Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Best of Williamcinfici.blogspot.com

            
          In celebration of the end of the year of the recent fifth anniversary of the launch of this blog, I thought I would issue a “best of the blog” post. 

The following posts were selected, either because they were the most important or best representative of a certain category of posts, or were among the most well-liked or popular thus far, in chronological order:

Retain Gubernatorial Appointments of Senators, from January of 2009, http://williamcinfici.blogspot.com/2009/01/retain-gubernatorial-appointments-of.html;

Presidents’ Day vs. Washington’s Birthday, from February of 2009,

George Washington the Great, from February of 2009, http://williamcinfici.blogspot.com/2009/02/george-washington-great.html;

Father Stanley Jaki, Rest in Peace, from April of 2009, http://williamcinfici.blogspot.com/2009/04/father-stanley-jaki-rest-in-peace.html;

Lepanto, by G.K. Chesterton, from April of 2009, http://williamcinfici.blogspot.com/2009/04/lepanto-by-gk-chesterton.html;

The Rise and Fall of Islamic Civilization, from April of 2009, http://williamcinfici.blogspot.com/2009/04/my-recent-posts-about-lepanto-and-fr.html;

Follow-Up on the Fall of Islamic Civilization, from May of 2009, http://williamcinfici.blogspot.com/2009/05/follow-up-on-fall-of-islamic.html;

Celebrate Columbus Day, from October of 2009, http://williamcinfici.blogspot.com/2009/10/celebrate-columbus-day.html;

The Pope’s Declaration of Pius XII’s Heroic Virtue Debunks a Liberal Myth, from December of 2009,

Commentary on the Roman Influence on America Exhibit at the Constitution Center, from July of 2010, http://williamcinfici.blogspot.com/2010/07/commentary-on-roman-influence-on.html;

Abolish Daylight Savings Time, from March of 2011, http://williamcinfici.blogspot.com/2011/03/abolish-daylight-savings-time.html;

Useless Cabinet Departments, from March of 2011, http://williamcinfici.blogspot.com/2011/03/useless-cabinet-departments.html;

More Language for Conservatives to Avoid: Gender vs. Sex, from June of 2011, http://williamcinfici.blogspot.com/2011/06/more-language-for-conservatives-to.html;

Virtue, Liberty and Independence, from October of 2011, http://williamcinfici.blogspot.com/2011/10/virtue-liberty-and-independence.html;

The Rev. Monsignor Felix A. Losito, Rest in Peace, from November of 2011, http://williamcinfici.blogspot.com/2011/11/reverend-monsignor-felix-losito-rest-in.html;

Chester Arthur, the Most Underrated U.S. President, from April of 2012, http://williamcinfici.blogspot.com/2012/04/chester-arthur-most-underrated-us.html.

I opted only to include posts from prior to this year, at this point.  There were a number of entire major categories of subjects not included, such as coins and currency, the War on Terrorism, Pennsylvania politics and my service on the Reading School Board of Directors, that were not included because there were too many posts from which to select a best one and I did not want to make the best of list too long.

I am pleased that this year that the decline in the number of times I posted annually was the smallest, both in real and absolute terms, despite being called upon once again to serve in public office.  Thank you for visiting, especially those of you who are repeat visitors or who post comments or express praise outside of the blog.  Your patronage and support of my blog makes it worthwhile to post.  

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Conservative Analysis of the Two-Year United States Budget Deal


           A bipartisan two-year budget deal was recently approved by the United States Congress, despite some conservative opposition, and was today signed into law by President Barack Obama.

            The budget deal increases spending, but at a slower rate in order to save $23 billion.  In other words, there are no spending cuts in the deal, but it does reduce spending overall from the level at which it would have been had the deal not been reached.  It spares the military more of the sequestration cuts that are threatening its readiness, while keeping the overall sequestration cuts in place by raising other revenue, such as user fees.  There will also be a reduction of cost of living adjustments for future military retirees, a spending reduction that there was some bipartisan support in the Congress to restore later.  The deal also prevents yet another extension of unemployment benefits that were sought by liberal Democrats.

           The measure is expected to avoid government shutdowns over the budget.  However, there will be another contest over the raising of the debt limit within months.  Conservative Republicans in Congress are expected to push for real spending cuts in exchange for an increase in the debt limit.  We conservatives must continue to encourage them to have the political fortitude to follow through on their plan.  We also must work to elect more conservative Republicans to Congress, especially the Senate, in 2014.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas; Think of the Plight of Christians in the Holy Land


           Merry Christmas!  I wish the joy and peace of Christ to all readers.  Thank you for visiting my blog.

            In Christmases past, I posted how relative peace in the Middle East, the overthrow of Iraq’s suicide-bomb-sponsoring dictator Saddam Hussein, and better Israeli anti-terror methods have allowed more pilgrims to travel to Bethlehem and other parts of the Holy Land for the Feast of the Nativity.  Easter is another holiday especially when Christian pilgrims visit the Holy Land, although some arrive throughout the year.  This Christmas, let us think about and pray for the Christians throughout the Middle East who are being attacked or persecuted, particularly in Egypt, Iraq and Syria

Christianity originated in the Holy Land 2,000 years ago with Jesus Christ, and thus long predates Western European Civilization, with which some Muslims associate it to the point of questioning the patriotism of their Christian countrymen.  Islamists are intolerant of any perceived Western or foreign influence in general, and especially of other religions like Christianity.  Islamic law strictly forbids apostasy, which necessarily restricts Christian proselytizing, and Muslim authorities often place limits on the construction of Christian churches.  The numbers of Christians in the Holy Land have decreased significantly in recent years, especially as they have emigrated from the Middle East, in addition to those who have been murdered.  In addition to Christians, adherents of Baha’i and various Muslim minority sects are also persecuted throughout the Islamic world, but the plight of the millions Christians in the Middle East and elsewhere in Muslim-dominant lands has been particularly striking.   

Some Islamic-led governments actively persecute Christians, while others do little to protect them.  Let us call upon these governments to respect religious liberty and upon our own governments to speak up more rigorously for freedom of religion and to pressure Middle Eastern governments particularly to uphold human rights of religious and ethnic minorities, and for all the peoples of the Holy Land to live peacefully with one another.  

Monday, December 23, 2013

Italian Budgetary and Economic Developments


The Italian Parliament has approved Italy’s budget.  According to the Italian News Agency, ANSA, it keeps the deficit to less than 3% of GDP, as required by the European Union.  ANSA reports that the budget includes pension cuts, a local tax to replace the real estate tax on primary residences, a Web tax (to which the European Union objects), as well as modest income and labor tax cuts.  The budget is expected to increase growth slightly.  Additional spending cuts and further crackdowns on tax evasion are planned by the Italian Government, according to ANSA. 
           
