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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Debt or Deficit, Take Your Pick

Elections should be held on April 16th- the day after we pay our income taxes. That is one of the few things that might discourage politicians from being big spenders. — Thomas Sowell

The National Debt is the total amount of money owed by the government; the federal budget deficit is the yearly amount by which spending exceeds revenue. Add up all the deficits (and subtract those few budget surpluses we've had) for the past 200+ years and you'll get the current National Debt.

Politicians love to crow "The deficit is down! The deficit is down!" like it's a great accomplishment. Don't be fooled. Reducing the deficit just means we're adding less to the Debt this year than we did last year. Big deal — we're still adding to the Debt. When are we going to start seeing the Debt actually go down? For a breakdown on the national debt please click here.

The national debt at the time of this witting is $13,663,331, 501, 266, ops, by the time I finished typing this enormous number it had risen to 13,663,334,895,700 and rising at $4.13 billion dollars per day. IF you wish to watch your money sail out the window click here to see a dynamic version of the national debt clock.

Now that you are getting dizzy watching our money fly out of the window you should consider a few things about the debt and deficit. In my last blog post I wrote about the deficit and how the coalition of government, public sector unions and social activist groups have continued to pile on debt by spending more money than we take in.

To simplify (because I am a simple person) the deficit-debt situation lets use this example. Assume you take $5,000 per month after all takes and health insurance. You have a Visa card balance of $1,000 from last Christmas with 18% APR. This means that each month you will add about $15 dollars to the balance if it remains at $1,000. Due to your spending habits and desires you are spending $6,000 per month. You have three choices: Get a higher paying job, get a second job or use the Visa card to cover your spending habits.

Your skills are limited and the competition is tough so a higher paying job is not an option. Due the recession and the high unemployment rate you cannot find a second job and you don’t want one anyway. You elect the third option and use the Visa card — it’s just like the U.S. government borrowing from China and its own citizens. With one year of using he Visa and making minimum payments your balance could reach $11,000 to $12,000 dollars. Now the interest would be $165 to $180 per month. This is probably more than the minimum payment required by the credit card company.

He sounds pretty simple and easy to understand so why do our politicians fail to see what they are doing? They have sores of academics on their payroll all giving hem convoluted advice as to how the debt doesn’t matter because we have assets to cover the debt. What assents do we have? We have federal land we could sell just as you could pawn your Rolex or sell your BMW to pat down your debt. We also have something else called or Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The GDP is based on the value of the goods and service we create or supply. The GDP is also greatly affected by something called productivity. As productivity goes up so does the GDP and tax revenues, it’s like getting that second job. When productivity goes down so does the GDP and taxes and unless spending is reduced the deficit and debt goes up.

Productivity is greatly influenced by investment from large and small business. They invest more money in research and development, implement new technology and hire more people. More profits are created and more people are working so tax revenues go up. Higher taxes, more regulations and increased social services deter business from investing and hiring more people so tax revenues go down. The governments answer is not to cut spending, it’s to raise taxes and fees. The environmentalist and social engineers want more regulations. For an example of the regulations imposed on a small business click here. As a previous small business owner I would not have business of over 15 employees today. To see the effect of the environmentalists on small business click here.

From time to time you will politicians say; “We have to reduce government and government spending.”  What this means in government speak is this. If the annual increase in government spending is 7% the politicians will cut that, after much acrimonious debate and pressure from the special interest groups, mainly public sector unions, to 3%. This means that if your wife want to increase your Visa card borrowing each year by 7% and after you threaten to leave her she will settle for 3% or $1,030 per month rather than $1,070 per month. I am sure the late Milton Freidman or Thomas Sowell could find fault with my comparisons, but to my simple mind this is how I see our government working and why that debt clock looks like Ferrari running at Le Mans.

Let’s take a step back in our time machine for a minute. In 1919, after World War I ended, there was a recession. Woodrow Wilson had run up a national debt of $18 billion dollars and the top tax rate was 73%. Wilson needed this money to pay for his war and the growth in government that resulted from it.

In the 1920 election, Warren G. Harding ran against Democratic Ohio Governor James M. Cox, whose running-mate was Assistant Secretary of the Navy  Franklin D. Roosevelt. The election was seen in part as a referendum on whether to continue with the "progressive" work of the Woodrow Wilson Administration or to revert to the "laissez-faire" approach of the William McKinley era.

Harding ran on a promise to "Return to Normalcy", a seldom-used term he popularized. The slogan called an end to the abnormal era of the Great War, along with a call to reflect three trends of his time: a renewed isolationism in reaction to the War, a resurgence of nativism, and a turning away from the government activism of the reform era.

One of the first things the Harding administration did was to cut the top tax rate to 57% and reduce the bottom rate from Wilson’s 8% to 4%. The country immediately entered a period of economic expansion and growth. Historian John Dean's reassessment of Harding claims his accomplishments included income tax and federal spending reductions, economic policies that reduced "stagflation", a reduction of unemployment by 10%, and a bold foreign policy that created peace with Germany, Japan, and Central America. After Harding 23 months Harding died of a massive heart attack while in San Francisco with his wife. He was succeeded by his vice president Calvin Coolidge.

Today Harding is much maligned by progressives for his numerous scandals, but nevertheless by the time of his death his administration had reduced the national debt to $75 million dollars and the roaring 20’s had begun.  His lowering the taxes and cutting government spending had brought the nation out of the depression following WWI and fueled massive economic growth.

In 1946, after WWII, President Harry Truman, a Democrat, cut government spending by two-thirds. The economy boomed. As the soldiers retuned from the war and the multitude of civilian government workers were cut lose they needed jobs and the people needed housing and consumer goods. This was a perfect match and the manufacturers who were so expert at building tanks, guns, ships and plane were now converting their plants to build automobiles, refrigerators, radios and eventually TVs and washing machines.

All across the nation the housing industry boomed. On the East coast it was Levitt Town and in California it was the San Fernando Valley, Lakewood, Downey and Torrance. Houses weren’t built by the tens and twenties; they were built by the thousands. Families were started and the American optimism was the highest it ever has been. All of this came about by cutting taxes and reducing government spending.

Today, after the War on Poverty and the Great Society, we have 41 million people on food stamps. We have millions of long-term unemployed. Business is stagnant and the housing industry is bust. States are facing bankruptcy due to their bloated entitlement programs and massive amounts of unfunded liabilities due to unrealistic pension guarantees demanded by the public sector and teachers unions. Optimism is at an all time low and 70% of Americans believe the country is going in the wrong direction.

We have had over twenty years of progressive thinking in government. Politicians are attempting to recreate the failed alphabet programs of the New Deal; AAA, NRA, PWA and WPA. None of these programs worked and the National Recover Act was declared unconstitutional by Roosevelt’s own Supreme Court. Seven after the inauguration of the New Deal Henry Morgenthau, Roosevelt’s Secretary of the Treasury, declared the entire seven years a failure. He said that after all of the money the federal government plowed into these nothing had changed and the economy was worse that when Roosevelt took office in 1933. It finally took the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and Hitler declaring war on the United States to bring an end to unemployment — everyone went to work for the government. To read more about Roosevelt’s failed economic programs click here for an article by Amity Shlaes, author of; The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression

So, how can we get out of this mess? To decrease unemployment and right the economy we need to bring down the national debt and to do this we must cut the deficit by cutting the size of government and reducing spending. I know you have heard this before and it sounds good, but how is it done. I don’t have all the answers but her are few thoughts on what we can do in the short term.

We must cut the public payroll at all levels of government. This includes federal, state, county and city. Great Britain, with a population of about one-fifth the size of the United States is proposing to cut their public payroll by 500,000. Using this ration we could shoot for 2.5 million for starters. This would include teachers, health care workers, DMV staff, fire departments, police departments, and all federal agencies. Employees with less than five years on the job will just be let go. Those of longer term will be given options for buy outs and those close to retirement will take early retirement at a reduces pension.

Public employee pension plans have to be renegotiated. The guarantees have to be removed and portions of the pensions have turned into 401k type plans with both employee and employer contributions.

All federal agencies have to be cut and some combined. We do not need a Department of Education, Environmental Protection agency or Housing and Urban Development. The departments of Agriculture, Energy, Commerce and Health and Human Services can be greatly reduced. Most of the programs they administer can be done away with.

Social Security must be reformed. You won’t be able to take it away from seniors who have a pain in contract with the government, but you can do several things as starters. First we can raise the age to 68 or 70. Second we need to wean people in the middle of life away by allowing for portions of their investment to go to private accounts under their control. Chile has done this with good success. Third we need to take younger workers off the program all together and have a mandatory policy of employer/employee contributions to 401k programs. This may be in violation of Constitution and have to be worked out. The cost to the federal government will increase in the short term as contributions to FICA will reduce, but as older people die out these cost will decrease each year.

Medicare can be dealt with in a similar manner. By allowing health savings accounts there will be more options by insurance companies and less fraud. Older people on the program will continue until they die.

