Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Flight From Orthodoxy (part V)

Given the quality of some individuals who claim to represent conservatives, I can understand why so many intelligent and cultured individuals equate conservatism with backwards, anti-intellectualism and buffoonery. It's a shame that the works of brilliant advocates of economic freedom and limited government, like Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams are not given greater attention. Part of the blame lies with public schools and other institutions that do very little to expose students to conservative thought. And part of the blame lies in the awful marketing decisions of the Republican Party, who have consistently chosen spokesmen (such as GW Bush & Sara Pailin) who certainly do not represent the best and brightest of conservatism. As painful as it may be, we have to look beyond the marketing, look beyond the figureheads and focus on three things: policy, policy & policy. Because as intelligent, articulate and urbane as Obama is, his policies are accelerating our race to financial insolvency.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Flight From Orthodoxy (part IV)

In prior posts I have detailed the net economic costs of massive low skilled immigration, in its legal and illegal forms. However, my personal experience has shown me that on an individual level the majority of the said immigrants are very hard working, admirable and amicable. I have known countless individuals who have accomplished more without papers, without education and without familial support than many of their native born American counterparts. And as much as I am troubled by the widespread violation of our sovereignty, I must admit that if I faced the dire economic circumstances, I would almost certainly break the law and cross the border. And although reason and economic logic dictate that we must systematically enforce our immigration laws, my heart breaks when I read about families living in fear. This leads me (and many other conservatives) to dreams of seeing an amnesty for today's undocumented immigrants, coupled with tough enforcement against tomorrow's undocumented immigrants. Because to suddenly displace those (who logically responded to the federal government's 30 years of non-enforcement) who set economic and social roots in the United States is heartless. And equally, to continue the current path of non-enforcement is unthinkable, especially in the context of exploding debt and unemployment. But, unfortunately the broken promises of the past and the political realities of today make this scenario next to impossible, which has lead to both sides hunkering down and resisting compromise.

Flight From Orthodoxy (part III)

Although I am weary of state intervention, especially when it limits economic freedom, I strongly believe in the need to preserve our natural patrimony. After hiking through Montana and Idaho, I became convinced that nature has the power to physically, mentally and spiritually replenish man.
And the majority of cities that are considered to be the most livable and those that offer easy access to nature and outdoor recreation. Even though I recognize that limiting our access to natural resources imposes economic costs on all Americans, one of the few good things the federal government has done in the last century is to set aside more land as national parks. Unfortunately because of the excesses and abuses of the federal government, many people are skeptical even when presented with the rare cases were increased federal intervention is justified, such as the preservation of wilderness and wild life.

Flight From Orthodoxy (part II)

In many of my posts I have championed the moral and economic value of property rights, but however contradictory it may be, I also passionately believe in the need to preserve our architectural patrimony. I hold architecture to not only be one of the most noble manifestations of man's artistic impulse, but it is a window into the zeitgeist of a people. As I read through Richard Nickel's Chicago: Photographs Of A Lost City, my heart broke as I saw the 100's of irreplaceable architectural gems that had fallen to the wrecking ball. I was even more horrified to learn that in many cases the wholesome destruction of these treasures was actively encouraged by the city in its efforts at "urban renewal." But, there are no simple answers, rather we must strive to balance between the need to preserve history and to need for new generations of architects and builders to build and create. We must balance the need to respect the aesthetic needs of a community with the rights of individual owners. At this point, we are certainly not erring on the side of preservation.



Flight From Orthodoxy (part I)

It's a tendency of most people, conservative or liberal, secular or religious to drift towards orthodoxies over time. We settle into a philosophical box and close ourselves to different points of view. That's why its so important to routinely subject our beliefs to a healthy skepticism, explore their limits and see where they break down. So, in this post I will reveal some points were I depart from my philosophical framework.

Bo now my readers should be aware that I believe in the power of free markets (relative to other systems) to generate wealth and innovation. But, few are aware that I, like many progressives, find rampant consumerism distasteful at best and socially, culturally and spiritually toxic in its worst manifestations. It has contributed to the erosion of culture, tradition and family to a degree equal or greater than Marxist regimes. The only difference between myself and my progressive compatriots is that I believe that across time most cultures have possessed strong materialist tendencies, the only difference is that our economic system has allowed an unparalleled number of people to realize these tendencies. Throughout most of history, only the high aristocracy could achieve the status of rabid consumers, but modern systems of production, finance and distribution has allowed the majority of Americans to achieve this dubious title. And unlike most progressives, I do not believe that the state can or even should have the power to combat consumerism; each individual, family and community has to determine what their values and priorities are. Collectively these decisions determine how a nation and a civilization evolves or devolves.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Problems With Federal Hate Crime Legislation (part II)

Even well intentioned laws fail when they are selectively administered. This will almost certainly be the case with federal hate crime legislation. Instances that defy popular narratives of race and racism, have been largely ignored by the federal government. An example of this is seen in hate crimes committed against Hawaii's white minority, which much to its credit, have been documented by the progressive Southern Poverty Law Center. To the best of my knowledge, these attacks have received zero attention from the Obama Administration and major media outlets. While native Hawaiians do have historic grievances against the United States, verbal and physical assaults an individuals because of their race or culture is never justified, especially when they are carried out against children.

Intelligence Report, Fall 2009, Issue Number: 135

Prejudice in Paradise

Hawaii Has a Racism Problem.Roots of Resentment Go Way Back.

By Larry Keller

Celia Padron went on a Hawaiian vacation last year, lured by the prospect of beautiful beaches and friendly people. She, her husband and two teenage daughters enjoyed the black sand beach at Makena State Park on Maui. But a Hawaiian girl accosted her two teenage daughters, saying, "Go back to the mainland" and "Take your white ass off our beaches," says Padron, a pediatric gastroenterologist in New Jersey.

When her husband, 68 at the time, stepped between the girls, three young Hawaiian men slammed him against a vehicle, cutting his ear, and choked and punched him, Padron says. Police officers persuaded the Padrons not to press charges, saying it would be expensive for them to return for court appearances and a Hawaiian judge would side with the Hawaiian assailants, the doctor contends.

"There is no doubt in my mind [the attack] was racially motivated," she adds.

With no known hate groups and a much-trumpeted spirit of aloha or tolerance, few people outside Hawaii realize the state has a racism issue. One reason: The tourism-dependent state barely acknowledges hate crimes. That makes it hard to know how often racial violence is directed at Caucasians, who comprise about 25% of the ethnically diverse state's 1.3 million residents. Those who identify themselves as Native Hawaiian — most residents are of mixed race — account for nearly 20%.

Professor Haunani-Kay Trask believes Native Hawaiians have every right to feel hostile toward whites.

Hawaii has collected hate crimes data since 2002 (most states began doing so a decade earlier). In the first six years, the state reported only 12 hate crimes, and half of those were in 2006. (All other things being equal, the state would be expected to have more than 800 such crimes annually, given the size of its population, according to a federal government study of hate crimes.) There was anti-white bias in eight of those incidents. But that doesn't begin to reflect the extent of racial rancor directed at non-Native Hawaiians in the Aloha State, especially in schools. For example:

•The last day of school has long been unofficially designated "Kill Haole Day," with white students singled out for harassment and violence. (Haole — pronounced how-lee — is slang for a foreigner, usually white, and sometimes is used as a racial slur.)

•A non-Native Hawaiian student who challenged the Hawaiian-preference admission policy at a wealthy private school received a $7 million settlement this year.

•A 12-year-old white girl new to Hawaii from New York City needed 10 surgical staples to close a gash in her head incurred when she was beaten in 2007 by a Native Hawaiian girl who called her a "fucking haole."

•A vocal segment of Native Hawaiians is pushing for independence to end the "prolonged occupation" by the United States and governance by natives.

•Demonstrators shouting racial epithets at whites disrupted a statehood celebration in 2006.
Anti-white sentiments such as these have been more than 200 years in the making. The pivotal event occurred when American and European businessmen, backed by U.S. military forces, overthrew Hawaii's monarch in 1893 and placed her under house arrest two years later. The United States annexed the islands as a territory in 1898, and they became a state in 1959.

Little wonder then that as Hawaii prepares to observe the 50th anniversary of becoming the 50th state on Aug. 21, it will a muted celebration, devoid of parades or fireworks.

