Category: Govenment


Russia’s Message on Jet: Conciliation and Bluster
By NEIL MacFARQUHARJULY 21, 2014

President Vladimir V. Putin visited an aerospace center in Samara, Russia, on Monday.
MOSCOW — Russia presented a combination of conciliation and bluster on Monday over its handling of the downed Malaysia Airlines jet, with President Vladimir V. Putin seemingly probing for a way out of the crisis without appearing to compromise with the West.

On one hand, he offered conciliatory words in a video statement, oddly released in the middle of the night, while the separatists allied with Moscow in southeastern Ukraine released the bodies of the victims and turned over the black box flight recorders from the doomed aircraft to Malaysian officials.

However, two senior military officers forcefully demanded that the United States show publicly any proof that rebels fired the fatal missile, and again suggested that the Ukrainian military shot down the Malaysia Airlines jet despite the fact that Ukraine has not used antiaircraft weapons in the fight along its eastern border.

Pro-Russian militiamen keep watch as Dutch forensic investigators prepare to inspect bodies.Journey Home Finally Begins for the Victims of Malaysia Airlines FlightJULY 21, 2014
Obama Denounces Russia and Separatists for Obstructing Crash SiteJULY 21, 2014
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announces that two black boxes from the downed Malaysia Airlines flight will be handed over by Ukrainian rebels.Malaysia Premier Brokers Deal to Recover Black BoxesJULY 21, 2014
A piece of wreckage from the Malaysia Airlines jet downed over eastern Ukraine last week shows damage, including shrapnel holes and blistered paint, that is consistent with a hit from a fragmenting warhead, according to consultants with IHS-Jane’s.Jet Wreckage Bears Signs of Impact by Supersonic Missile, Analysis ShowsJULY 21, 2014
Times Topic: Malaysia Airlines Flight 17
Mr. Putin seemed to respond to the outraged international demands growing daily that he intervene personally to rein in the rebels — particularly to halt the degrading chaos surrounding the recovery of the remains. But at the same time, Moscow did not concede that it was at fault.

In the investigation of the Malaysia Airlines crash in Ukraine and urged Russia to push separatist rebels for access to the wreckage site. Publish Date July 21, 2014. Image CreditGabriella Demczuk/The New York Times

“Putin is trying to find his own variation of a twin-track decision, because he does not have a clear exit,” said Gleb O. Pavlovsky, a political consultant who once worked for the Kremlin.

The pressure continued to expand. President Obama delivered yet another personal rebuke to Mr. Putin from the White House lawn over the intransigence of the rebels toward the international investigation, hours before they agreed to more cooperation. In addition, an initial expert analysis of photographs of the airplane’s fuselage found that the damage was consistent with being struck by the type of missile that U.S. officials said was used.

On Tuesday, Russia faces the threat of far more serious sanctions from its main trading partners in Western Europe.

“Of course this is a strong blow to him, a strong blow to his strategy,” said Mr. Pavlovsky, referring to the fact that Russian separatists fighting in eastern Ukraine have been discredited globally, due to suspicions that they shot down the aircraft and their handling of the crash site.

“It touches him too,” Mr. Pavlovsky said, “He wants to get out, but to get out without having lost.”

Mr. Obama called for Mr. Putin to “pivot away” from the rebels, linking him directly to their abuse of the crash site.

Continue reading the main story
Where the Wreckage Fell UPDATED JULY 21
Satellite imagery captured by DigitalGlobe on July 20 shows debris and burned ground within the area where witnesses say wreckage from the plane is most concentrated. The wreckage was strewn across farmland over an area estimated to be as large as 13 square miles. Related Maps »

“Russia, and President Putin in particular, has direct responsibility to compel them to cooperate with the investigation,” he said in brief remarks. “President Putin says that he supports a full and fair investigation and I appreciate those words, but they have to be supported by actions.”

Mr. Putin’s statement was issued on the Kremlin website at 1:40 a.m. Monday on video, with analysts suggesting the timing was aimed more at Washington than Russia.

The world’s leaders have no real ability, nor the stomach for significant action against Russia’s current strongman. Nothing will be forgiven, but all will be soon forgotten. I
His usual swagger seemed absent; instead he looked pasty and unsure, avoiding talking into the camera directly and leaning on a desk.

The statement did not break new ground, either. The Russian leader repeated his support for a thorough international investigation, and said Russia would pursue its efforts to move the fight over the future of southeastern Ukraine from the battlefield to the negotiating table. Mr. Putin did not address directly any accusations of Russian complicity in downing the aircraft.

By the end of the day there was one small diplomatic victory. The Malaysian government dealt directly with the leadership of the Russian-supported Donetsk People’s Republic, the breakaway faction in southeastern Ukraine, in negotiating the release of the bodies and the flight recorders.

Amid all the negotiating, the Ukrainian government pressed its attack on Donetsk, firing on rebel positions in the northwest of the city and killing at least three civilians. Ukraine denied that it hit civilian areas, but heavy damage in the city cast doubt on that assertion.

In his statement, Mr. Putin also warned that he was suspicious of all the criticism directed at the Kremlin. “No one should and no one has the right to use this tragedy to pursue their own political goals,” he said.

