Tuesday, September 27, 2011

MSNBC attacks achievement

Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) might think twice before agreeing to another appearance on MSNBC. What's to be gained from discussing issues with an interviewer whose mind is the political equivalent of a black hole? Credit Fleming for trying, but he must realize that MSNBC is nothing more than an outlet for left-wing activism.

MSNBC's Chris Jansing
scolded Rep. Fleming for opposing Democrat tax policy. Jansing asked Fleming to explain his own high income -- his business interests gross $6 million annually -- but paid no attention to his answer. Fleming took more than his "fair share" and that's all that mattered. The condescending Jansing continued to prod Rep. Fleming:

You do understand, congressman, that the average person out there who's making maybe 40, 50, $60,000 out there, when they hear you only have $400,000 left over, it's not exactly a sympathetic position. You understand that?

It's difficult to tolerate someone so arrogant in their ignorance as Chris Jansing. An honest interviewer would've at least listened to Rep. Fleming's explanation of how his gross receipts are dispersed, especially since she raised the issue. But not Chris Jansing; she heard from Fleming only what she wanted to hear. Like so many journalists she played the role of ideological puppet, as if the DNC had a hand in her back.

Sadly, Chris is partially correct. Too many Americans aren't sympathetic when a deceitful, immoral, and fiscally irresponsible ideology deploys government to steal their neighbor's earnings. And I can give her one big reason why. Look around your newsroom, Chris. Then look around the newsrooms at the vast majority of broadcast and print media. Finally, Chris, look in your own mirror.

Journalism sold out long ago. Rather than providing balanced information, journalists promote a vision in which one person's failure is the result of another's achievement. The predominant American media now serves an ideology bent on expanding the State, making it no different from the operatives at TASS and Pravda during the Soviet Union's heyday. You understand that, Chris?

Thinly veiled media attacks on achievement are common and predictable. Thus the question isn't how to reform the media, but how to undo the petty jealousies and animus toward achievement Democrats and their media apologists have created. As long as this mindset exists politicians will parlay class envy into electoral success, never fully explaining who the "greedy rich" are or what constitutes their "fair share."

Certainly Chris Jansing's brand of journalism is secure in the First Amendment, wherein she and her colleagues can compromise their profession to their heart's content. But there's a funny thing about freedom; it runs both ways. Those of us in the great unwashed are equally free to criticize media propagandists whenever they're encountered.

Achievement has its attackers. But let it be known this day, achievement has its defenders, too.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The problem with Paul

As Social Security is considered the third rail of national politics, Ron Paul is the third rail of the Republican Party. Paul's detractors are vehement in dismissing the Texas representative as the party's loose nut. Contrarily, Paul's supporters are dedicated to crowning him the savior of the GOP and the United States overall.

If Paul is as inconsequential as the haters claim, they needn't work so hard to dismiss him; he'll render himself irrelevant. But the GOP hierarchy cringes when Paul speaks because he's correct on so many issues. Audit the Fed? Ron Paul has a calculator. Worried about federally controlled healthcare delivery? Dr. Paul supports free market solutions to rising healthcare costs. Tired of burdensome regulations and Washington's shredding of our Constitution? Paul promotes personal liberty and states rights, viewing bureaucracy like a drunk at a Baptist picnic. His position on limited government offends Beltway Republicans who've fallen in love with federal largess.

Ron Paul is crystal clear on America's domestic problems. However, when it comes to foreign policy, the more Ron Paul talks the more his fatal weakness is exposed.

That's not to say Paul's foreign policy
positions are total flawed. For instance, Paul suggests a non-interventionist policy would save money. He's obviously correct. Fewer foreign engagements would require lower government expenditures. Besides, acting as the world's policeman isn't a conservative principal. Conservatives weren't interested in policing the world when Clinton engaged the Kosovo conflict and Libya is on no one's agenda. Paul's non-interventionism doesn't necessarily equate to a refusal to defend the United States.

On terrorism, Paul believes America's presence in Muslim lands provokes hatred toward us. Paul reasons, "What would we do if another country . . . did to us what we do to all those countries over there?"

