Saturday, August 31, 2013

Liberalism Makes It Easier to be Bad

Liberalism Makes It Easier to be Bad
There are many liberals who lead thoroughly decent lives. And there are conservatives who do not.
But that is not the whole issue.
There is something about liberalism that is not nearly as true about conservatism. The further left one goes, the more one finds that the ideology provides moral cover for a life that is not moral. While many people left of center lead fine personal lives, many do not. And left-wing ideals enable a person to do that much more than conservative ideals do.
There is an easy way to demonstrate this.
If a married -- or even unmarried -- conservative congressman had texted sexual images of himself to young women he did not even know, he would have been called something Anthony Wiener has not been called -- a hypocrite.
Why? Because conservatives -- secular conservatives, not only religious conservatives -- are identified with moral values in the personal sphere, and liberals are not. Liberals rarely called Bill Clinton a hypocrite for his extramarital affair while president. George W. Bush would have been pilloried as such.
Simply put, we do not generally judge personal conduct the same when it comes to liberals and conservatives.
Both liberals and conservatives know this. As a result, as noted, liberal social positions can provide moral cover for immoral behavior in a way that conservative positions cannot.
Though there are many sincere liberals, it is likely that this ability to provide moral cover for a less than moral life is one source of liberalism's appeal.
I first thought about this when I saw how the left-wing students at my graduate school, Columbia University, behaved. Aside from their closing down classes, taking over office buildings, and ransacking professors' offices, I saw the way in which many of them conducted themselves in their personal lives. Most of them had little sense of personal decency, and lived lives of narcissistic hedonism. Women who were involved with leftist groups have told of how poorly they were treated. And one suspects that they would have been treated far better by conservative, let alone religious, men on campus.
My sense was that the radicals' commitment to "humanity," to "peace," and to "love" gave them license to feel good about themselves without having to lead a good life. Their vocal opposition to war and to racism provided them with all the moral self-esteem they wanted.
Consider the example of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. He had been expelled from college for paying someone to take his exams. His role in the death of a woman with whom he spent an evening would have sent almost anyone without his family name to prison -- or would have at least resulted in prosecution for negligent homicide. And he spent decades using so many women in so public a way that stories about his sex life were routinely told in Washington. Read the 9,000-word 1990 article in GQ by Michael Kelly, who a few years later became the editor of the New Republic.
When this unimpressive man started espousing liberal positions, speaking passionately about the downtrodden in society, it recalled the unimpressive students who marched on behalf of civil rights, peace and love.
It is quite likely that Ted Kennedy came to believe in the positions that he took. But I also suspect that he found espousing those positions invaluable to his self-image and to his public image: "Look at what a moral man I am after all." And liberal positions were all that mattered to the left and to the liberal media that largely ignored such lecherous behavior as the "waitress sandwich" he made in a Washington, D.C. restaurant with another prominent liberal, former Senator Chris Dodd.
In addition to knowing that liberal positions provide moral cover for immoral personal behavior, liberals know that their immoral behavior will be given more of pass than exactly the same behavior would if done by a conservative.
Women's groups provided Bill Clinton with enormous moral capital because he supported their feminist agenda. One leading feminist famously said she would be happy to get on her knees and pleasure Clinton thanks to his pro-choice position on abortion.
Conservative politicians have the same sex drive as liberal politicians, the same marital problems and the same ubiquitous temptations and opportunities. And some will therefore engage in extramarital sex. But every conservative politician knows that should he be caught, his positions on issues not only do not provide moral cover for his conduct, those very positions condemn it. There is no benefit to the conservative sinner in being a conservative. There is great benefit to the liberal sinner in being a liberal.

Incomes Have Dropped Twice as Much During the 'Recovery' as During the Recession

Incomes Have Dropped Twice as Much During the 'Recovery' as During the Recession

• By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON          

Depression Great

President Obama likes to talk about income inequality, but what matters far more is the actual income of the typical American.  And how has the typical American household income fared on Obama's watch?  Well, the economic "recovery" has now spanned an Olympiad, and during that time the typical American household income has not only dropped—it has dropped more than twice as much as it did during the recession.
New estimates derived from the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey by Sentier Research indicate that the real (inflation-adjusted) median annual household income in America has fallen by 4.4 percent during the "recovery," after having fallen by 1.8 during the recession.  During the recession, the median American household income fell by $1,002 (from $55,480 to $54,478). During the recovery—that is, from the officially defined end of the recession (in June 2009) to the most recent month for which figures are available (June 2013)—the median American household income has fallen by $2,380 (from $54,478 to $52,098).  So the typical American household is making almost $2,400 less per year (in constant 2013 dollars) than it was four years ago, when the Obama "recovery" began.                      

Importantly, these income tallies include government payouts such as unemployment compensation and cash welfare. So Obama's method of funneling ever-more money and power to Washington, and then selectively divvying some of it back out, clearly isn't working for the typical American family. Nor would his proposed immigration bill help the income prospects of the median American.  And perhaps it's just a coincidence, but the span of time over which the typical American household's income has dropped by about $2,400 a year (during an ostensible "recovery") corresponds almost exactly with the span of time that we've been living with the looming specter of Obamacare—which began to be debated in earnest around June 2009.

Another Epic Fail for Socialism

Another Epic Fail for Socialism

by Steven Hayward in Hugo Chavez

There’s the old joke I heard way back in college that was more or less rendered obsolete in the 1980s, but which has made a comeback of sorts in the era of Obama’s crypto-socialist crony-capitalism: “The trouble with capitalism is that it’s people exploiting other people; the  trouble with socialism is just the opposite.”  Of course this is false: it is capitalism, not government control of the economy, that has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty–especially in China–over the last 25 years.  It seems silly to have to repeat this over and over again, but the socialist impulse is irrepressible, along with the sentimental ignorance that fuels the socialist impulse.
But it is fun to point out, as the Wall Street Journal does today, that one of the biggest beneficiaries of socialism turns out to be capitalists.  Just as the Soviet Union suffered something like 75 years of “bad weather” on its farms following the revolution, much the same is happening in tropical Venezuela:
U.S. Rice Farmers Cash in on Venezuelan Socialism: U.S. Exporters Benefit as Production Falls in Latin American Country
STUTTGART, Ark.—Steve Orlicek, a rice farmer here, is living the American dream. He owns a thriving business; he vacations in the Bahamas.