Classroom Warfare

Tina Mohr has lived in Hawaii for 25 years. She has Native Hawaiian friends. But in the 2003-04 school year, her twin blond-haired daughters, aged 11 at the time, began getting harassed by Native Hawaiian kids at their school on the Big Island. "Our daughters would come home with bruises and cuts," she tells the Intelligence Report.

One of her girls was assaulted twice in the same day. In one scuffle, she had her head slammed into a wall, and her attacker continued to threaten her. Her daughter suffered a dislocated jaw and had headaches for five weeks, Mohr says.

The torment continued in the summer between 5th and 6th grades. Native Hawaiian girls stalked and threatened her daughters and yelled "fucking haole" at them. Midway through the 6th grade, Mohr began to home-school her daughters.

She filed a complaint with the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Education in 2004. It was only recently, on Dec. 31, 2008, that the division finally released its report. The report concluded there was "substantial evidence that students experienced racially and sexually derogatory name-calling on nearly a daily basis on school buses, at school bus stops, in school hallways and other areas of the school" that Mohr's children attended.

The epithets included names such as "f*****g haole," "haole c**t" and "haole whore," according to the report. Students were told "go home" and "you don't belong here." Most of the slurs were directed by "local" or non-white students at Caucasians, especially those who were younger, smaller, light-skinned and blond.

The report also concluded that school officials responded inadequately or not at all when students complained of racial harassment. Students who did complain were retaliated against by their antagonists. "They learned not to report this stuff," Mohr says of her own daughters.

The Hawaii Department of Education settled Mohr's complaint with a lengthy agreement in which educators promised to take various steps to improve the reporting, investigating and eliminating of student harassment in the future. Today, Mohr's daughters are again attending the school where they used to have trouble. They haven't been assaulted, but one was threatened on a school bus earlier this year.

Racial Legacies

The resentment some Native Hawaiians feels toward whites today can be chalked up in part to "ancestral memory," says Jon Matsuoka, dean of the School of Social Work at the University of Hawaii. "That trauma is qualitatively different than other ethnic groups in America. It's more akin to American Indians" because Hawaiians had their homeland invaded, were exposed to diseases for which they had no immunity, and had an alien culture forced upon them, he says. Stories about the theft of their lands and culture have been passed down from one generation to the next, Matsuoka adds. (One difference now, of course, is that Native Hawaiians in Hawaii are far more numerous than American Indians are in their own ancestral regions, where the Indians remain politically weak and largely marginalized by the far larger white population.)

Racial violence directed at whites in Hawaii, while deplorable, is minor compared to the larger issues underlying it, Matsuoka says. The Hawaiian spirit of aloha "is pervasive, but you have to earn aloha. You don't necessarily trust outsiders, because outsiders [historically] come and have taken what you have. It's an incredibly giving and warm and generous place, but you have to earn it," he says.

Further fueling the resentment that some Native Hawaiians feel for outsiders are attempts by the latter to usurp entitlement programs given the former to redress previous wrongs. In recent years, non-native residents have used the courts to try and rescind these entitlements on grounds that they are racially discriminatory and violate the U.S. Constitution.

Retired professor and "anti-sovereign" white activist Kenneth Conklin and others prevailed in a lawsuit in 2000 that challenged a requirement that trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs — OHA — be of Native Hawaiian descent. OHA oversees huge tracts of lands that the United States took from Hawaii when it annexed the islands as a territory, and collects revenues from them for programs that benefit Native Hawaiians.

The state government was going to sell 1.2 million acres of these lands to developers for two state-sponsored affordable housing projects when OHA and four Native Hawaiian plaintiffs sued to stop the deal. A state court sided with the government, but the Hawaii Supreme Court reversed in favor of the plaintiffs. This March 31, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the Hawaii high court erred and sent the case back for further action.

There also was an unsuccessful legal challenge to the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, passed by Congress in 1921. The act allows a Hawaiian agency to make 99-year leases at $1 per year to Native Hawaiians (but not other residents) for authorized uses on lands ceded to the United States when it annexed Hawaii. More than 200,000 acres of land were designated for uses such as homes and ranches.

One of the more protracted legal battles involved a lawsuit filed in 2003 by a non-Native Hawaiian student against the hugely wealthy and influential private Kamehameha Schools. Kamehameha operates three campuses for the benefit of children of Hawaiian ancestry. The student's attorneys contended that violates civil rights laws. As the U.S. Supreme Court was about to announce last year whether it would hear the case, Kamehameha paid $7 million to settle it out of court.

'A Hateful Place'

A violent incident with racial overtones in 2007 near Pearl Harbor prompted a good deal of soul searching about race in Hawaii. A Native Hawaiian man and his teenage son brutally pummeled and kicked a Caucasian soldier and his wife near Pearl Harbor after the soldier's SUV struck the other man's parked car. The son shouted "fucking haole" while attacking the soldier. The husband and wife suffered broken noses, facial fractures and concussions. A prosecutor said the assault was a road-rage incident, not a hate crime. But it generated much debate on newspaper websites and blogs about the use of the word haole and whether whites are the targets of racism in Hawaii.

"It is a hateful place to live if you are white," wrote a woman on one Hawaii website's comments section. A Hawaii native who is white wrote, "Racism exists in Hawaii. My whole life I've never really felt welcome here." A sailor stationed at Pearl Harbor added that "this island is the most racist place I have ever been in my life."

Other white residents, however, wrote that they had had no such experiences. And many people maintained that arrogant mainlanders are the most likely to incur natives' wrath. It's their "cultural inability to be humble [that] is a huge contributing factor in a lot of violence against them," one person wrote. "There is a high degree of arrogance and lack of respect that mainlanders exhibit," added another.

A Hawaiian Studies professor at the University of Hawaii, Haunani-Kay Trask, is one of the most caustic critics of whites in the islands. In her 1999 book, From A Native Daughter, Trask wrote: "Just as … all exploited peoples are justified in feeling hostile and resentful toward those who exploit them, so we Hawaiians are justified in such feelings toward the haole. This is the legacy of racism, of colonialism."

In a poem titled, "Racist White Woman," Trask wrote: "I could kick/Your face, puncture/Both eyes./You deserve this kind/Of violence./No more vicious/Tongues, obscene/Lies./Just a knife/Slitting your tight/Little heart."

Trask's opposite number is Conklin, the "anti-sovereignty" white activist who has lived on Oahu for 17 years and says he loves Hawaii's culture, spirituality and history, but is labeled a racist by some of his detractors. He wrote a book entitled Hawaiian Apartheid: Racial Separatism and Ethnic Nationalism in the Aloha State.

"Here in Hawaii, there is no compulsion to speak out on racist attacks. There are all these hate crimes and violent things happening to white people and you don't hear sovereignty activists speaking out against it," says Conklin, who manages a massive website on Hawaiian issues. "The violence has been going on for years and it's always been hush-hush."

State and Race

It's against this backdrop that Hawaii approaches its 50th anniversary of statehood. The non-celebration will consist largely of educational events at various venues. Iolani Palace won't be one of them. Once home to Hawaii's monarchy and where the last monarch was imprisoned after her government was overthrown, the palace is a potent symbol of anti-statehood — and anti-white — sentiment.

Republican state Sen. Sam Slom learned that the hard way. Although Statehood Day is a holiday in Hawaii, there were no celebrations for about 10 years, until he organized one in 2006 at the palace. He and others were confronted by demonstrators shouting racial epithets. Slom, who is Caucasian and has lived in Hawaii since 1960, said the 30 to 40 "hard-core" protesters intimidated a high school band, which left early, as well as some spectators.

The 50-year anniversary events figure to be "soft celebrations" aimed at defusing sovereignty passions, Slom says. "It is a divisive wedge that some people have exploited," he says. "There are people who have made it a racial thing. [But] the vast, overwhelming majority are proud to be United States citizens."

Still, a statehood commission planning commemorative events opted not to re-enact the phone call to the Territorial House of Representatives meeting at Iolani Palace in 1959 informing representatives that Congress had voted in favor of Hawaiian statehood. Commission member Donald Cataluna strongly opposed a reenactment, according to the Honolulu Advertiser, saying he "didn't want any blood to spill."

That won't completely mollify sovereignty activists, Slom predicts. "There will be protests, there's no question about it."


Problems With Federal Hate Crime Legislation

Attorney General Eric Holder: Wrong Again!

