Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Obama Derangement Syndrome?

Some lefty at the Daily Kos.

An article appeared on the Daily Kos this week titled "Our Nation has No Leader". It said President Obama "did not have the skills or the experience, or will to lead our nation." It went on to call him as the "weakest Democrat we ever had." The author describes herself as 45-year volunteer for the Democratic Party. (Normally, I'd provide the link, but this one keeps locking up my browser - don't want that to happen to anyone else).

In the wake of the Kinetic Military Action in Libya, have liberals replaced Sarah Palin with Barack Obama as their principal target for abuse?

New York Times reports that GE paid no Federal income tax in 2010

Avoiding corporate taxes should be free.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Did Obama Violate the War Powers Resolution?


Section 2c of the 1973 War Powers Resolution says, “The constitutional powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief to introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, are exercised only pursuant to (1) a declaration of war, (2) specific statutory authorization, or (3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.”

Did Obama violate the Resolution by ordering military intervention in Libya without Congressional authorization?

You tell me.

Van Jones, the Sequel:
Anti-Israel Views from National Security Council Staffer Samantha Power

Samantha Power speaking in Geneva. Author: United States Mission Geneva, Eric Bridiers. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Once again, a video of a senior Administration official expressing radical leftist views has surfaced. The views are nutty enough that the White House staff should begin planning another going away lunch.

Samantha Power is the Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs on the National Security Council, Professor of Human Rights Practice at the Kennedy School of Government, and the author of A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide. According to yesterday’s Boston Globe, "[a]long with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UN Ambassador Susan Rice, Power is being credited (or blamed) with convincing President Obama to start bombing Libya to thwart air attacks by dictator Moammar Khadafy against rebels.” As one of the architects of the administration’s Libya policy, her pronouncements are receiving significant media attention, including her remarks in this video:

Ms. Powers’ apparent call for American military intervention in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict has garnered most of the attention. In all fairness to Ms. Power, her suggestion of an American invasion of Israel by a "mammoth protection force" appears to be in response to a purely hypothetical question. Unfortunately, some of the video’s less hypothetical statements are also quite disturbing:

“It may, more crucially mean sacrificing, or investing I think more than sacrificing really, billions of dollars not in servicing Israeli’s military but actually investing in the new state of Palestine.” For over sixty years, Israel has been a reliable ally to the United States in a region of the world where we have considerable interests. The Israelis continue to be surrounded by hostile nations that have invaded their land four times. The Jewish State successfully defended itself against those invasions, but only with the financial support of the United States. Ms. Power proposes to take aid away from our friends and turn it over to people who committed acts of terror against both Israelis and Americans, cheered the destruction of the World Trade Center, and continue to launch rocket attacks against Israeli civilians. The proposal is irresponsible, unjust, and contrary to our best interests as a nation.

“People who are fundamentally, politically destined to destroy the lives of their own people, and by that I mean what Tom Friedman has called ‘Sharafat’.” The contraction of the names of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and P.LO. leader Yasser Arafat, along with Powers’ non-specific accusation of “major human rights abuses” is an attempt to establish moral equivalency between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Many writers have addressed the moral equivalency myth, few more eloquently than Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz. “Part of the goal of organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas,” he wrote, “is to gain moral legitimacy for their terrorist tactics by having them equated with the conventional military tactics used by democratic regimes. Only the morally obtuse — or perverse — cannot recognize the difference between a terrorist group that targets civilian population centers with anti-personnel weapons designed to maximize civilian casualties and a democracy that seeks to prevent terrorism by employing smart bombs designed to minimize civilian casualties.” (How the U.N. legitimizes terrorists, Jewish World Review, July 26, 2006)

“Putting something on the line might mean alienating a domestic constituency of (laugh) tremendous political and financial import.” A common thread runs from The Protocols of the Elders of Zion to Mein Kampf to Meersheimer and Walt’s The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy: the Jews, they all say, control the levers of power. Ms. Power repeats this insidious claim that has done so much harm to the Jewish people over the last century.

Ms. Power recognizes that her recommendations are unpopular, but, she explains, “there’s [sic] certain sets of principles that guide our policy.” She didn’t specify what these principles are, but apparently they involve betraying our friends, establishing moral equivalence between a democratic state and its terrorist enemies, and perpetuating traditional anti-Semitic stereotypes.

