Sunday, May 23, 2010

Why Nobody Trusts The News




I just saw an ABC news report saying that Arizona threatened to cut off electricity to Los Angeles, if they decide to boycott Arizona. Though this is a common headline in many recent stories from many news outlets, it's not true. There was a letter written from an Arizona official to the L.A. officials, which basically asked them if their boycott would include the purchase of electricity from Arizona. The Arizona official who wrote the letter appeared on Greta Van Susteren's program, and stated that he did not have the authority to "cut off" electricity to L.A. Case closed on the phony hype from ABC and others. Update: I just saw another ABC news report, which said Arizona "all but" threatened to cut off L.A.'s electricity. Better, but still wrong.


The PBS Newshour's Margaret Warner reported on the Arizona law, saying "it makes it a crime to be in Arizona without proper documentation." It "directs state and local police to enforce it, stopping people and checking documents, if necessary." While the first statement is true, the "stopping people" part of the second statement is a misrepresentation of what's in the law. Police have no right to stop anyone solely on suspicion of being an illegal immigrant. They do, however, have an absolute right to check documentation of anyone they stop for suspicion of criminal activity. They've always had that power, regardless of the suspect's citizenship. Why did Ms. Warner describe the law inaccurately? I don't know, but it's being done by many others, including the president, so maybe she's just jumping on the bandwagon," as so many in the media do.


I'd like to note that Glenn Beck read the entire law on his radio show, which gives him and his listeners more credibility than the president, AG Holder, DHS chief Napolitano, or the reporters who have mischaracterized the Arizona law in the media, but haven't read the law themselves. Living in America today is like living in the old USSR, in one respect: nobody with half a brain trusts the news, or the government. People like Beck, Rush, and Fox News are to us what "Radio Free Europe" was to the people behind the "Iron Curtain."




The American Power Act Is Green Imperialism, and Carbon Credits Are A SCAM!




Last week's Frontline/World program on PBS had an interesting story on carbon credits (The Carbon Hunters). It opened with a local Brazilian measuring the circumference of a tree in the rain forest, and estimating the amount of carbon in it. He priced it at one dollar's worth, and said that the carbon in the tree belonged to General Motors. Though this sounded like another typical "corporate bashing" story, I ended up watching it, to see how much they "bashed" the "green" business (The Nature Conservancy, who declined to speak to Frontline) that sell the carbon credits to GM, and other companies. They did, but more importantly, they showed exactly what carbon credits do to indigenous people in Brazil. Basically, it's wiping them out, by not letting them plant in the forest, or to harvest trees for repairing their homes. The money they get from the program isn't enough to replace what they've given up. There is money to hire security (a real life "green police") to enforce the rules, and the local government is in on the racket, too.


There is local political opposition to this carbon scheme, though, which is where the story gets interesting, to me. What happens if the Brazilian government decides that carbon credit "rights" are no longer valid? Well, that probably won't happen right away. First, they're going to raise the price of the carbon, as high as the market will allow. This is what "green" investors are speculating on, and why they're pushing it politically. Even if the whole "carbon causes global warming" theory is correct, this is a scam! It's setting up a global financial market on one of the most common elements on earth, driving the price to an incredible and artificial high. The Frontline piece says that there is already 300 billion dollars invested in carbon credits. Call it the "CO2 bubble," and we had better burst it before it gets any bigger.


The Frontline segment excused the political "greens" for introducing "carbon trading" as "a way to get business on board," but I got a definite tone of criticism toward them, which is unusal for anything on PBS. Still, they relly didn't touch the larger part of the story, as in how the new "American Power Act" (that's the official name of the "Cap and Trade" bill) will not only codify this scam in our laws, but back it with our tax dollars. There's the rub. "Man-made global warming" is a political movement throughout the "developed" world, seeking to keep the "undeveloped" world...well, "undeveloped." It's goal may be the opposite of the previous generation of "imperialism," but that makes it even more pernicious. Corporations and governments are conspiring to deprive people of their freedom, and President Obama is on the wrong side, again.


