Monday, May 26, 2014

Presidential Elections in Ukraine

           The presidential election was held in Ukraine yesterday.  The elections were free and fair.  However, in eastern Ukraine, pro-Russian insurgents attempted to disrupt the election by damaging polling materials and stations, threats and violence that intimidated many voters into participating.  In my last post on Ukraine earlier this month, I had discussed the Russian and Ukrainian Russophile attempt to disrupt the election. Voter turnout was high in predominately Ukrainian-speaking western Ukraine and low in predominately Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine

           Businessman Petro Poroshenko appears to have easily won a majority among the crowded field of candidates.  He plans to crush militarily the pro-Russian insurgents quickly, but to negotiate an end to violence with both them and the Russian Federation.  Poroshenko has attracted a sense of unity amidst Ukraine's crisis, as the other major candidates have congratulated him.  It is hoped that Ukraine can remain independent, whole and free and soon enjoy peace and good relations with both Russia and Western Europe and the United States, while eliminating its debt and returning to prosperity.

Memorial Day Thoughts on Benghazi

           On the Memorial Day, a day set aside to honor those who died in military service for the United States of America, it is fitting to comment on the latest revelations earlier this month about the terrorist attack on September 11, 2012 on the American Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in which two U.S. servicemen made the ultimate sacrifice, among the four Americans murdered by al-Qaeda terrorists.

            The first revelation was in regard to the extent the Obama Administration misled the American people about the nature of the Benghazi attack.  Previous revelations had demonstrated that the Administration knew at the time that the attack on the consulate and intelligence annex with heavy weapons was sophisticated and unrelated to the protests in other Arab states about an anti-Islamic video, which it continued to attempt to blame for the attack.  The newest revelation shows the degree to which the Obama Administration willfully, deceptively conflated the protests about the video.  The Benghazi attack, which took place less than two months before the presidential elections, was timed on the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks.  The Obama-Biden campaign, which preferred to focus on domestic matters, had boasted that al-Qaeda was “on the run,” a story line an admission of a deadly al-Qaeda attack on Americans would have undermined. 

           The second revelation is that the U.S. military could have organized an effort to try to save the American personnel under attack in Benghazi, but the Administration opted not to do anything.  The Administration’s excuse that the attack was over before additional forces could have arrived is based upon the assumption that the length of the attack was known ahead of time, which, naturally, it was not.  There were American forces within striking distance of Benghazi.  The two Americans who did try to save the U.S. diplomats under attack died in military service to their country without military support.  We honor them for their bravery and selflessness, as well as the diplomats who also died in service to the U.S.  May God bless America.  

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Eurosceptic Parties Gain Seats in the European Parliament

Anti-European Union parties made large gains in elections for the European Parliament, coming in first in France, the United Kingdom and Denmark, while increasing their number of seats in several other European states.  Although the large majority of voters across Europe voted for pro-European parties, the winning of the plurality in France and the U.K. by right-wing Eurosceptic parties was particularly stunning, especially given a setback for the Netherlands’ anti-European party led by Geert Wilders. 

Eurosceptic parties spanned from the nationalist right to anti-establishment populism to the anti-austerity left.  In the first European parliamentary election since the debt crisis of the last few years, voters casting ballots for anti-E.U. parties were united in opposing the loss of national sovereignty to unelected European bureaucrats and objection to the arrogance and incompetence of the E.U.  Those on the right objected particularly to E.U. policies of loose immigration.  The magnetic welfare system of many European states was a related concern. 

In Italy, the anti-establishment populist Eurosceptics came in second behind the center-left party that is leading the grand coalition Government, although if the votes of right and left-wing anti-E.U. parties were added to their total, then together these parties won a slight plurality, although one of the parties failed to qualify for a parliamentary seat.  Greek voters favored the anti-European and anti-austerity leftwing party.  Meanwhile, the center-right, pro-E.U. party of Germany’s Angela Merkel won a plurality of seats in the European Parliament, which is a vote of confidence in her policy of domestic austerity and insistence of austerity in exchange for fiscal support for weaker European states.  Voter turnout across the E.U. was only slightly ahead of the previous election.  