As a Jew I am naturally appalled by acts of racism and hatred, but for a multitude of reasons I do not support federal hate crime laws. With an initial glance they appear to be quite favorable, but a serious analysis reveal that they pose problems, both in theory and in practice. They demonstrate the problematic race-ism that underlines the modern progressive vision. This became apparent during a senate hearing in which Attorney General Eric Holder was questioned about new hate crime legislation proposed by the Obama Administration.

The first problem with hate crime laws is that they in-effect create special classes of victims and perpetrators. If an individual is (G-d forbid) assaulted for their identity, is their suffering any less than than an individual who is assaulted in a standard robbery? And even more troubling is that the progressive narrative of hate crimes would most likely exclude victims who are not members of "protected classes." For example, the brutal rape, robbery, torture, murder and mutilation of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom by several African-Americans was not prosecuted as a hate crime. And local and federal officials did not consider it a hate crime when a white family in Akron Ohio was assaulted by a group of African-Americans shouting "this is a black world." We can be certain that if the victims of the said assaults were members of a protected class, these incidents would have been prosecuted and widely publicized by the media as hate crimes. When Attorney General Eric Holder was questioned by Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) if a fatal assault on a soldier (that transpired in the United States) by a Muslim constituted a hate crime, Mr. Holder responded in the negative. During the course of that hearing, Mr. Holder made it clear that the hate crime legislation in question only applied to "historically oppressed minorities."

The second problem is that hate crime legislation takes away focus from the most pressing crime problems that "protected classes" and other communities face. In 2008 only 0.0430% of murders and manslaughter (7 out of 16,272) and 0.12% of assaults (1,025 out of 834,885) were classified as hate crimes. So, as detestable as hate crimes are, relative to other crimes they hardly constitute an epidemic. African-Americans are nearly 400% more likely to be victims of murder, but with 93% of their assailants being of the same race, "hate crimes" hardly appears to be the most pressing problem that they face.

Some essential questions that we must ask are: should hate crimes be a federal matter, are they not being addressed on a state level?" To start off, I see no evidence that they fall within the constitutional jurisdiction of the federal government. And 45 states and the District of Columbia already possess the said legislation. Then perhaps these states are failing to enforce the hate crime laws that are already on the books? When asked by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) if there is evidence that justice was not being served on a state and local level regarding bias motivated crimes, he deflected the question. And when Senator Coburn (R-Oklahoma) asked "do we have statistics that say that the states are failing?" and "which states are regularly or systematically failing to enforce their laws punishing crimes of bias?," he was unable to answer. So, as odious as hate crimes are, the Obama Administration's current efforts constitutes an undue interference of the federal government in state and local affairs.







Equality & Accountability (part II)

Pictured Above: George Lopez, Racist and Unfunny In Any Language.

In the United States, large segments of academic, government, media and corporate institutions are "race-ists," which does not imply hatred of any groups, rather it signifies an obsession on race, a belief that race is the great social and economic determinant." This vision is especially prevalent in universities, in which race and ethnicity effects virtually every aspect of their policies from: preferential admittance policies, ethnic-specific academic advisers, to curriculum and even the funding of segregated student housing.

The great irony is that disciples of "race-ism" seek constant dialogues on race, yet they are incapable of transcending empty mottoes and engaging in intellectually honest exchanges of ideas with individuals with differing beliefs. This means that they rarely see the blatant contradictions in their positions. The most obvious contradiction is that "race-ists" are obsessed with real and imagined white racism, while they turn a blind eye to expressions of racism of non-white individuals. Another major contradiction is the manner in which race-ists address ethno-political assertions of different groups. African-Americans, Latinos and other groups are encouraged to vote for their (perceived) narrow, group interests and to vote for their ethnic compatriots. Whites are expected to approve of these ethno-political expressions and to promote broad national interests, but never their own (perceived) group interests. In other words, not all groups are held equally accountable for their racism and ethno-chauvinism. This implies that progressives hold whites up to standards of objectivity and believe that minorities are not capable of or willing to transcend their own ethno-subjectivity.

This is seen in the manner in which public figures, approach the comedian George Lopez, including President Obama, who recently appeared on a TV commercial to promote Lopez's new show. This is surprising considering Lopez's repeated use of the term "mayate," which in Mexican slang is a derogatory term against African-Americans and gays. We can be certain that President Obama would not take a white comedian's use of a racial slur so lightly. But, because this is a non-English term we can (reluctantly) give Mr. Obama the benefit of the doubt. Prior to this commercial, Lopez appeared at an election rally with Obama and stated:

"It is the time of the Latino, your time to step up, your time to take this country over...But si se puede (yes you can) doesn't mean anything unless you go out and make it happen."

And during his stand up routine Lopez stated:

"This is a new America...While you were out playing sudoku, we've taken over the country."

Imagine what would happen if a white comedian declared at a political rally"

"it's time for us (whites) to defend our political hold and vote for their ethnic interests..."

Of course, the media, political and academic elites would justifiably be up in arms and demand that the said comedian rescind their call for white ethno-nationalism. This brings up a host of questions, such as: Why don't race-ists or the general public denounce Lopez's ethno-chauvenism? Why do race-ists unabashedly support the ethno-political assertions of Latino and African-American communities, yet are horrified when whites do the same? Why do race-ists promote the idea that minorities should unabashedly vote for the (perceived) interests of their communities, yet the white majority is asked to vote for the (perceived) general good, even when it is against their own self interests?

Before we continue I must emphatically state that I am NOT encouraging reciprocal white ethno-political activism. Quite the opposite, I would like to see all Americans pursue the greater good of the United States rather than their narrow ethnic, economic and regional interests. I would like to see all Americans participate in civil society and political life as individuals and as local communities, rather than ethno-political lobby groups competing at the troughs of a bloated spoils system.

Rather than encourage his fans to vote for the "Latino Agenda," I would like to see Mr. Lopez encourage them to vote to advance the economical, social and environmental welfare of all Americans. I am deeply concerned that the asymmetrical expression of ethno-political identity is unsustainable and will inevitably lead to a resurgence of ethno-political identity politics among European-Americans, which will certainly not lead to the "more perfect union" that President Obama desires. Until now, tarring and feathering individuals with the label of "racist" has been effective at silencing white ethno-political expressions, but increasingly more people are balking at the double standard. Perhaps, when whites were an absolute majority, this may have been sustainable, but with an increasing number of minority-majority cities and states (like California and Hawaii), the logic and incentives of whites to openly lobby for their ethno-political interests, like any other group, is growing. If we want to maintain a peaceful and prosperous union, the only answer is to hold all Americans equally accountable and to emphatically declare that a Black or Latino Congressional Caucus is just as revolting and un-American as a White Caucus. And let's all declare that George Lopez is unfunny and bigoted in any language.


Friday, December 24, 2010

London Student (Entitlement) Protests

A large number of British students protested (and a minority rioting) against, university tuition hikes, enacted by the government as part of their efforts to address England's growing debt crisis. While I am sympathetic to the financial burden that some of these students will face, the protesters are riddled with ethical and philosophical problems. Fundamentally, a subsidy is the transference of wealth from tax payers to a a select group, that allows them to enjoy a set of goods and services, without bearing the full costs. In other words, the students are protesting the fact that they will now have to pay a larger portion of a program that will, in most cases, increase their future incomes. Some will argue that this is a worthwhile subsidy, a wise investment in the future, because educated citizens economically and socially benefit the public, a position that I largely agree with. However, no individual or group is entitled to the wealth of another; it is the right of the citizens to determine, via their elected representatives, how they should invest public funds. This is true in the best of times and even more so when a nation is mired in debt.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

More Progressive Censorship

Most modern efforts to curtail free speech originate with progressives. An example of this is seen in elements of Fair Housing Laws. Before I go on, I must emphatically state that I have never nor will ever violate any tenants of the said laws. While I am in agreement that a real estate broker should never steer an individual towards a or away from a neighborhood, it is baffling that when questioned about the level of crime in a neighborhood, a real estate agent is not even allowed to present their client with objective statistics. If a client fails to exercise due diligence and lacks common sense, the agent's silence could conceivably put a family in harm's way. Not even the most agile sophist could deny that this is unethical. Some progressives passionately feel that in light of housing discrimination of the past, such measures are justified. This is not surprising, because censors always feel that there is a "social good" that trumps free speech, a position which I completely reject.

What a Real Estate Agent Can't Tell You
A good real estate agent is very familiar with the neighborhoods where he or she shows properties. But because of legislation called the Fair Housing Act, the agent can't legally share all of that information with you.

