by John Hawkins
"In ordinary times, people who do no more than describe the world around them are seen as pragmatists, while those who imagine fabulous alternative futures are viewed as radicals. The last couple of decades haven't been ordinary, however. ...(T)he pragmatists were the ones simply looking out the window and noticing that the real world was increasingly resembling the unthinkable scenario. These people were treated as if they were barking mad. Meanwhile the people spinning...visions unsupported by reality, were regarded not as charlatans but saviors." -- Clay Shirky in an explanation of the downfall of the newspaper business that also describes what's happening in AmericaSince Barack Obama has been elected, gun sales and copies of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged have flown off the shelves. Meanwhile, there's a Russian academic all over the news predicting that America will soon collapse, "tea parties" springing up all over the country, and the stock market has been doing a great impression of Michael Richards' career since he left Seinfeld.
Is that because people have gone crazy? No, it's the reaction of sane people to the crazy as a football bat insanity that has begun to pass for conventional wisdom in large swathes of America. Living in this country today is like sitting in the back seat of a car that's hurtling towards the edge of a cliff at a hundred miles an hour while the driver fiddles with the radio and the guy in the passenger seat mocks the very idea of using brakes. When sheer insanity becomes the new normal, people who can admit that the emperor has no clothes are left to point out:
The Global Warming Fraud: There are few things stranger than watching a "debate" over global warming. One side constantly quotes scientific facts, makes logical arguments, and tries to appeal to reason. These people are called "anti-science" by the side that "argues" by comparing their opponents to Holocaust deniers, spins apocalyptic doomsday scenarios out of whole cloth, and is constantly dinged for stretching the truth on the few scientific facts they do talk about. These people are the ones who supposedly "put science first" in the debate. Meanwhile, the earth has been getting warmer and colder since it was formed, the planet has been considerably warmer in the past than it is today, and the earth is currently cooling, not warming. Yet and still, our President intends to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on a Cap and Trade scheme that will spike energy costs into the stratosphere so that we can solve this non-existent "problem."
The Lawsuit Lottery: In our legal system, you can injure yourself doing something utterly stupid, sue someone who just happened to be in the vicinity while you acted like a lunatic, and if you get lucky, you can walk away with millions of dollars while he's driven out of business. It's like playing the lottery, except your odds of winning are much better.
The evidence of how warped our legal system has become is all around us. It's difficult to find an obstetrician in some parts of the country because they've been sued out of existence. In California, it's legal to sue good Samaritans who try to help people who've been injured. Many people and corporations actually settle lawsuits that they know they would eventually win because it's cheaper and less of a hassle than defending themselves in court because our system, in most cases, provides no compensation whatsoever for being the target of a meritless lawsuit.
This illness in our justice system goes all the way up to the Supreme Court, where we have four justices who believe in actually sticking to the Constitution and four who vote for whichever result best serves liberalism. That means whether a law is ruled unconstitutional or not may often depend on little more than whether Anthony Kennedy got enough sleep or is a little cranky because his lunch was delivered late. Justice is supposed to be blind, but we've gone one step further in America and made it random.
Demonizing Success and Rewarding Failure: In America, we have a government that rewards people for failure. If you lose your job, we will incentivize you not to get back to work with unemployment insurance. If you stay out of work long enough, then we'll give you welfare and more money via a "tax credit." If you don't pay your mortgage, then we'll help you out with that, too. Is your corporation going out of business? Then we'll bail you out. Long story short, if you're failing in life, then we will give you goodies to reward you for it.
On the other hand, successful people are suspect, just by virtue of their success and therefore, they must be punished. At a time when taxes are already so high that corporations are fleeing overseas and even the Treasury Secretary is a tax cheat, the President is planning massive tax hikes on both successful individuals and corporations. After all, how are we going to reward all of life's losers if we don't take the money from people who have succeeded? In order to justify killing the Goose who laid the Golden Egg, successful people are regularly vilified as greedy nuisances to society who should be thrilled to have the money they worked for confiscated by people who hate them so it can be handed to people far less industrious than themselves. But, what you subsidize, you get more of and what you penalize, you decrease. That's one of the oldest and simplest lessons in the book; yet it's one we never seem to learn.
