Saturday, October 29, 2011

Family First Tortures Kids for Profit

The video tape is very disturbing. It angers me to no end, and I promise you, had I witnessed adults doing this to a child I would lose it emotionally, grab the first heavy object I could find, and start bashing in some skulls—and I would not feel guilty about it.

Family First claims to be a "bootcamp" for kids. This means it treats children the way drill sergeants treat adults. That, in my opinion, means abuse. And the video clearly shows four adults abusing a young boy. The adults who run this "tough love" camp go by military titles, playing adult dress-up to try and intimidate kids. Watch this video to see what I mean.

Another video shows screaming thugs, pretending to be adults, forcing teens to drink vast amounts of water until they vomit.

I admit that I get suspicious the moment I see someone extolling "family" as their agenda. Almost without exception the people hiding behind the "family" label are bigots, authoritarians or worse. You have openly bigoted hate groups like the American Family Association, Family Research Council, Family Research Institute, Illinois Family Institute, and now Family First Growth Center.

Conservatives believe in man's innate sinfulness and believe that individuals must regularly be punished to avoid "sin." This is behind their high levels of child abuse, their obsession with executing people, their support for the use of torture, their unending demands for "stiffer" penalties, even for victimless crimes, and their belief in a hateful, vengeful deity intent on torturing people for eternity. As much as they claim to be "pro-life" these attitudes are, in every sense of the word, anti-life to the core.

In my opinion what we see in this one video is sufficient to charge all four of these adults with a crime, and it is serious enough to warrant jail time for each of them. No child deserves to be treated this way, no matter how "at risk" moronic adults believe him or her to be.

I note that the "sponsors" of this "bootcamp" include several local businesses and three churches. All of the churches involved are fundamentalist churches. At least one of the churches appears heavily connected to "Family First" bootcamp.

The "camp" is in Pasadena, California. There is a lot of outrage over the videos that people have seen.

Fundamentalist website, No Greater Joy, tells parents "As the military drills their soldiers, you must drill your children." Do you still wonder why I think of fundamentalist Christians as monsters?

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Good Side of Economic Inequality

Watch Does U.S. Economic Inequality Have a Good Side? on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

Some important points, except that Epstein speaks as if the dichotomy is between liberals and conservatives. I'm neither. And a substantial percentage of Americans don't fall into either camp.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Proper Way to Deal With Police Brutality

Fascinating. I'm not exactly sure where this is. But, the situation is pretty obvious. Someone streaks across the soccer field carrying a sign. Police tackle him and then start beating him in front of the crowd. First players get pissed at the police brutality and one attacks the police and then people from the stadium descend on the violent cops.

Having seen cops act violently, and having resisted them myself on behalf of others, I applaud this. Police assume they have a right to act violently anytime they want. On most days I consider the police more dangerous to me than criminals. At least with criminals you are legally allowed to fight back.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Lying about Ayn Rand and Social Security

In 2010 I discussed a smear that was done on Ayn Rand, one of the favorite targets in the world for smears and attacks. Typically her critics have invented lies about Rand or, at the very least, grossly distorted the facts.

In the 2010 smear some online pundits claimed that Rand said a serial killer was her ideal man and used him to model her heroes. This was a gross misrepresentation of the truth, as I documented at the time.

What was particularly dishonest was that these smear-mongers pretended that some dark truth had been uncovered by the anti-Ayn brigade. In fact, what they did was misquote some material from her journals released by Rand's own estate. They misquoted material, ripped it out of context, claimed it meant the complete opposite of what Rand actually said, and then pretended that they uncovered this truth. They invented it, they didn't uncover it.

I was asked by someone about a new attack on Rand, which some of the rabid haters on the Left were doing, alleging some sort of hypocrisy by Rand for "taking social security." Some childish writer at the rather unreliable AlterNet wrote an article entitled: "Ayn Rand Railed Against Government Benefits, But Grabbed Social Security and Medicare When She Needed Them."

The article claimed "Rand herself received Social Security payments and Medicare benefits under the name of Ann O'Connor." O'Connor was her married name but her given name was Alice not Ann, but then facts are not important to the smearbund.

The author quotes Michael Ford of the "Center for the Study of the American Dream," saying, "In the end, Miss Rand was a hypocrite but she could never be faulted for failing to act in her own self-interest." (I suggest "own self-interest" is redundant. What other kind of self-interest is there?)

I found this odd since Rand had commented that people who are forced to fund government programs are NOT immoral for taking the benefits for which they paid. For instance, it is not wrong for people to attend government schools, which are funded with their tax monies, whether they like it or not. They have to start with a false premise: that Rand said receiving Social Security, that one is forced to pay for, was wrong. Without that false claim they have no charge of hypocrisy. They pretend she took a position she never took and then accuse her of violating the position she didn't take.

in 1966 Rand's Objectivist Newsletter said that not collecting from programs that one is forced to finance would be wrong. It said:
...the victims, who opposed such laws, have a clear right to any refund of their own money—and they would not advance the cause of freedom if they left their money unclaimed, for the benefit of the welfare-state administration.
The AlterNet smear also claimed that Rand said that the link between smoking and cancer was a hoax. She actually never said that. She said she was not convinced that the case had been made, and at the time it hadn't been fully made. She never said it was a hoax and she stopped smoking instantly when her physician showed her a dark spot on her own lung's x-ray.