It doesn't have to be this way. Don't vote for anyone who supports The American Power Act, and make your voice heard to legislators. This is an election year, and as campaign season starts, candidates will be listening. There are many grounds to oppose this bill on, but the top one is the "imperialism" charge, in my book. Is this the image of America we endorse? Saving the rainforest is a noble thing, but must we "force" it on the people who actually live there? The second biggest reason is the potential financial disaster it could cause. Do we need another 2-3 trillion dollar market (as carbon is estimated to become in a decade), based on a dubious premise? Even if one believes man made carbon emissions contribute to global warming, exactly how does preserving trees in the Brazilian rainforest "cut" America's carbon emissions? It doesn't. Carbon "credits" are a scam, being sold by the President, and everyone who supports him on this issue. Read or watch the Frontline piece, and decide for yourself.




Friday, May 07, 2010

The Difference Between Al Queda and the Taliban; New York Shrugs, Bloomberg Bames It On Health Care Opponent; Adam Lambert's Sells Out Times Square!




Next month, I'm going to spend ten hours in visual range of the spot of the attempted terrorist attack in Times Square. I'll be waiting in line for the best "general admission" floor spot to see Adam Lambert at the Nokia Theater. It's strange, but I'm almost relieved that this happened now, before the night of Lambert's show. It wasn't too long ago that a very suspicious van was deserted in Times Square for three days, before it was given similar treatment. That one was just an abandoned vehicle, but this more recent one was an actual "bomb," of some kind. That's the point that makes most NY'ers go "hmmmm." What kind of bomb was it? Well, it brings to mind the old "Batman" TV show, with Adam West. He always got caught by the villain, and was subjected to some complex mechanism to kill him. However, the villain always left before Batman was killed, and Bats would always escape. This device seemed needlessly complex, and far less than foolproof, much like the "plot devices" from the Batman show. What's more, he obtained "non-explosive" fertilizer, which was put in a trunk, next to truly explosive materials. This shows him to be stupider than Batman's average villain, if that's possible.


The Taliban in Pakistan have claimed responsibility for him, and his "attack," but they might want to think twice about that. If this is the quality of their terrorists, compared to Al Queda, then they may want to stay more "focused" in their own country, because their boy, Faisal Shahazad, didn't want to give his life up attacking this country. Al Queda is known for suicide attacks, but it seems the Taliban recruits less "passionate" followers. Not that it couldn't have killed hundreds of people, had the "bomb" gone off, but the thousands of New Yorkers peipherally affected by this probably thought it was just "another crazy day in midtown," until they got home and saw the news unfolding. This is the New York way. Notice that most interviews on TV were of a tourists, and not local people.


Also interesting were the media reports about the "white man, in his 40's," who changed his shirt on the street, or Mayor Bloomberg's comment that it might be a radical "health care opponent," but since both of those terms describe me, I knew they were off-base. We have a local (and still at large) "bicycle bomber" terrorist, here in NYC, who blew up a small bomb at the USMC recruiting station at Times Square, and is suspected of bomb attacks at the Mexican and Brittish embassies, but none of his bombs have injured anyone, so he's not taken too seriously, by the public. By trying to fit this bombing attempt into that category, the media and Bloomie encouraged a collective "shrug" from native NY'ers.


So was this was another Islamist attack against freedom of expression, or retaliation for our "drone" campaign against the Taliban leadership? Was it directed against Comedy Central's "South Park," whose headquarters are feet from where the car bomb was parked, or against Obama's war policy? Who cares? Not this NY'er. In this case, I support both South Park's freedom of expression, and Obama's attacks on the Taliban leadership, and I'll still be going to Times Square next month, to see Adam Lambert. That's how we fight terrorism here; we go about our business and recreational activities, and let our government kill the bastards who want to "blow up the spot." It looks like the "Glamberts," as my girlfriend and her fellow Lambert fans call themselves, have more courage than the cowardly Taliban car-bomber Faisal Shahazad.




ARIZONA, TAKE OFF YOUR RAINBOW SHADES




As a private citizen, I've hung out with illegal aliens many times. Often, I was violating a law or two myself. I've worked with, and perhaps hired illegal aliens, though I don't think I ever worked for one (but it's possible). I would only call a local cop on an illegal alien in a situation where I would call a local cop on anybody. When I was on guard duty at Camp Pendleton, CA, in '84, we occasionally saw illegals travelling through the base, and we reported them, most of the time. Of course, that was a different time, when I could spend a night walking the streets of Tijuana alone, smoking Mexican Marlboros, without getting killed or kidnapped. It's a different time, now, and I doubt I'll ever vist TJ again.