Medicare should be the total responsibility of the state. If a state can afford it fine, if they can’t they can deal with it. If you don’t like what your state is doing you have the option of relocating to another state with lower taxes and less entitlements.

Dramatically cut all foreign aid and contributions to the United Nations. Most of the money we contribute is wasted or ends up in the pocket of corrupt leaders.

And now for the sacred of all cows, defense. We have one-fifth of the world’s population yet we spend more on defense than the combined nations of the world. Why is this? There are several reasons for this. First is that we pay for the defense of many nations so they can invest in their social programs and point fingers at us, like Norway. We should end NATO and let the Europeans take care of their own defense. We can participate in exercises and strategy sessions on case by case basis.

Second, there has never been a weapons system the DOD did not like. We need to cut back on costly weapons systems that will not be used for our immediate defense. I am sure there are many that can be cut.

Third, we must get out of Afghanistan now. We are spending billions of dollars building roads, buildings, sewer lines, schools hospitals and other items of infrastructure. It is estimated for every dollar that goes into Afghanistan seventy cents goes to the Taliban or corrupt political or tribal leaders. In the end we will accomplish nothing and spend billions of dollars. I have not addressed the loss of American and NATO member lives as this is a given. I have no problems killing every terrorist out there but we have some very cost-effective way of doing that without nation building. Special operations forces and predator drones seem to work well.

These may sound like draconian measures but we need to do some things quickly. With the cuts in public sector employees the governments can buy what the need, when the need it off the commercial market without paying health and welfare benefits. You don’t hire a live-in gardener to cut your lawn once a week.

We need to cut the true amount of government spending by selecting a baseline and reducing the government budget by a fixed percent each year. In our Visa card example if we take that $1,000 dollar increase and reduce it by 7% each year we will reach $483.98 in ten years. This would cut our federal (and state spending) by 50% in ten years, Just think what that would do to the tax rate and mean to business growth.

I realize that this will take a great deal of political will to fight off the various special interest groups. Some politicians will not be able to do this and maintain their seats in the legislatures. It will require a great deal of debate and good will between the political parties, something I cannot see on the horizon. If we want to maintain our standard of living we need to take some very large budget cutting actions very soon, time is running out. Remember that the longest journey begins with the first step and that first step is your vote.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Shakedown - The Fix Is In

"The budget should be balanced; the treasury should be refilled; public debt should be reduced; and the arrogance of public officials should be controlled." – Cicero. 106-43 B.C.

In the United States, since 2001, 49,400 manufacturing facilities were closed or relocated to another country. Seventy-five percent of these factories employed 500 or more people. This amounts to at least 18,562,500 manufacturing jobs in the United States.

In 2008 1.2 billion cell phones were produced and not one was manufactured in the United States.

Today China is cornering the market on rare earth metals. The use of rare earth elements in modern technology has increased dramatically over the past years. Rare earth elements are now incorporated into many technological devices, including superconductors, samarium-cobalt and neodymium-iron-boron high-flux rare-earth magnets, electronic polishers, refining catalysts, solar panels and hybrid car components (primarily batteries and magnets)

The Spanish attempted to institute a “green job” economy and discovered that for every green job created 2 jobs were lost. Today Spain has an unemployment rate in excess of 20%

The United States has an unemployment rate of 9.7% and California’s is 12.4% with Riverside County (where I live) at 15.3%. You can click here to view an interactive graph of the unemployment rate in the United States as of September. 2010.

Thomas Sowell writes in Investor’s Business Daily; “One of these brass oldies is the idea that the government can and must reduce unemployment by "creating jobs." Some people point to the history of the Great Depression of the 1930s, when unemployment peaked at 25%, as proof that the government cannot simply stand by and do nothing when so many millions of people are out of work.”

“If we are going to look back at history, we need to make sure the history we look at is accurate. First of all, unemployment never hit 25% until after — repeat, AFTER — the federal government intervened in the economy.”

“What was unemployment like when the federal government first intervened in the economy after the stock market crash of 1929? It was 6.3% when that first intervention took place in June 1930 — down from a peak of 9% in December 1929, two months after the stock market crash.”

“Unemployment never hit double digits in any of the 12 months following the stock market crash of 1929. But it hit double digits within six months after government intervention — and unemployment stayed in double digits for the entire remainder of the decade, as the government went in for one intervention after another.”

“The first federal intervention in June 1930 was the passage of the Smoot-Hawley tariffs by a Democratic Congress, a bill signed into law by Republican President Herbert Hoover. It was "bipartisan" — but bipartisan nonsense is still nonsense and a bipartisan disaster is still a disaster.”

In his new book “Shakedown: The Continuing Conspiracy Against the American Taxpayer” Steven Malanga of City Journal and the Manhattan Institute makes a case for how runaway spending and taxes, over the past three decade, have driven some states to the brink of bankruptcy. California, New York, Illinois, and New Jersey are the prime examples.

In vaulting from Chicago precinct and ward politics into the White House, President Obama represented the first appearance in a presidential race of a relatively new political type: the community organizer.

Obama's ascendance was no anomaly, but testament to the rise of a powerful political coalition in America made up of those who benefit from expanding government, including public-sector employees and their unions; activists at organizations that survive on government money; and recipients of government benefits.

Obama's election in 2008 was merely the clearest indicator of the extent to which this coalition has successfully amassed power in the last 50 years.

President Lyndon Johnson's ambitious plan to end poverty through massive federal spending fueled the creation of the coalition. Starting in the mid-1960s, the federal government directed billions of dollars to neighborhood groups, convinced that they knew better than Washington what their respective communities needed.

The New York Times reports; “In the four decades that the Census Bureau has been tracking household income, there has never before been a full decade in which median income failed to rise. (The previous record was seven years, ending in 1985.) Other Census data suggest that it also never happened between the late 1940s and the late 1960s”

When President Johnson announced the war on poverty had begun most Americans believed they (we) were taking the correct steps to conquer poverty in the United States. Of course the war in Vietnam was heating up at the time, but Johnson promised us “guns and butter”. He never told the American people he would get the butted by raiding the highway trust fund and social security or that we were taking the first steps towards bankruptcy – how could we know. After all we had “brilliant minds” in the executive and legislative branches of government. The era of big entitlements was about to begin.

Through backroom deals and legislation attached to big bills we weren’t aware of, the government began to grow as more and more bureaucrats were needed to administer these social programs. It didn’t take long for the politicians to realize that with the increase in the public payroll and community advocacy groups there was a growing voting block to be had. This was happening at all levels of government, but it began in earnest at the municipal level where tons of federal monies were being dumped upon cities to relive the poverty of their urban poor. What we were developing was a society where the providers and the recipients were working in tandem with the legislators to spend the money of the taxpayers. The era of the pig at the public trough was upon us.

Over time, the advocates became expert at turning the machinery of government in their favor. In 1977, Congress passed the Community Reinvestment Act at the urging of advocacy groups that claimed banks were redlining – that is, refusing to do business in – many low-income neighborhoods.

To short-circuit such accusations from community groups, banks shoveled money into programs administered by community activists like the controversial Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). In 2000, a Senate subcommittee estimated that CRA-related deals between banks and community groups pumped nearly $10 billion into the nonprofit sector. This was one of the driving factors of the housing meltdown.

Gradually, the advocacy groups aligned with another rising player in the big-government coalition — public employee unions, whose path to power began slowly in the late 1950s.

The key moment occurred when the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) persuaded New York City mayor Robert Wagner, who saw the federation's members as potential political allies, to give municipal workers collective bargaining rights. Other states and cities quickly followed, as did the federal government in 1962. This malaise came to California in 1978 with the passage of Dill Act, (SB839 the State Employer-Employee Relations Act – SEERA) giving collective bargaining power to public employees.

These deals precipitated an era of turmoil resulting first in strikes and later in a concentrated effort by unions in state capitals and municipal council chambers, and in grassroots efforts in local elections, to select political leaders sympathetic to their aims. These unions were almost invariably advocates of bigger government and higher taxes, which swelled their union rolls and increased their power, and soon they joined forces with advocacy groups seeking the same kind of expanding government.

Those who spoke against the public sector unions put forth three major reasons  for their opposition: First, it would give government employees a monopoly on providing government required services; second, they were already protected by the civil service umbrella and, third they would have the power to elect their bosses. In 1919 President Coolidge warned of this when, as governor of Massachusetts he supported the mayor of Boston in his firing of the entire Boston police force, in his rebuke of Samuel Gompers.

One of the effects of growing prosperity is that it brings bigger government. As prosperity grows and brings a higher standard of living people demand more and more government services. They want more schools, fire stations, police stations, public transportation, more, frequent trash collection and more health services — after all we can afford. This in turn brings on more public employees, who are members of one of the public employee unions, with the Service Employee International Union (SEIU) being the largest at the state and municipal level.

Today this coalition of government-union-activist has created a culture of entitlement. This is dangerous as it is feed by big government and sets an expectation for the transfer of wealth. For years this was pervasive among the poor but now it has spread to the so called “middle class”. It has spread from basketball courts to the expectation of a free college education and from the right to own a home to the right for universal health care.

