July 20, 2014

D’Souza’s Next Film

“America” was great, but he needs a follow-up.

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This column went up at PJ Media and was teased here at BizzyBlog on Friday.

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Sunday evening, I ventured to a local theater to see Dinesh D’Souza’s America: Imagine the World Without Her.

It is an outstanding effort by a man who clearly loves his country and is deeply concerned that everything unique about it is slipping away — to the detriment of the entire world.

D’Souza correctly calls out and identifies the pieces of an orchestrated, five-front attack by those who wish to remake these United States. To do so, they must first convince enough of us to disregard and denigrate this nation’s accomplishments and its exceptional and unprecedented contributions to human well-being and dignity. That campaign, much of it embodied in Howard Zinn’s execrable textbook, A People’s History of the United States: 1492 to Present, a publication scandalously used in thousands of schools, is an attempt to shame each and every one of us into stifling our patriotic instincts, forgetting our national pride, and memory-holing any positive elements of this country’s founding. D’Souza correctly notes that liberty’s enemies cannot accomplish their desired transformation without tearing down what is already present.

The following, while no substitute for seeing the movie, summarizes the five themes of the left’s attack. The rebuttals which follow are largely D’Souza’s, but some are mine — so you’ll have to go to the movie to see which is which.

We stole much of our land from the Indians. As seen in the title of Zinn’s book, the revisionists’ narrative goes back to Christopher Columbus — which is pathetic, given that Christopher Columbus never landed in the U.S. More substantively, Indian tribes were continually remaking the U.S. map by conquering and either driving out or enslaving other tribes — but our doing so, which did not involve genocide or enslavement, was apparently the only malign enterprise.

What horse manure. D’Souza notes that the Sioux have turned down a $1 billion reparations offer because they will settle for nothing less than getting “their” areas of the Upper Midwest back. Somehow, we’re supposed to ignore the fact that they took that land from other tribes. The Indians, like virtually the entire rest of the world, subscribed to the “conquest ethic.” The U.S. was among the first, if not the first, nation on earth not to automatically impose colonialism, tyranny or worse on those it defeated in war.

We stole half of Mexico. Actually, we conquered Mexico, gave half of it back, and made American citizens of everyone living in the American Southwest — something the conquest ethic-driven Mexicans under Santa Ana would never have dreamed of doing had they somehow turned the tables.

Slavery stole the labor and lives of Africans. Slavery is indeed this country’s original sin. But our Founders, who knew that they could not have formed a full union at the time of the Constitution’s adoption unless they allowed the practice to continue, nevertheless sowed the seeds for its destruction in the nation’s founding documents. No less than Frederick Douglas declared that the Constitution was hostile to slavery.

The abolitionists, including Abraham Lincoln, capitalized on this disconnect when they sensed that the nation’s moral compass could be moved. It was, but not until a horrible, four-year war — a war D’Souza says is the “first time in history” a war was fought to end slavery — took the lives of over 300,000 Union and over 200,000 Confederate soldiers. My opinion: The impossible task of “reparations,” if ever undertaken, would have to include payments to those who whose relatives died to end slavery, or it would be objectively unjust.

Our military adventures have been about plundering the world for its resources. For starters, if that were so, there would be no Japan Inc., Korean corporate giants like Samsung (MacArthur had to retake almost all of what is now South Korea, which had been lost to Communist troops), or independent German corporations. We would have taken those countries over and run their industries ourselves. Today, Iraq’s oil would exclusively be our province. None of this is the case.

Until Vietnam, when a left-dominated U.S. Congress deliberately chose to abandon before it could become self-sufficient and self-defending, the best thing that could happen to any country in the long run was to lose a war with or be successfully defended by the U.S.

Capitalism is theft. The left seems to understand that much of this core argument no longer works. That’s because capitalism obviously creates wealth where none formerly existed — it apparently required high-tech liberals to prove this obvious point beyond doubt — and continues to lift people out of subsistence-level lives around the world at an astonishing rate. Their backstop is the ”you didn’t build that” argument made by the likes of President Barack Obama and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. D’Souza reasonably asks, when businesses and their owners flourish, if they end up getting more in public benefits than those who don’t own or never built businesses. The answer, unless they engage in the cronyism game, is obviously “no.” So why should they be expected to hand over even more than the wildly disproportionate share they provide to fund public services?

