Wednesday, December 16, 2009
British historian Arnold Toynbee argued that civilizations thrive when the lower classes aspire to be like the upper classes, and they decay when the upper classes try to be like the lower classes. Looked at through this prism, it's hard not to see America in a prolonged period of decay.
It's not all bad news, to be sure. The elite minority's general acceptance of racial and sexual equality as important values has been a moral triumph. But not without costs. As part of this transformation, society has embraced what social scientist Charles Murray calls "ecumenical niceness." A core tenet of ecumenical niceness is that harsh judgments of the underclass -- or people with underclass values -- are forbidden. An added corollary: People with old-fashioned notions of decency are fair game.
Long before the rise of reality shows, ecumenical niceness created a moral vacuum. Out-of-wedlock birth was once a great shame; now it's something of a happy lifestyle choice. The cavalier use of profanity was once crude; now it's increasingly conversational. Self-discipline was once a virtue; now self-expression is king.
Reality-show culture has thrived in that moral vacuum, accelerating the decay and helping to create a society in which celebrity is the new nobility. One senses that Richard Heene thought -- maybe still thinks -- that the way to make his kids proud of him was to land a reality show. Paris Hilton, famous for being famous thanks in part to a "reality" sex tape released days before her 2003 reality show "The Simple Life," is now a cultural icon of no redeeming value whatsoever.
Whatever you think of what Toynbee and Murray would call the "proletarianization of the elites," one point is beyond dispute: The rich can afford moral lassitude more than the poor can. Hilton, heir to a hotel fortune, has life as simple as she wants it to be. Tiger Woods is surely a cad, but as a pure matter of economics, he can afford to be one.
The question is: can the rest of us afford to live in a society constantly auditioning to make an ass of itself on TV.
By Dean Kalahar
America has faced many defining moments in history including The Revolutionary War, Civil War, and two World Wars. Each has tested the strength, principles, and values that has sustained and built this great nation. In the dawn of the new century, America is faced with the next great challenge that will decide if the Republic will survive or fall like so many other great nations that have once honored our planet. This challenge is different; however, because it does not present itself as a dangerous villain with clear intents, America’s current enemy presents itself as a benevolent friend while it quietly wages a subtle cultural war. Will average Americans realize the danger and challenge this enemy before it is too late, or simply go quietly into that dark night of history. This is the fundamental challenge of our time. This is an American patriot call to action.
Average Americans recognize that a stable society is hard to achieve and easy to destroy. That our way of life is held in place by discipline and sacrifice, and that feeling sorry for the bad habits and poor decision making of criminals is not an act of kindness but an injustice for which all of us pay. The Average American favors punishment and pay back in the criminal law. They uphold traditional marriage and the sacrifices that it requires. They believe in discipline in schools and the value of hard work and military service. They believe in the family and think that the father is an essential part in it. They believe in genuine charity for the truly needy starts with family and religious institutions. They understand government’s limited role as a secondary safety net for the downtrodden, but fear it rewards anti-social conduct and creates a culture of dependency. They value the hard-won legal and constitutional inheritance of their country and believe that immigrants must also value it if they are to be allowed to proudly settle here. Average Americans believe in being prepared to fight wars to enjoy a lasting peace at home and abroad. They do not think that war is caused by military strength, but by military weakness that tempts evil men to believe they can succeed in taking away liberty.
For those who do not understand the values that made America great, average Americans seem to be a tough, severe, unattractive and unfriendly bunch. Because of this, Americans must prepare and steady themselves to be abused and despised by all people who make a different set of “compassionate” values the cornerstone of their moral life.
Elite Americans are of course very different. They see criminals as victims of an unfair social class system where power and control is held by “the rich.” Elites think criminals can be cured by kindness and should not be threatened with punishment. They wish all privileges, earned or not, be shared by everyone. Elites believe children should be allowed to express their love of life, and enjoy their body through self expression, not discipline. They believe marriage and the responsibilities of family have no definition. The elite claim to be compassionate because they view immigrant’s simply as migrant victims who are forced to come here illegally; and so the hard fought legal and constitutional inheritance of America must be “adapted” to extend its protection to the latest victim class. Elites see government welfare provisions not as rewards to those who receive them, but the cost we owe to those less fortunate than ourselves. Elites believe wars are caused by military strength and offensive use of weapons. Elites believe the way to peace is to get rid of weapons, reduce the army, and to educate children in the ways of negotiation, concession, compassion and “soft power.”
Elites see themselves as lovable and compassionate, emphasizing in all their words and gestures that, unlike the “rich,” they are in every issue on the side of those who need protecting, and against the military and corporate industries that together work to oppress. Elites are appalled at anyone or anything that might challenge their self righteous moral standing and will emotionally attack any challenge to their self defined compassionate perfection.
Average Americans know, however, that it is they who are motivated by true compassion because their apparent cold-heartedness actually serves compassionate ends. Average Americans are the ones who have taken up the cause of civilized society, and are prepared to pay the cost of upholding the principles on which everyone, elites included, depend upon. Average Americans will defend freedom based on the painful result of a conscience that will not be silenced in upholding principles of life, liberty, and the morality of pursuing happiness through property rights.
By contrast, elite compassion is displayed, though not necessarily felt by a profoundly self-motivated state of mind. Oddly, the Elite knows in his heart that his ineffective self-serving compassionate “talk,” is a privilege for which he must thank the average American, who maintains the social order that allows for such non-sense. Elites express emotion toward the victim class without personal cost, except when having to prove their sincerity by declaring sympathies in order to regain the free ticket to popular acclaim and approval. This is done because the elite must be surrounded at all times by the warm glow of righteousness and superiority.
Why is all of this important? The United States has fallen from its special position as the principled guardian of Western civilization and joined the club of compassionate do-gooders and elite sentimentalists in the rest of the world who have until now depended on American power. Today in America, we see the very same totalitarian sentimentality that has been at work in Europe, replacing civil society with the state, the family with the adoption agency, work with welfare, and patriotic duty with universal "rights."
The lesson of postwar Europe is that it is far easier to flaunt “compassion,” especially when the U.S. bears the cost of protecting a phony life of leisure and moralizing, so others can admire you for virtues you do not possess. Elites are blind to a hard life of principles in which disciplined teaching, genuine costly charity, and responsible attachment to the nation is fundamental. Elites constantly talk a good game on the sufferings of the poor but do not, on the whole, give their time and money to helping those less fortunate than themselves. Their goal is for the state to assume the burden they claim to passionately carry. The inevitable result of their sentimental approach to suffering is the expansion of the state and the increase in its power both to tax us and to control our lives.
As the state, guided by elites, takes charge of our needs, and relieves people of the burdens that should rightly be theirs, serious feelings retreat and the connection with the humanity of others disappears. To fill this void of genuine compassion based on personal costs of giving and personal responsibility, a totalitarian sentimentality fills the vacuum and aggressively seeks to dominate any opposition by incrementally extinguishing it. The elites’ self-anointed goal is to "solve" our social problems, by imposing burdens on responsible citizens, and lifting burdens from the "victims," who have a "right" to state support. The result is to replace old social problems, which might have been relieved by private charity and other institutions, with new, ineffective programs fostered by an inflexible state. This only increases the nation’s problems which are then taken on by an even larger expansion of government “compassion.” This incrementalism continues until one day American’s wake up to a nation they no longer recognize.
State driven sentimentality has given us mass illegitimacy, the emergence of the gang culture among fatherless youth, and the decline of national identity and sovereignty by the pressure of mass immigration subsidized by the state. The citizens, whose taxes pay the premiums of each special class of “victims”, cannot protest, since the sentimentalists have succeeded in passing hate speech and hate crime laws which place their actions beyond discussion for fear of the cry of “bigotry.” These are just a few examples of an executive, legislative, and judicial coup that can be observed in every area of social life: family, school, sexual relations, social initiatives, and the military. All are being deprived of their authority and brought under the control of soft power demigods who rule from an ivory tower with the approval of other compassionate elites who pay no personal costs as their power grows.
