Tuesday, January 17, 2012
An Alarming Trend Across the Continent
Last Thursday the emeritus Norwegian Labour politician Thorbjørn Jagland, now an apparatchik in the EU superstate, expressed his concern “that other countries, and not just Norway, will start to demand to govern themselves.” The horror!
Our Norwegian correspondent The Observer has kindly translated Mr. Jagland’s piece. The translator includes this note:
"Have a look at this op-ed authored by Thorbjørn Jagland, former Norwegian Labour Prime Minister, now current Secretary General of the Council of Europe and Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel committee. It was published a couple of days ago, and gives us an insight into the totalitarian mentality of diehard EU fanatics."
An excerpt from the translated op-ed from Nye Meninger:
In the current political climate in Europe he can expect the support of the nationalist right to break up not only the vast open European market which Norway is part of through our EEA membership, but also the euro and the entire EU cooperation.
This will be the starting point of a renationalizing process of politics in a wide range of areas, including human rights policies. Politicians would then be able to emulate the behavior of Prime Minister Orban in Hungary when he answered the critics of the new Hungarian constitution: “Nobody has the right to tell us which laws we adopt.”
Yes, we do. This is precisely why we built the new Europe after the war: the obligation and the right to interfere in each other’s internal affairs. European countries accepted the commitments stipulated in the European Convention on Human Rights which requires us to do so. A court was even established in order that citizens could take their own countries to court. The European nations are collectively responsible for ensuring that the verdicts are upheld.
The single market of which Norway is a part through the EEA agreement, is an expression of the same: mutual rights and obligations.
I see an alarming trend across the continent at the moment: more and more people are talking about taking back the decision-making processes from the EU. Ørnhøi’s wish may come true, but perhaps not in the way he had intended, namely that other countries, and not just Norway, will start to demand to govern themselves.
In an age when Wilders, the True Finns and Le Pen’s daughter appear in the shadows, it’s simply too dangerous to jeopardize what is built through agreements and legislation.
Judge: NJ Church Illegally Banned Homosexual Ceremony
A New Jersey judge says the Methodist Church violated a state law in refusing to allow a same-sex ceremony on its property in 2007.
On Thursday, Administrative Law Judge Solomon Metzger said the decision made by the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association violated New Jersey's discrimination laws.
Metzger ruled the pavilion area where the couple wanted to hold the ceremony is a public space and is advertised as a wedding venue without any religious pre-conditions. The church argued that the pavilion was an extension of its wedding ministry, an argument that the judge rejected.
Jim Campbell, the attorney representing the church, says they may appeal the decision. "The government should not be able to force a private Christian organization to use its property in a way that would violate its own religious beliefs," he said in a statement.
The plaintiffs in the case are not seeking monetary damages, and the judge did not impose any penalties when he made his ruling.
Straight Talk About Economic Inequality
Occupy Wall Street and dozens of offshoot groups have proven far more adept at moral theater than policymaking. Yet their operative assumption – economic inequality is reaching crisis proportions – has become the coin of a wider realm. Governments, beginning with our own, thus must “do something.” President Obama, for one, is listening – and acting.
Call it “class envy” or “a cry for justice,” but outrage toward the highly affluent, personified by the perfidious “1 percent,” is real, large and growing. This impulse, in nuanced tones, also can be found in respectable venues. While mass squatting in public spaces grabbed headlines last year, the more significant news for the long run may have been the release of various reports pointing to a widening gulf between rich and poor, both here and abroad. Advocates of redistribution have seized upon the findings as a justification for higher taxes upon a presumably insular plutocracy unwilling to part with its morally suspect gains. Without such action, they argue, the poor will continue to grow in number and desperation, while the middle class will continue to edge toward the precipice of poverty. Almost everyone, in the end, will revolt. In this neo-Marxist view, the rewards of global capitalism are not only uneven, but positively destabilizing.
“Inequality” can be defined in many ways. One of the most reliable and common measurement tools is the “Gini coefficient.” Named after early-20th century Italian statistician-sociologist Corrado Gini, author of the landmark paper, “Variability and Mutability,” the Gini coefficient, in an economic context, measures income distribution. A coefficient of “zero” represents a situation in which everybody has an identical income; “1” represents an opposite situation in which all income goes to one person. In the world of nations, the closer a country approaches “1,” the more likely its upper economic tier operates as an oligarchy.
