Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Apology Tour Continues!

Pictured Above: Michael Posner

During a meeting with Chinese officials regarding human rights, Obama Appointee Michael Posner apologized for SB1070, Arizona's new immigration law before his Chinese counterpart had even brought it up! Not only is it absolutely absurd for the United States to apologize to one of the worst violator of human rights in the world, but it's also an awful bargaining strategy! If Mr. Posner was better informed and / or did not suffer from testicular derth he would have criticized the Chinese for enacting even harsher immigration laws on its own citizens! For example, if you are a Chinese peasant, you need a residency permit to migrate to and reside in Beijing or any city. Without such permits you could be denied medical care and your children could be denied an education. And North Korean migrants caught illegally residing in China will be rapdily repatried to North Korea even though that spells imprisonment and even execution. And so the apology tour continues!

US Cites AZ Immigration Law During Human Rights Talks with China, Conservatives Call It An Apology

May 17, 2010 12:17 PM

ABC News' Kirit Radia reports:

During two days of talks about human rights with China last week, the US raised examples of problems on its own soil and cited Arizona's controversial new immigration law as an example of "racial discrimination."

“We brought it up early and often. It was mentioned in the first session and as a troubling trend in our society, and an indication that we have to deal with issues of discrimination or potential discrimination. And these are issues very much being debated in our own society,” Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy Human Rights and Labor Michael Posner, who led the US delegation to the talks, told reporters on Friday.

That the US mentioned the Arizona law during talks about human rights with China, consistently ranked among the worst human rights violators in the world, has raised the ire of some conservatives who see the US as apologizing for the law to a country that persecutes its own dissidents and minorities.

“China murdered millions of its citizens who opposed the government's Communist policies and allows most of its people little or no freedom. We, on the other hand, enforce our immigration laws. No, wait--actually we don't. That's why Arizona had to take a shot at it,” the conservative blog Powerline wrote on Sunday.

The Arizona immigration law requires law enforcement to inquire about an individual’s immigration status if there is suspicion they are in the country illegally. Supporters of the law say it will weed out illegal immigrants and help secure the border. Opponents say it opens the door to racial profiling. The Obama administration has come out against the law; President Obama has called it “misguided.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will travel to China later this week for the Strategic and Economic Dialogue. Posner said Friday he will take part in those meetings as well. He said the US and China will hold talks on human rights again next year.

Speaking earlier on Friday morning the US Ambassador to China, and former Republican governor of Utah, Jon Huntsman said that the talks on human rights were difficult but a sign of improved relations between countries that have had strained relations in the past year over US arms sales to Taiwan, internet freedom and cyber attacks, and trade disputes.

"We're talking about issues that are uncomfortable, quite frankly, but it is a sign of maturity that we can talk about specific cases," Huntsman said.

The Jimmy Carter Prize for the Advacement of Douchebagery

Up until now the Jimmy Carter Prize for the Advancement of Douchebagery has been solely awarded to individuals. But, recent events compel the Chicago Freedom Forum to convey this award to a group: President Obama and the American politicians who applauded the President of Mexico's address to the congress. During this address Mr. Calderon openly attacked SB1070, Arizona's new immigration law. Although I ultimately do not support this law, the principles of national sovereignty and self respect makes his address totally inappropriate. Before the speech President Obama should have privately stated to Mr. Calderon:

"The domestic policies of the United States must be debated and decided upon by officials who were elected by the American people, not by foreign leaders...furthermore, as flawed as Arizona's policies may be, it's hypocritical of you to criticize them, because Mexico's own immigration policies are much harsher..."

Another affront to American sovereignty occurred when Carlos Navarrete Ruiz, the President of the Mexican Senate who accompanied President Calderon publicly called on the Hispanic community of the United States to secure an electoral triumph for the Democratic Party in the coming elections.