Mr. Putin often seethes with distrust and anger that the United States seeks to exploit any opening to weaken Russia, a widespread sentiment in Russia reflected in his high approval ratings. The entire Ukraine confrontation is rooted in his determination to stop the West from wrestling Ukraine out of Moscow’s orbit.

Russians, too, exhibited a certain defensive anger about the current accusations, convinced that the West leapt to condemn them no matter what the issue.

Anastasia Lukina, 30, a sales manager in Moscow, said either side might have shot down the plane. “So the West says it wants a full investigation, but they’ve already accused us of killing those people?” she said. “We all know what the conclusion to that investigation will be. So why even bother pretending? Russia is the world’s scapegoat.”

That is the theme of much of coverage on state-run television, which has also aired all manner of theories lifted from the dark corners of the web.

One such theory holds that whoever shot down the plane was actually gunning for Mr. Putin, whose plane was over Eastern Europe at the time, returning from Latin America, for example

What Happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 17
An updated summary of what is known and not known about the crash.

Another argues that the bodies were actually from the Malaysia Airlines jet that disappeared four months ago — dumped only now to make the separatists look bad.

“In Russia, no one thinks that Russia is guilty,” said Olga Kryshtanovskaya, a sociologist who specializes in studying Russia’s political elite.

The Kremlin actually spent months using state-run television to build the case that the Kiev government are a pack of “fascists,” bent on killing the ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine. It has softened that message somewhat in recent weeks, but not abandoned it.

Hence two senior Russian military commanders, sitting in a vast briefing room and dwarfed by the giant electronic screens overhead, used various satellite images and charts to raise a series of rhetorical questions that suggested that Ukraine and the United States deliberately plotted to shoot down the passenger jet. The unusual bilingual briefing was broadcast live on state-run television.

Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story
“According to U.S. declarations, they have satellite images that confirm that the missile was launched by the rebels, said Lt. Gen. Andrei Kartopolov, of the Russian General Staff. “But nobody has seen these images.”

He called for them to be released, hinting that they were taken by an experimental military satellite that was orbiting over eastern Ukraine on Thursday because Washington knew what it would photograph.

Among other accusations, the Russians said a Ukrainian Sukhoi-25 fighter jet that was airborne at the time briefly approached the same 33,000-feet altitude as the Boeing 777 and was within range to bring it down with an air-to-air missile.

As for Russia, it had nothing to do with arming the militiamen, General Kartopolov said. “I would like to emphasize that the Russian Federation did not deliver to the militiamen Buk antiaircraft missile systems, nor any other types of weapons or military equipment,” he said.

Ultimately, Russian policy might actually tilt according to what emerges from the investigation. If there is even a hint of doubt, Moscow might cling to both its support for the rebels and claims of its own virtue, analysts suggested.

“If there is not 100 percent proof, then Russia will continue to say” that they are not at fault, said Alexei V. Makarkin, an analyst at the Center for Political Technologies in Moscow. “If there is 95 or even 99 percent, then Russia will not agree with it. They can continue to support the insurgents in the east.”

Correction: July 22, 2014
Reporting was contributed by Andrew Roth and Alexandra Odynova from Moscow; David M. Herszenhorn from Kiev; Sabrina Tavernise and Noah Sneider from Torez, Ukraine; and Keith Bradsher and Chris Buckley from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

 

» Birthright Citizenship is Flatly Unconstitutional » Fresh Ink — GOPUSA

constitutionBecause the current policy is that any child who is born here, even to an illegal alien, is automatically a citizen of the United States, pregnant illegal aliens by the thousands commit criminal trespass in order to give birth on U.S. soil. There is also a bustling business in birth tourism, where pregnant foreigners on tourist visas are hosted by a growing hospitality industry devoted to their comfort until the day of delivery – and U.S. citizenship – arrives.

All this has led to calls to amend our Constitution to bring this misguided and misdirected practice to an end.

But we do not need to amend the Constitution to fix this problem; a correct reading of the Constitution indicates that such children born on our soil are specifically excluded from citizenship.

The clause at issue is found in the 14th Amendment, which reads, “All persons born or naturalized in the United Statesand subject to the jurisdiction thereofare citizens of the United States…”

A plain reading clearly indicates that birthright citizenship is granted only to those who are “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States when they are born on American soil. Illegal aliens and their children, by definition, are not subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. That’s why they can be deported. Their children are no more subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. than their parents are, and as little entitled to citizenship.

The “jurisdiction” clause was added to the 14th Amendment only after a lengthy debate. According to NumbersUSA, Sen. Jacob Howard of Michigan proposed the amendment because he wanted to make it clear that the simple accident of birth on U.S. soil was not in fact enough to confer citizenship.

Sen. Howard said the jurisdiction requirement is “simply declaratory of what I regard as the law of the land already,” an apparent reference to the Civil Rights Act of 1866, about which more in a moment.

In his debate, Sen. Howard said, “[T]his will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers accredited to the Government of the United States…”

The logic is inescapable. If the children of foreign diplomats, who are in this country legally, are not U.S. citizens by birth, how is it possible that children of illegal aliens could be?