According to AlterNet one Evva Joan Pryor, "who had been a social worker in New Yorker" said that "I remember telling her that this was going to be difficult. For me to do my job she had to recognize that there were exceptions to her theory." What job was that? Well, if you believe AlterNet she was "social worker" during this period. The implication being that Rand had to seek out a social worker to help her. Some smear-mongers of Rand have argued with me that she died penniless as the result of the evils of capitalism and that was why she sought out this social worker.

Pryor was NOT a social worker. She worked for the law firm of Ernst, Crane Gitlin & Winick which handled all legal matters for Rand. Nor was Rand penniless or in need. She was penniless when she arrived in America but during this period she had cash reserves of a few hundred thousand dollars and a steady income from book royalties.

Pryor argued with Rand because Ayn did not want Social Security, nor did Rand go out and seek it, or Medicare, even though doing so was entirely consistent with her own ethics. What Pryor said was that she tried to convince Rand to sign up and they argued. Pryor says Rand "was never involved other than to sign the power of attorney. I did the rest." Beyond that Pryor said nothing else. There is no indication whether Pryor used the power of attorney to apply for benefits, or whether Rand knew about it. There is no indication that such benefits were ever used. There is simply no evidence to show Rand "Grabbed Social Security and Medicare When She Needed Them."

Pryor's full interview in 100 Voices: Oral History of Ayn Rand, indicates the opposite. It shows Rand fighting with her attorneys and telling them that she didn't want to do this. She signed a power of attorney and Pryor said that she acted "whether [Ayn] agreed or not." Pryor never actually says what actions she (Pryor) took in spite of whether Ayn "agreed or not." What we have is the rabid Left jumping to numerous conclusions not warranted by the evidence.

So, there are numerous things wrong with these claims. First, it would not be hypocrisy if Rand did take benefits from programs that she was forced to fund. Second, Rand clearly didn't "grab" any such benefits but fought her own attorneys about doing so and they, not she, were the ones pushing it. Third, there is no indication she actually got any benefits because Pryor doesn't say. And, fourth, Pryor makes it clear that she acted as Rand's attorney on health issues even when Rand didn't agree with her. And fifth, there is no indication that Rand knew all of the decisions that Pryor made on her behalf. Perhaps she did, but perhaps she didn't.

Rand had sufficient resources to cover the health issues she faced. In fact, she had sufficient funds to pay for heart surgery for her brother-in-law from Russia. Rand's estate had a substantial sum of cash at the time of Rand's death indicating that Pryor's concerns that health costs could "bankrupt" Rand never took place. And, since Pryor argued that Rand should have these things in case health care bankrupted her, it is entirely possible that Rand never got a cent. We just don't know. But if she did, there is nothing to attack her over either.

Here is an indication of the dishonest attacks on Rand. One site claims that "Ayn received Medicare benefits under an assumed name (is that even possible?), that explains why my FOI request came up empty." How stupid is this writer? Ayn Rand was the assumed named, Alice O'Connor was Rand's legal name. This writer repeats the false claim that Pryor was "a New York social worker" who was "a consultant for Rand's attorneys." The book, from which they claim to glean this information, says Pryor worked at the law firm, doesn't mention social worker, and Pryor said she had power of attorney from Rand, something a social worker would not have.

This article claims that Rand and her husband collected a grand total of around $14,000 in Social Security between the years of 1974 and 1982. This would be far under the amount of Social Security taxes that Rand was required to pay in during her lifetime even if we don't include any income for Frank O'Connor. Social Security taxes were first collected in 1937, well before her first best-seller in 1943, The Fountainhead. She earned substantial amounts of money during the 40s, 50s and 60s and would have paid substantial amounts in social security payments because she was self-employed as an author. In other words, the $14,000 she and Frank got back would have been a small percentage of the amount she paid in. (I am assuming the author of that piece is telling the truth about the $14,000, which given his record of truthfulness, is a big assumption on my part.)

The absurdity is that the one site lies by claiming that this small amount, spread over eight years "allowed Rand and her husband to maintain their quality of life, remain in their apartment and live out their final years with dignity." Considering the several hundred thousand dollars that Rand had in savings, does this moronic author really believe that without that $1,750 per year, that Rand would have been unable to maintain her quality of life, would have lost her apartment and not lived out her final years with dignity? Another indication that Social Security was not responsible for Rand's quality of life, etc., is that she employed a secretary to help her pay her bills, a housekeeper and a cook. The cook, Eloise Huggins, was given $10,000 by Rand's Estate in appreciation for her work—a sum almost equal to the total amount that the O'Connors received from Social Security over an eight year period.