These elections are a warning to center-right, center-left or socialist parties either in government or as the main loyal opposition that many Europeans want a return of national sovereignty from the European Union and reforms of domestic policies that the ruling parties have been unable to accomplish or have even dismissed insultingly.  I have posted repeatedly about the folly of the European Union and the Monetary Union in particular and how it is based upon a meaningless foundation of “European-ness” while ignoring the core values of Europe, and Western Europe in particular, namely Christianity.  

A Left-Wing European Plot to Oust Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi Is Confirmed

           Former United States Secretary of the Treasury claims in his memoir that European Union leaders asked the U.S. to pressure then-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy to resign at the height of the European debt crisis in 2011 by opposing an International Monetary Fund loan to the Italian Republic.  The story confirms the contentions of Berlusconi and his supporters of a left-wing plot against him.  

Unlike the Europeans, the Obama Administration opted not to interfere with Italy’s internal politics. 

            Berlusconi’s center-right Government implemented every fiscal reform the E.U. and European Monetary Union demanded, which would be met each time by praise from the E.U.  Then, within weeks, the EU would panic and demand more reforms.  Meanwhile, Italy was under financial attack by speculators, despite its strengths.  The Europeans, had they not been biased against Berlusconi and Italy, should have continued to have expressed confidence in the Italian Government instead of focusing on undermining it.

            The concern amongst Europeans and the world about Italy and its large public debt, which was among the largest in the world, was legitimate, as Italy, as the third largest economy in the European Union, was the firewall for the European Monetary Union (the zone of the single currency of the Euro), but some of these European leaders overstepped their bounds to try to oust a responsible government and even to try solicit the U.S. to participate in the conspiracy.  It was the political fragility of Italy’s fractious Government coalition that caused anxiety in the markets, and the same concerns about the Italian populace’s willingness to accept austerity as elsewhere in Europe, not a lack of fiscal reform or lack of political willingness to reduce debt.  Indeed, succeeding Prime Ministers Mario Monti, Enrico Letta and Matteo Renzi all built on the foundation of Berlusconi’s fiscal reforms.  Italy’s deficit is now less than the European Union-target of 3% of Gross Domestic Product.  The confidence of investors is reflected in the spread between the price of German and Italian bonds, which has narrowed to well below 200, the lowest since before the debt crisis.

           It is important to note that the Monetary Union exacerbated Italy’s problems, which were made more difficult to resolve because of the loss of sovereignty from giving up the national currency and subordinating the State to the European super-state.  

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Cinfici Is Re-elected to Berks County Republican Committee

           In the 2014 Pennsylvania Primary Election yesterday, as I posted in my last post, voters had the opportunity to elect candidates for party offices.  I am pleased to report that I was re-elected unanimously by the electors in my precinct, the 7th Precinct of the 17th Ward of the City of Reading as Republican Committeeman for another four-year term, which makes me a member of the Berks County Republican Committee.  Additionally, I was the high vote recipient on the GOP ballot, out-polling candidates for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, United States Representative and Republican State Committee.  I have served as Republican Committeeman since 1992, first in the 9th Precinct of the 17th Ward, then the current Precinct, after the two were consolidated.  I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Republicans of Reading 17-7 for the confidence exhibited in me.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Syrian Civil War Update: The Assad Regime Used Chemical Weapons Again

           A human rights organization has concluded that Syria’s Assad regime has used chemical weapons again.  The Syrian dictatorship allegedly used them several times recently against civilian targets. 

The Obama Administration had previously threatened American military punishment against Syrian for using weapons of mass destruction against its own people during a three-year popular uprising, but agreed to a deal that was brokered by Russia in 2013 for Syria to give up its chemical weapons.  The deal left the Baathist regime of Bashar Assad unpunished, not only for having used chemical weapons, but for indiscriminately using conventional weapons in civilian population centers, and thus, undeterred.  The Administration has not made clear its plans to act on the new information.    

