Tuesday, December 16, 2014

America’s Dilemma: Terrorism at home versus the high moral ground

A young pilot was flying a mission over enemy territory long ago and far away when defense forces badly damaged his plane, forcing him to eject. The ejection was violent, breaking both arms and one leg, and the young pilot landed in water, nearly drowning before enemy soldiers found him, dragged him ashore, crushed his shoulder with a rifle butt, stabbed him with a bayonet, and then hauled him away for interrogation. Badly injured, he was given no medical aid, but instead was put through brutal questioning sessions during which he was beaten.

He spent six weeks in a hospital where he received marginal medical treatment before being sent to another military camp. In a chest cast and being badly emaciated, he was expected not to last a week.

His condition improved slowly as time passed. But while he was ill with dysentery he was again subjected to interrogation and torture that included rope bindings and beatings every two hours, punishment so severe that he tried to kill himself to escape the brutal treatment. Eventually, he reached his breaking point, and cooperated with his captors.

A second story of actual treatment of an enemy involved the capture, interrogation and detainment in military custody that lasted several years. During this time the captive was subjected to sleep deprivation for a period of more than seven days, rectal hydration, forced standing for prolonged periods, and was water boarded five times. Eventually, the captive’s will also broke, and he cooperated with his captors.

While the treatment in the second example would certainly be unpleasant, it is less severe than the experience of the pilot in the first example, inasmuch as the captive’s life was never in danger. Some Americans, however, believe the two equally represent torture.

The pilot in the first example was now-Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., and he was shot down over Viet Nam, captured and tortured by the Viet Cong.

The person in the second example was Khalid Sheik Mohammad, the mastermind of the 9-11 attacks on the Twin Towers in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, DC, and a foiled attempt likely aimed at the U.S. Capitol building or the White House, claiming the lives of nearly 3,000 innocent people.

Torture is the action of inflicting severe pain on someone as a punishment or to force them to do or say something, and has been practiced through the ages, and has included the most brutal treatment imaginable.

In interrogation sessions, some techniques are clearly torture, and some techniques are clearly not torture. Somewhere in the middle of these extremes, strong interrogation crosses the thin and fuzzy line into torture. Where that point is seems to be a matter of personal preference.

Having released a controversial partisan report on the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques, the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee charges that the CIA’s techniques constitute torture.

The CIA vigorously disputes the Democrat leadership’s report, saying the methods were thoroughly analyzed and approved by legal consultants prior to their implementation, and that Congressional leaders were briefed on them and accepted the program. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., is said to have encouraged the program.

The United States does indeed profess and uphold high-minded ideals, and most Americans oppose torture. And through this $40 million report and comments by individual senators, we are told that torture is always and forever wrong.

But is there never a circumstance where torture is justified?

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., thinks not. “In the wake of 9/11, we were desperate to bring those responsible for the brutal attacks to justice. But even that urgency did not justify torture,” states the Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “The United States must be held to a higher standard than our enemies, yet some of our actions did not clear that bar.”

We learn that al Qaeda has placed a suitcase nuke in a major city set to detonate in a few hours. We have captured a member of the group and Sen. Feinstein questions him. He refuses to tell where the bomb is. “Okay. Thank you. Have a nice day,” she says. “After all, we are a people of principle and high morals, and won’t stoop to forceful interrogation.”

Who and how many American lives have to be at risk before those like Sen. Feinstein, clinging to the high moral ground, resort to forceful interrogation methods to save lives? Her spouse? Her hometown? Her Capital office? Or would she sacrifice American lives just to maintain the idealistic moral high ground?

You do not have to support routine use of torture to believe that in extreme cases, torture is acceptable. Many Americans believe nothing is too awful to use on an enemy in order to save lives.

So the issue is not that the United States can never use techniques generally agreed to be torture against enemies, but instead to clarify under what circumstances the United States will use those techniques, and how those decisions will be made?