The Chicago Freedom Forum has not awarded President Calderon the Jimmy Carter Prize, because he simply responded to the political and cultural signals that our "leadership" sent him. If they had conveyed their commitment to sovereignty and self respect, Mr. Calderon would not have made such a speech. And I neither bear Mr. Calderon nor his cohorts a grudge, because they are doing what their people elected them to do: represent their national interests. I wish I could say the same for President Obama and our elected officials.

A Teachable Moment, Forever Lost.

Fearing that their attire would be provocative to students of Mexican descent during Cinco de Mayo (May 5th), the principal of Live Oaks High School in Morgan Hill, California demanded that five students turn their shirts inside out. When they refused, they were sent home with an unexcused absence. What offensive image or message did their attire convey? The flag of the United States of America!

As you can imagine this stirred up quite a bit of controversy and groups ranging from the ACLU to the Tea Party came to the aid of the students and the principal was quickly forced to apologize. During interviews the students, two of which were of partial Hispanic descent, emphasized that they fully respected their classmates' rights to celebrate Cinco de Mayo and present the Mexican Flag, they merely wished that their classmates and the administration would respect their first amendment rights.

What followed this incident was even more telling. The following day approximately 200 Hispanic students walked out of class to (apparently) protest the decision of the administration. During the march, they chanted "We want respect" and "Si se puede (Yes We Can)" When asked for her opinion, one of the protesters stated"

"It's kind of disrespectful that they (the students who wore Americans flags ) would do that on this day I mean we don't go around on the 4th of July wearing red, white and green saying "Viva Mexico" because that's disrespectful..."

This was followed by a Tea Party rally in which four of the students received a standing ovation. And much to my pleasant surprise, some thoughtful words and placards were presented by the participants. Jeanine Croft, a graduate of Live Oaks High School stated:

"This is a catalyst for some good discussion," Croft said. "It's an opportunity to discuss this and refocus." Croft said students need to be taught in school to be proud Americans like she was, saluting in the Pledge of Allegiance every morning. "And the Hispanic children should be proud to be Hispanic every day not just on May 5 - but don't ever expect us to put the American flag away."

Indeed Croft is correct, this incident should have served as a catalyst for a much needed discussion or in progressive parlance "a teachable moment." Here are but a few of the many concepts and questions that should have been presented to the students, teachers and general public:

1. If indeed there was a risk that the presentation of the American Flag, or for that matter any cultural symbol could provoke some students to conflict, why didn't the administration
confront the intolerance of those students, rather than curtail the free expression of the five students? Why didn't they emphasize that just as we respect your right to proudly wave the Mexican Flag, you must respect the right of other students to wave any flag of their choosing? The administration could have used this incident to promote the merits of tolerance, pluralism and freedom of expression.

2. Would the same school administrators dared to have asked students to hide symbols of their Mexican Heritage, out of the fear that it may have offended some students? If not, why did they not extend the same courtesy to students wishing to present symbols of the United States? What does this say about the ideology and political culture of the school administrators and academia in general? Is this a product of a worldview that encourages the expression and celebration of all cultures, except shared American culture?

3. Why didn't the school administration confront the 200 students who walked out and ask they what they found so offensive about the American Flag and (presumably) American identity? They should have boldly emphasized that just as the students should be proud of their Mexican heritage, so should they be proud of their American identity.

4. Is their anything in the curriculum or broader academic culture that has encouraged these (or any other) students to be be resentful towards the United States? Is this the end product of educational and political elites who eschew assimilation in favor of diversity? Is this the product of teachers who foment a sense of victimization rather than appreciation for the unparalleled liberty and prosperity that the United States offers their students? To those who say that the school should teach diverse students about their culture and traditions, my response is: parents, religious and community organizations are more than welcome to teach children what it means to be (for example) Jewish, Mexican or Korean, but it's the job of schools to teach students what it means to be American.