The only Democrat to participate in the debate was Sen. Reverdy Johnson of Maryland. In debate, he said this about the meaning of this particular clause: “[A]ll persons born in the United Statesand not subject to some foreign Power– for that, no doubt, is the meaning of the committee who have brought the matter before — shall be considered as citizens of the United States.”

The 14th Amendment was passed in order to elevate the provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 to constitutionally protected status and insulate it from legal challenge. The CRA of 1866 has a virtually identical clause in it, which reads, “[A]ll persons born in the United Statesand not subject to any foreign power,excluding Indians not taxed, are hereby declared to be citizens of the United States.”

This makes it particularly clear, for the children of those in Indian tribes were born on U.S. soil, but were not considered citizens under the Civil Rights Act of 1866 because they were subject to a foreign power, the sovereign Indian nation to which they belonged.

As George Beck writes, “‘[T]ribal’ Indians were purposefully excluded from citizenship. The drafters of the Fourteenth Amendment clearly defined ‘tribal’ Indians as ‘Indians not taxed,’ as not ‘subject to the jurisdiction’ of the United States.”

Ken Kuklowski puts it this way, “[T]he Civil Rights Act’s parallel language, ‘and not subject to any foreign power,’ instead shows the Jurisdiction Clause excludes all citizens of any foreign country. The Citizenship Clause was intended to overrule the most infamous Supreme Court case in American history—the 1857Dred Scottcase—and ensure free blacks born in America could not be denied citizenship. It was never designed to make a citizen of every child born to a foreigner.”

Since 1795, aliens have been required to renounce allegiance to any foreign power and declare allegiance to the U.S. Constitution to become a naturalized citizen. They are required to do so because such allegiance was never assumed or taken for granted for an alien born on American soil. For instance, our family has a framed copy of my great-grandfather’s renunciation of his allegiance to the Czar of Russia hanging on the wall of our living room. It was a prerequisite to his being granted full citizenship in the United States.

Anyone born here, on U.S. soil, whose parents owed allegiance to some foreign power, were not considered citizens of the U.S. by birth and should not be today.

Bryan Fischer is director of issues analysis for the American Family Association. He hosts “Focal Point with Bryan Fischer” every weekday on AFR Talk from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. (Central).

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The People’s Department…NOT

Part III in a series penned by a 29-year executive level veteran of the USDA that exposes the flawed underbelly of an Agency that is corrupted to the core by reverse racism and political correctness of the worst kind.

The first two articles exposed the racism, environmental excesses and unfairness to the farmers within the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that is purported to serve under Obama (see the responsibility avoidance exposed below). Those essays also exposed the cronyism within the management ranks, the racial quotas disguised as affirmative action and the self-serving liberal leadership at the “People’s Department”, as USDA calls itself.

Now let’s discuss “Double the Pleasure”, aka “redundancy”. Only three percent of Americans receive most of their income from farming. So WHY does the government have a monstrous USDA with 105,000 employees? When you figure there are 1.2 million farmers and farm workers you get a ratio of 1 employee for every 11.4 farmers. The USDA has more than 20 sub agencies some of which house more than 11,000 employees. How is this possible?

For starters, we have the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and the Rural Development Agency (RD). All are under the USDA umbrella and are housed in every state and territory of the United States. These agencies have offices that serve every single county of the United States. Great service delivery one might suppose. However, this is not the case at all.

In any given county across the US and its Territories there is an office with these three agencies. That means New York City, Detroit, Chicago have USDA offices. Imagine that for a moment. To support this wasteful structure there are three Level 15 ($140K/Year) Directors; three Level 13 ($125K) administrative officers; three Level 12 ($80K) human resources officers and an assortment of support staff for each agency.

Wait…it gets worse!

That bloated staff tends to trip over themselves while serving the same clientele. Taxpayer money is misspent by paying for salaries, benefits and real estate. Then we add three Level 12 District Directors plus an assortment of GS 9, 8, and 7 employees serving a few farmers in every County. They also give money to other organizations such as the Soil and Water Conservation Districts to augment and hide the actual size of the workforce.

It should be obvious that a single agency would be more efficient and less expensive. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) is more than capable of supporting the needs the public and a consolidated agency would eliminate administrative redundancy and serve clients better.

Remember, NRCS serves environmental special interest groups like “Defenders of Wildlife” by diverting Congressional appropriations meant for all American farmers into “special” environmental areas. That leaves other farmers waiting a long time for technical and financial assistance. Every time there’s talk of merging NRCS and FSA, the Soil and Water Conservation District (a national organization of local volunteers funded by Federal and State agencies such as NRCS) send $1,000 “suits” (lobbyists) to Washington to stop any downsizing. The goal is to keep the standalone agencies with three monstrous administrative support systems. But this is an incestuous relationship because the lobbyists are indirectly paid by a USDA cooperative agreement (non-competitive) with various state organizations. Those state chapters are charged membership fees and the funds come from both State and Federal Funds. Find all this ridiculous?

And don’t be deceived by the Federal “Gobots”. There are Senior Executive Service government employees who are paid $200K to figure out how to keep the agency’s doors open. Innocent? Not so much when you ask how many government employees are really needed for the job. But these well-groomed “Gobots” speak and write in perfect grammar and impress Congressional Agriculture Committees whose “distinguished” members who know little to nothing about agriculture. I helped write the 2008 Farm Bill for Congressional Conference Committees. What an exercise in futility!