Why the restrictions? The government wants to make sure that home purchase decisions are based on a property's fair market value and not factors such as race, religion or ethnicity. In other words, the law is meant to stop agents from steering clients toward or away from certain neighborhoods.

What can't a real estate agent discuss with a buyer? We asked Scott Klein, an agent based in New York City, to give us a rundown on the topics that are off-limits.

The Do-Not-Ask List
Household income: Wondering if a neighborhood is considered upscale? Don't bother asking your agent. Klein says he can't discuss economic class with prospective buyers.

But it's relatively easy to find demographic information online, including average household income for a particular area. At Neighborhood Scout, for example, you can get a description of a neighborhood's "look, feel and character" that includes information about residents' age, income level, ethnicity and other factors.

Schools: As with income level, sharing information about schools "might be perceived as steering someone into a certain neighborhood," says Klein. "However, as a Realtor I can direct people to sources of information about education in that area."

Here, too, the web offers prospective home buyers a wealth of information. Buyers can find useful school statistics, including enrollment, class size, and reading and math scores, at sites like School Matters and Great Schools.

Religion: The religious makeup of a neighborhood is another topic that's off-limits for real estate agents to discuss. If a buyer wants to find out about active religious communities in a particular neighborhood, Klein directs them to local houses of worship for information.

Crime statistics: Surely an agent can answer questions about local crime statistics, right? That's pretty public information. But it turns out that even this data is considered a sensitive topic under the Fair Housing Act.
Once again, buyers have to do their own research to find out if a certain neighborhood is considered safe. Homebuyers can find crime statistics online, including where sex offenders live, by logging onto Family Watchdog.

Klein also recommends that his clients pay a visit to the local police precinct and walk around the neighborhood to get a feel for it at during different times of the day.

Environmental concerns: A buyer would want to know if, say, a home is located near a Superfund site. In general, a real estate agent isn't going to be much help when it comes to neighborhood environmental issues. Buyers will need to figure this out on their own. One way is to visit the EPA's web site, which includes a database of environmental information, searchable by Zip code.

The one exception to this rule is if there is an environmental problem with a specific home. "If it pertains to that particular property, and it's something I have knowledge of, I am required to disclose that," Klein says.

So why use an agent if you have to do so much information-gathering yourself? An agent can show you homes, guide you through the buying process from start to finish and help you negotiate the best deals with sellers.


On Pollard & Pedophiles

Some of my fellow Jews have openly campaigned for the release of Jonathan Pollard, a man who was convicted of spying for Israel. They correctly point out that Pollard has received an unusually long sentence. To these individuals I present the following scenario: let's say an individual

received life imprisonment for the crime of child molestation, a punishment that I would fully support. What would you think of an individual who campaigned on his behalf because the sentence was unusually long by Cook County standards? Even though this sentence is at least twice as long as comparable cases, most people would wonder why of all the cases and criminals, they chose to advocate on behalf of a pedophile. They would wonder if this indicated some underlying sympathy for the criminal and lack of concern for the victim.

Equally when Jews protest on behalf of Pollard, it appears that their loyalties lie more with Israel than the United States. To the typical American, it appears that the sympathies of the protesters lies more with a traitor than with the nation that has granted the Jewish people unparalleled freedom, tolerance and opportunities. And any American politician (Jewish or not) who campaigned on behalf o Mr. Pollard would lend credence to those who speak of the "dangerous influence of the pro-Israeli lobby," which is the last thing that Israel or American Jews needs. Like it or not, in politics and social life, appearance is reality. Sorry Mr. Pollard, you played the game and lost.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Chinese & Russians Are Running!

The Chinese and Russians are starting to run away from the dollar. With our reckless spending financed by debt and the printing of dollars, I don't blame them. I predict that more nations will adopt similar policies.

China-Russia currency agreement further threatens U.S. dollar

By Hao Li November 24, 2010 12:30 PM EST

China and Russia have agreed to allow their currencies to trade against each other in spot inter-bank markets.

The motive is to "promote the bilateral trade between China and Russia, facilitate the cross-border trade settlement of [the yuan], and meet the needs of economic entities to reduce the conversion cost," according to Chinese officials.

This latest move -- a continuation in a series of efforts by both countries to move away from U.S. dollar usage in international trade -- further threatens the dollar's reserve currency status.

The dollar has this status because it is currently the currency of international trade.

For example, when Malaysia and Germany exchange goods, the transaction is often denominated in dollars. In particular, oil -- something that all modern economies need -- is denominated in U.S. dollars, so the currency is almost as indispensable as oil itself.

The dollar reserve currency status allows the U.S. to run up high deficits and have its debt be denominated in the U.S. dollar, which in turn enables it to print unlimited dollars and inflate its way out of debt. America, understandably, wants to protect these privileges.

In fact, some allege that the U.S. wants to protect this status so badly that it invaded Iraq because the country began selling oil in euros instead of dollars. Now, the U.S. is allegedly threatening Iran because of the country's desire to use euros or Russian rubles in oil transactions.

Meanwhile, China and Russia are gradually revolting against the U.S. dollar. This latest move to shift bilateral trade away from it is significant in itself because China-Russian trade -- previously denominated in dollars -- is currently around $40 billion per year. For Russia, trade with China is larger than trade with the U.S.

Moreover, as this policy extends to Russian exports of oil and natural gas to China, it threatens the global "petro-currency" status of the U.S. dollar.

According to the International Energy Agency, China is already the largest consumer of energy, although the U.S. is still the largest consumer of oil. However, China, now the largest automobile market in the world, is expected to rapidly increase oil consumption.

Russia is already the second biggest oil exporter and the biggest natural gas exporter in the world.

In other words, the growing importance of Russia and China in the global energy picture -- and their phasing out of dollar usage for trading energy commodities -- would marginalize the status of the dollar.

Russian ambitions against the dollar for energy exports go back to 2006. That year, former President Vladimir Putin made plans to set up a ruble-denominated oil and natural gas stock exchange in Russia.

"The ruble must become a more widespread means of international transactions. To this end, we need to open a stock exchange in Russia to trade in oil, gas, and other goods to be paid for with rubles…Our goods are traded on global markets. Why are they not traded in Russia," said Putin, according to RIA Novosti.

For China, it is promoting the use of yuan as a trade settlement currency in Asia. Recently, it allowed its currency to trade against the Malaysian ringgit. Just like the deal with Russia, the purpose of that agreement was to "promote bilateral trade between China and Malaysia and facilitate using the yuan to settle cross-border trade."

Trade is the major reason for the demand of foreign currencies in the first place. So as countries like China and Russia phase out the usage of U.S. dollars for international trade -- including but not limited to oil trade -- its status as the world's reserve currency will continue to slide.

Email Hao Li at hao.li@IBTimes.com


Why Shared Values & Visions Matter

Most nations are bound by blood and by a shared history of hundreds, if not thousands of years. For example, the vast majority of the population of Japan and Korea share the same genes, the same history and traditions. At the risk of stating the obvious; in its feudal, royal, imperial and democratic forms, Japan was and would always be Japan because it was populated by the Japanese people. But, the United States is, for good and for bad, exceptional. Early on in our history, we ceased being a nation bound by common blood and common history. What made us unique was that we, more than any other nation, were defined by a set of shared values and visions, which I refer to as the American Way.

Of course there always existed some differences in opinion in what the constituted this new creed was, but the majority of individuals and institutions believed in the interconnected values of: individualism, industry, self reliance, thrift, limited government, optimism and opportunity.

And in almost every generation, waves of increasingly culturally and (later) racially diverse immigrants poured in, whom we miraculously were able to integrate. Within a democratic framework, millions of newcomers assimilated the core of the American Way while (to varying degrees) maintaining elements of their traditions. While I, as a Jewish-American possess some distinct traditions from my Italian-American friends, we share fundamental values, so much so that we are more similar to each other than we are to our immigrant forefathers.

So many things that we take for granted are virtually unparallelled in world history. Millions of Protestants voted for a Catholic presidential candidate, when in other nations, they could not even live in the same neighborhood. Millions of European-Americans voted against a candidate of their own race for a man of (partial) African descent, while in Kenya, the majority of individuals would not vote a politician of another tribal affiliation. In fact, a Kenyan commentator noted with irony that Obama could not get elected in Kenya, because he was a member of the Luo minority. The reason this is possible is because of the general assimilation towards a common identity, towards a common creed that transcends blood and shared history.