Routine or indiscriminate torture is wrong. Any method used against knowledgeable enemies to save lives must be encouraged. Foolishly clinging to the high moral ground will get Americans needlessly killed.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Exodus: A Movie Lost in the Wilderness

     Radically different than prior versions of this story Exodus brings great shame to a magnificent biblical saga. Scripted to deviate from prior incarnations Exodus wanders through a series of sequences looking for a story that never develops. With horrible acting and  poorly designed back lot sets the audience is degraded as the movie unfolds. Christian Bale should have remained with the Batman series instead of sullying himself with this dreck of a film. John Turturro plays Seti, ruler of Egypt and beyond. He should have stayed in Brooklyn making bagels in Transformers. God has been diminished to a tertiary  role, which will make all atheist viewers happy. To reveal these sequences would spoil a film that spoils itself. As the cast moves from scene to scene the thousands of extras appear disconnected from the director's cues. For biblical purists I am still searching for a scene that comes near one event as originally told in this great work. Charlton Heston, the renown Moses of the 1050s, would have laughed off this script if offered to him. In a sense we have one of the best biblical tales treated to some of the worst Hollywood has to offer. My vote of 5 out of 10 is stated not to offend the acting of the mass numbers of extras. At nearly 2 hours and 30 minutes this film is 2 hours and 30 minutes too long.
Mark Davis President of Davis Writing Services. www.daviswritingservices.com.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Congress Dances to Obama's Tune


Congress dances to Obama’s tune

 

Did you believe the Republican landslide would effectuate policy changes in Washington, then take a peek at the proposed federal spending bill. Obama wins this round. Voters will be disenfranchised to know they are paying for an array of goodies not accessible to 99% of the population. Hollywood giveaways alone may run into the hundreds of millions from direct subsidies to major tax breaks. Race a car or ride a horse in competition, Congress has not forgotten you. Do you remember the Republicans admonishing Obama for his health plan. The proposed budget fully funds its operations. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) would receive $6.9 billion, which is an increase of approximately 40 million from the previous year. The questions are what diseases have they controlled and where is this huge sum spent? You may wonder why a separate allocation of $5.4 billion is being extracted from the America taxpayer for Ebola. That would be a half billion for each Ebola patient treated in the United States so far. Egypt is receiving over 1.3 billion in military aid and more in direct economic grants. Is Obama arming their country for the final assault on Israel? For security at U.S. embassies $5.4 billion would be allotted equivalent to the cash layout for Ebola. Some good news the Environmental Protection Agency will have its budget trimmed by $60 million down to $8.1 billion. This agency’s funds have been steadily trimmed since 2010. EPA puts people out of work and stifles industrial progression, nothing more. The Internal Revenue Service has their funds reduced by $345.6 million.  Billions of cuts would have been more appropriate for an agency that wreaks havoc on the masses. Another unimportant government agency which does little but spend money is the Education Department. Their funding was trimmed slightly to $70.5 billion. Since they do not directly educate anyone who are the beneficiaries of these funds? Many agencies involved with day to day dynamics of government function were funded at levels near those requested. The budget has not been cemented yet so these amounts may change. There is no doubt these proposed numbers will metamorphose as the infighting begins between the parties. The question I have is why can’t budget wrangling wait until the new Congress is seated? http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2014/12/09/whats-in-the-spending-bill-we-skim-it-so-you-dont-have-to/

 

Mark Davis MD, President of Davis Writing Services, www.daviswritingservices.com  Dr. Davis Latest book is Obamacare: Dead on Arrival, A Prescription for Disaster.

For media requests please contact Dr. Davis at: platomd@gmail.com

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

If we raise the minimum wage, we’ll get these fantastic results!!

The narrative of the left is that even people who have never had a job and/or don’t have any skills deserve and need a “living wage.” Merriam-Webster defines a living wage as “a wage sufficient to provide the necessities and comforts essential to an acceptable standard of living,” which varies widely depending upon where one lives.

The drive for a hike in the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, or sometimes as much as $15 an hour, lives on as a cause du jour for some Americans, defying the laws of business economics. Workers, labor unions, and politicians, support the wage hike through lobbying efforts, civil demonstrations, and labor strikes often paid for by labor unions.

