February 21, 2015

Stonewalled -- The Information War

Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama's Washington
By Sharyl Attkisson

In her best selling book, Stonewalled, former CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson spells out in riveting detail what conservatives have known for years about mainstream news reporting.  Outlets such as CBS News fashion their coverage with an eye towards electing their preferred candidates.  Nowadays that means favorable reporting on Barack Obama and his administration and negative stories for his critics.

Stonewalled opens with Attkisson's discovery that her personal computer, another computer that she used for work, and quite possibly the CBS News internal network had all been hacked.  Attkisson's activities were being monitored by persons unknown.  She brought in cyber security experts to analyze her hardware.  They confirmed it:  Her computers had been breached.  But that wasn't the worst of the news.  Since there are so few organizations capable of such a thorough a penetration, analysts suspected that the hackers most likely belonged to one of our government's three-letter agencies.   The experts found more.

They're also worried about my home phone.  It's practically unusable now.  Often when I call home, it only rings once on the receiving end.  But on my end it keeps ringing, and then connects somewhere else.  Nobody's there.  Other times, it disconnects in the middle of calls.  There are clicks and buzzes.  My friends who call hear the strange noises and ask about them.  I get used to the routine of callers suggesting, half-jokingly, "Is your phone tapped?"

...

On top of that, my home alarm system has begun chirping a nightly warning that my phone line is having "trouble" of an unidentified nature.

An agency of the federal government was secretly monitoring Attkisson.  The time was October, 2012, and Attkisson was digging into the September 11th terrorist attacks on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya.  Hackers were trying to find out what Attkisson knew and how she knew it

Benghazi had the Obama administration in cover up mode.  Questions posed by reporters about the attack and the apparent lack of an administration response to it were deflected or dismissed by White House spokesmen as partisan witch-hunting.  While some in the news media were satisfied with the White House version of events, Sharyl Attkisson was not, and because of it she got a close up look at the administration's methods for dealing with reporters who ask tough questions. 

"Know your enemy"
PR officials get to know the reporters on the story and their supervisors.  Research them.  Lobby them.  Look for their weak spots.  If they don't adopt the preferred PR viewpoint, the PR officials launch a campaign to controversialize and discredit them.

"Mine and Pump Strategy"
When ask to provide interviews and information for a story, the PR officials stall, claim ignorance of the known facts, and mine and pump the reporter for what information he has.

"Controversialize"
...The officials controversialize the reporter and any whistle blowers or critics to tru to turn the focus on personalities instead of the evidence...

It's a scripted process.  The Obama PR machine works to discredit the reporter, while at the same time it tries to spin the story in a way that puts Obama in more a favorable light.  If the story can't be spun, the next step is to delay.  Spokesmen plead ignorance.  Questions are brushed aside.  Eventually, officials respond to the repeated questions with something like, "Why are you still asking about this?  It's old news, we've already answered all that.  Can't we move on?"  Throughout the process the administration puts pressure on reporters, producers, and news executives:  Be reasonable, it's tough enough without your badgering.

It's not as if Obama hasn't got his allies in the media.  The relationship between corporate CBS and the Obama administration tends to be cooperative, which means that many of the obstacles confronting Attkisson came from her own management.  It is this that Attkisson devotes much of Stonewalled.

In example after example — Fast and Furious and the illegal transfer of guns to Mexican drug dealers; the disastrous rollout of Healthcare.gov and the lies told to the public; the deaths of four Americans at the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya and the administrations cover up of what happened; green energy subsidies and the associated corruption — Attkisson reveals how CBS News management would at first be enthusiastic about her stories, then would try to get Attkisson to agree to a softening of impact, and finally would just refuse to let her stories go on the air.

In her concluding chapter, Attkisson relates an anecdote that strengthens a suspicion I've had for some time now.  She tells of a phone call she received from a White House official that she chooses not to name.  It came a few days before the second presidential debate between Obama and Mitt Romney.

The White House official and I chatted casually about unrelated topics and then he introduced a non sequitur:  "The president called Benghazi a 'terrorist attack' the day after in the Rose Garden," he told me.

At the time, I hadn't given any thought to whether the president had or hadn't termed the Benghazi assaults "terrorism."  The debate on that point hadn't widely emerged and I was still focused on the State Department's denial of security requests from Americans in Libya prior to the attacks.

Since I really didn't know what the president had said in the Rose Garden the day after, I didn't offer a comment to the White House official on the other end of the phone.  He repeated himself as if to elicit some sort of reaction.

"He did call it a terrorist attack.  In the Rose Garden. On September twelfth."   

If you watched that second debate you may recall how Obama stunned Romney and nearly everyone else with the statement,

"The day after the attack, Governor, I stood in the Rose Garden and I told the American people and the world that we are going to find out exactly what happened.  That this was an act of terror and I also said that we're going to hunt down those committed this crime."

A flabbergasted Romney replied,

"You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack, it was an act of terror?  It was not a spontaneous demonstration, is that what you're saying?"

Romney and the audience were further shocked when moderator Candy Crowley took the opportunity to jump into the debate on Obama's side. 

CROWLEY  It—it—it—he did in fact, sir.  So let me—let me call it an act of terror...

OBAMA  Can you say that a little louder, Candy?

CROWLEY  He—he did call it an act of terror.

Is there any chance that Crowley had not been prepped for Obama's surprise announcement.  A review of that Rose Garden speech transcript shows that Obama made no such connection between Benghazi and terrorism.  On the contrary, on the day Obama was speaking in the Rose Garden, Susan Rice had still not yet made the rounds of the Sunday talk shows to state the administration's position:  The attacks were a spontaneous reaction to an insulting internet video.  Officials up and down the administration had pushed the spontaneous demonstration narrative for weeks, but here was Candy Crowley, now corroborating Obama's new claim that he had immediately called it a "an act of terror."

Attkisson's revelation, that the White House also passed this nugget to her, convinces me that Crowley knew going into the debate what Obama was going to say about his "day after" Rose Garden speech.  She knew she could expect to hear him say it during the debate, and she knew what she was supposed to do about it.  It was her job to jump in in support of Obama's lie, and then immediately steer the debate to another topic.

A left-wing ideological slant to news coverage is not a recent phenomenon, and it's by no means rare.  In the 1930s the New York Times won a Pulitzer Prize for reports by Walter Duranty that glorified Josef Stalin and his Sovie regime, while ignoring the starvation of millions in the Ukraine.   But what was possible then is not so easy now.  In the 1930s, newspapers could be secure in the knowledge that their stories would go largely unchallenged.  Even into the 1960s and 1970s, newspapers and network news organizations had the power to dictate what was news and what wasn't, and they enjoyed the trust of the American public.  Contradictions had almost no chance of being heard.

Today the internet makes vast stores of information available to anybody with a computer who wants to go looking, and once the information is out there it almost never goes away.  On top of that, anybody can publish on the internet and potentially reach an audience of millions.  This calls for a different set of strategies, and the Obama PR machine has mastered them as Attkisson describes in detail in Stonewalled

It's hard to overstate the importance of this book.  In bygone days there was at least the semblance of an adversarial relationship between the press and the White House.  Some times more antagonistic than others.  With the election of Barack Obama, the most left-wing president ever, our already left-leaning media has tilted even further left and has pretty much abdicated the traditional role of the press.  Adversary has become ally.  We are in an information war.  Never before has news reporting been so blatantly dishonest, with entire media organizations working to promote the progressive, left-wing agenda. 

Fortunately, there are still the few courageous individuals like Sharyl Attkisson who are willing to report the truth in spite of concerted efforts to suppress it. 

Update:  With regard to the cooperative nature of the CBS News/Obama White House relationship, I should have included this information:

Here’s the crux. The Rhodes brothers.

Ben Rhodes, David Rhodes.

