Thursday, August 18, 2011

Political Digest for August 19, 2011

I’m on vacation, but borrowed a computer to clear out the 300+ e-mails that built up over the first 28 hours I was away. ~Bob

Excellent: Defend Western Civilization
Excerpt: The British riots show what happens when the elites give up on their civilization. I embrace all cultures. If the Irish want to drink green beer and have a St. Patrick’s Day parade — let them. Likewise, I support Cinco de Mayo festivals, and have no problem with the Scots’ Tartan Day (April 6). I have no more problem with Muslims fasting during Ramadan than I have with Christians giving up meat for Lent. Moreover, I feel no more threatened by a group of Arab men sitting in a Brooklyn café smoking their hookah pipes than I do by a group of Italian men playing bocce ball in a Brooklyn park. People who choose to live in America should be welcome to keep many of the attributes of the culture they or their ancestors left behind. It adds to the color and vibrancy that make America a wonderful and interesting place in which to live. By all means, bring your culture — your art, your songs, your literature, your food. America will take it all and integrate it into a greater and ever more distinctively American culture. But leave your civilization behind. Although the terms culture and civilization are often used interchangeably, there is a distinct difference. Within Western Europe, for instance, there are dozens of distinct cultures (Italian, French, Irish, etc.), but all of them reside within a single Western civilization. Similarly, the vast American melting pot is home to hundreds of intermingled cultures. What allows these myriad cultures to coexist on generally peaceful terms is that most of their adherents accept the basic tenets of Western civilization. When this is lost, everything else goes. Foremost among these tenets is respect for the rights, freedoms, and property of all individuals.

Worth Reading: For Whom the Bell Tolls: Elites have tried to solve our social degeneration with politically correct bunkum by Thomas Sowell
Excerpt: The orgies of violent attacks on strangers in the streets — in both England and the United States — are not necessarily just passing episodes. They should be wake-up calls, warning of the continuing degeneration of Western society. As British doctor and author Theodore Dalrymple said, long before these riots broke out, “The good are afraid of the bad, and the bad are afraid of nothing.”

Young Westerners -- Deprived or Decadent
Excerpt: The Right counters that the problem is not too few state subsidies, but far too many. The growing -- and now unsustainable -- state dole of the last half-century eroded self-reliance and personal initiative. The logical result is a dependent underclass spanning generations that becomes ever more unhappy and unsatisfied the more it is given from others. Today's looters have plenty to eat. That is why they target sneaker and electronics stores -- to enjoy the perks of life they either cannot or will not work for. We might at least agree on a few facts behind the violence. First, much of the furor is because poverty is now seen as a relative, not an absolute, condition. Per-capita GDP is $47,000 in the U.S. and $35,000 in Britain. In contrast, those rioting in impoverished Syria (where average GDP is about $5,000) or Egypt (about $6,000) worry about being hungry or being shot for their views, rather than not acquiring a new BlackBerry or a pair of Nikes. Inequality, not Tiny Tim-like poverty, is the new Western looter's complaint. So when the president lectures about fat-cat "corporate jet owners," he doesn't mean that greed prevents the lower classes from flying on affordable commercial jets -- only that a chosen few in luxury aircraft, like himself, reach their destinations a little more quickly and easily. Not having what someone richer has is our generation's lament instead of lacking elemental shelter, food or electricity. The problem is not that the bathwater in Philadelphia is not as hot as in Martha's Vineyard, but that the conditions under which it is delivered in comparison are far more basic and ordinary.

Bachmann: Improving economy ‘won’t take that long’
Excerpt:  Michele Bachmann declared Friday “it won’t take that long” for her to start turning the ailing economy around as president as she competed against other GOP presidential rivals to build support ahead of a key GOP straw poll in Iowa next week. Four of Bachmann’s opponents in the Aug. 13 straw poll in Ames — Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Thad McCotter— later took turns bashing President Obama’s record at a Republican Party dinner at a high school in Tiffin and pitching themselves as best suited to defeat him. Earlier in the day in Newton, Bachmann told reporters the economy would start to improve almost immediately after she becomes president because she would implement conservative economic policies to slash the nation’s debt, stop tax increases and cut regulations. “It won’t take that long if we send signals to the marketplace,” she said, standing by an earlier comment that the improvement would begin within the first quarter.