The 2009 Nobel Peace Prize is another example. The prize is an endorsement from the European elite, a sigh of collective relief that America has at last taken the decisive step toward what the elite have determined to be the modern consensus of exchanging real for fake emotion, hard power for soft power, and truth for lies. What matters in Europe is the great fiction that things will stay in place forever, that peace will be permanent and society stable, just so long as everybody "plays nice." Elite America is welcomed as a savior: the American for whom the Europeans have been hoping -- the one who will rescue them from the truth so they can continue to live in denial of their own human nature.
This is in contrast to the old average American image of national self-confidence and the belligerent assertion of the right to be successful; a property-owning democracy, in which hard work and family values defined America’s exceptional spirit. Good old fashion American ideals are hated by the European elites, and feared even more because Europe needs America and knows that without America, it will die. So the elites, both here and abroad, find themselves in a psychological conundrum destroying the very principles that sustains them, while the average American is faced with deciding on how it will respond to this “compassionate” tyranny. We can only hope and pray that totalitarian sentimentality has no great appeal to the average American, and that they will be prepared to resist a government that seeks to destroy their economy, family, education, and religious institutions for the sake of a compassion that it does not feel in their hearts and yet knows in their mind is evil disguised on wings of angels.
This is the challenge; this is an American patriot call to action.
Friday, December 11, 2009
State governments know we’re in a recession, and they know you’re hurting. That’s why they’re demanding more from you. . . while Obama has enacted only one major tax increase this year — raising the tobacco tax nearly 62 cents on a pack of cigarettes, to $1.01 — state and local governments have responded to the recession by essentially lifting up their citizens, turning them upside down, and shaking them until all their remaining pocket change falls out.
A new survey of state governments shows that 29 states enacted tax and fee increases this year that are expected to take almost $24 billion from their residents.
Sales-tax increases are common: They will raise an extra $4 billion in California, $889 million in Massachusetts, and $803 million in North Carolina. Income taxes are going up, too: The hikes are expected to generate an additional $4 billion in New York, $1.01 billion in New Jersey, $617 million in Connecticut, $278 million in Wisconsin, and $235 million in Oregon. Higher corporate-income taxes will boost revenues by $110 million in Connecticut, $130 million in Delaware, and $25.8 million in Tennessee. Higher gas taxes will yield an additional $33.9 million in Alaska, $6 million in Maine, $2.4 million in New Hampshire. . .
How did states get into this mess? Over the past two decades, most states enacted gargantuan increases in spending. . . The nominal increases (not accounting for inflation) were often much higher (for example, 9.4 percent in 2007). Total spending by all states is estimated at $1.23 trillion this year; in 2004, it was $1.01 trillion; a decade ago, in 1999, it was a little over half what it is today, a mere $693 billion.
While this year’s tax increases are the worst — by a lot — it’s not as if state tax and fee revenues have declined in recent years. They’ve increased every year since 2002, except for a 2.1 percent decline in 2007. . .
Question: Does anyone think it might be a good idea to have some private sector knowledge in the White House to help decide what is the best policy to improve the economy?
O'-wait, the White House is against the private sector, capitalism, freedom and liberty as defined by the founders.
I hate when I forget that. Here are the facts.
There may be 7.3 million Americans out of a job in this economy, but it’s happy days for federal employees. The number of civil servants making $100,000 or more has jumped over 30 percent since the start of the recession. . .
Across the board, the salary bonanza has pushed the average federal worker's pay to $71,206, compared with $40,331 in the private sector.
Washington metropolitan area received nearly 10 times as much stimulus money per capita as the national average, keeping the unemployment rate in the area at 6.2 percent, far below rates of other large cities . . . and the national average of 10.2 percent.
Recovery Act funding alone has fed the creation of 407,000 government contract jobs—or two thirds of all jobs "created" under the Act—according to one independent analysis. And during a time when most businesses are downsizing, the federal government itself actually grew by 13,000 employees in the last year—the first increase since the 1970s.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Excerpts/edits: Obama’s Bad War Victor Davis Hanson, blogging on National Review
Obama Afghanistan Speech:
Obama offers us, “But we do not have to think that human nature is perfect for us to still believe that the human condition can be perfected.” That thought of the perfectibility of the human condition, in lieu of deterrence and military preparedness, throughout history has gotten millions killed. The human condition can be improved, but only by acknowledgment of the lethal propensities of some — and by readiness to prevent those propensities’ becoming manifest. Most of the great wars of the 20th century were fought against those who were convinced that “the human condition can be perfected.”
Other tidbits from the speech:
Verbosity (4,000 words plus!)
I/me (34 times)
The straw man: on the one hand there are realists, on the other idealists, and I Obama singularly reject this either/or dichotomy (as if no one else does as well)
Veiled attacks on the previous administration
Reference to his own unique personal story
Good-war/bad-war theory of Afghanistan and Iraq
Hopey-changy rhetorical flourish
No mention the word “Iraq”
No word of praise for the U.S. soldiers
Watch this 5 minute video, Ordos: China's empty city. You will be stunned.
On an ironic side note, the video is from AlJazeera, the Middle Easts news network.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
As described by Bernard Fall in Street Without Joy, Giap's strategy for the "Indochina war consisted of three stages. First was that of the initial retreat of the Viet-Minh forces until they had time to re-train and consolidate. The second phase would begin when the French, failing to destroy the Viet-Minh guerilla forces, would allow them to re-equip themselves with the help of the Chinese Communists, to eliminate slowly but surely most of the small French posts in the Viet-Minh base area. The third stage was to be the total destruction of the French troops."
Giap said, "The enemy will pass slowly from the offensive to the defensive. The blitzkrieg will transform itself into a war of long duration. Thus the enemy will be caught in a dilemma: he has to drag out the war in order to win it and does not possess, on the other hand, the psychological and political means to fight a long draw-out war."
Giap further stated, "Our strategy early in the course of the third stage is that of a general counter-offensive. We shall attack without cease until final victory, until we have swept the enemy forces from Indochina. During the first and second stage, we have gnawed away at the enemy forces; now we must destroy them. All military activities of the third stage must tend to the same simple aim--the total destruction of French forces."
"We shall go on to the general counter-offensive when the following conditions have been fulfilled: (1) superiority of our forces over those of the enemy; (2) the international situation is in our favor; (3) the military situation is in our favor. We will have to receive aid from abroad in order to be able to carry out the counter-offensive, but to count solely upon it without taking into account our own capabilities is to show proof of subjectivism and lack of political conscience. But on the other hand we cannot deny the importance of such aid."
"When we shall have reached the third stage, the following tactical principles will be applied: mobile warfare will become the principal activity, positional warfare and guerilla warefare will become secondary."
Napoleon is quoted as saying that those who do not understand history are doomed to repeat it. When one looks at the current trends of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, one can see some similarities as those used by Giap in the Indochina wars.
History does not and more importantly, should not have to repeat itself.
We need to understand modern war and what it takes to win, or we will wake up one day to a mushroom cloud over a major U.S. city
Excerpts from: The Future of Western War, by Victor Davis hanson, from Imprimus, Hillsdale College. edited by Dean Kalahar
I want to talk about the Western way of war and about the particular challenges that face the West today. But the first point I want to make is that war is a human enterprise that will always be with us. Unless we submit to genetic engineering, . . human nature will not change. And if human nature will not change—and I submit to you that human nature is a constant—then war will always be with us. . . In this sense war is like water. . . Likewise war, because the essence of war is human nature.