Would that be all? No! All of these agencies are full of employees who sue and ask for court settlements for frivolous equal opportunity and civil rights complaints. There are many USDA employees who are given consolation prizes for mismanagement or for violating laws by allowing them to work from home. Example: a State Director who was accused of misconduct is now working from home with pay as a GS 15 ($140K salary) instead of getting suspended or fired. In the meantime, honest taxpayers are working hard as employees or business owners while these incompetent USDA people retire with steady paychecks and public sector benefits.

Injustice for all!

“Wait! It’s not my fault! I didn’t know this was going on.” Sound familiar? Yes, President Obama’s response to his responsibility for Veterans Administration, Internal Revenue Service, and USDA scandals. In the meantime, your employer holds you responsible for the results of your area of work. But the President is avoiding responsibility and allows his Cabinet to do the same.

Will this continue under Clinton – Bush – Obama…Clinton?

The fourth article (Epilogue) will be very personal. Fear of eternal litigation, however, requires that I solemnly state that all the accused are innocent until proven guilty. Republicans and Democrats should be held equally responsible for cleaning up this fiscal mess.

——————————————

H. Michael Hervey
Chairman
Conservative Party USA
hmhervey@cp-usa.org
Twitter: @cpartyusa_01

IRS E-mail jeopardy

REVIEW & OUTLOOK
IRS Email Jeopardy
The agency had a legal obligation to retain the records it lost.

Updated June 25, 2014 5:49 p.m. ET
The IRS is spinning a tale of bureaucratic incompetence to explain the vanishing emails from former Tax Exempt Organizations doyenne Lois Lerner and six other IRS employees. We have less faith by the minute that there is an innocent explanation for this failure to cooperate with Congress, but even if true it doesn’t matter. The IRS was under a legal obligation to retain the information because of a litigation hold.

In 2009 a pro-Israel group called Z Street applied to the IRS for tax-exempt status. When the process was delayed, an IRS agent told the group that its application was undergoing special review because “these cases are being sent to a special unit in the D.C. office to determine whether the organization’s activities contradict the Administration’s public policies.” In August 2010 Z Street sued the IRS on grounds that this selective processing of its application amounted to viewpoint discrimination.

Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and legal precedent, once the suit was filed the IRS was required to preserve all evidence relevant to the viewpoint-discrimination charge. That means that no matter what dog ate Lois Lerner’s hard drive or what the IRS habit was of recycling the tapes used to back up its email records of taxpayer information, it had a legal duty not to destroy the evidence in ongoing litigation.

In private white-collar cases, companies facing a lawsuit routinely operate under what is known as a “litigation hold,” instructing employees to affirmatively retain all documents related to the potential litigation. A failure to do that and any resulting document loss amounts to what is called “willful spoliation,” or deliberate destruction of evidence if any of the destroyed documents were potentially relevant to the litigation.

At the IRS, that requirement applied to all correspondence regarding Z Street, as well as to information related to the vetting of conservative groups whose applications for tax-exempt status were delayed during an election season. Instead, and incredibly, the IRS cancelled its contract with email-archiving firm Sonasoft shortly after Ms. Lerner’s computer “crash” in June 2011.

In the federal District of Columbia circuit where Z Street’s case is now pending, the operating legal obligation is that “negligent or reckless spoliation of evidence is an independent and actionable tort.” In a 2011 case a D.C. district court also noted that “Once a party reasonably anticipates litigation, it must suspend its routine document retention/destruction policy and put in place a ‘litigation hold’ to ensure the preservation of relevant documents.”

The government’s duty is equally pressing. “When the United States comes into court as a party in a civil suit, it is subject to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure as any other litigant,” the Court of Federal Claims ruled in 2007. The responsibility to preserve evidence should have been a topic of conversation between the IRS chief counsel’s office and the Justice Department lawyers assigned to handle the Z Street case.

As it happens, the IRS also had a duty to notify Congress if it learned that discoverable evidence had been lost or destroyed. We now know that the IRS has been aware of Lois Lerner’s lost emails since at least February, but IRS Commissioner John Koskinen failed to mention this in his congressional testimony on March 26, saying instead that the IRS was fully cooperating with congressional requests.

Since the email destruction story broke, the IRS has pushed the narrative that losing or recycling emails was no big deal for the agency that wields the government’s fearsome taxing power. The agency isn’t nearly as cavalier about the responsibilities of groups whose tax status it handles.

One tax-exempt group represented by Washington lawyer Cleta Mitchell had a policy of retaining documents for one year. But under a deal insisted upon by the IRS, the group had to retain correspondence such as email for three years and permanently for “legal or important matters,” or it risked losing its tax-exempt status.

So much for the IRS living by its own rules, and on Tuesday at a House Oversight and Government Reform hearing we learned of another IRS legal failure. Archivist of the United States David Ferriero said the IRS “did not follow the law” when it failed to report the loss of Lois Lerner’s emails. All federal agencies are “required to notify us when they realize they have a problem that could be destruction or disposal, unauthorized disposal” of federal records, he said.