Well, what would we do? We'd fight, of course, just as we did following 9/11. Were another country to establish a military presence on U.S. soil we would summon every weapon from pitchforks to Tomahawk missiles against the foreign occupier. Americans would demand all-out war against the infiltrators. Should we not do unto others as we would have them do unto us?
Paul believes our "foreign occupations" spurred the 9/11 attacks. There is some credibility in his assertion, for the prior mentioned reasons. However, "foreign occupation" falls short in explaining the reason Islamists choose violence. The culture reflected in the jihad movement relishes conflict. If there were no Israel, Islamists would find another justification for violence. The Muslim Brotherhood was
anti-Zionist before the post-war establishment of Israel. If there were neither a United States nor an Israel, another enemy would spark the fanatic's flame. Even in biblical history, pre-Islamic Arabs and Persians fought not only with Jews but with each other. Any reason, provocation, or insult, whether real or perceived, can stir Islamist violence.

America certainly isn't perfect; we've made foreign policy blunders. Whether for better or worse, the United States has propped-up unpopular dictators to further our interests in the Middle East. If an outside interest so meddled in our affairs we'd be seething and rightly so. But the problem with Ron Paul, his fatal flaw, is his belief that America will be safer if we bring all troops home and adopt a quasi-isolationist foreign policy.

Paul's view of international relations is similar to the one America held prior to World War II. The U.S. thought neutrality was an option in an increasingly hostile world. Thus Hitler's Germany went from a defeated and demilitarized nation to a burgeoning and aggressive war machine. A huge price was extracted, in blood and money, for our ambivalence. Is the next Third Reich on the horizon? Maybe not. But protecting U.S. sovereignty relies on the ability to respond quickly to gathering threats.

A strong and ready military is essential to our survival, but not necessarily the "neo-con" view of militarism. While America can and should promote liberty and a better opportunity to an oppressed world, we aren't responsible for overthrowing dictators in every third-world hellhole. Suppose we follow Thomas Jefferson's advice: "Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none." Was Jefferson averse to the aggressive use of force? Ask a Barbary pirate.

America would be better served if all its military engagements were defensive in nature. This is especially true if we continue fighting wars like police actions, which has become our standard strategy regardless of the party in charge. Yet an aggressive foreign policy must remain an option for dealing with demonstrable threats. The jihad has a track record of attacking the
United States and her interests, at home and abroad. America must confront Islamists even if it means acting preemptively, unilaterally, or overwhelmingly. The reason for Islamic terrorism is found in the prejudices and cultures of the Islamists, not on an air base in Riyadh.

This is the problem with Ron Paul. On domestic, economic, and constitutional issues he is right on target. Ron Paul is correct in believing the United States isn't responsible for forcefully establishing freedom and self-government throughout the world. But Paul is dangerously wrong regarding how America must deal with external threats in the modern world.

President Ron Paul isn't the answer. Federal Reserve Chairman Ron Paul? Now that has a nice ring to it.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Lemonade Wars: The State battles entrepreneurialism

The United States is a nation of cultural icons. Some places, symbols, and activities shout "America" with the voice of three-hundred million citizens: the Statue of Liberty, Yankee Stadium, an Independence Day cookout. High on the list of those iconic symbols is the front yard lemonade stand. It represents the essence of budding entrepreneurialism and self-reliance.

Only the heartless can deny the joy of buying a lukewarm glass of "ice-cold" lemonade from an enterprising youth. The lemonade stand, and similar entrepreneurial adolescent pursuits, is the stuff of Americana, pure Norman Rockwell. Not only are the young shopkeepers cute, they're participating in an activity as old as mankind. The lemonade stand proprietor has entered the world of capitalism, where merchant and customer voluntarily exchange items of value. Tragically, the child's lemonade stand, like capitalism, finds itself increasingly in the State's regulatory crosshairs.

Governments are targeting neighborhood lemonade stands throughout the land of the free. The reasons behind these "lemonade raids" are similar no matter their location. Young businessmen and businesswomen, like their mature counterparts, are running afoul of local codes and health ordinances, lacking required permits and licenses, or tripping over bureaucratic red tape. When even the childhood entrepreneur can't escape the overbearing and burdensome tentacles of government's regulatory octopus, what chance has the adult?