This has happened in Europe. When you talk about welfare in Europe you speak of the middle class. It is not the poor rioting in France, Greece, Spain and Portugal it is the middle class. Germany wants all foreign workers to go home and Great Britain is initiating draconian cuts in their social service and public work force with a proposal to cut 500,000 government jobs.

As the union-legislator coalition grows and ballot measures giving these unions more power — measures sponsored by legislators supported by the unions — are passed the unions gain more power and benefits as their monopoly grows. One day the citizens awake to a city or state that is in serious fiscal trouble due the unfunded liabilities they have voted for or have had thrust upon them by their legislators in Sacramento, Albany, Springfield or Trenton.

The other coalition is the one between the legislators, public service unions and the social advocacy groups — the community organizers. The war on poverty fueled this coalition. We had this naive idea if we could spend billions of dollars we would cure poverty. How wrong we were. Since 1950 our lowest poverty rate was during the late 50’s and early 60’s, a time when the nation was growing and business was expanding. After 1967 he rate began declining to where it is today. Nothing was cured and the disease got worse.

After the passage Johnson’s “Great Society” legislation the federal government didn’t know how to spend the money so they did two very stupid things. First they created agencies like the Housing and Urban Development Agency (HUD), the Department of Education (ED), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) all cabinet level agencies. Second is that they allowed these agencies to throw billions of unaccounted for dollars at state and local municipalities for any hair brained scheme someone with a high school education could put together a two page grant request for. These requests ran from community centers, basketball courts and drug rehab centers to university studies and job training centers. These sounded like good ideas but in almost all cases there were no metrics required to measure success. They were politically untouchables. These grants spawned thousands of community activists who then became part of the government-public sector union coalition. Again we had a partnership between the givers and the receivers at the expense of the taxpayer with no real accountability to anyone.

It was all done because we thought we had the money and we wanted to feel good. After all who wanted to deny the inner city youth a basketball court where they could gather after school and not run with the gangs or a job training center? The problem was that the basketball court became a gathering place for gangs and the job training center did not get people jobs. Their excuse was that if the only trained people who get jobs they would not be training the people they wanted to target. The dysfunctional metric they used was not to judge government programs by results but by the intentions of the program.

One of the worst offenders was the block grants, where billions were poured into communities with very little or no strings attached. They were subject to much graft and corruption and showed little success. When conservative groups began to expose the corruption and failure of these grants they were labeled as racists, bigots and worse. The government-union-activist coalition was gaining a new ally, the media.

The federal funds, eventually supplemented by state and local tax dollars, helped conjure a universe of government-funded community groups that ran everything from job-training programs to voter-registration drives to subsidized housing programs to mortgage counseling efforts.

Leaders of these social-services groups became advocates, unsurprisingly, for government-funded solutions to social problems. To defend and expand their turf, organizers began heading into the political arena, wielding the influence they had accumulated in neighborhoods to build bases of political support.

Soon, in cities from New York to Chicago to Cleveland to Los Angeles, the road to electoral success increasingly ran through the government-funded social-services sector.

"The nonprofit service sector has never been richer, more powerful," former welfare recipient Theresa Funiciello wrote in her 1993 book "Tyranny of Kindness". "Except to the poor, poverty is a mega-business."

Nowhere is this government-union-activist coalition more evident than in California. In June 2009 an official of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), California's largest public employees' union, sitting in a legislative chamber and speaking into a microphone said. "We helped to get you into office, and we got a good memory," she says to the elected officials outside the shot. "Come November, if you don't back our program, we'll get you out of office." Click here for the video and article

The video has become a sensation among California taxpayer groups for its vivid depiction of the audacious power that public-sector unions wield in their state. The unions' political triumphs have molded a California in which government workers thrive.

The state's public school teachers are the highest-paid in the nation. Its prison guards can easily earn six-figure salaries. State workers can retire at 55 with pensions higher than their base pay for most of their working life.

Meanwhile, what was once the most prosperous state now suffers from an unemployment rate far steeper than the nation's and a flood of firms and jobs fleeing high taxes and stifling regulations. This toxic combination — high public-sector employee costs and sagging economic fortunes – has produced recurring budget crises in Sacramento and in virtually every municipality in the state.

How public employees became members of the elite class in a declining California offers a cautionary tale to the rest of the country. And the rise in California of SEIU, the nation's fastest growing union, illustrates how modern labor's victories take place in courts and in back rooms, not on picket lines.

In the late 1980s, to take one example, the SEIU began eyeing a big jackpot: tens of thousands of home-health-care workers being paid by California's county-run Medicaid programs. The SEIU initiated a long legal effort to have those workers, who were independent contractors, declared government employees.

When the courts finally agreed, the union then persuaded county supervisors to allow it to organize its workers--an easy task because governments rarely contest organizing campaigns, not wanting to seem anti-worker.

The SEIU's biggest victory was winning representation for 74,000 home-health-care workers in Los Angeles County, the largest single organizing drive since the United Auto Workers unionized General Motors in 1937. Taxpayers paid a steep price: Home-health-care costs became the fastest-growing part of the Los Angeles County budget after the SEIU bargained for higher wages and benefits for these new recruits.

Today, the SEIU represents 700,000 California workers – more than a third of its nationwide membership. Of those, 350,000 are government employees and you wonder what Jerry Brown is leading in the polls for the California governor’s race.

The SEIU's California numbers have given it extraordinary resources to pour into political campaigns. The union's major locals contributed a hefty $20 million in 2005 to defeat a series of initiatives to cap government growth and rein in union power.

The SEIU has also spent millions over the years on initiatives to increase taxes, sometimes failing but on other occasions succeeding, as with a 2004 measure to impose a millionaires' tax to finance more mental-health spending.

In the past, California could always rely on a rebounding economy to save it from its budgetary excesses. But few still view the state as the land of opportunity. More and more California taxpayers are realizing how stacked the system is against them. They are also coming to understand that reform will come slowly, if it comes at all.

Elected in 2008 as our first community activist president backed by a big government coalition that also included muscular public sector unions, Obama has taken their agenda nationwide. He left little doubt early in his first term when he funneled hundreds of billions of dollars of federal stimulus money to states and cities to preserve government jobs.

The Obama administration also went to extraordinary lengths to ensure that stimulus money was used to help its big government allies. When California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger tried to lay off state workers during the state's 2009 budget crisis, Obama officials, at the behest of the powerful Service Employees International Union, informed the state that it would forfeit hundreds of millions of stimulus dollars if it reduced its workforce.

The sharp public reaction against the cynical nature of such deals, evident in the rapid drop in Obama's popularity, reveals the growing pains that the big government coalition of public-sector unions and social advocacy groups is now experiencing as it goes national. But the coalition has adapted many times before and it has tremendous resources at its disposal.

In California we may have dug ourselves a hole so deep we cannot get out of it. It will take a powerful governor with a spine of steel like, Chris Christie of New Jersey, to lead the charge. I can’t see that happening anytime soon. I think we will have to go into bankruptcy and endure more pain before we can change the direction of this state. We voted ourselves into this mess and I hope we can vote ourselves out.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Why Progressives need Conservatives

“Even the striving for equality by means of a directed economy can result only in an officially enforced inequality - an authoritarian determination of the status of each individual in the new hierarchical order” — Friedrich August von Hayek

Robert Stacy McCain reports in the American Spectator; “Lauren Valle wanted to create bad publicity for Rand Paul's Senate campaign by having herself photographed next to the candidate while displaying a sign that mocked him as a tool of corporate interests.”

“Miss Valle's stunt didn't go off as planned, but the 23-year-old activist certainly succeeded in her larger goal of creating bad publicity for the Kentucky Republican's campaign. After she shoved her way through a crowd awaiting the candidate's arrival for a debate at a TV studio Monday in Lexington, some of Paul's supporters grabbed Miss Valle, pulled off the blonde wig she was wearing as a disguise and wrestled her to the ground. At least two TV news cameras recorded the most outrageous moment of the melee, when a man wearing a "Rand Paul for U.S. Senate" T-shirt stomped his foot on Miss Valle's shoulder as she lay helpless on the pavement.”

McCain continues; “Miss Valle appears to be an itinerant all-purpose protester. Two years ago, while a student at Columbia University, she was the youngest of five Americans detained by Chinese officials after unfurling a "Free Tibet" banner at the Beijing Olympics. In May of this year, she was charged with felony trespassing in Louisiana when she and other Greenpeace activists illegally boarded a ship, unfurled a banner, and painted the ship with slogans, a protest evidently timed to coincide with an appearance in the area by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. (Their banner read: "Salazar Ban Arctic Drilling.") Law enforcement officials said the Greenpeace group had been in the area for two weeks and "had been repeatedly warned not to hamper clean up operations and not to trespass." A local news account of that incident noted that none of the Greenpeace activists was from Louisiana -- four were from Washington, D.C., one was from New York, one was from California, and Miss Valle is from Massachusetts.”