5. Why should the school sponsor the celebration of a holiday that pertains to a single segment of the student body? The school administration should treat ethnic holidays, the same way it treats religious celebrations. Even if a segment of the student body is demographically dominant, the school should only officially promote the celebration of holidays that are shared by all students. This does not mean that student clubs should not be allowed to use school facilities to celebrate and educate their fellow students about their holidays, traditions and culture. In other words, it would be inappropriate to have the school promote the celebration of Christmas, Hanukkah or Cinco de Mayo, but it would be perfectly appropriate to allow the Christian, Jewish or Mexican club use the gym or field to host a celebration during lunch time or after school hours.

6. Is this an isolated incident or does it reveal that millions of individuals are not assimilating to American culture. First, keep in mind that assimilation does not mean that they have to reject their ethnic and religious heritage. And second, keep in mind that just because these students speak English and enjoy popular culture, does not mean that they are truly assimilated. When one is assimilated they feel an affection for their nation and it's shared culture and symbols. Clearly the 200 students who walked out of class did not hold great affection for the United States. If educational and political institutions are failing to fully assimilate millions of citizens, what social and political implications does this hold in our increasingly diverse nation?

7. No incidents of white students protesting the celebration of Cinco de Mayo were reported. Is this because anti-racism curricula are based on a vision in which whites are the perpetrators and diverse populations are the sole recipients of racism and intolerance?

Alas, the school administrators tried to sweep this under the rug as quickly as possible and a teachable moment was lost forever.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Episode I: The FDR Menace

Pictured above: Darth Ru Sa Velt

From classrooms to newsrooms, the popular narrative of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt presidency is one in which FDR energetically pulled the United States out of the Great Depression with the bold implementation of reform and recovery measures. Implied in this narrative is that the long economic depression continued in spite of his administration's wise reform and recovery measures. Undoubtedly the intentions of the intelligent, inspired men and women of his administration were to foment economic recover, however few Americans seriously explore what the real economic consequences of his policies were, instead choosing to focus the oratory and inspirational power that Roosevelt held for countless Americans.

In the book FDR's Folly How Roosevelt And His New Deal Prolonged The Great Depression, Jim Powell presents a clear and compelling argument that many of FDR's policies and programs may have actually extended the duration and deepened the severity of the Great Depression. Not only were the benefits of these policies highly questionable, but at times they posed a great cost in terms of individual liberty. On more than one occasion, American citizens were fined and imprisoned for charging less than what the government price control boards mandated. And perhaps even more troubling, Mr. Roosevelt's showed an utter disregard for the constitutional safeguards put in place to limit the power of the executive via his court packing scheme.

While reading this work, I was struck by the many similarities between Obama's and FDR's vision of economics, recovery and governance. Because of these similarities and because he laid the groundwork for out troubling economic and political trajectory, I have dubbed his presidency Episode I: THE FDR Menance. What is most troubling about the popular narratives of the FDR Administration is that they have led too many of his contemporaries, including Obama, to pursue the same flawed approaches to economic reform and recovery.

Much like Obama FDR greatly expanded government spending; between 1933 to 1940, he doubled it from $4.5 billion to $9.4 billion. Even before the military build up began, spending soared across the board, mainly on public work's programs. Even FDR's faithful Secretary of Treasury, Henry Morgenthau was forced to admit that a vast expansion in public works and government spending did not ease unemployment:

"We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. And I have just one interest, and if I am wrong … somebody else can have my job. I want to see this country prosperous. I want to see people get a job. I want to see people get enough to eat. We have never made good on our promises. … I say after eight years of this Administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started. … And an enormous debt to boot."

The fundamental problem was that each dime spent by the federal government had to come from the private sector in the form of higher taxes. Between 1933 to 1940, federal income taxes more than tripled from $1.6 billion to $5.3 billion. This was most felt by the wealthy, whose taxation rate rose up to 75% in 1935. In addition, taxes increased on a multitude of goods and services that were primarily consumed by poor and middle class Americans. The predictable effect of this was a sharp decrease in business investment, as well as general consumption.
The increased fiscal burden on the private sector lowered their capacity to create new jobs or even sustain already existing employment. So, while public works certainly created government jobs, they ultimately resulted in a net loss of employment.