Attorney General Eric Holder won’t name a special prosecutor, but there’s still plenty of room for the judge in the Z Street case to force the IRS to explain and answer for its “willful spoliation” of email evidence.

No Confidence
Hardly anybody believes the IRS’s story about Lois Lerner’s “lost” emails

By JAMES TARANTO CONNECT
June 25, 2014
A new Fox News survey asks the following question: “The Internal Revenue Service says that two years of emails from IRS employees about targeting conservative and tea party groups were accidentally destroyed because of a computer crash and cannot be recovered. Do you believe the IRS that the emails were destroyed accidentally or do you think they were destroyed deliberately?”

Before we reveal the results, pause and take a guess: What percentage of respondents do you think believe the IRS?

We’d have said between 30% and 40%. The administration, backed by its allies in the Democratic Party and the media, has cast the scandal in partisan terms, as a Republican witch hunt. Obama himself told Fox’s Bill O’Reilly in February that while “there were some bone-headed decisions,” there was no “mass corruption. Not even a smidgen of corruption.”

Given the partisan polarization of America’s political culture–a long-term trend that predates Obama’s presidency but certainly has not been arrested by it–we’d have expected at least Obama’s hard-core political base to express support for the IRS position. The president’s approval rating hasn’t dropped far below 40% in any poll we’re aware of; it’s 41% in the Fox survey.

Enlarge Image

Lois Lerner, stonewalling last year. Associated Press
The proportion of respondents who believe the IRS’s claim to have destroyed the emails accidentally: 12%. That’s congressional-approval-rating territory. Seventy-six percent disbelieve the IRS story, and the remaining 12% say they’re “unsure.” Asked whether Congress should continue to investigate, the ayes had it, 74% to 21%.

To be sure, whether people believe the IRS is telling the truth is a different question from whether the IRS is telling the truth. Opinion polls can’t resolve the latter question. But what the Fox survey shows is a broad public distrust of the IRS and, by implication, of the president.

Two developments yesterday suggest the distrust is warranted. The Daily Signal reports that “under a consent judgment [yesterday], the IRS agreed to pay $50,000 in damages to the National Organization for Marriage as a result of the unlawful release of the confidential information to a gay rights group, the Human Rights Campaign, that is NOM’s chief political rival.”

Meanwhile, David Ferreiro, the U.S. archivist, testified yesterday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He told lawmakers that the IRS did not report the lost emails to the National Archives, as the law provides. A cautious Ferreiro “stopped short of saying the tax-collecting agency ‘broke’ the law, saying ‘I am not a lawyer,’ ” Politico reports. “But when pressed by Michigan Republican Tim Walberg about whether the IRS failure to inform the National Archives when it learned that two years of the former head of the tax exempt division’s email were lost, he said: ‘They did not follow the law.’ “

Each of these developments refutes Obama’s claim that there was “not even a smidgen of corruption.” And if the public is right that the destruction of emails was a deliberate coverup–and keep in mind that not just Lois Lerner but six other IRS employees are said to have suffered contemporaneous hard-drive crashes–that surely qualifies as “mass corruption,” even irrespective of the facts of the underlying scandal.

The president’s claim that there was no corruption never quite made logical sense. To believe it, you have to accept two premises: that the IRS acted on its own, without direction from the White House or other politicians; and that it did so incompetently rather than corruptly. Both these premises could be true. But if the first one is–if the problem at the IRS was the lack of supervision rather than the following of corrupt orders from above–then Obama is in no position to make authoritative declarations about what the IRS was up to.

The Fox poll is a stunning vote of no confidence not just in the Obama administration but in the government itself. Public skepticism of government is a healthy impulse, and in this case it seems fully warranted. A government that cannot inspire even a minimal degree of public confidence is a danger to itself and to the country.

 

Springtime for Warmists
A Beltway commentator endorses “dictatorial” government.

By JAMES TARANTO CONNECT
June 9, 2014
Last month Rush Limbaugh remarked that the reason for “the re-establishment of climate change and global warming as a new primary impetus of the White House” is that “it offers the president opportunities to be dictatorial.”

A defender of the president might counter that “dictatorial” is overwrought. After all, whether or not his proposed regulations are wise, they are based on an act of Congress and an interpretation of that law that has passed muster with the Supreme Court. They won’t take effect until members of the public have had the opportunity to make their views known to the Environmental Protection Agency. And Obama will remain in office for only another 2½ years or so, after which his (democratically elected) successors will have the authority to revise the regulations. Congress also retains the authority to change the law.

But National Journal’s Lucia Graves takes a different approach. Instead of denying that Obama’s actions are dictatorial, she disputes Limbaugh’s implicit premise that there’s anything wrong with that. Lest you think we exaggerate, her piece is titled “Obama’s Thankfully ‘Dictatorial’ Approach to Climate Change.”

According to Graves, Limbaugh “has it precisely backward: The decision to use executive authority is the means, not the ends.” And you’ll never guess what justifies the means: “It also makes a lot of sense when it comes to global warming given Congress’s failure to pass the Waxman-Markey energy bill in 2009, and, for decades before that, to pass any sort of comprehensive climate legislation whatsoever.”