His good fortune springs from many roots, including an unlikely one: He is a prime beneficiary of the socialist economic policies of Hugo Chávez, Venezuela’s late president and critic of what he called U.S. “imperialism.”
It is a paradoxical legacy of Mr. Chávez’s self-styled socialist revolution that his policies became a moneymaker for the capitalist systems he deplored. During his 14 years in power, he nationalized large farms, redistributed land and controlled food prices as part of a strategy to help the poor. But these policies turned Venezuela from a net exporter to a net importer of rice—from farmers like Mr. Orlicek. “The rice industry has been very good to us,” Mr. Orlicek said, sitting in his newly renovated home, appointed with a baby grand piano played by his wife, Phyllis.
It isn’t just rice. Production of steel, sugar and many other goods has fallen in Venezuela, leading to occasional shortages. Until recently, Venezuela was largely self-sufficient in beef and coffee. Now it imports both.

Memo to socialists everywhere: You can’t win.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Premiums Climbed $2,976 Since 2009, Despite Obama Vow

Premiums Climbed $2,976 Since 2009, Despite Obama Vow

Thu, Aug 22 2013 00:00:00 E 00_WEB
And while annual premium increases have moderated over the past two years, that's due to trends in the insurance market largely unrelated to ObamaCare, and trends the law could actually reverse.
The Kaiser survey found that the average family premium this year is $16,351, up 4% over last year, and up 22% since 2009. After adjusting for inflation, premiums climbed an average 3.2% a year in Obama's first term, higher than the 2.7% average during President Bush's last four years in office.
During his first campaign for president, Obama repeatedly claimed that his health reform plan would, as he said at a Virginia rally in 2008 "lower premiums by up to $2,500 for a typical family per year."
Nevertheless, the White House has been touting recent signs of health cost moderation as evidence that ObamaCare is "already working to reduce costs."
Officials cite the fact that national spending on health care climbed just 3.9% in 2011, the same as the previous two years, and the slowest increase since the 1960s.
But the trends driving the slowdown in health spending have little to do with the Affordable Care Act.
The sluggish economy played a big role. "The failure of the economy to bounce back as quickly as it has after past recessions has prolonged this dampening effect on health spending," noted Joseph Antos, a health care expert at the American Enterprise Institute.
Also important has been a broader shift that has been underway for years toward higher-deductible plans. These plans provide consumers with a stronger incentive to economize on health spending.
The Kaiser survey found, for example, that 78% of workers now face at least some deductible, up from 59% in 2008. And nearly a third has a deductible of at least $2,000, up from 12% in 2008.
In addition, the private insurance market has seen an explosion in Health Savings Account-type plans — an idea long championed by conservative Republicans — which combine high deductibles with a tax-free savings account that consumers can roll over if they don't spend it all in one year.
Kaiser found that one in five workers are now enrolled in an HSA-type plan, up from 8% in 2008.
A separate survey by America's Health Insurance Plans finds that more than 15 million people are now enrolled in HSA plans, up 15% from last year andmore than double the number in 2008.
Drew Altman, the Kaiser foundation's president, on a conference call with reporters called it "part of a quiet revolution in health insurance from more comprehensive to less comprehensive."
But it's clearly a revolution that can help control health costs. A Rand Corporation study last year — titled "Skin in the Game" — found that families in HSA-type plans spent 21% less, on average, in the first year after they switched from a traditional plan. The study found that annual health costs would fall $57 billion if half of workers signed up with an HSA.
Unfortunately, ObamaCare will likely shift the market in the opposite direction, toward less out-of-pocket spending, greater reliance on insurance to cover small health coasts, and higher premiums. ObamaCare, for example, already requires that preventive care be provided at no direct cost to the patient. It also puts strict limits on deductibles and out-of-pocket spending.
Shipping giant UPS (UPS) recently cited the costs of these changes as a reason why it was dropping coverage for the spouses of 15,000 of its white-collar workers.
And a report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services projects that next year "out-of-pocket spending is projected to decline 1.5% as third-party coverage will cover expenses previously paid by consumers out of pocket."

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Obama’s Allies Attack Egypt’s Christians

Obama’s Allies Attack Egypt’s Christians

by John Hinderaker in Islam, Obama Foreign Policy

President Obama and his Secretary of State, John Kerry, have come down firmly on the side of the Muslim Brotherhood, repeatedly condemning Egypt’s military for trying to restore order to that country, and stop its slide toward Islamic totalitarianism. Meanwhile, the Brotherhood has gone on a rampage, murdering Christians and burning their churches to the ground. Whether Obama and Kerry consider this a bug or a feature has not yet been explained. The Associated Press isn’t generally considered a pro-Christian news outlet, but to its credit, it tells the truth about what is happening in Egypt:
In the four days since security forces cleared two sit-in camps by supporters of Egypt’s ousted president, Islamists have attacked dozens of Coptic churches along with homes and businesses owned by the Christian minority. …
Nearly 40 churches have been looted and torched, while 23 others have been attacked and heavily damaged since Wednesday….