Many of the key figures in the FDR Administration believed that excessive competition, low prices and low wages had helped bring about the Great Depression. Accordingly, the National Recovery Act empowered labor unions to draft industry wide codes to raise wages above market rates. In addition, the cost of labor was raised by the imposition of social security taxes on employers. While these policies may sound positive to the layman, any economist will tell you that by raising the cost of a good or service you will lower the demand for it. In other words, by forcing wages up during a severe economic downturn, the FDR Administration exacerbated the already high level of unemployment. This was accompanied by a sharp spike in then number of strikes and violent labor clashes, which further discouraged investment that could have created new jobs. Powell also noted that since most unions excluded African-Americans, the government mandated expansion of unionization locked many African-Americans out of the labor market.

One very important, but little discussed aspect of the NRA was the fact that trade organizations colluded with the government to draft a multitude of industry wide codes. And not surprisingly these 550 new codes, 200 supplementary regulations and 11,000 administrative orders largely benefited well established business owners by limiting the entry of new companies into the market place. These codes mandated virtually every aspect of every industry, including outright price controls. One of the most shocking examples was seen in April of 1934 when 49 year old immigrant Jacob Maged of Jersey City, NJ was jailed for three months and fined for charging $0.35 to press a suit, rather than the $0.40 mandated by the NRA dry cleaning codes. And in 1934 a Rochester, NY grocer was convicted of selling two bottles of milk for less than the $0.09 cents per quart ordered by the Milk Control Board. Clearly, preventing prices from falling to market rates were not in the interests of the general public, depressed demand and impeded a general economic recovery. Thankfully, the NRA was struck down as unconstitutional in 1935 by the Supreme Court, but similar policies reemerged in different forms throughout the FDR Administration.

The drive to foment economic recovery by increasing prices was most strongly felt in the agricultural sector via the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933. The federal government sought to achieve this by imposing strict production quotas and even by mandating the destruction of agricultural products. This led to some truly appalling episodes, such as when the federal government paid farmers to slaughter 6,000,000 pigs and rather than utilize this to help feed the millions of Americans who were malnourished, upwards of 90% were discarded or turned into fertilizer. In addition, farmers were paid for each acre of land they took out of cultivation, which naturally benefited the most wealthy farmers, much today's agricultural subsidies do. A true recovery would have entailed farmers responding to market forces by shifting capital and production to goods and even economic sectors that enjoyed a greater demand. Of course this economic correction would have entailed short term pain, but it may have lessened the duration of the economic contraction felt in the agricultural sector.

In the opinion of Powell, as well as the Chicago Freedom Forum, one of the unsung heroes of American history was the Supreme Court that presided during the FDR Administration. On numerous occasions they thwarted FDR's unprecedented push to expand the power of the federal govern, by ruling against various policies and programs were in violation of the letter and spirit of the United States Constitution. During a case that challenged FDR's challenged some of the aforementioned agricultural policies, Justice Roberts summarized the root of the ongoing conflict:

"The question is not what power the Federal Government ought to have, but what powers, in fact, have been given by the people...The federal union is a government of delegated powers. It has only such as are expressly conferred upon it and such are reasonably implied from those granted. In this respect, we differ radically from nations were all legislative power, without restriction or limitation, is vested in a parliament or legislative body subject to no restriction except the discretion of its members."

Roberts and even some relatively liberal judges challenged FDR's excessive use of the general welfare clause and interstate commerce clause to justify his attempts to greatly expand the power of the federal government. Not surprisingly, FDR sought to counter this barrier to increasing his power by reorganizing the courts. In the Judiciary Reorganization Bill of 1937, FDR sough to grant the president the power to appoint an additional Justice to the U.S. Supreme Court for every sitting member over the age of 70½, up to a maximum of six. This would have allowed him to pack the court with passive Justices that would not rule against his policies. If this truly radical bill had passed it would have substantially eroded the separation of powers that forms the basis of the American Republic. This compelling book will challenge the positive narrative that most school text books and professors present of FDR. Most importantly, by fully understanding this dark chapter in our economic and political past, we are far less likely to repeat the errors that contributed to the length and severity of the Great Depression.,_Jr.