Ben is a deputy national security advisor to Obama and writes speeches for him. In September 2012, Ben was “instrumental,” according to ABC News, in changing the White House talking points (the story) on what happened in Benghazi.

Ben’s brother, David, is president of CBS News. Attkisson was working for David. She was investigating all the changes (12) in the Benghazi talking points. She was shut down.

[Emphasis above is mine.]

"Changing the White House talking points" refers to removing all reverences to terrorism and blaming a YouTube video for the violence in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans.

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February 18, 2015

Attkisson's Top Ten Astroturfers

What, you may ask, is an astroturfer?  Astroturfers are large special interest entities who self promote by pretending to be grassroots movements.  Some of the ways they do this is by publishing blogs, writing letters to the editor, and by writing and commenting via social media, but always posing as independent voices.  Here are Attkisson's top ten:

1. Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Everytown

2. Media Matters for America

3. University of California Hastings Professor Dorit Rubenstein Reiss and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Dr. Paul Offit

4. “Science” Blogs such as: Skeptic.com, Skepchick.org, Scienceblogs.com (Respectful Insolence), Popsci.com and SkepticalRaptors.com

5. Mother Jones

6. Salon.com and Vox.com

7. White House press briefings and press secretary Josh Earnest

8. Daily Kos and The Huffington Post

9. CNN, NBC, New York Times, Politico and Talking Points Memo (TPM)

10. MSNBC, Slate.com, Los Angeles Times and Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times, MSNBC and Jon Stewart.

We're in an information war with the left.  Read the whole thing.

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February 13, 2015

One Sided Conversations On Huffington Post

I've recently taken to dropping comments on articles that I read on the web.  Yesterday, I couldn't resist sounding off on this Huffington Post article, Republican Rhetoric vs Reality, by Charles Schumer, Senator from New York.  Said Senator Schumer,

Democrats are encouraged to hear Republicans co-opting our rhetoric on the economy and we stand at the ready to work with Republicans to get things done for the middle class. But only when Republican policy proposals catch up to their rhetoric will we have an opportunity for real solutions.

So, what qualifies as a real solution in the mind of the Chuck Schumer?

Democrats want to raise the federal minimum wage and lower the cost of tuition. The President was right to think boldly in proposing the goal of free community college.

Raising the minimum wage, and proposing yet another government subsidy.  How bold.  The cost of a college education has never been higher thanks to the various subsidies and student loan programs.  So now the idea is to put community colleges out of reach too.  Great ideas.

I clicked on the comments to this article.  They are in a default sequence which is by "Social Ranking," and at the top of the list is one by "Top Commenter" Mark Cohen.

Mark Cohen · Top Commenter · St Leo University

Teapublican economic and tax policies have never worked historically and certainly not for anyone other than the already wealthy. However, Conservatives approach it just like many of them approach religion ...it is "faith based" and no empirical facts are required and to say otherwise is "heresy" ...just look at the latest example in Kansas ...

"Teapublican."  And Mark Cohen is rated as a "Top Commenter."  We have a clue into the philosophical leanings at the Huffington Post.  Not that we needed one. 

It's a pretty typical left-wing argument.  Broad generalities.  No mention of which policies and how it is they never worked.  Never in history, mind you.  And alas, with no "empirical facts" in support of of what he said.  I thought I'd respond by bringing up an inconvenient fact about a favorite policy of the Democrats, so I posted this in reply:

Tom Bowler · Works at Retired

Mark Cohen, speaking of economic and tax policies, have you checked with the employees of Borderland Books in San Francisco to see how that minimum wage hike is working out? http://www.sfexaminer.com/sanfrancisco/borderlands-books-in-sf-announces-closure-cites-minimum-wage-increase/Content?oid=2918723

According to the story linked in my comment, Borderlan Books, a local San Francisco book store, announced that it would close after San Francisco voters approved a minimum wage increase from $11.05 to $15.00.  Borderland was already struggling against competition from online book sales and the trend towards ebooks.  The minimum wage boost was the final straw.  Borderland's owner, Alan Beatts, said the store would have to increase sales by at least 20 percent just to stay afloat.  He considered it an unrealistic target.

Later on I went back to see if there was a reply to my reply and found that Mr. Cohen had posted this :

Mark Cohen · Top Commenter · St Leo University

Tom Bowler They may blame the minimum wage but the real reason is ,sadly, local bookstores have had serious problems for years mostly from the huge chains and online.

Show where historically when we have raised the minimum wage it has actually hurt employment...hint: it doesn't. Since the 1930's employers have poor mouthed about it and making threatening noises but the fact is more money in more hands creates more aggregate demand and boosts the economy. Whereas more in the hands of a tiny few does nothing of substance. Of course, that is where Conservatives then throw up "trickle down" but ,once again, that has never worked unless regulations or unions force it...

Show where raising the minimum wage hurt employment?  That's what I just did. 

I composed a reply, which took a while, since it was a long comment that needed proof reading and corrections.  I used Open Office Writer rather than trying to compose on the web site, then I copied what I wrote from Writer and pasted it into the Huffington comment box.  When I posted it, I noticed that only the first part of it was shown along with a "more" link to reveal the rest of it.  I clicked on the "more" link to confirm that the full comment made it in there.  It did.   I clicked on the X to close the Writer window, and when it asked "Save," "Discard" or "Cancel" I thought, oh what the hell, I'll save it.

This morning I got up to see what Mr. Cohen had to say about it.  Guess what!  My comment is gone!  I thought, well maybe it got misplaced somehow, so I tried exploding all sub-threads to make sure all of the comments were shown on the screen. I tried listing the comments in chronological sequence.  I couldn't find it.  I used CTRL-F to search for my name.  My original comment was there, but my final comment was still nowhere to be found.

What could I have said to so offend the folks at Huffington Post?  Well, here it is, essentially.  It's not verbatim because I did some final editing on the Huffington Post web site that I didn't transfer to may saved version

Mark, there is always a combination of factors that cause a business to go under. To simply dismiss the effect of the minimum wage hike because there are other factors is to ignore reality.

Policy makers have learned over the decades that price supports and price ceilings have rather nasty unintended consequences. The memory of gas lines in the 70s convinced policy makers in subsequent administrations, both Bush and Obama, that imposing price ceilings on gasoline creates shortages. So they didn't do it and the market took care of itself. Price supports on wheat in the 50s caused so much surplus wheat to be grown that they were abandoned in favor of direct payments to farmers not to grow the wheat. (We could argue the effectiveness of subsidies but that's another story.)

A price support on labor (minimum wage) is still a favorite with Democrats, even though its effect is to encourage a labor surplus (unemployment) in those jobs. There are union contracts that use the minimum wage as a trigger for higher union wages, and we know that higher union wages means more union dues and more campaign money for the Democratic party, so Democrats are always pushing for a minimum wage hike. It's always about the money, you know.

If things worked the way you think they do, we should be in an era of unprecedented prosperity, what with all the new regulations and that aggregate demand that the trillion dollar deficits and stimuli were supposed to create. But somehow we're not. In fact, we've got these rosy unemployment numbers only because the BLS unemployment calculation ignores people who have completely given up on finding a job. And there are a lot of them.

You can't regulate our way to prosperity any more than unions are going to force it. The way that wages go up is when employers have to compete for workers. In a rapidly expanding economy there is higher demand for labor and employers are forced to pay more for it.

That has not been the state of the economy for the last six years, due to Obama's fixation on higher taxes and more regulations for employers. Which brings us back to the topic of other factors that cause a business to go under. Regulations and taxes are part of that list. They contribute to the drag on economic growth, which is a drag on employment, all of which contribute to the drag on wage growth. Jobs have been scarce and employers have been under no pressure to offer good wages to retain workers.

When Democrats tell you that raising the minimum wage is going to bring prosperity through a boost in demand, it really means a boost in their own prosperity through a boost in campaign contributions. It's really all about the money, you know.