Spending Money Like We're Never Going To Have To Pay It Back: Here's Peter Schweizer describing how the Soviet Union was broken by Reagan,
First of all, the Soviet Union has been in economic crisis, there was an economic crisis from the very beginning in 1917, but they'd always been able to figure out a way, working internationally, to bail out their system. They got western businesses that would set up industries, they got western banks to loan them money, they were able to get peace agreements with the West that would provide temporary relief to their economy. So the Soviet economy was always in crisis but they'd always been bailed out by the West. Reagan's administration is really the only one that never did that.So, the Soviet Union relied on its enemies to keep it financially afloat and when they refused to do it any longer, it was the beginning of the end. Well, replace the "Soviet Union" with the "United States" and "The West" with "China" and ask yourself: doesn't it seem more than a little familiar?
What happens if China decides one day that they'd like to see us go the way of the Soviet Union and does to us what we did to the Reds? Do we end up with skyrocketing inflation that makes a dollar today worth ten cents tomorrow? Do we end up passing on such large debts onto our children that we will guarantee that they can never have the opportunity to grow up in the sort of great country that we did? The people spending our money? The frightening thing is not that they're coming up with different answers; it's that they're not even asking the questions.
Our Topsy-Turvy Approach To Illegal Immigration: Although we have laws on the books designed to prevent illegal immigration, they are systematically ignored or the people in charge of enforcing them are deliberately understaffed so they can't fulfill their duties. Bizarrely, people who merely suggest that the laws on our books should actually be enforced are derided as racists and nativists. Worse yet, to suggest that tens of millions of uneducated foreigners, many of whom don't speak the language or obey our laws, should not be able to benefit from breaking our laws by staying here permanently is treated as beyond the pale. Why, how dare we "break up the families" of people who have been shamelessly breaking our laws for so long that they've had time to start a family here?
Despite the fact that we've already had a "one time only amnesty" and drug violence is now regularly spilling over our borders, advocates of amnesty are unfazed. In fact, under Barack Obama we've actually gotten to the point where we're prosecuting people like Sheriff Joe Arpaio for enforcing our immigration laws even as we create 300,000 jobs for illegal immigrants with the stimulus plan.
If you don't have borders, you don't have a country -- and if we believe we can turn tens of millions of poor, uneducated, non-English speaking people with no love for our nation or respect for our laws, into productive, well assimilated, loyal Americans merely by granting them citizenship -- then we're engaging in exactly the sort of magical thinking that has helped undermine and destroy more than a few nations -- including most notably, the Roman Empire.
Britain's target culture 'is harming justice': Police accuse prosecutors of downgrading charges
Serious criminals are being allowed to cheat justice so that prosecutors can save money and hit Whitehall targets, police claim. Officers have broken ranks after growing 'frustrated' amid claims that the Crown Prosecution Service is repeatedly downgrading the seriousness of an offender's crime - or not charging them at all. In many cases, police say the CPS - ordered to save 69million by ministers by 2011 - wants to avoid the prospect of a case going to Crown Court, where they would have to pay for an expensive barrister.
In an exclusive Daily Mail interview, Police Federation vice-chairman Simon Reed said prosecutors were also trying to hit Government targets for reducing the number of unsuccessful trials. As a result, they are opting for charges which the criminal will be more willing to accept, rather than challenge in court.
Police are powerless, as Labour recently gave responsibility for charging many criminals to the CPS - rather than police. Officers give the examples of actual bodily harm (ABH) being downgraded to assault, drug-dealing to possession of drugs, burglary to theft and mugging to theft from the person. Mr Reed said: 'We know there are people who are not being prosecuted when they could be. It leads to a lot of angst for the police. The criminal justice system is pulling in different directions. 'We see very few charges of ABH any more. They are prosecuted for common assault instead. It keeps the case away from Crown Court.'