“From Beijing to Louisiana, this Ivy League radical somehow ended up in Kentucky. On MSNBC Tuesday evening, Keith Olbermann told the story of the Lexington incident with the label "Thuggish Behavior," interviewing Miss Valle. She explained that she had been hired two weeks earlier by to appear in costume as an "executive" of a phony organization called RepubliCorp with the slogan, "We buy democracy, one race at a time." MoveOn, a liberal organization that is non-partisan in name only, issued a "Bird-dogging Guide" instructing activists: "Research your Republican target's schedule" and "Stage your RepubliCorp stunt and attract media attention." In this mission, professional protester Lauren Valle was eminently successful. Olbermann overlooked the irony that, while MoveOn declared that its protests were intended to "expose the unprecedented flood of corporate cash to Republican campaign coffers," Valle was paid to travel to Kentucky for her stunt, while her assailant Tim Profitt was an unpaid local volunteer. Indeed, Profitt had donated $1,900 to the Paul campaign, according to FEC records.”

NPR’s president and CEO, Vivian Schiller, said "Juan Williams' remarks were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR.”

So how do others at NPR measure up to those standards?

"I think he ought to be worried about the -- about what's going on in the good Lord's mind, because if there's retributive justice, [Sen. Jesse Helms will] get AIDS from a transfusion, or one of his grandchildren will get it." --NPR's Nina Totenberg, July 1995

"I just want to say: Who are we? We are people who have always been for inspections of prisons, for some degree of human rights, and now we're defending neither.... We have now violated everything that we stand for. It is the first time in my life I have been ashamed of my country." --Nina Totenberg discussing secret CIA prisons for captured terrorists, Nov. 4, 2005

"[Glenn] Beck is worse than a clown. He's more like a terrorist who believes he has discovered the One True Faith, and condemns everyone else as a heretic. And that makes him something else as well -- a traitor to the American values he professes loudly to defend." --Cokie Roberts, March 2010

"It made me feel pretty good. I thought it was a great speech.... You know, a friend of mine said, 'Oh my God, we have a President again!' Now, in some ways, that's not fair to Bush, but that's the way you felt. You felt this was a guy who was totally in charge." --Nina Totenberg discussing President Obama's address to Congress, Feb. 27, 2009

"Israel has used Gaza as a bombing target practice." --NPR's foreign editor Loren Jenkins
These are just a few of the examples of the progressives and radical left bashing conservatives for their own profit and grandizement. What on earth would they do to draw attention to their high intellect and brilliance of thought without conservatives and tea partiers? They need us, we don’t need them.

Progressives need the collective, conservatives don’t. Progressives need someone to pay the bill, conservatives don’t. Progressives need someone to take care of them, conservatives don’t, and progressives need someone to blame for their malaise. You may find a few wealthy progressives, like George Soros or Bill Gates who can exist by themselves, but by and large most progressives need some sort of a collective to ensure their existence.

Progressives, or those who vote in support of progressives, need things like public housing, rent control, aid to dependent children, government sponsored education, and other government programs to feed the collective. They expect the rest of hard working citizens to pay the bills for them. This grows government to the extent it becomes oppressive to the conservative and promotes a soft tyranny.

This condition is further exacerbated when the progressives take control of the government and promise more of the conservatives’ resources to stay in power. More money for the collective, more power for the collectivist.

What would happen if all of the conservatives were located in one part of the country, say in middle America and all of the progressives were located on the coasts — sort of like the way it is now. The conservatives would take care of themselves and the collectivist would wither and die — it’s the law of nature.

The progressive demands more and more from the conservative while giving less and less. Take public housing as an example. The government (municipal and federal) provides the funds for public housing projects for the purpose of providing housing to member of the collective. The people who occupy these housing units are promised by the progressives that they will be provided this housing at little or no cost. They pay no rental deposit the same that would be required if they were renting on the commercial market. They are expected to take “reasonable care” of these units while they are living there, but in most cases don’t. Just check out a few public housing projects if you doubt me.

People need this housing because they have lived irresponsible lives. They have not taken advantage of the government education provided by the progressives and are therefore not qualified for employment beyond a minimum wage job. (In the urban areas of the United States the high school dropout rate exceeds 50%). There are multiple generations of children having children so you can have a grandmother, mother and child, all with fatherless children living in the same unit. They receive various amounts of government aid ranging from aid to dependent children to food stamps. They take what monies they do have and purchase consumer goods such as iPhones, TVs, play stations and worse, drugs.

They are not expected to maintain these units or the surrounding grounds and they usually look like a trash dump as soon as they are built. Even if they wanted to make repairs on the unit they are prohibited from doing so. This is the responsibility of the municipality, usually performed by municipal employees who are members of the SEIU. In this manner the progressives can manage both the demand and the supply.

These public housing units are in dense urban areas where the progressive politicians control the vote by promising the members of his local collective more and more. Because the municipality does not have enough money to fulfill the promises of the progressive politicians the municipality has to look to the state and federal agencies like HUD for assistance. Where does HUD get the money from? Here is where the conservative enters the picture.

Beginning with the New Deal policies of Franklin Roosevelt the progressives have played on the Christian conscience of the conservatives convincing them that the resources they were being asked to surrender to the progressives was for the greater good. At the beginning most citizens bought this argument and believed they had an obligation to look after the more unfortunate members of society. They did not realize they were creating a massive collective, which over the ensuing years would grow to the size it is today. A collective controlled by the progressives and paid for by the conservatives.

On a personal note I never was a member of the collective. I led a responsible life by taking advantage of the education that was offered me — some public and some paid for private. I was gainfully employed my entire life, paid taxes, obeyed the laws of the land and contributed to the employment of others — sometimes at the expense of my personal income.

Over the years the conservatives have gotten wise to the tactics of the progressives and realized that all of this “greater good” was nothing but a sham to insure power for the progressives and grow the collective. Today we are adding somewhere between8 to 12 million illegal immigrants to the collective. We are given many reasons by the progressives why we must support these immigrants for the greater good of society. Lenin could not do better.

Today, to quote General Eisenhower the allied supreme commander in Europe during WWII, “We are engaged in a great crusade” — a crusade fuelled by tea. No other domestic movement since the New Deal has frightened the progressives like the Tea Party. To counter this rising movement the progressives and their media minions have mounted an attack against conservatives and tea party supporters. They call us selfish, bigoted, racist, fascists, NAZIs, uncaring and unpatriotic because we want to withdraw from the collective and allow it to die on the vine. We have seen the failed results of 75 years of progressive New Deal policies. Everything from farm aid and public housing to welfare and government schools has failed. In each of these 75 years the collective has sucked more and more money into a black hole of failure. We still see the same people living in public housing and receiving food stamps. We still have a bloated government school system that fails to educate the urban poor — a school system now controlled from Washington, D.C. and by the teacher’s unions.

As I write this blog post I am watching a TV ad for Jerry Brown sponsored by the California teachers unions that is telling me to vote for the progressive Brown because he will be good for education. I cannot count similar ads I have heard over the past 50 years that urge me to vote for a candidate or a proposition that will supposedly make our government education system better. More money, higher teacher pay, greater pension liabilities, more power for the teacher unions and more federal government regulations from Washington, D.C. I ask you if any of these candidates or initiatives have added one scintilla of value to our system of government schools. In fact if you take the technology away the education I received at a government school from 1950-1954 is the same as offered today in most areas, if not better because of the discipline and peer pressure.

Next Tuesday the people of this nation will vote to Congress and their state houses. We are being deluged, on an hourly basis, by ad urging us to vote to this candidate or this initiative because they are good for the children, god for the public safety employees (unions), good for the environment, good for seniors or just the greater good of the collective. Remember that the progressives want you vote and they want your money — all for the greater good of the collective. Once they are returned to power they will turn around and ignore your wishes and protests and once again begin to bash you as selfish, racist, bigoted conservatives and get ready for the next election. This is the way it has been going for the last 75 years. At some point conservatives and independents, who are not in favor of the collective, have to say no, and that means no to everything.

Footnote: In the spirit of equality I propose that if the Texas Rangers win the World Series by 4 games to 3 (or visa versa) that the winning team give one-half of a game to the loser. I am sure this will make every concerned progressive feel very good.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

An Enemy of the State

“My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.” — Thomas Jefferson

The week my President, the President of all Americans, called me his enemy. I just hope the Secret Service does not feel the same way. During an interview on the Hispanic Radio Station Univision, President Obama had this to say about anyone opposing his policies.

“If Latinos sit out the election instead of saying, ‘We’re gonna punish our enemies and we’re gonna reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us,’ if they don’t see that kind of upsurge in voting in this election, then I think it’s gonna be harder and that’s why I think it’s so important that people focus on voting on November 2.” Referring specifically to Republicans such as Senator John McCain, who are stressing border security and supporting strict immigration laws like Arizona’s anti-illegal immigration measure, Mr. Obama said, “Those aren’t the kinds of folks who represent our core American values.” Click here to hear the audio from the interview.