I thought I had a really good argument.  Apparently the Huffington Post did too.

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February 11, 2015

Obama Signals Opposition to Ground War Against ISIS

President Obama is reportedly ready to ask congress for authorization to use military force against ISIS.  The authorization will include strict limits on the types of U.S. ground forces that can be deployed, according to congressional sources.

President Barack Obama will soon give Congress his proposal for a new authorization for the use of military force against Islamic State fighters, and it will place strict limits on the types of U.S. ground forces that can be deployed, according to congressional sources.

Almost six months after the president began using force against the Islamic State advance in Iraq and then in Syria, the White House is ready to ask Congress for formal permission to continue the effort.  Until now, the administration has maintained it has enough authority to wage war through the 2001 AUMF on al-Qaeda, the 2002 AUMF regarding Iraq and Article II of the Constitution. But under pressure from Capitol Hill, the White House has now completed the text of a new authorization and could send it to lawmakers as early as Wednesday.

Usually Obama is only too happy to declare that with his pen and his phone he is prepared to act unilaterally.  In fact, he never asks congress for authorization unless it's for something he doesn't really want to do.  Recall back in 2013 when Obama waffled on his Syrian red line, that was not really his red line but the world's red line, which then turned out to be no line at all.

Mr. Obama said that the world needed to show the Syrian regime that they could not use chemical weapons with impunity.

And he defended his assertion that "a red line" would be crossed by the use of such weapons, arguing that he was simply emphasising accepted international laws.

"First of all, I didn’t set a red line," he said. "The world set a red line.

"So when I said that my calculus would be altered by chemical weapons, which the overall consensus of humanity says is wrong – that’s not something I just made up. I didn’t pluck it out of thin air.

"My credibility isn't on the line. The international community’s credibility is on the line."

So, having declared that the red line was crossed, Obama backed off.  He decided he needed congressional approval for action against Syria.  Not everyone agreed that he needed it.

President Obama said Saturday the United States should take military action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for using chemical weapons on civilians but also turned to Congress for approval -- dealing a potential setback to America's foreign policy and setting up what will likely be a hard-fought Washington debate on the issue.

“This menace must be confronted,” Obama said of the Assad regime’s alleged chemical attack, speaking from the Rose Garden.

However, the announcement also raised the question about whether the president put the burden on Congress to act.

"President Obama is abdicating his responsibility as commander in chief and undermining the authority of future presidents," said New York Rep. Peter King, a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. "The president doesn't need 535 members of Congress to enforce his own red line."

A tough talking Obama announced that Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad had to go.  But that was 2013 and here we are a year and a half later with Bashar al Assad still in power in Syria, more secure than ever.  Based on Obama's past performance and this new AUMF proposal, we should expect ISIS to be more firmly entrenched than ever two years from now.

That could be the ultimate effect of Obama's proposal for a new AUMF which places strict limits on the types of U.S. ground forces to be deployed.  (My emphasis below.)

If enacted, the president's AUMF could effectively constrain the next president from waging a ground war against the Islamic State group until at least 2018. Aides warned that the White House may tweak the final details before releasing the document publicly. 

In advance of the release, top White House and State Department officials have been briefing lawmakers and Congressional staffers about their proposed legislation. Two senior Congressional aides relayed the details to me. 

The president’s AUMF for the fight against Islamic State would restrict the use of ground troops through a prohibition on “enduring offensive ground operations," but provide several exemptions. First, all existing ground troops, including the 3,000 U.S. military personnel now on the ground in Iraq, would be explicitly excluded from the restrictions. After that, the president would be allowed to deploy new military personnel in several specific roles: advisers, special operations forces, Joint Terminal Attack Controllers to assist U.S. air strikes and Combat Search and Rescue personnel.

It isn't war that Obama, or the rest of the anti-war crowd, opposes.  They seem quite supportive, for example, of the Palestinian's perpetual war against Israel.  Has anyone in the anti-war movement ever suggested the slightest opposition or disapproval of Palestinian rocket attacks against Israel? 

By the look of it, this new AUMF proposal would set the conditions for a new perpetual war between radical Islam — whether we call them ISIS or al Qaeda — and the west.  And that will do nicely for Obama and his anti-war constituents who are opposed only to America winning such a war.

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February 10, 2015

Statement of FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai

I've taken the liberty of posting Commissioner Pai's statement in its entirety.  It can also be found here on the FCC website.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                       CONTACT:
February 6, 2015                                                                                   Matthew Berry (202) 418-2005
                                                                                                               Email: Matthew.Berry@fcc.gov
  STATEMENT OF FCC COMMISSIONER AJIT PAI  
  ON PRESIDENT OBAMA’S PLAN TO REGULATE THE INTERNET  

 

            Last night, Chairman Wheeler provided his fellow Commissioners with President Obama’s 332-page plan to regulate the Internet. I am disappointed that the plan will not be released publicly. The FCC should be as open and transparent as the Internet itself and post the entire document on its website.

            Instead, it looks like the FCC will have to pass the President’s plan before the American people will be able to find out what’s really in it.

            In the coming days, I look forward to continuing to study the plan in detail. Based on my initial examination, however, several points are apparent.

            First, President Obama’s plan marks a monumental shift toward government control of the Internet. It gives the FCC the power to micromanage virtually every aspect of how the Internet works.  It’s an overreach that will let a Washington bureaucracy, and not the American people, decide the future of the online world. It’s no wonder that net neutrality proponents are already bragging that it will turn the FCC into the “Department of the Internet.” For that reason, if you like dealing with the IRS, you are going to love the President’s plan. 

            Second, President Obama’s plan to regulate the Internet will increase consumers’ monthly broadband bills. The plan explicitly opens the door to billions of dollars in new taxes on broadband.  Indeed, states have already begun discussions on how they will spend the extra money. These new taxes will mean higher prices for consumers and more hidden fees that they have to pay.

            Third, President Obama’s plan to regulate the Internet will mean slower broadband for American consumers. The plan contains a host of new regulations that will reduce investment in broadband networks. That means slower Internet speeds. It also means that many rural Americans will have to wait longer for access to quality broadband.

            Fourth, President Obama’s plan to regulate the Internet will hurt competition and innovation and move us toward a broadband monopoly. The plan saddles small, independent businesses and entrepreneurs with heavy-handed regulations that will push them out of the market. As a result, Americans will have fewer broadband choices. This is no accident. Title II was designed to regulate a monopoly. If we impose that model on a vibrant broadband marketplace, a highly regulated monopoly is what we’ll get. We shouldn’t bring Ma Bell back to life in this dynamic, digital age.

            Fifth, President Obama’s plan to regulate the Internet is an unlawful power grab. Courts have twice thrown out the FCC’s attempts at Internet regulation. There’s no reason to think that the third time will be the charm. Even a cursory look at the plan reveals glaring legal flaws that are sure to mire the agency in the muck of litigation for a long, long time.

            And sixth, the American people are being misled about what is in President Obama’s plan to regulate the Internet. The rollout earlier in the week was obviously intended to downplay the plan’s massive intrusion into the Internet economy. Beginning next week, I look forward to sharing with the public key aspects of what this plan will actually do.

Obama is determined to leave his mark on America, and if there is anything that will transform it in the way he has in mind putting a regulatory choke hold on the internet is it. There is no doubt that the intent of this regulatory power grab is to provide future progressive elites with the tools needed to stifle dissent. The internet continues to be a thorn in the side of Obama and his allies in the legacy media. It should come as no surprise that the network news outlets haven't bothered to cover this development

The internet has been crucial in raising awareness of the craven dishonesty of the corporate news establishment, from Dan Rather and his fraudulent 60 Minutes piece on the Texas Air National Guard to Brian Williams and his false pretenses of bravery under fire in Iraq.  The likes of ABC, CBS, and NBC would like nothing better than to shut down the outlets that reveal network news for what it is:  a strutting flock of sycophants for Barack Obama and anything labeled progressive.