These are not the principles to guide the foreign policy of the United States. President Obama should stop asking for her advice and start asking for her resignation. Ms. Power would not be the first Obama advisor whose radical views are at odds with the fundamentals of U.S. policy. Green jobs czar Van Jones resigned in 2009 following revelations of his participation in communist and 9-11 truther organizations. If you agree that it is time for Samantha Power to go the way of Van Jones, please contact the White House at

Thank you to Fleming and Hayes for calling my attention to this video via their fine blog.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Second Annual Lights ON for Earth Hour

Casa Isenberg lit up for Earth Hour 2010

“Earth Hour is a global grass-roots movement encouraging individuals, businesses and governments around the world to take positive actions for the environment, and celebrating their commitment to the planet by switching off their lights for one designated hour…Earth Hour 2011 will be held on Saturday March 26 between 8.30PM and 9.30PM in your local time zone.” -

You are cordially invited to a different celebration. At 8:30 PM on Saturday, turn on every lamp in your house to celebrate the beauty and utility of electric lighting. The harnessing of electricity is a magnificent achievement and should be celebrated. The nighttime American cityscape inspired artists like Robert Hoppe, filmmakers like Woody Allen, and refugees like Ayn Rand, who wrote of her arrival in New York after years of starvation, poverty, and repression in Soviet Russia, “seeing the first lighted skyscrapers – it was snowing, very faintly, and I think I began to cry.” To plunge iconic buildings
and landmarks, buildings that have had that kind of effect on people, to plunge them into darkness is shameful indeed.

But also, turn on your lights to express skepticism about the global warming theory. The Earth Hour website describes the event as a “stand against climate change”. But as I’ve written elsewhere, there’s good reason to question the need for such a stand.

Finally, turn on your lights to protest the Big Government agenda. Republican gains in the 2010 elections may have killed the prospects for Cap and Trade legislation for now. But the Obama administration is persisting in its efforts to tax and regulate nearly every productive activity. In an interview this week with Audobon magazine, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said, “There’s clearly a need for the EPA to continue doing what it said it would do, which is to use the Clean Air Act to address carbon pollution and to recognize that progress is possible. We can make strides along with other agencies or departments on the executive side, even in the absence of legislation.” Show your opposition to this end run around the people’s representatives in Congress.

BTW, I’d like to create an album of homes lit up for Earth Hour. If you get a pic and are willing to share, please send it to me at or post it to the Lights on for Earth Hour Facebook event. Also, please forward this call to action to others who may be supportive.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Book Review: Star Parker's Uncle Sam’s Plantation: How Big Government Enslaves America’s Poor and What We Can Do About It

Star Parker

“My reckless behavior intensified, and not a day would pass that I did not get high on drugs. Within a few months [of my third abortion] I was pregnant again, and this time it was not my boyfriend’s baby. Knowing his temperament and drug disposition, my boyfriend might have killed me if he found out I had been messing around on him. My first thought was I had to move, and fast. The only place I knew where an unemployed, drug-addicted, pregnant runaway rebel could go for help was the government. I could think of no other option but the Department of Social Services. Besides, they had worked hard in the past to save me from the natural consequences of my actions.”

That is how Star Parker describes her life as a welfare junkie, before a challenge from her minister convinced her that welfare was slavery, that the welfare state was a plantation, and that she would be better off without “help” from the government. “The next day,” she says, “I wrote a letter to my caseworker and told her to take my name off the government dole.” After a rough start (“Three months later I was still unemployed and completely broke”), she went on to become a businesswoman, a community activist, a 2010 Republican candidate for Congress, and the author of Uncle Sam’s Plantation: How Big Government Enslaves America’s Poor and What We Can Do About It.

The title promises a controversial book and Ms. Parker delivers. She collides head-on with the liberal mythology that poverty is the product of racism and sexism. Instead, she shows, the liberal agenda since the Great Society has done more to harm the poor in general, and poor black women like her in particular, than any conspiracy of male chauvinists and the Ku Klux Klan. She argues that the real culprits are feminists who tell women they don’t need marriage, educators who teach everything about sex except abstinence, and black teenagers who believe that studying together is “acting white”. The result is an epidemic of households headed by single African-American women without high school diplomas. These households are poor: 60% of unmarried black mothers have annual incomes less than $25,000. Once on the plantation, addiction to handouts keeps them there. Those with an inclination to escape will find the Underground Railroad put out of business by minimum wage laws that destroy jobs (the “National Black Teen Unemployment Act”) and tax policies that punish success (“legal plunder”).

Ms. Parker’s prose is easy to read and often quotable; my personal favorite: “[T]he only 100 percent successful method of birth control is to take the Pill – and hold it between your knees.” A chapter that outlines the various government programs that make up “welfare” is a useful primer for those fortunate enough to be unfamiliar with them. And although the subject is grim, Ms. Parker remains upbeat – she never becomes so absorbed in what she is against that she forgets what she is for: traditional families, individual responsibility, God, education, and freedom. “[T]he point of freedom,” she reminds us, echoing Rush Limbaugh, “is to allow Man to rise to what he can become.”