Yes, it’s hypothetical. But like “perfect competition” and “Pareto optimality,” the Gini coefficient is a mental construct intended to summarize broad social tendencies, not achieve some ideal result. The problem, from a pro-market standpoint, lies not with the coefficient itself but with its interpretation. Egalitarians use it to call for extracting income from persons not needing it to persons who do. America apparently is in need of redistribution therapy.
Last May the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a consortium of nearly three dozen advanced nations founded in 1961 to promote social progress and free trade, released a widely publicized study, “Growing Income Inequality in OECD Countries: What Drives It and How Can Policy Tackle It?” From the mid 1980s until the onset of the current global financial crisis, noted the authors, real disposable household incomes in OECD nations (the U.S. being one) increased annually on average by 1.7 percent. But growth hasn’t been evenly distributed, say critics. Too many people are being left behind, a reality owing heavily to increased foreign direct investment in OECD countries and rapid adaptation of new technologies that render long-valued skills obsolete.
America is now beset with inequality, the study noted ruefully. Indeed, our Gini coefficient not only increased, it increased to nearly 0.35 by the late 2000s, becoming in the process the least equalized of all surveyed OECD-member nations, second only to Mexico, whose figure was 0.45. Among nations with rising inequality, the Scandinavian countries and the Czech Republic had the least disparities. France, Hungary and Belgium exhibited negligible change. If it’s any comfort to us, the only countries experiencing less inequality over time were Turkey and Greece, with Greece winding up by far the more equal of the two. As an aside, most Greeks these days don’t seem impressed....
The view that inequality in America is reaching crisis proportions, however, goes well beyond the White House. Many leading pundits take it as given. Rana Foroohar’s recent cover story for Time magazine (November 14, 2011), “What Ever Happened to Upward Mobility?,” opined, “(I)nequality is rising, now reaching levels not seen since the Gilded Age.” Atlantic magazine associate editor Max Fisher argued in September that without initiatives such as the Buffett rule, our latter-day robber barons might lead us toward oblivion.
These assumptions need to be challenged. Here, then, in abbreviated form, are several reasonable retorts.
First, affluent households didn’t get that way off the backs of others. “Income is not a zero-sum game,” notes economist Steven Kaplan of the University of Chicago. “Somebody else’s income does not come at your expense. It could…but in general these numbers don’t have automatic implications for the 99 percent.” In 2011, the number of millionaire households in the U.S. was 8.4 million, an 8 percent rise from the year before. Can anyone argue that this increase caused suffering among non-millionaires? By the logic of zero-sum economics, non-millionaires should have done very well in 2008, a year in which the millionaire population dropped by 27 percent. As we all know, it was a bad year across the board.
Second, the number of households in income quintiles for any given year will be identical, but the roster is constantly changing. Those in the top income brackets in 1979, or for that matter 1999, weren’t necessarily the people who were there in 2007. Let’s have a look at the millionaires so reviled by the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators. The Washington, D.C.-based Tax Foundation recently went over IRS tax returns for 1999 of 675,000 millionaire households and followed them on a year-by-year basis through 2007. Just one year later, in 2000, only 338,000 of these households had remained millionaires. And only 38,000, a mere 6 percent of the total, had retained their millionaire status for the entire period. Even more crucial were advances in upward mobility. The Tax Foundation study revealed that three-fifths of the households in the bottom quintile in 1999 had moved to a higher quintile by 2007. And about a third in that lowest quintile had moved to the middle quintile or higher. “The land of opportunity” remains more than a cliché.
Third, income is related to family structure. Non-elderly husband-wife families have higher incomes than other households, if for no other reason, than the fact that married couples have two potential full-time earners. But they constitute a progressively falling share of U.S. households. In 2010, they represented 48 percent of all households, down from 53.8 percent in 2000 and 56 percent in 1990. In constant (2009) dollars, the median income of married-couple families in 1990 was $63,469, rising to $71,627 in 2009. For female-headed households, no spouse present – which has accounted for about 30 percent of all households for the past two decades, but more than double from 1970 – the respective figures were a mere $26,937 and $29,770. Related to this, 40.7 percent of female-headed households in 2010 lived below the poverty line; for married couples the figure was 8.8 percent.