Excerpt: For a man with such big ears, Barack Hussein Obama isn't actually very good at listening. And a listening tour isn't going to change that.  Listening tours have become an obligatory stage of the early campaign, but their name is another degradation of meaning. Politicians don't conduct listening tours in order to listen to voters, but to have those voters listen to them. The occasional town hall meeting with its exchanges is the verbal version of a Letters to the Editor column. But does anyone pretend that a newspaper exists to listen to the readers?

The Truth about Obama’s Budget Deficits, in Pictures
Excerpt: Through the fog of the debt limit negotiations, President Obama has attempted to shift the blame for America’s deficit crisis to politicians at large, claiming that “neither party is blameless for the decisions that led to this problem.” Though the culture of overspending is endemic in Washington, don’t let the President fool you—some are a lot more guilty than others.

IBM Unveils Chips that Mimic the Human Brain
Excerpt: IBM has unveiled a new experimental computer chip that it says mimics the human brain in that it perceives, acts and even thinks. It terms the machines built with these chips "cognitive computers", claiming that they are able to learn through experience, find patterns, generate ideas and understand the outcomes. In building this new generation of chip, IBM combined principles of nanoscience, neuroscience and supercomputing.

How Weird How Soon?
Excerpt: From London’s Daily Mail: “Scientists have created more than 150 human-animal hybrid embryos in British laboratories.” You don’t say. Now why would they do that? Don’t worry, it’s all perfectly legit, the fruits of the 2008 Human Fertilisation Embryology Act. So some scientists have successfully fertilized animal eggs with human sperm, and others have created “cybrids,” using a human nucleus implanted into an animal cell, or “chimeras,” in which human cells are mixed with animal embryos. Writing my new book about the post-American world, I had to resist the temptation to go too far down this path. If you start off analyzing unsustainable debt-to-GDP ratios and possible downgrades of U.S. Treasury debt and suddenly lurch into disquisitions on a part-Welsh–part-meerkat chimera, the fiscal types tend to think you’ve flown the coop. Yet as I contemplate the prospects of the developed world I confess I do find myself wondering: How weird how soon? (I just read Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. It sounded just like Los Angeles, only BNW sounded a much better place to be. - Kate in LA)

Are the Black Flash Mob Attacks on Whites Obama's Fault?
Excerpt: Folks, I believe human beings are responsible for their behavior. However, as America's first black president, fair or unfair, Obama's presidency comes with enormous responsibility in terms of its influence on black youths. This is why it is so unfortunate that American black youths' ultimate role model is a characterless, race-baiting political hack. While I am not saying president Obama is responsible for the epidemic of black youth flash-mob attacks on whites around our country, his race-baiting has to be a contributing factor.

Obama: The Affirmative Action President
Excerpt: Years from now, historians may regard the 2008 election of Barack Obama as an inscrutable and disturbing phenomenon, a baffling breed of mass hysteria akin perhaps to the witch craze of the Middle Ages. How, they will wonder, did a man so devoid of professional accomplishment beguile so many into thinking he could manage the world's largest economy, direct the world's most powerful military, execute the world's most consequential job?

James Delingpole: Murdoch, Hackgate, Climategate, the Guardian and the Vile Hipocracy of the Left
Excerpt: The liberal-left has many vices. But surely the most noisome one of all (in a crowded field) is its rank hypocrisy. If you’re going to take the moral high ground – as lefties will insist on doing at every opportunity – the very least you owe the world in return if you have a shred of compunction, decency or intellectual consistency is to demonstrate more integrity than those you are impugning. And if you can’t do that, then bloody well shut up.(Go, James! - Kate in Hollywood, California)

New York Times Spouts Rubbish Over UK Riots
Excerpt: “[Prime Minister David Cameron] has blamed the looting and burning on a compound of national moral decline, bad parenting and perverse inner-city subculture”. Yes indeed he has, thus putting himself in agreement with about 90 per cent of the British population. But the New York Times in as uninterested in the overwhelming majority of British public opinion as it is in the great mass of American public opinion. It is as smugly and narrowly orthodox in its Left-liberal posturing as its counterparts in Britain. (If the BBC were to be reincarnated as an American newspaper, it would be the New York Times.)

Coburn Sour on Economy
Excerpt: Earlier, in Langley, Coburn partially deflected criticism of President Barack Obama - and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke - by blaming the country's financial woes on Congress. He described his colleagues as "a class of career elitists" and "cowards," and at one point, talking about his frustrations, said, "It's just a good thing I can't pack a gun on the Senate floor."

