Sunday, December 7, 2014

My Cousin Mordecai Lawner's Death

My cousin Mordecai Lawner died five days ago, and I attended his memorial service this afternoon.  He had been an acting instructor at the Neighborhood Playhouse, Carnegie Mellon University and the High School of Performing Arts for many years, and his students included hundreds of professional actors.  Jeff Goldblum sent a memorial oration from LA via video, which my cousins played as part of the memorial service. Goldblum said that when Morty taught at Carnegie Mellon he introduced Goldblum to acting and had then been his lifelong mentor.  Morty appeared with George C. Scott in Death of a Salesman and played Woody Allen’s father in Annie Hall: http://youtu.be/G7L5FKh3EMM .  He was a wonderful guy and a veteran. 

He once talked me out of a show biz career. I  asked him whether I should consider becoming a producer, and he told me to read Elia Kazan’s autobiography.  By the time I had gotten half through it, I gave up the idea.  The Variety and Newsmax articles are here and here.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Why I Don't Support the Separation of Upstate from Downstate New York

Following the reelection of Andrew Cuomo as New York's governor, I began thinking hard about separating upstate New York from downstate New York.  Downstate New York includes the five counties of New York City and the four counties that surround it--Westchester, Rockland, Suffolk, and Nassau.   Upstate New York is more Republican than downstate, although it is not as Republican as it was 50 years ago because few retirees can afford to remain here, and most of the productive business--as opposed to real estate developers, Wall Street, and other businesses on public outpatient support--have fled.

The issues of guns, fracking, religion, and regulation divide the state, but views are variable. The upstate urban centers of Albany, Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse are Democratic, and the many university-and-college centers sprinkled throughout upstate also are Democratic. Woodstock and Olive, where I live, dominated by  the music, film and art businesses as well as weekend homeowners from New York City, is Democratic too.  Nearby Kingston and New Paltz, home of a state university campus, are also Democratic.  Therefore, upstate New York is variegated; nevertheless, there is a difference because the big-government philosophy dominant in New York City is less prevalent upstate.  The recent gubernatorial election saw small-government candidate Rob Astorino lose in downstate New York but win the majority of the vote and the majority of the counties in upstate New York.  Crooked, big-government advocate Andrew Cuomo, closely linked to super rich real estate developers, hedge fund managers, and other of the privileged rich on government outpatient support, handily won downstate.

I thought I'd write a piece about separating the two regions for the Lincoln Eagle, and I interviewed a leading activist in the separation movement. He told me that there is increasing support for the idea, especially following Cuomo's reelection.  Cuomo's dictatorial approach to guns and his fascistic attitude toward conservatives (he says that they don't belong in New York) stimulated strong opposition upstate.

My thought was that the values and needs of upstate differ sharply enough from New York City that government would be more representative if it were more decentralized.  I've changed my mind.  Having interviewed the separation activist and read an interesting piece in the Rochester Business Journal, I am coming to the conclusion that separation isn't worth the fight.

The decision to separate or not should not be financial; it should not be based on on net monies transferred from downstate to upstate.  First, no one is clear about the direction in which money actually flows. Second, even if money flows upstate, if the political union doesn't work, then the money isn't worth it.  Readers who posted   on the Rochester Business Journal article claim that upstate could not build roads without New York City's financial support; they might consider turning their heads toward Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire, whose roads are fine without New York City's help.

Two elements counterbalance each other.  First, New York City probably does subsidize the rest of the state because of the taxes collected from the financial industry, although the subsidization probably benefits two categories: special interests and welfare recipients.  Second, upstate suffers heavily from regulation and political mandates that emanate from the city.  These include a bloated, stupidly managed Medicaid system and heavy demands from public sector unions, to include the Service Employees International Union--which has successfully lobbied for the bloated Medicaid plan--teachers' unions, and statewide bureaucrats' unions like PEF and CSEA.  There is also the current prohibition on fracking, by which the environmental ignorance and superstitions of New York City's ideologues and cranks have deprived New York's Southern Tier of billions in revenue.

The question that remains is whether, given freedom, upstate will repeal the mandates,  regulations, and bloat that the city has imposed.  If it does not, will not, or cannot, there is no point to separation.  Having lived in Albany, Kingston, Potsdam, Binghamton, and New York City, my guess is that the people of New York are unable to overcome the lobbying of the special interests, the unions, the developers,  and crackpot green advocates, who have driven business away from the state.  The same processes of special interest brokerage will continue to dominate upstate New York, just as it has,  and I have no reason to think that upstate New Yorkers will gain 15 IQ points and start to think rationally about the costs and benefits of government policies.  North Dakota, with a population not much bigger than Buffalo's, has, but few states have.

