Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Two topics: Cultural change and raising the minimum wage

Cultural transformation is slow and very often quite difficult

August is notable for several reasons, among which is that it marks the end of summer for school children and the beginnings of football season, but more importantly because it was this month in 1920 when the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, at long last giving the right of the vote to all American women.

An article on Newspapers.com by Trevor Hammond gives the following information on this event: “Women’s suffrage in America was a divisive issue from the very beginning of the organized movement at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848. Over the ensuing 72 years, while women gradually won the right to vote in some state and local elections, they continued to fight for full suffrage. Eventually, the suffragists of the 19th century gave way to the ‘suffragettes’ of the 20th century, with their more confrontational tactics, influenced by the militant women’s suffrage movement in Britain.”

The organizers of the Senaca Falls Convention were Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, and along with Susan B. Anthony they generated the effort that raised public awareness and lobbied the government to grant voting rights to women.

The next seven decades were marked by successes, failures, civil disobedience from those both pro and con, and finally Tennessee’s state legislature voted to ratify the amendment on August 18 after the 48-48 tie was broken when Rep. Harry Burn changed his mind, deciding to support the amendment at the behest of his mother. That made Tennessee the 36th state to ratify the amendment. Days later, on August 26, the vote became official when U.S. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby signed the document.

Today, we wonder at how it could have ever been that women did not have the same rights as men for many things, not just for voting. Some believe that this inequality was due simply to the fact that men deliberately kept women in subservient positions; they were misogynists and domineering louts. 

And, of course, through the ages there were and still are domineering louts among us. But that is not why it took so long for women to get the right to vote; men had their roles and women had theirs, for entirely different reasons, and it was like that for a long, long time.

Maybe that all started in the Garden of Eden, or with the first homo sapiens, whichever version you prefer, but the early gender roles were pre-determined not by what one gender or the other chose to do, but by the physical attributes of the two genders and the duties placed on each by the need to survive and procreate. Women were child bearers and nurturers, and men hunted and defended the home.

Cultural change is a slow, deliberate process.

* * * * *

The Effects of Raising the Minimum Wage

More clear thinking on the idea of a higher minimum wage comes from Douglas Holtz-Eakin, by way of the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA).

Mr. Holtz-Eakin is a former economics professor and former Director of the Congressional Budget Office, and produced a piece for the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research this past July, which NCPA recently highlighted.

He reminds readers of the economic reality that higher minimum wages will ultimately eliminate jobs and/or reduce employment growth, and can harm the very poor, who are the ones the higher minimum was intended to help.

Of the political drive to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to as high as $12 or $15 an hour, supported by the White House, Mr. Holtz-Eakin says, “While a minimum-wage hike would benefit millions of workers with higher earnings, it would also hurt millions of others who would lose earnings because they cannot attain or retain a job. Our estimates show that raising the federal minimum wage to $12 per hour by 2020 would:
   * Affect 38.3 million low-wage workers.
   * Cost 3.8 million low-wage jobs.
   * Only 5.8 percent of the total income raise would go to low-wage workers who are actually in poverty.”

Focusing on the benefits of working, he notes, “it's important to keep in mind that work itself benefits those of modest means. In other words, [raising the minimum wage] is the reverse of Robin Hoodism: taking jobs and income from the poorest to give to those who are better off. The wealthy, whom demagogues now attack, would be untouched. The first job, even at relatively low pay, provides that first step on the ladder of upward mobility. Eliminating those rungs on the ladder threatens the future of workers who are starting out today.”


There are better ways to assist low-income Americans than raising the minimum wage to a level that ultimately hurts them more than it helps, he wrote, among which are the Earned Income Tax Credit, targeted wage supplements and a more effective public-education system that will assist low-income Americans and to make work pay, while not reducing job growth. “The poor cannot afford counterproductive initiatives advanced in their name but harmful to their lives.”

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Meghan McCain: Another Liberal in Conservative Clothing

A relatively new name has jumped onto the scene, Meghan McCain, She is the daughter of the venerable John McCain who took a left turn somewhere in the last 20 years. Meghan defines herself in a paradoxical manner labeling herself a "Social Liberal Republican." This label is full of contradictions as is her stance on many subjects. She has been given a syndicated radio program to exhort her liberal views disguised as conservative conversation. Further, she has been hired by Fox as a contributor. Nepotism can carry someone so far, the rest is up to the individual. Coming from a wealthy family she is detached from the reality of the working class as her conversations display. Worse her liberal views on immigration and homosexual marriage stand antithetically to the media outlets that engaged her. Sadly I listened to her program several times and found her rambling comments mindful of the town fool. Perhaps Fox should have reviewed her background before hiring the Senator's daughter.

The $64,000 question: What in the world was she thinking?



Imagine your political party has won the recent presidential election, and the man elected to be president has pegged you to be Secretary of State. What an honor. Secretary of State is one of the most important and prestigious positions in the federal government; it is one of the most critical positions in the government, dealing with sensitive international matters, such as agreements and disputes, the communications associated with which often carry security classifications, such as “classified,” “secret,” or “top secret.”