I'd like to make a comparison between the new Arizona state law, and the federal law that already exists, and my attitude, as a private citizen. The state law basically codifies the federal immigration law for enforcement by state and local authorities, and also codifies restrictions against racial profiling, contrary to what it's opponents claim. They typically use a ridiculous hypothetical situation, such as "a man takes his granddaughter out for an ice cream, and a cop asks him for his papers." I look to my personal experience with illegal aliens, for a closer analogy: cops will only ask about citizenship papers from people they've been either "called" about, or people they directly see violate a law.


There are several points that this law can be reasonably debated about: loopholes, constitutionality, and unintended consequences. The first loophole that comes to mind is that anyone can accuse someone that they know is illegal with any kind of crime, and get them jailed, and deported. What a thing to hold over someone's head! Actually, this is already being done to millions of illegals, with the threat of reporting them to ICE (formerly the INS). Unfortunately, the federal agency rarely responds to individual complaints, opting to produce "mass arrests" at large corporations, for some reason, so it's really an empty threat. What will happen when some "old-timer" in Arizona calls the local cops on "a bunch of illegals, harassing" him in front of the Home Depot? We'll see.


There is also a question of it's constitutionality. There is an overlap in many areas of the justice system, between local, state, and federal law enforcement, and the judicial system. Indeed, they often fight each other for jurisdiction. This looks like a classic case of a state asserting it's power, because of a vacuum of federal power on this issue. Under current federal law, an ICE agent can ask any legal resident alien for their papers at any time, without the restrictions that the state law puts on local officials. Is it constitutional? Can a state make a law regarding immigration status? It seems they have, already, in the widely-accepted laws giving "in-state" tuition to "undocumented" students, at many state universities. There are also states that have cities that feel free to reject federal immigration laws, the so-called "sanctuary cities," with no judicial interference. Is a state allowed to create a "parallel" law to federal immigration law, and enforce it? I'm no constitutional scholar, but I can't wait to see what legal points decide this.


There have already been many unintended consequences, even before the law takes effect. ARIZONA has become a dirty word, to the point where the "Arizona Iced Tea" company had to release a public statement that they're really based in Long Island (as am I). This is what's known as a "media backlash," which will last as long as it can be stretched out. It's following the same route as the demonization of the Tea Party people. By the end of the Summer, it will be apparent that AZ is doing the right thing, and whether the SCOTUS upholds or overturns the law, it will happen after this year's elections, putting the issue squarely into the '12 presidential election debate.


Notice the difference in the protesters from the "Tea Parties," and the "anti-Arizona" protesters. The Tea Party group is protesting against government's intrusive/abusive use of taxing, spending, and bureaucratic power over every citizen's life. This group has been portrayed as a radical fringe, with anything from racist to fascist beliefs, often in the guise of "bitter old white people (mostly men)." The group protesting the Arizona law is protesting against government's potential intrusive/abusive use of police or bureaucratic power against citizens of a certain ethnicity. I use the word "potential" advisedly, because the law is not in effect yet, while the laws that the Tea Party people oppose have been the law of the land for years, and apply to all citizens, plus illegals that try to comply with most of our laws. Anti-Arizona protesters have been portrayed as crusaders for social justice, without regard to the hateful rhetoric and violence at their rallies.


The kicker is that the "anti-Arizona" protesters are calling the law "racist" and "fascist," which are the same terms that are used to describe the Tea Party people. Now, as a Tea Party person, myself, I know that immigration law is not one of the core issues of the Tea Party movement. If anything, this shows that often, the opposition to both of these movements (tea party and anti-illegal immigration) just drag up the same slanderous "talking points" toward their opponents. I hope some of them read this column, and learn a little about giving credit to the substance of opposing views, even when you bash the opposition.


Though "comprehensive immigration reform" is on the "front burner" right now, I doubt it will go anywhere, this year. Arizona's law seems to be a "galvanizing" political event, but it actually is a counter to any federal action, while the pols wait to see how the judiciary sorts this out. Obama is not the only one playing chess, in this situation. Perhaps Arizona's government stepped onto the middle of the board to prevent a really bad move by the forces of "amnesty" from the OA. Meanwhile, the war in Mexico is brewing on our border, and it can't be hidden much longer.