So, I find it extremely troubling that the majority of our educational and bureaucratic has rejected the philosophy of assimilation in favor of multiculturalism. In fact, in the Masters in Education program that I partook in, not one of my teachers spoke in favor of promoting a shared identity to our students. All spoke of the merits of teaching our diverse students about their own traditions and historic figures. And beyond tolerance and diversity, we were not encouraged to promote (yet alone define) the American Creed to our students, be they native born or immigrant. A progressive associate of mine downplayed my concerns stating that these students were "listening to American music and eating American food." She is correct, however the American Creed is far more than just listening to Lady Gaga or eating Big Macs. And although democracy and tolerance are essential aspects of the American Creed, it would be a mistake to reduce our shared identity to these two values. And those who doubt the importance of shared identity, shared values and visions, should read about the Kenyan Election of 2007 or any of the countless other examples of ethno-political violence that continue to plague most other diverse nations.


England, Could I Borrow Your Prime Minister?

Prime Minister Cameron gave a great speech in which he pledged that the government was committed to doing everything possible to encourage British entrepreneurialism. This included, cutting government spending to balance the budget, while lowering business taxes to encourage investment and strategically investing in infrastructure via a public-private partnership. Above all, Prime Minister Cameron stressed that while government could create a pro-growth environment, new ideas, innovation and job creation could only occur in the private sector. So, if it would please you dear England, could I borrow your Prime Minister for a little bit?

David Cameron promises 'new economic dynamism

David Cameron has pledged to unleash a 'new economic dynamism' as he appealed to business leaders to create the jobs Britain needs to recover from the recession.

By By Rosa Prince,

Oct 25, 2010

The Government is attempting to shift the spotlight from cuts and public sector job losses, in the wake of last week's spending review.

Speaking at the Confederation of British Industry annual conference, the Prime Minister told the audience of business leaders that there would be a ''forensic, relentless focus on growth'' over the months ahead.

He insisted that innovation and job creation in the private sector were essential to help rebuild the economy.

Ministers would dedicate themselves to promoting British business and helping create the conditions in which entrepreneurialism could flourish.

A detailed national infrastructure plan published today is designed to secure £200 billion of long-term investment from the public and private sectors.

Mr Cameron announced that the Government would also invest more than £200 million over the next four years in technology and innovation centres, which would bring universities and business together. The idea is based on a model drawn up by James Dyson, the vacuum cleaner entrepreneur.

''When we say we're going to build a new economic dynamism, we mean it,'' he said.

The speech, his first to the CBI as Prime Minister, comes amid concern about the expected 490,000 public sector job losses to be triggered by spending cuts over the next four years.

''In the weeks and months ahead, ministers will be developing detailed plans to turn this strategy into action,'' he said.

''Everything – from bank lending to skills, green tech to high tech, competition to innovation, international trade to local growth – will be put under the microscope.

''That forensic, relentless focus on growth is what you will get from this government.

''What I need in return from you is a commitment to create and innovate, to invest and grow, to develop and break boundaries."

''The new jobs, the new products, the new ideas that will lift us up will be born in the factories and offices you own – not in the corridors of Whitehall.''

The Prime Minister said British business would have "no more vocal champion" than the Government as it tried to help drive growth.

He insisted that the Government was creating the stability for investment by removing the structural deficit over the next four years.

Labour frontbenchers and union leaders warn that the fiscal strategy risks choking off growth and sending Britain into a double-dip recession.

But Mr Cameron insisted: "With our Budget in June and the Comprehensive Spending Review last week, we took Britain out of the danger zone.

"The world's responded. Britain's borrowing costs have dropped to the lowest for a generation, and the IMF and OECD, you the CBI, and the 35 business leaders who wrote to The Daily Telegraph last week have backed the approach we have taken in tackling the deficit."

He sought to reassure critics of the Government's planned immigration cap that it would not be a bar to UK firms recruiting the "best talent" from overseas.

"As we control our borders and bring immigration to a manageable level, we will not impede you from attracting the best talent from around the world," he said.

The Government's infrastructure plan, published today, "completely update and modernise our infrastructure, so British business is free to compete with the rest of the world".

It would unlock £200 billion worth of public and private sector investment, he said.

"We'll work with utility companies to get more investment in our energy, with construction companies on our roads, with the telecommunications industry on broadband," Mr Cameron went on.

The Government would provide up to £60 million to pay for offshore wind infrastructure to enable the UK to become a world leader in the industry.

"We need thousands of offshore turbines in the next decade and beyond, each one as tall as the Gherkin," he said.

"And manufacturing these needs large factories which have to be on the coast.

"Yet neither the factories nor these large port sites currently exist and that, understandably, is putting off private investors.

"So we're stepping in. To help secure private sector investment in this technology, we are providing up to £60 million to meet the needs of offshore wind infrastructure at our ports."

The Crown Estate would also work with ports and manufacturers to "realise the potential" of its sites.

The Prime Minister said: "To build that new dynamism in our economy, to create the growth, jobs and opportunities Britain needs we've got to back the big businesses of tomorrow, not just the big businesses of today.

"That means opening up access to finance, creating an attractive environment for venture capital funding, getting banks lending to small businesses again and insisting that a far greater proportion of Government procurement budgets are spent with small and medium-sized firms.

"In the days and months ahead we will be setting out our plans in all these areas."

The £200 million technology and innovation centres would help turn innovation into commercial success, he said.

"These centres will sit between universities and businesses, bringing the two together," Mr Cameron told the CBI.

"They won't just carry out their own in-house research, they will spread knowledge too, connecting businesses - large and small, new and old - to potential new technologies, making them aware of funding streams and providing access to skills and equipment."

He added: "These centres will be great for research, great for business - and they're going to put Britain back at the top table for innovation."

Mr Cameron said the Government wanted to help increase competition and remove barriers preventing new areas in certain sectors.

A new "streamlined" competition regime is to be ushered in by Business Secretary Vince Cable alongside the merger of the Office of Fair Trading and the Competition Commission.

The Prime Minister said there would be "wholesale change of attitude".

"Where there was neglect about maintaining a basic framework for business, we are bringing a pro-enterprise attitude - dealing with the deficit, cutting business taxes, investing in infrastructure," he said.

"Where there was complacency about our competitive advantages, we are bringing a hands-on attitude - consolidating those strengths, getting behind key industries in every region of our country.

"And where there was a backward-looking, unhelpful approach to innovation and start-ups we are bringing an optimistic attitude, backing the young insurgent companies, pulling down the barriers that are holding them back."


Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Religion of Peace Strikes Again...

A mother of 5 has been sentenced to death in Pakistan for committing blasphemy. Perhaps my progressive brethren should be less worried about the "right wing Christians" and more on groups who threaten the lives and liberty of minorities across the globe.

Christian woman sentenced to death in Pakistan 'for blasphemy'

A Christian woman has been sentenced to hang in Pakistan after being convicted of defaming the Prophet Mohammed.

Asia Bibi has been sentenced to death 'for blasphemy'

By Rob Crilly in Islamabad and Aoun Sahi in Lahore

09 Nov 2010

Asia Bibi, a 45-year-old mother-of-five, denies blasphemy and told investigators that she was being persecuted for her faith in a country where Christians face routine harassment and discrimination.

Christian groups and human rights campaigners condemned the verdict and called for the blasphemy laws to be repealed.

Her supporters say she will now appeal against the sentence handed down in a local court in the town of Sheikhupura, near Lahore, Pakistan.

Ashiq Masih, her husband, said he had not had the heart to break the news to two of their children.

"I haven't told two of my younger daughters about the court's decision," he said. "They asked me many times about their mother but I can't get the courage to tell them that the judge has sentenced their mother to capital punishment for a crime she never committed." Mrs Bibi has been held in prison since June last year.

The court heard she had been working as a farmhand in fields with other women, when she was asked to fetch drinking water.

Some of the other women – all Muslims – refused to drink the water as it had been brought by a Christian and was therefore "unclean", according to Mrs Bibi's evidence, sparking a row.

The incident was forgotten until a few days later when Mrs Bibi said she was set upon by a mob.

The police were called and took her to a police station for her own safety.

Shahzad Kamran, of the Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan, said: "The police were under pressure from this Muslim mob, including clerics, asking for Asia to be killed because she had spoken ill of the Prophet Mohammed.

"So after the police saved her life they then registered a blasphemy case against her." He added that she had been held in isolation for more than a year before being sentenced to death on Monday.

