Saturday, July 11, 2009

King Barack

Oh, how quickly times have changed. Just a few short years ago, Democrats were up in arms over King George III's (President George W. Bush's) "unconstitutional" executive power grabs. Where are these people now? I'll tell you where they are: right in the thick of it, enabling President Barack Obama to consolidate and exercise unprecedented power.

Remember when Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy complained that the constitutional "checks and balances that have served to constrain abuses of power for more than two centuries in this country" were at risk because Republicans controlled the executive and legislative branches? How about Sen. Russ Feingold, who was looking at impeachment as a remedy to keep the president in check and prevent him from acquiring power "like King George III"? Today these same senators are not just passively mute about Obama's power grabs; they are co-conspirators.

You might think the repeated conservative complaint about Obama's egregious lack of transparency is, by now, a tired talking point. But we're not just referring to minor procedural matters that are substantively inconsequential. He hasn't just breached his promise to make his legislation available for public preview. He and his congressional cohorts are burying very important matters in legislation.

The Waxman-Markey cap and tax debacle that just slipped through the House was bad enough, with its mandated broad-based assaults on America's taxpayers, energy and economy in exchange for no appreciable expected environmental benefits. But look at its stealth provision, reported by the Washington Examiner, creating a three-year package of unemployment benefits, a $1,500 job relocation allowance and a health insurance premium subsidy for workers unemployed as a result of this "jobs creation" bill. Unbelievable! How can any congressman who voted for this monstrosity possibly get re-elected?

This was nothing new, though, as you'll recall that Obama's non-stimulative stimulus bill increased unemployment benefits for those not magically benefited by that job creations bill.

Indeed, there are so many Obama abuses I can only chronicle a fraction of them in a short column. But just consider a few others, and ask yourself how long even rank-and-file Democrats can justify supporting such tyrannical madness by this arrogant chief executive, who truly is -- as distinguished from Bush -- engaged in a daily quest to "dictate" fundamental, structural changes to this nation:

--ABC News reported that a senior White House official said the urgency of extending the expiring U.S.-Russia nuclear arms treaty "might mean temporarily bypassing the Senate's constitutional role in ratifying treaties." Did you hear that, Sens. Leahy and Feingold?

--President Obama is appointing so many "czars" to help him run the government without the usual accountability of Cabinet-level positions that even Sen. Robert Byrd said this practice "can threaten the constitutional system of checks and balances." Byrd's worried, but what do Leahy and Feingold think of Obama's pay czar, who'll have broad discretion over executive pay?

--Obama has so insulated himself from ordinary press scrutiny that even liberal journalists Chip Reid and Helen Thomas grilled White House press secretary Robert Gibbs for Obama's "tightly controlled" town hall meeting on health care. During that forum, Obama "coincidentally" called on three people (out of 200) who work with groups trying to pass his health care proposal.

--Obama is so intent on bullying our ally Israel that he is breaching a previous Bush administration-negotiated agreement between Israel and the United States to allow some Israeli construction in West Bank settlements to allow for natural growth.

--The Obama-Holder Justice Department dismissed a strong case against New Black Panther Party members for billy club-style voter intimidation because the members were intimidating for Obama's election.

--Obama and Holder are going to vacate an order of prior Attorney General Michael Mukasey's stating that immigrants facing deportation do not have an automatic right to an effective lawyer.

--Obama and Holder are now mirandizing terrorists on the battlefield.

--Some have questioned whether Obama-Holder ordered the FBI to "back off" anti-terror investigations of radicalized Muslim converts, such as the one who police say shot two military recruiters in Little Rock, Ark.

--Obama's auto task force used "intimidation tactics" against Chrysler's senior bondholders and called their Democratic lawyer, Tom Lauria, a "terrorist" for refusing to accept its offer outright. Where, by the way, were Leahy and Feingold -- and all the liberal media -- when Obama's deal involved an executive-forced transfer of ownership from shareholders and creditors to Obama's favored unions? Were they also unbothered by claims of Chrysler dealers that they were threatened and lied to?

--Obama's thugs fired AmeriCorps inspector general Gerald Walpin and slandered him as virtually demented because he blew the whistle on the corrupt practices of Obama's buddies.