The Massachusetts State Police
closed a 12-year-old boy's green tea stand because he didn't secure the requisite permits. Coralville, Iowa conducted a veritable raid on unsanctioned lemonade stands. Police in Midway, Georgia closed a lemonade stand because the three girls who operated it failed to obtain licenses and permits that cost $50 a day. A similar instance occurred in Appleton, Wisconsin. Villa Rica, Georgia police sent a Girl Scout troop home because they didn't have a peddler's permit to hawk their cookies. In New York, a city councilman summoned police to an unauthorized cupcake shop.

As would be expected, the various government agencies responsible for protecting the public from these snack food speakeasies defended their decisions, as well as the regulations that preceded them. The New York councilman, Michael Wolfensohn, said all vendors must conform to local ordinance, even if the "vendors" are two kids with a pan of brownies. Wolfensohn called police because they're "trained to deal with these sorts of issues."

And all this time you and I thought police were trained to deal with suspected criminals, not with people trying to make an honest dollar. Unless selling brownies for profit is a crime, or the teenage dealers were pushing hashish brownies, there's no reason for the police to be involved, save to investigate Councilman Wolfensohn for impersonating an intelligent human being.

A spokesman for Villa Rica defended the town's ordinance as a safety issue, enacted after a previous incident where a child seeking charitable donations ran into traffic. While no one wants a youngster to become a traffic statistic, the official explanation defies logic. Are we to assume a peddler's license would prevent an exuberant child from rushing into the street? Children chase balls, pets, and other objects into traffic every day. The presence of a permit will do nothing to curb potential harm to children. Parental supervision and oversight will further safety far more than will a peddler's permit, and parents were present when the Girl Scout cookie sale was shuttered.

One side affect of the crusade against lemonade stands is the fear of police each incident instills in children. Subjecting children to police questioning over trivial incidents, like unlicensed lemonade stands, compromises the trust for police officers we attempt to teach our children. In defense of the officers themselves, most weren't enthused with confronting the treat-bearing scofflaws. In both the Villa Rica and Appleton cases the responsible police departments issued apologies and made amends.

If the examples offered were isolated events we might let them pass. But they're
not isolated. There must be an explanation for government's hostility toward adolescent entrepreneurs. Liberty certainly isn't served when police departments are transformed into lemonade stand task forces. But is there benefit to the State? It would appear so. Over time, children will become accustomed to such bureaucratic meddling, and police presence, in their daily business. The cause of liberty is curtailed while the power of the State intensifies.

Children aren't becoming wealthy selling lemonade by the drink. Nor are their lemonade stands a threat to established businesses, which shouldn't expect protectionist policies in a competitive market anyway. But a child gains valuable lessons in capitalism and self-reliance when they operate a lemonade stand, or any similar part-time business. There lies the problem for the State. Self-reliance is the antithesis of collectivism, as collectivism relies on an ascending State.

Doubtful there's a widespread government conspiracy to socialize the under-16 lemonade market. The lemonade stand per se isn't a threat to government power. However, genuine independence -- learned in youth -- is a danger to the State's authority. The State's natural bent is to restrain self-reliance, and the easiest way to accomplish that goal is to stifle individualism before it starts.

The State has examined the neighborhood lemonade stand and, through necessity rather than conspiracy, deemed it a menace. In fact, the State has examined entrepreneurialism and found it dangerous, except for those entrepreneurs who are willing to play ball with the State. The message is clear. Anyone desiring to enter the business world must do so with the State as a not-so-silent partner. Otherwise, their enterprise will be fined, regulated, egregiously taxed, or closed outright. The decision rests less on the rule of law than on the State's arbitrary and
heavy hand decisions.

What better way to prepare tomorrow's entrepreneurs for the collectivist marketplace than to deny them the ability to operate the simplest of businesses today? Certainly boys and girls can't afford the permits, licenses, insurance policies, and health code upgrades that would put them in compliance with government regulations. However, introducing youth to the bureaucratic swamp is a lesson that serves the State long term. Children become indoctrinated to the concept of the State meddling in all affairs, personal and private. It's a highly effective tactic, for the State.

Some youth will realize the road to business success in America's increasingly socialist economy is to grease the palms and oil the skids of various government councils, boards, and commissions. These few learn to grant deference to the State in earning their individual livelihoods. Others will become discouraged with entrepreneurial pursuits. They will see bureaucracy for the monolithic obstacle to economic advancement it has become, and consider the regulatory burden too heavy to bear.