Fourth, immigrants, legal or otherwise, constituted 40 million of the nation’s population in 2010. That was up from 19.8 million in 1990 and 31.1 million in 2000. As a proportion of the total population, the respective figures for 1990, 2000, and 2010 were 7.9 percent, 11.1 percent and 12.9 percent. A little over half in 2010 consisted of Hispanics. Though not necessarily immigrants, Hispanics do serve as an effective proxy for research purposes when detailed ethnic breakdowns on immigration are not available. And the Hispanic population increased during 2000-10 by a whopping 43 percent, whereas the non-Hispanic population as a whole rose by about 5 percent. Moreover, Hispanic incomes in 2010 were only $37,759, well under the $54,620 for non-Hispanic whites. Putting these things together – rapid population growth and far lower incomes among Hispanics – an inconvenient truth comes out: Widening inequality is largely driven by an “inclusive” immigration policy. Don’t expect any presidential candidates, Democrat or Republican, however, to make this point.
Fifth, inasmuch as other countries, especially in Europe, have less income inequality than us, it is largely because their larger welfare state edifices rest heavily on high taxes and bank debt. Many European Union parliaments lately have passed, or are considering passing, tough austerity packages to avert pending disaster. Here is one disturbing indicator: EU nations have a composite 20 percent unemployment rate for persons under age 25. For Italy, Greece and Spain – each in deep financial crisis – the respective figures are roughly 28 percent, 38 percent and 45 percent. European investment advisor Patrick Young puts it this way: “The eurozone bailout fund is on the verge of running out of money as soon as one of those major economies such as Spain or Italy defaults.” Even governments that pursue economic equality, in other words, are coming to grasp its inherent limits. They have no other choice.
There are other arguments against aggressive equalization of incomes, such as the Census Bureau’s non-inclusion of in-kind benefits (e.g., Medicaid, housing vouchers, food stamps) as reportable income. The larger point is that economic equality, beyond a certain point, can be achieved only at a high cost. It’s true that a nation can’t afford to leave segments of its population behind. But way to inclusion, here or elsewhere, shouldn’t burden the most productive members of society with high taxes in order to cover the bills of those who can’t or won’t pay them. Inclusion instead ought to be achieved through such means as economic growth, low taxes, enforceable property rights, free flows of information and limited immigration. Liberty shouldn’t be expendable.
The writer above is too polite to mention it but America has two very large minorities with very low average ability levels. Very few of them are capable of high achievement so will always weigh down America's overall performance economically. Jesus could well have been talking about blacks and Hispanics when he said: "The poor ye always have with you". The only really valid comparison would be between the populations of European ancestry in the various countries surveyed
Tory unreconstructed 'modernisers' want to go back to the future
This is like "Life on Mars" in reverse. A bunch of new Conservative MPs seem to have crashed their cars in 1998 and woken up in 2012. This 301 Group as it calls itself will apparently meet with David Cameron today at No 10 in order to impart an urgent message: the party needs to modernise its image. In order to do that, it must go beyond the old obsessions – Europe, immigration and "cuts" – in order to embrace the more fashionable themes of the environment, poverty and the benefits of the welfare state. What? Hello?
Where have these people been for the past two years? Has nobody told them that immigration was the number one issue on the doorstep in the last general election – and that putting it at the top of your priorities does not require being a bigot? Or that it is now the economy which is at the top of the list of ordinary voters worries – and that they are overwhelmingly persuaded of the need for spending cuts as a way of dealing with the present crisis? Are they aware that "the environment" (which is to say, global warming) is electoral death as an electoral issue: that even if voters are not positively scepticial about climate change itself, they are furiously resistant to the idea of green taxes and put environmental issues way back in the queue of their concerns?
On the matter of poverty, have they taken in the fact that Iain Duncan Smith has inaugurated a whole new Conservative approach which involves a far deeper understanding of its causes – among them being welfare dependency and the breakdown of the family – as well as a more compassionate view of the plight of the poor? Good grief. What are these people thinking? Do they not realise that the glossy and superficial image obsession of the Tory modernisers was what made the party seem shallow and opportunistic, and effectively cost the Conservatives the majority they should have won at the last general election?
I do hope that the meeting today goes well and that Mr Cameron treats this delegation from the past with the kindness that deranged people require.
Easily offended? You really should be
A Jewish writer thinks Jews have something to learn from Muslims
Why is antisemitism so popular and prevalent all over the world? Why does it continue, unchecked despite the horrors of 70 years ago? People who care about the fate of the Jews are always searching for subtle, indefinable reasons to explain the continuing intensity of anti-Jewish hostility and hatred. The answer is far from mysterious.