To say this is scratching the surface is a monumental exaggeration.


TN: New homosexual rights push targets Metro Nashville policies

Another round in the battle over gay and lesbian employment rights is set to come to Metro Nashville in coming months. It's certain to strike reminders of the contentious three-month-long political melee in 2003 that ultimately failed to extend employment protections based on sexual orientation. It became known as the "gay rights" legislation, and the council in that year's elections tilted toward a more conservative makeup for the next four years.

This time proponents say they are better organized and will be more prepared to win the debate, and they say the city and country are in a different place than six years ago. They also believe the council elected in 2007 is more liberal than the one that voted down the earlier measure in a 19-18 vote.

The ordinance being discussed would be limited to protecting Metro employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. No bill has been filed, but proponents say they don't expect it to include private businesses. "We think that is the target that makes sense," said Chris Sanders, chairman of the Tennessee Equality Project. "We believe everybody in Nashville deserves a nondiscrimination policy, but starting with Metro makes sense."

Religious conservatives and other opponents outmaneuvered supporters of the bill in 2003 through an aggressive grass-roots campaign, largely through e-mail, that brought protesters to City Hall and overwhelmed a disjointed effort.

Opponents are laying the groundwork to get word out to their constituencies that the bill is being discussed again. David Fowler, head of the Family Action Council of Tennessee, said the concern is that rights limited to Metro employees will set a precedent that will eventually extend to the private sector and other governments across the state.

He said there's no objective test to establish sexual orientation and gender identification. He said his statewide group, based in Williamson County, believes they won't be alone in opposing this type of legislation.

"There will be a number of citizens, business owners and organizations that will speak out about the ordinance and the sometimes unintended consequences of putting something like this into law," said Fowler, a former state senator from the Chattanooga area who lives in Williamson County. Asked about the unintended consequences, he said passage of a bill would lead to lawsuits and confusion and awkward situations, citing a recent publicized case in Maine in which a transgender student who was biologically a boy was allowed to use the girls restroom.

Megan Barry, an at-large member of the Metro Council, is a lead proponent who is working the political channels with hopes of introducing a bill this summer or fall. She said she doesn't expect the same contentious battle that occurred in 2003. The issue nationally is better known than six years ago.

The Metro School Board last year adopted a similar policy in its new agreement with teachers with no controversy, she said. The school system also is revising its anti-discrimination policy to include more inclusive language, according to the head of the system's human resources division.

Barry said the council has members committed to "progressive and social justice issues," and the issue was discussed in the 2007 campaigns. "At some point, now that the budget has passed, the Metro Council needs to pass equal protection for all Metro employees because it's the right thing to do," Barry said.


Taking a stand against the hyper-regulation of British life

When everything from looking after kids to dancing in pubs requires a licence, Josie Appleton suggests a summer rebellion against regulation

There is no doubt that, over the past few years, there has been a fundamental shift in the relationship between state and civil society in Britain. But this shift has a peculiar quality. It is not that the state is oppressing society, or remoulding society in line with a political ideology. There are no New Labour boot camps; no smashing of newspapers that criticise the government.

The peculiar quality to state intervention was suggested by a letter I received recently, from my local National Health Service (NHS) trust. The letter announced a new NHS Camden initiative called ‘Walking Maps’, which ‘encourages local people to lead a healthier lifestyle by incorporating walking into their schedules’. The trust had mapped five walks around the borough of Camden in London, and invited me to come to the launch – where I could try one of the walks, and also ‘get lifestyle advice from our health trainers’ about healthy eating and so on.

It is not so much that the state is remoulding civil society. Instead, the state is demanding that we live our everyday lives through it. We are invited for a walk with the state; we are invited to eat with the state. More and more of social life is now lived through the state as an intermediary. Our everyday actions are supervised – and authorised – by an official bureaucracy.

The emblem of this peculiar situation is the licence. Obviously in pubs, you need a licence to sell alcohol. Now, however, you also need a licence for just about every other activity you might want to perform inside a pub. You need a sporting license to play darts. If somebody wants to watch the darts, you need a sporting events licence. There is a licence for dancing, which can be strictly enforced: undercover council officials spotted people ‘swaying’ in a bar in Westminster and chastised the owners. There is a licence to play music. There is even a ‘spoken word’ license, to cover poetry readings and plays.

The Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check, where all adults who work with children must first submit to an analysis of their pasts, is in effect a safe-adult licence – and if you don’t have it you shouldn’t go anywhere near children who are not your own, we are told. There is a licence to protest. In some areas you need a licence to hand out political leaflets, or to take photographs.

The meaning of the licence is, in effect, that you need the state’s permission to live. Your life is licensed. You can only dance, protest, photograph, volunteer and so on if you have the correct card.

Unlicensed social life is declared dirty and dangerous. If you don’t have the CRB check, you are a potential paedophile. If you don’t have an ID card, you are not a legitimate citizen (though the UK government has recently announced that ID cards probably won’t be compulsory). If you don’t have your photography licence, you are probably a terrorist taking pictures of public buildings in order to destroy those buildings at a later date.

Everyone who is not on a database, or who does not have a card to account for their actions, is illegitimate at best, and dangerous or tainted at worst. The state puts itself in the position of constituting civil society – not, however, by remoulding it, but merely by requiring that everyday life is authorised. It becomes the mass issuer of permission slips – permission to dance, sing, or read poetry. The state doesn’t so much ban activities as request that we ask it for its permission first.

We are seeing the bureaucratisation of everyday life. The methods of bureaucracy – which would have occurred in only very specific spheres in the past – now become part of every sphere.

There is a code or policy for the simplest situations. The English Golf Association has a ‘late-pick-up’ policy, which is a policy to deal with the situation of parents picking up their kids late after golf practice. The volunteer should wait with the child – categorically not give the child a lift home! – preferably with another adult, and in open view. If the parents cannot be contacted, the volunteer should consider calling the police for advice. Getting a child to and from sports practice now comes with an instruction manual.

Public space has been divided into zones: home zone, no-booze zone, low-emission zone, and so on. Although this is bureaucracy-speak, so it is not always clear what a particular zone means, and what implications it has for your behaviour. In a café in Elephant and Castle in London, I saw a sign saying that this was part of an ‘Age Check Zone’.

You could say: it’s only a drink in the park, it’s only the local nursery, it’s only a game of darts in the pub – who cares if there are licences and checks? These are not suitably dramatic freedom issues: these are not about police beatings, or smashing printing presses, or banning political organisations.

But I would turn this around and say: if we can’t even have a drink in the park, how can we have a demonstration? If we need permission to help out at our child’s nursery, how can we change the government? If social life is licensed at its every step, then we cannot be citizens or subjects in any other respect.

The Manifesto Club campaigns on we what call ‘flashpoint freedom issues’. These are the points at which there is a conflict between state regulation and people’s aspirations, desires or sense of their own autonomy. These are the points where the silent process of state regulation can be revealed, made conscious, and protested against.

Our campaigns – including our campaigns against vetting, or against booze bans – have laid the groundwork for this. Our Freedom Summer events series takes this project further, around the rallying cry: social life should not be licensed!


Theologians shouldn't tresspass on economics

Ever since the encyclical "Rerum novarum" of 1891, the church has issued judgments about economic matters, defending some freedoms but also finding a place for government intervention. We see the same in "Centesimus Annus" by John Paul II -- so the present Pope is hardly breaking new ground. The encyclicals concerned are however designed to curb more extreme Leftist tendencies in some parts of the church. The church has understood the logic of markets for centuries but has to take a stance that will placate the many who do not if they are to be listened to at all. So the article below is in fact less realistic than the church. It is good theory but difficult politics

If an economist used his position to pontificate on theology the world would laugh. But when a theologian uses his credentials, in an imaginary field, to lecture on economics we are expected to pay attention.

As this blogger sees things the one institution that has no right anymore to lecture on morality is the Roman Catholic establishment. But the Vatican has been sticking its nose into the affairs of the world for centuries and won’t stop now. Consider some of the uninformed statements made by the current Vatican leader, Joseph Ratzinger, who uses the name Benedict when pretending to speak for God.

In a new encyclical on economics Ratzinger continues the Catholic tradition of opposing depoliticized, free markets. Like his predecessors he misstates what depoliticized markets are. He writes that “profit is useful if it serves as a means towards an end” but if profit “is produced... without the common good as its ultimate end, it risks destroying wealth and creating poverty.”