The Federation says this makes the police's job harder, as criminals will be back on the streets sooner or are not jailed at all. The deterrent against reoffending is also reduced if criminals feel they have been treated leniently. Mr Reed added: 'The reoffending rates from criminals are 70 per cent, and that tells its own story. It is hugely frustrating for police officers.'
Police are keen to regain the right to charge suspects themselves but prosecutors are resisting. The Conservative police spokesman David Ruffley said: 'This is soft justice for criminals and an insult to victims. 'That's why the Conservatives will return discretion to charge more offences to police sergeants - without them having to refer it first to the CPS lawyers. This will also help cut paperwork and time spent waiting for a CPS lawyer to make a decision. It will mean more commonsense policing.'
Criminologist David Green, director of the Civitas thinktank, said there was a ' paradox' at the heart of Government policy. The police have recently been told the raft of Whitehall targets they previously faced would be scrapped for a single target of the public having increased confidence in them effectively dealing with crime in their local area. Dr Green said officers had been deprived of one of the main powers they need to provide this confidence - the right to decide on charges.
The number of criminals handed cautions by the police instead of being charged and put before the courts has risen significantly in recent years. In 2005 a total of 333,420 offenders were let off with a caution, while 423,000 were charged with a crime. By 2007 - the last year for which full figures are available - cautions had risen to 357,222 with 405,000 suspects charged.
However, a CPS spokesman said: 'The CPS is not undercharging defendants in order to reduce ineffective trials or as a cost-cutting measure. 'A recent joint independent CPS-police inspection of statutory charging confirmed that the standard of charging decisions by prosecutors was good. 'Since the CPS assumed responsibility for charging decisions in all but minor offences, Crown Court cases have increased year on year from 95,000 to 102,000 whilst the conviction rate has increased from 74 per cent to 80 per cent.'
Governments that are strangers to business
Comment by Australian columnist Janet Albrechtsen
Pick the odd man out: Barack Obama, Kevin Rudd, John Key. Only one of them, New Zealand's Prime Minister Key, has any material personal experience of how to make a dollar in the private sector. Rudd may be the wealthiest Prime Minister Australia has had, because of his wife's admirable business acumen, but even that business is built on government contracts. Rudd's experience is that of a lifelong public servant and politician, with a short stint as a consultant with KPMG. Obama is the world's most famous community organiser, lawyer and, since 1996, full-time politician. Only Key - who was a manager at a clothing manufacturer and then moved into currency trading - has worked in a wholly private enterprise for any meaningful period of time.
This is not to denigrate the public service or community sectors. They do important work. But a lifelong immersion in the public sector creates a government-focused cast of mind and blind spots about the private sector. Obama and Rudd are in the business of pursuing growth by government programs, which demonstrates a dangerous ignorance of the role of growth led by productive private enterprise, small business in particular. No wonder Obama gave Rudd the thumbs up last week for the PM's approach to the global financial crisis. But if there was ever a time when we needed those who understand the importance of growth in the private sector, it's now.
If you doubt that blind spot, here is how US Vice-President Joe Biden explained the Obama administration's strategy to help small business. He was asked on the CBS Early Show by a viewer who had laid off most of her staff last year how the US President's trillion-dollar stimulus package would help small business. Biden was plainly stumped. After buying time by suggesting the woman contact his office, he then spluttered that "it may very well be that she's in a circumstance where she is not able, her customers aren't able to get to her, there's no transit capability, the bridge going across the creek to get to her business needs repair, may very well be that she's in a position where she is unable to access the - her energy costs are so high by providing smart meters, by being able to bring down the cost of her workforce".
This is not a spoof. Either Biden is a buffoon who does not know his stuff or there is no stuff to know. The best Biden could conjure up for a small business owner was to build a bridge to improve her customers' "transit capacity" and smart meters so she can count her energy costs.