As a matter of fact, the truth is so obvious that you'd have to be brainless not to see it.
My honest view is that as Jews we do little if anything to fight back against such prejudice. It seems to me that everyone knows that whatever the crime committed against a Jew, the only price you'll pay will be that of the ride to the crime scene and back. Then, instead of blaming the criminals, Jews will get involved in an orgy of self-reproach and guilt. And after blaming themselves, they'll start blaming each other.
Somebody will be screaming: "It's your own fault. Why would you be walking in that neighbourhood at two in the morning?". The other one will argue: "Why would I think they would recognise that I am Jewish?" and another voice will yell: "At least you could've been smart enough to wear trainers."
If people really thought that Jews could represent any kind of risk, they would cower before expressing hostility
Then somebody says: "Let's report this to the police," while somebody else is saying: "Are you crazy? What if they find out we reported it? Do you want to get us all killed? Right now they don't know who we are. Let's just get out of the neighbourhood".
It's because antisemites are aware that these are the typical reactions of Jews to any violence committed against them that they feel free to launch their attacks whenever they please. Is it any accident that in Britain and Europe you hear about a rising tide of anti-Jewish attacks, but you rarely hear about the same thing against Muslims? (I know that even right now, you the reader are trembling in fear of what I might write about the Muslims.) And the sad truth about Israel is that its very existence serves as either a cloak or a spur for such bigotry.
While I defend anyone's right to censure the Israeli government, the fact is that too often such criticism is either a coded means of attacking Jews or it has the unintended consequence of feeding and encouraging antisemitism.
Take the former MP for Birmingham Ladywood, Clare Short, who has attacked Israel as the main cause of violence in the world, when it is obvious that for her and her like the only real crime is that the country still exists - something she seems to consider an offense to human decency.
What right do Israelis have to try to live in peace with the Arabs and constantly thwart every attempt of the Palestinian suicide bombers to annihilate their whole population, she seemed to ask? Ms Short claims that the Jews in Israel practice an even more egregious form of apartheid than that which existed in South Africa. Why does she and others call it "apartheid", when every Arab has equal access in every school, to every job, every health-care service and every unemployment benefit? When Arab citizens even hold office in the Israeli parliament and in every other branch of the Israeli government?
Are these people so ignorant that they don't know that none of these opportunities would be granted to any Jew living in an Arab nation? Besides, how would a Jew be able to achieve any of these same opportunities in Arab countries when, in most cases, it wouldn't even be safe for them to live there?
When they attack Israel in such unbalanced, irrational and extreme terms, they simply give licence to thousands of antisemites to peddle the kind of bigotry and hatred from which Jews have suffered for so many hundreds of years.
But these people are likely aware, as are antisemites all over the world, that you suffer few consequences by attacking Jews, particularly if you do so under the cover of attacking Israel.
If people really thought that Jews could represent any kind of risk, they would cower before expressing such hostility, as I believe they now do with Muslims. When was the last time that an Englishman made a hateful speech against Muslims? Not that I'd approve of that. On the contrary - but it seems to me that people are so fearful of Muslims that there are afraid to even say "hello" without apologising. British and American people are now begging forgiveness from Muslims for things they don't even remember doing.
And don't get me started on George Galloway, who makes Clare Short look like Simon Wiesenthal. Mr Galloway is yet another person who attacks Israel while making nice with terrorists, dictators and some of the most vicious antisemites on the planet.
The point is this: when you criticise an Israeli administration, you express views (rightly or wrongly) about the policies of a particular party or group of politicians. When you attack Israel, you express hostility towards an entire population, a nation whose founding and continuing purpose is to provide sanctuary to one of the most oppressed peoples in the history of mankind.
Of course, if you don't think they should be given such sanctuary, then that's another matter - but bear in mind that you'll find yourself in the good company of a host of despots and tyrants.
Hostility to Israel is often used as a blanket prejudice, a blunt instrument with which to attack Jews in place of any reasoned criticism of the Israeli government, which - just like any other government - cannot be exempt from censure or disapproval.
