Tuesday, February 26, 2013

We Are All “African-Americans”

           The United States Census Bureau, part of the Obama Administration, is eliminating the choice of “Negro” as a race, allowing only “black” or “African-American” in its place.  Negro (pronounced nay-gro) is Spanish or Portuguese for black, from the Latin nero.  Traditionally, Negro refers specifically to the African members of the so-called “Negroid race,” as opposed to those blacks who migrated out of Africa many millennia ago, such as Australian Negroes or the Negrito people of New Guinea.    

Apparently, because Negro was in use during the period of the rise of racism and widespread discrimination, the word has come to be thought of as pejorative through a kind of guilt by association, even though it is simply a foreign word for black, which is how most American blacks refer to themselves. There does not appear to be any thought that those of us of Spanish, Portuguese or Italian (the Italian language comes from Latin) ancestry might find the suggestion offensive itself that a word from our language family is considered inherently offensive.

There are several objections to the term “African-American” to label blacks from Africa who reside in America.  It is imprecise in a number of ways to the point of being confusing, and even meaningless.  

The first is that not all Africans are black.  Aside from colonists from Europe and Asia, some indigenous Africans are Asian.  Many North Africans are Semitic while Madagascans are mostly Malayan-Polynesian.  For example, Egyptian-Americans are “African-American” because Egypt is an African state, but most are not black.  Additionally, not all African blacks come directly from Africa, such as some South Asians and those mentioned above from Australia and New Guinea who thousands of years ago all left Africa.   

            The main objection to the term “African-American” for Africans who are black is that it is applicable to all human beings.  According to biologists who traced the mitochondrial DNA all major ethnic groups, all modern humans are descended from an East African woman.  Thus, all humans are genetic Africans.  Therefore, all Americans – not only those who are black from Africa or elsewhere – are “African-Americans.”

            The word black or perhaps the terms black African or African black are better than “African-American” to refer more specifically to blacks from Africa and not to members of the Negroid race from elsewhere.  Black African or African black would differentiate better than black between members of the Negroid race and the “untouchable” dark-skinned caste of India, who are Asian.  

           The Census bureau has yielded to political correctness in eliminating “Negro” and allowing “African-American” as choices.  Moreover, scientists also tell us that although there are some minor physical differences between some ethnic groups that are generally because of physical adaptations to their environments, there really is no such thing as race among human beings.  There is only the human race – a species, homo sapiens, with origins in East Africa thousands of years ago.  

Monday, February 25, 2013

Conservative Analysis of the Elections in Italy and Cyprus

Center-Right and Center-Left Each Win Chambers in the Italian Parliamentary Elections

            None of the four major blocs of parties came close to winning a majority of the popular vote in the Italian parliamentary elections, in either the Senate or the lower Chamber of Deputies.   In the lower house, the center-left bloc edged the surprisingly-strong center-right bloc by four tenths of one percent in unofficial returns – enough to win a majority of seats because the winner of the most votes receives a bonus allocation of seats.  The center-right is questioning the validity of the results.

However, no bloc gained a majority in the Senate.  Although the center-left won nearly one per cent more popular votes for the upper chamber, the center-right bloc will have the largest share of seats.  The center-right succeeded in its goal of denying a working majority to the center-left, meaning Italy will have the unusual situation for a parliamentary state of a divided government, and force either a grand coalition or a second parliamentary election.  

            Interestingly, only one of the four major candidates was a candidate for both parliament and prime minister, the centre-left candidate.  Prime Minister Mario Monti, who was appointed life senator and then premier, is not a candidate for parliament but would have headed another government if the centrist party he leads would have won.  Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the centre-right candidate, is not his party’s candidate for premier; the party’s secretary would be prime minister.  The leader of a populist movement that won many seats in both chambers was also not a candidate for prime minister.

            Debt was the main issue in the election campaign.  Monti has implemented austerity, continuing Berlusconi’s efforts in cutting spending to eliminate the deficit and reduce debt, but, unlike his predecessor, he has raised taxes.  The center-right campaigned on repealing the hated tax increase.  The center-left has promised to continue Monti’s austerity program, but one of its coalition partners, an anti-austerity far-left party, and the Prime Minister, have ruled out a coalition together.  Regardless, the two blocs lack enough combined seats in the Senate for a majority.  Italy’s budget is projected to be balanced by next year, but its economy is in recession because of the tax increases.   