The hyperbole and distortions are typical. Sadly it shows that so many of Rand's critics lack any integrity and couldn't give a critique of Rand without resorting to lying.

Pryor's obituary in Variety says that she had a master's degree in "psychiatric social work" but never indicates that she worked as a social worker as multiple articles claimed. They said she worked as a "rights agent" for law firms for authors and that she also worked as "copyright/trademark specialist" and that she was a specialist in business systems and "did bond financing on Wall Street." She was NOT Ayn Rand's social worker! Social workers don't get obituaries published by Variety, the entertainment newspaper.

In spite of how easily one can verify if Pryor worked as a social worker, the falsehood that she was Rand's social worker was repeated on dozens of Left-wing websites. That so many sites are repeating this false claim indicates how quickly they mimic the slogans of each other and indicates that none of them have the level of commitment to the truth to research it for themselves. Had they done so they would catch the numerous errors, that the errors are spread from site to site, indicates they have no interest in checking facts before they spread the claims.

UPDATE: As noted elsewhere on this blog comments are down. But a somewhat rude "response" came in to this, with such vitriol I can only assume the author of Alternet article is the author, but I can't be sure. He claims the Alternet article is "substantially correct" because Rand "never held a job that required SS withholdings" ... except "when she was a screenwriter in Hollywood in the late 30's." He claims I am "not much of a historian or fact checker." First, Rand was a employed in Hollywood in the late 30s. But what this claimant leaves out is that she continued employed in Hollywood until 1951. He ignores that she earned royalties on We the Living in the late 1930s, royalties on Anthem, that The Fountainhead was a national bestseller in 1943, that she continued to be screenwriter on films like Love Letters (1945) and The Fountainhead (1949).

He mentions the "late 30s" and then dishonestly ignores everything from 1940 to 1951. But, even then he is dishonest. Authors earning royalties had to pay social security taxes as well. So, in fact, she paid SS taxes from the their inception until her death in 1982. That is a period of 47 years, while he pretends it is just five years. Atlas Shrugged was a bestseller in 1957 and continued to sell in substantial numbers every single year since. Fountainhead has continued to sell well every year since. In fact, they continued to sell well during the 70s and 80s and until this day.

From that he concludes she received SS "benefits far in excess of what they had actually paid in." In fact, if you only look at the last two years of her life, her social security taxes exceeded ALL the "benefits" it is claimed she received. In the 1970s her social security taxes would have been at least $9000 per year.

He claims that "by the time of her death, she had not written a book in decades and her prior works were all but forgotten by the 70s and 80." Once again he just has no facts. How was she "all but forgotten" by the 70s and 80s? Her book, The New Left was published in 1971, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology was published in 1979 and Philosophy: Who Needs It was being printed at the time of her death in 1982. Romantic Manifesto, missed the 70s by a few months. In addition, Atlas Shrugged was still selling approximately 75,000 copies during the 70s and 80s by itself,  not counting the sales of We the Living, The Fountainhead and Anthem, all of which remained in print during from the late 50s until today. All of which earned royalties, all of which had social security taxes paid on them.

By pretending she had no income in that last years of her life, which is patently false, he then concludes "she left a very meager estate, as Leonard Peikoff, the heir to her estate can attest." Ah, yes, sure go ask Leonard. Peikoff has enjoyed a substantial income due to being Rand's heir. And he helped endow a non-profit named after her with said proceeds. How is that possible if the estate was so meager?

A close friend of Leonard and Ayn commented here that the estate was worth approximately $1 million in 1982. But our rude commenter insists we don't know our facts. I would guess that over my lifetime I have spent considerable time talking to approximately 15 of Rand's friends. In addition I know all three of biographers and read the biographies before they were published. In addition to reading her works and newsletters, and my own interviews, I think I've done my fact checking—which is not something I can say for the hit piece on Alternet.

The rest of the comment was simply insults. I wish Rand's critics would try something other than lies and insults—that they don't is quite revealing.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Catholic Priests and Nun Steal Babies

The story is shocking. Even now as the Catholic Church is pouring money into a campaign against marriage equality in Minnesota new revelations look at the the Church in Spain literally stole babies and sold them for cash.

The BBC says that the story broke when one of the babies, now an adult, was told by his dying father that he was not actually the biological son of the man and his wife, but that he had been purchased from a Catholic priest. The man, Luis Moreno, discovered that the same thing had happened to a friend of his, Antonio Barroso.

They sought out an adoption lawyer to try and explain what happened. The attorney told them he had run into similar cases. And then the men went to the media with their story and the floodgates opened.

The Spanish government says that their investigations shows that nuns and priests did steal babies. Angel Nunez of the justice ministry said they don't how many, "But from the volume of official investigations I dare say that there were many."

The practice began under the fascist rule of Francisco Franco but continued after his death. At first, the children stolen were taken for political reasons and handed over the supporters of the regime. But soon the clergy and nuns were taking children because they considered the parents morally unfit.

