Thursday, April 29, 2010

Analysis of the Sudanese Elections

The Southern Sudanese opposition boycotted the recent elections in Sudan because of a lack of proper election safeguards. Sudanese dictator and war criminal Omar al-Bashir was easily reelected. He threatened that the boycott would jeopardize next year’s referendum on Southern Sudanese independence. The planned referendum was part of the deal negotiated by the United States under President George W. Bush that ended the two-decade-long civil war that claimed more than a million lives. The predominantly Arab Muslim Sudanese government in Khartoum had grossly violated the human rights of the Christian and animist Southern Sudanese.

In addition to human rights violations, Sudan has a history of sponsoring terrorism (e.g. it harbored Osama bin Laden in the 1990s). The Southern Sudanese independence referendum is significant to the war being waged against non-Muslims by militant Muslims, like the one held in East Timor a decade ago to which militant Muslims reacted violently, as they oppose giving up any territory to non-Muslims.

The civil war that was fought in Southern Sudan is separate from the current violence in Darfur, where the Arab Muslim government is complicit in the genocide against black Muslims being committed by Arab militia.

Blog Notes and Update on the Federal Student Loan Monopoly

I am sorry that I have not posted as frequently lately, although two of my posts this month were unusually long, as one was a report on the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference (PLC) and the other was a digest of foreign news. Also, I posted a lengthy comment in response to a question posted by a visitor to my post Two Big Myths about the Founding Fathers, from April of 2009.

I would like to thank the Commonwealth Foundation for linking to my report on the PLC on its blog. That post represents an example of how bloggers can be journalists, a legal question that has arisen again recently.

I hope my readers do not mind my occasional repetition, but, as in broadcast journalism, there is a “tune-in factor,” as my counter reveals; Visitors may view a newer post, but not necessarily a previous similar or related one.

Please make use of the search bar on my blog. However, I discovered recently that it no longer seems to be picking up my earliest posts. I shall endeavor to work around this deficiency in order to better serve my readers, at least by specifying the month and year, as I did above, in order to be able to find it through the archives listed on the left-hand column.

I shall take this opportunity to note my prediction of job losses because of the federal takeover of students loans came true (See my post Anti-Monopoly Liberal “Progressives” Create a Student Loan Monopoly, March of 2010), as Sally Mae, the largest lender to students in the United States, announced the next day that it would lay off 2,500 student loan experts.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Three Facts the Obama Administration Needs to Learn

I am sure that there are more, especially matters of basic economics, but I have compiled a list of facts the Obama Administration needs to learn:

Bonuses are not extra pay. They are lump-sum payments that are part of an employee’s annual salary, which is understood by the employee at the time of hiring and often are even part of the conract. Therefore, bonuses are not necessarily awarded for merit, although they often are related to the performance of the company;

The purpose of insurance is to spread risk for future contingencies. A person with a pre-existing condition is, therefore, uninsurable for health. Such an individual does not spread risk because there is no chance that he might be healthy and thus continue to contribute to the pool of money, but instead would certainly receive money without contributing anything to the pool. Therefore, there can be no such thing as “health insurance” for a person with a pre-existing condition. There would have to been another kind of contingency insurance for such individuals with some other name;

Anywhere a terrorist strikes is a battleground, such as aboard an airplane, not just in war zones.

Perhaps you can develop further the list of facts the Obama Administration needs to learn.

The Decline of the European Monetary Union

As a federalist, I have long been a skeptic of European centrism, especially the European Monetary Union that replaced the national currencies of its members with the Euro. At the time of its formation, I expected that union eventually to fail because of the loss of sovereignty of each member state over monetary policy to respond to changing conditions. That failure has begun.

Overspending in some members of the Eurozone has weakened the value of the Euro by causing inflation. Greece has had to launch a drastic austerity program in order to reduce its massive debt. Portugal’s debt rating has decreased, while Ireland and even Spain and Italy are also under pressure to reduce their debt.