Second, in talking about the Western way of war, what do we mean by the West? Roughly speaking, we refer to the culture that originated in Greece, spread to Rome, permeated Northern Europe, was incorporated by the Anglo-Saxon tradition, spread through British expansionism, and is associated today primarily with Europe, the United States, and the former commonwealth countries of Britain . . . And what are Western ideas? . . They include a commitment to constitutional or limited government, freedom of the individual, religious freedom in a sense that precludes religious tyranny, respect for property rights, faith in free markets, and an openness to rationalism or to the explanation of natural phenomena through reason. . . The resultant system creates more prosperity and affluence than any other.
Just as this system afforded more prosperity in times of peace, it led to a superior fighting and defense capability in times of war. This is what I call the Western way of war, and there are several factors at play.
First, constitutional government was conducive to civilian input when it came to war. . . civilian overseers have enriched military planning.
Second, Western culture gave birth to a new definition of courage. In Hellenic culture, the prowess of a hero was not recognized by the number of heads on his belt. . . today for deeds such as staying in rank, protecting the integrity of the line, advancing and retreating on orders, or rescuing a comrade. This reflects a quite different understanding of heroism. (much different than the terrorist definition)
A third factor underlies our association of Western war with advanced technology. When reason and capitalism are applied to the battlefield, powerful innovations come about. . . uniting private self-interest and patriotism to provide armies with food, supplies, and munitions in a way that is much more efficient than the state-run command-and-control alternatives.
Yet another factor is that Western armies are impatient. They tend to want to seek out and destroy the enemy quickly and then go home.
Now, I would not want to suggest that the West has always been victorious in war. It hasn't. But consider the fact that Europe had a very small population and territory, and yet by 1870 the British Empire controlled 75 percent of the world. What the Western way of war achieved, on any given day, was to give its practitioners—whether Cortez in the Americas, the British in Zululand, or the Greeks in Thrace—a greater advantage over their enemies. . .
There have been two developments over the last 20 years that have placed the West in a new cycle. They have not marked the end of the Western way of war, but they have brought about a significant change. The first is the rapid electronic dissemination of knowledge—such that someone in the Hindu Kush tonight can download a sophisticated article on how to make an IED.
And the second is that non-Western nations now have leverage, given how global economies work today, through large quantities of strategic materials . . . these materials produce tremendous amounts of unearned capital . . . mean(ing) that the long process of civilization required to create, for example, a petroleum engineer has not occurred in these countries, yet they find themselves in possession of the monetary fruits of this process. So the West's enemies now have instant access to knowledge and tremendous capital.
In addition to these new developments, there are five traditional checks on the Western way of war that are intensified today.
One of these checks is the Western tendency to limit the ferocity of war through rules and regulations. . . Unfortunately, the idea that Western countries can adjudicate how the rest of the world makes war isn't applicable anymore. . . In fact, (some) nations find the idea of limiting their war-making capabilities laughable. Even more importantly, they know that many in the West sympathize with them—that many Westerners feel guilty about their wealth, prosperity, and leisure, and take psychological comfort in letting tyrants like -Ahmadinejad -provoke them.
The second check on the Western way of war is the fact that there is no monolithic West. For one thing, Western countries have frequently fought one another. . . The U.S. and its allies can't even agree on sanctions against Iran. . .Westerners will dealing with theocratic zealots who claim that they do not care about living, making them all the more dangerous. Yet despite all this, to repeat, the Western democracies can't agree on sanctions or even on a prohibition against selling technology and arms.
The third check is what I call "parasitism." It is very difficult to invent and fabricate weapons, but it is very easy to use them. . . there (is no history) in the tradition of Shiite Islam that would allow a Shiite nation to create centrifuges, which require Western physics. Yet centrifuges are hard at work in Iran. And this parasitism has real consequences.
A fourth check is the ever-present anti-war movement in the West, stemming from the fact that Westerners are free to dissent. . . Our enemies know this, and often their words and actions are aimed at encouraging and aiding Western anti-war forces.
Finally and most seriously, I think, there is what I call, for want of a better term, "asymmetry." Western culture creates citizens who are affluent, leisured, free, and protected. Human nature being what it is, we citizens of the West often want to enjoy our bounty and retreat into private lives—to go home, eat pizza, and watch television. . . it's not easy to convince someone who has the good life to fight against someone who doesn't.
To put this in contemporary terms, what we are asking today is for a young man with a $250,000 education from West Point to climb into an Apache helicopter—after emailing back and forth with his wife and kids about what went on at a PTA meeting back in Bethesda, Maryland—and fly over Anbar province or up to the Hindu Kush and risk being shot down by a young man from a family of 15, none of whom will ever live nearly as well as the poorest citizens of the United States, using a weapon whose design he doesn't even understand. In a moral sense, the lives of these two young men are of equal value. But in reality, our society values the lives of our young men much more than Afghan societies value the lives of theirs. And it is very difficult to sustain a protracted war with asymmetrical losses under those conditions.My point here is that all of the usual checks on the tradition of Western warfare are magnified in our time. And I will end with this disturbing thought: We who created the Western way of war are very reluctant to resort to it due to post-modern cynicism, while those who didn't create it are very eager to apply it due to pre-modern zealotry. And that's a very lethal combination.
News about health often focuses on the negative: scary new flu viruses, incurable diseases, dashed hopes for miracle drugs. Maybe that's because we have such high expectations that doctors and scientists can fix anything.
But amid all that bad news—not to mention the acrimony over health-care reform—it's easy to overlook how much progress has been made in recent years. Here are 20 health-care advances to give thanks for this Thanksgiving:
• Nearly 62% of U.S. adults said they were in excellent or very good health, along with 82% of their children,
• Fewer Americans died in traffic fatalities in 2008 than in any year since 1961, and fewer were injured than in any year since 1988
• Life expectancy in the U.S. reached an all-time high of 77.9 years in 2007
• Death rates dropped significantly for eight of the 15 leading causes of death in the U.S.
• The death rate from coronary heart disease dropped 34% from 1995 to 2005
• The death rate from cancer, the second-biggest killer, dropped 16% from 1990 to 2006
• Hip fractures—which can rob elderly patients of their mobility forever—are down nearly 30% in the U.S. and Canada since 1985
• Thanks largely to antiretroviral drugs, U.S. deaths from AIDS dropped 10% from 2006 to 2007, the biggest decline since 1998, and they remain well below the 1995 peak
World-wide, more than four million people in low- and middle-income countries were receiving antiretroviral therapy for HIV/AIDS at the end of 2008, a 36% increase in one year and a 10-fold increase over five years.
• The proportion of undernourished children world-wide under five years of age declined to 20% in 2005 from 27% in 1990.
• Chalk this one up as an advance for mental health: The U.S. divorce rate dropped by one-third from 1981 to 2008, and is at its lowest level since 1970
• From 2006 to 2008, the median percentage of U.S. secondary schools that don't sell soda rose to 64% from 38%
• Around the world, 27% fewer children died before their fifth birthday in 2007 than in 1990
• The amount of trans fats in packaged food has declined by about 50% since 2006
• Twenty-seven countries reported a reduction of up to 50% in the number of malaria cases between 1990 and 2006.Source:Mark Perry- Carpe Diem
This past Monday, December 7, 2009, Harry Reid, the Democrat Senate Majority Leader, spoke from the Senate floor and uttered these words concerning the Republican Party’s opposition to socialized health care:
"Instead of joining us on the right side of history, all the Republicans can come up with is, ‘slow down, stop everything, let's start over.’ If you think you've heard these same excuses before, you're right. When this country belatedly recognized the wrongs of slavery, there were those who dug in their heels and said 'slow down, it's too early, let’s wait, things aren't bad enough.’”. . . "When this body was on the verge of guaranteeing equal civil rights to everyone regardless of the color of their skin, some senators resorted to the same filibuster threats that we hear today."
