional and political necessity. The shame of this vicious market and economic downturn is that it didn't have to be this bad.

Worse still, we have a President who has a "tail wags dog" economic plan. Obama's economic plans contain almost nothing for the 93% percent of the population which is employed, paying its mortgages, and to a great extent, is invested in the markets. Obama doesn't understand -- or care -- that promoting and protecting the investment markets helps everyone, including those who have fallen on hard times, through job creation and increased economic activity.

So for me, it's time to take some money off the table until things settle down or we get a government which cares about markets, whichever comes first. I hope I'm selling at the bottom, because that will mean the markets and the country will have recovered from the worst economic policies since the Great Depression.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Shocker - NATO Says No To More Troops

A centerpiece of Barack Obama's foreign policy is convincing Europeans, particularly NATO members, to help with the effort in Afghanistan. George Bush, it was said, too long had practiced the politics of "go it alone." We were assured that once we asked nicely, instead of arrogantly, the Europeans would fall in line.

From Obama's campaign website, a promise:
Strengthen NATO: Obama and Biden will rally NATO members to contribute troops to collective security operations, urging them to invest more in reconstruction and stabilization operations, streamlining the decision-making processes, and giving NATO commanders in the field more flexibility.
Obama even promised during his European campaign tour that NATO troop contributions would bring American troops home and (laugh) help the U.S. economy:
Barack Obama said Friday that persuading NATO allies to contribute more troops to Afghanistan could lead to U.S. troop cuts and help improve the U.S. economy, with reduced military expenditure being diverted into tax cuts to help middle class families.
You see, the lack of European support was all the fault of bad George Bush, who didn't ask nicely enough:
"I can say affirmatively an effective U.S. foreign policy will be based on our ability not only to project power, but also to listen and to build consensus," Obama said.
Sorry to disappoint, but this story line had little chance of success. The reason the Europeans don't contribute more is that they don't have more to contribute. European armed forces are notoriously lax, and often serve more as social welfare agencies.

Not surprisingly, comes this news headline: "US Defence Secretary 'disappointed' over Nato response to troop call."

Robert Gates, the US Defence Secretary, pleaded with Nato allies today to send more civilian personnel to Afghanistan after expressing “disappointment” at their failure to meet his requests for troops....

Washington had hoped to capitalise on the new President's appeal to bring further troop commitments from European allies but, so far, no pledges have been forthcoming. There is growing concern over the logistics of prosecuting the war with too few troops and diminishing supply routes into the country.

Kyrgyzstan’s parliament voted yesterday to close the US airbase at Manas, striking a blow to efforts to find new supply routes after those from Pakistan come under attack by Taleban militants.

How troubling. Maybe some of the thousands of people who attended Obama's campaign speech in Berlin will volunteer. More precisely, how pathetic that we have a President who still thinks that his personal charisma can sway the world, and who fiddles while America's strategic position burns.

Israel Derangement Syndrome Strikes Again

The headline of an Op-ed on the website of The Guardian newspaper, the left-wing British newspaper, started out promisingly enough: "Hamas No, Human Rights Yes." The sub-title was even better: "Why are the left and the anti-war movement ignoring Hamas's repression of the Palestinian people?"

Could it be, the notoriously anti-Israel newspaper was running an opinion piece calling out the left for a Middle-Eastern double standard?

The opening paragraphs of the article were good, such as this:

Hamas is intensifying its repression of the Palestinian citizens of Gaza, according to recent reports by Amnesty International and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. This repression includes beatings, kneecappings, executions, detention without trial, torture, restrictions on civic organisations and violent attacks on critics and protesters, as reported in the Guardian last Friday....

These abuses, which are part of a long-standing pattern of human rights violations, reveal Hamas's totalitarian agenda and are a portent of the Iranian-style theocratic tyranny they would impose on the Palestinian people if they ever secured absolute power. It is an antisemitic, misogynistic, homophobic, anti-trade union, authoritarian, clericalist movement.

Yes, The Guardian gets it! There is true evil in the Middle East, and its name is Hamas!

But wait. The next paragraph, after the quote above, starts with the word "Nonetheless." Ugh oh. I sense trouble here. Will The Guardian temper the truth with its standard "Israel is still to blame" mantra? Sure enough:
Nevertheless, none of Hamas's crimes excuse Israel's disproportionate, reckless and indiscriminate attacks on Gaza. The Israeli armed forces wantonly targeted civilian areas and caused thousands of civilian casualties, including the deaths of over 400 children. Under international law, such as the Geneva conventions, Israel's actions are war crimes and its political and military leaders should be taken to The Hague and put on trial.
These assertions of deliberate targeting of civilians and the death of "400 children" have been debunked so many times, not that it matters to The Guardian. What is important is that the author feels the need, in a piece detailing the horrors of Hamas, to take a cheap shot at Israel.

This is how it goes with the left-wing press. The Islamists who stone women, abuse their own people, and generally rule with an iron fist may be criticized, but only with the obligatory anti-Israel tirade thrown in to verify the author's bona fides as an enlightened intellectual. Such moral equivalency is why western Europe is on the decline, and not taken seriously by anyone outside of western Europe.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What's The Rush To Remove Roland Burris?

Roland Burris has offered changing accounts of his communications with emissaries of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich in the weeks leading up to Blagojevich's appointment of Burris to Barack Obama's open Senate seat. These changing accounts, including an updated Affidavit filed by Burris with the Illinois House impeachment committee, have led to accusations that Burris committed perjury at worst, obstruction of justice at best.