D’Souza then moves to recent political history, particularly chronicling the influence of Saul “Rules For Radicals” (with an admiring nod to Lucifer) Alinsky. I wonder how many left-leaners might begin to question their beliefs if they realized that many of the strategies Alinsky developed arose from his acknowledged first-hand observations of the inner workings of the murderous Chicago mob?

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are indisputably disciples of Alinsky. Obama’s allegiance is plainly seen in his governance. Thus far, Hillary’s has been primarily visible in her college thesis, which proposed taking Alinsky to a new level. Then-Ms. Rodham believed that instead of radicals toiling as perpetual outsiders trying to coerce governments to do what they believe they should do, radicals needed to become the government.

Though I understand the limitations of time, this is where D’Souza fell down a bit. A friend who has seen the movie noted, and I agree, that many people leaving America will believe that “restoration,” D’Souza’s one-word theme for what genuine reform-minded Americans should be focusing on in the coming years, will be far more likely if Obama is somehow prevented from doing critical damage in his final years in office, and a Democrat, be it Mrs. Clinton or Lizzie Warren or anyone else, fails to win the White House in 2016. At best, that only slightly improves the odds.

In case anyone has missed it, a significant portion of the federal government’s bloated bureaucracy, whose interests have historically been job preservation and perpetuation, now sees its primary mission as carrying out the Alinsky agenda from within. Thousands of apparatchiks with the mindsets of Lois Lerner, Tom Perez, and Al Aremendariz pervade this government. There are no meaningful checks and balances on their actions and dictates. There never will be unless a massive downsizing of their size and influence takes place.

Recognizing current and future political dangers is important, and America does a great job of that. But it’s far from enough. We need a way out of the regulatory tyranny we see flexing its muscles virtually on a daily basis — and we need someone like D’Souza’s to cinematically expose its ugliness and suggest solutions.

July 18, 2014

AP’s Crutsinger Thinks Today’s Econ News Was Good; Bloomberg’s Glinski, Not So Much

There were two pieces of significant economy-related news today. The first was that the Conference Board’s index of leading economic indicators increased for the fifth straight month, this time by 0.3 percent, while May’s increase was revised up to 0.7 percent. The second was that the University of Michigan’s preliminary June reading on consumer confidence came in at 81.3, a decline from May. Both results trailed expectations.

Predictably, the Associated Press’s Martin Crutsinger put a smiley face on the news, believing it shows that “that economic growth should accelerate in the second half of this year,” while Bloomberg News’s Nina Glinski was more sanguine, interpreting the confidence report as an indication that “Americans’ outlook for the economy dimmed.” Excerpts from both efforts follow the jump.

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July 13, 2014

Salon Author: Let’s Make Google, Amazon and Facebook ‘Public Utilities’

Richard (RJ) Eskow, ”a writer, consultant, and Senior Fellow at the Campaign for America’s Future,” is a certified “respectable” lefty. So as much as the idea which follows may seem laughable, it shouldn’t be dismissed as the unhinged rant of someone with no influence engaging in some isolated “thought experiment” which isn’t shared by others in leftyland.

Eskow, in a Tuesday column at Salon, advocated regulating Internet titans Google, Amazon and Facebook as “public utilities.” His justification is that they “define our lives,” they’re “close to monopolies,” and besides, employing a breezy myth still held by many in the press, “Big Tech was created with publicly developed technology.” Read on (the headline overstates Eskow’s position; bolds are mine):

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July 12, 2014

AP’s Taylor Swallows Administration’s Absurd 2014 Full-Year Growth Estimate

At the Associated Press on Friday afternoon, Andrew Taylor, who it should be noted covers Congress and is not routinely on the economics or business beat, relayed an Obama administration prediction that economic growth in 2014 will come in at 2.6 percent.