           After posting a flat quarter of economic growth for the first time in two years, Italy is projected, according to ANSA, to return to economic growth and begin to recover in 2014.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

European Union Updates: Germany, Greece, Banking Union, EU Downgrade


German Coalition Government Is Formed
            I had posted earlier this month that Germany’s ruling center-right party, the Christian Democrats, were able to form a government led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, joined by the Left in a grand coalition.  Now, after the parties and the President of the Federal Republic of Germany have approved the deal, the executive has taken office. 

Developments in Greece
The conservative Greek Government ended public funding of Greece’s anti-austerity fascist party.  Greece is projected to begin its economic recovery in 2014. 

Eurozone Banking Union; Downgrade of European Union
The European Monetary Union has agreed to form a banking union, which is a key step in ending its fiscal crisis, which had been exacerbated by a lack of coordination by national central banks of interest rates.  The union will be able to rescue troubled banks, instead of relying on governments to bail them out with taxpayer-backed loans.  Meanwhile, the European Union was downgraded a notch from one of the rating firm’s highest rating.  Its rating is still excellent, but demonstrates the continued threat from the ongoing fiscal crisis.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Cinfici’s Letter to the Editor on the Role of School Boards in Pennsylvania


A letter I wrote to the editor of the Reading Eagle was published verbatim December 5.  I reprint the manuscript below, as it does not contain his capitalization or punctuation errors or interpositions of trendy examples of style, although, thankfully, these did not compromise the point of the letter. 

One of the main reasons I launched this blog, which I am grateful to have, is not to be subject to 200-word limits, liberally-biased and ignorant editors with poor writing styles, or transcription errors.  Nevertheless, I do appreciate the letter’s publication.  Numerous letters of mine have been published over the years, but I have been content to post on my blog over the last five years instead.  This particular subject, given my recent public service, necessitated an exception.

My letter was in response to an editorial that essentially repeated the same point the editors and other critics who do not understand the role of School Boards of Directors in Pennsylvania have been making in accusing the Reading School Board of Directors, on which I recently completed a temporary term, of micromanaging or overstepping bounds.  I note here they had failed to make such criticisms during my previous term of service when the Superintendent was effectively controlled by a small number of School Directors in a true example of micromanaging and overstepping the bounds, but now criticize the current Board for fulfilling its fiduciary responsibility by seeking information from the School District Administration.  Because those micromanaging School Directors falsely accused those of us who sought information to expose the District to openness and transparency – in part to counter their micromanaging – of “micromanaging” ourselves, I have been steadfast in protecting the legal rights of all School Directors to govern effectively in the face of continued similar false allegations. 

Here is a transcript of my manuscript:

Your statement that the duties of school directors are “to establish goals for the district while allowing the superintendent and other administrators to chart the course on how to attain those goals” reflects a common misconception about the role of school boards of directors in Pennsylvania.

            In addition to adopting policies and budgets, school boards are required to do more than set goals, but also to consider whether or not to vote for every expenditure, textbook, major personnel and real estate matter.  

           Moreover, it is the oversight responsibility of school directors to follow up and determine whether or not their policies have been carried out or whether the procedures the administration implements have been effective in achieving these goals, and, if not, to respond accordingly.  A school board of directors is thus not like a corporate board of directors because, as the Auditor General notes, once school directors take their oaths of office, they have a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers and are not to be rubber stamps for unelected superintendents.  Therefore, it is the duty of school directors – and not overstepping their bounds or micromanaging – to obtain information to inform their votes and in order to hold administrations accountable. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Syrian Chemical Weapons Update


           A recent United Nations report finds – not surprisingly – that Syria’s Assad regime did, in fact, use chemical weapons against its own people on several occasions.

            Meanwhile, the entire identified Syrian stockpile of its most dangerous chemical weapons has been destroyed.  The United States assisted significantly with the destruction of the weapons of mass destruction. Other foreign states are working to destroy the remainder of Syria’s chemical arsenal.

           The Syrian Civil War continues, however, as the government and rebels remain in a stalemate while the rebel camp is divided between Islamists and those Muslims who are not Islamists.  Although it is deprived of chemical weapons, Bashar Assad’s regime continues to commit crimes against humanity with impunity by attacking civilians indiscriminately with conventional weapons.   

North Korean Purge Announcement Intellectually Undermines the Regime


           I thought it would be interesting to examine how the purge of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un’s uncle and his associates, which is obviously an attempt by the young strongman to consolidate power within the regime, might be viewed by the North Korean people, other than strictly through the Communist Party line.  I suspect that if they are able to read between the lines, despite decades of brainwashing by the Stalinist dictatorship, the regime’s official announcement may unintentionally undermine its public support. 

            As was the case with the Czars who were frequently eliminating their advisors because of poor advice, allegedly malevolent advisors reflect on the leaders who trust them.  Considering that Kim Jong-un’s uncle was portrayed as a benevolent and trusted figure, the Communist regime’s allegations about him suggest that even such revered people in the Hermit Kingdom’s ruling family might not necessarily be what they seem.  The North Korean people might begin to suspect that the neither is the young nephew who rules them, nor anyone else closely associated with him.

            The execution of Kim Jong-un’s uncle allegedly for treason for trying to seize control of the regime, as well as for corruption and womanizing, suggest that political power is something that one might be tempted to covet for its own sake – even at the risk of one’s life – instead of being an opportunity for selfless service to country.  Seen in this light, Kim might not necessarily continue to be viewed by the North Korean people as only being concerned for the good of his countrymen. 

           Furthermore, the allegations against Kim’s uncle demonstrate that Communist party leaders have access to money, foreign goods and vices, while the people remain impoverished and constantly on the brink of starvation.  Indeed, not all appears to be well in Socialist Paradise if people steal, or want foreign goods and vices, let alone covet power for themselves instead of exhibiting unquestioning loyalty to the Supreme Leader. 

Foreign Digest: Ukraine, Poland, Central African Republic, Italy


Ukraine Is Being Torn between East and West
            Ukraine is facing decisions about whether to join Europe fully or become a vassal state of Russia.  The democratically-elected Ukrainian government has opted to orient with the dictatorship of Russia in turning down a potentially beneficial free trade agreement with the European Union and eventual membership in that organization.  It succumbed to Russian threats in regard to energy supplies.  The government’s decision has touched off massive street protests and counter-protests to determine the State’s political destiny. 