Because of the lack of a decisive winner of the parliamentary elections, a coalition government is likely.  The uncertainty will continue in the meantime as it remains unclear what coalition of blocs of parties could possibly produce a working majority.  A minority government would soon necessitate another parliamentary election.  An apparently elusive grand coalition of the center-left and center-right would avoid a second vote, but would result in an unstable government that would also require parliamentary elections within several months.

As I have posted previously, Italy has one of the largest economies in the world, but has amassed a one of the largest debts in the world.  Its fiscal soundness is of critical importance to the European Monetary Union and the single currency project, as well as to global economic health.  Investors are disappointed the elections have not produced a clear winner. 

A Conservative Wins the Cypriot Presidential Elections

The conservative candidate won the presidential elections in Cyprus.  The campaign was dominated by fiscal matters, instead of the usual subject of the partition of the island republic between Turks in the north, which is occupied by Turkey, and Greeks in the south.  Cyprus is struggling with a severe debt crisis.  The conservative president is expected to cut spending to reduce the debt, along the lines of the austerity programs implemented in Europe.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Two Years of Reform and Restoration of Fiscal Responsibility for Pennsylvania under Corbett

             When Tom Corbett, a Republican, took office as Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania two years ago, the state faced a budget deficit of over $4 billion in the midst of a severe recession.  He promised to eliminate the deficit without raising taxes.  Corbett kept his promise.

            Working with the Republican legislature, Governor Corbett balanced Pennsylvania’s budget – without raising taxes.  They even managed something rare in recent state history: they approved these budgets on time.  In fact, the Governor and General Assembly have approved on-time balanced budgets, while cutting taxes, two years in a row.  Although the state is still suffering through the recession, along with nearly all of the other 49 States in the Union, and unemployment remains high, Pennsylvania has enjoyed the fastest job creation of any state.

The so-called education spending cuts for which Corbett is criticized were not significant cuts, but the expiration of the Obama stimulus that Governor Rendell had put on education to free up the rest of the general fund money to spend; I know from serving as an elected school director at the time that school districts were warned in advance of the temporary nature of the stimulus money, but most incorrectly expected the restoration of the money anyway and spent accordingly.  I also know that school districts could afford to cut waste, fraud and abuse and prioritize their spending.

Corbett has compiled an impressive litany of significant accomplishments in his first two years as Governor: Reforming welfare reform by cracking down on fraud and by counting assets in determining eligibility, reducing business taxes, including the elimination of Pennsylvania’s onerous estate tax on family farms, reforming unemployment compensation, enacting small business regulatory reform, approving environmentally-responsible natural gas extraction regulation and assessing a principled impact fee without imposing a gas-extraction tax on top of the high taxes Pennsylvania businesses already pay, increasing significantly the number of state troopers, implementing major prison reform, banning bath salts and texting while driving, expanding the Castle Doctrine, enacting a voter identification requirement and approving tort reform.  He has opted out of the state health insurance exchanges that are part of President Barack Obama’s federalization of health insurance, thereby sparing businesses from the employer mandate to purchase health insurance, as well as the expensive Medicaid expansion under that plan.  In addition, Corbett exhibited strong leadership during the floods from Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy.

            Much work remains to be completed over the next two years, however.  Corbett has sued the NCAA to keep the fines it imposed on Pennsylvania State University in the Commonwealth.  He has proposed the privatization of both the state lottery to ensure the dwindling program provides a sufficient amount of the funds promised for senior citizen programs, and the state-owned wine and spirit stores, which the Governor regards as a conflict of interest because the same state agency that owns the shops also is responsible for the regulation of alcohol – an arcane regulation regime that deprives Pennsylvanians of as much selection as citizens in neighboring states, at that.  Corbett has also proposed pension reform for state employees, such as replacing the Commonwealth’s defined benefit program with a defined contribution program, in order to close a funding gap of tens of billions of dollars, as well as a major improvement in the Keystone State’s infamously-poor roads and bridges.  