These folks reject out of hand the fact that every job has an actual calculable value in the business it is a part of that takes into account the benefit to the business’s entire operation, the qualifications of the worker, and other real factors, unlike what drives the minimum wage hike: it is a nice idea, makes people feel good, helps unions raise members’ wages, and garners support for politicians.

The National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) notes that minimum wage hike proponents support an increase because it would save the government money in social support services, since those whose wages rise will be less likely to seek and need welfare benefits.

Research by the Economic Policy Institute shows that increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would reduce welfare spending by $7.6 billion, but that is only 3.8 percent of the total of $200 billion in welfare spending that taxpayers fund. Not that saving seven or eight billion is a bad idea.

However, in its efforts to give to people things they should earn through personal effort, the left focuses on the benefits of their ideas, and ignores the negative consequences.

This erroneous reasoning is responsible for a long and growing list of government programs the negatives of which far outweigh their benefits. The Community Reinvestment Act combined with repealing Glass-Steagall, and Operation Fast and Furious spring quickly to mind.

Addressing the negative impact of a wage hike, NCPA cites research by Ben Gitis of the American Action Forum asserting that raising the minimum wage will result in lost jobs. His analysis shows that 2.2 million new jobs would not be created, totaling a stunning $19.8 billion in lost earnings, if the minimum wage is increased.

The truth is that the number of minimum wage earners who really need a living wage is tiny. Only about 3.6 million workers, or 2.5 percent of all workers, earn the minimum wage, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics, and teenagers living at home comprise 31 percent of that group. And 55 percent are 25 years old, or younger, mostly inexperienced and just learning skills. Therefore, of all workers over 25, only 1.1 percent would be affected by a wage hike that would cost 2.2 million future jobs.

Combine that small number with the fact that well over half of workers earning less than $9.50 an hour are the second or third earner in a family, two-thirds of whom earn more than $50,000 a year, and that critical number shrinks even more.

As a percentage of hourly workers those earning the minimum wage has shrunk dramatically since 1980, when they comprised 15 percent of that group. Today, that portion is just 4.7 percent. And more than half of them are part-timers working less than 30 hours a week.

If you earn the minimum wage it certainly is appealing to imagine getting an increase in your wage of about half. But a hike in the minimum wage has to have solid economics-based reasons behind it, or it shouldn’t happen. The economic reality is that the numbers just don’t add up to support a $10.10 an hour minimum wage.

This wildly popular idea evolves from not understanding business and basic economics. How, in a country with education spending on average of $11,000 per student per year, can there be so many who have no idea about things like supply and demand, and how high costs, high taxes, excessive regulations raise prices and decrease sales.

The United States has just lost the top spot in the world in productivity to China, the first time since Ulysses S. Grant was president that America has not led the world.

A friend who ran a company doing business in several foreign countries was talking about his company’s expansion into China a few years ago. At the time China had 1.35 billion people, he said: 100 million communists, and 1.25 billion capitalists.

While Communist China embraces capitalist principles and becomes the most productive nation, the United States, once the bastion of free enterprise, increasingly embraces socialistic mechanisms and lost the lead in productivity for the first time in more than 130 years.

Most likely few of the proponents have ever had to make a payroll or keep a business viable in the face challenges like competition, high taxes and onerous regulations.

Foolish ideas like raising the minimum wage without sound reason helps explain our loss to China and our overall anemic economy. 

Friday, December 05, 2014

Racial Politics: A Divide to Overcome


Racial politics: a divide to overcome

 

Racism is a tool used by government and profiteers to keep people at odds with each other. Michael Brown and Travon Martin exemplify cases which were magnets to some who use race to enhance their bank accounts and prestige. As a result of their efforts in these cases violent protests occurred, causing property loss and worse life for a few individuals. Most active in this group are Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Louis Farrakhan, Eric Holder and our Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama. This cabal of despicable individuals have long track records utilizing derision, diversion, demagoguery and outright hate to inflame populations in order to achieve specific outcomes. Their success can be measured by the crowd’s protean actions which violated innocent communities where these protests erupted.