"The trial was clear," he said. "She was innocent and did not say those words." Earlier this year, Pakistan's internet service providers were ordered to block Facebook to prevent access to supposedly blasphemous images.

Human rights groups believe the law is often used to discriminate against religious minorities, such as the country's estimated three million Christians.

Although no one has ever been executed under Pakistan's blasphemy laws – most are freed on appeal – as many as 10 people are thought to have been murdered while on trial.

Ali Hasan Dayan, of Human Rights Watch, said the blasphemy laws were out of step with rights guaranteed under Pakistan's constitution and should be repealed.

"It's an obscene law," he said. "Essentially the blasphemy law is used as a tool of persecution and to settle other scores that are nothing to do with religion.

"It makes religious minorities particularly vulnerable because it's often used against them."


Iran Invents Time Machine...

Iran invents time machine and sends its people back to the 6th century. Sadly, a good portion of Islamic Scholars agree that the penalty for apostasy is death.

In Iran, a Christian pastor faces death sentence

December 07, 2010

By Joe Sterling, CNN

A Christan pastor in Iran has been sentenced to death for allegedly renouncing his Muslim religion and another faces a possible indictment on the same charge of apostasy, according to a prominent activist group working for human rights in Iran.

Youcef Nadarkhani, a 32-year-old member of the Church of Iran ministry and pastor of an approximately 400-person congregation in the northern city of Rasht, faces death, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

In the southern city of Shiraz, another Christian pastor, Behrouz Sadegh-Khanjani, 35, is facing a possible indictment for apostasy.

"This is part of a greater trend of persecution against Christians," said Firouz Sadegh-Khanjani, brother of Behrouz and member of the Church of Iran's Executive Council. Christians are feeling the heat in other parts of the Muslim world as well.

In Iraq, Christians have been attacked and many have fled their homes for other lands. In Pakistan, a Christian woman faces a death sentence for blasphemy for allegedly defiling the name of the Prophet Mohammed.

On September 22, Iran's 11th Circuit Criminal Court of Appeals for the Gilan Province upheld the death sentence and conviction of Nadarkhani for apostasy.

Apostasy is the "act of renouncing one's religion," the human rights group said Tuesday, but it "is not a crime under Iran's Islamic Penal Code. Instead, the presiding judge in Nadarkhani's case rested his opinion on texts by Iranian religious scholars."

"It is the low point of any judicial system to sentence a person to death outside of its own legal framework," said Aaron Rhodes, a spokesman for the campaign.

"To execute someone based on the religion they choose to practice or not practice is the ultimate form of religious discrimination and disregard for the freedom of conscience and belief."

The judgment said Nadarkhani was born to Muslim parents but converted to Christianity when he was age 19 and it said that "during interrogations Nadarkhani made a written confession admitting he left Islam for Christianity."

He said during his trial that his "interrogators pressured him into making the statement," the campaign said.

"I am not an apostate. ... Prior to 19 years old I did not accept any religion," Nadarkhani said at trial, according to the campaign.

Nadarkhani said he was coaxed by an interrogator into thinking "that a person who is born to Muslim parents, and does not accept a religion other than Islam before reaching the religious maturity age (15 for males), is automatically a Muslim."

Nadarkhani's attorney on Sunday filed an objection to the sentence with Iran's Supreme Court.

Two articles in the constitution grant Christians "the right to freely worship and form religious societies" and another "obligates the Iranian government to uphold the equality and human rights of Christians."

The judge based his decision on constitutional provisions and Revolutionary Court "civil procedures that instruct judges to consult sources when there is no codified-law that addresses a matter," according to the campaign.

There is also a part of the penal code allowing "judges to draw upon their personal knowledge when adjudicating cases."

"More and more, the Iranian judiciary is departing from any recognized form of due process, issuing arbitrary judgments based on vague, open-ended laws," said Rhodes. "Laws and evidence are increasingly irrelevant and unrelated to judicial outcomes in Iran."

Leonard Leo, chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said the "draconian language in the verdict makes it very clear that the Iranian authorities mean business. He could be executed at any time. And for what? For being a Christian."

"We call upon the Obama administration and the international community to use every means available, to raise this issue and demand the unconditional release of Mr. Nadarkhani."

USCIRF officials said the last known execution of a Christian in Iran for apostasy was 20 years ago this month.

The Rev. Hossein Soodmand -- a Muslim who converted to Christianity in 1964 and served pastor and evangelist in the Evangelical Christian Church -- was arrested and charged with apostasy and insulting Islam as a result of his own conversion and efforts to convert Muslims. He was hanged in December 1990.

Also, there have been executions of people of the Baha'i faith in Iran, including one charged with apostasy in 1998, the officials said.

In the Shiraz case, Firouz Sadegh-Khanjani told the campaign his brother was arrested in June.

"Eight members of his congregation including his wife were arrested two days later but were eventually released," he is quoted as saying.

"For several months he was in solitary confinement. We had no word from him and he had no contact with his lawyer. He has been moved to (prison) but we worry about the type of pressure he was under while in solitary confinement."

After his release from solitary confinement, Behrouz Sadegh-Khanjani and his lawyer, Mahmoud Taravatrooy, attended a hearing in which "prosecutors sought to indict him for apostasy along with the crimes of acting against national security, propaganda against the regime, and insulting sanctities."

"We are most concerned with the apostasy charge," Taravatrooy said.

"That's where most of my energy has gone, to save him from death."

The clergyman's brother said Sadegh-Khanjani was born to Christian parents and was never a Muslim, saying his mother is a Christian immigrant from the Congo and his father converted before he was born.

"Technically speaking, the court should dismiss this charge," said Taravatrooy, "but the judge has to review the accusations first."

Taravatrooy told the campaign that his office asked some top clerics to issue opinions on apostasy under Islam.

Four Ayatollah's, including the late Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, said that converting from Islam to one of the Abrahamic religions, including Christianity, is not construed as apostasy and the convert "should be treated the same way as people of other religions would be," Taravatrooy said.

Behrouz Sadegh-Khanjani was under temporary detention June 6 after he reported on a summons to the revolutionary court in Shiraz. At the time, he was free on bail stemming from a December 2009 arrest.

But Sadegh-Khanjani's temporary detention order expired on October 18, Taravatrooy said.

"Technically he is being held illegally," according to the campaign.



Bottom of the Barrrel

When progressives accuse their opponents of "racism," they are almost always scraping the bottom of the intellectual barrel and substituting fear for facts and ad hominem attacks for ideas.

Race Baiting Versus Reality

By Larry Elder

Nov 9, 2010

“White America does not like having a black president.”

Thus pronounced Michael Moore in an appearance on “Real Time with Bill Maher.” And Maher agreed, “That is the truth.”

“The statistics don’t lie,” Moore plowed ahead. “I’m not talking about polls. I’m talking about that the young people in ‘08 was the only — do you know this? — it’s the only demographic — white demographic — that Obama won, 18- to 29-year-olds. Every other demographic, over 29, Obama lost the white vote. Every single one.”

Crime solved. Case closed. Book ‘em, Danno. Except for one minor detail: No Democratic presidential candidate has won the “white vote” since 1964.

Add Obama’s name to a long list of white Democrats who lost that demographic: Humphrey in 1968; McGovern in 1972; Carter in 1976 and 1980; Mondale in 1984; Dukakis in 1988; Clinton in 1992 and 1996; Gore in 2000.

In fact, white voters preferred Obama to Sen. John Kerry — who lost the white vote by 17 points in 2004, while Obama lost it in 2008 by “only” 12 points. Obama improved on Kerry’s share of the white vote in every age demographic, including the 18- to 29-year-olds (which Kerry lost).

Did “white America” temporarily forget Obama’s skin color, only to remember just in time for the midterm elections? This, perhaps, explains why Obama’s approval rating, postelection, shot up to over 70 percent before coming down.

Obama’s approval rating now stands at the low- to mid-40s. So, presumably, “white America” reverted back to its historical racism. But how does Moore explain whites like Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, with an approval rating at less than 30 percent, and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid at 25 percent?

If “white America” dislikes having a black president, why does “white America” — in the South, no less — tolerate a black congressperson?

Allen West, a black Republican former lieutenant colonel, won Florida’s 22nd Congressional District. Its racial demographics are 82.3 percent white, 3.8 percent black, 1.7 percent Asian, 10.7 percent Hispanic, 0.1 percent Native American and 0.2 percent other.