Crucifixes to Remain in Poland’s Parliament
            A Polish appeals Court has ruled that Crucifixes may continue to be displayed in Parliament, thereby overturning a lower court ruling in favor of a number of Members objecting to the display.  The ruling serves as a reminder that the rights of Man come from God, which is the essential belief that necessarily guarantees the liberty of all.

International Military Mission to Central African Republic
            After a rebellion by Muslims overthrew a Christian-led government in the always-unstable Central African Republic (C.A.R.), and the new government’s inability to quell violence by some of its own supporters, the African Union and former colonial power France have intervened militarily to restore order.  The United States is aiding the international effort by transporting Burundian troops to the C.A.R.

Italian Political Reforms
           The Italian Government issued a decree phasing out public subsidizing of political parties.  It will, however, allow taxpayers to earmark .2% of their income voluntarily to fund parties.  The parties will also now be subject to public audit.  After a series of scandals involving party members embezzling from their own publicly-funded parties, the moves are the first fruits of political reform and will also help Italy eliminate its budget deficit.  Decrees take effect legally, but are required to be ratified by Italy’s Parliament within two months.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Cinfici Completes a Term on the Reading School Board of Directors


           I recently completed my appointment to a temporary term on the Reading School District Board of School Directors.  The term was to fill a vacancy for nearly seven months until the special election to elect someone to fill the remaining two years of the four-year term.

            I had posted about my assistance of the Board on the budget in my post in June of this year, Cinfici Helps Balance the Reading School District Budget to Avert a State Takeover, http://williamcinfici.blogspot.com/2013/06/cinfici-helps-balance-reading-school.html.  It afterward became necessary to correct the budget because of incorrect information the School District Administration gave the Board and then to add additional unexpected revenues from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which had approved its budget two days after the District.  Much of the remainder of my focus as a School Director was spent on trying to keep the District’s budget balanced, in terms of obtaining accurate information from the Administration as to the District’s finances, as well as finding increased revenues or spending reductions.

            Meanwhile, the other significant accomplishments of my service included initiating the use of metal detectors for Board meetings and helping to get them installed at the intermediate high school, leading the update of the facilities use rental policy and fee schedule, spearheading the hiring of a public relations firm to manage the District website, and shepherding through a major energy savings program that is expected to save several million dollars.  The energy project, which will improve comfort and be a better example to students and the community, will coincide with a more than $40 million deferred maintenance plan the Board initiated for 15 of the District’s schools.

           Thanks in part to my efforts, various other initiatives were advanced to improve the District's finances, facilities and board governance, as well as to give the new Board of School Directors the information it needs to make good decisions in regard to these ideas.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Nelson Mandela Was neither a Political Prisoner, nor Imprisoned for Opposing Apartheid


           One of the main purposes of this blog is to promote good language.  The misuse or overuse of words dilutes their meaning.  When certain terms for evil acts are abused in such a manner, they make the evil seem less evil and the good seem evil, too.  An example is the term political prisoner.

            A political prisoner is one who is imprisoned for conscience.  In other words, a person who is jailed for exercising freedom of speech, press, assembly or religion is a political prisoner, as opposed to a person who is imprisoned for actions, is a “political prisoner.”

            Nelson Mandela was imprisoned because of his conviction for sabotage and was kept in jail for 27 years because of his refusal to renounce violence.  He had been part of efforts by the Marxist African National Congress to overthrow the government of South Africa violently and to replace it with a Communist regime – at a time when International Communism was advancing violently in southern Africa while the South African government, despite its oppression against its indigenous people and others, was the strongest bulwark against such a great tyranny.  Therefore, Mandela did not meet the definition of a political prisoner.  Indeed, Amnesty International, a left-leaning organization devoted to preventing human rights abuses by exposing them, never recognized him as one. 

It is also misleading to say that Mandela was jailed for opposing apartheid, the government-imposed system of racial segregation in South Africa.  Regardless of his political motivations, he was imprisoned for his violent actions, not his view opposing a particular policy or set of policies.  Saying that Mandela was imprisoned because of his opposition to apartheid is like saying that John Brown, who led a raid of the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry in 1859, was hanged for opposing slavery instead of for treason. 

We Americans are especially respectful of the right of people to take up arms against tyranny when there is no other recourse, but even we would not describe anyone caught in the act of rebellion as a “political prisoner” or as being “imprisoned for opposing” a particular policy.  When people are jailed for committing violent acts, they are imprisoned for various kinds of militancy, not purely for their political opposition.  

The fact that Mandela, to his great credit, helped heal South Africa’s wounds as its first post-apartheid President and respected representative government and liberty – in a post Cold-War period with a vigorous political opposition from diverse ethnic groups and the with the eyes of the world upon him, thereby preventing his country from turning into another Zimbabwe – does not rewrite the story of how he became a hero to the rest of the opposition in South Africa to the apartheid government and a symbol of that regime’s oppression in the first place.  

We should appreciate Mandela’s contributions and mourn his loss without burying good language along with him.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Recent Pennsylvania Education Reforms by Governor Corbett and the GOP Legislature

            
           A number of education reforms recently approved in Pennsylvania are already having a positive effect.

            I have posted about how Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, a Republican, did not cut state education funding, as his critics falsely claim, but that the level of state aid to local school districts dropped only because of the end of temporary federal stimulus money – a situation to which I can attest, as a former School Director.  I also posted on how Pennsylvania made some significant reforms of the Common Core curriculum standards (See my post, Keep up the Resistance to Common Core in Pennsylvania, from September of this year, http://williamcinfici.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2013-09-06T15:50:00-04:00&max-results=25).  Now that I have completed my term filling a vacancy on the Reading School Board, I wish to note several other reforms that were approved by the Republican-majority General Assembly and signed into law by Corbett that have been having a significant effect on our School District, as well as others, I am sure, because these reforms have not received the media attention they merit.

            A major reform of the Commonwealth’s regulatory powers over failing school districts was enacted last year and has begun to affect districts by encouraging them to take the necessary steps to avoid losing local control of education.  The new law adopts several new criteria for state takeover of school districts and establishes effective measures to restore them to fiscal solvency to protect local taxpayers.  It is already helping the Harrisburg School District, for example, which was taken over by the state, to become fiscally responsible. 

           Among several other measures were approved as a result of various incidences of waste of public tax dollars, including setting a three-year limit for contracts for superintendents, increasing openness and transparency by requiring school board evaluations of superintendents’ degree of achievement of their goals and their performance be made public, and limiting massive superintendent buyouts to more reasonable severances.  In regard to curriculum, a new state mandate to include Pennsylvania history in fourth grade is also taking effect.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Conservative Analysis of the Iranian Nuclear Deal


            The recent deal between Iran and the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and Germany is dangerously flawed in several respects.  Although Iran is required under its terms to stop or slow down its nuclearization program, ostensibly for energy, but apparently for weaponry, the deal is unlikely to achieve its intent, which is to prevent Iran, which receives all the benefits from the deal, from producing nuclear weapons.