Closer to home, addressing the NSW Chamber of Commerce in Sydney a few weeks ago, Rudd had nothing much to tell small business either. Small business men and women waited in vain for Rudd's vision for small business. All they got was Rudd's standard helicopter made-for-television view of the GFC and Australia's response to it. There was no chance for questions and answers. "It was all spin and no substance," said one businessman at the luncheon.
Rudd's appointment of Craig Emerson as Small Business Minister was promising. Yet the Government as a whole demonstrates no understanding that, with two million small businesses employing about 4.5 million people, according to the Council of Small Business of Australia, small business is the key to real growth.
Now ask yourself why the Obama administration and the Rudd Government have nothing much to offer small business. Given that both are committed to industrial relations reforms that boost the power of unions, perhaps they have very little interest in small business where unions have no hold? Or could it be that neither is focused on growth derived from private enterprise, preferring to forge ahead with growth by bigger government? A bit of both perhaps.
Key, on the other hand, understands what is needed to make businesses hum: lower taxes, smarter regulation and a flexible labour market. He has recognised that a one-off sugar hit - or cash splash - won't help business employ people for any longer than it takes to spend the cash. Permanent tax cuts help business employ more staff - permanently.
He told The Wall Street Journal's Mary Kissel a few weeks back that he is determined to stop the slide that has seen NZ fall to the bottom half on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's per-capita gross domestic product rankings. "We have been on a slippery slope ... so we need to lift those per capita wages, and the only way to really do that is through productivity growth driving efficiency in the country." Key is cutting taxes, reforming regulations that inhibited foreign capital and tackling environmental legislation that has been misused by green groups to stop private sector investment. Oh, and he is undertaking a line-by-line review of every government department as part of his Government's commitment to capping spending.
No wonder Key is the odd man out. And it is a shame that NZ will not be attending the G20 meeting in London next month, the latest effort by world leaders to confront the global financial crisis. Spend big and all will be in order is Obama's resounding theme. It's all stimulus this and stimulus that. Is it too much to hope that G stands for growth, not group-think?
Yet real growth - through the private sector - is not a concept you hear much about these days. We have a Government that talks incessantly about the dangers of the GFC yet is steadfastly committed to industrial relations policies that will, through their unfair dismissal laws, discourage small businesses from employing more people. And a Government that only accidentally supports small business when it suits some other agenda, cherry picking small business stimulus winners to push Labor's green credentials and its education revolution. Good for those who sell insulation batts and a small band of workers who will build new school halls. But there is no broader vision to encourage growth in the small business sector as a whole.
There is plenty the Rudd Government could do if encouraging jobs growth was its genuine focus. Banking on rising unemployment and focusing on retraining is not enough. For example, the PM, keen to stamp his influence on state governments, ought to be paying the states to abolish payroll taxes - which have the direct effect of hindering employment - rather than funding this year's sales of plasma TV sets. And that's just for starters.
This could be the Liberal Party's moment in the sun, reminding us it stands for encouraging real growth in small businesses, in the same heartland that once delivered it government
The Islamic Assault on Free Speech
Comment from Australia
It is one of the many benefits of Christianity that the West enjoys religious freedom and freedom of conscience. The properly understood notion of the separation of church and state arose from the Christian worldview, and goes back to the words of Jesus: "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's".
Islam of course knows of no such separation. Church and state are one in Islam. There is no sacred-secular distinction in the Muslim world. Everything is religious and everything is political. As Rodney Stark wrote, "Muhammad was not only the Prophet, he was head of state. Consequently, Islam has always idealized the fusion of religion and political rule, and sultans have usually also held the title of caliph" (The Victory of Reason).
Or as Dinesh D'Souza put it, "The prophet Muhammad was in his own day both a prophet and a Caesar who integrated the domains of church and state. Following his example, the rulers of the various Islamic empires, from the Umayyad to the ottoman, saw themselves as Allah's viceregents on earth" (What's So Great About Christianity?).