The Evangelical Church of Malawi was burned by Muslim Brotherhood supporters

Sister Manal is the principal of the Franciscan school in Bani Suef. She was having breakfast with two visiting nuns when news broke of the clearance of the two sit-in camps by police, killing hundreds. In an ordeal that lasted about six hours, she, sisters Abeer and Demiana and a handful of school employees saw a mob break into the school through the wall and windows, loot its contents, knock off the cross on the street gate and replace it with a black banner resembling the flag of al-Qaida.
Al Qaeda is a spinoff from Obama’s favored faction, the Muslim Brotherhood.
By the time the Islamists ordered them out, fire was raging at every corner of the 115-year-old main building and two recent additions. Money saved for a new school was gone, said Manal, and every computer, projector, desk and chair was hauled away. …
“We are nuns. We rely on God and the angels to protect us,” she said. “At the end, they paraded us like prisoners of war and hurled abuse at us as they led us from one alley to another without telling us where they were taking us,” she said. …
Two Christian women employed by the school, siblings Wardah and Bedour, had to fight their way out of the mob, while groped, hit and insulted by the extremists. “I looked at that and it was very nasty,” said Manal.
The incident at the Franciscan school was repeated at Minya where a Catholic school was razed to the ground by an arson attack and a Christian orphanage was also torched.
Bishoy Alfons Naguib, a 33-year-old businessman from Minya, has a similarly harrowing story. His home supplies store on a main commercial street in the provincial capital, also called Minya, was torched this week and the flames consumed everything inside.
“A neighbor called me and said the store was on fire. When I arrived, three extremists with knifes approached me menacingly when they realized I was the owner,” recounted Naguib. His father and brother pleaded with the men to spare him. Luckily, he said, someone shouted that a Christian boy was filming the proceedings using his cell phone, so the crowd rushed toward the boy shouting “Nusrani, Nusrani,” the Quranic word for Christians which has become a derogatory way of referring to them in today’s Egypt. …

The Malawi Antiquities Museum was looted and destroyed by the Brotherhood
In Fayoum, an oasis province southwest of Cairo, Islamists looted and torched five churches, according to Bishop Ibram, the local head of the Coptic Orthodox church, by far the largest of Egypt’s Christian denominations. He said he had instructed Christians and clerics alike not to try to resist the mobs of Islamists, fearing any loss of life.
Two factions are contending for power in Egypt. One of them wants to slaughter Christians and burn down their churches. That is the group now being supported by American foreign policy. If anyone can think of a good reason for this, please leave an explanation in the comments.


Dead souls of a cultural revolution (DP: sorry for auto-start ad--hit the mute until the interview)

Last Friday, Christopher Lane, a 22-year-old Australian here on a baseball scholarship, was shot and killed while jogging in Duncan, Okla., population 23,000. He died where he fell.
Police have three suspects, two black and one white. The former said they were bored and decided to shoot Lane for “the fun of it.”
As Lane was white and the shooter black, racism has surfaced as a motive. Thursday came reports that killing a white man may have been an initiation rite for the black teens in joining some offshoot of the Crips or Bloods.
What happened in Oklahoma and the reaction, or lack of reaction to it, tells us much about America in 2013, not much of it good.
Teenagers who can shoot and kill a man out of summertime boredom are moral barbarians, dead souls.
But who created these monsters? Where did they come from? Surely one explanation lies in the fact that the old conscience-forming and character-forming institutions – home, church, school and a moral and healthy culture fortifying basic truths – have collapsed. And the community hardest hit is Black America.
Black mobs routinely terrorize cities across the country, but the media and government are silent. Read the detailed account of rampant racial crime in “White Girl Bleed a Lot: The Return of Race Riots to America”
If we go back to the end of World War II, 90 percent of black families consisted of a mother and father and children raised and disciplined by their parents. The churches to which these families went on Sundays were stronger. Black schools may have been largely segregated, but they were also the transmission belts of patriotism and traditional values rooted in biblical truths and a Christian faith.
Though such schools graduated hardworking, law-abiding and productive citizens, today they would be closed as unconstitutional.
Indeed, all of those character- and conscience-forming institutions of yesterday are in an advanced state of decline today.
Seventy-three percent of black kids are born to single moms. Black kids who make it to 12th grade may often be found reading at seventh-, eighth- or ninth-grade levels. In some cities the black dropout rate can hit as high as 50 percent.
Drugs are readily available. And among black males ages 18 to 29, in urban areas, often a third are in prison or jail, or on probation or parole, or walking around with a criminal record.
Where do the kids get their ideas of right and wrong, good and evil? In homes where the father is absent and the TV is always on. From radios tuned in to rap and hip-hop. From films where Hollywood values prevail and the shooting never stops. From street gangs that sometimes form the only families these kids have ever known.
Still, crime has fallen since 1990, we are told.
And so it has. But that is only because the baby boomers, the largest population cohort in our history, passed out of the high-crime age group a quarter of a century ago, and because the jail and prison population in America has tripled.
Order Pat Buchanan’s brilliant and prescient books at WND’s Superstore.
What kind of leadership do we see today in Black America?
What can be said for an NAACP that was lately demanding a Justice Department investigation of a rodeo clown running around a bull ring in rural Missouri in an Obama mask, but cannot find its voice to address a black-on-white atrocity in Middle America?
When Trayvon Martin was shot to death in a murky incident in Sanford, Fla., Jesse Jackson rushed there to declare: “Blacks are under attack. … Killing us is big business.” Trayvon was “shot down in cold blood by a vigilante … murdered and martyred.”
After Chris Lane’s cold-blooded murder, Jesse tweeted: This sort of thing is to be “frowned upon.”
If I had a son, said President Obama, he would have looked like Trayvon; 35 years ago, I could have been Trayvon. Can the president not find his voice to speak to the parents of Chris Lane?
Since Lyndon Johnson took office, 50 years ago, we have spent trillions on his programs for health care, housing, education, food stamps, welfare and civil rights. Are we living in that Great Society we were promised?
In that same decade, we were told that the social, cultural and moral revolution bursting forth on the campuses would rid us of the repressive old-time morality and Old Time Religion, and lead to a more equal, just, humane and better America, a beacon to mankind.
Yet, are not the killers of Chris Lane who shot him for the fun of it the “do-your-own-thing!” children of that cultural revolution?
The death of Trayvon was said to be reflective of the real America, a country where black folks live in constant fear of white vigilantes and white racist cops. What nonsense.
In the real America, interracial violence is overwhelmingly black-on-white. Even if the media will not report it, everybody knows it.
And journalists will not dig into the numbers that prove it, for the truth would undermine their ideology and contradict the narrative that governs and gives meaning to their lives.
For liberals, America is always “Mississippi Burning.” It just has to be that way.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Dick Durbin: Worse than stupid, part 6