Tim Scott, a black Republican candidate, won South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District. Its racial demographics are 74.8 percent white, 21.1 percent black, 1.3 percent Asian, 2.5 percent Hispanic, 0.4 percent Native American and 0.2 percent other.

Worse, Scott was backed by what the NAACP calls the “racist” tea party! The civil rights organization commissioned a study that purported to unmask the tea party’s racism.

But NAACP CEO Ben Jealous encountered unexpected skepticism when he appeared on Anderson Cooper’s CNN show.

Cooper asked why the NAACP selected a “clearly left-wing group — which is opposed to the tea party” — to conduct the study. He said the report “does seem to use a lot of innuendo and a lot of guilt by association.” Cooper played a montage of video clips showing prominent Democrats — from the President on down — campaigning with the mantra that it’s time to “take our country back!” “Why is it when Democrats say ‘take our country back,’” said Cooper, “no one says that’s extreme nationalism, but when tea party supporters say it, it’s ominous and racism in disguise?” Jealous stammered, stumbled and fumbled. Painful to watch.

Actor/producer/director Rob Reiner says the Tim Scott-supporting tea party is not merely racist. It is also fascist. In an appearance on Bill Maher’s show, Reiner worried whether a Hitler-like charismatic leader might emerge to lead the party:

Reiner: You never get into a political discussion unless you bring the word Hitler in. You have to have Hitler, so let’s put Hitler out there. Here’s Hitler, OK? You have bad economic times, right? Hitler, by the way, never got more than 33 percent of the vote ever in Germany. You have bad economic times—

Maher: Well, he only had that one election, let’s be honest. … There was no 1937 election.

Reiner: He wasn’t a majority guy, but he was charismatic and they were having bad economic times, just like we are now. People were out of work. They needed jobs, and a guy came along and rallied the troops. My fear is that the tea party gets a charismatic leader, because all they’re selling is fear and anger, and that’s all Hitler sold.”

Not a “majority guy”? President Bill Clinton not only twice lost the white vote but also, like Hitler, never won the majority of the electorate — 43 percent in 1992 and 49 percent in 1996. And the point is? Well, there is no point — at least none one might call coherent.

A 2008 Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll asked likely voters whether they would refuse to vote for a black presidential candidate. Only 4 percent said yes — a smaller number than would refuse to vote for a woman or a Mormon.

It’s not about race. The reality is simple, if less comforting to Mr. Moore. “White America” does not even like voting for a whitepresident — if he is a Democrat.


Quantitative Easing Explained


Official Statement From National Association of County Assessors

Esteemed tax payers, wit fallin' home values and all of da job losses, we understand dat its a tough time fer all, but we got our bills ta pay too, so if yooz don't pay yer risin' protection money...I mean property taxes, we will take yer home and break yer legs! And if yooz don't stop yer complainin' I swear ta God I will give you sometin' ta complain about! So, time ta pay up and shut up! And happy holidays ta all!


Donald Corleone
Capo Di Tutti
National Association of County Assessors

Property Taxes Keep Rising as Home Values Keep Falling


12/18/10 Economy

Common sense suggests that as home prices decline, the property taxes based on their valuations ought to as well. But even as house prices continue to slip, property taxes nationally are clicking higher.

Why is this occurring? There are several factors at work.

The first is that many local governments are responding to sharp declines in real estate values by raising property tax rates. In one southern Washington state county this year, the rate jumped from $10.06 to $11.60 per $1,000 of assessed value -- a more than 15% increase. Throughout Washington, even as assessed values slumped by more than 13%, property tax revenues rose 2.1% to $8.8 billion -- a $181 million increase. Though the state has limits on property tax hikes, local governments' property tax rates don't rise or fall based on assessed values -- they're set by budget requirements. So falling prices don't necessarily translate into lower property taxes.

Real Values Would Need to Drop Much Further

Next door in Oregon, state law has combined with the law of unintended consequences to produce an unusual twist on the property tax problem: A voter-mandated statute limits increases in assessed values to 3% a year. As a result, those assessed values are still lagging market prices, which soared during the housing bubble. In Multnomah County, the average assessment of $174,000 is $100,000 lower than current average market values.

Thus, assessed values -- as opposed to actual values -- will keep rising, and property taxes will rise with them, by 3% a year even as real home prices slip. Property taxes in those markets won't fall unless real values drop below assessed values, which would require massive additional price declines.

In northern New Jersey, property taxes are rising by as much as 12% in some municipalities, after skyrocketing 80% over the past decade, far outstripping growth in the consumer price index (31%) and household incomes (24%). The state government in Trenton has cut its contributions to local governments by $200 million over two years, and other revenue sources are falling. Localities now say raising property taxes is their only option.

Property Taxes Now Dominate Local Revenues

According the U.S. Census Bureau data, the nation's local governments will collect an estimated $476 billion in property taxes in 2010 -- almost twice the $250 billion that states garnered from income taxes and 66% more than total sales tax revenues of $286 billion.

A decade ago, revenues from property taxes were roughly equal to those from sales taxes. In 2000, property taxes totaled $247 billion, and sales taxes came in at $223 billion -- a difference of roughly 10%. Since then, sales taxes have increased by 28% -- roughly in line with the rise in consumer prices, as calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Property taxes, though, have far outstripped inflation, soaring by $229 billion, about 92%.

State income taxes have risen nationally from $217 billion in 2000 to a peak of $303 billion in 2008, just as the global financial meltdown began. Since then, they've dropped back $250 billion in 2010. Over the decade, that's a total rise of $33 billion, or 15% -- actually less than inflation, since income taxes have fallen substantially since the recession began.

Going in Opposite Directions

Add all this up, and we can see that local governments have become far more dependent on property tax revenues than they were in 2000. As levies on sales and incomes have stagnated in the recession, property taxes have continued their decade-long rise, jumping $45 billion (over 10%) since 2008 even as home prices plummeted roughly 30% nationally since the 2006 peak of the housing bubble.

Since California's voters passed Proposition 13 in 1978, property tax increases there have been limited to 1% of assessed value a year, and assessed value increases are limited to a 2% a year. Additional parcel taxes can be added only through voter-approved bond measures and "special assessment districts" which fund municipal water districts, libraries and other local government services.

But those assessed values are reset to market valuations when properties are sold. As millions of homes changed hands during the boom years, their assessed value skyrocketed, reaping huge increases in property taxes for local governments in California.

An Illustrative Case

A random selection of homes in the San Francisco Bay Area yielded these representative increases (addresses are not listed due to confidentiality concerns, but property taxes and sales figures are all public records, easily accessible on sites such as zillow.com.)

A 3-bedroom, 2.5-bath home, built in 1924:
assessed at $270,000 in 2004, property taxes: $5,090
sold 2005 for $725,000: 2006 taxes: $10,997
sold 2010 for $540,000, 2010 taxes: $12,193Once this home was sold at a bubble-era valuation, its property tax more than doubled, and then rose 10% from 2006 to 2010, despite a fall in value, as local "special assessment district" levies increased.

Now that the home has sold for $185,000 less than its previously assessed value (a drop of 25%), the property taxes collected will certainly decline by a similar percentage. Multiply that by hundreds of thousands of homes sold since 2007 for less than their bubble-era valuations, and it paints a bleak picture of major declines in property tax revenues for California's local governments.

Rising Rates Risk Homeowner Revolt

Homeowners in many locales can petition their property assessor's office to lower the assessed value of their homes. If granted, such reductions can substantially lower property taxes.

Sponsored Links

Again turning to California for an example, a 3-bedroom, 1.5-bath house built in 1928 saw its assessed value leap more than tenfold when it was sold for $770,000 in 2006. Property taxes jumped from $2,522 to $11,394. But the assessed value was notched down from $810,000 in 2008 to $630,000 in 2010 in an adjustment to the realities of post-bubble valuations.

Either by reassessment or by sales, assessed property values are falling around the nation. While local governments can compensate by jacking up their tax rates every year, at some point, those substantial annual increases will likely trigger resistance from homeowners watching their home values stagnate or decline.