There are processes and systems in place to facilitate your communications, both classified and unclassified, between and among individuals and departments within the government, and with officials of other governments, official systems and processes that track these official communications as a matter of efficiency, accountability, national security and historical record.

With this in mind, and after going through the FBI’s briefing on the official communications protocol, and swearing under oath that you have been briefed and understand the process and protocol and why it exists, you then decide that rather than utilize the official secured government communications system you have been briefed on, as your predecessors did, you will use your own private email server to handle official government business as well as your own personal email communications.

Question: What would be the reason for making the unusual and unprecedented decision to conduct official communications on a private system instead of on the official and secured government system, a system to which only you have access, and that denies the government the ability to have complete access to your official communications?

Eventually, this decision enters the public sphere and is predictably met with many questions, and very effectively fertilizes the environment for suspicion of your motives. Political opponents will be emboldened, and you are the one who has emboldened them, and questions will arise about both your judgment and the possibility of illegal activity.

This is the sticky wicket that Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State from January 21, 2009 to February 1, 2013, and now candidate for the Democrat nomination for President of the United States, created for herself with this curious decision as she assumed the position of Secretary of State.

Mrs. Clinton’s political opponents – the “vast right-wing conspiracy” – have indeed noticed this irregularity, and finally the mainstream media is also taking notice.

NBC News commentator Andrea Mitchell – no right-wing conspirator she – shared comments from intelligence officials who have told her that, “nobody can give an explanation for why a cabinet secretary would have a private email system other than to thwart inquiries, FOIAs [Freedom of Information Act inquiries],” which she mentioned recently on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program.

Andrea Mitchell is not the only one interested in the question raised by those intelligence officials. And the new questions raised by those other interested parties go beyond mere curiosity about why a cabinet secretary would have taken this unusual step. The more serious issue is whether or not classified information passed through Mrs. Clinton’s private email system, a clear violation of federal law.

Mark Levin, former chief of staff for Attorney General Edwin Meese in President Ronald Reagan’s administration, also an attorney, author and talk show host, sees breaches of the federal Penal Code, specifically Section 793 of the Penal Code, Subsection (f).

“My point is,” Mr. Levin said, “when you set up an unsecured server in your barn adjacent to your home in Chappaqua, New York, you have intentionally – forget about negligence – you have intentionally bypassed the security process for that server.”

If a private system was her chosen method for email communication, both personal and governmental, even if she avoided sending emails containing classified information, how could she prevent classified information from being sent to her on her private system? In short: How could Mrs. Clinton not have had classified information on her private server?

Some offer the defense of intent, suggesting that it matters if she did not intend to allow classified information to be lost, stolen, abstracted or destroyed. But Mr. Levin says, “No it doesn’t, not with respect to this, Subsection (f).”

Former federal judge and Attorney General Michael Mukasey comments: “Once you assume a public office, your communications about anything having to do with your job are not your personal business or property. They are the public’s business and the public’s property, and are to be treated as no different from communications of like sensitivity.”

And this from McClatchy DC last Wednesday: “The inspectors general for the U.S. Intelligence Community and the State Department have disclosed over the last week that at least five emails, routed through a private server that Clinton used throughout her tenure as secretary of state, contained classified information, including two emails whose content is now deemed to be ‘Top Secret.’”

Even if somehow Mrs. Clinton escapes being charged with crimes in this incident, her behavior – from the idea of having her own private email server in the first place, to the elaborate cleansing process she utilized to clear all data from the email server, and the release of the email communications that she alone determined was relevant – raises important questions about her lack of judgment and what her motivation was.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Trump Effect


The Trump effect

 

Collective efforts by 17 Republican candidates to energize the public in their direction have not caught fire except for one person, Donald Trump. Media programs that lean towards one side of the aisle or the other are endlessly discussing the Trump effect on the potential electorate. Core topics from immigration to national health care have been transformed by an outsider who has placed a new twist on these banal subjects. Donald Trump has codified his message with a simplicity that resonates across a gamut of the population. From state fairs to corner stores Trump appears to be everywhere willing to discuss his message with anyone willing to listen.

 

Pundits of all stripes continue to assault this political outsider noting his meteoric rise will crash and burn in due course. Extensive polls done pre and post the first debate continue to indicate Trump is firmly planted at the top of each one. With a finesse reserved to a polished few, the Donald as many call him, easily deflects questions that deteriorate from his message. From bankruptcy to his position on women’s issues he discusses the basics while directing the conversation on to the next subject before fully answering the first one. Consequently some have become suspicious of him for the profound lack of depth in his answers to issues others have algorithmically discussed. Nevertheless Trump has been able to jump over this hurdle by mesmerizing those who come before him noting his successes while deflating his failures.

