Wednesday, August 31, 2011

New Study Confirms Doubts about the Alleged Jefferson-Hemmings Affair

     A new scholarly study has confirmed the doubts that Thomas Jefferson fathered the child of his slave, Sally Hemmings, the Washington Times reported.

     The Times reports that a panel of thirteen scholars were nearly unanimous in concluding their serious skepticism of the truth of the allegation of the Jefferson-Hemmings affair and some of the scholars even concluded the allegation was false.  Their report, commissioned by the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society, will be published in a book, the Times reported.  The Times article details the historical and scientific basis for doubting the conclusion reached after a 1998 DNA test of the descendant of the slave child of Jefferson's paternity.

     I was one historian who has been skeptical from the beginning of the Y-chromosome DNA test that could only prove that a member of the Jefferson family, but not necessarily Thomas Jefferson himself, had fathered the child, because the test only determines one's patrilinear lineage, not one's individual paternity.  In other words, one inherits Y-chromosome DNA from one's male ancestors, but the test can only identify that one of the males of the same generation (i.e. brothers) must have been the father of an individual; it cannot identify which one specifically.  Thus, the Founding Father's brother, Richard Jefferson, was an equal suspect based upon the scientific evidence.  As the study reported in the Times suggests, he was a more likely one based upon the historical evidence. 

     In my post, Clinton Wrong to Compare Sanger with Jefferson,, from April of 2009, I explained why the Left seeks to besmirch the Founding Fathers, especially Thomas Jefferson for owning slaves, in order to defend their own misdeeds or for other political reasons.  Although I did not address the Hemmings allegations in that post specifically, I did touch upon the Left's iconoclasm towards the Founders that allows them to co-opt certain ideals they choose selectively, while condemning America through ad hominem arguments against its Founding Fathers.  The iconoclasm allows the liberals to dismiss any ideals from the Founders, and especially the Framers of the Constitution, with which they disagree by dismissing the Founders as hypocrites.  Some on the Left can even condemn America by claiming it was evil from the beginning.

     Central to the Left's argument was not only Jefferson's slaveholding, which I addressed in that earlier post, but especially the allegation that he had fathered a child with his slave.  It was not surprising, therefore, that the same liberals who would have defended strongly a suspect legally in court who were facing similar charges were quick to convict Jefferson with the verdict of history and sully his reputation. 

     At best, the scholarly study casts serious doubts on the allegation that Jefferson fathered Hemmings' child.  Based on all the evidence, it at least appears unfair to insist upon the allegation's veracity.  Indeed, it seems more probable that the allegation is false.  The alleged affair has no place in Jefferson's biography, except as a footnote as an example of liberal revisionism.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Update: The Italian Government Drops Its Proposal to Raise Taxes

     Despite pressure from the European Monetary Union, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has dropped his government's proposal to raise taxes on the upper classes as part of Italy's austerity program, according to Breitbart.

     I had posted earlier this month about the loss of sovereignty of members of the Eurozone.  This latest round of austerity measures had included a tax increase, despite opposition from Berlusconi, in addition to spending cuts. After the coalition government's junior partner, the Northern League, objected to the tax increase, the government proposed a further increase of measures to collect delinquent taxes.  The new program will equal the $66 billion figure of the original proposal, Breitbart reports.  Thus, as before, the austerity program will balance Italy's budget by 2013 instead of 2014, which had been the original plan prior to the new pressure from the Monetary Union to accelerate the program.  Nevertheless, this process underscores the potential loss of national sovereignty of members of the Eurozone beyond the loss of monetary policy, such as has been most evident in Greece, for example.  Greece raised taxes, which has decreased sharply its growth rate, in addition to cutting spending. 

     The dropping of the proposed tax increase will avoid a blow to Italy's meager economic growth rate, as higher taxes reduce spending, work and investment.  I commend the Italian centre-right coalition government for resisting the European Monetary Union's pressure.  Italy is not only modelling sound fiscal policy, but standing up for national sovereignty.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Arizona’s Challenge to the Constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act

     Arizona is challenging the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act of 1964, arguing that it treats states differently and continues to impose severe, burdensome restrictions on Arizona that are no longer necessary, according to an article by the Conservative News Service.