Uncle Sam’s Plantation does have shortcomings. Although Ms. Parker presents many intriguing statistics, she generally does not provide sources for them; there are neither endnotes nor footnotes. It appears she sewed the book together from material that she wrote over a long period of time. The seams show; in various places we are told that the number of abortions since Roe v. Wade is 30 million, 40 to 45 million, and 50 million. And although she lays out the case for traditional marriage and small government competently, Ms. Parker does so without the humor of a Rush Limbaugh or the careful economic analysis of a Milton Friedman.

But Star Parker can do one thing that no other leading conservative can: speak firsthand about poverty. The chapters where she describes her own experiences and those of the people around are the most vivid and heartbreaking in the book. We see Ms. Parker on the Oprah show, desperately trying – and failing – to convince a welfare mom that she too can stand on her own. “Facts did not seem to matter, however, as she became more adamant by the minute that she would die and her kids would starve if we changed the rules governing welfare benefits.” We also learn about Ms. Parker’s ex-boyfriend Drew who she finds years after their break-up sleeping at a bus stop. “Drew was tall, poised, smooth-talking, and very handsome even as a boy,” she writes. “His mom’s friends spoiled him. His mom smothered him.” Now he was homeless and addicted to crack. “The drugs had so distorted his once flawless face and dreamy eyes. He didn’t recognize me but wanted to know if I could spare some change.”

But if there is heartbreak on Uncle Sam’s Plantation, there is also hope. We visit a church school in Peru where the classrooms are “dreary and bare” but the students are learning. We also meet the luckless Judy, who, with her husband and children, has endured foreclosure, auto repossession, and years of low-paying employment, but who “still has that million-dollar smile, and her family would never know that the government has classified them as poor.”

Last November Star Parker lost her bid to represent the Compton/Long Beach section of Los Angeles County in the United States Congress. The people of her district, many of them poor, re-elected Laura Richardson, a two-term incumbent with a 100% approval rating from the liberal Americans for Democratic Action. Congresswoman Richardson’s website trumpets the various government grants she has obtained for her district. I hope that someday Uncle Sam’s Plantation shows the residents of Compton and Long Beach, and the rest of the nation, that there is a better way.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Front Lines in the War on Terror: The King Hearings on Islamic Radicalization

“There are no redeeming factual information [sic] that we will receive today that can add to the abhorrence that all of us have on terrorism in the United States of America.” – Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) during House Homeland Security Committee hearings about Radicalization in the U.S. Muslim Community, 10 March 2011

Recently the House Homeland Security Committee, under the leadership of Rep. Peter King (R-NY), held hearings on “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community's Response”. Although the name is a mouthful, and the hearings have since been overshadowed by the civil war in Libya, there was some controversy surrounding them and it’s worth taking a closer look.

The controversy concerned whether the proceedings were a legitimate part of the government’s Constitutional obligation to provide for the common defense, as the Republicans on the committee claimed, or whether they violated the First Amendment by singling out the Muslim community for scrutiny, as claimed by the Democrats. I was delighted to see, for the first time, Representatives on both sides of the aisle waving pocket Constitutions. No doubt the Tea Party is having some influence on Capitol Hill.

I learned at the time of the 1987 Bork nomination not to rely on the media for coverage of Congressional hearings; get the play-by-play by watching them yourself. I did that for the King hearings and was rewarded with many stories from the front lines of the War on Terror:

I heard the testimony of Abdirizak Bihi of Minneapolis, MN. Mr. Bihi is a refugee from the civil war in Somalia, where the insurgent group al-Shabaab is fighting to overthrow the government and establish Sharia law. Many Somali-Americans in the Minneapolis area, including Mr. Bihi’s sister, sent their children to the Abu Bakr mosque for religious education. Late in 2008, Mr. Bihi’s nephew disappeared, along with some twenty other members of the community. According to Mr. Bihi, they had been recruited by the mosque to return to the Horn of Africa and join al-Shabaab. When the parents spoke out about it and sought help from the F.B.I, the imam and other leaders of Abu Bakr denounced them as “tools of the infidel” and threatened them with hellfire. Mr. Bihi’s nephew, and many other children of the Minneapolis community, died in combat.

I heard the testimony of Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD). According to its website, its “mission is to advocate for the preservation of the founding principles of the United States Constitution, liberty and freedom, through the separation of mosque and state.” AIFD seeks to teach young Muslims the ideology of freedom as an antidote to the theology of Jihad.

I heard the testimony of Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) about Mohammed Salman Hamdani, a medical research technician, EMT, and NYPD cadet. After he went missing on September 11, 2001, Mr. Hamdani was sought by the police and the FBI for questioning about possible involvement in attacks. His remains were eventually found next to his medical bag in the rubble of the World Trade Center. Not only was he apparently not involved in the attacks; he had rushed to the site to provide medical assistance to the victims.