According to Harry Reid, on the issues of slavery, segregation and women having the right to vote, the Republicans were supposedly on the wrong side of history. Well, let’s examine history.
Regarding the Civil Rights Act of 1964: 80% of those Senators that threatened to filibuster the Civil Rights Act were Democrats.
31% of Democrats in Congress voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or 1/3 of the Democrat Party refused to end segregation nationwide.
82% of the Republicans in Congress voted to end segregation nationwide. In other words, segregation ended when a larger percentage of Republicans voted in favor of civil rights.
In the early 1850’s, President Franklin Pierce, a Democrat, broke his promise to the Congress by refusing to restrict slavery in the newly founded western states of America.
The consequence of Democrat Pierce’s broken promise was the creation of the Republican Party.
In 1854, Abraham Lincoln and some of his friends in the Whig party created the Republican Party for the purposes of ending slavery and upholding a conservative interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.
In 1860, when Abraham Lincoln was first elected as President of the United States, he swept into office Republican majorities in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives
In that same election of 1860, every major northern state elected a Republican Governor.
Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation made all slaves in the areas won by the Union Army legal citizens of the United States.
Lincoln started his second term in March of 1865, gave a speech stating that the slaves he helped free should be given the right to vote.
In the audience was John Wilkes Booth. Booth, a southern Democrat, who soon after carried out his assassination of the President.
The Republican Members of Congress responded to Booth’s assassinating President Lincoln by passing a total of three Constitutional Amendments; 1. banning slavery, 2. extending all the rights found in the U.S. Constitution to all citizens of all states, 3. extending equal protection and due process rights to all citizens, as well as the right to vote
Republican Senator, Aaron Sargent, wrote the Women’s Suffrage Amendment of 1878.
The amendment failed due to strong opposition by members of the Democrat party. American women had to wait another 40 years to obtain the right to vote.
In 1870, Joseph Rainey of South Carolina became the nation’s first ever African-American Congressman. Senator Hiram Revels of Mississippi became the nation’s first ever African-American Senator that same year, both were republicans.
Every single African-American member of the United States Congress was a Republican until 1935.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, a Republican President activated the elite Army unit, the 101st Airborne, in order to assist nine African-American children in Arkansas wanting to attend school with white students.
Dr. Martin Luther King was a registered Republican.
Facts are stubborn things- John Adams
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Excerpts: Fed Failures by Joseph Y. Calhoun, III
Any dispassionate appraisal of Ben Bernanke’s term as Chairman of the Federal Reserve would have to conclude that it has been a colossal failure. The Fed is tasked with several areas of responsibility and the Bernanke Fed has failed at all of them. As a bank regulator, the Bernanke Fed presided over the formation and collapse of quite possibly the biggest credit bubble in the history of the world and the largest number of bank failures since the S&L crisis. At the same time they were busy ignoring the shenanigans of the banking sector, the Bernanke controlled Fed also managed to push the inflation rate to its highest year over year change in nearly two decades (+5.5% in the summer of 2008) and then also allow it to turn negative (nearly -2% in the summer of 2009) for the first time in a half century. Bernanke’s Fed also deserves at least partial credit for oil at $145 and gold at $1200 since those were a result of monetary policy as well. Finally, since the Fed’s dual mandate also includes maintaining full employment, the current unemployment rate of 10% must be included in Mr. Bernanke’s application for continued employment . .
Those who favor Mr. Bernanke’s reappointment primarily cite his performance during the crisis portion of his term as their reason for favoring his retention. . . I suppose it must be comforting to these Bernanke supporters to know that the chairman knows more than anyone about how to recover from such economic calamities, but has it not occurred to them that he apparently knows absolutely nothing about how these situations are created? He has yet to acknowledge in even the slightest way his and the Fed’s role in creating the very crisis he claims to be qualified to solve.
If anything, Mr. Bernanke’s performance since the first inkling of sub prime trouble in the summer of 2007 is the strongest case against his reappointment. The actions of the Federal Reserve since that time may have been in the best interests of the financial industry, but claiming they were in the best interests of the country as a whole is a more dubious position.
Whose interests did it serve when the Fed provided funding - and assumed the risk of potential losses in the process - for JP Morgan to take over Bear Stearns? Whose interests did it serve when the Fed paid off AIG’s counterparties in full? Whose interests does it serve when the Fed purchases Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac debt in the open market? Whose interests does it serve when the Fed is the mortgage backed securities market? Is it even Constitutional for the Fed to purchase such securities if there is a potential for loss? Doesn’t that cross over into fiscal policy that should be voted on by Congress? Whose interests does it serve when the Fed purchases newly issued Treasury notes?
Bernanke - and many others - claim these actions were necessary to prevent the collapse of the entire financial system. Treasury Secretary Geithner has made similar claims and yet neither can offer anything other than their personal assurance that their actions averted disaster. One thing we do know for sure is that the biggest beneficiaries of their actions were the owners and creditors of the largest financial institutions. Why were losses dispersed among the public considered preferable to losses concentrated among this smaller group? Is this smaller group somehow more important economically than the much larger group that was forced to accept their losses? Why? How?
More important than Bernanke’s past performance is how he will perform in the future. What has he learned from this experience that will allow him to perform better in the future?. . . the Fed maintains a steep yield curve that benefits no one so much as the banking industry bottom line. The economy is just coming off life support, but at least the financial industry will have a good bonus season. Surely our contributions to the golden calf that the financial industry has become will trickle down to the rest of us mere citizens eventually.
The kind of people who are apt to push for government-imposed solutions are those who are also apt to believe they will be the ones imposing decisions, not the ones who have to live with decisions imposed by others. Sometimes that's because they enjoy the wealth that gives them escape hatches unavailable to the less affluent, such as their ability to ensure that their own children never have to set foot in a public school. Mostly, however, their trust in government reflects their confidence that they have all the answers and that it's government's job to enforce them.
Monday, December 7, 2009
`Hey Washington D.C. politicians, we are on to the game, and plan to play soon with our votes!
A PRINCE had some Monkeys trained to dance. Being naturally great mimics of men's actions, they showed themselves most apt pupils, and when arrayed in their rich clothes and masks, they danced as well as any of the courtiers. The spectacle was often repeated with great applause, till on one occasion a courtier, bent on mischief, took from his pocket a handful of nuts and threw them upon the stage. The Monkeys at the sight of the nuts forgot their dancing and became (as indeed they were) Monkeys instead of actors. Pulling off their masks and tearing their robes, they fought with one another for the nuts. The dancing spectacle thus came to an end amidst the laughter and ridicule of the audience.
-From Aesop, The dancing monkeys
Excerpts: Three Myths about Trash, Mises Daily,by Floy Lilley
1. Are We Running Out of Landfill Space?
Today, 1,654 landfills in 48 states take care of 54 percent of all the solid waste in the country. One-third of them are privately owned. The largest landfill, in Las Vegas, received 3.8 million tons during 2007 at fees within the national range of $24 to $70 per ton. Landfills are no longer a threat to the environment or public health. State-of-the-art landfills, with redundant clay, plastic liners, and leachate collection systems, have now replaced all of our previously unsafe dumps. "We are not running out of landfill space."
Holding all of America's garbage for the next one hundred years would require a space only 255 feet high or deep and 10 miles on a side. Landfills welcome the business. Forty percent of what we recycle ends up there anyway. We are not running out of landfill space.
2. Are We Saving Resources and Protecting the Environment by Recycling?
What are the costs in energy and material resources to recycling as opposed to landfill disposal, which we've just looked at? Which method of handling solid waste uses the least amount of resources as valued by the market? . . .