The inner cities in upstate New York, such as the small city of Kingston, which is near me, are as backward as New York City; New Yorkers in rural areas are often co-opted by welfare and Medicaid programs that make them advocates of the bloated state, and a large share of upstate New Yorkers are public union looters.  The result will be, like the breakup of Standard Oil, two behemoth operations rather than one.  In the case of Standard Oil, the oligopoly included Exxon, Mobil, Chevron, ARCO, Sohio, and Pennzoil. In the case of New York, the oligopoly will become the bloated bureaucracy to the north and the bloated bureaucracy to the south. I don't think upstate New Yorkers have the brains to end the bloat that has deprived them of an economic future.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

I'm Betting on a Rising Stock Market

The belief that the stock market will go up forever is  a bubble psychology that goes back to the South Sea Bubble, which fooled even Sir Isaac Newton. Since 2009, and especially since President Obama's reelection in 2012, the stock market has been going at a tear. The tear will continue. The editorial page of the New York Times proves it.  The Times wrote this yesterday: 

On one side is a small yet vocal minority of Fed officials who want to head off inflation by raising rates sooner rather than later. On the other is a majority that thinks a near-term rate hike would stifle growth and, with it, any chance of restoring health to the labor market. That group includes Janet Yellen, the Fed’s chairwoman, and most members of the Fed’s policy committee…The economic evidence indisputably favors Ms. Yellen, who has indicated that rate increases should not begin until sometime next year, at the earliest. It will take until then to be able to say with confidence whether recent improvements in growth and hiring are sustainable.

The reason that the Times's editorial is important is that the nation's hierarchy of decision making with respect to interest rate policy is as follows:

Investment banker cronies--> Ochs Sulzberger family-->The New York Times--> public opinion among Democrats --> President Obama's opinon --> Janet Yellen's opinion --> Federal Open Market Committee decision

If a Republican were in office, the Wall Street Journal would play the equivalent role.

Rates will be lower, or will increase less, than stock market participants expect because the Democrats have a commitment to boosting the stock market. The Times goes on to make the curious claim that keeping interest rates low will improve real wages; that real wages have declined while interest rates have been kept at historically low levels for the past 43 years does not deter them.  Recall the old saying about insanity.  

 Seeking Alpha says that George Soros is currently hedging the S&P 500. I'm sure that there is a logical or statistical basis for his tactic  because all evidence says that the stock market is high now.  The support of the Fed will continue to keep the market at high levels into next year, though.  I'm not buying the S&P short ETF, SH, just yet. However, I have about 1% of my portfolio in the VIXX index and an interest rate short index, both of which have declined and are near all-time lows. The VIXX index measures market volatility, and it goes up when the stock market goes down.  It is at all-times low, which is an indicator that the stock market will go down.  

From a policy standpoint the New York Sun's Seth Lipsky continues to offer a still, small voice of financial sanity among the Sodom and Gomorrah of the American media.  Sadly, Paul Krugman will have to turn into a pillar of salt before any change in America's addiction to print-and-spend economics ends. 

For now, I'm buying a little more Chicago Bridge and Iron (CBI).  It's gone up a few percent since Buffett bought a second set of shares; according to Seeking Alpha several other hedge funds are piling in.  The sharp decline due to rumors about improper accounting and the firm's president's illness seems to have offered Buffett and other hedge funds a buying opportunity; including pension fund holdings, Berkshire may own 25%. 





Saturday, August 16, 2014

Opposition from Giuliani, Christie Suggests That Astorino Is a Man of Character

Big-government Republicans like Rudolph Giuliani and corrupt ones like Chris Christie have chosen to either support Andrew Cuomo or avoid supporting the small-government GOP candidate, Rob Astorino.

The New York Daily News reports that on July 24 Christie gave Astorino the brushoff because he doesn't think Astorino can win. Unlike Democrat Andrew Cuomo, who is facing a corruption investigation concerning the Moreland commission,  Astorino probably isn't corrupt enough for Christie.  Like Cuomo, Christie is under a corruption investigation:  Christie's close aides have admitted to closing lanes at the George Washington Bridge because the mayor of Fort Lee, Mark Sokolich, didn't endorse Christie in 2013. Christie has allowed his aides to take the blame, but why on earth would anyone believe that he didn't know?  The Newark Star Ledger adds that Christie's private attorneys have billed New Jersey taxpayers $6.5 million for legal services in his private defense.

At the same time, New York City's Mayor Giuliani, a guy who claimed to be for less government but never cut government, has been quietly supporting Andrew Cuomo.  There are so many things that Giuliani might see in Cuomo: the exodus of 400,000 New Yorkers during Cuomo's three years as governor, his attack on the Second Amendment, his failed Common Core school reform, or his narcissistic plan to rejuvenate New York's economy by appointing eight SUNY campuses to house a few well-connected tech firms, then spending $200 million dollars in TV ads around the country that use the dumb plan as a pretext to promote Cuomo himself.