Dick Durbin: Worse than stupid, part 6

by Scott Johnson in Democrats, First Amendment, Zimmerman trial

When the IRS targeting of conservative groups first saw the light of day this spring, Dick Durbin intoned: “It is absolutely unacceptable to single out any political group — right, left or center — and say we’re going to target them. That is unthinkable. That goes back to some of the worst days of the Richard Nixon administration.” (Durbin could teach Uriah Heep a thing or two about false sincerity.) Last week the editors of the Chicago Tribune used the quote to preface its editorial “Durbin’s enemies list.” The editors paused to take note of the campaign of intimidation conducted by Durbin that we featured in part 1 and part 4 of this series:
Free speech isn’t always free. It gets downright cumbersome when Dick Durbin has you on his enemies list. Consider:
We were surprised in the early days of this spring’s Internal Revenue Service scandal to see Durbin voice indignation with the IRS for apparently behaving just as he had urged it to: In an Oct. 12, 2010, letter to then-IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman — we have Durbin’s press release, including his letter — the senator urged an investigation of “several 501(c)(4) organizations that appear to be in violation of the law.” But Durbin’s letter only cited one group by name: Crossroads GPS, a conservative group that has spent heavily on advertising to promote fiscal responsibility, limits to government regulation and national security.
Durbin said this year on Fox News that he hadn’t sicced the IRS on any liberal groups because … an investigation of Crossroads would put them, too, on notice. Crossroads says it scrupulously obeys the federal laws that regulate all such groups. We’ve seen no evidence that Durbin’s accusation of crimes was accurate, but he surely achieved one goal: He made potential donors think twice about contributing to a group a U.S. senator had publicly named as an illegal operation.
Now, though, Durbin has changed tactics. Rather than accusing political enemies of flouting federal law, he’s suggesting that he may publicly expose them to public outrage over the killing of Trayvon Martin. The editorial page of Thursday’s Wall Street Journal reported that the senator has sent letters to corporate and nonprofit supporters of the American Legislative Exchange Council, asking them to disclose their positions on “stand-your-ground” legislation that ALEC supported in Florida in 2005.
ALEC, which is holding its annual meeting in Chicago this week, is a conservative association of state legislators, foundations and businesses that advocate limited government and free markets. Many but not all of its areas of focus are economic. As Durbin writes in his letter to ALEC donors:
“… Although ALEC does not maintain a public list of corporate members or donors, other public documents indicate that your company funded ALEC at some point during the period between ALEC’s adoption of model ‘stand your ground’ legislation in 2005 and the present day. … I am seeking clarification whether organizations that have funded ALEC’s operations in the past currently support ALEC and the model ‘stand your ground’ legislation.”
Durbin adds that in September he will convene a subcommittee hearing “to examine ‘stand-your ground’ laws, and I intend to include the responses to my letters in the hearing record. Therefore, please know that your response will be publicly available.”
So while the letter acknowledges that recipients have a right to participate in policy debates, Durbin’s intent is transparent: Renounce ALEC, and quit donating money, or I’ll shame you but good.
The Journal notes that as Durbin well knows, companies that support ALEC’s economic initiatives don’t care about “stand-your-ground” laws: “His goal is to scare them with reputational damage by mentioning them in the same breath as Trayvon Martin.”
Durbin’s communications director, Max Gleischman, told us Thursday afternoon that the senator’s goal isn’t to silence groups he opposes, but “to find out if groups that support (ALEC) financially agree with (ALEC’s) position on ‘stand your ground’ laws. Simple as that.”
If only thinly coded letters from senators with as much clout as Durbin were that benign. Because it would be more than wrong for a U.S. senator to use the power of his high federal office as a cudgel against his enemies. We’ll give the last word on that to Durbin himself:
“It is absolutely unacceptable to single out any political group — right, left or center — and say we’re going to target them. That is unthinkable. That goes back to some of the worst days of the Richard Nixon administration.”
As the Tribune editors note, the Wall Street Journal also covered this story last week in the editorial “Durbin wants a list.”

The civil rights movement sets a new standard in perversity

The civil rights movement sets a new standard in perversity

 by Paul Mirengoff in Race and racial bias, Racial Preferences

Nothing illustrates the bankruptcy of the modern civil rights movement more starkly than its war against school disciplinary standards. Because black students are suspended from school at rates several times higher than their white counterparts, school jurisdictions are under pressure to relax disciplinary standards. A number have done so. The Maryland State Board of Education is set to follow this trend.
The war on disciplinary standards is part of a wider war waged by the modern civil rights movement against standards that blacks struggle more than non-blacks to meet. Such standards include certain employment criteria — e.g., tests and criminal background checks — as well as some criminal laws — e.g. prohibitions against possessing certain narcotics.
But the war on school disciplinary standards is particularly perverse. Education remains the pathway to success for minority group members, and education is undermined when unruly students disrupt the process. Thus, black students and their parents have a strong interest in the maintenance of classroom discipline. It’s disgraceful that civil rights leaders subordinate that interest to their self-serving desire to claim victim status for blacks.
No basis exists for inferring victim status from racial disparities in school suspension rates. For one thing, much of the discipline in question is meted out by black teachers and administrators. Surely, they are not basing their decisions on race.