In another one of Obama’s campaign speeches he had this to say about Republicans and those that did not embrace his radical views; “We would have to ride in the back of the car.” I thought rhetoric like that went out with the civil rights legislation in 1968. God help and conservative who made a comment like that! Click here for video.

In another unrelated incident Joy Behar, the pillar of tolerance and intelligence, called Sharon Angle, the Republican candidate for Senator from the state of Nevada, a bitch, not once but twice. It was during a segment of ABC’s The View where Behar was commenting on a political add being run in Nevada where Harry Reid is being accused of being soft on illegal immigration. This is just another example of the left going crazy and getting away with it. Click here for the video.

We have come to accept the foul and obscene comments that flow forth from the sewer-mouth Behar. It’s the remarks from the President that are the most disturbing. To call his fellow U.S. citizens the “enemy”, is a disgraceful exhibition of hubris and arrogance. It is right out of Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals — No. 13: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. Well Mr. Obama has certainly personalized it for me.

At no time in my living memory can I recall when such rhetoric was used against the citizens of this nation by their leader. In a recent poll over 70% of Americans supported Arizona’s immigration law. This translates to over two-thirds of the American people being considered as Obama’s enemies. Where have we come to with the political rhetoric in this nation?  This is pure Alinsky community organizer tactics, tactics not befitting the President of the United States. He is not walking the streets of Chicago trying to stir up the masses. He is supposed to present the decorum of his office if he wants to gain the respect of the citizens he wishes to govern. He is just another cheap, communist organizer who got elected on the strength of his personal magnetism, not because of his leadership abilities.

The comment regarding the “back of the car” was a slam dating back to the days of racial segregation in the south when blacks were required to ride in the back of the bus. How strange for an expressed African-American to wish for segregation once again. I would imagine even Rosa Parks would take offense at the remark. In the video clip you can see the “staged” audience of University or Minnesota applauding and laughing with glee at his remark. I would not think they would think it so humorous had they been living in Alabama in 1954. It just goes to show the level of intelligence inculcated in today’s university students.

At no time in our history have we, as a nation, be subjected to such deliberate and divisive class warfare as we have in the past two years with Obama at the helm of the ship of state. Obama’s entire climb to the top is based on class warfare, pitting one group against the other (rule #5, ridicule is man's most potent weapon). This is evident in our politics; our media and our so called entertainment industry — ridicule and divide.

Alinsky, Davis and Ayres taught Obama well. While Jimmy Carter was just a baboon and an incompetent president Obama is a calculating, clever community organizer who is driving this nation into the abyss.

The Underhanded Methods of the NAACP

The sting in any rebuke is the truth - Benjamin Franklin

Last week the NAACP released its report claiming the tea party movement was racist. How strange that this report, that had been written some months ago, was released thirteen days before the November election.

On October 21st Ben Jealous, the President and CEO of the NAACP appeared on CNN’s Anderson Cooper’s show. Cooper actually grilled Jealous with some vigor attempting to get to the bottom of the NAACP’s reasons for releasing the report when they did, but more importantly the people who wrote the report. You can view Copper’s interview by clicking here.

One of the co-authors of the report is Leonard Zeskind, a leftist, conspiracy advocate who believes the country is being manipulated by white supremacists. He has written on the topics of racism, anti-Semitism and the white supremacist movement for more than thirty years. He also wrote a book: Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream, published by Farrar Straus & Giroux.

In his personal bio, published on his web page he states; “Before turning to research and writing and professional human rights activism, I worked in heavy industry: on the warehouse dock of a lamp factory, on an automobile plant assembly line, and in steel fabrication shops helping to build large girders, columns, trusses, and other pieces of the architecture of manufacturing.  It is work that I enjoyed and still believe remains undervalued.  I am a high school graduate, and others consider me a self-taught independent scholar. In essence he was a common laborer. I have a better resume for writing my book than Zeskind.

This is not to say that a laborer cannot be self-taught and write a book. What is really says is that, if you are on the left and self-taught you are brilliant, but if on the right you are an uneducated racist. This also pertains to women. If you are a good looking woman on the left you are a fashion trend and highly intelligent. If you are not so good looking such as Hillary Clinton, Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Madeline Albright, Janet Reno or Janet Napolitano you are brilliant and highly qualified. Conversely, on the right if you are good looking, lie Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachmann you are a bubble head and if you are not so good looking — ops, I can’t think of any ugly women on the right. The media always attacks the bona fides of those on the right, but never challenges those on the left. How strange.

Zeskind’s major bona fide is his winning the Genius Award from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The Foundation's founder, John D. MacArthur (1897–1978), owned Bankers Life and Casualty and other businesses, as well as considerable property in Florida and New York. His wife Catherine T. MacArthur (1909–1981) held positions in many of these companies and served as a director of the Foundation.  When John D. MacArthur died on January 6, 1978, he was worth in excess of $1 billion and was reportedly one of the three richest men in the United States. MacArthur left ninety-two percent of his estate to begin the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The composition of the Foundation’s first Board of Directors, per John D. MacArthur’s will, also included Catherine T. MacArthur (his wife), J. Roderick MacArthur (a son from John D. MacArthur’s first marriage), two other officers of Bankers Life and Casualty, and Radio Commentator Paul Harvey. That was in 1978.

Today the Foundation has quite a different face — a face totally turned to radical left-wing causes. Its four major program areas are Global Security and Sustainability, Human and Community Development, General grant-making, and the MacArthur Fellows Program, also known as "genius grants." Topics of interest to the Foundation include international peace  and security, conservation and sustainable development, population and reproductive health, human rights, international migration, community development, affordable housing, digital media and learning, juvenile justice, and public interest media, including public radio and independent documentary film. The Foundation also gives grants to 200 arts and cultural institutions in the Chicago area.

Like many foundations established by wealthy leaders in business and industry the MacArthur Foundation is quite a different entity with a philosophy contrary to that of the persons who worked so hard to acquire the wealth that established the foundation. This can be said for the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Kroc Foundation that has given over $200 million dollars to NPR. As a listener to Paul Harvey (1918-2009) I just can’t see his, as a member of the board of directors, granting monies to these programs — and as Harvey used to close his show with “that’s the rest of the story.”

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pragmatism or Purity

"What is to be the consequence, in case the Congress shall misconstrue the Constitution and exercise powers not warranted by its true meaning, I answer the same as if they should misconstrue or enlarge any other power vested in them ... a remedy must be obtained from the people, who can by the elections of more faithful representatives, annul the acts of the usurpers."  — James Madison

 "[T]he tea party is not a 'threat' to the Republican Party, the tea party saved the Republican Party. In a broad sense, the tea party rescued it from being the fat, unhappy, querulous creature it had become, a party that didn't remember anymore why it existed, or what its historical purpose was. The tea party, with its energy and earnestness, restored the GOP to itself. In a practical sense, the tea party saved the Republican Party in this cycle by not going third-party. It could have. The broadly based, locally autonomous movement seems to have made a rolling decision, group by group, to take part in Republican primaries and back Republican hopefuls. ... Because of this, because they did not go third-party, Nov. 2 is not going to be a disaster for the Republicans, but a triumph. The tea party did something the Republican establishment was incapable of doing: It got the party out from under George W. Bush. The tea party rejected his administration's spending, overreach and immigration proposals, among other items, and has become only too willing to say so. ... Finally, the tea party stiffened the GOP's spine by forcing it to recognize what it had not actually noticed, that we are a nation in crisis. The tea party famously has no party chiefs and no conventions but it does have a theme -- stop the spending, stop the sloth, incompetence and unneeded regulation -- and has lent it to the GOP." --columnist Peggy Noonan

Noonan continues; “And they not only freed the Washington establishment, they woke it up. That establishment composed largely of 50- to 75-year-olds who came to Washington during the Reagan era in a great rush of idealism, in many cases stayed on, as they say, not to do good but to do well. They populated a conservative infrastructure that barely existed when Reagan was coming up: the think tanks and PR groups, the media outlets and governmental organizations. They did not do what conservatives are supposed to do, which is finish their patriotic work and go home, taking the knowledge and sophistication derived from Washington and applying it to local problems. (This accounts in part for the esteem in which former Bush budget chief and current Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is held. He went home.)”

There are those who say that they will not vote for just any Republican, but they must past a litmus test for being a 100% conservative and constitutionalist. They say that the will vote for third party conservative candidate rather than a luke-warm right leaning Republican. In essence they will throw their vote away in the name of principle. While this sounds good it could spell disaster for the Republic.

In California I did not vote for either Republican candidate in the primary elections. This does not mean I will not support them in the general election. In my congressional district my Congresswoman, Mary Bono Mack, voted in favor of the 2008 Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), which many conservatives begrudgingly supported and which was signed into law with similar enthusiasm by George W. Bush at the end of his second term, but against the Stimulus and Obama Care. I expressed my displeasure with her vote on TARP in an e-mail, as did many other residents of the district.