 I rejoined the GOP out of desperation to get Cuomo out, but the GOP's bankrupt leadership is truly a gang that can't shoot straight. Perhaps Astorino would be best off disowning the GOP and using the GOP ticket to run a Libertarian campaign.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Is It Time to Buy Socialism Insurance Now That Federal Debt Exceeds GDP?

On April 8 2013 when the gold index fund, the GLD, was at 153, I got out of much of my gold, and I wrote that gold might hit $1,200. The GLD is currently at 127, and gold has already dipped below $1,200.  My guess is that there is still some downside in the gold market, though.  The reason is that the effects of the monetary creation since late 2008 through this year have had stimulative effects on the stock market.  The monetary stimulus of Reagan-Bush-Clinton years had a depressing effect on commodity prices,  which is part of why inflation was not as extreme as it might have been. The Bernanke-Obama monetary creation since 2009 will have larger effects than I initially thought, although I did start buying stocks around Thanksgiving of '09.

One of the characteristics of markets is that they tend to bottom with an overreaction, and we haven't seen capitulation in gold.  The decline has been orderly.  I am therefore still somewhat bearish in gold, although buying gold now will make sense in the long term.   Gold is socialism insurance, and we need socialism insurance now more than ever.  The monetary expansion keeps interest rates low, so gold exploration--along with other natural resource exploration--becomes more competitive, pushing down gold and gold stocks. Lower interest rates lead to more exploration, which leads to lower commodity prices, which lead to lower short-term inflation. Ultimately, inflationary expectations will escalate.

Writing in Seeking Alpha, Kirk Lindstrom points out that federal indebtedness, $17.7 trillion, now exceeds the US GDP, $17.3 trillion, a sign of socialist excess.  Lindstrom posts a revealing chart: Gold has gone steadily down since November '12 while the stock market has gone steadily up since April '11.

The gold market is complicated by additional factors.  The Chinese and other central banks have been buying gold in spite of Wall Street, Warren Buffett, their wholly owned media and academia's persistent hostility toward gold.   Second, the Obama monetary expansion occurred on top of a significant contraction and rising gold price.  Therefore, the deflationary and the inflationary processes are intermingled.  Third, the dollar is heavily subsidized by the world's central banks, so inflation may not come gradually; rather, there is a risk of a sharp monetary correction or collapse.  The third consideration makes owning gold more important than it was in the 1970s--even in a flat or declining market.

I am still waiting for capitulation in the gold market.  My stock investments have been OK, but I made the error of focusing on low-risk (low-beta) stocks that didn't appreciate to the same degree as tech stocks. VNR, Vanguard Natural Resources, is one of my holdings, and it's had a few short-term setbacks, but I'm holding onto it. It yields over 8%, and until the recent setbacks everyone believed the management to be fine, and most still do.  At the same time, there has been good news about Kinder Morgan, which I also own, and the MLP went up almost 30%.  I was also holding Heniz when Buffett bought it.  I had been holding CBI, Chicago Bridge and Iron, but I pulled out when it fell by about 20% on rumors.  I am going to buy it back soon. (It's since fallen another 20%.)  I also bought Kellogg (K) recently. It had fallen on poor Special K sales.  I am holding Philip Morris, Pepsi, and Kimberly Clark, which all had nice price appreciation over the past few years.  I like the MLPs because they pay rich dividends.  I also am making long-term investments in Dollar General, Traveler's Insurance, and Dominion Resources (D).  D is priced high for a utility, but they also hold a considerable amount of energy pipelines, which makes them similar to a midstream MLP.  Critics of D say that the dividend coverage is poor.  Also, I am making an exception to my pe-below-15x earnings rule. At the same time, the company is poised for more rapid growth than other utilities when natural gas prices rise.  The down side to investing in lower-risk companies with low price-earnings ratios is that they don't jump in a hot market like last year's.  However, I am holding Intel, Apple, and Microsoft, which have been doing well this year.  I also bought CSX, the railroad.  The railroads have been a play on energy, and I believe that they still have a way to go.  My stocks have been weak in the past few weeks, but so has everything else.  I have to learn not to listen to Warren Buffett's friend, Mr. Market.  

I am waiting for the gold market to fall. Maybe I'm on a fool's errand, but I don't believe that either the stock market run up or the gold market run down is over.




Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Mineoloa Mothers Support Rob Astorino's Stop Common Core Ballot Line

  

Rob Astorino put together a Stop the Common Core ballot line. They got 62,000 signature to introduce it. Because mothers around New York State are outraged about the common core standards, which Cuomo adopted to appease the Democratic Party and Bill Gates, the additional line should effectively supplement the Republican Party line.  Astorino is a great candidate.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Astorino for Governor



I have decided to support the Astorino campaign. I have it on good advice that Rob is a man of integrity. He has been campaigning against the corruption in the Cuomo administration.  Running against Andrew Cuomo is like shooting fish in a barrel.  There are so many issues. Rob is electable because he is successful at reaching out to Democrats, and he can improve things from the low level to which New York State has sunk.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Oprah Winfrey's 2012 Campaign Donations



Oprah Winfrey is a Democrat par excellence.  She was number 184 on Forbes's list of the richest Americans in 2012.  Rich Democrats get to support candidates who help them financially, but they can also go around telling people that they put others first.   We can thank Oprah for making us all a little poorer, yet at the same time we can admire her conscience with sincere gratitude. She is a saint.