ACLU Hails 'Landmark' Ruling Against U.S. by Int’l Human Rights Body
Excerpt:  Never mind what the U.S. Supreme Court decided. An international tribunal says the U.S. government violated the human rights of a Colorado woman, whose estranged husband murdered their three children. Jessica Gonzales, as she was known in June 1999, complained that police in Castle Rock, Colo., ignored her repeated calls for help, after her husband defied a restraining order and took their three young daughters, later shooting the girls to death. (Fortunately the IACHR has no authority here.  It also clearly doesn’t understand the way our government is organized.  Local policing is NOT part of the federal government’s responsibility or authority.  In many cases, it isn’t within the responsibility of the state government, either.  Clearly there has been an injustice to Ms Gonzales and her daughters, but she might as well have convinced the Queen of England to issue a proclamation in her favor.  As with most leftist ideas, it’s a “feel good” that accomplishes nothing and has the potential to lead to real problems if the US Department of State takes this more seriously than it deserves.  Ron P.)

Syria Guns Down Palestinians
Excerpt: Iran’s Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi said earlier this week that it is “the duty of all Muslims to help stabilise Syria against the destructive plots of America and Israel.” He is echoing the opinion of Iran’s supreme ruler Ayatolla Khamenei, who considers himself to be the representative of Allah on earth and the deputy of the last Islamic messiah, Imam Mahdi. Khamenei declared last spring that the protesters in Syria were “God’s enemies.” The thugs running Iran have carried out their “Muslim duty” by intervening on the side of their Syrian ally, President Bashar al-Assad, against “God’s enemies.” They have deployed snipers in Syria, for example, to support Assad’s brutal crackdown against protesters, according to a former member of the regime’s secret police. They have sent Assad’s regime arms, riot control equipment, intelligence monitoring technical support, oil and personnel assistance from the Iranian Republican Guard. Khamenei is also reported to have ordered the transfer of $9 billion in unconditional aid to prop up Assad’s regime.

Al Qaeda threatens to cut David Letterman's tongue out and assassinate him over jokes about terror leader’s death

Excerpt: Threats to cut David Letterman's tongue out and assassinate him have been posted on a website frequently used by Al-Qaeda after he gloated about the death of one of Osama Bin Laden's lieutenants. A frequent online commenter called on Muslims to kill the CBS late night-host after taking offence at jokes he made about the death of Ilyas Kashmiri.

The Mess at Widener Law School
Excerpt: Consider the disturbing case of Lawrence Connell, a criminal-law professor at Widener University’s law school who was suspended for a year without pay on Aug. 8 despite having been cleared of allegations of sexual and racial harassment in his classroom lodged by two female black students. The case can be best understood as a story of two clashing law-school cultures, the first represented by Connell himself and the second by Widener Law’s dean, Linda Ammons, who has pushed relentlessly since last fall to get Connell off of the campus. We can call the two cultures Old Law School and New Law School.

Now Answer Some Questions
Excerpt: The GOP presidential candidates so far have left crucial questions unanswered. With the Ames Straw Poll behind us, the race for the Republican presidential nomination is starting to pick up speed. That means it is more important than ever that we know just where the candidates stand. Unfortunately, we can expect much of the media attention over the coming weeks to be focused on the “horse race” aspects of the campaign. Will Perry or Bachmann become the conservative alternative to Romney? Is there a dark horse out there somewhere? Who will make the next gaffe? The candidates are not likely to make things easier. If what we have seen so far is any indication, we can expect lots of Obama-bashing, promises to be the most conservative candidate in the race, and platitudes about American greatness. (Maybe they shouldn’t answer questions. What needs to be done to save the country, like risky surgery, will be so painful that no candidate advocating it could get elected. ~Bob.)

The Right Candidate: One can remain loyal to the Buckley rule and support a very conservative candidate — at least for now.
Excerpt: On Saturday, Texas governor Rick Perry got into the race for the GOP presidential nomination, and within 24 hours, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty got out. Perry didn’t exactly chase Pawlenty out of the race; the Iowa straw poll (in which T-Paw finished a distant third) did that. But the two developments are closely related. They’re linked by the fact that Barack Obama is very beatable. … (For the record, the straw poll is a really stupid fundraising stunt for the Iowa GOP. It’s primarily geared to candidates with support from one of two constituencies: the passionate and the easily bribed. Ron Paul’s second-place finish proves that it’s in no meaningful way a real poll, as his supporters are akin to Battlestar Galactica loyalists at a Star Trek convention, incapable of winning many converts and themselves unwilling to switch teams. Still, the straw poll is a fixture of the landscape, and candidates must deal with it.)