The death toll from the war has reportedly climbed to 160,000.  As I have posted previously, Syria is a terrorist-sponsoring major ally of Iran and has long been a threat to regional peace and stability.  More than a million Syrians have fled their country, which has created an international humanitarian crisis from the Middle East to southern Europe.  The fighting has occasionally spilled over into several neighboring States.  What began as a popular uprising against dictatorship in 2011 has been partially co-opted by Islamists, who have attempted to fill the vacuum left by the international community’s lack of significant support, although non-Islamist Muslims remain at the core of the rebellion. 

Update on the Russian Invasion of Ukraine

Referenda were held a few days ago by ethnic Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine on whether to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation, like Crimea.  Russian forces have been in the region fomenting armed insurrection, including the armed takeover of government facilities by their sympathizers, trying to cause bloody conflict with Ukrainian government forces to justify a full-scale invasion, while thousands of Russian troops remained menacingly massed on the Russian-Ukrainian border, instead of at their bases.  Ukraine and its supporters reject the validity of a referendum under such circumstances. 

As I posted previously, Russia had pledged by treaty to respect Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, which it violated to seize Crimea.  The Russians are also trying to disrupt the planned presidential elections in Ukraine.  As in Crimea (see also my post from last month, The Russians and Iranians Admit Lying,, a United Nations report found no threat from the pro-Western interim Ukrainian government or other Ukrainians to Russian-speakers in Eastern Ukraine, allegations of which were the Russian excuse for intervention in Ukraine.  Furthermore, it found the only human rights violations came from the separatist Russophiles.   

It is noteworthy that many ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine reportedly are hesitant to be annexed by the Russian Federation because of the lack of freedom in Russia, led by authoritarian President Vladimir Putin, a Communist who is a former Soviet intelligence officer.  Like the Tatars in Crimea, Ukrainian Jews also feel threatened by the Russians. 

            If Crimea’s annexation had been justified by the Russians with the slogan, “Crimea is Russia,” then one must wonder what the excuse is for the annexation of eastern Ukraine.  Like Crimea, eastern Ukraine had been inhabited primarily by Ukrainians, after having been inhabited by Tatars.  Russians, descendants of the Rus, invaded from Muscovy to colonize Crimea, eastern Ukraine, the Transnistrian region of Moldova, etc., which thereby became parts of the Russian Empire, the predecessor to the Soviet Empire, known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.  Eastern Ukraine is Ukraine, not Russia.  The obvious goal of Russia and its Russophile sympathizers is the restoration of the Soviet Empire, which means the absorption of peaceful, free pro-Western republics into the Russian Federation, or at least under its control as puppet states.

           Meanwhile, fellow former Soviet Republic Moldova, which fears a Russian invasion to seize breakaway Transnistria, a region on its eastern border with western Ukraine inhabited by ethnic Russians, reached a major agreement with the European Union for association.  The agreement will establish political association and economic integration.  Moldova hopes its association with Europe and the West will not only benefit it economically, but deter a Russia invasion.  

Sunday, May 18, 2014

2014 Primary Election Day in Pennsylvania

As in several other States across the American Union, Tuesday May 20 is Primary Election Day in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

There are party nominations for important state and federal offices, such as Governor, Lieutenant Governor, United States Representative and state legislators (Representatives and Senators).  Additionally, there are referenda in some municipalities, as well as county and state party offices, on the ballot across Pennsylvania.  There are conservative candidates seeking election to these public and party offices and the ballot questions are matters of good government.  In some cases, candidates’ names do not appear on the ballot, but they are campaigning to have voters cast ballots for them by writing in their names. 

Pennsylvania has a closed primary system, meaning only electors registered for a particular party may cast ballots in that party’s primary to nominate its candidates.  However, any registered voter may vote for or against a ballot referendum.