            The deal was negotiated by the administration of Iran’s new President, who had campaigned on a plan to make a detail to allow Iran to escape the harsh measures that were damaging its economy, but must be approved by the Islamist theocratic dictatorship, which remains intent upon obtaining nuclear weapons and would never agree to give up its “right” to have them.  In other words, the Islamic Republic would not have agreed to a deal that significantly curbed its weapons of mass destruction ambitions.  Indeed, Iran’s leaders are claiming that U.S. President Barack Obama’s interpretations about how tough the deal supposedly is on Iran are false. 

            In return for temporary Iranian concessions until a permanent deal is negotiated, the United States is lifting economic sanctions and unfreezing Iranian assets up front while the steps Iran is taking in compliance of the deal are not irreversible.  The concern that conservative analysts of the deal have expressed is that the West will have lost its leverage should Iran renege because of the difficulty of gaining Russian and Chinese approval for the sanctions in the United Nations. 

            The verification process for the nuclear deal with Iran only includes known sites, without requiring the Iranians to make available for inspection any other suspected site.   The deal also ignores Iran’s ballistic missile program.  Such missiles could deliver nuclear warheads far beyond Iran’s borders.  The dangerous oversight reflects the odd statement of Vice President Joseph Biden during the vice presidential candidates debate in 2012 that an Iranian nuclear weapon would pose no threat because Iran had no means to deliver it.  Biden’s statement thus represented a foreshadowing of a shift in the Obama Administration’s policy from not allowing Iran to have a nuclear weapon to allowing it to have one, as long as it could not launch it from a missile, as if a nuclear bomb is not otherwise dangerous.

            In the pre-negotiations, according to Breitbart News, the U.S. released several Iranian smugglers in exchange for the release of two innocent American civilians held in Iran while three other innocent American civilians continue to be held. In other words, even the usual pre-negotiation acts of good faith were tilted toward Iran’s favor.

            Although the deal was about nuclear weapons, it fails to address Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism, which is one of the main reasons for concern about Iranian obtainment of weapons of mass destruction.  Furthermore, the Obama Administration’s direct negotiation with Iran violates American policy of not negotiating with terrorists.  Moreover, the deal legitimatizes the despotic Iranian regime.

            By accepting the nuclear deal with Iran, the Obama Administration fails to reassure Israel and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, which now can no longer rely upon American protection and will now have to turn elsewhere or resort to other means.  The Administration has made the U.S. look weak and disloyal and exposed for not truly standing by its own policy, such as by denying Iranian obtainment of nuclear weapons to any degree more than in expressing empty words.  

           The U.S. Congress must now act to increase sanctions on Iran, or at least, should it be unable to override any veto by Obama, to establish a sanctions plan as a kind of insurance policy that would be triggered as soon as any Iranian violation of the nuclear deal is detected. 

Down with Uptalk!


           I have posted frequently on language in regard to incorrect usage because of my concern about how it can undemocratically lead to changes in interpretation of written law, in addition to reducing clarity, being distracting and reflecting poorly on the person who makes incorrect use of words or terms.  Similarly, poor pronunciation or even incorrect pitch can also hinder communication.

            The High Rising Terminal, also known as “uptalk,” is the tendency to end sentences as if they were questions, that is to say, with a higher pitch, which is characteristic of an interrogatory, instead of a drop in pitch, which is characteristic of a declarative statement.  This habit has been observed the last few decades in certain parts of the English-speaking world, from Australia to the eastern United States, and has become most closely associated with a particular dialect in Southern California, where it is reportedly spreading.  It is especially common among young females, but has spread beyond that demographic group.

            The High Rising Terminal can be confusing for listeners because it makes it unclear whether the speaker is making a declarative statement or asking a question.  At the least, it is distracting.  Perhaps the worst effect of the High Rising Terminal is that it suggests the speaker lacks confidence. 

           People should listen to themselves speaking in order to discern whether they are engaging in uptalk, so as to avoid it.  We would be doing others a favor if we politely point out the High Rising Terminal when we hear them using it and encourage remedy of making the necessary distinction in pitch between sentences and questions.  

           Poor language reduces unity among those who share a common tongue, while good language increases it.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Fifth Anniversary of My Blog; Blogger Hit Report


           November 27 was the fifth anniversary of the launch of this blog in 2008.  There were 546 posts during that time.  Thank you for visiting or commenting or complimenting me offline.  I especially appreciate repeat visitors.  Your patronage and support of my blog is much appreciated encourages me to continue to post. 

            In the last year, Blogger tracked approximately 5,500 hits, not including my own, to my blog.  The average of around 500 a month has been steady for several months, which is higher and more consistent than last year, despite a 17% decrease in the number of posts.  Less than 10% of the hits are apparently from referrer sites (automated hits from commercial websites that are intended to tempt bloggers to click on the links to their sites).  Aside from possibly an increase in these, the higher number may be attributable to increased blocking of cookies by visitors because of increased privacy concerns, which would explain a corresponding decrease in hits tracked by StatCounter. 

           Now that I have completed my appointed term as Reading School Director, I expect to have more time to post.  Posts are currently being drafted on Pennsylvania’s education reforms and the Iranian nuclear deal.  Please continue to visit once or twice a week.  Thank you.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Foreign Digest: Honduras, Nepal, Germany, Italy


Honduran Presidential Elections
            The conservative ruling party of Honduras retained power, despite economic problems and a high crime rate, as a conservative was elected to replace the outgoing conservative President.  The party had taken power after the Chavist former president was removed from power after trying to extend his term unconstitutionally.  The conservative victory prevents the leftists inspired by former Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez from gaining more ground in Latin America.  The incoming leader is expected to work aggressively to address Honduras’ problems.  Honduras will continue to work with the United States in anti-drug efforts.

Nepalese Parliamentary Elections
            No party won a majority in the Nepalese parliamentary elections.  Of the three main parties, neither the Maoist Communists, nor the Marxist-Leninist Communists gained a plurality, while the old republican opposition party won the most votes.  The result means the ruling Maoists, who had abolished the monarchy, will be unable to turn Nepal into a totalitarian state.  As the monarchists also lost, Nepal will remain a republic, at least for now, as the elections produced no clear direction of leadership.