Obama Victory Fund                 35,800
Obama Victory Fund                 40,000
DNC Servcies Corp.                 30,800
Obama Barack                            5,000
Colorado Dem. Party                  3,181
Ohio Dem Party                        10,000
Dem. Exec. Comm. Florida       6,818
Dem. Party Va.                           4,090
Dem. Party WI                           5454
Iowas Democratic Party             4545
Nevada State Dem. Party           4545
New Hampshire Dem. Party      1363

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Ivy League Schools and Progressivism

William Deresiewicz critiques the performance of Ivy League colleges in The New Republic.   Herbert Croly, Walter Weyl, and Walter Lippmann founded The New Republic as a cornerstone of the early twentieth century's Progressive movement, and it has long advocated policies that impose hierarchy, expand government, and gut the economy on behalf of economic elites. The policies include the higher education system. Unsurprisingly, Deresiewicz's critique of the higher education system retains Progressive assumptions and ultimately serves to reinforce them.

Progressive policies have included the monopolization of credit by large, money center banks through their banking cartel, the Federal Reserve Bank; the income tax, which inhibits saving that facilitates capital formation among blue collar and lower-income workers; the inheritance tax, which by depriving later generations of capital forces them to seek corporate jobs that depend on the banking cartel; and a wide range of economic regulations that deter entrepreneurship and self-actualization.  Regulation disadvantages entrepreneurial, smaller firms by raising costs per unit and increasing economies of scale.

In the controlled, hierarchical, high-income inequality, militaristic, and centralized American economy that Progressivism has created, higher education plays an important part.  Deresiewicz makes valid criticisms.  At the same time, his criticisms are couched in his assumption that higher education is an independent variable, capable of manipulation, and that the forces that deter broad education are merely limited to universities.

Deresiewicz, who was on the admissions board at Yale and is a leading academic, notes that Ivy League schools manufacture students who have little intellectual curiosity, lack passion about ideas, avoid risk, and have not been taught to think.  Such students are conformist and concerned with fitting into the highest rungs of American society.  The great advances in America's economy have never come from its elite, though. America's elite has always concentrated on banking, law, and power. The great American inventions such as the assembly line, scientific management,  and AC electricity had little do with such elites.

Colleges cannot teach one how to think. They can demand that one thinks; provide material about what to think; and offer models, heuristics, algorithms, and solutions that illustrate thinking processes.  Thinking, though, is a natural reflex that a person must cultivate on his own.  The best thinkers, such as Einstein, Tesla, and Gauss, and the best leaders, such as Jefferson and Lincoln, received minimal schooling, most of which was unrelated to their intellectual achievements.  Wikipedia quotes Des Cartes, who had attended a Jesuit school through his ninth grade:

I entirely abandoned the study of letters. Resolving to seek no knowledge other than that of which could be found in myself or else in the great book of the world, I spent the rest of my youth traveling, visiting courts and armies, mixing with people of diverse temperaments and ranks, gathering various experiences, testing myself in the situations which fortune offered me, and at all times reflecting upon whatever came my way so as to derive some profit from it. 

Deresiewicz is surrounded by the hierachical, suppressive cult of Ivy League universities, and his solution to the poor quality of education is to attend universities lower in the cult's assigned hierarchical ranking. It doesn't occur to him that the lower-ranked schools and professors are also cult members.

The solution is not to partake of lower-ranked participants in the same failed cult but to reinvent it.  There is no need for undergraduates to attend research universities, and there is no reason for science, the main achievement of the Progressive university, to be done in undergraduate institutions. It can be better done in research institutes that serve graduate but not undergraduate students, a claim that Robert Maynard Hutchins cogently made 70 years ago.  Too many students attend college, employers place too much emphasis on college attendance, and Americans take college degrees too seriously.   Americans did not make the latter mistake before The New Republic was founded.