In any event, there is nothing unnatural about the disparities. One would expect a disproportionate amount of disciplinary problems from students raised in homes without a father, homes in which a parent is absent due to incarceration, homes in which one or more parent is addicted to drugs, or homes in which the mother is extremely young. Some, if not all, of these phenomena prevail disproportionately in black homes.
And there’s a final paradox to this story. It turns out that relaxing disciplinary standards is not likely to reduce racial disparities in suspension rates; rather it likely will increase them. As my friend Jim Scanlan explains, lowering cutoffs — be it on a test score or some other selection device — tends to reduce relative differences in “success” rates, but also tends to increase relative differences in “failure” rates. Suspension from school represents failure.
The civil rights movement that marched on Washington 50 years ago this month sought a society in which blacks could obtain society’s benefits and prizes under the same set of standards as whites. Today’s civil rights movement seeks to bulldoze standards that stand in the way of equal distribution of society’s benefits and prizes to blacks.
But a nation, like an individual, will be only as virtuous and successful as its ability to set and attain high standards of conduct and achievement. To be sure, standards are not set in stone; there may be good cause to change or even discard some of them. But the inability of a particular group to meet a standard to the same degree as another group does not constitute good cause.

Rochester man puts solar panels on home to show waste

Rochester man puts solar panels on home to show waste

Rochester man erects solar panels as testament to government waste

Installing solar panels: The cost

Installing solar panels: The cost: Jeff Punton describes adding solar panels behind his 19th Ward home
Written by

Jeff Punton stands with the solar panels he had installed in his backyard at his Weldon Street home in Rochester. / SHAWN DOWD / staff photographer

By the numbers

total project cost.
combined value ofsubsidies and tax credits.
Punton’s investment.
approximate kilowatt hours generated so far by solar panels, as of July 1.
18.6 cents
average residential retail cost of electricity per kilowatt hour, May 2013.
approximate value of electricity generated by solar panels, to date.

The 20 solar panels Jeffrey Punton installed in the backyard of his Weldon Street home won’t ever generate enough electricity to cover their cost. Which is the whole point.
He means them as a cautionary tale, one that Punton said cost him $13,000 and received another $29,500 in state and federal subsidies and tax credits.
He installed the panels in 2009, and they work: he has generated about 15,000 kilowatt hours of electricity in four years, saving several hundred dollars a year on his energy bill.
That’s a lot of savings, but barely enough to recoup his initial investment over several decades, and not enough to cover the public money involved. It’s that public money that chafes him, evidence of governmental intrusion in the marketplace.
It’s a message that runs counter to the prevailing trend, especially in Monroe County. Greece recently lured a solar manufacturer from California, a coup local and state officials are touting as part of the region’s future.
Punton doesn’t buy it — at least on the consumer scale. And spending $13,000 of his own money on a project he predicted would fail doesn’t bother him.
He considers the $29,500 the government gave him a foolish investment — throwing good money after bad — and misses no opportunity to point it out.
“It’s a billboard to talk about it to people as they come by,” he said. “It’s disappointing how little people know about the economics of it. ... I don’t think it’s a smart investment to pay someone three times what they’re putting in.”
About $17,000 of the money for Punton’s panels came directly from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.
In an email, a NYSERDA spokeswoman did not address Punton’s financial concerns but said solar power “plays an important part in New York state’s diversified renewable energy portfolio, which was created to reduce electricity use from fossil fuels and increase the amount of electricity from renewable sources.”
Punton, 60, works as a certified public accountant and has lived in the 19th Ward since his days as a University of Rochester chemistry student in the 1970s. He’s a libertarian and self-taught tinkerer with a half-dozen projects contributing to the disarray in his yard at the corner of Weldon and Custer streets.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Can Hillary Clinton Survive Benghazi?

Can Hillary Clinton Survive Benghazi?

by John Hinderaker in Benghazigate, Hillary Clinton

Well, sure: she’s a Democrat. That’s the easy, cynical response, and let’s face it–it’s probably right. Still, by any normal standard Benghazi would be considered a career-ending debacle. Four men, including one of her own ambassadors, were murdered on Hillary’s watch, after they had pleaded with her State Department for better security. The cable denying the ambassador’s request for better protection went out over Hillary’s signature. THAT’S JUST A FORMALITY! The Democrats say. SHE KNEW NOTHING ABOUT IT! Oh, I see. She was just a figurehead. Small matters like mortal threats to American ambassadors are too minor to come to her attention. Right. Such attention to detail certainly qualifies her to be president!
Then there is the nagging question of what Hillary was doing during the seven hours or so when her ambassador, and those who tried to protect him, were being murdered by Islamic terrorists. Nothing, apparently. Which is just fine with the Democrats. Evidently they are content to have their political “leaders” play purely symbolic roles.
The aftermath is embarrassing, too. Hillary told the father of one of the murdered SEALs that the administration would stop at nothing to bring that lousy video maker to justice. The man must have thought she was a lunatic. Later, according to an eyewitness, Hillary erupted in rage against a Republican Congressman who suggested that Benghazi was a terrorist attack. Which, of course, she knew it was shortly after it began. Is it bad to be a cowardly liar? Not if you are a Democratic presidential candidate, evidently.

The aftermath didn’t end with the administration’s initial lies, either. It continues to this day. One might think that a Secretary of State who lost an ambassador on her watch would stop at nothing to make sure that the terrorists who carried out the attack were killed or otherwise punished. (Killed, preferably.) If this is a subject in which Hillary has taken interest, she has shown no sign of it. Her hunt for the terrorists who murdered Ambassador Stevens is on a par with O.J. Simpson’s search for the “real killers.”
Michael Ramirez commented on Hillary’s absence of leadership yesterday. The little bottle says “whitewash.”
Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State was a disaster by any rational evaluation. It started with the mis-translated “reset” button and went downhill from there. The current fiasco that stretches from Iraq to Tunisia is, at least in part, the result of the stunningly incompetent Obama/Clinton foreign policy from 2009 to 2013. It is probably true that most Americans don’t pay enough attention to understand how poorly served we have been in foreign affairs by Obama and Clinton. But Benghazi: that is something that just about anyone can grasp. When the State Department needed a leader–the one time in Hillary Clinton’s life when she wasn’t holding on to her husband’s coattails, when she was actually supposed to be in charge of something–there was no leader to be found.