Yes, it has come to this. Americans are being urged to submit to “dictatorial” government because democracy is incapable of controlling the weather. “In college classes, climate change is taught as a textbook example of where democracy fails,” Graves asserts in the very first sentence of her column.

Well, that settles it. America might have been a noble experiment, but science has proven it a failure. “Science is science,” Obama tells the New York Times’s Thomas Friedman. “And there is no doubt that if we burned all the fossil fuel that’s in the ground right now that the planet’s going to get too hot and the consequences could be dire.” Friedman asked: “Do you ever want to just go off on the climate deniers in Congress? ‘Yeah, absolutely,’ the president said with a laugh.”

Hardy har har.

There are, to say the least, some problems here. Most important, appeals to scientific authority ought to fall on deaf ears unless the science is conducted honestly, which entails acknowledgment of uncertainty and respect for alternative hypotheses. In this regard, the demonization of “skeptics” should raise an alarm for anyone who takes science seriously. Skepticism is the essence of the scientific method.

The call for “dictatorial” government in the name of “science” is reminiscent of Trofim Lysenko, described by the Skeptic’s Dictionary as “a non-scientific peasant plant-breeder” who endorsed an eccentric evolutionary theory called Lamarckism. Lysenko “found favor with the party leadership in the Soviet Union. . . . It was due to Lysenko’s efforts that many real scientists, those who were geneticists or who rejected Lamarckism in favor of natural selection, were sent to the gulags or simply disappeared from the USSR.”

A few scholars and commentators have called for “climate deniers” to be jailed, though Graves doesn’t go that far.

Meanwhile the Times’s Frank Bruni writes that the administration’s new carbon regulations “may be too little, too late, according to an assessment last year by John Podesta, now a counselor to President Obama.” He adds: “As the title of a book by Al Gore observed, the earth itself is in the balance.” Podesta is trained as a lawyer; Gore studied government as an undergraduate. Thus Bruni has dispensed with even the pretense of appealing to scientific authority.

Meanwhile, in a recent column for Bloomberg View, Cass Sunstein, a Harvard legal scholar and sometime Obama adviser, considers this question: “Suppose that an authoritarian government decides to embark on a program of curricular reform, with the explicit goal of indoctrinating the nation’s high school students. . . . Will such a government succeed? Or will high school students simply roll their eyes?”

Sunstein looks at a new study of one government that mostly succeeded. “Starting in 2001, China decided to engage in a nationwide reform of its curriculum” aimed at shoring up support for the communist regime. For the most part, it was a success:

The crucial finding from the study is that the new curriculum greatly affected students’ thinking. They became more likely to count the Chinese political system as democratic. They displayed a higher level of trust in public officials. They were more skeptical of free markets, and more likely to reject the view that a market economy is preferable to any other economic system. They were more likely to want to extend political influence to groups outside of the Chinese Communist Party.
But in two respects “the curricular reform failed.” It didn’t make Han Chinese (the majority) any less prejudiced against minorities. And, on the point of today’s column:

Students didn’t become more favorably disposed toward environmental protection. They were not more likely to give the environment priority over economic growth, and they were not more willing to give up some of their income to protect the environment.
Even if Lucia Graves is right that “dictatorial” government is necessary for the global warmists to prevail, the Chinese experience suggests it may not be sufficient.

 

It’s to bad that Miss Louisiana, Brittany Guidry did not quote Cicero who said:

“A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. BUT IT CANNOT SURVIVE TREASON FROM WITHIN. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But THE TRAITOR MOVES AMONGST THOSE WITHIN THE GATE FREELY, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of GOVERNMENT itself. FOR THE TRAITOR APPEARS NOT A TRAITOR; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, HE APPEALS TO THE BASENESS THAT LIES DEEP IN THE HEARTS OF ALL MEN. HE ROTS THE SOUL OF A NATION, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A MURDERER IS LESS TO FEAR. THE TRAITOR IS THE PLAGUE.”

Marcus Tullius Cicero
(106-43 B.C.) Roman Statesman, Philosopher and Orator
Source:

Attributed. 58 BC, Speech in the Roman Senate

Hensarling’s ‘Choice’: Success Should Depend on Hard Work, Not Friends in Washington
Ken McIntyreMay 20, 2014 at 9:49 pm(19)
Until conservatives undo a system that grants favors to well-connected business interests, they will lack the “moral authority” to reform a social welfare state that traps too many Americans in poverty and dependence, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) said this afternoon in a speech he bluntly acknowledged as “a call to action.”
In a half-hour address at The Heritage Foundation called “A Time for Choosing,” Hensarling described the need to decide between a “Main Street economy” that thrives on competition among hardworking Americans and a “Washington insider economy” where corruption and cronyism determine winners and losers.
“The Main Street competitive economy relies upon hard work, creativity, perseverance and ‘can do’ optimism to create wealth,” Hensarling said. “The Washington insider economy, in contrast, relies on earmarks, regulatory barriers to entry, subsidies, tax preferences, and political influence.”
Although he cited half a dozen examples of Washington-engineered unfair play in the economy, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee spent about a third of his remarks making a case for doing away with the U.S. Export-Import Bank. Unless Congress reauthorizes it, the federal charter of the 80-year-old “Ex-Im Bank” will expire Sept. 30.
Hensarling said:
Most taxpayers would be surprised to learn that this government-run bank takes their hard-earned money and lends it out to China and Russia – nations that openly challenge our economic and security interests. It also lends their money to oil-rich countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. It even lends taxpayer money to the likes of Congo, which has a demonstrated history of human rights abuses. I doubt most taxpayers believe this is either wise or fair. …
The real beneficiaries – the true face of Ex-Im – are multi-billion dollar corporations like GE, Ford and, of course, Boeing. That’s because more than 60 percent of Ex-Im’s financing benefited just 10 big corporations last year. …
These multi-billion dollar companies would do just fine without the Ex-Im Bank’s corporate welfare.
Before focusing on the Ex-Im Bank, Hensarling assailed other examples of what he called unfairness in the “insider” economy:
The tax code, which is used to pick winners and losers by doling out special privileges and preferential treatment. “We need a groundswell for fundamental tax reform,” he said.
Business subsidies, which the Washington establishment “pretends” amounts to little but – as Heritage’s chief economist, Stephen Moore, has noted — is more in the range of an “indefensible” $20 billion in direct income transfers. That’s about $200 million for each Fortune 100 company.
The farm program, actually a tangle of subsidies, quotas and other benefits – mostly for commercial farmers whose median household income tops $205,000. “The fair way to help family farmers is to strengthen private property rights, expand trade opportunities, kill the death tax and rein in the EPA,” he said.
Earmarks in the tens of billions of dollars for politicians’ pet projects, a budget game that could return absent “eternal vigilance,” he said. “I call on all Republicans in Congress to leave the earmark ban in place.”
Bailouts for automakers and Wall Street firms, a practice that favors those deemed “too big to fail” over those considered “too small to matter,” he said. “In America, if we lose our ability to fail, we’ll soon lose our ability to succeed.”
Bailouts for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the once-unimpeachable housing finance entities “at the epicenter” of the financial crisis. “It’s time for the Republican Party to live up to its pledge to end Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and end their nearly $200 billion bailout, which is exactly what the PATH Act does,” Hensarling said, referring to his bill.
The Texas Republican then devoted more than 35 paragraphs and 1,600 words to demystifying the Export-Import Bank, expected to be the subject of one or more hearings before his committee as expiration of its charter nears:
I have no doubt that an overwhelming number of Democrats will support reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank. They want to allocate credit in our economy as part of a political process. Democrats are always happy to subsidize corporate America as long as they can also regulate and control it.
Let them stand up for the Washington insider economy. But not us. Let us proudly stand for fairness. Let us proudly stand for the Main Street competitive economy. Today I call upon every Republican in Congress to let Ex-Im expire. Let the American taxpayers exit Ex-Im once and for all.
The smart and fair way to help American exports is with a conservative agenda: fundamental tax reform; strong free trade agreements; a freeze on most regulations; and greater American energy independence with projects like the Keystone pipeline.
Hensarling said ordinary Americans are discouraged and fed up with crony capitalism because it violates their sense of fair play:
Americans in the Main Street economy aren’t looking for or expecting a government bailout. They’re not looking for a subsidy, earmark, tax preference or legislated advantage. No, the good folks of the Main Street competitive economy simply want their success to depend on how hard they work in their hometowns, not who they know in Washington.
Republicans, especially conservatives, have an obligation to restore lost trust, he urged:
It is our opportunity and imperative to reform the corporate welfare state. It is both right and necessary. For then – and only then – will we have the moral authority and the people’s trust to reform the social welfare state. …
This is a call to action for Republicans and conservatives to reject the Washington insider economy and embrace the Main Street competitive economy – its fairness, its empowerment, its morality. And when we do, America’s future will be one of unparalleled freedom, opportunity and growth.
>>> Watch the Speech: A Time for Choosing: Main Street Economy vs. Washington Crony Economy

Are the U.S. Dollar’s Days Really Numbered?
By Desmond Lachman
Monday, May 19, 2014
Filed under: Economic Policy, Big Ideas, Boardroom, World Watch

The U.S. dollar will remain the world’s reserve currency because no other major currency offers such liquidity, depth of financial markets, and store of value.

Some years ago, I attended a small luncheon on the outlook for the U.S. dollar. Paul Volcker, the former Federal Reserve chairman, was the guest of honor. In response to a chorus of Cassandras who argued that the U.S. economy’s all too apparent weaknesses would lead to an inevitable dollar collapse, Volcker made a simple observation: For the dollar to depreciate, he said, it would necessarily have to depreciate against another currency. And in Volcker’s view, at that time, the U.S. economy was fundamentally no weaker than that of any competing countries.

Volcker’s logic would seem equally pertinent today in responding to the many critics who believe that the Federal Reserve’s unprecedented quantitative easing policy will lead to the dollar’s imminent demise as a reserve currency. If the dollar is to lose its reserve status, as epitomized by the fact that more than 60 percent of the world’s foreign exchange and more than 85 percent of world trade is still denominated in U.S. dollars, some other currency would need to replace it. A close examination of the world’s other major currencies reveals that a currency is yet to emerge that offers the liquidity, depth of financial markets, and store of value that the U.S. dollar does.