Overall, curbside recycling's costs run between 35 percent and 55 percent more than other recycling methods, because it uses huge amounts of capital and labor per pound of material recycled. Recycling itself uses three times more resources than does depositing waste in landfills.
... the price for recycling tends to soar far higher than the combined costs of manufacturing raw materials from virgin sources and dumping rubbish into landfills.
... The amount of new growth that occurs each year in forests exceeds by a factor of 20 the amount of wood and paper that is consumed by the world each year.
Glass is made from silica dioxide — that's common beach sand — the most abundant mineral in the crust of the earth. Plastic is derived from petroleum byproducts after fuel is harvested from the raw material. Recycling paper, glass, or plastic is usually not justified compared to the virgin prices of these materials.
... since 1845, the average price of raw materials has fallen roughly 80 percent after adjusting for inflation.
...many states and local communities subsidize recycling programs, either out of tax receipts or out of fees collected for trash disposal.
...Recycling is a manufacturing process, and therefore it too has environmental impact. The US Office of Technology Assessment says that it is "usually not clear whether secondary manufacturing such as recycling produces less pollution per ton of material processed than primary manufacturing processes."
Increased pollution by recycling is particularly apparent in the case of curbside recycling.
Manufacturing paper, glass, and plastic from recycled materials uses appreciably more energy and water, and produces as much or more air pollution, as manufacturing from raw materials does. Resources are not saved and the environment is not protected.
3. Do People Recycle Only When They Are Forced To?
. . . private recycling is the world's second oldest, if not the oldest, profession. Recyclers were just called scavengers. Everything of value has always been recycled. You will automatically know that something is of value when someone offers to buy it from you, or you see people picking through your waste or diving into dumpsters.
Recycling is a long-practiced, productive, indeed essential, element of the market system. Informed, voluntary recycling conserves resources and raises our wealth, enabling us to achieve valued ends that would otherwise be impossible. So yes, people do recycle even when they are not forced to do so. . .
Social Security, Ponzi Schemes, Baby boomers, and the most self absorbed generation in American history
Excerpts: Watching Social Security Eat the Young Alive, By Bill Frezza
My 26 year old son got the most extraordinary letter from the Social Security Administration last week. In plain English it admitted that the system was a Ponzi scheme destined for bankruptcy more than a decade before he reaches retirement age. It warned that if he is to have any hope of retiring he'd better start saving on his own. . .
The two-page pamphlet entitled "What young workers should know about Social Security and saving" reminds us that 50 million, or one in six, Americans will collect more than $614 Billion dollars in Social Security benefits this year. It informs young people that the Security Taxes they now pay go into a "Trust Fund" that is used to pay current beneficiaries. Paying off early investors with funds taken from later investors is precisely how Wikipedia defines a Ponzi scheme. The pamphlet advises that the Social Security Board of Trustees estimates that the "Trust Fund" will be depleted before my son's 54th birthday. Because people are living longer and the birth rate is low, it goes on, taxes paid by workers in the future will not be enough to pay the benefits promised in his personalized retirement account statement enclosed with the pamphlet.
Imagine what hell would break loose if Schwab or Fidelity Investments enclosed a confession like this when they mailed investors their 401(k) statements. On top of the negative rate of return young people paying into Social Security are expected to suffer, the pamphlet concludes that my son should plan on taking an additional 24% haircut on the benefits promised in his statement. . .
Given the fact that Social Security will be bankrupt before my son even reaches my age, the pamphlet directs him to a handy web calculator that shows how much he will have to save every week if he hopes to retire on his own. Play with it for a few minutes and you realize that there is only one field in the calculator that really matters, and that is the rate of inflation. Plug in an annual inflation rate of one or two percent and the numbers look pretty reasonable as compound interest works its magic. But stick in the double digit inflation figures . . . and a funny thing happens. In order to prepare for retirement, young people would have to save more than they make!
Why do kids put up with this? Last time I checked they were old enough to vote. An entire generation is being systematically robbed by their parents with nary a peep. Why aren't they marching in the streets like we did? When they do show up at the polls like sheep ready to be shorn, they pull the lever for kumbaya politicians promising to stick them with the bill for an ever-expanding menu of unfunded middle class entitlements.
There only conclusion I can come to is that we Baby Boomers have infantilized our children into idiocy. Our kids got so used to being taken care of, educated, clothed, entertained, and driven to the mall that they somehow got the idea that this life of Reilly would go on forever. Little did they know that we were luring them into an adulthood of intergenerational slavery. Baby Boomers (the most self-absorbed generation in American history) made a mess out of what was once the most productive economy in human history.
last week, Pennsylvania State University said it would launch an inquiry into the conduct of Michael Mann, one of its professors and perhaps the world's most prominent paleoclimatologist.Jones and Mann have both been key contributors to the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
emails leaked from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit two weeks ago revealed, among many inconvenient truths, the corruption of the IPCC's process of assessing climate science. . .
Still, despite the probes into some of the IPCC's key participants, the chair, Rajendra Pachauri , of that body insists nothing rotten is about to happen in the state of Denmark, where world leaders are set to debate sweeping policies based on IPCC conclusions.
"It is a very transparent, a very comprehensive process which insures that even if someone wants to leave out a piece of peer reviewed literature there is virtually no possibility of that happening," . . .
"Today we have reached the point where consumption and people's desire to consume has grown out of proportion,". . . "The reality is that our lifestyles are unsustainable."
Friday, December 4, 2009
Politicians will quote statistics showing how great the economy is doing, and citing the National RV Trade Association who released numbers showing sales rose 16 percent from July to August nationwide this year, and sales are projected to jump 26.5 percent next year with a backlog of new orders.
What they will forget to tell you, is that the RV industry may be booming because people are choosing to buy and live in an RV instead of a tent when they lose their home. In other words, the RV boom may be an indication of just how bad the economy really is. Of course this is great for Winnebago and others, but even in bad economies, there are always sectors that boom.
If actions speak louder than words, President Obama is cutting America free of George Bush's wars and coming home. For his bottom line Tuesday night was that all U.S. forces will be out of Iraq by mid-2011 and the U.S. footprint in Afghanistan will, on that date, begin to get smaller and smaller. Yet the gap between the magnitude of the crisis he described and the action he is taking is the Grand Canyon. . .
Consider the apocalyptic rhetoric:
"(A)s commander in chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest ..."
"If I did not think that the security of the United States and the safety of the American people were at stake ..."
"For what is at stake is not simply a test of NATO's credibility, what's at stake is the security of our allies, and the common security of the world."
After that preamble, one might expect the announcement of massive U.S. air strikes on some rogue nation. Yet what was the action decided upon? "I ... will send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home. To secure America and the world, not 5 percent of the Army and Marine Corps will be surged into Afghanistan for 18 months -- then they will start home. Let us put that in perspective.
During the Korean War, we had a third of a million men fighting. In 1969, we had half a million troops in Vietnam. But in Afghanistan, where the security of the world is at stake, Obama is topping out at 100,000 troops and will start drawing them down in July 2011. . . The contradictions in Obama's speech are jarring.
He says the new U.S. troops are to "train competent Afghan Security Forces and to partner with them so that more Afghans can get into the fight. And they will help to create the conditions for the United States to transfer responsibility to the Afghans." Thus, we are going to train the Afghan army and police so that, in 18 months, they can take over the fighting in a war where the security of the United States and the whole world is in the balance? . .
Obama was not citing the Eisenhower of Normandy but President Eisenhower, who ended Korea by truce, refused to intervene in Indochina, did nothing to halt Nikita Khrushchev's crushing of the Hungarian revolution, ordered the British, French and Israelis out of Suez . . .In four years, Nixon was out of Vietnam. In 18 months, Obama says we will be out of Iraq with a steadily diminishing presence in Afghanistan.