Tea Parties, Reagan, Bush, Perot, Clinton, Bush, and Why the Center is Against Obama


If President Obama has half a brain in his head, he'll become an actual "moderate." Let's look at where the actual center of American politics resides, on domestic issues. Reagan famously won over Democrats, which Bush (42) lost to Perot, when he ran against Clinton, in '92. Clinton had a change of heart, approving conservative domestic policies like "welfare reform," before his re-election in '96. It's worth noting that the GOP took control of the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years in '94.


I suggest that the "tea party" movement is a manifestation of this same "center-right-libertarian" movement that has influenced America's politics over the last 20 years. These people aren't "worked up" about abortion, or gay marriage. They are more concerned with the government keeping American business "uncompetitive" in the world market, and keeping Americans from being gainfully employed. It's already out in the open: NY Dems have already shut down the conversion of an old Bronx armory into a mall, because they wanted "living wage" guarantees (an abstract number, sometimes equated to union wages) for every emloyee of every business that rented space in the proposed mall. Some legislators suggested the city should "make up the difference" with tax money! These are politicians that represent President Obama's view on the economy, and government's role in it.


That idea is the opposite of what will foster economic competition. One thing that this idea does not take into account is that lower wage jobs serve a function in any economy. People with no skills or work experience aren't worth paying wages that experienced workers make. The "living wage" argument supposes that anyone with an entry level job is supporting a family, when most entry level jobs go to teen, or adult children of people making a "living wage," who are still supporting those children. Why don't we make the minimum wage 15, or 20 dollars an hour? Figure it out.


There is a shortage of jobs in the USA. That means that people will work harder to find work, and employers will be able to pay less, to get qualified workers. No government regulation can change that for the better, though it can screw things up exponentially, with bad legislation. This is what I worry about, with President Obama. He has a real problem between his base, and the majority of Americans, who side with the "tea party" people more often than not. Better ideas come from people who own, manage, and work for actual businesses, in the real world, not "academics" or "politicians." Besides not listening to the "tea party" people, he made fun of them, which made him look pretty petty.


Perot warned us about "the big 'sucking' sound" that would come if either Clinton or GHW Bush won the election, in '92, because both of them were pro-NAFTA. That sound came and went, without much notice, until now. The policy is not wrong, but it will be painful, at times. I'll quote Walter E. Williams: "If they shoot a hole in their side of the boat, do we have to shoot one in our side, too?" Protectionism will not re-industrialize America. We should ratify the pending trade treaties with Columbia, South Korea, and any other nation that wants to buy American products.


There are many concepts that are "off" of this administrations "radar," which ought to be "on it." Common sense reforms, like switching "defined benefit" federal retirement programs to "defined contribution," and allow employees to contribute as much as they want. Obama's also not touching Social Security, better known as the greatest "Ponzi" scheme the Feds have ever pulled on us, because it's so disgraceful. At least Bush tried to fix it, as noted in my "right of center" LEAVWORLD: GRAFFITI POLITTI blog. I'd rather have an account of my own, than a statement telling me what the government "promises, but not guarantees" for me, in the future.


In conclusion, here's how we can trace the political "center" of US politics, over the last 30 years: Reagan "took back" the "center" that had drifted to Carter, Bush (42) lost them to Clinton, with help from Perot. Bush (43) didn't exactly win them back, but "the center" still liked the GOP more than Gore. For the record, the budget surpluses would have ended in 2001 whether Gore or Bush won the election. I was also one of those who said to myself "thank God Al Gore isn't the president" on 9/11." Bush held his "center-right" coalition together until he got re-elected, when it all fell apart. The economic conservatives broke from the defense hawks, and the social conservatives, who each had their own gripes with "their" party in charge of both executive and legislative branches of government.


In '06, the Dems took control of the congress, and the Bush Administration "circled the wagons" around Iraq. Senator Obama, newly elected, was a rising star, though no-one thought he was ready to be president. He represented "the future" of the Democratic party, while Hillary represented the "now" opposition to Bush. They agreed on increasing the federal budget, and didn't bother to act on the Bush administration's warnings of the problems with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which presaged the "mortgage crisis." Bush lost all credibility with fiscal conservatives when he passed the TARP bill, and then tapped it to bail out GM, all the while not acting against Fannie/Freddie. This is when the "center" said "what do we have to lose, voting for Obama, instead of McCain?"


McCain had no chance, and was successfully painted as a continuation of Bush's fiscal policies. Obama won the center, in '08, but many of those voters who supported him are attending "tea parties" now. There are alot of issues that occupy voters, and they seem to rotate in precedence, on a political level. I like our president, because he is going to give us, as a nation, a real idealogical test,in a different way than Bush did. Where is "the center" of this country? We're gonna find out. Call it "triangulation."