The Futures of Civilization
Excerpt: In Civilization: The West and the Rest (which won’t be published in this country till November, but which has made quite a stir in Britain), Niall Ferguson has come along to tell us that it need not be this way. Taking the long view of history has not, however, inclined him to the cheerful Whig presumption that civilization “shall not perish from the earth.” The study of history — described by Auden as “breaking bread with the dead” — is presumably too melancholy an endeavor to justify such vain hopes. Ferguson’s prodigious communing with the dead has led him to believe that not only will the forces of composition yield to those of decomposition, but they may do so with dramatic speed. … But for a civilization to fall it must first rise. Ferguson sets out to answer why, beginning around 1500, a few small polities on the western end of the Eurasian landmass came to dominate the rest of the world. He identifies six factors — what he dubs, perhaps a touch too cleverly, the “killer apps” — that combined to give the civilization of the West a decisive edge over the Rest. He summarizes them as follows: competition, science, property rights, medicine, the consumer society, and the work ethic. (But the “killer apps” of our civilization are being killed. Big government has interfered with competition, politicized science, crumbled property rights, taken over medicine, replaced consumers with “flash mobs” and eliminated the need for a work ethic among its base constituencies. ~Bob.)

The Five Stages of Obama--The New York Times offers therapy for a gravely ill presidency.
Excerpt: The guys at the New York Times editorial page are cleverer than they look. We're the first to admit that's a very low standard, but today they have an editorial that seems pathetic at first glance but turns out, on close reading, to be a gem. The title is "His Anger Is a Start." The reference, it hardly need be said, is to Barack Obama. When we saw the headline, we rolled our eyes at the prospect of this once-great newspaper cheering on the latest show of presidential petulance. But it turns out there's a hidden message in the editorial for those--surely including a brilliant intellectual like Obama--who are familiar with the Kübler-Ross model, popularly known as the five stages of grief. With Obama's presidency consumed by sickness and facing a grim prognosis, the Times offers the president the therapy he needs to work through his grief: Obama: 'Lone Wolf' Terror Attack Biggest US Worry  "The risk that we're especially concerned over right now is the lone wolf terrorist, somebody with a single weapon being able to carry out wide-scale massacres of the sort that we saw in Norway recently," he said. "You know, when you've got one person who is deranged or driven by a hateful ideology, they can do a lot of damage, and it's a lot harder to trace those lone wolf operators." (Oh really?  Kinda sorta like the lone wolf terrorist that killed 14 Americans and wounded 29 more at Ft. Hood?  You know who I'm talking about Mr. President.  Nidal Hasan...the lone wolf terrorist that your administration refused to classify as a terrorist.  MasterGuns)

New Low of 26% Approve of Obama on the Economy
The 26% all work for Warren Buffet. ~Bob. Excerpt:  A new low of 26% of Americans approve of President Barack Obama's handling of the economy, down 11 percentage points since Gallup last measured it in mid-May and well below his previous low of 35% in November 2010.

Tax Rates and Migration
Excerpt: Researchers Antony Davies and John Pulito of the Mercatus Center explore the relationship between high-income tax rates and the interstate migration of high-income households.  Controlling for property-tax rates, sales tax rates, high-income tax brackets, unemployment and state/county-specific and time-specific effects, they find:
Higher state income tax rates cause a net out-migration not only of higher income residents, but of residents in general. For county-level data, they find that high-income households react to a lowering of income levels to which higher tax rates apply in the same way that they react to increases in the tax rates themselves. This behavior suggests that the tendency to lower the threshold for "high income" or "millionaire" households to capture households that are not millionaires may entice those households to follow the behavior of millionaire households and flee to more tax-friendly environs.  Finally, for state-level data, the effect of property taxes on migration is significantly stronger than the effect of high-income tax rates on migration. All of these data suggest a recipe for population depletion.  States lose households to more tax-friendly states by (1) lowering the "high-income" threshold so as to capture more households, (2) increasing high-income tax rates, and (3) increasing property-tax rates. 

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