Not a legitimate party

 Not a legitimate party
by Scott Johnson in Egypt, Muslim Brotherhood

I find it absolutely bizarre how little attention is paid to the fundamental nature of the Muslim Brotherhood. It is not a legitimate political party. Its objects are not consistent with democracy or democratic goals. It is, as Steve Hayward concisely commented, “a fascist political faction with murderous intent. Full stop.” Its goal is the (re)establishment of an Islamic caliphate. Forget Barack Obama, lost in Cloud Cuckooland. Do John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Kelly Ayotte et al. seriously dispute this?
Jeffrey Breinholt points out that, although it claims to be non-violent, its motto describes “dying in the way of Allah” as the group’s highest hope. Breinholt adds that the Brotherhood’s most famous alumnus is undoubtedly Ayman Al-Zawahiri.
If you have read Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower or Andrew McCarthy’s The Grand Jihad, to name just two books that cover the territory, this is well trod ground. Here is a handy fact sheet. Andrew McCarthy provides a short course in “Fear the Muslim Brotherhood” and, most recently, “Understanding the Muslim Brotherhood.” Also helpful is Palestinian Media Watch’s “The Muslim Brotherhood — in its own words.”
I think this is clear enough. If one needs more, however, consider the case of Hamas. Hamas is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. It came to power in Gaza democratically, in an election competing against partisans of Fatah and Mahmoud Abbas, currently serving out the ninth year of his four-year term, but how’s that working out?
The election in which Hamas came to power was engineered by Condoleezza Rice in the bygone days of President Bush. Rice et al. are guilty of an intellectual error of the first order. There was no excuse for it then and there is less now.

The ‘Living’ Law (DP: WORTH YOUR TIME)

Congress is handing its indispensable constitutional role to the executive branch.

By Charles C. W. Cooke 

In his dazzling revolutionary polemic, Common Sense, Thomas Paine explained in no uncertain terms that
in America, the law is king. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no other.
John Adams put this a little more pithily a few years later, distilling into the new constitution of Massachusetts an ancient English value: This state, Adams wrote, would be “a government of laws and not of men.”
Adams’s axiom has become American scripture; an impulsively recalled maxim of liberty to which all men who feel threatened by government power return at will. Yet recent trends call into question whether the two things remain mutually exclusive. In Common Sense, Paine sets the king and the law as being diametrically opposed.
But what if, instead of holding him back, the law is happy to give the king carte blanche? And what if a Congress that we instinctively believe to be jealous of its territory is in fact content to cede it to the executive branch, thereby producing not traditional laws but enabling acts?
It is a small jump from regarding the Constitution as “living” — as swathes of the will-to-power Left unashamedly do — to regarding legislation  as “living,” too. This is a jump that many appear to have made. One of the more insidious developments of this presidential era has been the replacement of prescriptive, detailed, and fixed domestic law with bloated and open-ended legislation that is punctuated ad nauseam with instances of “the secretary shall.” As my colleague Andrew Stiles has noticed, the Senate’s desired immigration bill fits this new model of “living law” perfectly. He  writes:
The 844-page bill  contains 129 instances of what the DHS secretary “shall” do to implement its myriad provisions, 102 mentions of what she “may” do, and 35 cases in which implementation will be based on what the secretary “determines.” On five occasions, the bill affirms the DHS secretary’s “unreviewable discretion” to waive or alter certain provisions as she sees fit.
This should come as no great surprise to anyone. Obamacare, which makes the Senate’s immigration bill look like an exercise in legislative restraint, contains over 2,500 references to the secretary’s discretion, 700 cases in which the secretary “shall,” 200 instances in which the secretary “may,” and 139 cases in which the secretary “determines.” Its twin, Dodd-Frank, which effectively allows an unelected Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to police the personal-finance sector, is little different, aggregating the power of the three branches into one, stripping Congress of its traditional capacity to set an agency’s budget and severely limiting the courts’ opportunity to review the CFPB’s legal interpretations. This is law, Jim — but not as we know it.
To ask for a concise explanation of what these new sorts of laws do would be futile, because the only meaningful answer is that they give the president the scope to run certain parts of the economy the way he wants. And what he wants is what Woodrow Wilson wanted in The Study of Administration : a means by which to “open for the public a bureau of skilled, economical administration” that is filled with the “hundreds who are wise” and that thwarts the “selfish, ignorant, timid, stubborn, or foolish.” Government of the expert, by the powerful, and for the unworthy, in other words.
This, it should not need saying, stands in diametric opposition to the underlying principle — the “all-important English trait,” Orwell called it — that made the Anglosphere exceptional in the first place: that the law is regarded as “something above the state and above the individual, something which is cruel and stupid, of course, but at any rate incorruptible.” “The totalitarian idea that there is no such thing as law, there is only power, has never taken root,” Orwell claimed of his native England. It has not quite taken root in America, either. But even here, the law, which should be firmly and beautifully dead, is in danger of taking on a life of its own. If it is allowed to do so, Americans will invite in caprice, the half-brother of whim, which, as Christopher Hitchens astutely observed, is the “essence of tyranny.”
Students of history will know that Americans have flirted with such expansive measures before, with consequences that were catastrophic for good and limited government. In the modern era, the worst such example is the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution (1964), which, by virtue of its wildly ambiguous language and a remarkable and fail-safe provision that allowed the president to “take all necessary measures” in Southeast Asia, effectively gave President Lyndon Johnson license to launch and escalate the Vietnam War without the need for Congress’s warrant. The eventual outcry, joined with general disillusionment with the imperial presidency, led not only to repeal of the resolution itself but also to the War Powers Act (1973), which, for some time at least, went some way toward restoring congressional constraints on the executive branch. Do we need a Domestic Powers Act to complement it?
According to all the president’s men, the answer is no. Instead, they insist, we should be happy about our fickle new arrangement. “If you look at the polling” on Obamacare, David Axelrod explained on MSNBC’s Morning Joe  last week, “the majority of the people say let’s move forward and fix it along the way — and that’s exactly what the president will do.” This, to say the least, is a rather novel theory of the American political system. Whether the “majority of the people say let’s move forward” on a particular project or not is rarely the salient question. The United States is a republic. It is not a monarchy, it is not a majoritarian democracy, and it is certainly not a direct democracy. Its highest value, in fact, is “nomocratic” — that is to say, that the rule of law and the overarching constitutional system trumps pretty much everything else.
In that they carry Congress’s blessing, our living laws are distinct from rule without Congress, a rule for which Obama is becoming increasingly famous. Nevertheless, both living legislation and executive rule rely for sustenance on the same appeals to urgency and necessity that our 44th president has perfected. Michael Oakeshott shrewdly observed in On History  that the nomocrats will always be at a disadvantage because, while the rule of law “remains the most civilized and least burdensome conception of a state yet to be devised,” it nevertheless “bakes no bread, it is unable to distribute loaves or fishes (it has none), and it cannot protect itself against external assault.” Suffice to say: That the rule of law can distribute no loaves or fishes, in an age in which distributing loaves and fishes is regarded as the highest of all government functions, is a desperate problem for it.
Moved as we now are by our fetishization of democracy, claims of tyranny in America tend to be curtailed by the sight of elections. It is the German Enabling Act of 1933 that we mostly fear — a dramatic measure that would allow a man to rule in perpetuity as a king. But we overlook the real danger posed by other, duly passed, acts of Congress. America has never worked on the basis that the executive branch may do as it wishes during its four-year term with the understanding that, if the people don’t like it, they may remove the president when his time is up. Even presidents who win virtually every state in the union are required to follow the law, and they are required to remain in their designated sphere, too. Perhaps we are looking in the wrong place for our despotism?
In Federalist 47, Madison forthrightly characterized as “tyranny” the investment of great power in one branch of government. In Federalist 48 he built on this idea, warning that “powers properly belonging to one of the departments ought not to be directly and completely administered by either of the other departments.” America’s constitution operates on the presumption that the branches of government will inevitably compete with one another for influence. Thus do “parchment barriers” prevent the encroachment of one branch over another, and the deleterious “accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands.”
But for the essential balance of power to be upset, one needs neither a tyrant nor a coup; one needs only a compliant or underconfident branch of government. This we have seen since Obama’s inauguration. In the past four years, Congress has happily handed over to the executive branch regulation of the environment, of the financial sector, and of the health-care market. It is currently considering doing the same thing with immigration.
George Washington’s parting warning about the “necessity of reciprocal checks of political power, by dividing and distributing it into different depositories and constituting each the guardian . . . against invasions by the others” has never looked more prescient. The legislature, which has for so long now deferred to the president, must insist that, if Americans are to be governed by law, that law must be precise, and it must be dead. Down the “living law” road lies caprice — and caprice, remember, leads to tyranny.
— Charles C. W. Cooke is a staff writer at National Review.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Minnesota Uses Tax Dollars to Sell Obamacare