More NY Times Sniping at the Tea Party Falls Flat




Hat tip to James Taranto's "Best of the Web Today" column, for the following tidbit from Ms. Collins, at the NY Times. Taranto makes it part of a larger point, but I'd like to take another look at this excerpt. If I accept that 47% of American households pay no income tax, how does that relate to 45% of Tea Party supporters making less than $50,000? If she assumes that all the people paying no income tax "make less" than 50K, she knows nothing about the tax code. Plenty of people who make more than 50K pay no tax, if they have enough "deductions." As someone who makes less than 50K, but still pays income tax, I have to question her assumptions, when my own experience refutes them, as well. (link)


According to one much, much-quoted study by the Tax Policy Center, 47 percent of American households didn't have to pay one cent of income tax for 2009. . . .


According to the Gallup polls, 45 percent of Tea Party supporters have incomes under $50,000. According to a New York Times/CBS News poll, Tea Party activists are virtually the only segment of the population in which a majority feels its tax burden is unfair. Clearly, these are not the kind of folks who would cancel their anti-tax rallies just on account of not being taxed.


My questions about her assumptions were multiplied by the next paragraphs:


"We're here to take our country back," said a former Missouri House speaker at a Tea Party rally at the State Capitol, where nobody appeared to be grateful for the good news about the bottom 47 percent at all.


Let us stop for a minute and consider this "take our country back" mantra. Some people believe it is the cry of angry white men who don't like seeing a lot of blacks, women and gay people in positions of power. I prefer a less depressing explanation, which is that all this yearning for the golden days of yore has less to do with Washington than with the fact that so many of the Tea Partyists appear to be in late middle age. I think they just want to go back to the country that existed when they were 28 and looked really good in tight-fitting jeans. Which is no longer the case.


Ms. Collins sets up the "'take our country back' mantra" as something that "some people" believe is bigoted, but not her. She thinks the "tea party" people want to recapture the world of their youth, though 28 is a rather specific age to mention. Maybe I'm in "early middle age," so I'd like the world to be as it was when I was 18, or even 13. Again, this is so far off-base, it is absurd. "Taking back our country" is a political phrase, which is often, if not always used by the party in the minority. I'm surprised she didn't use the common liberal refrain of "turning back the clock," but she clearly characterized her opinion in those terms. My guess is that she's saving that "tidbit" for after election day.


"Taking back our country" means something, and it's actually bipartisan, though "politics" are deeply involved. Both parties are complicit in the excesses, but there are other influences at work. Any source of "political power" becomes a money tree, whether from individual, corporate, or politial sources. The "Tea Party" movement is political chaos, at the moment, and that's a good thing. It gives individuals exposure to many other people who share similar concerns, and any differences they may have. The issues that have consensus among the various groups will be on the national political map, beyond a doubt. The party that embraces that consensus will be a political winner. I see that consensus as this: "It is beyond a doubt that limiting government power and spending will benefit the country. We want our representatives to not only say this, but do it."


There's something else about the "when they were 28 and looked really good in tight-fitting jeans" comment. What if I said that about some aging "baby boomer" liberal? Or if I said "in baggie hippie jeans?" Again, it doesn't matter which style of dress she's referring to, it's the condescending assumption that these people want to "relive" some kind of past glory. I can assure her that everyone there remembers those days as politically and culturally tumultuous. What was different then was that the tax code was simpler, and the government less intrusive in our lives, though some people complained about that, even back then.


Competing political groups create more political "customers," or people who pay attention to politics, and policy. I'm not worried about too much free speech, or political advertising, so if some of these "tea party" organizations are "owned" by GOP, Democrat, union, corporate or "non-profit" interests, it makes no difference to me. It's the people who actually vote, and they are more attuned to political BS than they have been in a long time. They want to know what a candidate will stand for, as well as stand against, and they will expect them to stand for it, regardless of the politics. Kind of the opposite of what Rep. Stupak did, on health care.


People like Ms. Collins may try to interject race, gender, and sexual orientation into the "tea party" movement's "raison d'etre," or maybe she just hated "the country that existed when they (tea party people) were 28." Either way, she does more to expose her own prejudice against Americans who disagree with her politics than convince anyone that the "Tea Party" movement is racist.