Governor Tom Corbett and Lieutenant Governor Jim Cawley, Republicans, particularly merit the votes of the electors of Pennsylvania.  With the help of the Republican-majority General Assembly, Governor Corbett kept his campaign promise to eliminate Pennsylvania’s $4 billion budget shortfall left by the previous liberal Democratic Administration without raising tax rates and by reducing wasteful spending.  Despite the claims of his liberal opponents, he did not cut education, but restored education funding and raised it to a record-high level after the expiration of temporary federal stimulus funding.  Corbett signed a responsible natural gas impact fee into law that, together with other reasonable regulation, protects Pennsylvania’s environment and aids local municipalities affected by the industry, without surrendering the Keystone State’s competitive advantage in order to keep the industry in the Commonwealth, where it has provided a significant economic boost and increase in state revenue.  Corbett also cut business taxes, eliminated estate taxes for all family businesses, reformed unemployment compensation, reformed tort law, increased school choice, as well as openness, transparency and accountability in public education, signed a major transportation bill into law, and reformed the State's welfare system by reducing waste, fraud and abuse, among many positive initiatives that I have posted about over the last four years.  Corbetts policies have helped reduce Pennsylvania's unemployment rate below 6%, which represents an increase in over 150,000 net jobs.

It is critical to vote for conservative candidates for all public and party offices, even if a candidate has no opposition named on the ballot, and for better government through referenda.  Conservatives who are registered Republican should vote to re-nominate Tom Corbett and Jim Cawley as Governor and Lieutenant Governor, respectively, while those conservatives who are registered Democrat should write in their names for their party’s nomination.

Gary Becker, in Memoriam

           Nobel Prize-winning conservative economist Gary S. Becker, who pioneered an interdisciplinary approach to economics with various other academic fields, and who recognized rational decision-making in economic and other matters, died earlier this month at age 83 in Chicago.

            Born in Pottsville, Pennsylvania in 1930, Gary Becker’s father was a small businessman who moved the family to New York City when his son was five, thereby exposing him further to business and stocks.  Becker earned a bachelor’s degree from Princeton in 1951 and a Doctorate in economics from the University of Chicago 1955.  He was a professor there for a few years, then at Columbia University for many years, before returning to the University of Chicago

There, free market defender and fellow Nobel laureate for economics Milton Friedman became Becker’s mentor.  Together, they formed part of the academic school of thought known as the Chicago School of Economics. 

            Becker wrote numerous books and articles over nearly six decades.  His most influential books and their dates of publication included the following: The Economics of Discrimination, 1957; Human Capital, 1964; and A Treatise on the Family, 1981.  Becker was also a conservative columnist for Business Week from 1985-2004 and then co-wrote a blog with Federal Judge Richard Posner for the last decade of his life.

            The work of Becker transformed not only academics, but has had a significant effect on economics and public policy.  He added the insight of sociology, demographics, psychology and criminology to economics.  Becker’s interdisciplinary approach is also credited with introducing economics to sociology.  He thereby changed the perspective of economics from treating people’s decision-making as irrational or emotional (e.g. based upon fear), to rational, and, therefore, predictable.  Becker targeted his intellectual curiosity and academic rigor to the subject of family decisions and crime, for example.  He concluded that criminals were not motivated only by mental illness or social oppression, as had been widely assumed, but by the perception that the benefits of the crime would outweigh the risks.

            Becker famously provided the academic research to back up the common-sense conservative argument against racial discrimination, or by analogy, against any other type of discrimination that is based upon arbitrary reasons.  He concluded that racial discrimination makes a business less competitive than those that hire based upon merit because a business that does not hire blacks at a relatively lower wage, must pay Caucasians at a relatively higher wage.  A related conclusion is that free market competition reduces discrimination.  

            Becker recognized altruism as a true motive, but also demonstrated how financial incentives can inspire altruism.  He was known for the famous theory of the “rotten kid,” whereby parental financial aid to a selfish sibling that is contingent on his well-treatment of his other siblings would induce him to treat them better then he otherwise would. 

            For his academic work, Becker received numerous awards and honors, including the Nobel prize for economics in 1992 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush in 2007.  In addition to awards in the fields of economics and statistics, he was made a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1972, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in 1997, and was the winner of the National Science Award in 2000. 