     As I mentioned in an my post, Happy Independence Day, in July of 2009,, about a challenge by a Texas polling locality, even the most minor changes to voting procedures are subject to federal review. In that case, the United States Supreme Court did loosen some of the restrictions.

     The CNS article reported that Arizona argues that the Act, with which Arizona has complied by printing ballots in Spanish since 1973, has different standards for counting residents of Hispanic heritage and assumes that anyone with Hispanic surnames cannot speak English.

     As a resident and political activist of a city with a large Hispanic population, Reading, Pennsylvania, I have personal knowledge of some of the particular problems of how this law is being executed in regard to protecting Hispanic voters from discrimination. In addition to requiring that all city ballots be printed in Spanish, the Justice Department counts as “Hispanic” by guessing that anyone whose name sounds Hispanic probably is, whether or not it is. The feds also count non-Hispanic females who marry Hispanics and take Hispanic surnames. The Justice Department uses these inflated figures in order to reach a 10% threshold per precinct to require that precinct to have an interpreter – at local taxpayer expense. An additional factor is the reduction of the anti-fraud practice of purging of voter rolls because of the Motor Voter Act, which is particularly inflationary of the number of Hispanic voters, who tend to be transient. For example, it is not uncommon for the previous occupants of a housing unit to still be registered at that address, as well as the ones before them!

     The reason the feds believed there was discrimination in the first place in Reading is questionable. Not only, as Arizona implies, is the Justice Department itself prejudicial against Hispanics because it assumes they cannot read English, but it is also prejudicial against election workers by assuming they are necessarily prejudicial. Assuming that a class of people (e.g. non-Hispanic election workers, whites, Southerners, etc.) is prejudiced, is itself a form of prejudice. The feds assume that problems encountered by Hispanic voters are necessarily because of prejudice, but the problem with these mostly Democratic election officials is not usually discrimination, but either incompetence or conscientiousness about carrying out election law, which is a particularly challenging task in regard to new voters coming from different cultures. For example, Puerto Rican voters tend to vote at the nearest school, as they do in Puerto Rico, but it is often not their precinct’s polling place. Also, Hispanics often use more variations of their names than non-Hispanics (especially because of the custom of using their mother’s maiden name, and, if so, whether or not to hyphenate it after their surname). Elections workers simply doing their jobs by directing Hispanics to their correct polling place instead of issuing them provisional ballots or questioning their identity when their names do not match is considering “discrimination” by the feds. 

     I shall take this opportunity to question the usefulness of printing ballots in Spanish or any other language that uses the Latin alphabet, as a candidate’s name in English is the same in Spanish, for example, with only the names of the offices and instructions needing translation. Such translations are usually provided separately already, which ought to suffice, instead of appearing on the ballot. Indeed, it is impossible to accurately translate the name of an office. “Mayor” and “Sheriff,” for example, may be translated into Spanish, but be understood as quite a different type of office, just as those offices vary in power from State to State within the Union. Therefore, those who rely upon such translations are not truly voting to elect a candidate to an office that exists. 

     A larger issue that state challenges to the Voter Rights Act raise is that the federal government constitutionally only has the power to regulate federal elections, not state elections. The burdensome restrictions imposed by federal interpretation of that law are applied to all elections, federal and state, even though the United States has no authority under Article I, Section 4 to regulate state elections. It allows States to regulate federal elections, but reserves the power to alter those regulations. However, States are not prohibited from regulating their own elections. Therefore, federal regulation of state elections violates the 10th Amendment, which reserves powers not delegated to the federal Union and that the Constitution does not prohibit the States from exercising to the States and the people.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Update: A Federal Appeals Court Rules Obama’s Mandate to Purchase Health Insurance Unconstitutional

     A United States federal appeals court has upheld a district court ruling that the individual federal mandate to purchase health insurance is unconstitutional. The mandate is part of the federalization of health insurance proposed and signed into law by President Barak Obama.