Based on the accusations against Burris, various politicians and newspapers have called on Burris to resign. But what's the rush? If Burris is guilty of a crime, he will be charged and convicted. As of now, he is not even charged. Lisa Madigan, the Illinois Attorney General, is investigating, and if she feels that criminal charges are warranted, I'm sure she will bring such charges.

Perjury can be a difficult thing to prove, and my initial reading of the transcripts is that it may not be so clear cut. By offering a corrective affidavit, Burris may have "purged" any perjury as a matter of law.

Similarly, the U.S. Senate is commencing an ethics investigation. Let that investigation run its course, and if there are grounds and enough votes to remove Burris under Senate Rules, then Burris will be removed. As of now, there does not appear to be evidence of a quid pro quo for the appointment, but let's see what the evidence holds.

The rush to rush Burris out of office is another troubling slide down the road where the mere accusation of a crime leads prosecutors, newspapers, and politicians to demand that office holders resign. If Burris committed no crime, and is not removed by the U.S. Senate, the electorate still gets its vote in the next election cycle, which is less than two years away. If Burris can't convince the electorate, then he will be removed the way politicians normally are removed from office, by popular vote.

The problem with substituting prosecutorial, editorial, and political discretion for the normal electoral process is that such a process is arbitrary. Only those deemed politically unworthy are forced from office. If Roland Burris lied to get into office, what about all the other politicians who lied during campaigns. Should they be removed from office as well?

If the difference here is that Burris lied under oath, then there are remedies -- both legal and legislative -- to address such a lie. Let the process work.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

U.S. Hits Highest Unemployment Rate Since ... Europe

"This is the worst economy since the Great Depression!" How many times have we heard that phrase in the past six months? Put aside that by almost every measure (particularly the unemployment rate) that statement is outright false. Nonetheless, that argument is used to justify a move towards a European-style government-controlled economy.

But what does such a European-style economy hold in store for us? Certainly not a better unemployment rate. The current U.S. unemployment rate is 7.6% (as of the end of January 2009).

By contrast, European unemployment rates in the larger European countries consistently have been higher than the current U.S. rate. The chart below (click on chart to enlarge) shows that through 2006 (and thus excluding the current worldwide economic problems) in France (FR) the unemployment rate has ranged in the low double digits for most of the past decade; in Germany (DE) in the high single digits; in Spain, in the mid-to-high teens.

A European-style economy holds no viable future for the U.S., unless we really do want the worst economy since the Great Depression.

Go To CarolineGlick.com

Caroline Glick, who writes for the Jerusalem Post, is the most astute observer of the looming Iranian menace, and the pathetic refusal of governments in Israel, Europe, and the U.S. to address the problem. Visit her website. I love Glick's description of her background, which reads in part:

I grew up in Chicago's ultra-liberal, anti-American and anti-Israel stronghold of Hyde Park. Hyde Park's newest famous resident is Barack Obama. He fits right into a neighborhood I couldn't wait to leave.

I made aliyah to Israel in 1991, two weeks after receiving my BA in Political Science from Beir Zeit on the Hudson -- otherwise known as Columbia University.... From 1998-2000 I went back to the US where I received a Master's in Public Policy from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in June 2000. Although I spent most of my free time hiking in New England, it did not escape my attention that the vast majority of the faculty at the Kennedy School were not particularly fond of America -- or of Israel.

Glick's most recent article, An Urgent Memo to The Next Government, is a must read. From an analysis of the threat posed by the increasing missile arsenal fielded by Iran and its proxies, to the likelihood that Iran is developing electro-magnetic weapons that could paralyze our economy, Glick is right on target.

(h/t Israel Matzav via Hot Air)

Obama Points To The Future

In this AP photo, taken during President Obama's signing ceremony for the stimulus bill, Obama pointed out the direction the country is heading:

First, They Came For The Deer

The deer population in greater Ithaca, NY, is substantial. The tony Village of Cayuga Heights, adjacent to the Cornell campus and where many Cornell professors live, has a particular deer problem, and has been exploring ways of reducing the deer population. Because Cayuga Heights is mostly residential, hunting is a limited option, at best. Trapping, use of contraceptive bait, and other options are being explored.

This being Ithaca, nothing is easy, and the debate has been raging at a sometimes nasty pace. You see, the deer have many friends, including a group called CayugaDeer.org, which has a heavily footnoted statement on its home page, as if it were a research paper or law review article. Can't we just argue until we are red in the face without resort to footnotes?

One nearby resident wrote today that we must focus on ethics to guide the decision:

Feelings, religion, morality, law, cultural convention, and even science fuel many controversies. The local deer problem is no exception. Ethics may offer us a resolution....Applying the utilitarian or common good principles we might arrive at "bait and shoot." The rights and fairness approaches may argue for fencing. The virtuous approach might support contraception.

We must recognize our self-serving and egocentric motives, which can undermine ethical decision-making. Ethics must be the guiding principle, not expediency. Likewise, an ethical decision on this matter is not necessarily going to be without inconvenience or suffering.

So in the spirit of the controversy, I have composed this poem:

First, they came for the deer, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a deer,
Then they came for the rabbits, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a rabbit,
Then they came for the skunks, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a skunk,
Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.

Oh boy, am I in trouble now. I would be safer taking on religion and Middle East policy, than taking on the deer. Let the hate mail begin.