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February 04, 2015

Jobs and the Minimum Wage

In the news today via Instapundit we have this story:

An independent San Francisco bookstore says it will be closing its doors by March 31, despite having its best year ever in 2014. And it’s pointing at San Francisco’s newly enacted minimum wage law as the reason.

Borderland Books, which specializes in science fiction and horror, says it has withstood a host of challenges since it opened in 1997, including the rise of Amazon.com and e-books, a landlord who supposedly doubled their rent while dotcoms were first booming, and a deep recession that the owners say “hit us very hard.” A higher minimum wage, though, would take the business from being modestly profitable to being a money loser, the owner says.

I couldn't resist Googling "minimum wage and unemployment" to find where "studies show" that the minimum wage has no impact on employment.  Sure enough, this turned up from Business for a Fair Minimum Wage .

Research Shows Minimum Wage Increases Do Not Cause Job Loss

Extensive research refutes the claim that increasing the minimum wage causes increased unemployment and business closures. (See list below.)

...

In a 2013 report, Why Does the Minimum Wage Have No Discernible Effect on Employment?, the Center for Economic and Policy Research spotlights two recent meta-studies analyzing the extensive research conducted since the early 1990s; they conclude that "the minimum wage has little or no discernible effect on the employment prospects of low-wage workers.

No doubt, Borderland Books' employees understand the impact that the minimum wage hike has had on their job prospects, in spite of all the studies that claim there isn't one.  

Speculating here, but I suspect the same people who lament the demise of the mom and pop retailers also support a minimum wage level that will drive them out of business.  I wouldn't necessarily count the folks at Business for a Fair Minimum Wage in that group.  It's my guess they've already calculated that a boost in the minimum wage will hurt their competition more than it will hurt them.

And of course the Democratic party is always on board, since a higher minimum wage means contractually higher union wages, which translates to more union money for the Democratic party.  Meanwhile, killing off mom and pop businesses will dry up sources of money for the Republican party.

The minimum wage.  It's all about compassion and fairness, you know.

While we're speaking of jobs, Gallup CEO Jim Clifton took a look at the official 5.6% current unemployment rate and says it's total BS.

Right now, we're hearing much celebrating from the media, the White House and Wall Street about how unemployment is "down" to 5.6%. The cheerleading for this number is deafening. The media loves a comeback story, the White House wants to score political points and Wall Street would like you to stay in the market.

None of them will tell you this: If you, a family member or anyone is unemployed and has subsequently given up on finding a job -- if you are so hopelessly out of work that you've stopped looking over the past four weeks -- the Department of Labor doesn't count you as unemployed. That's right. While you are as unemployed as one can possibly be, and tragically may never find work again, you are not counted in the figure we see relentlessly in the news -- currently 5.6%. Right now, as many as 30 million Americans are either out of work or severely underemployed. Trust me, the vast majority of them aren't throwing parties to toast "falling" unemployment.

There's another reason why the official rate is misleading. Say you're an out-of-work engineer or healthcare worker or construction worker or retail manager: If you perform a minimum of one hour of work in a week and are paid at least $20 -- maybe someone pays you to mow their lawn -- you're not officially counted as unemployed in the much-reported 5.6%. Few Americans know this.

Yet another figure of importance that doesn't get much press: those working part time but wanting full-time work. If you have a degree in chemistry or math and are working 10 hours part time because it is all you can find -- in other words, you are severely underemployed -- the government doesn't count you in the 5.6%. Few Americans know this.

We should not overlook that the unemployment number is a creation of the US Department of Labor.

Meet the Secretary of Labor

Nominated by President Barack Obama and sworn in on July 23, 2013, Thomas E. Perez is the nation's 26th secretary of labor. He has committed to making good on the promise of opportunity for all, giving every working family a chance to get ahead, and putting a middle-class life within reach of everyone willing to work for it. To accomplish this, Perez's priorities for the department include ensuring a fair day's pay for a fair day's work; connecting ready-to-work Americans with ready-to-be-filled jobs, through skills programs like Registered Apprenticeship and on-the-job training; promoting gender equality in the workplace; ensuring that people with disabilities and veterans have access to equal employment opportunity; and insisting on a safe and level playing field for all American workers.

Yes, "opportunity for all," and by their own measure, DOL is doing a great job.  And we owe it all to Obama.

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February 02, 2015

“He’s a white guy!”

Recently Jonathan Chait penned an article in New York Magazine that generated a lot of comment on the web.  He complained about the excesses of the progressivism's politically correct and how the language police are perverting liberalism.  What we have here is one of PC's chief practitioners, Chait, suddenly worried about the PC war on free speech. 

It comes in the wake of the murders at Charlie Hebdo.  Immediately after the French cartoonists were gunned down, there was near universal outrage over such a violent attack on freedom of expression.  However, it soon gave way, as discerning leftists declared, no we are not Charlie.

Were the slain satirists martyrs at the hands of religious fanaticism, or bullying spokesmen of privilege?

Bullying spokesmen of the politically correct pushing back against the bullying spokesmen of privilege.  The social justice industry has discovered another root cause.  It's the original sin of privilege.  For the eternal question, "Mommy, how come he has more than me?!" progressives have the answer:  White male privilege.

As progressives see it, it takes brilliance and sophistication to recognize that kernel of truth amidst the noise and chatter of our complex world.  But it implies that their complex world doesn't extend far beyond the proverbial backyard where an eternal Mommy adjudicates, and everybody's dish of ice cream holds exactly the same amount.

With the Charlie Hebdo attack Jonathan Chait has apparently come grips with the violent world that exists beyond the backyard fence.  Journalists were murdered.  I wonder if the terrorists had gunned down a random group of French Jews, would anyone have paid the slightest attention?  Would Chait?   But journalists were attacked, so lefty journalists did take notice. 

But then, surprise!  It turns out that free speech is a bone of contention over which the politically correct have taken sides.

The Marxist left has always dismissed liberalism’s commitment to protecting the rights of its political opponents — you know, the old line often misattributed to Voltaire, “I disapprove of what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it” — as hopelessly naïve. If you maintain equal political rights for the oppressive capitalists and their proletarian victims, this will simply keep in place society’s unequal power relations. Why respect the rights of the class whose power you’re trying to smash? And so, according to Marxist thinking, your political rights depend entirely on what class you belong to.

Jonah Goldberg hilariously pointed out in what might be considered a rebuttal article to Chait's, that the new left have now even turned on Marx.  It turns out he was privileged.  These are the very same who adhere to Marxist theory and promote Marxist solutions to everything from income inequality to race and gender inequality.

My buddy James Lileks writes about how left-wing students at Berkeley (sort of redundant, I know) are starting to turn on Marx, not because of his potted theories of the dialectic, his crude reductionism of man to homo economicus, or even the fact that he set the foundation for turning the 20th century into an abattoir. No, Marx is bad because he’s just another dead white guy. The students write in the school paper:

We are calling for an occupation of syllabi in the social sciences and humanities. This call to action was instigated by our experience last semester as students in an upper-division course on classical social theory. Grades were based primarily on multiple-choice quizzes on assigned readings. The course syllabus employed a standardized canon of theory that began with Plato and Aristotle, then jumped to modern philosophers: Hobbes, Locke, Hegel, Marx, Weber and Foucault, all of whom are white men. The syllabus did not include a single woman or person of color.

...Anyway, they go on to gripe that Marx worked from the assumption that there are — or were — differences between men and women. The madman! The professor’s statement in defense of Marx, that “women give birth while men do not,” was enough to make some students flee the room, no doubt in search of a gender-neutral fainting couch.