To be sure, when viewed in isolation, there are many reasons not to be complacent about the U.S. dollar’s long-run future. After all, the U.S. economy is only now emerging from its worst economic and financial crisis since the 1930s. At the same time, its dysfunctional political system is yet to come to grips with the country’s long-term budget issues, while the Federal Reserve has more than quadrupled the size of its balance sheet to its present level of around $4 trillion in an effort to get the U.S. economy moving again.

Yet, despite all of its weaknesses, the U.S. economy’s recent performance has been considerably brighter than that of the other major industrialized countries. Not only has the U.S. economy recovered the most strongly from the 2008-2009 Lehman crisis, but its economic outlook for 2014 and 2015 remains the brightest of the industrialized countries, as acknowledged by the IMF’s recently published World Economic Outlook. On the basis of that recovery, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is now forecasting that the U.S. budget deficit will be as low as 2.75 percent of GDP in 2014 and 2015, while by 2024 the U.S. public debt will still be comfortably below 80 percent of GDP.

Perhaps most importantly for the U.S. dollar’s future as a reserve currency, there appears to be no sign of any resurgence in U.S. inflation, despite all the dire warnings about the unprecedented expansion in the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet. Indeed, U.S. inflation is currently running at around 1 percent, or half the Federal Reserve’s desired target, while long-term U.S. inflationary expectations appear to be very firmly anchored.

The prospect for the U.S. dollar maintaining its dominant status as a reserve currency becomes all the brighter when one considers the prospects of those currencies that could conceivably challenge that status. This is most evidently the case when one considers the clouded prospects for the euro, which accounts for almost 25 percent of world international reserves and which until very recently has been touted as the currency that could seriously challenge the U.S. dollar’s dominant position.

Despite the market’s current optimism about Europe, the euro’s long-term prospects are fraught with considerable political and economic risk. At the heart of those risks is Europe’s record-high unemployment rate, which presently remains stuck at around 12 percent for the region as a whole and at as high as 27 percent for countries such as Greece and Spain. The European Central Bank itself is currently forecasting that, despite the gradual European recovery that it expects, European unemployment will not decline below 11.5 percent by 2016.

Since the onset of the European sovereign debt crisis in 2010, there has been a disturbing fragmentation of European politics. In France, Marine le Pen of the National Front is now ahead in the polls for the upcoming European parliamentary elections. Together with Geert Wilders of the Dutch far-right Freedom Party, she is campaigning on an anti-European platform. Meanwhile in Greece, the two centrist parties which commanded 70 percent of the vote in 2010 now command barely 30 percent of public support, while in Italy the populist Five-Star movement still polls 25 percent of the vote.

There is a real danger that high unemployment will continue to contribute to Europe’s political deterioration, as it has in recent years. And if that were to happen, Europe’s politic commitment to the euro could be sorely tested.

The main economic risk for the euro is that Europe’s high unemployment rate is now raising the real specter of Japanese-style deflation in Europe. Over the past year, Europe’s average inflation rate has already decelerated to 0.5 percent while the countries in the European periphery are now already either experiencing outright deflation or else are on the cusp of deflation. The trouble with deflation is that it not only constitutes a major headwind to the economic recovery but it highly complicates the task of restoring public debt sustainability in the highly indebted countries of the European economic periphery. Sadly, much like the Bank of Japan before it, the European Central Bank behaves as if it was oblivious to the deflation risk.

If the euro is unlikely to pose a serious challenge to the dollar, the Japanese yen is certainly not going to do so. After all, the Japanese government is drowning in debt and running an outsized budget deficit, while the country’s very poor demographics have led to a plunge in the domestic savings rate. There is every prospect that the Bank of Japan will have to step up its already massive quantitative easing program to avert a relapse into deflation, which will lead to a prolonged period of Japanese yen weakness. This is hardly the stuff of which a strong reserve currency is made.

In contrast to the Japanese yen, the Chinese renminbi is a currency that could eventually pose a real threat to the U.S. dollar, particularly if China were to continue to grow at anywhere near its recent rate. However, for that to happen, China would need to engage in serious financial reform aimed at making the currency convertible by lifting capital controls, developing its domestic bond market, cleaning up its shadow banking system, and making the financial system more transparent and more based on the rule of law. Judging by the experience of other countries, it would seem fanciful to think that these reforms could be successfully implemented in less than a decade.

Ever since the collapse of the Bretton Woods system in 1971, there has been no shortage of predictions that the dollar’s days as the world’s dominant reserve currency were numbered. Yet some 40 years on, the dollar’s position is yet to be seriously challenged. This is not so much because of the dollar’s inherent strengths as much as because of its rival currencies’ intrinsic weaknesses. For better or for worse, there is every reason to expect that this state of the world will continue in the decade ahead and that once again the long-run dollar pessimists will be proved wrong.

Desmond Lachman is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

FURTHER READING: Lachman also writes “Yellen’s Wishful Thinking” and “Europe’s Outlook in 2014.” Alan D. Viard cautions “When Setting Tax Policy, Don’t Forget About Long-Run Growth.” Bret Swanson analyzes “Technology and the Growth Imperative.”
Image by Meg Bosse / Bergman Group

 

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