Ratzinger has been concerned with imaginary “truth” for so long that he doesn’t understand how this world works or why. Profit is a motivating factor. Each of us acts to promote our self interest—even the Catholic hierarchy. That motivation can lead to good and to bad but seeking “the common good” is more likely to lead to bad results than good. Let me explain something that the Vatican, always besotted with power, has never understood.

When profit-making is politicized it leads to bad results. When profit-making is depoliticized it leads to good results. First, consider the depoliticized market. A depoliticized market is one where individual entrepreneurs are unable to impose their will on unwilling consumers. To a large extent the local grocery store is a depoliticized market (though even here politics can distort things). This store must entice you to buy there because it has no ability to force you to purchase there.

The result is that they have to make an effort to serve your good if they wish to make a profit. Because they lack the ability to use force they need your voluntary co-operation in order to make a profit. Like them, you too are looking out for your own self-interest. You will trade with them provided you believe that you are better off making this exchange than any other trade you might make. Your decision, like theirs, is based entirely on your self-interest.

You are not attempting to increase their profits. If they profit, or not, is of no concern to you. You are merely making an exchange that you believe will benefit yourself. Similarly the store is doing the same thing. By seeking their own self-interest both are acting in ways that makes the other better off. Yet neither is seeking to improve the life of the other.

The danger comes in when concepts like the “common good” are allowed to dominate. This concept is used to politicize the market. The argument is that an unregulated market is not one where the common good dominates so individuals act in bad ways. But how? Without the ability to force other traders into unwilling exchanges there is no ability to create exchanges where one party loses.

The only way to systematically destroy the mutual benefits of free exchange is to politicize the market. Politicization means that the state will forcibly intervene into the exchanges. But what can government intervention accomplish?

It might require two individuals to exchange, who would have done so anyway. But since they would have exchanged without the intervention then government has, in fact, accomplished nothing.

It might force an exchange where neither of the parties would have made the exchange. Why didn’t they make the exchange voluntarily, in this case? The answer is: because each considered the exchange a net loss. Intervention here makes each trader worse off, not better off.

What the advocates of politicized markets really want is to force exchanges where one partner benefits and the other one loses. Ratzinger, totally ignorant of economics, believes that the political classes will use state power to force exchanges that benefit the poor and powerless. The Vatican, one of the wealthiest institutions in the world, is quite willing to use the wealth of other people to “benefit” the poor but rather unwilling to use their own wealth in that manner. They are willing to use funds donated from their members for such things but the vast holdings of the Vatican itself are not sacrificed for the “good” of the poor.

Politicized markets attract predatory individuals who use state power for their own benefit, or for the benefit of their favored friends or supporters. The poor and powerless never control the politicized power structures no matter what Ratzinger or Marx or anyone else may think. Power attracts the powerful, not the powerless. Concentrated political power, established under the pretence of the “common good” always ends up in the hands of private interests. More importantly these private interests are able to impose exchanges on individuals that they otherwise would not make.

The reality is that politicized markets can never serve the common good since they can only impose exchanges which are not wanted, not exchanges that are wanted.

What Ratzinger wants is political control over markets. He fantasizes that political power will be used according to the values he espouses. In truth, that power will be used in ways quite different from what he wants.

Ratzinger wants a state system of redistribution of wealth. How ignorant can this man be? When power is in the hands of the powerful there is real wealth redistribution. But it comes at the expense of the poor and the powerless. One of the great myths of redistributive state is that it redistributes wealth toward the needy. While there may be some show-programs which appear to help the poor and powerless, for the most part redistribution will go up the economic ladder not down.

Ratzinger continues what has been church tradition for centuries: opposition to depoliticized markets and a belief in centralized control of markets based on Catholic teaching. The Vatican has never been happy promoting their own morality on matters such as sex or economics. What they have always yearned for, and still yearn for, is for state power to coercively force Catholic moral values on others. Ratzinger wants the forced redistribution of wealth, not charity. The Vatican has consistently been unable to envision their moral agenda without the use of state power. This sort of fascistic tendency is not one the Vatican is about to give up, no matter what some “libertarian” apologists for Catholicism say.



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.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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