Maybe these kids just have too much time on their hands, but it's evidently not enough time for them to construct a coherent argument.  Quips Goldberg:

It’s amazing. We spent a century trying to explain to the Left why Marx was wrong. It just never occurred to us to try “He’s a white guy!” It should have been obvious.

I'm not sure about the "obvious" part, and I doubt even Goldberg would expect lefties to be persuaded, but it's hilarious to watch.  The PC police have long ago thrown in the towel on making a persuasive case.  They only argue among themselves, anyway.  They're about preventing any arguments from being heard that might be counter to theirs. 

By recognizing that the PC police represent liberal abandonment of the very principles for which they say they fight, maybe Jonathan Chait is coming around. 

Politics in a democracy is still based on getting people to agree with you, not making them afraid to disagree. The historical record of political movements that sought to expand freedom for the oppressed by eliminating it for their enemies is dismal. The historical record of American liberalism, which has extended social freedoms to blacks, Jews, gays, and women, is glorious. And that glory rests in its confidence in the ultimate power of reason, not coercion, to triumph.

Bludgeoning by the politically correct is not a perversion of liberalism.  It is liberalism.  There's a conservative strain to Chait's faith that "democracy is still based on getting people to agree with you."  I doubt that Chait sees it.  I suspect he's still stuck on liberal=good and conservative=bad.

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January 31, 2015

Staying Home

On Friday Mitt Romney announced that he would not seek the Republican presidential nomination.

“I believe that one of our next generation of Republican leaders, one who may not be as well known as I am today, one who has not yet taken their message across the country, one who is just getting started, may well emerge as being better able to defeat the Democratic nominee,” Mr. Romney said. “In fact, I expect and hope that to be the case.”

There's not the slightest doubt that putting Romney in the White House would be a vast improvement over our last dismal eight years under Obama, but as I've said before, Obama won't be a tough act to follow.  Romney would assuredly be a better president than Obama, but is that really good enough?  There is damage that must be undone, and I'm not at all confident that Romney is the man who will do it.  As Mr. Romney said, it's time to look to the next generation of Republican leaders.

Thank you, Mitt.

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January 25, 2015

Obama and the Homeless

If there was anything notable about the latest Obama State of the Union, it was that once again he trotted out the same old class warfare rhetoric with calls for higher taxes on the rich.  Once again he bragged, to almost everyone's disbelief, how well his policies have worked, while throwing in the absurd line about the "shadow of crisis" having passed.  People are having a hard time buying it.  Consider this story from the LA Times about the spread of homeless camps in Los Angeles.  

Over the last two years, street encampments have jumped their historic boundaries in downtown Los Angeles, lining freeways and filling underpasses from Echo Park to South Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, a city-county agency, received 767 calls about street encampments in 2014, up 60% from the 479 in 2013.

Some residents believe the city is exporting its downtown homeless problem to their neighborhoods. But social service agencies and volunteers say it isn't that simple. They say that although downtown development and skid row cleanups are squeezing out some homeless people, many camps are filled with locals.

No matter what Obama says, you can't help but notice there are more homeless in our midst, and that Obama's policies are not helping them.  And now that folks in the LA area are voicing there concerns about the growth in homeless camps, the LA Times finds that it is also obliged to notice as well.  

Still, it's downright shocking to see a story like this from a mainstream newspaper when a Democrat sits in the White House.  Could it be that the mainstream news outlets are finally catching up with the rest of America?  Are they finally recognizing that Obama's tax-the-rich policies are really hurting the people that he likes to take credit for helping.  

It's not rocket science, says Larry Kudlow.

First, you can't create a new business or sustain an existing one without the seed corn and nourishment of capital investment.

Second, only businesses create jobs. You can't have a job without a business.

Third, jobs create all incomes, including middle-class incomes.

Fourth, incomes create family and consumer spending.

OK? This is not complicated. It's common economic sense.

University of Chicago economist Casey Mulligan states this in a simpler way: Growth starts with investment and ends with consumer spending.

Alas, for some it is rocket science.  In his State of the Union, class warrior Obama proposed another hike in the capital gains tax.  It was at 15 percent when he came into office.  He pushed it to to 20 percent, and then Obamacare took it to 23.8.  Now he's proposing to push it to 28 percent.  At the same time the U.S. workforce participation rate has gone from just under 66 percent to just under 62 percent.  A surge, in the millions, of people who have given up looking for work has occurred on Obama's watch, which has translated into a surge in the number of homeless.

Sadly though, the plight of the homeless is not a popular news feature until it can be traced back to the policies of a Republican president, at which point we are inundated with stories about them.  Perhaps MSM is just warming up in anticipation of things that might come in 2016.  After all, Republicans did just take over Congress.

In any event it's a stark break with tradition for an outlet like the LA Times to notice that the poor are suffering at exactly the same time that Obama's grand Democratic policies are supposed to be helping them.  One can't help but wonder what drives Times reporter Gale Holland to such an egregious breach of good taste.

It's hard to say, but it doesn't seem to arise from any rage at the unfairness of Obama's policies.  She obviously hasn't made the connection between higher taxes and lower job growth.  Ms. Holland can't even be sure there are any more homeless this year than there were two years ago.  Maybe they're are just spreading out.

Whether homeless people are more numerous or simply more visible could be answered by the biennial tally taking place this week.

As many as 6,000 volunteers will go out Tuesday through Thursday searching for homeless people living in alleys, riverbeds, cars and RVs. For the first time, homeless people will be asked about their gender identity, domestic violence and prison histories, and years of military service — information that could better track where they came from and why.

Ms. Holland's uncertainty will most likely disappear with the next Republican administration, when greater visibility of the homeless will be reflexively reported as evidence of a more widespread and growing problem.  In the next Republican administration there will be no need for her to ponder where the homeless come from or why they are homeless.  The causes will be obvious — Republican policies that favor the rich.

The simple logic that there are more homeless because there really aren't enough jobs to be had, and there aren't enough jobs to be had because of punitive and arbitrary tax policy, seems to escape Ms. Holland along with the the rest of the mainstream press.  For them, homelessness remains a mystery whose causes can't be ascertained with a certainty for at least another two years.

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January 14, 2015

Stay Home, Mitt

It would be an understatement to say that I was disappointed when Mitt Romney came up short in 2012.  2012 should have been a layup, a chip shot for Mitt Romney.  Barack Obama's combination of incompetence, arrogance, and intense partisanship has put him out in front of Jimmy Carter in the race for worst president in modern times.  But Mitt managed to blow it.

Mr. Romney’s campaign team was notable for its mediocrities, led by a strategist whose theory of the race was that voters had already rejected Mr. Obama so the challenger merely needed to seem like a safe alternative. He thus never laid out an economic narrative to counter Mr. Obama’s claim that he had saved the country from a GOP Depression and needed more time for his solutions to work.

And don’t forget the management calamity of Mr. Romney’s voter turnout operation, code-named Orca. Mr. Romney likes to say he reveres “data,” but Mr. Obama’s campaign was years ahead of Mr. Romney’s in using Big Data and social media to boost turnout. The Romney campaign was so clueless on voter mobilization that well into Election Night the candidate still thought he would win. He lost a winnable race 51%-47%, including every closely contested state save North Carolina.

There is no question that Mitt would have been a vastly better president than Barack Obama, but that's not setting the bar very high.  Obama said he intended to transform America.  He wants us to be a socialist democracy, one that elects progressive leaders on the promise that they will maintain the various federal entitlements upon which we are intended to become dependent.  We are well on our way if ObamaCare is allowed to stand. 

But a Romney presidency starting in 2016 will move America only slightly back toward the center.  Meanwhile Obama's encroachments on our freedoms, the politicization of the federal bureaucracy, including the Justice Department, the EPA, and the IRS will remain in place.  Obama put them there, the tools he uses against his enemies and the American people, hoping to establish lasting progressive majorities.  Should Romney run and win in 2016, there they'll stay, awaiting the next progressive "visionary" who will pick them up and use them to rebuild Obama's totalitarian apparatus when Romney's term is done.