The State wins in either circumstance. Those willing to conform to the State's mandates acknowledge the State's authority over the individual's ability to exercise life's most basic liberty: the right to earn a living. The nonconformist entrepreneur, who rejects both the idea of begging a bureaucrat for the right to earn a living and being subject to the State's burdensome regulatory oversight, withdraws from the proprietor sector of the marketplace, becoming a wage-earner.

Both the willing conformist and the resigned nonconformist are easier to influence, regulate, and control than the self-reliant entrepreneur. Properly indoctrinated, people view the State as the ultimate arbiter of the ability to earn a living. Whether that authority is considered just or amoral is inconsequential, as long as the State's authority is acknowledged. And it all starts at the lemonade stand.

This article first appeared at American Thinker.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Democrats and Republicans created the Tea Party

If you were born in the 1960s, educated in the 1970s, and emancipated from parental dependence in the 1980s, the ideological differences between Democrats and Republicans were clearly defined. Democrats favored high taxes, government regulation, and wealth redistribution. Republicans advocated low taxes, limited government, and private charity. During the 2000s those lines were blurred.

Republicans gained control of the federal government for the first time in memory. For conservatives the results were underwhelming. The hope was for Republicans to curtail government's growth and influence. Instead, they expanded the federal role in education, healthcare, airport screening, and law enforcement. Budget deficits grew, partially due to wars fought for righteous reasons but with murky objectives, and partially due to tepid efforts at entitlement reform.

Republicans performed so poorly in implementing the party's traditional platform that Democrats campaigned against a spendthrift GOP in two successive elections. Democrats prevailed, quickly revealed their true nature, and exponentially expanded the Washington's fiscal irresponsibility. No astute observer would've expected otherwise.

Despite the constant media harangue over the supposed lack of bipartisan cooperation, politicians of both main parties are alarmingly close in their basic governing philosophies. Washington politicians increasingly, and regardless of party, depend on Washington solutions to validate their worth, secure their status, and increase their authority. But outside the legislative arena the contrast between Democrats and Republicans remains quite clear.

polling indicates that 71-percent of Republicans, and 55-percent of unaffiliated and third party voters, oppose federal programs that create jobs from thin air. On the other end of the spectrum, 54-percent of Democrats think it's a jim-dandy idea for Washington to spend money it doesn't have on jobs the markets aren't demanding. And how do we know the markets aren't demanding those jobs? If they were, the jobs would be created with private wealth and investment.

As the poll indicates, Republican voters still favor limited government and self-sufficiency. Democrat voters are identified by their support for bureaucracy and entitlement. This isn't a problem for Democrats, whose leadership promotes a fast track to government intervention, perfectly reflecting the base's innate liberalism. But GOP legislators too often favor a slow path to big government, directly contradicting the memberships' allegiance to traditional Republican orthodoxies.

The TEA Party was born precisely because the lines between Democrats and Republicans were blurred. The movement reflects the mood of conservatives who are shunned by a blueblood Republican leadership, a leadership that has opposed genuine conservatism at nearly every turn, even to the point of dismissing as archaic the venerable Reagan philosophy.

There's clear public support for traditional Republican concepts. The Republican candidate who best articulates self-reliance, limited government, and free market philosophies has a leg-up for the party's presidential nomination. What's more, he or she gives the GOP its best chance to unseat the highly vulnerable Barack Obama.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The crisis of hysteria

According to polling from Rasmussen Reports, 81-percent of Americans followed the media coverage preceding Hurricane Irene, with 63-percent the reporting favorable reviews. At face value there appears nothing but positives in these poll numbers. But should sensationalism and hysterics warrant positive marks from the public?

Hurricanes are one of nature's most potent forces and ignoring them is unquestionably foolish. Therefore it was perfectly sensible for people to keep an eye on Hurricane Irene, especially if they or their loved ones were in her path. Yet, there's cause for concern when 63-percent of the public believe the coverage of Irene wasn't -- pardon the pun -- overblown.

Playing Monday morning meteorologist isn't difficult. But even the slightest attention to Irene's pre-landfall progress revealed that she was never the catastrophic storm the news and weather media billed her to be. Irene wasn't gaining strength as she tracked north. In fact, she was steadily
weakening. By the time she struck North Carolina's Outer Banks she was a Category One storm, rather common as hurricanes go. While the track may have been unique, there was no need for the newsroom panic that accompanied Irene's approach.