The property tax cash cow will likely get leaner as a result, and local governments will have to find other revenue sources or slim down budgets to match the new realities of the realty market.
Tagged: assessed value, california, california real estate, foreclosure crisis, Foreclosures, home prices, home prices decline, house prices, housing boom, Housing Bubble, housing bust
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Friday, December 17, 2010

The Bizarro Code In Action

Those who share my nerdy affinity for comic books should be familiar with the Bizarro World, whose laws, logic and residents are inverted versions of our own. I used to believe that the Bizarro only existed in DC Comics, but after reading about an incident at the Denair Middle School, I am convinced that an increasing nbizarro individuals and institutions exist among us. On Veteran's Day, 13 year old Cody Alicea was asked to remove the American Flag that he flew from his bicycle. The school superintendent, Edward Parraz issued this order because "certain students were complaining" and because he was afraid that the flag was causing "racial tensions."

The principle clearly should have taken the moral high ground and defended the student's right to free speech, but apparrently the bizarro code dictates that educators support intolerant bullies in their efforts to silence others. And in the bizarro world, we must take down American flags during Veteran's Day. It would be interesting to see if the principle would have responded similarily to complaints against a student's display of (let's say) a Mexican or Morrocan flag, or if he would he have (done the right think and) rebucked them for their intolerance? I suspect he would have done the latter, because the bizarro code states that progressives must demonstrate selective tolerance for some, but not for others.

The principal could have used this as a “teachable moment” and asked the students why they found the American Flag so offensive, especially considering that it was Veteran’s Day. By not doing this it would appear that the school possesses an institutional vision that does not hold the United States in high regard. And the fact that the principal did not stand up for the right to display the flag on veteran’s day may indicate that he does not veteran’s in high regard. Even though I consider the vast majority of wars unjust, destructive and counter-productive, I still hold our veterans in high regard. But, apparently this is not the case among bizarro institutions.

It would be also worth questioning if any aspect of the bizarro school’s curriculum contributed to the general antipathy of these students towards the United States. During my time in the Master’s in Education Program it was clear that most of my professors subscribed to a vision that schools should eschew assimilation towards or even the existence of a common American identity, instead nurturing a student’s ethnic and cultural background. I believe that indirectly this has made the said antipathy possible. Keep in mind that I encourage parents and communities to teach their children about their culture, traditions, celebrations, history and language. And of course they are always welcome to send their children to private (Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Etc.) schools that promote their ethno-religious identity, but it’s not the job of public schools to do so. The only question that remains is if Lex Luthor is behind this.

School Makes Boy Take American Flag Off Bike

Officials Later Backtrack; Allow Boy to Fly Flag on Bike

By Elissa Harrington

FOX40 News

November 12, 2010


13-year-old Cody Alicea rides with an American flag on the back of his bike. He says he does this to be patriotic and to honor veterans, like his own grandfather, Robert. He's had the flag on his bike for two months but Monday, was told to take it down.

Watch the video here: http://www.fox40.com/videobeta/?watchId=1ece9d19-68c9-48e3-8ecb-3894f4a8f6ca

A school official at Denair Middle School told Cody some students had been complaining about the flag and it was no longer allowed on school property.

"In this country we're supposed to be free," said Cody. "And I should be able to wave my flag wherever I want to. And they're telling me I can't." Cody had to take the flag off his bike and put it in his backpack, where he kept it all week.

Cody's grandfather says the school was concerned about racial tensions or uprisings because of the flag. He feels if there was really a problem it should have been brought up two months ago, not during Veterans week. And if it was an issue of safety, parents should have been contacted.

"No action should be taken. We don't want any repercussion," said Roger Alicea. "We just want Cody to be proud of what he's doing." Roger says the family is not planning to take any legal action, but they do want to meet with school staff.

Cody says he wants to serve in the military some day, and is raising money for a trip to Washington, D.C. in the Spring.

After being contacted by FOX40 Friday morning, Denair's Superintendent says Cody will be allowed to keep the flag on his bike. He told FOX40 he and the school are patriotic, but their main priority is keeping students safe; the school will focus on the students who are causing uprisings. Riding a bike is still not allowed on school campus, but when Cody rides his bike to school he can now fly the flag.



Prohibition vrs Regulation & Taxation

A recent survey showed that teens are smoking more pot that cigarettes, which leads me to believe that a regimen of regulation & taxation is a more effective means of discouraging a behavior than outright prohibition. The biggest difference being that prohibition bleeds state coffers and feeds organized crime and legalization fills state coffers and starves organized crime. And an added benefit may be that bureaucratic involvement in the production and sale of marijuana will accomplish what the war on drugs could not: make it so costly and uncool that fewer people will choose to smoke it.

More teens smoking pot than cigarettes

Drug survey finds US teens are smoking more but binge drinking less


WASHINGTON — More U.S. teens may be smoking marijuana than cigarettes but fewer are binge-drinking, federal health officials said Tuesday.

An annual survey on drug use found increases in marijuana use among all age groups but showed slightly fewer high school seniors were smoking than in recent years.

"These high rates of marijuana use during the teen and pre-teen years, when the brain continues to develop, place our young people at particular risk," National Institute for Drug Abuse director Dr. Nora Volkow said in a statement.

"Not only does marijuana affect learning, judgment, and motor skills, but research tells us that about one in six people who start using it as adolescents become addicted."

The survey of 46,482 students from 396 schools found that 16 percent of eighth-graders, typically 13 and 14 years old, admitted to using marijuana, up from 14.5 percent in 2009.

More than 21 percent of high school seniors, aged 17 and 18, said they had used marijuana in the past 30 days, while 19.2 percent said they smoked cigarettes. This is the first time marijuana use has passed cigarette use in the survey.

The survey found binge drinking, defined as having five drinks or more in a row, was down. Just over 23 percent of high school seniors admitted to binge drinking in the past two weeks, compared to 25 percent in 2009 and 31.5 percent in 1998.

The survey found more than 6 percent of high school seniors use marijuana every day, up from 5 percent last year. More than 3 percent of 10th graders and 1 percent of eighth graders said they used marijuana daily, all increases over 2009.

Federal officials were most upset by the marijuana data and said teens may be confused about whether marijuana is safe and acceptable because several states have recently legalized the use of marijuana with a doctor's prescription.

"Mixed messages about drug legalization, particularly marijuana, may be to blame. Such messages certainly don't help parents who are trying to prevent kids from using drugs," said Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

"We should examine the extent to which the debate over medical marijuana and marijuana legalization for adults is affecting teens' perceptions of risk," Volkow added.

One group advocating for legalizing marijuana agreed.

"Our government has spent decades refusing to regulate marijuana in order to keep it out of the hands of drug dealers who aren't required to check customer ID and have no qualms about selling marijuana to young people.," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project.

The survey also found more teens are using MDMA, or Ecstasy. More than 2 percent of eighth-graders said they had tried it, compared with 1 percent in 2009, while 4.7 percent of 10th graders reported using it, up a full percentage point. (Reporting by Maggie Fox; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

Copyright 2011 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sacrebleu - France Shows Some Good Sense!

If the United States had good sense, we too would pass a law stripping foreign born criminals of their citizenship and deporting them. I am NOT saying that foreign born residents are more prone to crime than their native born counterparts. In fact the crime rate of first generation immigrants is no higher than the national average. However, from a point of policy, there is a crucial difference between native born and foreign born criminals. A native born crook or low life is a "product of chance," that is, their presence in the United States stems from the location of their birth and not from a policy decision. And it cannot be mitigated by a policy decision; in other words, we (unfortunately) cannot deport native born Americans who commit serious crimes. On the other hand, who we allow to immigrate to the United States is a question of choice, a choice that should be reversed (via deportation) if it proves unwise.

French Pass Law To Strip Foreign-Born Criminals Of Nationality

The Huffington Post
Curtis M. Wong

First Posted: 10-12-10

French lawmakers passed a controversial new bill that will strip criminals born in other countries of their French nationality if convicted of carrying out a violent crime against police officers.

According to RPI, members of France's lower house of parliament, the National Assembly, voted 294 to 239 to pass the measure. Proposed by Immigration Minister Eric Besson -- who reportedly wants his ministry to be "a machine to produce good French citizens" -- the measure will also allow European Union nationals to be expelled from France for repeated acts of theft, aggressive begging and illegally occupying land.

"This is a big first step in the building of a European immigration policy," Besson said.

The law is part of President Nicolas Sarkozy's conservative law and order crackdown, which critics say stigmatizes immigrants -- members of France's Roma "Gypsy" community -- as second-class citizens, according to the Associated Press.

In recent months, Sarkozy has come under repeated fire from UN officials and other humanitarian experts for deporting hundreds of Roma families residing in France to nations in Eastern Europe, including Romania and Bulgaria.