As well,  American society can be transformed so that widespread wealth can be accumulated and so that independent thinkers don't need to depend on the corporate hierarchy for which places like Yale and Princeton as well as Minnesota and LA City College,  prepare their students.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

It Is Time to End the Critical Ethnic Studies Con Game

Dear Senator Seward:

I urge New York State to eliminate tax breaks and financial subsidies for colleges and universities that support involvement with the Boycott, Divestiture, and Sanctions movement.  Such support is already illegal under Section 501(c)(3) of the federal tax code, which prohibits the use of tax-exempt money for political and ideological purposes.
Recently, a group called the Critical Ethnic Studies Association has issued a statement supporting the BDS movement.  I urge you to eliminate funding and tax exemption to higher education institutions that support faculty involvement with it. That includes the portion of faculty salaries allocated to writing papers and traveling to conferences.  Such expenses are not entitled to tax exemption or public support, and I resent that my tax dollars are being used for these purposes.
A perusal of the website of the Critical Ethnics Studies Association indicates that all it does is political and ideological.  There is no legitimate academic study called critical ethnic studies. Its website, at criticalethnicstudies.org/content/about, indicates that it “aims to develop an approach to scholarship, institution building, and activism animated by the spirit of decolonial, antiracist, and other liberationist movements that enabled the creation of Ethnic Studies and which continues to inform its political and intellectual projects.”
Universities are supposed to engage in scientific and intellectual, but not political projects.   The Critical Ethnic Studies Association is a political advocacy group, and it openly says so.  Although the higher education institutions involved with the Critical Ethnic Studies Association are by law engaging in tax fraud, a separate bill is necessary because the university sector is rife with such fraud—i.e., political advocacy masquerading as legitimate academic study.  The Department of Finance will need guidance as to how to begin to address it.
Among the New York higher education institutions that may engage in political advocacy by paying faculty to participate in the Critical Ethnic Studies Association are Barnard College, the College of Mount Saint Vincent, and SUNY Fredonia. It is time that this con game is ended.
Sincerely,

Mitchell Langbert, Ph.D.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Thoughts on Israel

War is  a terrible thing, and it is terrible that Israel has been involved in conflict for most of its existence. I do not apologize for Jewish self-defense, and I also note that if the Israelis were not careful, the civilian death count would have been much higher in Gaza.   The problem that makes Israel necessary is that the Jews had nowhere to go, hence Israel can only be discussed in its historical context.  Now that it exists, the many who say that it should not exist is proof enough for me that it needs to exist, for those same people are the ones who murdered the Jews.  Do you think that the always large number of Jew haters love Israel?  Where did the followers of Father Coughlin and Henry Ford go?  Many went to Ron Paul. When people shoot rockets at a country, there are many responses possible, but condemning the response but not the rocket firing is evidence enough that the critics are bigots. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Why I am a Zionist

Land area Gaza strip: 139 square miles
Population Gaza Strip: 1.8 million
13,000 people per square Gaza mile
 Land area Singapore: 276 square miles
Population Singapore: 5.3 million
19,202 people per square Singapore mile
Chief occupation of Gazans; Hating Jews, shooting rockets at Jews
Chief occupation of Singaporeans: trade, business
GDP per capita Gaza: $6,100
GDP per capita Yemen: $2,250
GDP per capita Singapore: $51,709