What we heard Tuesday night was the drum roll of an exit strategy.
Barack Obama is demonstrating bottomless reservoirs of gracelessness. A full 13 months after his election, in the course of justifying the deployment of 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, President Obama could not spare a word of praise for George W. Bush — not even when recounting the nation’s “unified” response to 9/11. To the contrary, throughout his pained recitation of the choices we face in Afghanistan, he adverted at least half a dozen times to the supposed blunders of his predecessor.
It’s beginning to sound whiny — and unpresidential. Enough about the terrible mess he inherited. Let’s hear a little more about the tremendous honor that has been bestowed on him. Ronald Reagan inherited a worse situation in 1980 — inflation at 13.5 percent; the prime rate at 21 percent; the Soviets in Afghanistan; American hostages in Tehran; Communist coups in ten new countries over the previous decade — but Reagan never impugned his predecessor. As biographer Lou Cannon noted, “Reagan . . . was generous to Carter in his public statements even though he did not care for him.”
George W. Bush showed the same chivalry toward Bill Clinton, declining to breathe a negative word about him — even when sorely tempted by the pardon scandal that further tarnished an already clouded tenure. Even now, despite the unremitting barrage from his successor, Bush keeps silent, true to his tradition of civility toward opponents.
President Obama is so spiteful that he warps history to fit his prejudices. Everything was going brilliantly in Afghanistan, he explains, until “the decision was made to wage a second war, in Iraq.” Iraq took the lion’s share of resources and ruined our international reputation, he argues. But in the next sentence, without acknowledging the surge (much less the courage Bush demonstrated in pursuing it despite tremendous political and military pressure against it), Obama boasts that “we are bringing the Iraq War to a successful conclusion” and “successfully leaving Iraq to its people.” . . .
Well, perhaps President Obama doesn’t realize how he sounds. That must be it. He had the gall, after kneecapping Bush, to demand a halt to “rancor” and “partisanship.” But the greater outrage was his pious declaration that “we must make it clear to every man, woman, and child around the world who lives under the dark cloud of tyranny that America will speak out on behalf of their human rights.” This from the man whose State Department told China early on that human rights were not our priority; who has decided he can deal with the butchers of Darfur; who averted his eyes from the bloody crackdown on protests in Iran; and who tamely permitted the Chinese to censor his words during his visit.
But there’s no cause for self-examination. There’s still George W. Bush to kick around.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
George Will is correct, Things will not end well in Afganistan. As I have stated in prior posts, we need to punish, contain, and control the extreamist elements in Afganistan, Pakistan, and for that matter all around the globe. This can be done without nation building, extensive troop involvement and protracted stays of "boots on the ground." America is fully capable, thank you very much, of handling any conflict, bully, or thug any time and any where on the earth quickly, and might I say painfully, so that our enemies will think twice about attacking us again.
We have forgotten what war is and replaced it with a vision that believes it can be waged nicely. We have been led to believe war means building schools, planting crops and healing old wounds. We have become soft, and that makes us a easy target to fight because the enemy actually believe they can win.
The real question is: are we willing to really take the fight to the enemy and bomb them into oblivion with assurances that any other bad behavior will be met with a similar fate; or are we going to continue to pretend to be diplomatic and play nice with world opinion and to people who think it proper to strap bombs to their chests to blow up in crowds of innocent people.
We must turn the tide by appealing to the basic human self interest and instinct to survive. Sure there will be a few nut cases who actually believe in radical theology or who are psychotic and diseased with evil. But for the rest of the enemy, my guess is that a lot of shock and awe will quickly awaken the reality that lies just below their clouded worldview.
The current course in Afghanistan will not succeed. This is not however a question of being anti or pro-war; it is a question of understanding and believing in the moral imperative of destroying evil.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Alberto Alesina and Silvia Ardagna, August 2009 Revised: October 2009
We examine the evidence on episodes of large stances in fiscal policy, both in cases of fiscal stimuli and in that of fiscal adjustments in OECD countries from 1970 to 2007. Fiscal stimuli based upon tax cuts are more likely to increase growth than those based upon spending increases. As for fiscal adjustments those based upon spending cuts and no tax increases are
more likely to reduce deficits and debt over GDP ratios than those based upon tax increases. In addition, adjustments on the spending side rather than on the tax side are less likely to create recessions. We confirm these results with simple regression analysis.
Believing you can run other peoples’ lives when you can barely run your own, By Jonah Goldberg
I think I’ve had my fill of moral hypocrisy. We routinely hear stories of evangelical ministers who “mentor” hookers at $500 an hour, “family values” politicians who like the cut of a congressional page’s jib, or senators who love to press the flesh, one bathroom stall at a time. And, given the times, we increasingly hear stories about progressive politicians and columnists who — gasp! — have bigger carbon footprints than they want the rest of us to have: CO2 emissions for me and not for thee! For shame.
The press loves stories of moral hypocrisy. Catching a finger-wagging politician violating his or her own moral code warms the cockles of every reporter’s heart. Indeed, sometimes journalists confuse hypocrisy for the real crime. . .
The crusade against moral hypocrisy necessarily hits conservatives harder, not because conservatives are more immoral, but because they uphold morality more publicly, making them richer targets. The Left aims much of its moralizing at moralizing itself — “thou shalt not judge.” Meanwhile, the Right focuses on the oldies but goodies — adultery, drug use, etc. I think we’re right to uphold a standard even if we sometimes fail to live up to it.
What I don’t think we hear enough about is intellectual hypocrisy. What’s that? Well, if moral hypocrisy is saying what values people should live by while failing to follow them yourself, intellectual hypocrisy is believing you are smart enough to run other peoples’ lives when you can barely run your own.
I know many smart liberals for whom no idea is too complex, no concept or organizational flow chart too hard to grasp. They want government to take over this, run that, manage some other things, and in all cases put people exactly like them in charge of pretty much everything. Many are geniuses, with SAT scores so high you could get a bloody nose just looking at them. . .
The chairman of a small college’s English department thinks it’s obvious intellectuals should take over health care, but he can’t manage the class schedules of three professors or run a meeting without it coming to blows or tears. A pundit defends government intervention in almost every sphere of economic life, but he can’t figure out how to manage the interns or his checking account.
The most famous story of an intellectual hypocrite getting his comeuppance is the tale of George McGovern and his inn. The senator, 1972 presidential nominee and college professor thought he could run a vast, technologically sophisticated nation with a diverse population and an entrepreneurial culture. Then, after leaving Washington, he bought an inn in Connecticut to while away his retirement years. For a guy as smart as him, running an inn should have been child’s play. But it went belly-up before the end of the year, with a contritely befuddled McGovern marveling at how much harder running a business was than he thought. . .
Now, I also know lots of conservatives who are basket cases at everything other than reading and writing books and articles, giving speeches, and thinking Big Thoughts . . . The point is that conservatives don’t presume to be smart enough to run everything, because conservative dogma takes it as an article of faith that no one can be that smart.
Moral hypocrisy is still worth exposing, I guess. But we are living in a moment when revealing intellectual hypocrisy should take precedence. . . From the stimulus to health-care reform and cap-and-trade, Washington is now run by people who think they know how to run everything, when in reality they can barely run anything.
The Supreme Court gets a seaside view of the Fifth Amendment.
Floridians who think life's a beach should be watching the Supreme Court closely today when the Justices hear oral arguments about whether the state may confiscate private waterfront land for a dubious public purpose.
The case, Stop the Beach Renourishment v. Florida Dep't of Environmental Protection, began in 2003, when home owners in the Florida Panhandle objected to changes in their property lines caused by a "beach renourishment" program. Typically done in the name of deterring erosion, the government carts in truckloads of sand, making the beach bigger. But rather than extending the property of the owner, the state declares itself owner of the sandy addition, effectively separating waterfront home owners from the water itself.