Taylor noted that this estimate, lowered from 3.3 percent, came about because of “the unexpected 2.9 percent drop in gross domestic product in the first quarter of this year when unusually severe weather dinged the economy.” Besides failing to note that the contraction was an annualized drop (the actual contraction was about 0.7 percent), he didn’t tell readers how absurdly strong growth will have to be during the rest of the year to hit that 2.6 percent target; it works out to an annualized 4.5 percent during each of this year’s remaining unreported quarters. Perhaps the AP reporter isn’t economically astute enough to recognize how unlikely that is — or worse, he recognized it and let it pass unchallenged.

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July 8, 2014

Press Lionizes Buffett, Ignores Near Reappearance of Recession Under His Definition

The press loves billionaire Warren Buffett, who can be relied to support President Barack Obama even in implausible circumstances — such as the current economy, where the “recovery” following the 2008-2009 traditionally defined recession has been worse than any since World War II, and barely better than what was seen during the awful post-Depression 1930s.

Thus far, the press has managed to ignore one of the implications of the first quarter’s serious contraction. One more quarter of economic contraction could mean that the end of the recession, as Buffett himself has defined it, failed to permanently arrive.

In September 2010, a year after the recession’s official end, Buffett told CNBC what his benchmark for the end of the recession would be:

I think we’re in a recession until real per capita GDP gets back up to where it was before. That is not the way the National Bureau of Economic Research measures it. But I will tell you that to any, on any common sense definition, the average American is below where he was before, or his family, in terms of real income, GDP. We’re still in a recession. And, and we’re not gonna be out of it for awhile, but we will get out of it.

Thanks to the historically weak recovery, the economy did not get out of recession under Buffett’s “common sense” definition until the second quarter of last year. Growth during last year’s third and fourth quarters created a bit of daylight, but the first quarter’s contraction caused almost two-thirds of what had been gained to be lost:

PerCapitaGDP4Q07to1Q14asOf070814

Per capita GDP in the first quarter was only 0.5 percent above the pre-recession peak seen in the fourth quarter of 2007.

My calculations incidate that an annualized contraction of 1.6 percent or greater in the second quarter would take the nation back into the Warren Buffett-defined recession. That doesn’t seem likely — but then again, the first quarter’s 2.9 percent annualized contraction didn’t seem likely in early January.

Perhaps Buffett’s fixation on per capita GDP partially explains his obsession with funding abortions. If there are fewer people, per capita GDP will be higher.

Of course, that doesn’t answer the question of who would produce all of the goods and services that make up GDP. But leftists, even those who are good at thinking things through in their own business and investments, aren’t particularly good at global thinking — at least morally-based global thinking.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

July 1, 2014

Nationally Promoted Hobby Lobby Protest at Flagship Store Draws (at Most) ‘Several Dozen’

Shortly after 3 PM Eastern Time this afternoon, an outfit called “Faithful America” issued a “Media Advisory” for an event which would take place at 7:30 PM Central Time.

In the email, Faithful America claimed to be “the largest and fastest growing online community of Christians taking action for social justice,” and to have 300,000 members. They may have that many members, but only about 0.01% of them showed up for the event involved: a “vigil” opposing today’s Supreme Court decision at Hobby Lobby’s flagship store in Edmond, Oklahoma. In covering the titantic event, Edmond Sun reporter Mark Schlachtenhaufen appears to have exaggerated the puny turnout, and made the same misstatement concerning the circumstances of the case we’ve seen constantly in the national press (bolds are mine):

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June 30, 2014

The Supremes’ Decisions: I Guess I’m Supposed to Be Thrilled …

… but I’m not. Far from it.

Today, the Supreme Court upheld Hobby Lobby’s position that it cannot be forced by the Affordable Care Act to provide coverage for “contraceptive” drugs which terminate preborn babies’ lives because doing so violates its owners’ consciences.

The court also struck down Illinois’ attempt to force collection of “fees” (read: “union dues”) onto private in-home care providers.