I had sent this email to Gerald Celente, who considers himself a courageous hero because he's jumped on the anti-Zionist bandwagon.
Much of the anti-Israel narrative is based on the lie that the Israeli land was stolen from Palestinians.  This link offers an alternative perspective.  The land was a barren hellhole, but the Jews bought it from large Arab landowners.  The anti-Israel narrative also omits half of Israeli Jews’ being Sephardic or Mizrahi, i.e., they come from other Arab countries.  In Arab countries Jews are routinely brutalized. People like Gerald Celente omit that history.  The only remaining Middle East country with Jews is Iran, with about 15,000.  Wikipedia says this:
Thirteen Jews have been executed in Iran since the Islamic revolution, most of them for alleged connections to Israel. Among them, one of the most prominent Jews of Iran in the 1970s, Habib Elghanian who was the head of the Iranian Jewish community was executed by a firing squad by the Islamic government shortly after the Islamic Revolution of 1979 on the charge having had contact with Israel, among others. In May 1998, Jewish businessman Ruhollah Kadkhodah-Zadeh was hanged in prison without a public charge or legal proceeding, apparently for assisting Jews to emigrate.[68] 
Since 1979 about 70-80,000 Jews have left Iran, presumably mostly for Israel.  In the other Arab countries conditions are worse. In Yemen Jews must pay a jizya, a special tax on non-Muslims. I haven’t heard Celente talking about the Yemini jizya; apparently he approves. Almost all Yemini Jews have left for Israel. Did the Yemini Jews steal the Palestinians' land, or did Yemen still the Jews’ land?  The same can be said about the 75,000 Jews who’ve left Iran.  I haven’t heard Celente or his friends comment on them.
Christians and Jews are not allowed to be citizens of Saudi Arabia.  According to Wikipedia
There is virtually no Jewish activity in Saudi Arabia in the beginning of the 21st century. Jewish (as well as Christian and other non-Muslim) religious services are prohibited from being held on Saudi Arabian soil.[12] When American military personnel were stationed in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War, permission for small Christian worship services was eventually granted, but Jewish services were only permitted on US warships. Yet, Celente and his friends do not protest American arm sales to Saudi Arabia (from Wikipedia):
On October 20, 2010, U.S. State Department notified Congress of its intention to make the biggest arms sale in American history - an estimated $60.5 billion purchase by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The package represents a considerable improvement in the offensive capability of the Saudi armed forces.
Jews have also fled Syria.  According to Wikipedia, “Syrian Jews derive their origin from two groups: those who inhabited Syria from early times and the Sephardim who fled to Syria after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain (1492 AD).  There were large communities in Aleppo, Damascus, and Qamishli for centuries. In the early twentieth century a large percentage of Syrian Jews emigrated to the U.S., Central and South America and Israel. Today only a few Jews still live in Syria. The largest Syrian-Jewish community is located in Israel, and is estimated at 80,000.”  Much of this immigration has to do with ill treatment. Again, I haven’t heard  protests about this from Celente or the anti-Semites-masquerading-as-anti-Zionists about this treatment:
The Syrian government passed a number of restrictive laws against the Jewish minority. In 1948, the government banned the sale of Jewish property. In 1953, all Jewish bank accounts were frozen. Jewish property was confiscated, and Jewish homes which had been taken from their owners were used to house Palestinian refugees.[46]
Again, did Syria steal Zionists’ land, or did Zionists steal Palestinians’ land?  My own ancestors came from various places, including the Middle East and Central Asia but predominantly from Europe.  During the postwar period Poles were literally murdering Jews in the street. Hannah Arendt documents this in Eichmann in Jerusalem.  Perhaps out of concern for Celente’s moral opinions the few Jews remaining in Poland should have remained there and been murdered.  Maybe people with morals like that don’t need to be taken seriously.
I too find the warfare and killing of Palestinian children troubling.  At the same time, if someone shot rockets at my home, I don’t think I’d be charitable.  Like Celente, I’ve lived my whole life in a safe environment. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Liberalism Unrelinquished

George Leef wrote about the Liberalism Unrelinquished site a few weeks ago, and I signed my name to its declaration, which reads

We the undersigned affirm the original arc of liberalism, and the intention not to relinquish the term liberal to the trends, semantic and institutional, toward the governmentalization of social affairs.

The signers are academics and journalists.

The word liberal meant of or pertaining to freedom until collectivists began to misuse it during the late 19th century.  Over the past 130 years the word, in Orwellian fashion, has been transformed from its root Latin meaning to of or pertaining to collectivism and authority.

The reason it was necessary for collectivists to claim that they are for freedom was that freedom, which lasted a few centuries here, increased the standard of living and quality of life.  Millions of immigrants flocked here for a reason that they did not understand: the opportunities here due to liberalism.   In contrast, the effects of the policies of the Democratic Party and its copycat sister, the Republican Party, has been increasing government, increasing control, and declining wealth.

Instead of Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead, today's America watches bleak futuristic films like The Congress, which sees technological advance as escapism attendant upon widespread decline and impoverishment.  Liberalism in its true meaning requires the opposite world view: Freedom results in innovation that makes us wealthier and frees us from oppression.

My wife just told me about Elizabeth Warren's 2011 statement:

There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own — nobody. You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for.

Obama picked it up when he said, "Look, if you've been successful, you didn't get there on your own... If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help...Somebody else made that happen."

Of course, if you're unsuccessful you didn't get their on your own either.  If you're unsuccessful it's because of violent thieves like Obama and Warren.

In any case, when I think of all the Americans who died fighting for freedom, and I realize that their descendants elected the people whom they were fighting against, people like Hitler, Stalin, Obama, and Warren,  I was reminded of the importance of language.

Calling authoritarians liberal leads to authoritarianism, and I thank Kevin Frei and Daniel Klein, who started the Liberalism Unrelinquished site, for reminding us to use the word in the right way.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

My Article on Harris v. Quinn and the CUNY Faculty Union in Frontpagemag

My article "Time to Rethink Government Unions" appears in the current issue of  Frontpagemag. I had researched the material about the CUNY faculty union several months earlier, and the Supreme Court's Harris v. Quinn decision on June 30 gave me a context in which to embed the CUNY material. I relied on interviews with David Seidemann and an anonymous officer of the PSC who gave me reams of information about the bizarre goings-on at the PSC Delegate Assembly and Executive Council meetings. The most striking phenomenon I observed during my research was the PSC leadership's omert√†. The unwillingness to talk to me extended to the out-group led by former candidate Richard Boris and retired union president Irwin Polishook. 