I heard the testimony of Melvin Bledsoe, a Memphis, Tennessee businessman. His son Carlos converted to Islam while attending Tennessee State University. Mr. Bledsoe watched helplessly as Carlos sank deeper into Islamist culture and became distant from the family. The younger Bledsoe even abandoned his dog in the woods (dogs are considered unclean by Muslims). Especially hurtful to Mr. Bledsoe, an African-American, was the removal by Carlos of a picture of Dr. Martin Luther King from his room. In 2009, Carlos attacked a U.S. Military Recruiting Office in Little Rock, Arkansas with an SKS rifle, killing one soldier and wounding another. “Our dreams about his future,” said his heartbroken father, “ended up in a nightmare.”

The King hearings introduced us to law-abiding Americans, Muslim and non-Muslim, struggling to prevent the destruction of their children by radical Islam. There is nothing in the First Amendment that prohibits Congress from singling out patriots for heroism. Rep. King provided a valuable service to the American people by publicizing their stories. I can only speculate why their stories added nothing to Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s understanding of terrorism. They certainly added to mine.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tide of Rationality
A Tale of Capitalism and Laundry Soap

There’s a criticism of capitalism that goes something like this: “Yes, it’s true that economics shows free markets allocate resources in a way that optimizes happiness. But that argument assumes that people behave rationally and we know they’re don’t, either because that’s not in their nature or because they’ve been taken in by slick advertising.”

This criticism persists even though 1) the actual assumption used by economists is that people on average behave rationally, and 2) While neo-classical economics relies on the rationality assumption, Austrian economics comes to the same conclusion without it.

The most famous exposition of this criticism is John Kenneth Galbraith’s The Affluent Society, but I heard a more prosaic version on the radio recently (I think it was NPR). A pundit was explaining that consumers behave irrationally by paying a premium price for Tide detergent because they think it gets clothes cleaner. He claimed they have no reason to think this.

I thought about that. I pay a premium price Tide detergent because I think it gets clothes cleaner. Maybe it doesn’t.

I did some research and found that Consumer Reports tested all the leading brands of detergent on various types of stains (mud, wine, grass). They published their findings in the July 2009 issue. The detergent with the most cleaning power: Tide.

Obviously I’m more rational than I thought.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Disaster Relief

Please remember the Red Cross during Japan's hour of need. This article describes some of the relief efforts:

"In the first 24 hours, the Japanese Red Cross dispatched 62 response teams. These medical relief teams – made up of about 400 doctors, nurses and support staff – are already providing assistance in affected areas through mobile medical clinics, as well as assessing the damage and needs of the communities affected...

"Those who want to help can go to and donate to Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami. People can also text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation to help those affected by the earthquake in Japan and tsunami throughout the Pacific."

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Gas Prices, Congress, and the Reid Windmill: a Fable about Federal Spending

The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported on Monday that the average cost of a gallon of gasoline in the United States is $3.52, up 13.7 cents in the past week. In response to rising gas prices, Congressional Republicans today filed legislation to force the Obama Administration to issue new permits for oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. A party spokesman estimated that, if enacted, the Republican plan would lower gas prices by 6 cents to $3.46 a gallon. House Speaker John Boehner said, “The American People spoke in November. They sent us here to do something. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and go to work.” The Speaker, who perennially enjoys tepid support from the Tea Party, then began crying, rendering the remainder of his statement unintelligible.

In a response on the Senate Floor, Majority Leader Harry Reid said, “If passed, the GOP plan would lower gas prices on the backs of the unemployed, who would be forced to give up generous jobless benefits in order to return to work on oil platforms. The effects on daytime television ratings would be devastating. Also, do you know how dirty it is on an oil platform? Yuck. Furthermore, this Tea Party plan provides no help to children, polar bears, and other people who don’t buy gas.” Senator Reid went on to say something about egrets, but it was really boring and I didn’t take notes.

Democrats offered an alternative plan involving the construction of a portable windmill that could be placed in front of Senator Reid whenever he made a speech. They estimated that this powerful green energy source could lower gasoline prices from $3.52 per gallon to $3.51 and 4/10 cents per gallon.

The Reid Windmill is of course made up, as is the whole story, but it helps put the current debate over Federal spending in perspective. The minor impacts of the fictional Democratic and GOP plans on gas prices are equivalent to the real-life impacts of the proposed Democratic and GOP plans for reducing Federal spending. The proposals that have caused so much heated rhetoric in recent weeks consist of $61 billion in cuts offered by the Republican Party and $6.5 billion offered by the Democrats. Based on the OMB estimate of $3,819 billion in total Federal spending in 2011, the Republican plan works out to a negligible 1.6% reduction in spending; the Democrat plan a truly pathetic 0.17%. These are the same percent reductions that would be achieved in gasoline prices if the cost per gallon fell 6 cents and 0.6 cents respectively.

One thing in the story that is true: Speaker Boehner really did say, “It’s time to roll up our sleeves and go to work.” When are you going to start, Mr. Speaker?