Children would be taken for exams and then the mothers were told the infant died suddenly. Parents were sometimes told that they were not allowed to see the infant. One magazine report claims that one clinic kept a dead baby in a freezer and would bring it out to show grieving mothers as proof.

One doctor who was implicated threatened a journalist with a metal crucifix telling him, "I have always acted in his name. Always for the good of the children."

DNA tests have been used to find missing children, now adults, and introduce them to their real parents.

What is so truly shocking is that the Catholic Church continues to misuse its tax exempt status to mount political campaigns to attack the rights of others, in the name of preserving the family. Yet this sect has covered abuse of children by priests and engaged in child stealing in Spain. What moral authority does the Vatican actually believe it has?

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Friday, October 14, 2011

The Decline in Economic Freedom in America


Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Libertarian's Lament

Will Wilkinson takes on the ahistorical views of Ron Paul:

As a rule, libertarians have an unhealthy tendency to apply their principles without due regard to America's history of state-enforced slavery, apartheid, and sexism, or to the many ways in which the legacy of these insidious practices persists to this day. Paul represents this tendency at his worst. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, Paul has argued, led to "a massive violation of the rights of private property and contract, which are the bedrocks of free society."

It’s hard to interpret Paul’s position on this matter in a kind light. During the last campaign season, James Kirchick revealed in the pages of this publication that in the late 1980s and early 1990s Paul had published newsletters under his name containing rank bigotry against African Americans and gays. Paul claimed he did not write the columns in question or even know about them. Whether you believe that or not, the newsletter scandal highlighted Paul's longstanding ties with figures, such as Lew Rockwell, with a history of catering to racist and nativist sentiments for political gain.


Friday, October 07, 2011

The Desperation of Rick Santorum

One of the major losers in the Republican presidential primary is Rick Santorum. He has garnered almost no attention in spite of the media including him in debate after debate—note that the press only excludes one legitimate candidate regularly, Gov. Gary Johnson, the only libertarian in the race. Santorum has built his entire campaign on flogging a dead horse. He's trying to attract fanatical fundamentalists to his campaign.

There are several problems with this. First, Santorum thinks he can win over the fundamentalist vote but he has a problem shared with Romney. In the eyes of Christian fundamentalists Mr. Santorum is NOT a Christian, but a Catholic. Fundamentalists hate all religions that are not part of their sect. The dyed-in-the-wool Southern Baptist might tolerate a Pentecostal as a Christian—barely—but he won't cotton to no Catholic or Mormon. Why the Book of Revelation, clearly indicates—as clear as mud at least—that Catholicism is the Church of the Anti-Christ.

Santorum is trying hard to give the fundamentalists someone to hate more than Catholics. the Religious Right coalition, mainly fundamentalists with a tiny smattering of the magic-underwear Mormons and a minority of Catholics, is only held together by one thing today—a common hatred of gay people. Sure the conservative movement today is vehemently anti-immigrant—of course, they pretend they are only against "illegal" immigration, but the evidence shows otherwise—but Catholicism is only avoiding collapse in America because of immigrants. And the Mormons have found that uneducated Hispanic immigrants are often prime candidates for their normally vane attempts at convincing people that the con man Joseph Smith was some sort of prophet. So anti-immigrant hatred doesn't hold the Religious Right together the way scapegoating gay people can.

The other problem of the Religious Right is that American fundamentalism is in a state of advanced decay. Most fundamentalist churches are losing members. The percentage of Americans who claim to be members of one of these ignorant sects is going down. And young Christians in these churches are pretty much disgusted by their elders. Not only are they not attracting much in the way of new blood, but they are losing their own young to "the world," as these cultists put it.

Santorum, however, has nowhere else to go. He's a nobody in a field of morons, bigots, and Know Nothings—with the exception of Gary Johnson. And the only horse he's got for his pathetic bandwagon is the dead one. So flog it he must, even if he looks ridiculous doing so.

Santorum's latest act of desperation was at a so-called "Values Voter Summit," a klavern of the Religious Right where Republicans gather to spew venom, spit hatred, and fantasize the good old days of lynchings, witch burnings, and heresy trials. This klavern included all the conservative candidates that suck up to the fundamentalists, including their fellow fundamentalist Ron Paul. They do, of course, follow the lead of the media and exclude Gary Johnson, not that a non-bigot like Gary would win any support there.

Santorum used his appearance at the klavern konference to lie to the attendees. Mind you, lying doesn't upset these people, their entire political agenda depends on it. But Santorum's lie is so obviously false that it shows how desperate he is.

Recently, as most informed people know, the so-called Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy was abolished and the American military entered the modern world, much to the horror of the Bible-beating bigots. Soldiers no longer have to fear expulsion from the military simply for being gay. This brought up a question from some military chaplains. Given that it no longer an offense to be gay in the military, and given that gay marriage is legal is some states, what may chaplains do in regards to same-sex marriages?

The Pentagon issued a directive stating that if the chaplain is in a state with marriage equality, and if he wishes to do so, he may perform a same-sex marriage. But the directive clearly said, "a chaplain is NOT required to participate in or officiate a private ceremony if doing so would be in variance with the tenets of his or her religion or personal beliefs." That is pretty clear.