The Florida Supreme Court ruled 5-2 for the state and claimed the program doesn't mean the state can go around "creating as much dry land between upland property and the water as it pleases." There's a point, they said, at which such beach additions would represent an unconstitutional taking. But the problem is where exactly that point occurs: Without a specific demarcation, it's a slippery slope for how much land the state may seize without having to compensate the private owners.
To reach its decision, the Florida high court had to throw over 100 years of common law to declare that waterfront property owners have "no independent right of contact with the water." In a scathing dissent, Florida Justice Fred Lewis wrote that for the court to say that waterfront rights are unconnected with ownership of the land abutting water is a non sequitur. The court had "butchered Florida law," he wrote, and "unnecessarily created dangerous precedent based on a manipulation of the question actually certified." . . .
If the state wants to create a public beach, it may have the power to do so by invoking eminent domain and compensating owners for their loss. Short of that, the action is a taking that violates the Fifth Amendment, and this case provides an opportunity for the Supreme Court to begin making amends for the damage it did to property rights in the 2005 case of Kelo v. New London.
Those of lengthened years will remember the sudden acceleration scare, driven by CBS's "60 Minutes," that almost pushed Audi out of the U.S. market in the 1980s. Lawyers at the time made out like bandits even though handicapped by having to allege an unidentified defect in a mechanical system—and by the fact that the defect seemed to show up disproportionately in cases of elderly female drivers who were new to the Audi.
A second life was given to SUA (sudden unintended acceleration) litigation in the 1990s with the spread of cruise control and electronic fuel injection, making it easier to sustain a claim of unseen and unreplicable software or circuitry glitches. With Toyota wearing the bulls-eye, now comes the third wave thanks to the revolution that means even a midpriced car nowadays can contain dozens of microprocessors and 30 million lines of code.
As the L.A. Times argued in its latest installment Sunday, "complaints of sudden acceleration in many Toyota and Lexus vehicles shot up almost immediately after the automaker adopted the so-called drive-by-wire system over the last decade. That system uses sensors, microprocessors and electric motors—rather than a traditional link such as a steel cable—to connect the driver's foot to the engine."
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
October 3, 1863
By the President of the United States of America.
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.
By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward,
Secretary of State
. . . We've heard a lot--and I suspect more than enough . . . about reverse discrimination, where the law distinguishes unfairly between blacks and whites. But we've heard far too little about sideways discrimination, where the law distinguishes unfairly between, say, landlords and tenants.
Steven E. Landsburg has argued in his book Fair Play and now on his new blog that it’s generally acceptable (morally and legally) for tenants to discriminate against landlords, and workers to discriminate against employers, but not vice-versa. Here's how he explains it in Fair Play:
Let me illustrate with a stylized example economists love so much. Mary owns a vacant apartment; Joe is looking for a place to live. If Joe disapproves of Mary's race or religion or lifestyle, he is free to shop elsewhere. But if Mary disapproves of Joe's race or religion or certain aspects of his lifestyle, the law requires her to swallow her misgivings and rent the apartment to Joe.
Or: Bert wants to hire an office manager and Ernie wants to manage an office. The law allows Ernie to refuse any job for any reason. If he doesn't like Albanians, he doesn't have to work for one. Bert is held to a higher standard: If he lets it be known that no Albanians need apply, he'd better have a damned good lawyer.
These asymmetries grate against the most fundamental requirement of fairness--that people should be treated equally, in the sense that their rights and responsibilities should not change because of irrelevant external circumstances. Mary and Joe--or Bert and Ernie--are looking to enter two sides of one business relationship. Why should they have asymmetric duties under the anti-discrimination laws?
When the law is so glaringly asymmetric, one has to suspect that the legislature's true agenda is not to combat discrimination on the basis of race, but to foster discrimination on the basis of social status. By holding employers and landlords to a higher standard than employees and tenants, the lawmakers reveal their underlying animus toward employers and landlords. . .
If you don’t want to live in an Albanian-owned building or an work for an Albanian employer, that’s your right (no matter how strongly we might strongly disapprove of your attitude). By analogy, then, it might seem that landlords and employers should have the same right to discriminate.
Now clearly the situation is not that simple; landlords and employers are not the same as tenants and employees. But the question is: Are they not the same in any way that is morally relevant? The most frequently cited difference (in my experience) is that landlords and employers tend to have more market power than tenants and workers. Putting aside the question of whether that’s true, it can’t possibly be a full justification for treating landlords and employers differently, and here’s why: There are plenty of instances where we don’t think that market power takes away your right to discriminate. Extremely attractive people have a lot of power in the dating market, but I think it’s safe to say that almost nobody thinks the most beautiful among us should be forced to date Albanians, or to prove that they choose their partners according to some objective criterion other than national origin.
So if you think it’s OK for tenants to discriminate but not landlords, you’ve got to face the question: What is the ethically relevant distinction here? It’s clearly not market power, so what, if anything, is it? I do not deny that there might be a good answer to that question, but I must admit I can’t imagine what it would be.
. . . By what authority, after all, could Congress force all Americans to buy health insurance?
In a recent press release, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., argues that constitutional objections to the individual mandate are "nonsensical," because "the power of Congress to regulate health care is essentially unlimited."
In answer to the question "by what authority?" Reid's bill offers the Commerce Clause — the go-to provision for friends of federal power. That clause gives Congress the power "to regulate Commerce ... among the several states."
It was a modest measure designed to regularize cross-border commerce and prevent interstate trade wars — so modest, in fact, that Madison described it in the Federalist as a clause that "few oppose, and from which no apprehensions are entertained."
The Founders would have worried more had they known that the Commerce Clause would eventually become a bottomless fount of federal power. In 1942's Wickard v. Filburn, the court held that the Commerce Power was broad enough to penalize a farmer growing wheat for his own consumption on his own farm.
That farmer, Roscoe Filburn, ran afoul of a New Deal scheme to prop up agricultural prices. The fact that he wasn't engaged in interstate commerce — or commerce of any kind — was quite beside the point. If "many others similarly situated" engaged in the same behavior, it would substantially affect interstate commerce, and frustrate Congress' designs.
In its "Findings" section, Reid's bill hits all the jurisprudential buzzwords: The individual mandate "substantially affects interstate commerce," and regulates "activity that is commercial and economic in nature." Activity like standing around without health insurance? Apparently so.
Yet, as the Congressional Budget Office noted in a 1994 evaluation of Clintoncare, an individual mandate would be "unprecedented. ... The government has never required people to buy any good or service as a condition of lawful residence in the United States." . . .
The U.S. Constitution can rescue us from the Obama administration's latest push toward "remaking America." Our Constitution is on the people's side to stop Obama from turning the judiciary into a platform for America's sworn enemies to spread their propaganda and even use our own laws against us.
Our Constitution's framers foresaw the probability that power-hungry men would try to take over the judiciary. So, they gave us the tools to maintain a government based on the separation of powers
The Constitution gives Congress the power to override this Obama-Holder outrage. Congress can and should prevent this travesty, and the sooner the better.
We don't need any 2,000-page legislation -- a single sentence will suffice. "Federal district courts shall have no jurisdiction over any case involving unlawful enemy combatants, as that term is defined in the United States Code (Title 10, Section 948a)."
Constitutional authority is clear. Article III, Section I, states, "The judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish."
Nothing is new or irregular about Congress prescribing or limiting the kinds of cases that federal courts are permitted to hear. A long historical record conclusively proves that Congress has the power to regulate and limit court jurisdiction, that Congress has used this power repeatedly, and the courts have accepted it.