Her opponent is a very liberal Democrat who would vote in lock-step with Obama and the Democrat caucus. She is also opposed by Steve Pougent the Gay, Democrat mayor of Palm Springs and a third party conservative candidate. While outnumbered in registrations, the democrats are hoping the split in the vote will push Pougent over the top.

So here we have Mary Bono Mack with a two out three record for opposing major bills that conservatives oppose and a mayor who will vote in line with Feinstein, Boxer and the rest of the democrats. So do I vote for the conservative out of principle or support Mary Bono Mack out of pragmatism? It’s analogous to a World Series game where, in the ninth inning your team is down three games to one. You don't have a guy who's batting 1.000, so you pass over the one batting .667 to pick the guy batting .000?

A conservative purist would argue that the government should have no role in the regulation of free enterprise other than ensuring the exercise thereof, and that the economy, if left to its own devices, is self-regulating, and that self-regulation is the most efficient means to achieve economic prosperity. In the case of TARP, the purist objects to the intervention, and if the economy collapses as a result, the notion is that it will eventually recover and be stronger for what it was allowed to endure.

The conservative pragmatist, on the other hand, while concurring with the academic principles held by the purist, understands the consequences of the purist's position, and weighs that outcome against the consequences of striking a compromise. Thus, the pragmatist holds his nose and votes for TARP, understanding that averting an unprecedented economic collapse is more important than upholding an academic principle.

The point is not so much which Republican gets elected; it’s that a Republican gets elected. So much rides on the Republicans gaining control of the Congress and state houses. It is in Congress where Committee Chairmanships are decided by the majority party, These Chairs will decide which bills are accepted, what the budget will fund or not fund and how nominations for judges are dealt with. We may have one or two more Supreme Court Justices to consider in the next two years and a Democrat controlled Senate would be a disaster.

The question that arises is, will the Republicans, when elected, remain true to the people who worked so hard to rout the statists from Congress and the state houses?

I have to put my trust in the Tea Party. With so many conservative Americans involved in the Tea Party movement all across the land I believe they will keep the pressure on Congress for the next two years, especially if they have success in November. They will feel their muscle and keep pushing on the Republicans. The newly elected Republicans will feel the heat and know that if they try to go along to get along in two years they will be challenged by the same folks who got them to Washington or the state house.

I am sure that the Tea Party, conservative talk radio, blogs and web sites will keep the pressure on these Republicans to turn this Republic in another direction. It will not be done in one term or two terms or three terms. It took a long time for us to get in this mess and it’s going to take constant pressure from the right to turn the ship of state.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Why I Stopped Contributing to Public Radio

To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.” — Thomas Jefferson

For years I was a loyal contributor to National Public Radio (NPR) and the Public Broadcasting System (PBS). I did this for several reasons. One, I liked that I could hear programs like “All Things Considered” and “The Morning Edition” anywhere I went in the country. During my travels I could always find the familiar voices of NPR to keep me company on my drives and in hotel rooms. In that the NPR stations were broadcast on the FM band the reception and audio quality was always clear, not like the scratchy, unreliable tones of the AM band.

The second reason was that PBS offered shows like “Washington Week in Review” along with concerts and documentaries. These programs were not available on commercial broadcast TV. I especially enjoyed the historical documentaries such as Ken Burns Civil War series.

Thirdly, I supported one particular NPR station in the Los Angeles area, KPPC in Pasadena because it carried the German-American program for three hours every Saturday morning. At the time I was learning German and the host, Tibor Paul, would speak in German for much of the program. He also played traditional and popular German music, which I enjoy.

Over the years as cable TV became more diverse and satellite radio came on the scene I began to wean away from NPR and PBS. It seemed as though every time I tuned into the local PBS channel there was a pledge drive in progress, something that began to annoy me to no end.

I also began to notice a distinct left-wing bias in the reporting from NPR. They would select interviews and news clips that more and more fit their liberal bias. I was not getting the full story and my support began to dwindle. This was evident in their correspondents, such as Nina Totenberg, Bob Edwards and Bill Moyers — they were out and out lefties.

With the advent of the cable news shows, especially FOX, and talk radio on XM and Cirrus satellite radio I totally stopped my support of NPR and PBS. I now had alternative sources of news, opinion, music and history. I did not have to watch PBS for documentaries that were at times very slanted towards the left. I had the History Channel and the Discovery Channel.

One of the main reasons for the federal support of NPR, PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) was that in rural markets across the land the folks did not have the same options for news and entertainment that the people in the large urban markets had. This is where the CPB came in with providing federal funds for these local stations for studios, broadcast equipment and salaries.

NPR’s supporters argue that what it provides is not “media,” but news and journalism that consumers would otherwise be unable to find anywhere. NPR itself does not receive any direct federal funding, but its supporters howl whenever Republicans try to defund the CPB, because 40 percent of NPR’s revenues come from station programming fees, and many of its member stations, especially in rural areas, are dependent on CPB largesse. In this sense, NPR is sort of like Amtrak: Self-sufficient in urban areas where it has lots of listeners but dependent on taxpayer subsidies to broadcast its programming nationwide.

Over the years I became more and more disenchanted with NPR and PBS. I did not want my tax dollars supporting opinions and journalists I did not agree with or like. I believed that state sponsored radio and TV was a danger to our liberty and the Republic. If these stations were so popular they could stand on their own in a free market the way commercial radio and television does. If listeners in Dubuque want NPR content, let them pay for it. I am tired of kicking in contributions so that coastal liberalism may find an audience in Ogallala. NPR offers some fine programs, but it is towering arrogance to imply, as some supporters of public funding do, that residents of Big Sky would be left stranded on an island of ignorance if forced to do without Morning Edition. If it’s really that important to them, they can increase their yearly contributions to Yellowstone Public Radio. If not, why should taxpayers in other parts of the country make up the shortfall?

Lately NPR and CPB have relied more and more on grants from corporations and foundations. They claim that less than 3 percent of their direct funding (about $400 million) stems from the federal government. They play down the fact that 42 percent comes from stations, which get support from the CPB. Two of the major are Joan Kroc Legacy Society and the George Soros funded Open Society Foundation just gave $1.8 million to pay for at least 100 journalists at NPR-member radio stations in all 50 states over the next three years.

The recent firing of one of their news analysts, Juan Williams, for his comments on the Fox News Channel, has created a fire storm of resentment against NPR and PBS. Williams made a comment on the Bill O’Reilly show to the effect that he became anxious when he saw people dressed in Muslim garb boarding a plane with him. Williams later emphasized in the segment that a distinction needed to be made between “moderate” and “extremist” Muslims. But left-wing bloggers, the P.C. police and Fox-hating organizations weren’t listening. The granddaddy of all grievance-mongers, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, pressured NPR to “address” Williams’ feelings. CAIR, of course, is notorious for “addressing” its talk-radio and TV critics — from the late Paul Harvey to Dr. Laura to scholar Daniel Pipes — by launching relentless witch hunts to kick dissenters off the air. Soon after he made these comments he was terminated by NPR. You can read my full blog on this issue by clicking here.

The granddaddy of all grievance-mongers and one of the most dangerous organizations in the United States along with the ACLU, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, pressured NPR to “address” Williams’ feelings. CAIR, of course, is notorious for “addressing” its talk-radio and TV critics — from the late Paul Harvey to Dr. Laura to scholar Daniel Pipes — by launching relentless witch hunts to kick dissenters off the air.

NPR accused Williams of undermining its credibility. But vindictive CEO Vivian Schiller and her colleagues had no problems with NPR legal correspondent Nina Totenberg publicly wishing for the late GOP senator Jesse Helms to die a painful AIDS-induced death to NPR-affiliate employee Sarah Spitz pining for radio giant Rush Limbaugh’s death on a journalists’ e-mail list.

If this wasn’t enough upon summarily firing Williams for violating the public radio station’s “editorial standards,” Schiller appeased the leftist mob by shamelessly attacking Williams’ mental health. At an Atlanta Press Club event, the former CNN and New York Times executive said Williams “should have kept his feeling about Muslims between himself and his psychiatrist or his publicist.”

The correspondents on left wing blogs have been rummaging through the dusty closets of their respective brains to find new justifications for NPR's self-destructive sacking of Juan Williams. One such correspondent on a Media Matters (Hilary Clintons’ favorite web site) blog came up with the following:  "If somebody on TV said, ‘Hey, every time I see a bunch of Black guys walking down the street, I get afraid....' then that would be clear bigotry. Everyone would see it."

A few years ago, the right reverend Jesse Jackson had this to say: "There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery. Then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved." This is the same Jesse Jackson, of course, who once said, "That's all Hymie wants to talk about is Israel. Every time you go to Hymietown that's all they want to talk about."

Maybe I missed something, but I do not recall NPR ever banning Jackson from its airwaves.  The reason why is simple enough.  Jackson is not only more politically reliable than Williams, but he is also more politically useful.  NPR apparently has little use for a black man who is not easily exploited.