Santorum, however, got up and told the values klavern that the directive says the complete opposite. He said that Obama "has instructed his military chaplains to marry people in direct contravention—marry gays and lesbians—in direct contravention to the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage in federal law as between a man and a woman. So not only did the President not defend the law, he has now instructive people in the military to break the law."

There are two lies contained in this short sentence—clearly if Santorum is going to be the darling of the Values klan he will have to learn how to pack more lies into one sentence—if he's going to compete with the likes of Maggie Gallagher or Jennifer Morse.

The first lie is the obvious one: the President did NOT instruct chaplains to perform same-sex marriages. Obama is still too cowardly to announce he supports marriage equality. The directive from the Pentagon merely says that chaplains MAY participate in such ceremonies if they wish to do so but that no one is required to participate.

Secondly, if a chaplain feels that participation is the moral thing to do, the odious Defense of Marriage Act does NOT make his participation illegal. Is Santorum really saying that he wants the law to chain chaplains down from participating in legal civil ceremonies, or private religious ones?

There is one bit of honesty in that statement as well. Santorum admits the DOMA "defines marriage in federal law." Ron Paul continues to lie about that claiming that he supports DOMA but also wants marriage defined by the states. DOMA does create a federal definition of marriage, for the first time in American history. And it restricts the federal government from recognizing valid marriages performed in the individual states UNLESS it meets the federal standard. But it does not restrict the actions of ministers, priests, rabbis or chaplains of any faith.

And the real hypocrisy here is that while repeal of DADT doesn't strip chaplains of their right to choose what ceremonies to participate in, Santorum's interpretation of DOMA does. Santorum says such participating is a violation of federal law. So it is Rick Santorum who is assaulting the religious freedom of chaplains, not Obama. There is plenty to bitch about when it comes to Obama, but this isn't one of the issues.

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Thursday, October 06, 2011

What Steve Jobs Really Gave Us.

It is sad to learn that Steve Jobs has died. As a dyed-in-the-wool, born-again Apple user I can't go a day without benefitting from his life.

A lot of people will talk about the technology and the wonderful inventions that Jobs, and Apple, brought to the market. But he gave us more than that. Let me put it in context.

For some years now the American public has been despondent. The polls show that an overwhelming majority of Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction. Only 18% say things are going well. Believe it or not, more Americans today think the future is bleak than did so under the rule of George Bush. Only 22% of Americans think there will be less unemployment a year from now.

In other words most people today are pessimistic about the future. What government has wrought is depressing and dark.

But Apple, built by Jobs, does something unique. It continuously offers the public something to look forward to. Call it "crass commercialism," or "capitalist greed" if you want. Bu, every time Apple releases a new product, consumers by tens of thousands literally line up to buy it. Millions more flock to the stores after the initial rush is over.

This is true in America, Canada, China, almost anywhere you can think of. The mere rumor of a new iPhone can set hearts atwitter.

Go to your typical computer store. They are dull places for the most part. But every single time I've been in an Apple store there are customers everywhere, more staff than I can count, and everyone seems to be moving from one product to another with eager expectation and excitement. Ridicule it, if you must. But, given how bleak the outlook for the nation is, I'm ready to grab any shred of genuine excitement about the future.

That is what Steve Jobs accomplished—certainly in recent years—he gave people one reason to be hopeful about the future. Ask the typical consumer if they expect Apple products to get better or get worse. I suggest the numbers would be very high when it comes to those saying the future of Apple products is brighter than it is today.

Obama promised "hope" and delivered despair and depression. Steve Jobs promised little but delivered much. He was the epitome of the entrepreneur, a man who built a fortune by improving the lives of others. He did so without an army of lobbyists, seeking favors, subsidies or handouts. He got rich by enriching all of us.

Given how badly Obama and Congress has dealt with the economic crisis, I'm glad that someone else was out there giving people at least one reason to be hopeful.

Below is a video of Steve Jobs talking about his life and tells three stories from his life. It's worth listening to.


Monday, October 03, 2011

Klan Uses PR Tricks from the Religious Right

Above is the banner from the web site of a confirmed hate group—the Ku Klux Klan, the cowardly, hooded "knights" that rampaged through the Bible belt lynching folks in the name of God, race and country. Now they are trying the same PR trick that other fundamentalist hate groups try to pull—they claim to merely be "pro-family." Notice the slogan, "Loving our family!" in the banner.

They go even further. Like fundamentalist Christians they claim they don't really hate all the people they are trying to hurt, they really "love" instead. The site for the Klan says: "Bringing a Message of Hope and Deliverance to White Christian America! A Message of Love NOT Hate!" Right! Sure, I believe it. NOT!

When the Religious Right drones on about "family" what they are really doing is saying that anyone who doesn't fit their definition of family—which is a hell of a lot of people—are evil. When the Klan says they "love" they are a bit more explicit about it. They mean "our people—my white brothers and sister..." and openly exclude non-whites from their "love."