Minnesota Uses Tax Dollars to Sell Obamacare

by John Hinderaker in Obamacare

One of Obamacare’s key features is the state exchanges on which individuals will be able to buy health insurance–in effect, to buy health care, since little of what passes for “health insurance” is actually insurance. It is mostly just bill-paying. The theory is that some individuals will see cost savings, not because there is anything inherently efficient about the exchanges, but because the government will subsidize some purchasers’ premiums, depending on income. This means that other Americans will have to pay more, of course.
Many of the uninsured (I believe most) are young people who have made a rational calculation that health insurance is a bad investment for them. They don’t need much health care, and if they have a medical emergency it will probably either be a car accident or a work-related injury. In either case, other insurance will apply. And if they are unlucky enough to need serious medical care, they will get it for free in any event, in an emergency room or elsewhere. So why spend scarce resources on health insurance? Sure, Obamacare says if they don’t, they are supposed to pay a tax, but the tax is small and is probably uncollectible anyway.
So the federal government will team up with the states to try to persuade people to buy health insurance on the individual exchanges. In Minnesota, the exchange is called MNSure. Yesterday MNSure announced an advertising campaign to inform Minnesotans about the program, and persuade them to enroll. The overall theme is “Minnesota: Land of 10,000 reasons to get health insurance.”
The campaign, which reportedly will cost $9 million, involves television, print, radio, digital and other media. The ads are cute; they feature Paul Bunyan and his blue ox. This video was made, I think, by the PR agency that got the contract to promote MNSure. It shows samples of the ads in videos and other media:

The campaign includes ads on the sides of buses:
The ads are, as I said, cute, but some would find this billboard in questionable taste:
The MNSure site includes a “Your Stories” section that describes how the exchange might help particular Minnesotans. This one is named “Sam.”
Sam is a college graduate trying to build a successful career in public policy. Although relatively new to the business world, Sam has already encountered the knocks and uncertainties of an unstable, depressed economy.
That’s why we need Obamacare–the Obama economy is so lousy!
Finding a career-launching opportunity has been a struggle for the University of St. Thomas graduate who has degrees in philosophy and music.
There’s a shock.
After serving in the AmeriCorps program for 2 years, Sam found work at a co-op and as a weekend DJ. He also devotes hours interning at community organizations where he works with youth and urban gardens, two of his greater passions. “Despite my 2 jobs, 2 internships and a lot of job searching, I remain drastically under-employed,” says Sam.
Yes, like so many of his generation: full-time jobs are scarce when Obamacare penalizes any employer who hires an employee for 30 or more hours a week.
And then it happened, a simple twist of fate that we’re all sure won’t happen to us, a broken arm from a bike crash. “Neither of my jobs offered insurance at the time of the accident,” explains Sam, “and since a private plan proved too expensive for my budget, I was uninsured.”
Poor Sam! As an uninsured person, he had to forgo medical treatment, and his arm remains mangled to this day. No, wait…
At the urging of hospital staff, Sam applied for Medical Assistance and was approved due to his low income. As a result, he was able to afford the expensive hospital visits following his accident.
Sam looks forward to the time he can enroll in an employer-sponsored plan or afford his own coverage. But for now, he understands well the benefits of public programs like Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare. “MA offers me access to preventative health care so I can stay healthy,” Sam states. “It gives me security and peace of mind. One major accident or illness could mean financial ruin and derailment from my current path towards self-sufficiency.”
Beginning in October, Medical Assistance recipients will enroll and select a health insurance plan through the MNsure marketplace.
On a massively subsidized basis, of course. I take it this means that instead of having his health care paid for by taxpayers of the State of Minnesota, Sam will have his health care paid for by taxpayers of the United States. This is what liberals call Progress.
The MNSure site includes a cost calculator where you can plug in your income and basic demographic data, and calculate the premium you would pay for “Silver” coverage. Just for fun, I filled out the online form, which took around 15 seconds, and was told that a Silver plan–no doubt vastly inferior to what I now have–would cost a mere $22,608 annually. This is because I am not eligible to be subsidized by the taxpayers. Like me.
What to make of all this? Some Democrats are convinced that Obamacare will become popular when voters realize that through programs like MNSure they (some of them, anyway) can get insurance at other people’s expense. And without feeling like a freeloader, too–Obama says health insurance is a right! Time will tell whether those optimistic Democrats will be proved right.