If NPR wants to behave like every other liberal news organization, complete with a slavish obeisance to left-wing pressure groups, fine. Those organizations don’t rely on taxpayer funding, and neither should NPR.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Are We Suffering From A Case of Mass Cognitive Dissonance?

Cognitive dissonance is an uncomfortable feeling caused by simultaneously holding conflicting ideas. The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance. They do this by changing their attitudes, beliefs, and actions.  Dissonance is also reduced by justifying, blaming, and denying. It is one of the most influential and extensively studied theories in social psychology.

On October 10th the Associated Press reported; “Cambridge will close its schools for one Muslim holiday each year beginning next year. The school will close for Eid al-Fitr or Eid al-Adha, also known as the Festival of Sacrifice. Which day schools are closed will depend on the holiday that falls in the school year. If both days fall within the school calendar, the district will close for one of the day.”

The report continues; “Cambridge School Committee member Marc McGovern, who pushed for the policy, says people should avoid what he calls hysteria and the stereotype of Muslims as terrorists. He says Cambridge schools close for some Christian and Jewish holidays and Muslims should be treated the same. Cambridge School Superintendent Jeffrey Young says the city’s Muslim population appears to be growing.”

I know of no public school districts in this nation that honor Jewish, Buddhist, Hindi, or Roman Catholic or Greek Orthodox religious holy days. These religions account for over 60% of the U.S. population, while the Muslims account for about 2%. Has our cultural relativism gone too far?

One of the most dangerous and growing in influence in the United States is the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). “We are similar to a Muslim NAACP,” says the CAIR, Ibrahim Hooper. The group says that its mission is “to enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.”

Robert Spencer writes in; “Law enforcement officials all over the country have received sensitivity training from CAIR, and—up until October 2008, when the FBI belatedly and tentatively cut off cooperative efforts—the organization has been a key partner in the FBI’s attempts to reach out to Muslim communities in the United States. The mainstream media routinely seek CAIR out for a moderate Muslim perspective, despite the fact that led to the FBI’s decision to finally cut its ties to the group: CAIR was named an unindicted co-conspirator in the trial of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF), which was once the largest Islamic charity in the United States but has been shut down for funneling charitable contributions to the jihad terrorist group Hamas.”

“In June 2007, federal prosecutors named CAIR as a participant in what the New York Sun called “an alleged criminal conspiracy to support a Palestinian Arab terrorist group, Hamas.” This was when CAIR was first designated an unindicted co-conspirator for its support for the Holy Land Foundation. The federal prosecution document described CAIR as a present or past member of “the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestine Committee and/or its organizations.” The Muslim Brotherhood is the parent organization of both Hamas and al Qaeda.”

“That came as no surprise to counterterrorism expert Steve Emerson, who has called CAIR “a radical fundamentalist front group for Hamas.” And Steven Pomerantz, the FBI’s former chief of counterterrorism, stated long before the feds named the group an unindicted co-conspirator, “CAIR, its leaders and its activities effectively give aid to international terrorist groups.”

“Another former FBI counterterrorism chief, John P. O’Neill Sr., died on 9/11 in the World Trade Center. His family has named CAIR in a lawsuit as having “been part of the criminal conspiracy of radical Islamic terrorism” responsible for the Sept. 11 atrocities.”

Spencer continues; “CAIR was founded in 1994 by Nihad Awad and Omar Ahmad. Awad had been the president of the Islamic Association of Palestine (IAP) and Ahmad its public relations director. The IAP, which was shut down by the government in 2005 for funding terrorism, was founded in 1981 by a Hamas operative, Mousa Abu Marzook. Marzook currently heads Hamas’ “political bureau” and is engaged in negotiations with Fatah in hopes of forming a Palestinian unity government. In the course of these negotiations, Hamas reaffirmed its refusal to accept Israel’s right to exist—which is tantamount to vowing its total destruction.”

“According to a report dated Aug. 14, 2001, from the Immigration and Naturalization Services, the IAP was dedicated to “publishing and distributing HAMAS communiqu├ęs printed on IAP letterhead, as well as other written documentation to include the HAMAS charter and glory records, which are tributes to HAMAS’ violent ‘successes.’” The same report also stated that IAP had received “approximately $490,000 from Marzook during the period in which Marzook held his admitted role as a HAMAS leader.”

“Emerson said that the IAP was Hamas’ “primary voice in the United States,” and another former chief of the FBI’s counterterrorism department, Oliver Revell, called the IAP “a front organization for Hamas that engages in propaganda for Islamic militants.” Nihad Awad stated in 1994 at Barry University in Florida: “I’m in support of the Hamas movement.” However, in the summer of 2006, Awad came under pressure for this in connection with his support for the campaign of Minnesota Democrat Keith Ellison, who that November became the nation’s first Muslim congressman. Awad disavowed Hamas at that time.”

“Arguably, Awad and Ahmad left the IAP for CAIR because they had renounced the IAP’s view of Islam and jihad and had become moderates. If they did, however, they evidently still had some trouble distinguishing moderates from extremists, as the arrest records of some former CAIR officials show.” You can read Spencer’s full article by clicking here.

Andrew McCarthy, in his book, “The Grand Jihad”, writes extensively about CAIR and their connections to radical Islamic terrorist groups. McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor who convicted the notorious “Blind Sheikh” and other jihadists for waging a terrorist war that included the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing, has linked CAIR to Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Al-Qaradawi is the influential Islamist who, is the mastermind of the Muslim Brotherhood’s plan for the establishment of Sharia law in the United States.

One of my favorite books is Herman Wouk's The Winds of War. This one of my favorites books not only for its accuracy in its narrative of events in Europe leading to World War II but also for the characters Wouk portrayed through the book and its sequel “War and Remembrance”.  If you are not familiar with War and Remembrance here is a brief synopsis of the story.

In the late 1930s, world politics begin to head in a dangerous direction. In Europe, Germany expands and rearms and proceeds to annex several border countries into the Reich. Meanwhile, Italy attempts to establish a Fascist Colonial Empire under Mussolini while the Empire of Japan stands ready for a major war with China. Enter the Henry family, headed by career naval officer Victor "Pug" Henry. "Winds of War" thus follows the exploits of Pug and his children, all of which are set against the backdrop of world events leading up to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941

Wouk crafted his characters with great care and painted them in the context of the beliefs and sentiments of the times. One of the main characters is Aaron Jastrow (Played by John Houseman in the 1983 ABC’s mini-series). As the story begins Jastrow, a secular Jew, is living in a villa in Sienna, Italy with his niece and assistant Natalie. Jastrow, an academic and intellectual, is an author of the book “The Jews Jesus” and is working on his new book about Emperor Constantine. He is so totally involved in his writings and intellectual pursuits he ignores the growing dangers around him in Mussolini’s fascist Italy and the Hitler’s rise to power in Germany. He believes that these dictators will be brought to heel by the western powers and the League of Nations.

As the story progresses and the dictators gain more and more power in Europe Natalie attempts to convince Jastrow to return to the United States. Jastrow continually ignores her and believes that due to his prominence as an author and historian he will be immune to the winds of intolerance that are brewing in Europe. Each chapter in Wouk’s book narrates a new development in the lead up to World War II. By the time Hitler invades Poland Natalie is convinced that there will be a global war and Italy will be on the side on the NAZIs. She again urges Aaron to pack up, give up his lease on the villa and return to his homeland, the United States. Jastrow continues to believe that the Italian, unlike the Germans, are tolerant people and they will be safe in Italy. The Jastrow character is a prime example cognitive dissonance.

Wouk, a decorated naval officer serving in the Pacific and a Jew, wrote his book, not only to dramatize the events leading to WWII, but also to illustrate the prevailing beliefs of many Americans, especially Jews, in the 1930s. This can be translated today to the way we are accepting the slow erosion of our society by the influence of organizations such as CAIR. Just look at the recent events surrounding the termination of Juan Williams, a Fox News contributor, by National Public Radio for his comments regarding his fears of boarding a plane with people dressed in Muslim garb. This termination was demanded by CAIR.

Eventually Natalie convinces Jastrow to leave Italy, but due to his immigration status and a foul up by the State Department he cannot get a passport. This leads to his being treated as an internee and he is shuttled from place to place until he finally arrives at the NAZI concentration camp of Theresienstadt. This is portrayed in Wouk’s sequel War and Remembrance.

In the ABC mini-series of the same name Jastrow is now portrayed by Sir John Gielgud. Even at Theresienstadt Jastrow is not convinced of the NAZI intents for his future as a part of the “Final Solution” and he tries to gain a position of prominence among the Jewish elders of the camp. Finally when he is severely beaten by a NAZI officer for refusing to participate in the phony beautification project does he realize he has been wrong and turns to God, a God he has denied his entire life. He now becomes a Jew.

The story draws to a close in one of the most dramatic episodes ever shown on the TV screen. The NAZIs finally evacuate all of the camp prisoners to Poland and the extermination camp at Auschwitz.  Jastrow, along with the elders of the camp, are given preference during the transit to Auschwitz by allowing them seats in the passenger cars and not packed into the cattle cars with the rest of the prisoners. Each elder has a badge denoting their prominence, along with a yellow Star of David sewn on their coat.