Obama had to be stopped in 2012.  Romney's first step towards halting and rolling back the Obama transformation was winning that election.  He didn't do it.  He couldn't stop the transformation then, and we can't expect that he'll stop it now.  I wonder if he even knows that that is what needs to be done.

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January 05, 2015

A Stunning New Insight

How about a "Marxist view of liberalism as a single-minded defense of capitalism."  Now there's a stunning new theory.  It comes to us from Edmund Fawcett's new book, Liberalism: The Life of an Idea as reviewed by Katrina Forrester.

It must be something about the start of a new year that has the left is scrambling to explain six years of horrendous policy failure.  Had these last six years not culminated in the resounding rejection of liberalism in the November midterms I'm sure there would be no such soul searching.  As it turned out, even on the left the failures can't be ignored, so liberals, or progressives, as they so like to be called, are out with the explanations.  This latest is a doozy, though.  Marxism was really all about rescuing capitalism.  Who knew!

Naturally, the basis of this new interpretation is an untruth.

For the defenders of Lockean liberalism, why liberals accommodated empire is a central puzzle: How could defenders of liberty defend colonial exploitation?  ...Fawcett dissolves the puzzle. Exploiting the riches of empire abroad was one way for states to resolve political conflict and economic turmoil at home. Much of the time, debates about empire were just an extension of the question of how to pay for liberal capitalism. 

It's not just that progressives are still talking about colonialism, long after colonial empires have ceased to exist.  There is also the deliberate misrepresentation, about the nature of wealth.  Progressives insist that economics is a zero-sum game.  They reason that somebody, somewhere, has to have gotten poorer in order for anyone, like, oh let's say Warren Buffett, to get richer.  It's a lie, really.  But it's a crucial principle, without which this wonderful new theory makes absolutely no sense.  Here's Ms. Forrester explaining Fawcett's supposed epiphany about who "pays for" capitalism.

It was in the 1930s that the question of how to rescue capitalism from itself was brought into sharpest relief. Fawcett looks to three economists who had different ideas about who would pay for the rescue: John Maynard Keynes, Friedrich Hayek and Irving Fisher. Each provided answers that would shape the future of economic thought and practice. Keynes’s focus on high wages was equivalent to earlier liberals’ concessions to demands for universal suffrage; his economic program was an example of liberalism’s economic compromise with democracy. Hayek’s willingness to belittle politics and look to the market for solutions harked back to an imaginary nineteenth-century laissez-faire liberalism and set the stage for the neoliberalism that followed. Fisher stressed the dangers of falling prices and the role of government monetary policy in preventing booms and busts. Though their recommendations were different, Fawcett emphasizes their similarities: all wanted to “limit capitalism’s disruptive instabilities” while protecting liberal principles. For Hayek (who worried least about capitalism’s disruptive potential), labor would bear the costs of saving capitalism. For Keynes and Fisher, because government paid for the rescue, in effect everyone played their part.

It's BS, of course.  It really doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that capitalism, or the fruits of it to be more precise, pays for everything else.  What Forrester and perhaps Fawcett don't get is that it isn't capitalism that needs to be paid for, it's those grubby little politicians who line their own pockets with taxpayer money by promising to fix the supposed problems of capitalism.  Here's one:  "the gap between the rich and the poor."  It's a non-existent problem really.  Nervertheless, taxing "the rich" and regulating everything else was supposed to fix it.  But six years of such disastrous progressive policy under Obama have made the rich richer (those connected to the Democrats and Obama), the poor poorer, and progressives a bit desparate.  And so the explanations come.

Or maybe sales pitch would be a better way to describe the progressive philosophy.  In actuality, progressives are the new entrepreneurs.  Their product is "fairness" which they deliver through expanded government, which at this point can fairly be described as bloated.  Under Obama progressives have realized massive profits through government delivered fairness.  Take Jonathan Gruber, one of ObamaCare's key architects.  He pulled in an estimated $4 million by helping to fashion a deliberately misleading and complex piece of federal legislation that depended upon, in his words, the “stupidity of the American voter” for passage.

The beauty of making your money through government sponsored fairness is that you're not constrained by the same rules that might apply to car dealer, or a loan officer, or anybody else who might be involved in the unpardonable sin of making a profit.  No.  Champions of "social justice" can say whatever they like.  "You can keep your doctor, period," comes to mind. 

We know how that worked out.  In spite of that there are still legions who favor centrally planned solutions like ObamaCare, who can disregard the actual fruits of it, who can pardon the lies that sold it.  And in case you're wondering why, just remember this.  There's a huge amount of money to be made in central planning.  It's a wonderful thing — for everybody except the ones in whose names the wonderful plans are made.

Progressive policies don't work very well in the real world, and after a while people get it, and they push back against it.  The 2014 midterms for instance.  When that happens progressives fight for market share with new strategies, new messages, and brilliant new insights.  Like how Marxism is really all about defending capitalism.

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December 30, 2014

The Progressive Case for Fracking?

Progressives may be starting a painful march back toward the political center, if an editorial in the Wall Street Journal by James Bloodworth is any indication.  In it Mr. Bloodworth makes The Progressive Case for Fracking.  It's quite an inventive work of fiction, implying that there could be such a thing as progressive support for fracking.

Christmas came early for the world’s liberal democracies this year, with news in mid-December that repressive regimes from Russia to Venezuela and from Iran to Belarus are tumbling down an economic spiral. Who or what should we thank for this geopolitical yuletide? The neocons? Pro-democracy protesters? George W. Bush and Tony Blair ?

No. Thank instead American shale producers. The shale-gas and hydraulic-fracking revolution is lighting a figurative bonfire under the world’s petrocracies. Dictatorships that for years blackmailed the West in the knowledge that we would come crawling back for the black stuff are now catching a glimpse of a bleak future.

...

This ought to put a smile not only on the faces of free-market economists, but liberals and progressives, too. As America becomes a net exporter of energy, shale could help topple some of the world’s worst regimes.

Alas. Progressives have never demonstrated any interest in toppling the world's worst regimes.  On the contrary, progressives are really envious of the world's worst regimes for the control they have over their peoples.  It's a degree of control that progressives wish they could have.  Then there would be "social justice" — once and for all.

Could Mr. Bloodworth be rewriting progressive history in hopes of rescuing the progressive brand?  It now suffers the cumulative effects of decades of policy failure, both domestic and international.  Good luck with that. The increase in shale oil production in the face of progressive opposition is yet another progressive defeat.  Progressives do not applaud. 

Instead we can expect them to rework their talking points so as to explain how this boost in oil production is really due to their own visionary policy preferences.  It has begun.  Mr. Bloodworth's editorial might represent the first salvo in a progressive counter-attack in their war to regain credibility. 

James Bloodworth is the editor for the blog Left Foot Forward.

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December 05, 2014

America's Suicide -- A Misdiagnosis

America's Suicide
By Michael H. Davison
246 pages. Dapa Publishing, LLC

In his introduction to America's Suicide, Michael H. Davison discloses that the title for his original manuscript was The American Neurosis. He explains:

“One of the more salient features of neurosis is a wholesale flight from responsibility. The neurotic faults inner compulsions, spouse, government, society or whatever for his unhappiness.”

He goes on to explain that he was told by a respected clinical psychologist that the word “neurosis” is “fading from professional use,” so he changed his title “to the more attention grabbing,” America's Suicide. In any case, it is the flight from responsibility that has America on what Michael H. Davison believes is an inescapable path to suicide.

“The overarching theme of this book suggests that we do not know ourselves very well. Most political, social and personal conflicts to a major degree arise from this single fact and are not resolvable with methods that we commonly rely on to resolve them.