Formation of the German Government
            Chancellor Angela Merkel, the leader of the conservative Christian Democrats, was finally able to form a grand coalition government with the left in order to retain power, as I had predicted.  Although her party won the most votes in the German parliamentary elections, it came up short of a majority.  Merkel had previously led a coalition government.  Germany’s policies, which are of critical importance for the European Monetary Union amidst its debt crisis, are expected to continue.

Withdrawal of Forza Italia from the Italian Government 
           As expected, former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi removed his newly-re-formed Forza Italia party from the Government of Premier Enrico Letta after the vote in the Senate to remove him from his seat in the upper chamber of the Italian Parliament because of his conviction for fraud.  Letta’s center-left-right executive will remain in power, however, as several ministers from Berlusconi’s old party, the center-right People of Liberty Party, remained loyal to the grand coalition, as did a sufficient number of Members of Parliament to secure the confidence vote for the Government.  Letta's Government will continue its policies of fiscal responsibility through a mix of spending cuts, economically stimulative spending programs and tax cuts, as well as electoral reform.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Pennsylvania Governor Corbett Signs a Major Transportation Funding and Prevailing Wage Reform Bill into Law


           Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett announced today that he would sign a major transportation bill into law Monday.  The Republican Chief Executive had made the bill his highest priority for the fall session of the General Assembly.  The GOP-led legislature approved the bill yesterday, giving Corbett a big political victory.

            The transportation act funds $2.4 billion in repairs to roads and bridges, as well as adding more funds for mass transit.  The repairs to the Commonwealth’s bridges were critically needed, as trucks have been forced to re-route because of weight restrictions on many state bridges that are structurally deficient.  In addition to the state transportation department, money is being appropriate to counties, which own a majority of the deficient bridges in the Keystone State

            The transportation funding measure does not raise taxes, but taxes will increase significantly because the cap on gasoline taxes has been raised.  Vehicle registration fees and fines will also be increased.  For motorists, however, gasoline taxes and these other vehicle fees, are more like user fees, like tolls are, than taxes.  Such user fees or flat-rate taxes should be adjusted regularly for inflation instead of waiting many years, as the revenue in real dollars decreases, for politicians to have to play the heavy and increase them dramatically.  Gasoline taxes in the Commonwealth have not risen since the 1990s.  Because many goods are shipped by truck, increases in gasoline taxes are inflationary, but by eliminating the detours, the bridge repairs will reduce fuel consumption.  The funding of other road improvements and the building new roads and bridges in the transportation act will further decreases gasoline use, which will mitigate the inflationary affect of fuel costs because of the increase in gasoline taxes.  Additionally, the road repairs will reduce damage to vehicles because of Pennsylvania’s infamous potholes. 

            Road and bridge work is one activity that has been shown to be economically stimulative.  Not only does it create temporary construction jobs, but it gives customers or employees easier access to existing businesses and encourages the building of new businesses.

           Conservatives won a major victory in the bill with implications beyond transportation in the form of prevailing wage reform.  Pennsylvania law had required the payment of high union wages for all contracts over the threshold of $25,000.  That threshold had not been changed for 50 years.  The new law raises the threshold to $100,000, which will save taxpayers a significant amount of money. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

European Monetary Union Update: Ireland, Spain, Italy, Germany


           Ireland will no longer require any European Monetary Union bailout funds, nor will it need any reserve fund from which the Union could make emergency loans to the Irish RepublicSpain is also making progress toward repaying its loans from the Monetary Union.  

           Although Spain and Italy were warned by the European Union that they risk exceeding budget deficit targets, there has clearly been significant fiscal improvement in the Monetary Union’s periphery, thanks to austerity measures, in contrast to Europe’s economic powerhouse, Germany, which has been relying on its favorable balance of trade.  There have also been signs an economic recovery in Europe may finally begin, which will ameliorate the fiscal crisis through higher tax revenues from economic growth.  

           Despite a split within the largest center-right party in Italy, the PDL (People of Liberty), some of the members of which will be joining former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s revival of Forza Italia (Forward Italy), with the rest remaining in the PDL or forming a new party, the center-right bloc will remain united behind their leader, Berlusconi, including in regard to the upcoming vote to remove him from the Senate because of his conviction on corruption charges.  The split suggests those remaining with the PDL, including Deputy Premier Angelino Alfano, would continue to support the shaky grand coalition government led by center-left Prime Minister Enrico Letta.  The Government has been successful in replacing real estate taxes with other measures.

           Meanwhile, the Germans have been making significant progress on forming another grand coalition between the center-left and center-right under conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel, as expected.  Political stability in these two major members of the European Monetary Union is essential for investor confidence, as well as to continue the Union’s policies, backed largely by Germany, of supporting the eurozone’s weaker members.

Progress on Many Fronts of the War on Terrorism


           There has been much progress the last several months in many fronts in the global War on Terrorism, against all types of terrorists, especially in Mali, Somalia, Turkey and Colombia, but around the world.  As most terrorists are Islamist or Communist, they have particularly suffered defeats.

In Africa, both Mali and Somalia are continuing to make progress versus al-Qaeda.  Mali is also making gains in the northern region within the Sahara Desert against the Tuareg militants who were loosely-allied with the Islamists.  Malian forces liberated a key town from them in the region this month.  Somalia’s government is winning more territory from al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabab, thanks in part to continued American, Ethiopian, Kenyan direct military support, as well as other indirect foreign aid.  Meanwhile, although Islamist militants continue to operate in Libya, the United States was able to capture an al-Qaeda leader there recently who had been wanted for the 1998 bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania

In Asia, as Yemen continues to battle against al-Qaeda, in addition to Shi’ite and Communist rebels, the U.S. has continued its campaign of lethal drone attacks against high-level al-Qaeda targets, as it has in PakistanTurkey concluded a peace agreement with the Marxist Kurds, who had a history of terrorism, in April.  The Philippines government won a victory last month in bloody urban warfare over separatist Muslim terrorists, while its dwindling Communist guerillas, who have a history of committing terrorist acts, have been forced to declare a truce after Typhoon Haiyan. 

In Europe this month, anarchist bombers were caught in Spain after they had bombed churches there, new Red Brigade communist militants were convicted by an Italian court of a series of attacks in Italy, the British arrested a terrorist plotter before he conducted his attack and the Russians killed a leading bomb-maker and other Islamist terrorists in Dagestan.

There has also been significant progress in Colombia versus FARC, the Marxist narco-terrorists, who recently have agreed to a peace plan after nearly fifty years of bloody guerilla warfare and a campaign of terrorism.  Meanwhile, Peru has continued to destroy the remnants of the ruthless Shining Path Communist terrorists.

