Monday, May 25, 2015

What Memorial Day Means

Memorial Day is a time each year to remember those who died for our nation in war against our enemies.  In honoring these good men, it is just as important to remember what they were fighting and dying to defend and to preserve.  These days, it seems as if politicians of every stripe prattle on about the economy and restoring prosperity to the middle class and similar appeals to material self-interest.

But men did not die on the bloody beaches of distant lands for material gains, and the men who founded our nation did not fight for our independence for commercial reasons.  One of the earliest expressions of this purpose was made by the Scots in their own war of independence against the British.  The 1320 Declaration of Arbroath states that “[i]t is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honors that we are fighting, but for freedom — for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.”

Our own Declaration of Independence states that the purpose of government is the protection of:  “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” and then, significantly, at the end of that document, states that the signers pledge “our lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”  The Preamble to the Constitution that followed eleven years later notes the purposes of the Constitution as “to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure Domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity[.]”

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

WH threatens veto of trade bill over currency language

The White House on Tuesday threatened to veto a key trade bill if controversial anti-currency-manipulation language is attached to it.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said an amendment proposed by GOP Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio) would undermine the independence of the Federal Reserve to set currency rules.
The language has endangered a Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill that would pave the way for a sweeping 12-nation trade agreement that is at the top of President Obama’s agenda.

The Ohio senator, who is facing a tough reelection race, has said that manufacturing companies in his state have been hurt by competitors that deliberately lower the value of their currency.

His amendment would mandate that future trade agreements include enforceable currency language.

Portman’s push has put him at odds with Republican leaders in Congress who back the TPA legislation, but he defended the amendment Tuesday, arguing it should not have drawn a veto threat.

Atlanta Fed Drops GDP Growth Estimate to Under One Percent

Every Wednesday the Atlanta branch of the Federal Reserve System (the Atlanta “Fed”) releases its proprietary “nowcast” on how well the economy is doing. Every Wednesday for some time, that forecast has embarrassed mainstream economists who have subsequently been forced to drop their own forecasts as the economy continues to slow.

In February GDPNow projected that the U.S. economy would grow by 1.9 percent in 2015, far below the rosy estimates by mainstream economists. Two weeks ago GDPNow projected growth at 1.2 percent. On May 13, it dropped further, to just 0.7 percent.

Instead of a “backward” looking view, the Atlanta Fed’s indicator looks through the front window of the economy, noting 13 separate parts of the economy and updating them every week. As Patrick Higgins of the Atlanta Fed pointed out, the indicator’s record is very good: “The GDPNow model forecasts GDP growth by aggregating 13 subcomponents.… [Its] forecasts are found to be more accurate than a number of statistical benchmarks since 2000.”

Defense, State Department Documents Reveal Obama Administration Knew that al Qaeda Terrorists Had Planned Benghazi Attack 10 Days in Advance

 Judicial Watch announced today that it obtained more than 100 pages of previously classified “Secret” documents from the Department of Defense (DOD)and the Department of State revealing that DOD almost immediately reported that the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi was committed by the al Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood-linked “Brigades of the Captive Omar Abdul Rahman” (BCOAR), and had been planned at least 10 days in advance. Rahman is known as the Blind Sheikh, and is serving life in prison for his involvement in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and other terrorist acts.  The new documents also provide the first official confirmation that shows the U.S. government was aware of arms shipments from Benghazi to Syria.  The documents also include an August 2012 analysis warning of the rise of ISIS and the predicted failure of the Obama policy of regime change in Syria.

The documents were released in response to a court order in accordance with a May 15, 2014, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed against both the DOD and State Department seeking communications between the two agencies and congressional leaders “on matters related to the activities of any agency or department of the U.S. government at the Special Mission Compound and/or classified annex in Benghazi.”

The Dysfunctionality of Slavery and Neoliberalism

Despite the neoliberal obsession with wage suppression, history suggests that such a policy is self-destructive.   Periods of high wages are associated with rapid technological change.   For example, after the scourge of the Black Death, which eliminated about a third of the population of Europe, the surviving workers were in a better bargaining position in terms of both wages earned and rents paid.  Rapid technological change emerged as a means to cope with workers temporary advantage. The historian, Richard C. Allen, makes the case that wars in the late 18th century removed significant portion of the labor force, again creating higher wages. The combination of higher wages and the availability of cheap fossil fueled another burst of rapid technological change, which we now know as the Industrial Revolution.

Another historian, H. J. Habakkuk published a book identifying the long-standing domestic labor shortage as the central force pushing the early United States to industrialize so fast that it rapidly caught up with England.

The geography of the United States provided a natural experiment for testing Habakkuk’s theory.  The southern states, unlike their northern counterparts turned to a more primitive remedy for its labor shortage in the form of African slaves.

Slavery was not unknown in the northern states, but they did not put much of a dent in the northern labor shortage.

'Just Asking'

In a recent panel discussion on poverty at Georgetown University, President Barack Obama gave another demonstration of his mastery of rhetoric -- and disregard of reality.
One of the ways of fighting poverty, he proposed, was to "ask from society's lottery winners" that they make a "modest investment" in government programs to help the poor.