We must for the first time in history find ourselves before we permanently lose ourselves. We do not know who or what we are or what motivates us to dream, create, build, destroy or kill.”

In the end he offers a prescription of sorts. To America's citizens he says, grow up!  Sound advice to be sure, and if more Americans would take it to heart the country will be the richer for it. But Mr. Davison is quite pessimistic about that actually ever happening.

“Americans are losing their freedom in part for failing to identify their enemy. When the United States finally reaches the dictatorship toward which we plunge, a great part of that tragedy will be the public's denial that they brought that catastrophe upon themselves.”

Mr. Davison concedes that setting more people onto the path of individual responsibility is not something that will happen automatically, yet he offers no concrete steps to encourage it.

He argues that the central conflict on the American political landscape is the tension between the collectivists and the individualists. Or to put it another way, it is the tension between those who favor more government and those who favor less. While the divide generally puts Democrats on the collectivist side and Republicans on the individualist side, Mr. Davison notes that Republicans can be collectivists, too.

Mr. Davison pronounces America's problem as psychological in nature, but the side one takes, collectivist vs. individualist, is ultimately decided based on what one thinks is in one's best interest.  It is not neurosis for leftist politicians in the Democratic party, who also happen to be proponents of big government, to find that their interests are served by encouraging dependence upon government. And when, as a result, Americans at the bottom of the economic ladder are faced with the decision to accept government assistance and the dependency that goes with it, or to endure added hardship for the sake of their pride in independence, the choice is a rationale decision, not neurotic behavior. It is one in which differences are weighed and a choice is made that reflects what one believes is in his or her best interest insofar as he or she is able to tell.

We have now come to the point where many of today's “entrepreneurs” see big government as the vehicle for making their fortunes. Recently Jonathan Gruber, one of ObamaCare's key architects, made his own small fortune in this way. First, he helped to fashion a deliberately misleading and complex piece of federal legislation that depended upon, in his words, the “stupidity of the American voter” for passage. Then he raked in the consulting fees from several blue states as they implemented their state run health care exchanges. All to the tune of about $4 million.

So while self interest seems to be part of our problem, it is also the solution. Our American system of government was designed around the central fact that people do what they believe is in their best interest. Ours is a system of Checks and Balances in which the pursuit of self interest in one branch of government acts as a deterrent to it in the other branches. In that way government power is intended to be limited.  What I would hope for in a book about America's dire circumstances, are some ideas about how we can re-stack the incentives in such a way that it is not in anybody's best interest to claim the mantle of public service while in reality soaking the taxpayer for millions. 

While America's Suicide offers countless valid examples of where America is going off track, it never touches on the heart of it: how it works out that a select group of governing and connected elites can profit at the expense of America.  It offers no specifics for averting the inevitable disaster that is predicted in its title, perhaps because Mr. Davison has thrown up his hands in despair. The best he offers are what I consider some rather dubious principles of a Rational and Responsible American Party. For example, Mr. Davison believes that Supreme Court decisions on the constitutionality of legislation should be subject to override by two thirds vote of both houses of congress.  Third parties are rarely successful and one that offers that as a principle is unlikely to gain much support in my view.

I do not share Mr. Davison's pessimism, and I find America's Suicide something of a misdiagnosis.

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November 06, 2014

An Agile Legislative Process?

Mike Lee, U.S. Senator from Utah, has a plan for the Republican Congress that convenes in January. 

Republican leaders should embrace a more open-source strategy development model that includes everyone on the front end to avoid confusion, suspicion, and division on the back end. The last four years have repeatedly shown the folly of excluding anti-establishment conservatives from strategy formation—bills pulled from the floor, intra-Conference chaos, and back-biting in the press.

...

Inclusive legislative and strategy processes will come with tradeoffs, of course. Leaders will have to surrender some of their institutional power. Conservatives will have to be prepared to accept defeat, fair and square, if our ideas cannot carry the day. Members will have to expose themselves to inconvenient amendment votes. The results of some votes and the fates of certain bills may prove unpredictable. But the costs of an open-source, transparent process are worth it for the benefits of greater inclusion of more diverse voices and views, and for the opportunity such a process would offer to rebuild the internal and external trust necessary to govern.

Senator Lee's approach has some elements of the Agile Development Process, also known as Scrum.  Agile is a software development process that relies on diverse, self-organizing teams.  Development occurs in sprints of two or three weeks in duration.  The team decides at the start of each sprint how many and which required features it can finish by the end of the sprint.  Finish means that feature is ready for production.  

If Republicans can find a way to apply Agile principles to the legislative process — a tall order — they can get some impressive and worthwhile results.  Read all of Senator Lee's column.  It's a good plan, and I think they can do it.  But like Agile, it will require discipline.  

Note:  The author is a certified Agile Scrum Master.

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November 03, 2014

Vote New Hampshire

Something to think about on your way to the polls:

Vote the Republican ticket!

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Despair at Duke

A sure sign that the Democrats are in for a really rough day tomorrow is when stalwart lefties say we ought to cancel the election.

There was a time when midterm elections made sense — at our nation’s founding, the Constitution represented a new form of republican government, and it was important for at least one body of Congress to be closely accountable to the people. But especially at a time when Americans’ confidence in the ability of their government to address pressing concerns is at a record low, two-year House terms no longer make any sense. We should get rid of federal midterm elections entirely.

The excerpt above comes from a New York Times column, Cancel the Midterms, penned by Duke Professor David Schanzer and Duke junior, Jay Sullivan — presumably one of the professor's students.  Curious combination, to say the least, a professor and a junior.  Maybe Jay Sullivan is really connected, politically speaking. 

But I digress.  Up to now our friends on the left have been harping non-stop about the importance of the vote.  Anything that might remotely be construed as an impediment to voting, such as having to show an ID to prove who you are when you vote, is a civil rights violation.  Everybody ought to vote.  On the left they even want people who are not U.S. citizens to vote.  Actually, I think they especially want non-citizens to be able vote, and the less they know about America, its freedoms, and its issues, the better.

When it comes to voting, more is better.  Except for now?  Here we are down to the wire, but the polls continue to show that Republicans are probably going to win control of the Senate from Obama's Democrats.  So, now lefties are saying never mind all that stuff about voting.  Why do we have to have all these elections anyway?  It's just way too much.

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Tomorrow

Peter Ingemi, a pro-life Massachusetts blogger, has sound advice for New Hampshire Republicans of all persuasions:  Get out and vote for Scott Brown.

So I urge you , if you are a New Hampshire Tea Party voter, a second amendment defender or even like me, a strong pro-life voter and considered staying home or even voting 3rd party reconsider, because choosing to elect Scott Brown may do more for your cause than you can possibly imagine.

Imagine the depressing effect a Brown victory will have as left wing voters consider heading out to the polls in western states.

This year I plan to vote the Republican ticket, top to bottom.  I urge all undecided voters to do the same. 

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October 24, 2014

The Florida Voucher Fight

Denisha Merriweather and the Florida Education Association have very different viewpoints on Florida's Tax Credit Scholarships Program.  On the one hand the program got a ringing endorsement from Ms. Merriweather recently in the Wall Street Journal.  She was one of Florida's low-income minority students who were able to take advantage of it.  To say that the FTC Scholarship Program made a difference in her life would be quite an understatement.  In her own words,

By the time I was in the fourth grade, I had been held back twice, disliked school, and honestly believed I’d end up a high-school dropout. Instead, three months ago, I earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of West Florida in interdisciplinary social science with a minor in juvenile justice. I am the first member of my family to go to college, let alone graduate. But this didn’t happen by chance, or by hard work alone. It happened because I was given an opportunity.

The difference maker was a scholarship that allowed me to go to a secondary school that was the right fit for me. I was lucky to be raised in Florida, home to the nation’s largest tax-credit scholarship program, a “voucher” program that helps parents pay for private schools. Here’s the cool part: The scholarships are financed entirely by charitable contributions, which are offset by tax credits.