Those are obviously correct decisions. But they are decisions which should have been obvious to all nine justices. Instead, each decision was 5-4.

Make no mistake. The four dissenters are saying that the law means what they want it to mean, and that they could are less about what the Constitution says a law must be to conform to it.

Combined with other relatively recent 5-4 decisions, particularly those upholding self-evident natural law-based individual Second Amendment rights, it is clear that the country I have known and loved is literally hanging by a thread.

So while I’m breathing a heavy sigh of relief, there is no joy. So please hold the champagne.

November’s elections could not possibly be more important.

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UPDATE: Regarding Hobby Lobby, John Hayward at Human Events understands the need to curb the enthusiasm and to remain appropriately alarmed (italics are his; bolds are mine):

For one thing, it should be patently obvious to every citizen of a free republic that Hobby Lobby was right about this. The notion of Big Government sweeping aside religious faith to compel obedience to a collective agenda is utterly incompatible with the American model of government. Explaining this case to the authors of the Constitution would make for a long seance, because they’d keep laughing in disbelief and asking you to start over.

But instead, we get a 5-4 bullet-dodging decision, and it’s not one of those sweeping citizenship-redefining judgments liberal courts love to hand down. It’s very narrow in terms of who and what it covers. A different Court shouldn’t have too much trouble reversing this, and in the meantime it doesn’t fatally injure ObamaCare. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this decision folded into the talking points of single-payer socialists – they’ll cite it as proof that leaving any degree of private-sector control over health care corrupts the pure vision of government-administered Free Stuff For All.

So this isn’t really a sweeping First Amendment beatdown, as it should have been; it’s a narrow decision upholding a law signed by Bill Clinton, a law the left-wing justices are chomping at the bit to quash, because the ideal of a self-described “benevolent” tyranny using a thicket of laws to micro-manage the lives of its unworthy citizens is so close they can taste it. They’re growing quite insistent that the only alternative to that benevolent tyranny is anarchy, chaos, and hatred. The Supreme Court may have registered a judgment against ObamaCare’s silly mandates today, but the Left is still burning to render a far more terrible judgment against the people of the United States, and there won’t be any appeals once they hand it down.

As noted, November’s elections could not possibly be more important.

June 28, 2014

As Wind Farm Gets Permit to Kill Eagles, AP’s Scott Smith Claims Wind Energy Has ‘Exploded’ Under Obama

In a Thursday evening writeup about how the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will allow a California wind farm to “become the first in the nation to avoid prosecution if eagles are injured or die when they run into the giant turning blades,” reporter Scott Smith at the Associated Press, aka the Administration’s Press, took a big gulp of his hi-test White House koolaid and wrote: “Under President Barack Obama, wind energy has exploded as a pollution-free energy source that can help reduce the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.”

As we approach 18 years of no global warming, poor Scott probably has no idea, after decades of effort and tens of billions of dollars in tax credits and other subsidies, how insignificant wind energy remains in the grand scheme of U.S. energy production. So let’s help him.

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June 23, 2014

Wal-Mart Blog Posts Spirited, Devastating ‘Fact Check’ Response to Timothy Egan’s NYT Op-ed

In a Thursday New York Times op-ed, columnist Timothy Egan, who previously “worked for 18 years as a writer” at the Times, went after Wal-Mart as “net drain on taxpayers, forcing employees into public assistance with its poverty-wage structure.” In his view, working at Wal-Mart and receiving its “humiliating wages … certainly keeps you poor.”

At the company’s blog, David Tovar, Walmart’s vice president for corporate communications, armed with a photocopy of Egan’s op-ed and a red pen, ripped Egan’s contentions to shreds (portion presented was reformatted to fit the available space; HT Instapundit):

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June 17, 2014

AP (‘Struggled’ For ‘Traction’) and Delusional Bloomberg (‘Industry Stabilized’) Completely Disagree in Reporting on Today’s Homebuilding Declines

There must have been a double delivery of Obama administration koolaid over at Bloomberg News this morning.