     Twenty-six States, led by Florida, are suing the federal government over the federal takeover of health insurance, as is Virginia in a separate case. The 26 States’ main argument is against the mandate to purchase health insurance, on the grounds that the federal government lacks constitutional authority to impose it. At stake are the rights of the States to regulate intrastate commerce, as opposed to the federal power to regulate only interstate commerce (the Commerce Clause of the Constitution), as well as the liberty of the people.

     In a stunning decision, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the Florida federal district court ruling in favor of the states, noting the lack of constitutional authority. By a 2-1 majority, the court rejected the Obama Administration’s argument that the power to regulate interstate commerce grants the federal government the authority to regulate all matters of economic authority – even to the extent of forcing someone to purchase a particular good or service. The majority, which included judges appointed by both Republican and Democratic presidents, observed that not only would individuals be required to purchase a service they did not want under the plan, but to continue to purchase it every month for the rest of their lives. In its lengthy opinion, the Court of Appeals rejected the Obama Administration’s notion that there are no limits to federal power in regard to economic matters and noted the slippery slope toward regulating every economic decision by every citizen.

     It is remarkable that the Left expected no court, much less a federal appeals court, to rule the mandate unconstitutional. Liberals arrogantly believe that there are no limits to government power. Worse, they believe there ought not to be any limits to the power of the federal government, despite the Constitutional principles of limited government and federalism that reserves rights to the States. When the federalization of health insurance and its individual mandate were proposed, the Obama Administration, the liberal Democratic Congress that passed it and their supporters on the Left confidently assumed the federal government had the power to impose such a mandate and categorically dismissed any question that was raised as to whether it did. These liberals cited various parts of the Constitution as the source of such authority. Even the Administration undermined its argument by making contradictory claims of authority. As I have noted in previous posts, liberals have grown smug in expanding federal power especially through the Commerce Clause that grants the United States authority only to regulate interstate commerce. They have gradually expanded that power to include all commerce, beyond only commerce that occurs between states. In this case, they sought to expand federal power even further to regulate personal decisions not to engage in commerce. Indeed, the Administration had argued that the acceptance of this gradual expansion of federal economic power justified even further expansion of federal power.

     Now, not only have two federal district courts, but even a federal appeals court ruled the mandate unconstitutional, but because there have been contrary opinions by courts of appeals in other cases (in which no state has been a party), the appeals court ruling makes it more likely the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the appeal and settle the matter once and for all. It is highly possible the Court could declare the mandate, the linchpin of Obama’s federalization of health insurance, unconstitutional.

     Even though these federal court rulings so far have been on the narrow grounds of whether or not a decision not to engage in commerce constitutes interstate commerce, and not on the broader question of whether any commerce that occurs only within a state can be considered interstate commerce, they are nonetheless striking a major blow to liberal efforts to expand federal power in violation of the rights of the States and the people. They are finally drawing a bright line past which the powers claimed by the federal government cannot extend and are thereby upholding federalism, but the liberty of the people.

The European Monetary Union Violates More National Sovereignty

     I had posted previously that Greece has lost more of its sovereignty because of its bailout by the European Monetary Union, as a result of the sovereignty that all members of the Monetary Union lost when they gave up their national currencies in favor of the euro. Now, Italy has also lost additional sovereignty.

     Under pressure from the European Monetary Union because of its high public debt (120% of Italy’s relatively large Gross Domestic Product, which makes it the third or fourth highest amount in the world), the Italian government has proposed yet another austerity program, which accelerates the previous austerity program, which was in addition to earlier austerity measures.  I have been posting about these developments since last year.  As I mentioned in my last post, the latest austerity program had been praised by the Monetary Union, which then panicked not long afterward and insisted on a larger, more accelerated plan to balance Italy's budget. The new program includes a number of additional reductions in spending and the size of Italy’s bureaucracy, as well as a few measures that might increase economic growth to some degree. Alas, it also includes a tax increase on the upper class that the Italian center-right government had opposed, but was compelled to propose by the Monetary Union.