The great Chief Justice John Marshall asserted in an 1807 Supreme Court case that "courts which are created by written law, and whose jurisdiction is defined by written law, cannot transcend that jurisdiction."
With Thanksgiving just around the corner, encouragement may come from an unexpected source: the Puritans.
Often misunderstood and perennially maligned, the Puritans—tested first by religious persecution and later by the elements in their primitive surroundings—grew not into the fuddy-duddy party-poopers of modern history books, but into a tenacious and stalwart people. They developed by sheer necessity one of the most highly defined and well-honed work ethics in history. If anyone knew a trick or two about surviving hard times, they did.
Defined primarily by their religious separation from the Church of England, the Puritans (not surprisingly) had a view of work in which God looms large. Living according to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, which states that "Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever," the Puritans believed that all of life, including their work, was God's, and, as such, infused with purpose and meaning. They saw hardship not as a sign of failure, but as a path to growth and maturity, a mind-set that kept them from the kind of work-related despair seen in today's news.
Reformer and forefather of much Puritan theology, Martin Luther, in his doctrine of vocation, taught that God gave each individual an occupational "calling." Man's vocation was not seen as impersonal and random, but as from a loving and personal God who bestowed each individual with natural talents and desires for a particular occupation. This thought further deepened the Puritan's sense of purposefulness, fortifying him in difficult times.
Much like modern work is separated into white and blue collar, 17th-century tradition held that sacred occupations (like priest or monk) trumped secular ones (like farming or blacksmithing). The Puritans, however, rejected such a distinction. Holding to "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might" (Ecclesiastes 9:10), the Puritans sanctified the common, believing that all work, however lowly, if done for the glory of God, was good. Christ Himself "was not ashamed to labor; yea, and to use so simple an occupation," said Puritan Hugh Latimer. The farmer's plow became his altar, his tilling an act of service to God every bit as holy and valuable as the priest's, reminding the unemployed that temporarily taking a step down in pay or status does not equate to failure.
Long before the days of therapists and career coaches, the Puritans learned how to cope with depression. They scorned idleness, believing it was indeed the devil's workshop, bogging down the body in inertia, and leading to brooding. Luther had promoted the opposite, a life of diligence, saying "God . . . does not want me to sit at home, to loaf, to commit matters to God, and to wait till a fried chicken flies into my mouth." Long before endorphins were discovered, the Puritans knew that moving and tiring the body in manual labor (even if that labor is the unpaid kind that paints the house and organizes the garage) proved a talisman against a host of mental ills. . .
More than just an annual turkey fest, the Puritans gave America a pedagogy of work and an attitude toward life that upsets the modern notion that a person's occupation equals his value.
Monday, November 23, 2009
A North Dakota judge will hear arguments next month in a case of political correctness that has embroiled the state university for a number of years.
In 2005, the National Collegiate Athletic Association announced a complete ban on hosting post-season competition by 18 colleges that were using Indian mascots, logos or nicknames. The ban was to become effective in February 2006.
The NCAA made an assumption, jumped to a conclusion and adopted the politically correct viewpoint that using Indian heritage in such a manner was "hostile and abusive." The problem, it appears, is that no one bothered to check with the assumed aggrieved parties to determine if they were truly offended. . .
The NCAA signaled moral outrage at the University of North Dakota's Fighting Sioux nickname. Yet the association has remained silent on the fact that the school is (as are both the states of North and South Dakota) named after the Dakota tribe.
The NCAA's battle with UND has been raging for more than four years. Criticizing the Fighting Sioux nickname as racist, offensive and derogatory have been groups such as the school's faculty Senate and the state Board of Higher Education. They are seemingly undeterred by one significant group that wants the university to retain the nickname and logo. That is the Spirit Lake Sioux tribe, the nearby tribe from whom the school nickname is derived. The most absurd aspect of this politically correct ruckus is that non-native Americans are lecturing Native Americans on what should offend them. A hearing on the matter is scheduled in a county courtroom in early December. . .
Social Justice: Who Gives, Gets, Decides? by Bill Frezza
Do you have friends and colleagues who invoke the principle of "Social Justice" to justify new entitlement programs like the trillion dollar health care bill? Do their explanations of what constitutes Social Justice sometimes sound vague or situational, a bit like Justice Potter Stewart's infamous definition of what constitutes pornography? I can't define it but I know it when I see it.
The phrase Social Justice was coined by a Jesuit priest named Luigi Taparelli in the 1840s. The economic inequalities generated by the industrial revolution deeply troubled him. Reaching back to St. Thomas Aquinas, Taparelli tried to codify the moral obligations of good Catholics to share the bounty generated by new means of production. His work influenced Pope Leo XIII, who penned the Papal Encyclical Rerum Novarum (On Capital and Labor). While endorsing the right of workers to form unions, the encyclical is clear in its support of private property. "Let the working man and the employer make free agreements, and in particular let them agree freely as to the wages; nevertheless wages ought not to be insufficient to support a frugal and well-behaved wage-earner". Social Justice, then, was born as a call to render unto God, not Caesar.
This state of affairs was not to last. An outspoken advocate of Social Justice during the 1930s and early 1940s was another priest named Father Coughlin. Anticipating Rush Limbaugh by more than half a century, Father Coughlin had a regular radio audience estimated at nearly one third of the American public. An early advocate of FDR's New Deal, Coughlin elevated the principle of social justice from a moral imperative to a political demand. As the Depression dragged on, a disaster he blamed on "an international conspiracy of Jewish bankers," Coughlin turned on FDR and began extolling more aggressive leaders promising hope and change. "We maintain the principle that there can be no lasting prosperity if free competition exists in industry!" Coughlin cried. His exemplars? Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler. . .
Friday, November 20, 2009
Forget about saving the environment for the sake of your children. It turns out that if you really care about the planet, you probably shouldn't have any children to begin with.
That's the thrust of the 2009 report from the U.N. Population Fund . . . The Fund has long believed that more people are a burden, not a boon, to human welfare. The idea is not new, and over the centuries has taken form in the view that too many people consume too many natural resources, or that more people necessarily means more poverty, or (much more sinisterly) that people prone to having many children are somehow the wrong kind of people.
Now the Fund has gone a step further, arguing that the scourge of reproduction is not just a question of raw numbers, but that humanity itself is destructive. "No human is genuinely 'carbon neutral,' especially when all greenhouse gases are figured into the equation," the report tells us in a section entitled "At the brink." "Therefore, everyone is part of the problem, so everyone must be part of the solution."
That sounds like a somewhat totalitarian formulation to us, even if the Fund goes out of its way to shed its image as a eugenics-advocacy group by swapping the term "population control" for "population dynamics." Indeed, the Fund—unusually for a U.N. organ—favors efficiency when it comes to culling our ranks, citing one finding that "dollar-for-dollar, investments in voluntary family planning and girls' education would also in the long run reduce greenhouse-gas emissions at least as much as the same investments in nuclear or wind energy." Even better, the report says other studies indicate that avoiding one billion new babies by 2050 would save as much energy as building two million one-megawatt wind turbines. The environmental argument extends equally to human welfare—the report notes that "the use of voluntary family planning directly decreases child mortality."
It's hard to argue with that logic: Eliminating life surely is the most expedient way to avoid the problems it brings. Of course this rationale ignores the possibility that one of those "prevented" lives might have been the one to cure cancer or HIV. Then again, why cure disease if human life itself is a cancer on the planet?
Thursday, November 19, 2009
How come on the one hand were told that our court system is the envy of the world because justice is always conducted fairly to those who are "innocent until proven guilty;" while on the other hand guarantee a conviction and death sentence in a trial yet to be held?
As such, our system must not be "fail safe" and thus the terrorist trials in U.S. courts are inherently flawed from the start and unjust.