The business wire service, which ordinarily is slightly less imbalanced in its business and economics reporting than the Associated Press, somehow interpreted a 6.5 percent seasonally adjusted decline in housing starts during May and a nearly identical percentage drop in building permits — with both figures lower than May 2013 — as evidence that “the homebuilding industry stabilized after a first-quarter swoon.” That’s ridiculous. The first quarter was supposedly as bad as it was because of bad winter weather; so there should have been an overcompensating bounceback. It hasn’t happened. Meanwhile, that second Bloomberg koolaid delivery must have been the one meant for AP, whose Josh Boak turned in a report noteworthy for its unusual sobriety (bolds are mine throughout this post):

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June 3, 2014

Establishment Press Ignores House Vote to Defund Operation Choke Point

A month ago, I noted that the establishment press has ignored an especially pernicious program undertaken by Eric Holder’s Department of Justice and the Obama administration’s regulatory apparatus, namely Operation Choke Point.

On Thursday, a strong 321-87 bipartisan majority of the House passed H.R. 4660, the “Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (of) 2015.” Among its provisions: “Sec. 554. None of the funds made available in this Act may be used to carry out Operation Choke Point.” The final bill’s supporters included 204 Republicans and 117 Democrats. The establishment press has ignored the vote. Excerpts from Kelly Riddell’s Friday coverage at the Washington Times follows the jump (bolds are mine throughout this post):

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June 1, 2014

Too Rolling Stoned

Low-info lies for low-info readers.

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This column went up at PJ Media and was teased here at BizzyBlog on Friday.

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More years ago than I would care to admit, I was a fairly avid reader of Rolling Stone magazine. I bought it to read about musicians, and definitely not for its political and economic “analysis,” which I recognized even in my early 20s as incurably weak.

In the intervening years, founder and publisher Jann Wenner, through capitalistic endeavors such as RS and other publishing ventures, has built a net worth estimated at $700 million. Despite his membership in the 1 percent, Wenner’s flagship magazine still strikes the edgy pose. RS even cast its lot with the thankfully short-lived incoherent, filthy, violence- and crime-infested Occupy movement.

While the magazine devotes inordinate resources to musical acts whose mission appears to be to ensure that every inner-city neighborhood becomes utterly unlivable, its non-entertainment writers continue, as they have for almost two generations, to mislead and deceive low-information voters who think they’re high-information masters of political and economic thought — That is, when they’re not engaging in misogynism and racism which would end any conservative writer’s career in a heartbeat or openly advocating communism. I can’t say I’ve heard whether Wenner would be down with the idea of letting “each family can keep one mansion and one luxury car, but the rest is forfeit,” or  with having “Everything Owned by Everybody.”

A month ago, the magazine’s Sean McElwee presented an extraordinarily hostile pack of lies entitled “Six Studies That Show Everything Republicans Believe is Wrong; It’s time for the right wing to stop lying about the minimum wage, taxes, global warming and more.” Addressing McElwee’s dreck now is timely, given recent news about the rise and fall of a noted soak-the-rich proponent.

The guy claims to have interned with Fox News’s John Stossel; he obviously didn’t learn anything. The first and most obvious lesson missed is that there’s a vast difference between “Republicans” and “conservatives.” The former are all too often jaded insider participants who are okay with the country going to hell in a handbasket as long as it does so in slow motion. The latter are usually best described as “sensible people.”

What follows are the six antidotes to Sean’s six portions of poison.

1. The Minimum Wage Doesn’t Kill Jobs.

Studies done by liberal economists desperate to support a statist agenda claim there’s no impact. That might conceivably be true within a very narrow pay range. If the cost of adjusting a company’s workforce and reassigning tasks is greater than the nominal costs associated with a small minimum-wage increase, the company may choose to do nothing in response — especially if it believes it has the ability to raise prices a bit to cover the added cost.