Since free speech is guaranteed to everyone by the First Amendment to the Constitution, there is nothing to prevent anybody from asking anything from anybody else. But the federal government does not just "ask" for money. It takes the money it wants in taxes, usually before the people who have earned it see their paychecks.

Despite pious rhetoric on the left about "asking" the more fortunate for more money, the government does not "ask" anything. It seizes what it wants by force. If you don't pay up, it can take not only your paycheck, it can seize your bank account, put a lien on your home and/or put you in federal prison.

So please don't insult our intelligence by talking piously about "asking."

Stupefying Generations of Americans

I used the verb “stupefying” to describe a long process in our nation’s schools that has produced several generations of Americans, dumbed down and resulting in more than half who are functionally illiterate, nor can do math, and, as a recent headline reported “Student’s Results in Social Studies Stagnate.”

“U.S. middle-school students’ performance on social studies didn’t improve much between 2010 and 2014, federal test scores released Wednesday (April 29) show, underscoring concerns about the uniformed citizenry and workforce.”  When it comes to U.S. history, the share of students scoring at or above proficiency last year was 18%, up one percentage point from 2010. In other words, over 80% failed to have a grasp on the subject, critical to every citizen’s understanding of U.S. history, its Constitution, and governance.

An extraordinary new book by Samuel Blumenfeld and Alex Newman, “Crimes of the Educators: How Utopians are Using Government Schools to Destroy America’s Children” ($26.95, WND Books) should be the center of conversation for a nation’s media, but I suspect this may be among the few places you would learn about it. Blumenfeld has written ten books on education and Newman is an international journalist, educator and consultant.

The Militarization of America’s Police Forces

In the wake of backlash over the militarized police response to unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, the Obama administration has announced a new executive order which restricts what equipment federal agencies can transfer to local police. According to Cato scholar Radley Balko, over the last several decades, America’s cops have increasingly come to resemble ground troops. The consequences have been dire: the home is no longer a place of sanctuary, the Fourth Amendment has been gutted, and police today have been conditioned to see the citizens they serve as an other—an enemy.

“The Militarization of America’s Police Forces,” Radley Balko in the Fall 2013 Issue of Cato’s Letter

Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces, by Radley Balko

Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America,” by Radley Balko

When Open Government Slams Shut

On March 2, The New York Times revealed that Democratic Party presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton had used a private email account to conduct official business for her entire four-year tenure as secretary of state. Clinton emailed President Barack Obama on an insecure server hosted in her own home. She destroyed many of her own messages, as she admitted after the Times article; the State Department had to conduct negotiations with her lawyers to get their hands on what remained of her official records. One can safely conclude that Hillary Clinton was more concerned about shielding her correspondence from scrutiny by American taxpayers than by foreign intelligence services.

Clinton's defenders made several half-hearted attempts to justify her behavior, but it was longtime aide Paul Begala who cut to the heart of the matter. "Voters do not give a shit about what email Hillary used," Begala told CNN. "They don't even give a fart."

It's depressing to contemplate, but as a strictly political calculation Begala may well be right. And here lies the paradox behind debates over government transparency: We don't know—and therefore have a hard time being outraged by—what we don't know. Maybe voters would have been incensed by the contents of the missives, but anything incriminating is likely long since deleted. The Democratic Party's presumptive 2016 frontrunner may well have made the shrewd calculation that it's better to violate transparency laws than be confronted with evidence of more serious wrongdoing.


Thirty-nine minutes into his southbound ride from Wilmington, Delaware, to Washington, D.C., Joseph H. Boardman, president and CEO of Amtrak, begins to cry. We're in the dining car of a train called the Silver Star, surrounded by people eating hamburgers. The Silver Star runs from New York City to Miami in 31 hours, or five more hours than the route took in 1958, which is when our dining car was built. Boardman and I have been discussing the unfortunate fact that 45 years since its inception, the company he oversees remains a poorly funded, largely neglected ward of the state, unable to fully control its own finances or make its own decisions. I ask him, "Is this a frustrating job?"

"I guess it could be, and there are times it is," he says. "No question about that. But—" His voice begins to catch. "Sixty-six years old, I've spent my life doing this. I talked to my 80-year-old aunt this weekend, who said, 'Joe, just keep working.' Because I think about retirement." Boardman is a Republican who formerly ran the Federal Railroad Administration and was New York state's transportation commissioner; he has a bushy white mustache and an aw-shucks smile. "We've done good things," he continues. "We haven't done everything right, and I don't make all of the right decisions, and, yes, I get frustrated. But you have to stay up." A tear crawls down his left cheek.

The USDA Pushes Back on #ThanksMichelleObama School Lunch Protest

The USDA is fed up (pun intended), and now they're fighting back - against the disgusting photos of federally-controlled school lunches that all you kids keep posting to social media.

Now that the school year is coming to a close across this great nation, students will no longer be able to catch snaps of their horsemeat on a soggy bun, their watery sauces and their meager portions, all meals issued pursuant to Michelle Obama's healthy eating standards, foisted on public schools and their unconsenting populations. Those photos, tagged with the creative hashtag, #ThanksMichelleObama, in reference to her contributions to the anti-obesity campaign (centered, it seems, on making school food so disgusting that kids would rather skip meals than eat them), have made the USDA's crusade against unhealthy food all the more difficult.