It has become necessary for the wealthier states that use the Euro, namely Germany, together with the International Monetary Fund, to bail out Greece. Greece has lost temporarily even the sovereign right to vote at the European Monetary Union over monetary policy.

There are other problems with European integration in general. I was skeptical from the beginning also of the creation of the European free trade zone, which, because the European Union did not adopt a free trade policy with the United States, appeared to be intended as a rival to the U.S. instead of a partner. Free trade within the European Union makes economic sense, just as it does within the American Union. However, just as the American federal government has centralized more and more power, those who advocate a European superstate have been centralizing more and more power in the European Union. For example, the integration of entry and immigration policies within the E.U. has caused security problems and disparities and European coordination over defense and foreign policy has encouraged weakness, while European integration has supplanted Europe’s Christian heritage with the faith of Statism. European integration minimizes the cultural diversity of Europe, in the name of “diversity,” which usually refers only to non-Christians. Indeed, growing European integration increasingly has reduced the sovereignty of its member states in ever more ways.

Perhaps the Greek debt crisis will encourage the European centralizers to reconsider their ideas and instead adopt a more minimalist approach to federalism, just as Americans should demand that the federal government abide by the principles of the Framers of the United States Constitution and limit federal power only to federal matters. Both the European and American Unions should respect the principle of subsidiarity by leaving other powers in the hands of their member states, where it is closer to the people.

Report from the 2010 Pennsylvania Leadership Conference

For the first time in several years, now that my service on my local school board is complete, I was able to attend the annual Pennsylvania Leadership Conference, the annual gathering of conservative activists in the Keystone State. A project of the Pennsylvania Leadership Council, the conference is sponsored by the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association and was co-sponsored by Let Freedom Ring and the Constitutional Organization of Liberty.

United States Senate Candidate Pat Toomey was among the speakers, as well as the two major Republican candidates for Governor, Attorney General Tom Corbett and State Representative Sam Rohrer. Major speakers included political consultant Dick Morris, pollster Kellyanne (Fitzpatrick) Conway and former Governor and U.S. Attorney General Richard Thornburgh.

Morris, the keynote speaker, discussed voter disapproval of the overspending, borrowing and taxing of the federal government under Democratic leadership, as well as the federal takeover of more and more of the economy. He noted that the U.S. had controlled 30% of the economy at the start of the Obama Administration, which increased to 35%, but would rise to 40% because of the federalization of health insurance. “Socialism is a statistic,” because it is a measure of government control of the economy, Morris said, and the 40% federal government share, which he compared to some of the Western European economies, represents socialism. He stated his belief that President Barak Obama’s goal in increasing spending was to force the Republicans to raise taxes, which they will not.

The former advisor to President Bill Clinton recalled how Clinton was in negotiations with the new Republican majority in Congress in 1995 to balance the budget. The plan being discussed was intended to balance the budget with spending cuts by 2008 (note: otherwise, the Clinton Administration, despite its so-called “deficit-reduction” tax increases, had predicted $200 billion budget deficits indefinitely). House Speaker Newt Gingrich insisted on a reduction of the capital gains tax rate from 28% to 20%, to which Clinton agreed. Morris confirmed the theory I put forth in earlier posts that it was the Republican Congress that led to the balanced budget, not only because of the spending cuts, but because of the tax cuts, as he noted that revenues increased dramatically because of the capital gains tax cut and the budget was balanced in just 18 months!

Morris predicted a Republican takeover of both houses of Congress in November, with the GOP winning at least 52 Senate and 228 House seats (for a majority of at least +2 and +10, respectively). The political destiny of the U.S. “is in Pennsylvania’s hands,” Morris declared, as he predicted that Pennsylvania would elect Toomey to the Senate to replace Democrat Arlen Specter, and that Democratic Representatives Dahlkemper, Altmire, Murphy, Carney, Kanjorski and Holden would all be defeated and the GOP would win the open seat formerly held by Democrat John Murtha. The former liberal Democrat observed that “there is no such thing as a moderate or conservative Democrat” in Congress because no matter how conservative he might be, he is pledged to vote for Nancy Pelosi for House Speaker or Harry Reid for Senate Majority Leader. “No other vote matters,” Morris said, because it is the vote that determines the legislative agenda.