Details, Details, Details...

It's sad how few of Israel's critics are unwilling to take even a few minutes of their time to investigate the background of the ongoing conflict. In the case of the unfortunate deaths of several Turkish militants on the Mavi Marmara, video footage show a very violent mob clubbing Israeli soldiers with metal bars, stabbing them with knives and throwing them overboard, before the Israeli's soldiers responded with live fire. Details, details, details, the sworn enemy of fascists, fanatics and the simple minded.

A Prelude to Violence at Sea

Very few of those who condemn Israel for the violent clash of the Turkish vessel Mavi Marmara chose to investigate the full details of what transpired and even fewer sought to explore the background of the organizations involved. I came across a troubling video filmed before the clash that shows the members of the flotilla chanting a song that called for the death of Jews. For those unfamiliar with Islamic history, Khaibar was a battle that transpired in Arabia, in which a Jewish tribe was defeated by the forces of Muhammad, it's male members massacred and it's female members distributed as war booty. In addition, one of the flotilla members declared that they faced "one of two happy endings: either martyrdom or reaching Gaza."

Monday, June 7, 2010

Progressive Tenets of Economics & Governance.

I came across an interesting article that outlines some core progressive tenets of economics and governance. Unlike socialists, most progressives do not call for the outright government ownership of businesses, but in their vision the government has a major role in regulating, coordinating and controlling larger economic forces. The movement of capital is not left to "wild market forces," but rather to the social and economic calculations of "wise planners" in the form of subsidies for favorable enterprises and penalties for unfavorable enterprises. And in order to achieve positive social and economic ends, the progressive state increasingly directs the more minute practices of private companies, from who they hire and how they fire them, to the extent of compensation, to the manner of production and even the cost of their products. Some of the goals that drive modern planners are: ensuring that private and public institutions are representative of our increasing diversity, income distribution is fair, vital goods and services are affordable and production is green. In addition, some seek to promote less tangible goods, like greater compassion. From era to era the goals and the titles of dirigistes may change, but their underlying principles do not: economic and social life should be driven more by public minded central planners and less by private initiative and impersonal market forces.

"Economic initiatives cannot be left to the arbitrary decisions of private, individual interests. Open competition, if not wisely directed and restricted (regulated), actually destroys wealth instead of creating it...The proper function of the that of supervising, regulating and arbitrating the relationship of capital and labor, employers and employees, individuals and associations, private interests and national interests...More important than the production of wealth is its right distribution, distribution which must benefit in the best possible ways all the classes of the nation, hence the nation itself. Private wealth belongs not only to the individual, but , in a symbolic sense, to the state as well..."

Now, guess were I found this progressive gem?

It's from Mario Palmieri's The Philosophy of Fascism (1936).

No, I am not saying that progressives are fascists (sorry Glenn Beck); most are supporters of civil liberties. Most have positive ends. After all, who does not want a greener, more equitable society, free from scarcity and poverty? But, progressives must be aware of the risks and limitations inherent in the means that they seek to employ. Although they are quite distinct fascism and progressivism has common corporatist roots. In the formal corporatist model, the state is focused less on the individual and more on corporate groups and interests. It's important to note that corporate does not only denote corporations, it also includes other social and economic bodies (corporis in Latin), be they social, ethnic or economic. The state is granted greater power in coordinating and enforcing social contracts between corporate groups, such as labor, business and bureaucratic interests. A recent example is seen in the push for health care reform in which the Obama Administration sought to negotiate (and later impose) health care mandates between entire industries and organizations, such as insurance firms, pharmaceuticals, businesses, bureaucracies and unions. Many conservatives look at these developments with alarm, not because they oppose Obama's goals, but rather because they are aware of the history of corporatism. More specifically, they like the founding fathers are aware of the dangers that corporatism poses to social and economic liberty, as well as long term prosperity.