Terrorism continues to be a scourge around the globe, in addition, of course, to the Middle East.  Uighur Islamist terrorists conducted an attack in, Peking, China’s Tiananmen Square recently, while Iraq has had to ask for American help in battling al-Qaeda terrorists there who have been conducting almost daily terrorist bombings.  Nigeria continues to struggle against its vicious al-Qaeda affiliate, while India is plagued by various terrorists on several fronts, including Islamists, Communists and others, some of whom have struck again recently.  The American-led War on Terrorism goes on in Afghanistan.  But the recent successes around the world are undeniable.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Analysis of the Syrian Chemical Weapons Deal


Syria’s agreement to give up its chemical weapons arsenal avoided a likely military strike by the United States and other Western powers.  The United Nations inspections requirements in the deal appear to have been effective thus far, as the known Syrian stockpile of weapons of mass destruction is being dismantled. 

The deal must have been preferable for Bashar Assad’s tyrannical regime to the alternative of taking its chances absorbing military strikes.  Therefore, the Americans and others can at least convincingly make the case that its threats successfully resulted in Syria’s abandonment of its chemical weapons, but Russia appears to have gained diplomatic prestige at the expense of the West by brokering the last-minute deal.  Of course, the possibility that Syria will cheat on the deal remains a concern, especially given the despot’s acceptance of the deal, although it would again place itself at risk of being struck by the West if it were caught using them against civilians again.

However, Syria suffered no military punishment for using its WMDs against civilians, although tough economic sanctions on the Alawite-led Baathist dictatorship will continue and aid to the rebels has increased, including direct American military aid to the rebels identifiable as non-Islamist.  Meanwhile, Assad’s regime is allowed continue to kill civilians by indiscriminately killing them with conventional weapons.  

I had posted three times on the Syrian civil war in August to September, which I shall summarize and update here.  The two-year war has claimed over a hundred thousand lives as Syrians have rebelled against Assad’s longtime dictatorship.  The conflict has attracted the participation of Islamists, both from Syria and abroad, who have clashed with the other Syrian rebels, thereby complicating the rebellion’s strategy, as well as making aid efforts by foreign governments to the rebels difficult because of concerns about doing anything to the benefit of jihadists such as al-Qaeda.  Although the terrorist-versus-terrorist fighting is helpful in the overall War on Terrorism, the opportunity to remove a state sponsor of terrorism and deprive Iran of an ally is being jeopardized by the complication.  The war has spilled over into several volatile neighboring states, as have millions of refugees, who risk destabilizing Jordan particularly, as far as to Italy.  In the best interests of Syria and the world, increased aid to the non-Islamist rebels is urgently needed to bring the conflict to a peaceful and just end as quickly as possible without a victory by either side of the terrorists that can allow the Syrian people to determine their own destiny.

Conservative Perspective on the Recent United States Fiscal Compromise


           Now that the implementation of the individual mandate of the federalization of health insurance has begun, a better perspective on the bipartisan, bicameral fiscal compromise reached last month between the United States Congress and President Barack Obama can be observable.   

The deal authorizes federal spending, including to implement the plan, by extending the continuing resolution that funds the federal government, thereby ending the partial shutdown.  It also increases the debt ceiling, which allows the government to borrow more to fund its current deficit-spending.

The impasse had saved conservatives in Congress from having to vote to fund the health insurance plan, to which they object on both moral and fiscal grounds, but politically, because they were unfairly blamed for the shutdown, the deal was a loss for the Republicans.  See also my post from last month, Federal Government Shutdowns are Partial, Routine and Bipartisan, http://williamcinfici.blogspot.com/2013/10/federal-government-shutdowns-are.html.  Despite criticisms by liberal politicians, the media and others that the shutdown would be fiscally costly, it has been attributable for a lower than projected deficit for October, which is a fiscal consolation for conservatives.  Most congressional conservatives did not vote in favor of the deal, thereby maintaining their principles.

In terms of policy, however, the deal was partly successful for conservative Republicans, despite the compromise on terms largely favorable to the liberal Democrats.  Although the Republicans, who control only the House of Representatives, had hoped to achieve much more, such as spending cuts to offset the increase in the debt ceiling or to defund Obama’s health insurance plan or to make other changes to the plan to federalize health insurance, such as eliminating the Legislative Branch’s self-exemption from the plan, the GOP did gain one concession: protections against fraudulent applications for one of the plan’s programs, which had been completely absent in the plan.  Without the protections, more and more people would easily become dependents on government, whether they were poor or not.  At least the spending will not increase as much as it otherwise would have because of the solitary concession won by conservatives.

The concession is significant not only because it will save money and limit the expansion of government, but because Obama had insisted on no preconditions, especially in regard to his health insurance plan, to his demands of continuing to fund the federal government without reducing spending and raising the debt ceiling.  In this sense, he lost on principal, as the Republicans were able to salvage the congressional leverage inherent in the requirement of congressional approval of increases in the debt ceiling, which Democrats sought to end by allowing the debt to increase by executive will.  Therefore, while the Republicans made a compromise from a position of weakness that appeared to have gained them little at a high political cost, as they conceded the larger matters of the deficit, debt and health insurance, they did not cave on principal, in contrast to the Democrats, despite the stronger position of the latter. 

Furthermore, the Democrats, too, had hoped to achieve even more, such as ending the federal sequestration that has helped reduce the deficit significantly.  Moreover, any deal that includes any spending cuts without raising taxes, as some liberal Democrats had sought, is at least a philosophical victory for conservatism, even if the deal increases spending overall.  In this case, it is important to remember that spending would have increased and the debt had been raised anyway had conservatives not objected in the first place and opposed funding the federal government without spending reductions or reforms to the health insurance plan. 

The implementation of the federalization of health insurance had begun at the time of the federal shutdown and the fiscal deal.  Although conservatives had hoped to use the fiscal controversy as a means to draw attention to problems inherent with the plan, in some ways the fiscal crisis distracted public attention from the problems initially, some of which would only become more apparent afterward.  Now that these problems have become obvious to everyone, the Democrats are the ones who are suffering politically more than the GOP.  Indeed, conservatives who made their objections to “Obamacare” central in the fiscal controversy have already been vindicated, as the public can now see more clearly why they had warned about the problems of the plan.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Conservative Analysis of the 2013 Elections


           The results of the 2013 Elections were mixed, but nonetheless some trends can be discerned and some lessons drawn.