 

Few would argue against the proposition that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is no longer managed for the good of the collective population. Eric Holder, as U.S. Attorney General, has taken his department in a direction which finds racism where none exists. Holder’s office actually paid a group to instigate protests in Florida against George Zimmerman.

http://hotair.com/archives/2013/07/10/judicial-watch-foia-docs-show-doj-facilitated-zimmerman-protests-in-florida/ Our tax dollars went for race baiting, supplemented with speeches by Holder, that were tinged with racial comments.  More recently extensive racial hatreds were generated in Ferguson and across the country by the aforementioned group of race hustlers. They successful mythicized the actions of Michael Brown, enhanced by the left wing media, pumping hate we visualized for several nights across our video screens. Crowds crying for justice were misled into believing Brown was an innocent bystander killed by a rogue cop. A Grand Jury investigated a series of allegations perpetrated by those who wanted to lynch a white police officer. Evidence in the final review deflated the Brown myth and displayed a police officer who was doing his job. Yet the race baiters would not let go as the facts emerged to squelch their politically charged rhetoric. http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2014/11/us/ferguson-grand-jury-docs/index.html

 

Oprah Winfrey stated that older white people must die for racism to cease. http://newsbusters.org/blogs/noel-sheppard/2013/11/15/oprah-racists-have-die-racism-end I take a different view. Words such as racism and racist are utilized to a large extent by those who have the most to gain from their expression. These are the people that need to be removed from the map to extinguish racial hatreds. Oprah has shown herself to be one of the greatest race manipulators in the history of this country. Her movies, speeches and media venues collectively use race to keep her presence fresh in the American mind. Younger generations will be able to move away from the racial divide when modern day evangelists of hate, like Oprah, discontinue their emotionally charged verbiage or die off. Until then society will continue to be mentally and physically segregated.

 

Mark Davis MD, President of Davis Writing Services. www.daviswritingservices.com  Dr. Davis most recent book

Obamacare: Dead on Arrival, A Prescription for Disaster and Demons of Democracy. For media requests please contact Dr. Davis through his email address: platomd@gmail.com

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

New Jersey; More Bad News

More bad news for New Jersey surfaced last week as part of the disclosure paperwork released by the state as it prepares for a $535 million dollar general obligation bond issue. In the filings with the SEC it was reveled that the state's pension plans, now subject to new GASB accounting standards, are in much worse shape than previously thought. According to Reuters the funding level is nearly 20 percentage points lower than previously estimated. It is reported at just 44% funding for fiscal 2014.

This new level is even in dispute as an article from John Bury, a state pension expert that created the BuryPensions Blog, claims the funding level is just 32.6 percent of what is promised to government employees.

New Jersey is considered to be among the worst prepared and among the least well funded public pension systems of all states.

It does not take a crystal ball to know that when the stock market experiences a sharp decline or, as many financial pundits expect, the mega crash hits, this low level of funding will likely be catastrophic.

In advance of the pending calamity I think it is reasonable to ask how much this pension system and it's inequities to the private sector is behind the dismal economy and dire loss of opportunity that the people of New Jersey face?

America's Poster Child of Decline; Bankrupted Morals and Bankrupted Finances

RESOURCES

Pension & Investments 

http://www.pionline.com/article/20141126/ONLINE/141129877/new-gasb-rules-result-in-new-jerseys-funded-status-plummeting-to-44

Reuters

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/11/26/usa-new-jersey-pensions-idUSL2N0TF23620141126

BuryPensions Blog

https://burypensions.wordpress.com/2014/11/26/32-6-funded-ratio/

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

November surprise: Happy Thanksgiving from the Regulator-in-Chief

Fridays. That’s when the federal government finds it most advantageous to release ugly surprises. You’ve heard of the Friday document dump? The weekend is coming, most people are winding down from the work week, getting ready to relax for a couple of days, and they aren’t really paying attention to the news, and even the news folks are getting ready for the weekend, and are unprepared to respond to the release of a bunch of government documents.