            Governor Tom Corbett has repaired the foundation for Pennsylvania’s fiscal and economic health.  Together with the General Assembly, this reform Governor will continue to restore Pennsylvania to its leadership position in the Union.

War on Terrorism Update: The Liberation of Northern Mali

           In a significant victory in the War on Terrorism, French forces have retaken all three provincial capitals in northern Mali, including Timbuktu and Gao, from Islamist rebels who usually offered little resistance.  

           Several neighboring African states have also contributed a force sufficient to help the Malian army hold the liberated towns against the expected attempt by the al-Qaeda-affiliates who have faded into the sand dunes of the Sahara to return.  The United States has provided increased logistical and intelligence support while other European states have brought additional assets.  Northern Mali is no longer the safe haven for Islamists it was and is no longer a de facto Islamist state.  As the Islamists have withdrawn, anecdotes of Taliban-style oppression at the hands of al-Qaeda have emerged from the now-liberated northern Malians.  The Islamists also desecrated some sites of religious and historical significance, as well as burnt some important medieval texts in Timbuktu.  Meanwhile, the Tuareg rebels, who had forged an alliance with the Islamists before splitting with them in advance of the French, have also fled into the desert. 

            The Malians and their African and Western allies must remain vigilant against al-Qaeda and other Islamists and should seek and destroy the remaining enemy cells to eliminate the threat completely.  

Friday, February 22, 2013

States Should Declare February 22 the Holiday of George Washington’s Birthday

            All of the American States should declare February 22, or at least the closet Monday to it, a state holiday of “George Washington’s Birthday” or “Washington’s Birthday.”

            I have posted nearly every year about how the federal holiday of “Presidents’ Day” diminishes the significance of the holiday that was intended to honor George Washington above anyone else as the Father of Our Country for all of his accomplishments before, during and after his presidency.  See my posts from February of 2009 and 2010, respectively, Presidents’ Day vs. Washington’s Birthday, http://www.williamcinfici.blogspot.com/2009/02/presidents-day-vs-washingtons-birthday.html and February of 2010, Eliminate the Presidents’ Day Holiday,
http://www.williamcinfici.blogspot.com/2010/02/eliminate-presidents-day-holiday.html and from March of 2012, Rep. Frank Wolfe Proposes to Restore February 22 as a Federal Holiday for Washington’s Birthday,

The meaning of the holiday has been diluted in two ways: its scheduling on dates other than on his birthday and the removal of Washington’s name from the holiday in common parlance and its association with others (i.e. all of the Presidents).  Several federal holidays are observed on the Mondays closest to the dates they are intended to honor, but because of the proximity of Abraham Lincoln’s February 16 birthday, Washington’s Birthday was moved to the third Monday of the month.  Thus, the holiday never falls on Washington’s February 22 birthday, as it would occasionally even if it were celebrated on the nearest Monday.  Indeed, even though the federal holiday is still officially called “Washington’s Birthday,” because of its placement between the birthdays of Washington and Lincoln, it has popularly come to be called Presidents’ Day, and not even “Washington and Lincoln’s Birthdays.”  More than 20 States have officially renamed their corresponding state holidays as “Presidents’ Day” or “President’s Day.”  The day has therefore become the holiday for the cult of the presidency instead of fulfilling its original purpose of honoring a great man.  See my post from February of 2009, George Washington the Great, http://www.williamcinfici.blogspot.com/2009/02/george-washington-great.html.

In addition to the States that do not include Washington’s name in their public holidays, several other States include other individuals in the name of the holiday, such as Lincoln, or the Presidents in general.  Usually, these holidays are observed on the same date as the federal holiday; no state observes February 22 as a public holiday.  The state holidays that honor George Washington specifically, even if including others, are less diluting than “Presidents’ Day.”  However, all of the current state holidays nonetheless add to the dilution of the significance of the holiday because, like the federal holiday, they never fall on Washington’s February 22 birthday.   

I call upon all 50 of the States in the Union to restore the rightful meaning of the public holiday intended to honor George Washington by declaring February 22 or the closest Monday to it a state holiday named for him alone.