In this sense the Klan is more honest than the American Family Association, Maggie Gallagher or Jennifer Morse. They pretend that they actually "love" the people they are attacking and denigrating.

But this "Love" message from the Klan is new. They have always been openly hateful. So what gives with them taking a page from the PR book of the Religious Right? One possible explanation is that their leader is a fundamentalist minister, Thomas Robb. Robb is one of these nuts who worries about the supposed "New World Order." Of course, many of these conspiracists mean Jews when they talk about "New World Order" or about "international bankers." And this group is no different. They HATE Jews. One example is that they denounce the term "Judeo-Christian" because it "is much like saying clean filth. Filth is not clean and Judaism is not Christian." Guess who is the "filth" in that analogy. They quickly go into claims that Communism is run by the Jew.

And, like the real loons on the Right, they argue the Federal Reserve is a "privately owned" bank and run by the international bankers. Please, don't let the "international bankers" label deceive you. When the Right uses this phrase they mean "Jewish bankers," the old alleged enemy of "White, Western, Christian" civilization—you know, the kind of decent society that poor, misunderstood Adolph Hitler tried to impose on Germany and the rest of Europe.

The far Right has been obsessed with the Federal Reserve, not because they understand the problems of central planning of monetary issues, or understand any of the economics that tells us the Fed is a bad idea. What they are obsessed about is that the Fed is supposed controlled by the Jewish conspiracy of bankers to plunder the economy for the private benefits of Jews. They are convinced that an "audit" of the Federal Reserve will prove the existence of this international banking plot. It won't. As usual their premises are completely wrong.

The "legal counsel" for the Klan is one Jason Robb, who I assume is the son of the fundamentalist minister who runs the hate group. Robb recently went off on the Fed with the claim it is "a private corporation that is not part of the U.S." His solution to this secret Jewish plot: "We all should be getting being Rep. Ron Paul for president." Robb has gone as far are publishing entire fund appeal letters from Paul so his Klan-loving readers can make financial donations to Paul.

Robb senior runs "Thomas Robb Ministries" and like Ron Paul he's worried about the secret plot to impose "one-world government." Robb explicitly claims that God's "chosen people" are whites. "We believe that the Anglo-Saxon, Germanic, Scandinavian, and kindred people are THE people of the Bible—God's separated and anointed Israel.

I guess the Klan just figured that if Maggie Gallagher, Bryan Fischer and Jennifer Morse could use the "love" slogan for hating gays, then they could use it for hating non-whites and Jews.

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Sunday, October 02, 2011

Dead Kids and Presidential Jokes

President Obama is a highly unpopular political leader. Well, he should be. He continued the worst policies of the Bush Administration and then failed to keep the decent promises he did make. Not all his promises were decent, by any means. But, the ones that were, were the ones he ignored.

Those wars he promised to end didn't end. He actually tossed in a new one. In other words Obama has led the the nation into killing more people than any other Nobel Peace Prize winner in history. The prize was a joke, but then so is this administration.

Being unpopular means that Obama has to work extra hard to gain four more years of power, and power drives him. After all he just got the power to "reform" the entire health system giving more power to the the medical establishment and the government, at the expense of patients and ordinary people. Of course, he droned on and on about how he was doing this for the little people, the very ones who are losing control of their own care to bureaucrats. So, it's time to start campaigning and that means fleecing the suckers for all they are worth.

Obama is doing this with a series of dinners, the kind that those "little people" he cares oh, so much about, can't afford. The dinners are available for the reasonable cost of $37,800. But don't be aghast, that's for two people and tips are not necessary. Of course, all the common folk are flocking to the events.

Here we have a perfect example of what is wrong with DC. To get your voice heard by people like Obama you have to pony up the cash. All these regulations and laws reflect the interests of the people the president listens to, and those people are the ones who can afford to buy a moment of his time. If you are an average person, you will be ignored unless, of course, there is some publicity factor involved. Then Obama and the others, including Republicans, will feign attentiveness to your concerns. The only thing that rivals cash exchanges in politics is the currency of publicity.

Recently the singer Lady Gaga was telling fans she would meet the president. Her concern was yet another suicide of a young gay kid, bullied until he took his own life. Lady Gaga, like so many well-intentioned but clueless individuals, thinks that the solution to bullying is a federal law. I wish life were so simple. The problem is at the local school level and federal laws won't change that. The solution is to be found elsewhere, not in federal laws.

But Gaga paid her $38,500 and got her two minutes to speak about the death of Jamey Rodemeyer.

Well, just recently Obama spoke to the Human Rights Council, which sometimes works for the rights of gay people, but always works to the benefit of the Democratic Party, even when the Party is ignoring gay issues. The HRC has faithfully put the Party before the people they pretend to represent. I can think of no major gay organization that has so faithfully kissed Obama's ass than the HRC. They were one of the "leaders" of the gay community that fought against making marriage equality an issue. It didn't fit their agenda, meaning it didn't fit the agenda of the Democrats. It had downside potential and it would give Republicans an issue with their bigoted voters. So, the HRC didn't want the marriage issue pushed. The larger gay community ignored their self-proclaimed leaders and pushed it because it is important to them.