     Income tax increases reduce economic growth by taking more money out of the economy and by disincentivizing higher earnings from work or investment. In turn, the decreased prosperity reduces government revenue. For example, the loss of revenue because of a tax increase was one of the reasons that Greece was forced to accept additional austerity measures earlier this year. Like Greece, Italy’s economy, with its meager 1% GDP growth, is especially vulnerable at this time to the effects of a tax increase. But for the pressure from the European Monetary Union, Italy would likely have avoided the tax increase.

     Ever since the introduction of the European Common Market, and especially the Monetary Union, I have believed that the loss of national sovereignty eventually would be problematic and that member states, especially in the Eurozone, would come to regret their decision to join. The current European debt crisis is increasingly exposing the folly of the scheme and how its violations of sovereignty are harmful to Europeans.

Friday, August 5, 2011

European Monetary Union Update: Spain and Italy

     As expected, the contagion from the debt crisis in Greece, Ireland and Portugal is affecting Spain and Italy. More accurately, it is concerns in the market more than structural flaws that are undermining investor confidence in the two large southern European economies.

     Spain and Italy have undertaken austerity measures to ward off the contagion that spreads by exposure of banks to Greek, Irish or Portuguese sovereign debt, in addition to the general concern that too much public debt will prevent a government from being able to repay its bondholders, just as happened in those three states. Italy, which has the eighth highest gross domestic product in the world, but whose government also has one of the largest public debts (which is about 120% of its GDP), was praised by the European Monetary Union and others for its government’s recent passage of a second austerity package that included more spending cuts.

     But then, something happened. Investors became increasingly fearful that Spanish and Italian governments and banks would be unable to meet their financial obligations. As I had posted previously, although Spain was of much greater concern than smaller Greece, Ireland or Portugal, Italy is increasingly recognized as the firewall for the European Monetary Union. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi reassured the world that Italy had undertaken the right fiscal measures, that its banks were well-capitalized and that the Italian people had relatively large savings. However, Berlusconi’s remarks that were intended to increase investor confidence in the face of market speculation against Italian banks were misinterpreted as not recognizing the risk. The market lost confidence that the size and pace of the measures were adequate, especially given Italy’s weak economic growth.

     Italian business leaders, the European Monetary Union and others have been encouraging Italy to accelerate its austerity program and to adopt policies that promote economic growth. ANSA reports that the Italian government is considering a package of reforms, such as spending cuts (especially to welfare), privatization, reduced regulation, acceleration of infrastructure projects, tax reform and increased prevention of tax evasion. There are also media reports that the European Central Bank will buy Spanish and Italian bonds, if the Italian government undertakes the necessary steps. If it does, the crisis might ease, but the dangers of too much sovereign debt in general and the euro project in particular will have been exposed.

External Influences on the U.S. Economy Are an Excuse for Obama, but Not for Bush

     Lately, the Obama Administration has been blaming the recent economic slowdown in the United States on the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, the European debt crisis and the Arab Spring and the global rise in energy prices. At least now the Administration is not blaming everything on former President George W. Bush. 
     There is some merit to the argument of the Obama Administration and its defenders that external influences and other such matters beyond a president’s control can have an impact on the economy, although the economy’s current underlying weakness is at least partly attributable to some of the Administration’s policies. But it was different when Bush was in office. Then, he was blamed for every economic ill that befell the American economy caused by external influences by the same liberals who are now excusing Obama.

     When Bush came into office in 2001, an economic slowdown had been ongoing since the year before. Not long after, a series of scandals shook confidence in American businesses. Then, just as the economy began to recover after his tax cuts were signed into law, the September 11 Attacks occurred. September 11 represented a trillion-dollar blow to the economy. There was little public surprise when a recession was the result. After the tax cuts took effect more fully in tax year 2002 and the approval of additional tax cuts, the American economy began to recover gradually once again. Then, in mid-2005, energy prices rose sharply because of increased demand from developing countries as the global economy was prospering. Although inflation remained surprisingly low, despite the increase in energy prices, the resulting slight rise in interest rates was enough to burst the housing bubble and touch off the financial crisis and the Panic of 2008, which sent the global economy into the Great Recession. Also, during the later part of the Bush Administration, unlike during the Clinton Administration, most Americans lived in states with Democratic governors who raised taxes, which slowed growth across the Union. In short, the economy during the Bush Administration was hampered by a slowdown that began before he took office, business scandals, the September 11 Attacks, the rise in energy prices, the bursting of the housing bubble and anti-growth state policies – all matters beyond Bush’s control.