However, such bigotry is far from new. Take one of my country's former presidents, Harry Truman, in the White House at the time of Israel's independence. Jews still wax lyrical about his love for the Jewish people. Whenever two Jews get together and mention Truman, out comes the story of his Jewish business partner, Eddie Jacobson. What they forget is that Truman actually found Jews distasteful and treated his partner with utter disdain. This is evidenced not least when Mr Jacobson pleaded with his former associate, by now the US President, to recognise the state of Israel. Truman's reaction does not bear repeating on the pages of a family newspaper.
As reprehensible, if not worse, was another recent president - Franklin D Roosevelt. At the height of Hitler's atrocities many Jews died needlessly because Roosevelt ignored their plight and, in some cases, even helped Hitler along by refusing to open up US borders, thus sending thousands back to their deaths in the camps.
Was this born out of antisemitism? Or plain indifference? In the end, is there any distinction?
And just the other day the US Ambassador to Belgium, Howard Gutman, came awfully close to finding antisemitism excusable in some circumstances. Calling modern Muslim hatred of Jews a "different phenomenon" from other kinds of antisemitism, he declared: "It is a tension and perhaps hatred largely born of and reflecting the tension between Israel, the Palestinian territories and neighbouring Arab states in the Middle East over the continuing Israeli-Palestinian problem."
And this coming from the son of a Holocaust survivor.
But of course, instead of firing him, President Obama remained mute. And as a result, whether by design or just by plain stupid omission, my president has given a quiet thumbs up the idea that it is "OK to dislike Israel".
Unfortunately, as America goes, so goes the world. But sadly, as the Haggadah says, "in every generation one rises up to destroy us".
Unlike Britain's Jewish community, which spends much of its time trying to blend into the background, many self-proclaimed Muslim leaders spend time demanding respect. We dare not paint the wrong cartoon, sing the wrong song, write the wrong book, look the wrong way, or even laugh without an explanation.
The Jewish people will never survive if we don't learn a great lesson from the power of the Muslim population.
If this world had the same fear of offending Jews as it has of offending Muslims, attacks on the Jews would never occur. Outside Israel, people never feel threatened when attacking a Jew, because he's a little guy with glasses carrying a briefcase who, in case of an attack, will pull out a fountain pen rather than a gun. He won't be ready to shoot the attacker; he'll be busy looking for a piece of paper to write his name down.
"The attacker" always knows that when his victim is a Jew, he won't get hit or hurt. The Jew won't fight. He'll cry, beg, scream or run. The attacker knows he can't lose life or limb because the victim can't fight; he's only preparing to sue.
As I said, this applies to the Jews outside of Israel. If we in the Diaspora continue to follow this pattern of traditional helplessness, instead of emulating the Israelis, who are ready to fight and survive at any price, we will continue to be hounded by antisemitism for the rest of our lives.
We must stand up and be counted, we must show how proud we are to identify with a people surrounded by nations who are committed to their destruction. Even if it infuriates the Claire Shorts, George Galloways and Howard Gutmans of the world.
It invariably takes more courage to stand up against prejudice that than to join in with it, but is it too much to ask that our leaders display such courage from time to time?
And by the way, in case you think that- despite everything I'm saying - the battle has been won and that we no longer need Israel to fulfil its historic purpose, take a look at what is happening in Hungary right now.
Respected public figures- newspaper editors and journalists, judges, political commentators, human rights campaigners (a number of them Jews) - are being removed in favour of members belonging to the ruling, extreme right-wing party. Only last week Istvan Marta, director of Hungary's National Theatre, was forced out by the government and told he would be replaced by an actor who recently campaigned for the right-wing extremist, antisemitic Jobbik Party and by a playwright who is a professed antisemite.
If that doesn't sound horribly familiar and frighten the hell out of you, it should.
But in spite of all that, consider this: if the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of star dust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly the Jew ought hardly to be heard of, but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his commercial importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk.
His contributions to the world's list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine and abstruse learning are also very out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers.
He has made a marvellous fight in this world in all ages; and has done it with his hands tied behind him.
He could be vain of himself and be excused for it. The Egyptians, the Babylonians and the Persians rose, filled the planet with sound and splendour, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greeks and Romans followed and made a vast noise, and they were gone; other people have sprung up and held their torch high for a time but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, and have vanished.
The Jew saw them all, survived them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert but aggressive mind.
All things are mortal but the Jews; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?
Good question. And no, those aren't my words. They were written in 1897, by another American, the great Mark Twain.
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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.