            In Virginia, the conservative Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli lost a close race for Governor.  He nearly pulled off an upset over his liberal Democratic opponent, who, as a former Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, was far better funded.  The Democrat won with a plurality, not a majority of the votes, as a Libertarian candidate won several percentage points worth of votes.  Cucinelli had led the States’ lawsuit against the federalization of health insurance passed by a liberal Democratic United States Congress and signed into law by liberal Democratic President Barack Obama.  The suit was partly successful in some respects, but was unsuccessful in getting the individual insurance mandate unconstitutional.  The recent disastrous implementation of the mandate and its resultant cancellation of many insurance plans that people wished to keep, as Obama had promised they could, was the main reason for the underperformance of the Democratic candidate, as Cucinelli made the election a referendum on the plan, which was also opposed by the Libertarian gubernatorial nominee.  Virginia limits its Chief Executive to a single four-year term.  The Democratic nominee will succeed a Republican Governor, Bob McDonnell, who was successful in balancing the budget and cutting taxes, meaning that Virginians were not rejecting conservative government based upon the record of the incumbent.  Meanwhile in the Old Dominion, the GOP held onto the office of Attorney General by electing a Republican to succeed its gubernatorial nominee, but Democrats picked up a seat in the legislature, which was enough to deprive the Republicans of a veto-proof two-thirds majority.  The Republican Delegates will still easily be able to block the most liberal proposals of the next Governor.

            Governor Chris Christie was re-elected in a landslide that was unprecedented for a Republican in New Jersey, where Democrats enjoy a significant voter registration advantage and where Democrats have dominated statewide elections this century.  Although regarded as a moderate conservative, he generally performed in office and campaigned as a conservative, although with a bipartisan tone that reflected his success in obtaining common ground with members of the Democratic majority in the legislature.  Christie overcame labor union resistance to balance New Jersey’s budget without raising taxes.  He was also credited for his leadership in dealing with Superstorm Sandy and for advocating successfully for the Garden State’s share of federal disaster funds.  Christie did have some coattails – albeit short ones – as the Republicans gained a small number of legislative seats, leaving them slightly less in the minority than before. 

            As expected, Democrats won various races for mayor across the Union, including in New York City for the first time since 1989, despite their overwhelming voter registration advantage.  However, a Republican won the only statewide election in Pennsylvania, for Superior Court, despite a large Democratic voter registration in the Keystone State.  There were few referenda of particular interest to conservatives, except one for “gay marriage” that won in liberal Illinois.

            The liberal media and other commentators claim the 2013 Elections prove that the only Republican who can win is a moderate like Christie, but the results suggested that there was no trend of voter rejection of conservatism in either New Jersey or Virginia.  The voters in both States apparently were willing to reward competence and punish incompetence, as Christie easily won because of his effective conservative record while a majority of Virginians voted against the Democratic gubernatorial nominee because of the incompetence of Obama’s federalization of health insurance and other objections to the plan. 

           The results also suggest that whatever blame voters may have assigned to Republicans in Congress for the recent partial federal government shutdown that occurred when the Democratic-led Senate rejected the Republican-led House of Representatives plans to fund the government without providing funds for the federalization of health insurance, voters do not necessarily blame other Republicans, but their frustration with the Democrats over health insurance is discouraging them from voting for other Democratic candidates.  In fact, now that the health insurance plan is being implemented, perhaps voters who were originally upset with the Republicans in Congress are beginning to understand why the GOP insisted on de-funding the plan. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Conservatives: Vote Tomorrow in the 2013 General Election

         
           Tomorrow, November 5, 2013 is General Election Day in Pennsylvania and in other States across the Union.  A number of statewide races are taking place, but the government offices that affect people most directly and most often are also on the ballot.

           There are gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Florida of interest to conservatives, while in Pennsylvania there is an important Superior Court race.  That court is usually the one that makes the final decisions in the vast majority of all criminal and civil cases to which the Commonwealth is not a party.  There is also a Supreme Court retention on the ballot.

           There are local races across Pennsylvania for county offices (judges, county commissioners and other offices), magisterial district judges, municipal offices (mayors, township supervisors or commissioners or city council, etc.), school directors and election boards.  As always, there are conservatives, or at least conservative-leaning candidates, on the ballot for many of these offices.  As I was quoted in todays Reading Eagle, http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=518129, these offices affect people more directly than federal or statewide offices, and in numerous critical areas, while these local governments often impose higher taxes than the federal or state governments.

           One correction to the article is necessary, as I contrasted the turnout in statewide elections such as for presidential electors not presidential elections, as the people do not vote directly for President and Vice President of the United States.  Also, I want to clarify a point I had made that was not made clear in the article, that although it is true that ones vote is diluted if there is a larger turnout, my observation that it counts for more in a local election than a statewide election remains true because even if there is a 100% turnout in a local election, each vote is more valuable because there is still a smaller number of votes cast.  I made the additional point in the article that local elections are opportunities to hold elected officials accountable.

           When conservatives win these statewide and local elections, they advance conservative principles in providing good government, while gaining the experience and records to seek higher offices.  I urge my fellow conservatives to vote tomorrow for the most conservative qualified, viable candidates on the ballot.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Personal Notes, October of 2013

            
           I regret that I have been unable to post as frequently as I would have liked since early October.  Until then, I had been keeping pace with last year’s rate of posting.  Starting in early October of last year, I published a flurry of posts in regard to the 2012 United States Election for presidential electors. 

            One major reason I have not posted much this month is that I have been preoccupied with school board matters.  I have been focused on completing much unfinished business before my term expires in early December.

            In the meantime, I gave a speech at the local annual Columbus Dinner on Italian cuisine was particularly influenced by the Discovery of the New World and the subsequent introduction of foods into the Old World.  I observed how this one relatively small area demonstrates that there had been no lasting effect on both worlds of any legendary discoveries that may have occurred prior to that of Columbus, whose great navigational skills effectively bridged the two hemispheres permanently.  It was the fourth time that the Columbus Day Dinner Committee, which comprises several local Italian organizations, including Holy Rosary Parish, has invited me to provide historical remarks.  The event has occurred since 1956 and raises funds to preserve the Columbus State in Reading’s City Park (Penn’s Commons).  I was honored by the invitation.  The speech was well received. 

           I plan new posts analyzing the Syrian crisis and the U.S. budget deal.  Thank you for visiting my blog.  

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Federal Government Shutdowns Are Partial, Routine and Bipartisan


           The federal government is currently said to be “shut down” because of the expiration of spending authority.  However, United States government continues to operate, only without spending money.  Indeed, as other commentators have observed, the partial “shutdown” is more like a “slimdown,” as 83% of the federal government remains open.  All essential employees have continued to report for work.

            The partial shutdown reveals the extent of what the federal government does, which, on the one hand, can make people grateful for it, but on the other hand reveals how obtrusive the federal government is and why it is $17 trillion in debt.