Especially boorish was Stanley Aronowitz, who agreed to be interviewed by phone at specific times, yet when I called at those times he didn't answer.  He didn't four times.  The PSC's leadership advocates a suppressive ideology, socialism, so it's not surprising that they don't refrain from using violence to take money from members, using the money in violation of the members' free speech rights, and then covering up their actions.  Cover-ups are only problematic when Republicans engage in them.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Democratic Foundation Finds That Tea Party Donations Came from Average Americans

One of the misleading tales about the Tea Party that media sources have spread is that the movement has been supported by wealthy-one percent donors.  The Roosevelt Institute, whose aim is to further the aims of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, funded a study that found the opposite:  Much of the Tea Party candidates' donations have come from average Americans.  

It is true that the authors, Ferguson, Jorgenson, and Chen, conclude "The Tea Party and its allies cannot sensibly be treated solely in terms of mass politics."  They also note, of course, that Obama, the Democratic Party, and their allies cannot be treated solely in terms of mass politics. Indeed, that is the gist of Ferguson's extensive writings: Capital intensive and pro-free-trade industries supported Roosevelt, and among the supporters were Standard Oil and an array of investment banks that opposed JP Morgan Jr.  In other words, the authors are willing to concede that there is public support for free market-based candidates just as there is public support for collectivist ones. 

That shows considerable integrity.  It is inconceivable to most collectivists that average Americans might prefer freedom; it is inconceivable to them that hardworking, blue collar workers might prefer lower to higher taxes; it is inconceivable to them that those who prefer to support themselves free of government authority might prefer being paid fairly for their labor instead of living off government subsidies, welfare scams,  or the Social Security pyramid scheme.  

Although I disagree with their politics, the authors of the study are exceptional scholars who have carefully tested the lead author's, Thomas Ferguson's, insightful investment theory of politics.  They write this


The statistics in Table 1 provide the answer, which is somewhat surprising. Bachmann, Cain, and Paul attracted truly significant percentages of unitemized funds – essentially half or more of all their funds. Though we suspect Republican donors are likely to be somewhat wealthier than most Democratic donors, we do not doubt that most of this money streamed in from people reasonably described as “average Americans” too.  Gingrich and Santorum also attracted significant amounts from this quarter. By contrast, Huntsman’s and Texas Governor Rick Perry’s contributions of this type were plainly derisory.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Twin Peaks





I'm watching Twin Peaks for the fourth or fifth time.  I put the following review up on Netflix. Some of the commenters claim that Netflix is thinking of doing a sequel or remake. In January 2008 I suggested that HBO do one, but Netflix would be even better.

This is one of my favorite TV programs.  It combines imagination with satire, comedy with spirituality, sci fi and horror with social commentary.  The eerie music is  a metaphor for the unconscious: Maddy Ferguson's murder occurs in a  gap in Julee Cruise's song, for it is through art that inner forces, including terrible ones, are revealed. The program is about immanence, the truth within, and transcendence, the greater truth. False immanence, Killer Bob, takes possession of souls, and true immanence, both the  corruption beneath the town's surface and the good in the Bookhouse Boys, Donna Hayward (Lara Flynn Boyle), and James Hurley (James Marshall) intersect.  Agent Cooper's (Kyle Maclachlan's) struggle, like that of any seeker, is to reveal immanence and seek transcendence.  Good as well as evil are satirized; as in some of WH Auden's poems ("As I Walked Out One Evening"), cliches expressed as satire transcend themselves as art.  Through art we achieve understanding. Lynch's cast, a hodgepodge of talented actors and amateurs, comprise a bohemian  Diane Arbus-like ensemble. (Is it a coincidence that Cooper continually records messages to "Diane"?) The cast is an expression of Lynch and Frost's artistry. It is tragic that ABC allowed the show to run for only 35 episodes, but yes, we are fortunate that ABC allowed it to run at all.  


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Defund the IRS

Steve Forbes hits a home run in the current issue of Forbes: Because of the IRS targeting-of-conservatives scandal, which is reminiscent of the fascistic Europe that Obama and his morally diseased supporters idealize and hope to emulate, the IRS should be defunded until the scandals are resolved.

Forbes notes that the current Obama administration is wracked with scandal more significant than the Teapot Dome in the 1920s, which preceded Warren G. Harding's death, and Watergate.  For some reason the totalitarians in the Democratic Party claim that their Fuehrer did not know, a claim that they would have ridiculed in 1974 when Nixon was president.

Forbes does not go far enough, of course.  The IRS is a criminal organization that should be permanently closed, not just until the Obama scandal is investigated.  With a crooked, fascistic president in Washington, the claim that the federal government is a force for good is nonsense.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Professional Staff Congress: a Left-wing Tax Scam

She thinks she's Che Guevara
In Harris v. Quinn, decided last week, the Supreme Court suggested that coercing public sector employees who prefer not to join a union into paying an agency fee may violate the First Amendment.  Agency fees are charged to those who prefer not to join a union, and they usually equal the dues less the amount the union spends on unrelated political activity.  Other forms of union security arrangements are the open shop, the union shop, and the closed shop. The open shop gives employees the freedom to neither join nor pay dues. The union shop coerces employees into joining after they are hired. The closed shop coerces employees into joining before they are hired, and it coerces employers into hiring union members.