The Florida Department of Education concurs:  It's "Good news for choice!"  

Good news for choice! To encourage private, voluntary contributions, to expand educational opportunities for children of families that have limited financial resources and to enable children in this state to achieve a greater level of excellence in their education, the 2001 Florida Legislature created s. 220.187, Florida Statutes, establishing the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program. In 2010, the FTC Scholarship Program was expanded and renumbered as Section 1002.395, Florida Statutes.

The law provides for state tax credits for contributions to nonprofit scholarship funding organizations, called SFOs. The SFO's then award scholarships to eligible children of families that have limited financial resources.

As uplifting as Ms. Merriweather's story truly is, somehow the Florida Education Association wants to kill the program that made it possible.  The tax-credit scholarship program has been around since 2001, created under Republican Governor Jeb Bush, but recently the FEA has filed a lawsuit that seeks to end it altogether.  Says the FEA:

"Florida's voucher programs are a risky experiment that gambles taxpayers' money and children's lives," Florida Education Association Vice President Joanne McCall said in a statement sent out in conjunction with a press conference in Tallahassee. "Florida's voucher schools are largely unregulated, don't have to follow the state's academic standards, don't have to hire qualified teachers and don't have to prove to the state that they are using public money wisely."

You might think that ten-plus years of positive results would allay FEA fears of the risk to children.  In fact, Florida comes in first in the nation for developing reading proficiency among low-income fourth-graders.  Still, the teachers union wants it gone.  Sorry, but the pretended concern about some nebulous risk to Florida's children doesn't ring true.

As ususal, we can follow the money.  

Education and advocacy groups are targeting a Florida voucher program that this year will draw $357.8 million in taxpayer money to help send 69,000 low-income students to private schools. The groups filed a lawsuit Thursday alleging that the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, begun in 2001 under former Gov. Jeb Bush, violates the state constitution by diverting tax dollars from public schools. 

The tax credit cap, currently 357.8 million, will increase to $447.3 million for next year.  Education and advocacy groups (advocates for the Democratic party, no doubt) want that money in public schools where it can feed union dues which will ultimately find their way into Democratic campaign coffers.  For their part Democrats are great champions of public education rather than school choice.  They know where the money is.

There is another much more insidious aim.  Think about who Denisha Merriweather might have become without the FTC Scholarship that paved her way to a college degree.  Ms. Merriweather describes that Denisha as a child.

I grew up with my biological mother and we moved around constantly. This really took a toll on my grades—Ds and Fs were the norm. My poor grades and the fact that I was two years older than most of my classmates angered and embarrassed me. I was “disruptive” and fought with other students. Teachers tried to help, but nothing they did seemed to work. I felt no matter how hard I tried, the results would be the same. Learning became a nightmare—a punishment for being a child. 

That is the Denisha Merriweather that Democrats would prefer to have as a voting citizen.  Without a course correction Ms. Merriweather fully expected to be a high school dropout.  Angry, embarrassed, resentful.  Think how much more easily she could be persuaded by the Democratic message.  You know the one:  Her lot in life, low skill, low education, low income, all of that, is because she's caught in a racist trap.  A system rigged against her.  Yes, it's almost certain that she'd buy into that message.

The funny thing is, had she been stuck in that boat, she would have been right to believe that racism put her there.  It's a racist trap, alright, but it's not the doings of a Republican party that Democrats endlessly accuse of racism.  (If you disagree with Barack Obama what else could you be but racist?)  No, the racist trap is the doing of a Democratic party that takes deliberate, concrete actions to deny opportunity to disadvantaged school children.  That's the racist trap.  That's what the Democrats are doing in Florida.

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October 23, 2014

Obama Is Way Too Cool

With no letup in sight the Obama administration blunders through crisis after crisis.  The mid-term elections are just weeks away, so Joshua Green of Bloomberg tries his best to chalk up the blundering to public misunderstanding of Obama's crisis management "style."  Oh, and Republican obstuctionism, too.  On that count Exhibit A is this bit of red meat for the lefty partisans.  (All emphasis below is mine)

It’s true that Obama’s task is made considerably more difficult by the antipathy that has marked the Republicans’ response to Ebola. Most seem more intent on stopping Democrats than on stopping the contagion. Their ads politicizing the virus have only added to the climate of fear. And their filibuster of Obama’s surgeon general nominee, Dr. Vivek Murthy, has also silenced an authoritative voice on public health, for reasons as small-minded as those dictating the party’s line on Ebola: They’re carrying water for the National Rifle Association, which objects to classifying gun violence as a public-health issue.

The Boston Globe, not your everyday right-wing rag, reports a different take on the Murthy "filibuster."

Republicans, however, noted that Democrats who control the Senate could have confirmed Murthy without any help from Republicans under rule changes enacted last year that allow confirmation with a simple majority.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid has declined to put the nomination up for a vote, with a leadership aide telling the Globe in March that there was uncertainty over whether some Democrats would support it.

Turns out it was the all too typical Harry Reid filibuster.  Just never bring it up.

But anyway, on to the analysis of Obama's crisis management process.  It's cerebral.  Really.  It is.  At least according to Joshua Green, it is.  He seems to think "Obama’s crisis-management process as akin to a high-level graduate seminar."  Yeah.

Six years in, it’s clear that Obama’s presidency is largely about adhering to intellectual rigor—regardless of the public’s emotional needs. The virtues of this approach are often obscured in a crisis, because Obama disdains the performative aspects of his job.

Hmmm.  Maybe Green should have left off that last part.  Suppose we think of "the performative aspects" in the way you might think of your annual performative review.  You know, where your'e hoping you might be in for a pay raise?  So Obama, he "disdains" doing his job?  How's that supposed to work?   

Well that's not exactly news, and we've seen how it works, which is: not.  Obama can never bring himself to do anything except campaign and play gotcha games with Republicans.  And everybody else for that matter.  From blowing up budget negotiations with John Boehner to blowing up the Status of Forces Agreement with Iraqi President al Maliki, Obama is always into politial maneuvering so that the inevitable failure is somebody elses fault.  

And journalists like Joshua Green go along with that.  Consider the BS about the Republican filibuster.  But Green wants to have it both ways.  He wants to appear to be critical of President Obama to give the rest of his nonsense some weight.

Even so, the failure is mostly Obama’s. It didn’t require extraordinary foresight to anticipate the public freakout once the infection spread beyond Duncan. Obama, who’s better acquainted with Washington dysfunction than anybody, should have anticipated the partisan acrimony. 

Right.  Obama should have anticipated that Republicans would be partisan.  And of course, he should have realized that the public are just not as cool as he is.  Tripped up by his own glorious brilliance.  Tragic.

Posted by Tom Bowler at 08:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0) | Digg This! |
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October 22, 2014

Jeanne Shaheen Ducks The Question

In last night's debate between Scott Brown and Jeanne Shaheen, Senator Shaheen was confronted with this (apparently very difficult) question:  "Imagine you are at home wearing your New Hampshire citizen hat and you get a call from pollster asking the following question:  Do you approve of the job President Obama is doing?  Now there'll be a chance to follow up but this is a yes or no answer.  Do you approve, yes or no?"

What a great question, and it put Senator Shaheen in a tough spot. If she answered yes, it would be an admission that she hasn't really been at all in tune with her constituents. If she said no, she would have to explain why she voted with Obama 99% of the time.

The question we need to have answered is this. Does Senator Shaheen support the perpetuation of President Obama's policies?  By ducking the moderator's question the Senator let her voting record speak for itself, and the answer it gives is yes.  She supports continuing President Obama's policies.  And it will be impossible for New Hampshire citizens to escape the detrimental impact of those policies if Democrats hold the Senate.

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