            The current partial shutdown is nearly the twentieth time the spending authority of the United States has expired.  Such shutdowns used to be more routine, especially from the 1970s to the 1980s.  A variety of issues have triggered them, usually because liberal Democratic-controlled Congresses wanted to continue to engage in deficit spending, which prompted Republican Presidents to veto spending bills, thereby shutting down the government.  Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush admitted that their actions shut down the government, but complained that the Democratic Congress had left them with the choice either of more irresponsible deficit spending or a shutdown. 

The liberal media blame of Presidents then is inconsistent with their current position that it is now the fault of the House of Representatives, with the only consistencies being that they want to continue deficit-spending and that they blame the Republicans for every shutdown.  Liberal Democrats and the allies in the media portray the shutdown as a disaster caused by Republican irresponsibility and reopening the federal government as an end unto itself.  Their love of big government is thereby exposed, as is their inconsistency when they triggered them, by their own definition. 

            In my post, Only Presidents, Not Congress, Have Shut Down the Government, in April of 2011,
http://williamcinfici.blogspot.com/2011/04/only-presidents-not-congress-have-shut.html, I did theorize that the Congress, and particularly, the Senate could effectively shut down the federal government by declining to approve funding measures approved by the House of Representatives, where constitutionally they must originate.  In the current situation, because the liberal Democratic-controlled Senate has, in fact, shut down the government, backed by the threatened veto by Democratic President Barack Obama, it is legally the Democrats who have shut it down. 

            As in 1995, the liberal Democrats and the media have falsely portrayed the Republicans as having a shutdown strategy, but their strategy has been to reduce the deficit and the debt, or at least not to increase it, by giving the Democrats in the Senate and the Democratic President the choice either of accepting spending cuts or shutting down the government.  The Democrats chose the shutdown, knowing they could count on the media to blame the Republicans.  Their position is that Republicans in the House are unreasonable not to accept all Democratic demands to continue to fund the government at the current deficit-spending levels and to continue to raise the debt limit without using their leverage to force spending cuts.  In other words, deficit-spending is the norm and any attempt to use constitutional means to impose some fiscal responsibility is not reasonable.  In addition, the actions of the Obama Administration to close open-air federal facilities, including monuments, parks and even the ocean are unnecessary efforts to inflict maximum pain on the American people for political gain, even though allowing people to continue to visit such facilities does not represent any expenditure.  Clearly, the actions of the liberal Democrats in regard to this budget dispute are what have been unreasonable.  In contrast, conservative Republicans have been standing on principle of opposing the increase in the debt and the federalization of health insurance, which would add dramatically to the deficit.

           The current federal government shutdown will be resolved and furloughed workers given back pay for their time off.  The United States will not default on its debt.  The sky will not fall.  There are likely to be other partial shutdowns or disputes over the debt limit.  We shall survive all of them, just as we have routinely before.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Letta's Grand Coalition Wins Confidence Vote with Berlusconi Support

         
           Italian Prime Minister Enrico Lettas center-left-right government won a vote of confidence in the Italian Parliament yesterday.

           I had reported in my previous post that former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi had withdrawn his support for the executive because of Lettas center-right government's effort to remove him from office in accordance with his sentence for corruption.  After a majority of the main center-right party expressed support for the Government, Berlusconi changed his strategy and decided to back the shaky government. Nevertheless, according to the Italian News Agency, ANSA, the process has produced a split within the People of Liberty Party, with Deputy Prime Minister Angelino Alfano breaking with the former Premier.

           For now, the vote ends the political crisis in Italy and restores a degree of investor confidence in its critically-important economy.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Berlusconi Withdraws Support for Letta’s Coalition Government


           Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has withdrawn his support for the already-shaky coalition government of the center-left and center-right led by center-left Premier Enrico Letta.  He is the leader of the largest party of the center-right bloc, the People of Liberty, which has returned to its original name, Forward Italy. 

Berlusconi had required his party’s cabinet ministers to hand in their resignations.  The former Prime Minister objects to efforts by the center-left to remove him from his seat in the Senate because of a fraud conviction.  The Government faces a confidence vote in which it must depend on center-right defectors for support.  Berlusconi is pushing to guarantee an end of the hated property tax and to cancel the increase in the sales tax.  If the five-month-long Government falls, Italians would soon have to return to the polls for parliamentary elections, the results of which are uncertain. 

The prospect of a fall of the executive of Italy, which has the third largest economy in the European Monetary Union, has rattled financial markets, as the current Italian Government is considered fiscally responsible.  Italy, which has been reducing its budget deficit, is a bulwark against the contagion of debt and fiscal crisis in the eurozone.  

Narrow Definition of Journalism Threatens Freedom of the Press


The word journalist is being defined in proposed federal legislation to expand the shield law that protects journalists from prosecution for refusing to reveal their sources in criminal investigations.  The proposed definition is narrow and clearly only includes paid professionals, not those, such as us bloggers, who do the exact same work, either employed by themselves or for free. 

Aside from the question on the merits of a journalist shield law, this proposed definition of journalist is an attempt by a de facto guild of paid employees of the media to re-establish their industry’s monopoly on information and commentary.  As such, it is a threat to liberty and must be opposed by conservatives and all those concerned about the freedom of the press – a right that belongs to all. Furthermore, it is not the duty of government to define any profession or any legitimate practice of exercising a freedom.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Foreign Digest: Mali, Cambodia, Liberia


Mali
            The newly-elected president was inaugurated in Mali, marking the representative republic’s official return to democratic, civilian rule after a military coup in 2012.  The coup had occurred because of frustration with the previous elected government’s inability to put down both a Tuareg rebellion and an Islamist insurgency in the north, which, as I have posted, were thwarted by a French-led international coalition in the former French colony, which represented a significant victory in the War on Terrorism.

Cambodia
            Longtime Communist strongman Hun Sen was recently reelected for another term as Prime Minister of Cambodia in an election marred by allegations of widespread election fraud.  The opposition, joined by one of the Cambodian Princes, has protested the results.  The international community ought to pressure the Cambodian regime to respect the expressed will of the people, as it is having some incremental success in doing in Burma, but is not doing adequately in regard to a situation similar to Cambodia’s in Zimbabwe.

Liberia 
           The International Criminal Court has rejected the appeal of Charles Taylor’s sentence for crimes against humanity.  Taylor was the dictator of Liberia in the 2000s during the Liberian Civil War and was responsible for human rights abuses, including mass murder.  An international coalition backed by the United States under President George W. Bush had helped remove the Liberian dictator from power, end the bloodshed and allow Liberia to restore itself to representative government and liberty.  These sentences against dictators for crimes against humanity are essential for deterring such behavior.