Obama's speech to the HRC crowd was meant to be funny and emotional. For instance, he mentioned bullying saying: "I want all those kids to know that the president and first lady is (sic) standing right by them every inch of the way. I want them to know that we love them and care about them and they're not by themselves." Really!

Sure Obama will listen to a bullied kid, at least for two minutes, if the kid can afford $38,500 for tickets to a fundraiser, or can garner him some good publicity. But what is this "we love them" bullshit. I don't mean to say the President dislikes these kids. I just mean he doesn't love them. One can be concerned about people but to love someone requires knowing someone. And it is impossible to "love" someone you don't even know exists. This is another one of those problems with collectivists (and Republicans are the same sort of creature). What they love is the collective not the individual. So, when Obama tells bullied teens he loves them, he doesn't mean them, not as individuals. He "loves" the collective body, not the individual. He can't love the individual, he has no fucking idea who they are. But saying, "I love you," sounds better than, "I love the body of people."

After Jamey's suicide Lady Gaga made several public statements about wanting to speak to Obama about it. The president didn't seek her out. He wanted for her to pay the admission price of $38,500 to purchase a few seconds of his time. That's how concerned he was.

Now, Gaga simply didn't have the publicity factor that the president wanted. If anything, her odd appearance and unpredictable personality means she is a PR nightmare waiting to happen. So, he wasn't going to meet with her officially. The PR value was potentially negative and she wasn't good for a few million into Party coffers. So, he waited for her to buy a ticket to speak to him, briefly. All things considered he probably hoped she wouldn't show up, since the negative factor was too large. But, at least at a private dinner in someone's mansion, the media wouldn't be all over the place splashing pictures of the president being towered over by this odd woman. And, the potential downside of not selling her a ticket was too great. So she couldn't be rejected but she could be controlled and the dinner allowed that. She got her minute and the president avoided photos of him being lectured to by Lady Gaga.

But, as misguided as she is, Lady Gaga is talking about a real issue, real at least to the kids who are the victims of bullying. And Jamey Rodemeyer was the kid whose death pushed her to be so vocal about the problem—an issue this blog has harped on for a couple of years now.

At the HRC dinner Obama decided the incident was worthy of joking about. So he told the audience: "I also took a trip out to California last week, where I held some productive bilateral talks with your leader, Lady Gaga." I also guess that Stepin Fetchit was the leader of the black community during the 20s and 30s.

What irks me about the joke, however, is not the stereotypical view of Lady Gaga as the "leader" of the gay community, but that the president seems insensitive to why it was that she spoke to him. Sure, he mentioned how he just loves bullied kids, both him and his wife. But, the reason Gaga was there was because a boy had killed himself. It seems inappropriate to turn that occasion into a joke. Given that Jamey had only been buried a few days before the HRC dinner, the timing of the reference was poorly chosen. It was certainly a joke that I would have advised avoiding.

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Saturday, October 01, 2011

Which American Governments are Bankrupt and Why

I was reading "Nine American Cities Going Broke," and noticed similarities between the cities in the most financial trouble. Many of them simply forgot their core functions and decided to go into projects like redevelopment and stadium building. These are "grand" projects that appeal to the egos of petty politicians, but for the most part, they do little good for, and much harm to, the taxpayers. Next, you have simple corruption and finally you have politicians buying the support of city workers by offering overly-generous pension schemes.

You may remember Vallejo, CA., actually filed bankruptcy as a result of the extreme pension costs for city workers, especially those given to unionized fire fighters. The city politicians, always wanting to be on the good side of the unions, caved in repeatedly. For years the taxpayers were able to cover the costs of buying political support from the unions, but long term it was unsustainable.

The nine cities listed are those "with the worst credit ratings assigned by Moody's." Here are the worst nine cities in from least bankrupt to most bankrupt.

#9 Camden, NJ. A very corrupt political system meant that three of the last five mayors ended up in prison for corruption. For some odd reason more than half the property in the city is tax exempt meaning taxes are imposed on the remainder. The city, not the school system, got over $1 billion in state aid in the last decade and is still going bankrupt. The state took over managing the finances and spending actually sky-rocketed while tax revenues plummeted. And in 2010 the state paid 80% of the costs of the city to stay afloat.

The city gave tax exemptions to a for-profit aquarium as well as to the a high-rent apartment complex. And greedy trade unions used their political clout to push through high pensions for police and fire fighters. Fringe benefits for those two departments doubled since 2001 after being adjusted for inflation. The city now pays out 28% of its budget in fringe benefits to these greedy city employees who use the clout of unions to their own selfish benefit.

Even while they are going bankrupt the unions increased their clout by getting more members hired. Full time city employees went from 1,131 in 2001 to 1,562. And the police department is 20% larger than the average for a city this size while there are 17% more firefighters than in other similar cities.