But the Obama administration is not considering a small increase. It’s pushing a 39 percent increase from the current $7.25 an hour to $10.10. Econ 101, which McElwee also apparently missed, tells us that if you increase the price of something, purchasers will buy less of it. At some point, they’ll start substituting capital for labor. Not coincidentally, McDonalds Europe recently purchased 7,000 touchscreen kiosks designed to replace cashiers. Consider it a field test to protect the company if the $15-an-hour crowd gets its way in the U.S.

2. The Stimulus Created Millions of Jobs.

Unfortunately for McElwee and the leftists who peddle this fantasy, the economy lost 3.62 million payroll jobs during the first twelve months after the stimulus plan’s passage. Eight of those months came after the recession as officially defined ended in June 2009. The economy’s job growth since the February 2014 trough has been the slowest since Harry S. Truman was president. Unemployment still hasn’t fallen to the 6 percent level the plan’s promoters promised would be reached in early 2012.

3. Taxing The Rich Doesn’t Hurt Economic Growth.

The best argument against this tired claim is that partially un-taxing the rich led to economic booms in the 1960s, the “Seven Fat Years” from 1983-1990, and (with the help of welfare reform increasing the supply of labor) Bill Clinton’s second term. Until the POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) economy appeared in the spring of 2008, the economy generally grew nicely for a quarter-century with only two historically minor hiccups. Even Clinton himself “famously answered ‘No’ when asked if any nation had ever taxed its way to prosperity.”

The alleged goal of taxing the rich disproportionately is to reduce income and wealth inequality, both of which are allegedly on the rise, according to left-revered Thomas Piketty. There’s only one problem: Last week, Chris Giles at the Financial Times found that accidental and deliberate errors in Piketty’s work completely nullify the French economist’s conclusions. In other words, “There is no obvious upward trend (in wealth distribution).”

4. Global Warming is Caused by Humans.

Global temperatures haven’t budged for almost 18 years. The so-called 97 percent consensus that any human-caused warming is dangerous “is a fiction.”

Climate alarmists’ decibel level is inversely proportional to their credibility. These days, they’re shouting about as loudly as they ever have.

5. The Affordable Care Act is Working.

Nobody can possibly know this. The administration can’t or won’t prove how clean its alleged enrollment figure of 8 million is. Until it does, the figure will remain suspect. Four state exchanges have failed. The Obama administration has decided to stop publishing monthly enrollment figures.

Meanwhile, we’re supposed to believe that Obamacare has nothing to do with the rise in part-time employment, the all-time record level of temporary employment, the expected revision to first-quarter 2014 growth which will show that the economy contracted, or the roughly 20 recent unexpected drops in chain-store sales and/or profits. Sure, Sean.

6. Rich people are no better than the rest of us.

McElwee suddenly finds religion and strangely refers to “a rich man who refused to help the poor burning in hell.” Uh, no. The rich man was sent to hell for his lack of charity while on earth and begged God and Lazarus, the man he never helped, to warn his family of what would await them if they didn’t change their ways. To my knowledge, no Republican or conservative has ever tried to claim that rich people have a better shot of making it to heaven.

As to the portion of his complaint relating to outsized CEO pay, “progressive” policies have largely led us to this circumstance.

Bill Clinton’s infamous 1993 tax hike denied deductions for officers’ salaries in excess of $1 million (but notably kept them firmly in place for amounts paid to entertainers, actors, and athletes). Companies desperate to recruit and keep executive talent moved to a far greater mix of stock options in their compensation packages. The CEO-to-average worker pay ratio proceeded to shoot up like a rocket during the rest of the decade’s strong stock market. It actually fell a bit during the Bush 43 administration, and has moved back up during Barack Obama’s reign. Unfortunately, the correlation of pay with performance has weakened. This disconnect would not have happened but for the Clinton tax package.

McElwee claims that a historically high percentage of wealth today is inherited instead of earned. Assuming that’s so, a great deal of the blame for that relates to how difficult progressive policies have made it for new rich people to appear. Post-recession business start-ups are not hiring nearly as many people as analogous entrepreneurs did after previous recessions. They appear to be deliberately staying small.

Who can blame them? Becoming visible in Barack Obama’s 2014 America means becoming a target.