Morris said that the value of the Tea Party movement was both to energize the Republican Party and to cleanse it. He urged the support only of Republican candidates who take the Americans for Tax Reform pledge not to raise taxes. Morris called for an end to congressional earmarks. He refuted Obama’s contention that he inherited a $1.3 trillion budget deficit for 2009, noting that the deficit was $600 billion, plus the $700 billion TARP program, which was a loan, of which $500 billion has been repaid with interest, which Obama has spent.

Morris explained how a Republican Congressional majority could defund the federalization of health insurance without even repealing it, first by restoring its cuts to Medicare and second, because the act is an authorization bill and not an appropriation bill, the Congress can reject any appropriations to implement it.

Kellyanne Conway revealed interesting polling data: She affirmed that “women’s issues” are the same as men’s issues; women are equally concerned about economic issues; Whereas the 2008 elections were about the attributes of individual candidates, the 2010 elections would be about issues; Jobs were the main issue of voter concern; Despite the liberal belief that people would like the federalization of health insurance once they understood it, they object to the costs and are opposed to the federal mandate to buy health insurance. Like Morris, she urged people to run for public office, as free market conservatives believe in competition. Conway cited statistics about Tea Party activists that dispelled the liberal stereotypes; she found that they are mostly female and educated better than average, for example. Also like Morris, she explained the advantage of using communication technology to advance conservatism instead of through the media. Conway emphasized the importance of framing the issues as “conservative vs. liberal,” instead of “Republican vs. Democrat,” and observed that liberals no longer even want to be called by that name, preferring to be called “progressive,” which she urged conservatives not to use. Conway advised Pennsylvania’s conservatives to support the democratic election its judges over proposals to let the Governor appoint them. She is confident of significant conservative gains in the 2010 elections.

As always, there were numerous policy panels, including ecnomic and fiscal issues, education and marriage, some of which I was able to attend. One panel of particular interest to me was entitled “Beyond Corruption: Transparency, Accountability and Reform.” Columnist Chris Freind observed that because of corruption, citizen access to government is denied and there are increased costs to the taxpayers and businesses. He called for more sunshine to deter corruption. My good friend, Joseph Sterns, of the Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania noted the state Constitution declares the people to be sovereign, but does not enumerate the means, such as referendum and initiative. He explained that constitutional amendments may be approved by referendum, but only after the General Assembly has approved the proposed amendment in two consecutive legislative sessions. Because of the corruption in Pennsylvania, Sterns called for a limited citizens’ constitutional convention (See State Representative Curt Schroeder agreed with Sterns and discussed Pennsylvania’s lack of proper oversight of gambling and also lamented the lack of proper judicial discipline. Representative Doug Reichley expounded on Freind’s comments about no-bid contracts, including for Democratic Governor Ed Rendell’s own law firm for legislative advice even though the state has lawyers employed for that purpose. He called for an end of the abuse of such “emergency” contracts and for a requirement that that requests for proposals be sought for contracts for services above $100,000.