Certainly Irene was no simple summer squall. A hurricane is a hurricane. To the people who lost their property, or their very lives, Hurricane Irene was serious business. But the reports on Irene's pending destruction sounded as if the storm was the offspring of a weekend rendezvous between Hurricane Andrew and Hurricane Katrina. So it goes when the media gins up a crisis of hysteria.

No matter the coming attraction the media will present its potential danger as the end of civilization as we know it. Hurricane Irene was merely the latest illustration of the bombastic partnership that exists between the media and various governmental bodies. The two form an unholy alliance with a track record of sensationalizing harmful situations and fostering public fear.

According to an article titled "Refugees Escape Ravages of Climate Change" (the Journal of Environmental Health, 2003) global warming and environmental destruction would produce 50 million climate refugees by 2010. Entire island chains would disappear beneath rising seas. Zafar Adeel, of the United Nations University, echoed the dire prophesy in December 2006. Where are those 50 million climate change refugees now? What islands have disappeared? The UN's prediction of mass refugees resulting directly from global warming proved to be -- if you'll pardon another pun -- hot air.

Disease is another catastrophe routinely manipulated in media and governmental circles. Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) surfaced in Asia in early 2003 and was immediately treated as the Black Death reincarnate. News viewers were inundated with nightly videos of Chinese people cowering behind facemasks. In reality, the only thing pandemic about SARS was the media
panic. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) confirmed only 8,098 SARS cases worldwide and 774 deaths, mostly in China. Influenza and tuberculosis killed more people than SARS.

If the SARS scare was the only example of the media over-dramatizing microbial threats we might grant them a pass. But the story is too common to dismiss as a singular mistake in reporting, or even an instance of poor judgment.

Bird flu was the dread du jour in 2005. Before anyone knew how serious the strain was, or would become, the
media compared it to a 1918 flu outbreak that killed 50 million people worldwide and half-a-million in the United States. Government organizations, notably the World Health Organization (WHO), joined the media cacophony. The public was berated with prophesies of widespread suffering and death. But bird flu's reality never lived up to the hype and the threat dissipated just as quickly as it came.

Swine flu was another crisis that never quite materialized. World Health Organization flu expert Keiji Fukuda warned that a H1N1 pandemic could
infect up to 2 billion people worldwide. The panic was on. Media outlets filled space with ominous predictions of widespread suffering and death. The world seemed poised for a plague of Biblical proportions. But, like SARS and bird flue, swine flu didn't cooperate with the doomsayers. It was soon discovered that swine flu wasn't as serious as first reported. Thousands, not billions, were infected and relatively few died.

While diseases and natural disasters are nothing to ignore, they're also nothing to manipulate for ratings and political advantage. Yet potential threats to humanity, of which we should be aware, are routinely exaggerated to the point of absurdity. The reason is clear. Crisis benefits both the media and government. Sensationalism sells news and promotes fear. Under the threat of possible harm people will exchange their liberty for government's oft-empty promise of security. The worse a looming disaster appears the more people will hang on the media's reports and demand government action. Hysteria breeds ratings for media outlets and dependency on government.

There's nothing wrong with reporting potential disasters or planning for unpredictable scenarios. Preparation is common sense and people should be aware of imminent or possible threats. However, journalism and bureaucracy have a long history of blowing biological and meteorological threats completely out of proportion. Informing the public of anticipated events is mundane. Thus cataclysmic crises are created whether or not they exist.

The language used to report possible harms, whether in the form of disease or natural disaster, can be a greater threat to public safety than the dangers themselves. The so-called experts have cried wolf so often that their credibility is shattered. The media and governments bear a responsibility to maintain the public's trust. That bond has been sacrificed to the pursuit of ratings and authority.

The next danger will surface soon enough. Maybe it will be another hurricane, or the tropical rainstorm drenching the gulf coast. Flu season is just around the corner. Whatever the source, the media and government will the treat that threat like a combination of Pompeii and the Chicago Fire before it reaches a serious level, further eroding the public's trust. When a crisis worthy of widespread hysteria does arise, will anyone pay attention to their warnings?