But while they're mounting a defense, it seems to be about as hearty as the meals they're forcing schools to serve.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is pushing back against a campaign criticizing First Lady Michelle Obama’s school lunch rules by showing one picture of a somewhat appetizing child’s lunch.

Explosive Judicial Watch docs reveal administration lied about Benghazi

After a two-year fight (that isn't over), Judicial Watch released documents it obtained through a FOIA request that show that the intelligence community knew the nature of the attack on our consulate in Benghazi, as well as the perpetrators, within 24 hours of the death of Ambassador Stevens.

The anti-Mohammed video was never mentioned.

Here's John Hinderaker's thorough report:

Despite the redactions, some of the documents are bombshells. This one was sent to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the White House’s National Security Council on September 12, 2012, the day after the Benghazi attack. It says, among other things:

The attack was planned ten or more days prior on approximately 01 September 2012. The intention was to attack the consulate and to kill as many Americans as possible to seek revenge for U.S. killing of Aboyahiye ((ALALIBY)) in Pakistan and in memorial of the 11 September 2001 atacks on the World Trade Center buildings.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Race Relations

The most recent events coming out of Baltimore have elevated the debate over race relations in the public's mind.  This item seeks to provide information helpful to understanding what is going on and hopefully provide some perspective on the subject.  If time does not permit reading all items, please at least read the first four.

The author of this piece writes of his frustration at the propensity for race baiting in our society.  He appeals to the thoughtful among us to help stop the madness by focusing on our basic human goodness instead.  Quote: "America will never reach its potential as a nation as long as we continue to behave like the Hatfields and McCoys over the issue of race. Abraham Lincoln was prophetic when he said words to the effect that a house divided will not stand. As long as America allows bigots on one hand and race hustlers on the other to set the standards concerning race we will remain a house divided. As long as we allow those who benefit from racial discord to control the narrative about race, we will continue to rob ourselves of the potential benefits of racial harmony."

This item addresses the question "Can blacks be racists?"  Quote:  "Government dependency has contributed to broken homes, multiple baby-daddy's, black-on-black crime, jobless men and most importantly, an abandonment of biblical values in black communities. Yet these issues are continuously ignored or excused within the community. Whitey makes for a great scapegoat but they're not to blame for our problems today. Blacks can be racist just like anyone else if and when we allow unforgiveness to take root in our hearts. So where did this ridiculous notion that blacks can't be racist come from? "  And,  "Sadly, the gift of freedom given to all Americans by God will continue to allude blacks like utopia does liberals. Blacks don't have the moral authority to determine whom can or cannot be racist. God does! Perhaps if we begin treating each other better, cops would have less need to police our communities."

According to the currant political and mainstream media narrative the Republican are racists and the primary cause of the racial divide.  The inconvenient truth of the history of political parties and race relations, however, will surprise many of you. Two quotes: Speaking of the Jim Crow laws "... many prominent Democrats whose reputations have since been whitewashed supported them. Included among these was that icon of progressivism, Woodrow Wilson. Wilson was an unabashed racist who reintroduced segregation to the federal civil service when he took office. And, when a group of African-American professionals came to the White House to protest this outrage, Wilson threw them out after pompously declaring: “Segregation is not a humiliation but a benefit, and ought to be so regarded by you gentlemen.”  And, "Wilson believed this bilge not merely because of his general predilection toward racism, but also because it bore the imprimatur of the Supreme Court, which had legitimized the “separate but equal” doctrine in its notorious Plessy v. Ferguson ruling. This disgraceful ruling was eventually overturned by a later Supreme Court led by a conservative Republican named Earl Warren. Chief Justice Warren, a former Governor of California who had been appointed by Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower in October of 1953, presided over the Court’s unanimous ruling in Brown v. Board of Education."
Please read this item by a black professor who sees the problem with clear eyes.

This item points to the hypocrisy this topic too often exposes.  Quote:  "So far, there have been no reported protests over the senseless death of James Patrick Stuhlman. No marches against black-on-white crime. No outraged Sharpton or Jackson. No Justice Department probe into a possible hate crime. Stuhlman died on the street with his dog at his side."

This black journalist offers us a well considered summary of the current status of the NAACP.  Quote: Speaking of the NAACP he says "What was once an organization with a proud history, a legacy of liberation, and a focus on the most disenfranchised has turned into just another rusty cog in the "Civil Rights" industry."  And, "The Radiance Foundation is honored to be featured in the historic, yet wayward, organization’s yearly report. Nothing says civil rights like denying others of their First Amendment rights! The cover of that same NAACP Annual Report declares in bold writing: "We Will Not Be Moved." They've moved all right (or should I say all left), and continue to slide further down into liberalism, crushing real civil rights along the way."

Anyone who thinks about this problem with any degree of logic can see who are the ones sustaining racial disharmony.  It is a disgusting thing to behold.

Why was it necessary for this state legislator to do this distasteful thing?  She accused a colleagues' 18 month old son of being a racist???

George Burns