Former Governor Thornburgh stressed the individual over big business, big government and big labor. He objected to the imposition of uniformity despite the diversity of the states and declared that because state government is closer to the people, it is wiser than the federal government. Thornburgh emphasized the need for smaller government and lower taxes and called for a federal balanced budget amendment and line item veto, tools he used to balance Pennsylvania’s budget and cut taxes. The former U.S. Attorney General under Presidents Ronald and George H.W. Bush expressed support for toughness on crime, including public corruption, for which he called for greater transparency, and on terrorism.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Foreign Notes: Afghan and Iraqi Elections; U.S.-Russian Treaty; Sympathy for Poland

Afghan elections
The Afghan elections a few months ago have generated an ongoing controversy because of the disputed results and because of recent accusations from Afghan President Hamid Karzai of interference by the Obama Administration on behalf of his opponent. Although the liberal media and the Obama Administration and its supporters made much of the accusations of fraud committed by Karzai’s party, the fact is that he easily won a plurality of the vote for reelection, which would be sufficient in many foreign and American states for victory. However, Afghanistan’s Constitution requires a run-off election by the top two candidates. The only issue, then, was whether the incumbent had won a majority over former Foreign Minister Abdullah.

I am confident that Abdullah, the former leader of the Northern Alliance – the U.S. recognized government of Afghanistan that controlled the northeast of the country during the Taliban regime – would make a good Afghan president, but Karzai won far more votes than did Abdullah.

Iraqi elections
I have held off on commenting about the recent parliamentary elections in Iraq first because of the delay in the vote count and second because without any party winning a majority, a coalition must be formed to govern the republic. But I can take this opportunity to analyze what is known about the elections thus far, which appear to be highly successful. Unlike in Afghanistan, there were no serious incidents of fraud.

Millions of Iraqis voted, despite the threat of militant Muslim terrorists. The elections were mostly peaceful. A significantly increased number of votes cast by Sunni Muslim Arabs produced a record turnout. The participation of the Sunni Arabs is recognized as essential for Iraq’s democracy.

A secular Sunni party led by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi won a plurality of votes, barely edging out the party led by current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shi’ite. It is possible that both parties could be part of the governing coalition. The results are thus a clear rejection of militant Islamists, in the form of either pro-Iranian Shi’ites or pro-al Qaeda Sunnis.

U.S.-Russian nuclear treaty
The Obama Administration negotiated nuclear weapons cuts with Russia without giving up missile defense, although the treaty does allow Russia to back out if it objects to NATO’s implementation of missile defense in Eastern Europe. After United States President George W. Bush won unanimous backing from NATO to host the missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, the Obama Administration plans to locate it instead in Southeastern Europe, which Russia regards as less objectionable (See my post Obama Betrays Allies, Appeases Russia).

A treaty must be ratified with the advice and consent of at least two thirds of the U.S. Senate. Many Senators are concerned about the treaty’s linkages to missile defense. Other objections from Republican and other Senators are less about the treaty, but more about the Obama Administration’s overall nuclear policy, which it recently announced. Among other changes, the Obama Administration has ended longstanding U.S. policy of ambiguity by announcing in which situations the U.S. would or would not use nuclear weapons, which has concerned Senators that American enemies might be emboldened to attack without fear of nuclear annihilation.

The Moscow Treaty negotiated by George W. Bush and Russia cut nuclear weapons more than Obama’s treaty. It easily was ratified by the Senate. Bush successfully implemented missile defense on American soil, despite Russian objections.

Sympathy for Poland
The loss of Poland’s President Lech Kaczynski in a plane crash in Russia was tragic, but the loss of so many senior Polish governmental and civic leaders is devastating.

The Conservative president had been a leader of the Solidarity union in 1980, during the Cold War. Kaczynski was pro-American, although the Obama Administration’s decision to relocate missile defense from Poland left him feeling betrayed.

The plane was primarily full of Polish leaders on a delegation to Katyn, Russia to observe the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre, during which over 20,000 Polish officers and priests were murdered by the Soviets after the Soviet Union and its Nazi German allies had invaded and divided up Poland. Indeed, much of Poland’s intelligentsia was slaughtered by the Nazis and Soviets during the Second World War, which makes the plane crash especially ironic.

The Catholic Church in Poland was one institution that worked to maintain Polish cultural identity, in addition to faith and morals, an effort for which Karol Wojtyla, the Bishop of Cracow who later became Pope John Paul II, was especially successful. He backed the Solidarity movement that helped bring down Communism in Eastern Europe.