Don's Tuesday column

           THE WAY I SEE IT   by Don Polson  Red Bluff Daily News   8/27/2013

Same Sex CIWYWBINM; free expression?

The Tea Party Patriots will host 3rd Assembly District candidate, James Gallagher; the other candidate, Ryan Schohr, took the stage over a month ago. Both men are running as conservative Republicans with strong local roots, impressive resumes and a multitude of endorsements. One of them will be your next Assemblyman; this district will not be sending a Democrat to Sacramento.

So, we had a Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decision that had Democrat office-holders from the Governor on down saying to the voters of California: Go pound sand if you think you have the temerity to want to enshrine traditional, one man-one woman marriage in California’s Constitution. Our state Constitution gave voters that right; the approval of Proposition 8 was, as the Supreme Court held, not reviewable by federal appeals courts. That left intact a lower district court ruling that should also have been vacated, as the voters cannot be negated when amending our California Constitution. It trumps all and is exempted from higher review (in my understanding).

Technically, the district court’s decision has no binding authority outside the Southern California district over which the judge presides; other counties, including Tehama, have no legal obligation to abide by the ruling invalidating Prop 8. We voted about 3 to 1 for Prop 8 and our Clerk-Recorder should respect our votes and issue no marriage licenses, nor change the verbiage on existing ones, for same sex couples.

Columnist James A. Wilson, a man of God and author of religious-themed books and blog postings, provided a well-written piece on the complexities of the SCOTUS rulings on the Defense of Marriage Act and Prop 8, prompting a writer’s ridicule and criticism. Such writers are often driven by hate; you’ve read their vitriol and anathema for Christians, Mormons and conservatives on this issue. I’ve not seen any similar anger directed at African-American churches, which provided the deciding votes to approve Prop 8. Hmmm. Selective haters, I guess.

California voters gave about the same level of support for Prop 8 that America gave to President Obama in both of his elections (higher than Obama’s win last November); we’ve all been lectured on how resoundingly the voters decided those elections. My opinion as a free citizen and writer is that I place the final word and credibility on marriage in the decision of voters: Marriage is the union of one man and one woman—always has been and always will be, period, full stop.

You “same-sex-marriage” advocates are free to qualify your own proposition and let us vote on it. If a majority supports the idea at the polls, you will have that to crow about, but I doubt you will risk embarrassing rejection at the ballot box. I’m saying you can Call-It-Whatever-You-Want-But-It’s-Not-Marriage, or Same-Sex CIWYWBINM; I’ll simplify it to SSW (same-sex-whatever).

Now I’ll invite SSW supporters to let readers know if you truly are only interested in the “marriage” label for yourselves, and not interested in forcing others to violate their constitutionally-endowed freedoms of thought, expression, association and pursuit of happiness. Will you take the position that you may disagree with my position but defend my right to express it? Liberal/progressive hands are already flying across keyboards, I’m guessing, to write just the opposite and call yet again for my column to be dropped—you leftists react predictably to opposing thoughts.

Thank God our thoughts are not available for examination by such loons who would support “thought crime” punishment, as we see by the imposition of legal sanctions on, for instance, a New Mexico photographer, for violating the “human rights” of a same sex couple. Just as in Oregon where a bakery owned by Christians is persecuted for not making a cake celebrating a lesbian SSW, the photographer declined, for reasons of conscience, the business of a gay couple wanting their SSW to be photographed.

“Human rights” violation, indeed, under a law passed in New Mexico. Read this carefully: There are no such things as “human rights” in America—we have rights specified in our Constitution and Bill of Rights that derive from “Nature and Nature’s God.” The common theme of our constitutional rights is to enshrine the individual as the arbiter of decision-making, protected from government interference in that free-will, conscience-driven, decision-making process. Those same leftist hypocrites that are intolerant of conservative thoughts expressed in any venue from this paper to broadcast/cable shows to the Internet have shouted down conservatives at public meetings, and harassed them at home. Think of the iconic magazine-cover painting by Norman Rockwell of the commonly clothed man standing up in a local meeting speaking his mind in front of his fellow citizens.

Respect for the law, indeed! Just as California officials refused to abide by the law of Prop 8, or even defend it, as is their duty, in New Mexico the law means nothing to the County Clerk of Dona Ana County, Lynn Ellins. “He has chosen to take the law into his own hands and begin issuing illegal same-sex “marriage” licenses against the opinion and direction of the Attorney General, and in so doing, abandoned his oath of office and the trust of those who elected him.” ( Some day these same “progressives” will see the law swept aside to allow implementation of something they oppose. What will be their legal recourse then after showing such disregard for the voters and the law now?