     Yet, liberals blame Bush for everything bad in the American economy. They ignore the years of prosperity from 2002-2008, when the economy grew with low unemployment, low inflation and low interest rates, despite all the external challenges, while they do not hold their liberal governors’ to the same standard. The liberals also do not acknowledge any responsibility of the liberal Democratic Congress of the last two years of the Bush Administration that refused the Administration’s repeated requests to extend the Bush tax cuts and to regulate better the federally-backed mortgage corporations that were at the heart of the bursting of the housing bubble that led to the financial crisis which exacerbated what would have been an average recession into the worst one in decades. 

     I have often posted that the purpose of government is to protect the liberty of the people, not to manage the economy. Prosperity is often a result of greater liberty, achieved by wise, but minimal law, but prosperity is not the purpose of government. Except for socialist regimes, governments cannot even propose to guarantee economic results, in part because of matters beyond their control. Although it is necessary to point out that liberals have been applying a double standard to government responsibility for economic performance, it is more important to focus on how government’s policies are unnecessarily slowing economic growth by unwise policies that restrict economic freedom.

     The Obama Administration, which came to power promising an improvement in the economy, which it considered its responsibility to guarantee, has failed to implement sound policies that increase liberty economically. Although external matters are hampering its efforts, the Obama Administration must be judged by the same standard it applied to the previous Administration it criticized and promised to apply to itself. Therefore, external matters ought not to be an excuse for an Administration that came to power insisting that everything in the American economy is attributable not only to government, and not only to the federal government, but in particular only to the policies of the President of the United States. We conservatives must continue to focus on promoting fiscally responsible policies that encourage economic growth and increase economic freedom.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Conservative Analysis of the Deal to Raise the U.S. Debt Limit

     Although it is not good for the United States to raise its $14.3 trillion debt limit and continue its pace of far too much spending, for the first time the increase in the debt limit will now be offset with spending reductions, without any tax increases because of the bipartisan debt limit deal approved by both houses of Congress.

     These initial spending cuts of over $900 billion over ten years will occur mostly in discretionary spending, not defense or entitlements. In fact, these cuts total slightly more than the amount of spending they offset. Because a current Congress cannot bind future Congresses, oftentimes in such deals the spending cuts never occur. Therefore, it is significant that in this deal, over $60 billion in cuts will take place during this Congress.

     President Barak Obama and the liberal Congressional Democrats had insisted on an increase in the debt limit without any strings. Then, once Congressional Republicans acted on the mandate given them in the 2010 Elections, Obama and the Democrats in Congress retreated from their initial position and began insisting that any spending reductions be matched with tax increases. Despite controlling only the House of Representatives, the Republicans were successful in obtaining the offsetting spending cuts they had sought without any tax increases, as Obama and the liberal Congressional Democrats were forced to give into popular pressure and avoid reaching the debt limit.

     Reaching the debt limit would not have necessarily led to a default on the public debt, as there was sufficient revenue to pay the interest and allow the redemption of bonds, but would have forced the Administration to make cuts to discretionary spending that had been authorized by law and which Obama did not want. Therefore, using the debt limit increase as a means to force a bipartisan agreement on spending reductions was an effective strategy on the part of Congressional Republicans.  The role of the Tea Party in this deal was indispensable.

     As a bonus for conservatives, the deal includes a vote on a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. An incentive for Congress to pass it and send it to the States for ratification is also included in the deal, as passage of the Amendment by later this year would avoid painful triggers of automatic spending reductions to defense and entitlements beyond what either party wants. Over the next few months, conservatives must call upon Congress to pass the popular Balanced Budget Amendment. Nearly every state already has such requirements in its own constitutions.

     If the painful triggers can be avoided through a Joint Committee’s recommendations for spending reductions, then another round of at least $1.2 trillion in spending cuts will further offset the deficit spending.