#8 Strafford County, NH. The main problem here is that the county went into the business of running a nursing home. And it is losing millions per year. About 40% of the entire country budget goes into this one nursing home. Most the patients are Medicaid patients and the country is finding that the reimbursements from Medicaid simply don't come close to paying the actual costs. This is a problem all health care providers face: government health care refuses to pay the actual costs of health care and this forces up prices for private patients. It is one way that government health care can pretend to cost less, while forcing up the cost of health care for everyone else, and then blaming the higher costs on private health care providers.

#7 Riverdale, IL. The main problem here just seems to be bad budgeting with the village consistently spending more than it takes in.

#6 Salem, NJ. The city decided to get into the office building field by guaranteeing bonds issued to construct the complex. Politicians said they could pay the bonds from revenue from leasing office space. But construction delays, a common thing in government run projects, meant they were paying out with no revenue coming in. Government officials tend to make bad investments like this all the time. They all dream of being the one credited with "revitalizing" the city, or having some grand project attributed to them. They are much more careful when they invest their own funds. But politicians are used to playing with other people's money.

#5 Detroit, MI. Trouble here is long term and tied to the heavily unionized auto industry which continued to push up costs for employers. General Motors and Chrysler both declared bankruptcy which substantially hurt the city. In addition the city was never well run to begin with. The net result is that debts are more than double the annual tax income for the city.

#4 Harrison, NJ. The city got involved heavily in redevelopment and spent $39 million to build a stadium. The income from the stadium, however, is well below what the politicians pretended it would be when they pushed it through. The stadium is one massive subsidy to the privately-owned New York Red Bulls, a soccer team. Bloomberg reports:

Town officials in December had to borrow $3.1 million -- 21 percent of its municipal tax collections -- to make the debt payment on the 2006 issue, and they anticipate doing so again this December, Moody’s said.

Meanwhile, the New York Red Bulls, whose owner is No. 208 on Forbes magazine’s list of the world’s billionaires, are challenging their taxable status. The team refuses to pay a $1.4 million property levy, according to Moody’s.

To close its $6 million budget gap, Harrison plans to dismiss 17 percent of its police and 29 percent of its firefighters on July 1, according to an e-mail from Town Clerk Paul Zarbetski. Mayor Raymond McDonough is also considering selling seven parking lots.

The city claimed that payments from developers would go from $2.3 million in 2008 to $11.5 million by 2011. But, in 2009 they only received $980,000 and $1.1 million in 2010 and 2011, just 10% of what they projected. The soccer team's managing director says the team shouldn't pay taxes since just being there "is a huge economic impact." Of course, it was an even huger economic cost.

#3 Jefferson County, AL. The county is in deep shit, literally and figuratively. It's 2o09 debt was $1,337,233,000 while revenue was only $308,440,000. The county decided to spend $3.2 billion on sewer overhauls. But numerous officials ended up in jail due to corruption connected to the project.

#2 Pontiac, MI. Here is another city hurt by the bankruptcy of union-riddled General Motors. But there was another stadium project involved as well: Silverdome Stadium. Built in 1975 it cost the city $55.7 million. The purpose was to "lure" the Detroit Lions to the stadium by given the wealthy owners a huge subsidy. They moved and stayed until they got a better handout leaving Pontiac holding a white elephant. The Jehovahs Witnesses rented it once a year for their annual get-together and a drive-in theater was opened up in the parking lot. The city decided to get rid of the stadium and asked for bids. In 2008 an offer of $18 million was made. The buyers were planning to turn the stadium into an entertainment complex. The city refused the offer and put it out to auction. Instead of getting $18 million the stadium was then sold for $550,000 in 2009. Brilliant!

#1 Central Falls, RI. Central Falls declared bankruptcy in August of this year. The reason was mostly due to the pension plans for city workers. The city owes $80 million in retirement benefits, which is equal to five years worth of the entire city budget. Once again it was the greedy unions redistributing wealth to fire fighters and police officers. The $80 million in retirement promises is for just 215 cops and firemen. The city has around 20,000 residents. The New York Times reports that Central Falls "is small and poor, but over the years it has promised police officers and firefighters retirement benefits like those offered in big, rich states like California and New York." (I don't know about New York, but big, rich California is in financial trouble as well and once again greedy unions have pushed through massive pension promises for union members.)

State regulations are also to blame here. State law favors unions and forces cities into binding arbitration. The law says that benefits are to be based on comparable benefits across the entire state and has to ignore the city's ability to pay. The result is that each time a city is forced into paying higher benefits the "comparable average" for the state increases forcing each other city to increase their benefits during the next union hold-up (I mean negotiation). Of course, as those benefits go up then the other cities are now lagging behind and have to catch up again. And so it goes in perpetuity. The Times report this means Rhode Island has "the nation's highest per capita spending for fire services and sixth-highest for policing." The law does not apply to other government employees but the teacher's unions are now pushing for a similar law to inflate the pay of teachers.

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