This practice offers added value right before a holiday, when millions of people are not only readying for the weekend, but are preparing to travel to visit relatives or to host family and friends for the holiday, and therefore even fewer are paying attention to the news. So the Friday before Thanksgiving is when the Obama White House informed the nation, without fanfare, of 3,400 new regulations ready to go into effect next year.

Sam Batkins, the American Action Forum’s director of regulatory policy, told The Daily Signal, “The administration has been really aggressive on the regulatory front.” He added, “They drop [the Unified Agenda] on a Friday right before a holiday, and no one critical of their regulatory policies will have a chance to criticize it.”

The Unified Agenda is a document that serves as the administration’s roadmap for regulations it intends to finalize in coming months, and is usually released in the spring and fall.

The Regulatory Information Service Center of the U.S. General Services Administration, describes this document: “The Unified Agenda provides uniform reporting of data on regulatory and deregulatory activities under development throughout the Federal Government, covering approximately 60 departments, agencies, and commissions. Each edition of the Unified Agenda includes regulatory agendas from all Federal entities that currently have regulations under development or review.”

In 2012 the Obama administration issued 4,000 rules, so it’s good news that this year’s total is lower, although it is 100 rules larger than the 2013 Agenda.

Mr. Batkins notes that under the administrations of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush the Unified Agenda was “a normal, boring list of regulations,” but he warns that the Obama administration’s release of the Agenda near a holiday portends a group of regulations that have strong political implications. This year’s edition contains 23 “economically significant” rules, which are those with an economic impact of at least $100 million, two more than last year.

The Obama administration has introduced rules costing the economy $16 billion a year, on average, according to James Gattuso, senior research fellow in regulatory policy at the Heritage Foundation.

The American Action Forum states that the $16 billion annual average costs imposed on the country by the Obama administration is “tantamount to having a $160 billion tax increase over 10 years.” The Daily Signal quotes Mr. Batkins as saying that $18 billion to $20 billion in new regulatory costs equals an approximate increase in the payroll tax of 1 percent. “Payroll tax going up 1 percent — that would get everyone interested. But $20 billion in regulatory costs is the equivalent of that,” he said.

An increase in the payroll tax affects only employers and employees, but regulatory costs affect nearly everyone. Mr. Batkins analyzed 36 economically significant regulations issued by the Obama administration and shows price increases for the individual consumer in the following categories:

  •        Vehicles: $9,150
  •        Household consumer products: $1,639
  •        Mortgage: $362 annually
  •        Energy: $135 annually
  •        Health Care: $108 annually
  •        Food: $14 annually


That $11,000 effect is the result of just 36 rules of the thousands put into effect each year, and that estimate of costs comes from the government. Other estimates suggest costs are actually even higher.

New regulations push costs higher, and when things cost more people buy less of them. When sales drop, fewer workers are needed to produce, transport and sell those items, and people lose their jobs.

A Heritage study shows that the Obama administration issued 157 major regulations during its first five years, while for the same period under President George W. Bush, only 62 major regulations were released. Those 157 new rules cost Americans nearly $73 billion. No doubt these additional heavy regulatory costs are responsible for some of the dire employment problems the nation suffers more than five years after the recession ended.

Attempting to recover from a recession by issuing punishing regulations has to have a slowing effect on the recovery from the recession, and that is exactly what we have witnessed since the recession ended in 2009.

Consequently, unemployment is still far too high. The most common measure places unemployment at 5.8 percent, which is above the normal 4-5 percent full employment figure. But the more accurate number counting those who can’t find work and have quit looking is 11.5 percent.

The October labor force participation rate is 62.8 percent, the lowest since about 1980, and lower than the 65.7 percent level when the recession ended in June of 2009.

Perhaps it’s that people don’t understand the negative effects rampant regulation has on them, and that enables them to believe a higher minimum wage for the least skilled and least experienced workers is a more critical problem than the costs of regulation.