     Although there are some dangers in the deal, overall it is a conservative victory. It does not go nearly far enough to reduce the public debt, but it is a significant first step in that direction. Importantly, conservatives have seized the debate by focusing on spending cuts instead of tax increases. The deal recognizes the important principle that the reason the growth of the debt has been increasingly rapid is because of too much spending, not insufficient taxation. 

     Without this deal, the debt would have increased by over 2 trillion dollars more than it otherwise would have. Now is the time for conservatives to maintain the momentum they have gained toward balancing the budget and reducing the debt by reducing spending even further without raising taxes.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Allied Bombings in the Second World War Were Not Terrorism

     I have noted in earlier posts that the word terrorism has been diluted to such a point that the terrorists have been successful in establishing a moral superiority over the government they oppose by claiming that their actions are only in response to some worse “terrorism” or other alleged crimes of that government.

     In a post last week, for example, I noted that some are equating the United States response to terrorism (i.e. the War on Terrorism), particularly its use of missiles fired from aerial drones, with terrorism itself because innocent civilians are killed. I noted the distinction between targeting innocent civilians and accidentally killing them because of the targeting of a legitimate military target. Also, civilians are not necessarily innocent. They are legitimate targets if they harbor terrorists, for example. Such moral equivalency arguments are often made by militant Islamists and eagerly believed by leftists and isolationists in the West. 

     Another common example of such a moral equivalency argument is that the Allied bombings during the Second World War were acts of “terrorism.” This charge must be considered carefully.

     The conventional and nuclear bombings of Japan by the U.S. were not terrorism. The targets were cities that had strategic military significance. The civilian deaths were unintended, but were unavoidable at the time because the technology then did not permit more narrowly-targeted weaponry. There was no attempt to intimidate the populace of Japan because Japanese public opinion was irrelevant; in Imperial Japan, all Japanese subjects were committed to serving the Emperor, whom they adored as a god. If there were any intent to intimidate, it was to intimidate the Emperor into surrendering, not to terrorizing the Japanese people into demanding the Emperor surrender. It would have been unthinkable for the Japanese to make any demands of their Emperor or to surrender. 

     The bombings of Dresden, Germany are different from the Japanese bombings, but only in the sense that German public opinion, unlike Japanese public opinion, could have been influenced by the Allied air raids. But, at worst, the air raids on this militarily significant city were less an attempt to get the German people to rebel against their Nazi government than to give up the fight. The German people had elected the Nazis and kept them in power. The Nazis were still popular in Germany. The Germans would not have rebelled against them even if they wanted to because of fear of Nazi repression. Therefore, the most that the Allies could have achieved was to weaken the German will to fight, not to effect a change of government. The Nazis had started the war and continued it. A majority of the German people were thereby culpable for this war of aggression and the Nazi crimes against humanity. They had not only put the Nazis in power, but supported them politically. Regardless of their political responsibility, many Germans even voluntarily participated in activities on the home front in support of the war, such as being Nazi informants, serving in civil defense organizations, working in military industrial plants, et cetera. Thus, these German civilians, at least, were not innocent civilians. However, there were many German civilians who were truly innocent. The Allied bombs could not distinguish between the innocent and those who were not.

     I had noted in a previous post in March of 2010, Dresden Bombing Deaths Exaggerated, that recent scholarship has proven that the Nazi claims of civilian deaths was much higher than the true number. Nevertheless, the civilian loss of life was significant, although the estimated 25,000 deaths were amounted to less than one tenth of one percent of the total deaths in the Second World War. I submit that the Dresden bombings stand out for the German civilian losses because the Allied strategy was not to target innocent civilians. Otherwise, there would have been other such examples. In fact, the major strategy of American General Carl Spaatz, who was responsible for the Allied air campaign in the European Theater, was to target German fuel supplies, in addition to the usual necessary military targets.

     The Allies’ strategy in the Second World War was to win as quickly as possible by targeting strategic military targets in Japan and Germany, not to terrorize innocent civilians. Therefore, the bombings were not acts of terrorism. The first acts of terrorism were hijackings of commercial airliners committed by militant Muslims, the Palestine Liberation Organization, in the 1960s.