As Bernard Lewis explains, "In classical Arabic and in the other classical languages of Islam, there are no pairs of terms corresponding to `lay' and `ecclesiastical,' `spiritual' and `temporal,' `secular' and `religious,' because these pairs of words express a Christian dichotomy that has no equivalent in the world of Islam" (Islam and the West).
It is the genius of the West to have run with the Christian version of events in this regard, and not the Islamic one. But these cherished freedoms are ironically now being whittled way in the West as we increasingly seek to appease militant Islamists.
In many parts of the Western world Muslims are demanding, and getting, preferential treatment. And in the process, freedom of religion is slowly being eroded. A classic example of this can be seen in Victoria's Racial and Religious Tolerance Act. This bit of scurrilous legislation has been used to silence Christians from proclaiming their faith, and from making rational criticism of Islam. The nefarious Victorian law effectively cramps real freedom of speech and religious diversity.
Of course hyper-sensitive Muslims around the world are seeking to implement such censorship on all non-Muslims. At the UN level, for example, Muslims are hoping to use UN Resolution 62/154, which has to do with "combating defamation of religions" to allow Islam to be above all criticism and critique.
A number of people have written about this recently, expressing their concerns. Atheist Christopher Hitchens for example wrote in the Australian warning of "so-called mainstream Muslims, grouped in the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, who are now demanding through the UN that Islam not only be allowed to make such absolutist claims, but that it be officially shielded from any criticism as a result."
The Resolution is full of typical UN balderdash: "For example, paragraph five `expresses its deep concern that Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism', while paragraph six `notes with deep concern the intensification of the campaign of defamation of religions and the ethnic and religious profiling of Muslim minorities in the aftermath of the tragic events of September 11, 2001'."
"You see how the trick is pulled? In the same weeks this resolution comes up for its annual renewal at the UN, its chief sponsor-government (Pakistan) makes an agreement with the local Taliban forces to close girls' schools in the Swat Valley region (a mere 150km or so from the capital in Islamabad) and subject the inhabitants to sharia law. And this capitulation comes in direct response to a campaign of horrific violence and intimidation, including public beheadings."
One reason why the Victorian legislation is so fatally flawed is that it mixes two quite different things: racial or ethnic vilification, and religious vilification. There may be a case to seek to reduce wrongful discrimination based on race, but to seek to isolate religious views from theological scrutiny and public debate is ludicrous. This is just what is happening in the UN Resolution:
"Yet the religion of those who carry out the campaign [of Islamist violence] is not to be mentioned, lest it `associate' that faith with human rights violations or terrorism. In paragraph six, an obvious attempt is being made to confuse ethnicity with religious allegiance. Indeed this insinuation (incidentally dismissing the faith-based criminality of September 11 as merely tragic) is in fact essential to the entire scheme. If religion and race can be run together, then the condemnations that racism axiomatically attracts can be surreptitiously extended to religion, too. This is clumsy, but it works: the useless and meaningless term Islamophobia, now widely used as a bludgeon of moral blackmail, is testimony to its success."
The muzzling of free speech is the sure outcome of this: "See where the language of paragraph 10 of the resolution is taking us. Having briefly offered lip service to the rights of free expression, it goes on to say that `the exercise of these rights carries with it special duties and responsibilities and may therefore be subject to limitations as are provided for by law and are necessary for respect of the rights or reputations of others, protection of national security or of public order, public health or morals and respect for religions and beliefs.' The thought buried in this awful, wooden prose is as ugly as the language in which it is expressed: watch what you say, because our declared intention is to criminalise opinions that differ with the one true faith. Let nobody say that they have not been warned."
The five-year-long court case involving two Christian pastors should suffice to demonstrate the lunacy of Victoria's anti-vilification laws. The entire case was a travesty of justice, and was simply an attempt by Muslims to silence Christian voices which dared to question Islam.
To have such laws on an international scale would achieve as much for the Islamists as 9/11 ever did. As always, eternal vigilance is the price of freedom, and this goes for religious freedom as well. The question is, will the West resist this clampdown on freedom of speech, or will it instead submit to appeasement and dhimmitude?
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
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