When the Polish Communist government banned Solidarity and imposed martial law in December, 1981, U.S. President Ronald Reagan imposed economic sanctions on Poland and worked with the Vatican to support Polish dissidents. I remember that he asked Americans to place a candle in their windows in order to remember the suffering of the Poles. May we keep Poland in our thoughts and prayers once again.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Annual Blog Report; Happy Easter

I am grateful to you, my dear readers, for having visited my blog 1,650 times since I installed StatCounter on April 2, 2009. Thank you for making it a success!

Note: I strictly define a visit as a web page view at least one hour after the previous page view, and I do not count my own visits, which are blocked by the counter. If I counted all page views as hits, except my own, there would be nearly 2,300.

Approximately 100 people initiated their visit to my blog on its homepage, visiting over 350 times. Another approximately 1,180 people initiated their visit to my blog at one of its posts, accounting for nearly 1,300 visits; nearly a tenth of this group of visitors additionally went on to view my homepage or other posts.

My blog has been visited from at least 49 American states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, as well as 63 foreign states and Hong Kong. It was even visited from states like Djibouti, Burkina Faso and Samoa! Other than visits from my state of Pennsylvania, the ones from American states tend to be fairly proportionate to the population, with the most from California with over 100, followed by a group of the largest states nearly in descending order, with New Jersey and Washington being exceptionally higher than their size. Among foreign states, the most visits came from Malaysia, with over 100, followed by Canada (48), and the United Kingdom (36). There were over 20 visits each also from Algeria, India and Pakistan. After my own city of Reading (with well over 100), the next most visits came from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with over 60.

My blog has been visited by the Holy See in Vatican City, and several times by the United States House of Representatives, as well as several other federal agencies (the U.S. Department of Labor, the General Accounting Office, the Navy, the Marines and the Centers for Disease Control), as well as by the State of Utah, the Pennsylvania Senate, agencies in several other American states and numerous municipalities, as well as the Irish Government, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Canadian Province of British Columbia.

Visits to my blog have come from 40 American and 9 foreign colleges and universities, as well as numerous American and Canadian public schools, and the state education departments of Utah, Georgia and Kentucky.

Visits from the media have included The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The San Antonio Express, NBC and CBS (twice). There have been numerous visits from other businesses, including a number of Fortune 500 Companies, including three of the 30 industrials that comprise the Dow Jones Industrial Average, although one of them, General Motors, could also be listed as a federal agency.

More than half of the posts to my blog have been visited, even though it was launched over four months before the counter was installed and about a tenth of the posts are reports like this one or other personal notes. The most popular posts to my blog among those visitors whose visit was initiated at one of its posts were the following: The Rise and Fall of Islamic Civilization (327); The Economy, Deficit and Debt at George W. Bush’s Inauguration (185); Obama Did Not Inherit the Economy From Bush (85); Radicals in the Obama Administration (68); and Follow-up on the Fall of Islamic Civilization (52). Other posts that were visited 25-50 times included the following, in descending order: Lepanto, by G.K. Chesterton; Analysis of Obama’s Economic and Fiscal Policies; Father Stanley Jaki, Rest in Peace; The Commerce Clause Limits Federal Power to Mandate the Purchase of Health Insurance; Two Big Myths About the Founding Fathers; Misleading Media Phrases; Herb Denenberg, In Memoriam; and A Comparison of the Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina and the Haitian Earthquake.

The most visits in one day was 22 on March 19, 2010, followed by 18 on April 8, 2009, 17 on January 20, 2010 and March 25, 2010, and 16 on March 24, 2010.

Again, thank you for visiting my blog! Please visit at least once a week. As always, your comments and suggestions, whether posted on the blog or communicated to me privately, are always welcome.

I wish you all a Happy Easter!