            Not confined to the halls of academe, Becker was a co-founder of a business and philanthropy consulting company.  He was also an advisor to Republican presidential nominee Robert Dole during the former Senator from Kansas in 1996 and served on an advisory body during the War on Terrorism.  Becker was hawkish against both budget deficits and terrorists. 

           Gary Becker’s significant contributions to economics and his model for interdisciplinary academic studies will continue to bear fruit toward a better understanding of mankind and to better economic decision-making, fiscal and other public policy.   

The Victimization of Cinfici by Obamacare

           In my last post, I reported the enactment of a law to prevent the federalization of health insurance, also known as “Obamacare,” to prevent small businesses from not being able to continue to offer their employees the choice of low-premium, high-deductible health insurance plans that make them eligible for tax-advantaged health savings accounts.  Since then, like many other Americans who were satisfied with their health insurance policies, I coincidentally learned that my own high-deductible health insurance policy will be cancelled because of the federal health insurance takeover, despite President Barack Obama’s false claim during his campaign for Obamacare that the insured who liked their current insurance plans could keep them.

            Because of the federalization of health insurance that was passed by a liberal Democratic Congress and signed into law by Obama in 2009, my deductible will increase over 25%, while my premium will increase more than 125%!  In return, I am now eligible for a series of benefits I mostly cannot use, such as for women’s or children’s health care.  The few preventive care benefits for which I am now eligible, for which I would have continued willingly to pay out of my pocket, are worth less in terms of financial cost than the increase in cumulative premiums, in addition to the increased annual deductibles. 

I also now see firsthand how the insured are treated more equally under the federalization of health insurance, which means there is less reward for healthy behavior than before, as the law eliminates insurance underwriting.  Thus, the insured’s insurance rates are less based upon their individual risk profiles, including their own lifestyles, but are is designed primarily as public welfare for those who are unable or unwilling to pay for their own health care and for those who are too ill to insure, as insurance is intended as a pooling of risk, ideally among those with similar risk profiles, not as a subsidy those who already require funds.  The federal health insurance takeover has thereby reduced freedom by reducing choice.  As those who do not need insurance because they can afford their own health care are being forced to acquire it in order to subsidize others, the choices of those of us who desire insurance plans to fit our individual situations are now limited.  Moreover, it appears that those individuals who were responsible to pay for their own health care or for insurance only for relatively catastrophic illnesses or injuries, are being punished by the federal government as if we did something wrong, in order to aid those who were too irresponsible to pay for their own health care.  Health insurance is not a federal issue, nor even a proper general concern for any government, but if it were, government ought to reward responsibility, not to punish it and reward irresponsibility.

The theoretical liberal premise of the federalization of health insurance is that, for financial cost controls and improving health, the focus of health care should be on those who are healthy in order to screen or prevent disease, instead of the treatment of those who are ill.  Therefore, the law removes the financial disincentives for preventive care.  This theory remains unproven, as there are numerous concerns, such as the increased risk to healthy people going to health care centers full of patients infected with various contagious diseases, and the financial waste and counter-productiveness toward the goal of improving health of spending (rationed) health care resources on the healthy, at the expense of the ill.  I submit how unnecessary it is to provide financial incentives for reasonable people to receive certain preventive care screenings or procedures they already receive regularly, even at their own expense.  In other words, government – in this case, the federal government – assumes that people would not act reasonably for the sake of their health because of financial reasons, and decides to force them to make what it considers to be decisions in the best interest of their health.  The federal government’s assumption that people must be incentivized financially to act in their best interest is an offensive kind of prejudice, that people would necessarily place their financial self-interest above the vital interest. 

The federalization of health insurance is clearly the embodiment of numerous liberal policy goals that are based upon various errors: obsession with money and lack of understanding of self-interest, especially financial self-interest; distrust of financial liberty; redistribution of wealth by taking from those who earned it and giving it to those who did not; radical egalitarianism; opposition to the free market, especially private enterprise; and faith in large, centralized government, aversion to the principle of subsidiarity and contempt for the constitutional principal of federalism, all at the expense of the rights of States and the freedom of the people.