The rationale for the agency fee is that nonmember employees benefit from the union's collective bargaining, and were they not to pay an amount equal to the dues, they would be free riders.  In the 1977 case that has governed agency fee arrangements, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, the Supreme Court held that agency fees are legal, but the union must be willing to refund the proportion of dues spent on political lobbying unrelated to bargaining activities.  The reason is that violently coercing nonmembers to support lobbying with which they don't agree violates their freedom of speech. 

But what if a union spends little time on collective bargaining and other workplace-related activities so that all dues either are for unrelated lobbying or are otherwise unrelated to improving working conditions?  That has to be the case with the CUNY faculty union, the Professional Staff Congress (PSC),  because it contributes nothing to my wages.  I earn less than I would in a nonunion environment.  Hence, the Abood claim that I would be a free rider were I to not join my union is nonsensical. 

In the recent Harris v. Quinn case, the court has raised the question as to whether agency fees can ever not involve violations of agency fee payers' First Amendment free speech rights.  The reasons are manifold:  It is difficult to extricate political from other activities; unions lie about how much they spend on politics; ultimately, all public sector union activity may be political.

In the case of Seidemann v. Bowen  (also here) decided in 2009, Brooklyn College geology professor David Seidemann sued to determine the actual amount of  dues that the PSC spends on political activity.  The union repeatedly lied about the amount; initially, they claimed less than one percent, yet the case was settled at a point at which Seidemann and his pro bono Jones Day attorney had determined that they spend 14%.  Seidemann believes that the true amount is closer to 20%, but the cost of further pursuing the case has been prohibitive. Part of the settlement was that the union paid $250,000 in legal fees to Jones Day. Few foundations can afford that kind of money for a venture with an ambiguous outcome.

As left-wing extremists led by President Barbara Bowen, an authoritarian, left-wing kook who thinks she's Che Guevara, the union leadership thinks little about using government-enforced violence to coerce dues money from faculty who do not agree with them.  They have repeatedly refused to represent faculty with whom they disagree, and they chiefly support the left-wing Working Families Party, a simple-minded band of economic illiterates who favor failed, reactionary, big-government solutions.  In choosing to openly affiliate itself with and pay the lion's share of campaign contributions to a third party, the PSC has ensured that conservative Democrats and Republicans will have little interest in supporting its cause.

The union serves as a conduit of tax-favored money from the taxpayers to the fringe left.  Public money is budgeted to CUNY and used for faculty salaries; as a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization CUNY pays no taxes; faculty dues are collected on a tax-deductible basis; the union does not pay taxes, and as a 501(c)(5) tax-exempt organization, it donates the dues tax free to the Working Families Party, likely claiming that all of the issues it lobbies about are related to its purpose, which is what 501(c)(5) requires. That, of course, is nonsense.   

The June 19, 2014 minutes of the Delegates Assembly of the Professional Staff Congress states that the assembly resolved that the ROTC should not be institutionalized at CUNY. It spent much of its time discussing how situations in which it, and the American Federation of Teachers, to whom it contributes, should coordinate situations in which the two organizations make donations to different candidates.  It also passed a resolution favoring restitution of pensions to Detroit municipal employees.  It also developed a foreign policy.  Its resolution says this:

Resolved, the AFT concur with the AFL-CIO National Executive Committee, which declared in August 2011: 'The miliatarization of our foreign policy has proven to be a costly mistake. It is time to invest at home,' and that the AFT call for funds freed by reductions in military and national security spending to be reallocated to many urgent human needs; and

Resolved, that the AFT call for US foreign policy regarding international conflicts to be guided by strategies that prioritize the needs of working people everywhere and the use of negotiation and diplomatic means over military deployment, whether in Syria, Ukraine, Iran, Pakistan, or other 'hot-spots' as they may emerge...

In addition, it passed resolutions concerning the legacy of slavery, the Mayday$5K national movement for slavery, and Coca Cola's abuse of children and violation of human rights. Coca Cola's exploits overseas are indubitably within the purpose of a New York faculty union. Obama says so, for why should the PSC pay taxes if Tony Rezko and Timothy Geithner didn't?

In addition, about 5% of the minutes describe a collective bargaining update in which Bowen describes two contract settlements at the UFT and TWU.  The minutes do not explain why CUNY has not drawn up a contract with its faculty since 2007, nor do I sense from the minutes that they  care.

The question the Supreme Court should have raised and didn't is whether public sector unions serve as scams to avoid income taxes on contributions to left-wing Democrats, the Working Families Party, and other left-wing causes.