Upon arrival at the selection station at Auschwitz the prisoners are separated into two lines. One line containing the able bodied are turned to the right and admitted into the camp, and those who were sent to the left were sent to the gas chambers. When the elders realized they were being sent to the left they protested that they were people of “prominence” and should be sent to the right and into the camp. Their protests were met with a rifle but to the mouth and they were sent left into the gas chambers. Their cognitive dissonance was finally revealed.

I cite this story because I believe it to be the most dramatic example of political cognitive dissonance I can think of. How long will it take us to realize that organizations like CAIR are mere first steps in the institution of radical Islam and Sharia Law in the United States? We better wake up soon or we will be following in the footsteps of Aaron Jastrow.

Separation of Church and State

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances — First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

In the Delaware Senate debate between Republican candidate Christine O'Donnell and her Democrat opponent, Chris Coons, the O’Donnell asked Coons to list the five freedoms in the First Amendment. He couldn't do it. But according to the Left Wing Media (LWM), the story here is that O'Donnell doesn't know what's in the First Amendment.

The two were talking about science and religion in schools when O'Donnell asked, "Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?" Coons, of course, pointed to the First Amendment, which says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." She replied, "You're telling me the First Amendment does?" Her point was, to us, obvious -- the First Amendment does not contain the words "separation of church and state," a phrase which emanates from Thomas Jefferson's 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, not the Constitution.

Jefferson’s letter has been used by courts in a plethora of cases limiting “the free exercise thereof” potion of the Amendment. Cases from using public school buses to transport children to parochial schools to banning the singing of Silent Night at school Christmas pageants.  Over and over again, in case after case, the anti-religious left has slowly eroded our rights to exercise religion in the public square.

When O’Donnell asked Coons where in the First Amendment could we find the words “separation of church and state” he blustered a long-winded answer. Never referring to Jefferson’s letter he went on and on about numerous Supreme Court decisions that, over the years, has constructed this wall. Each new decision was based on some previous finding by the Court (stare decisis — to stand by that which is decided). To the law professors, students and media attending the debate this was the answer they wanted to hear. Coons was right – O’Donnell was stupid.

While the doctrine of stare decisis is a fundamental building block of common or case law it is not cast in stone regarding the Constitution of the United States. Decisions that were once rendered by the Court have been overturned by succeeding Supreme Courts in many cases. If we were ruled by stare decisis alone we would still have slavery (abolished by the 14th and 15th Amendments), separate but equal and the right to intern certain elements of the population in concentration camps.

On March 6, 1857 the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, rules in the case of Dred Scott v. John F. A. Stanford that slaves were to be considered as private property and under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment and the federal government was prohibited from freeing slaves that were brought into federal territories. This decision stood until the Civil War and the ratification of the 14th and 15th amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Stare decisis was thrown into the dust bin of history, never to be used again in the case of slavery.

On May 18, 1896 the Supreme Court ruled, in a 7-1 decision, in the case of Homer A. Plessy v. Ferguson that the "separate but equal" provision of private services mandated by state government was constitutional under the Equal Protection Clause. This meant that segregation of the races was constitutional as long it was done on a equal basis, i.e. equal schools, equal bathrooms and drinking fountains swimming pools and country clubs. Again the doctrine of stare decisis was thrown out the window by the 1954 Court decision in the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education. Segregation was deemed unconstitutional.

In my final example I refer to the December 18, 1944 when the court upheld President Franklin Executive Order 9066 calling for the internment of Japanese-Americans in concentration camps during World War II. In the case of Fred Korematsu v. United States the Court ruled, by a 6-3 decision that Roosevelt’s order was constitutional. Ruling in the majority were the staunch progressive justices; Douglas, Black and Frankfurter, with the opinion being authored by Black.

Korematsu’s conviction was overturned by a district court in 1984, but only the matters of fact were reversed, not the matter of law. The law in the Korematsu case was upheld in the 2004 case of Rasul v. Bush. The Court held;”The degree of control exercised by the United States over the Guantanamo Bay base is sufficient to trigger the application of habeas corpus rights. The right to habeas corpus can be exercised in all dominions under the sovereign's control.” While the Korematsu case was not over ruled the decision was narrowed under Rasul v. Bush

These three cases illustrate the doctrine of stare decisis and how it can be changed or overturned by succeeding Court decisions or Constitutional Amendment. Court cases are decided by judges appointed by politicians. They are not infallible gods of the law and are prone to the influences of their political philosophies, life experiences and understanding of the Constitution. Any decision rendered by one Court can be overturned by a succeeding Court wherever a case involving a similar set of circumstances comes before it. Courts are fallible, the Constitution means what it says. Coons was wrong, O’Donnell was right.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Another Example of Liberal Tolerance Towards Free Speech

To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker.” — Frederick Douglass

Today the news wires have been buzzing with reports of the termination of Juan Williams by National Public Radio. Williams has been a reporter for the tax supported NPR for 10 years and was fired for his comments on the FNC Bill O’Reilly Show regarding his anxiety in boarding an airplane when he sees fellow passengers dressed in Muslim garb. This comment was made in context to a dialogue Williams and O’Reilly were having over the comments O’Reilly had made on the View a few days prior.

During the give and take between Williams said; "But when I get on a plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they're identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous," While watching the dialogue between O’Reilly and Williams I can say that after Williams made this comment he went on to vociferously defend the Muslim community and defend their Constitutional rights.

Speaking for NPR CEO Vivian Schiller and Senior Vice President for News Ellen Weiss said in a statement; "Tonight we gave Juan Williams notice that we are terminating his contract as a senior news analyst for NPR News. Juan has been a valuable contributor to NPR and public radio for many years and we did not make this decision lightly or without regret. However, his remarks on 'The O'Reilly Factor' this past Monday were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR," they said. "We regret these circumstances and thank Juan Williams for his many years of service to NPR and public radio." You can read the entire FNC report and see the video of Williams’ comments by clicking here.

Williams, a liberal African American commentator who has written extensively on civil rights in America, previously got in trouble with NPR for comments he made while appearing on "The O'Reilly Factor" in February 2009. At that time, he described first lady Michelle Obama as having a "Stokely Carmichael in a designer dress thing going."

A few years ago Williams drew the ire of “civil rights leaders”, such as Al Sharpton and the NAACP for comments he made in his book, "Enough” attacking the current crop of phony civil rights leaders for their peddling a philosophy of victimization to the African-American community rather than preaching responsibility and self-improvement through education. Williams has a son, Tony, who from 1996 to 1997 was a Senate page and intern for Senator Strom Thurmond, a speechwriter and legislative correspondent for Senator Norm Coleman from 2004 to 2006, and in 2006 ran for Council of the District of Columbia, losing to Tommy Wells.

The driving force behind NPR’s decision to terminate Williams was the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). In an interview with Megyn Kelly, on FNC, CAIR spokesperson Ibrahim Hooper defended NPR’s decision and said that Williams had made bigoted comments affecting all Muslims. It should also be noted that one of the largest contributors to NPR is George Soros through his $1.8 million Open Society Foundations grant.

NPR’s CEO Vivian Schiller said that Williams was terminated for violating NPR’s code of ethics regarding punditry. Evidently Ms. Schiller had no problems with NPR’s legal correspondent, Nina Totenberg, when she viciously attacked Clarence Thomas during his confirmation hearings for Associate Justice to the U.S. Supreme Court or when she called for retribution against Senator Jesse Helms (R NC) for his question the amounts of money we were sending to Africa to combat AIDS by calling for his death by contracting AIDS through a bold transfusion.

If you listen to NPR, which I used to do, you find the most liberal, left-wing reporters on the air, especially in the Washington, D.C. market. One of the most left-wing of the on-air personalizes is Diane Rehm who’s reporting and commentary is anti-American and boarders on Marxism. I have heard her show while working in D.C. and can state that she makes MSNBC look like a conservative network.

This is just another example of the radical left controlling the dialogue in this country. I have blogged about this issue several times and this latest example serves to support my position. Liberals, unlike conservatives, cannot stand opposing views of any kind, even from their fellow liberals. When you step out of their narrative you will be immediately tossed out of the club, or worse, thrown under the bus. This is what happened to Juan Williams. Lenin could do no better at controlling the dialogue.

NPR claims that about 2% of their funding comes from the federal government. I cannot speak to the veracity of this claim, but I surely hope that if the Republicans recapture the House they take away even that 2% and let George Soros  finance the network under his name.

I know there are many people who hold Fox News in contempt, especially for their claim at being “fair and balanced.” As a long-time viewer of FNC I can get frustrated with this F&B approach to the news, but I can see that it is probably the only major broadcast network that will attempt to present both side of an issue in a civilized manner. If we want to survive as a society we must allow diverse and opposing opinions to be heard without sanctions or ad hominy attacks of the person presenting those views. As Frederick Douglas said; “To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker.”