 

In interview after interview most reporters have gingerly discussed his background and preparation to become Commander in Chief. As Trump notes he built a vast company which has tentacles that reach into many areas that a president should have knowledge of. He wastes no time inferring how poor our American leadership is compared to that of China, Mexico and other countries. Trump’s major theme is these countries dump their products here and we send our money there. On immigration he has echoed an array of proposals to slow the rate of new arrivals and a methodology to repatriate illegals to their home countries.  Many question whether Donald Trump has the staying power to remain in the race. For now he is on the top of the heap and continues to defy the logic of the pundits calling for him to fail. The road to the November 2016 election is long and treacherous. All eyes, presently, are on the street fighter from New York who does not plan to go down for the ten count.

Mark Davis MD, President of Davis Media and Writing Services.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Backlash: Fox dumps on Trump and fails


Backlash: Fox dumps on Trump and fails

 

Five days since the notorious Republican debate aired when the gang of three moderators from Fox dumped on Trump. A well-organized inquisition of the Republican leader was carried out with a ferocity that is usually reserved for leftist attack dogs. Megyn Kelly opened the barrage of questions aimed at unmasking Donald Trump’s weaknesses. Instead Kelly’s inquisitory style displayed Fox’s fair and balance moniker was in label only. Audience members, whether on location or watching from a distance, learned very little that night except Megyn Kelly does not know her right from her left. Days after this gargantuan failure for legitimate political dialogue Fox continues to revel in the large number of viewers to this so-called debate. Never acknowledging most tuned into to see and hear Donald Trump Fox hierarchy and its minimalist commentators defended their actions Thursday with a righteous indignation that has a stench all its own.

 

Donald Trump and most who were sensitized to the deliberate denigration of the debate process displayed their collective anger on an array of news shows afterwards. Fox set a new low for itself when displaying it went through Trump’s garbage in an attempt to debase him. His retorts, based on Kelly’s questions, were the themes of discussion. Trump spoke out harshly against those who orchestrated his downfall using words such as “weak and pathetic” to describe Republican operatives involved in this process. Excluded from a Red State forum in Atlanta Georgia by one of these people, Erick Erickson, everyone knew the game was afoot to debilitate the billionaire’s chances of moving into the Oval Office. Trump survived with a stronger footing than he had before the Thursday night debacle. Polls, several days later, indicated his position amongst voters strengthened. Fox not only failed to bring the reluctant candidate to his proverbial knees Trump now stands ten points higher than is closest rival.

 

Republican establishment along with their left wing buddies have abandoned the electorate and handed Obama whatever he legislatively requested.  Donald Trump came along to shake up the quiescent political structure simultaneously resonating with a population tired of the old guard in Congress. Their fear is he may succeed by taking Obama’s hope and change and giving this theme some real meaning. Trump will not go quietly into the night and why should he. Few candidates for the presidency have been so blatantly open about their intentions. Trump has set a new high in political rhetoric. His naysayers should watch their backsides because they may be bowing to a President Trump in the not too distant future.

 

Mark Davis MD, President of Davis Media and Writing Services. www.davis writingservices.com platomd@gmail.com  Author of Demons of Democracy and Obamacare: Dead on Arrival, A Prescription for Disaster.

Here’s the other side of the argument: Appreciating fossil fuels

Commentary by James Shott

Predictions of horrible things happening if we continue burning fossil fuels are fairly common these days. Man is killing the Earth by continuing to use fossil fuels – coal, oil and natural gas – to power electricity generation, make motor vehicles go, and now even to cook your dinner outside on the grill.

This compulsive thinking has driven the Environmental Protection Agency to dictate that the nation reduce the 2005 level of carbon emissions by 32 percent by 2030, despite that doing so will cost thousands of jobs and millions of dollars, all to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the air by one-tenth of a percent.

Almost no one argues that global warming isn’t a reality. However, the current period of global warming has taken a timeout for well more than a decade. Most people know that for thousands of years there have been alternating periods of warming and cooling on the Earth. The important question is, however, whether the low level of recent warming is significant, and more to the point, whether or not the actions of human beings contribute significantly to the slight warming period that is now on hold.

The carbon-mania gripping environmental scaremongers in the U.S. ignores the plain fact that compared to China and India, among others, the U.S. is by far a minor contributor of carbon emissions.

Two things have been forgotten – or perhaps conveniently covered up. One is the long list of predicted global catastrophes that have not come to pass. The other is how much better the lives of human beings are because we have learned how to use fossil fuels to make our lives better.

According to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2013 “Historical Data Workbook,” 87 percent of the energy mankind uses every second comes from burning one of those fossil fuels.

People who live in cold climates use fossil fuels to warm their homes, and people who live in warm climates use fossil fuels to cool their homes. Fossil fuels are used to plant and harvest crops that feed people, and are used to transport food from places where food is produced to places where it is needed and wanted. Fossil fuels are used to light the darkness, to entertain us, transport us, diagnose disease, communicate with each other, mass-produce products we need and want, and to provide security in our homes and for the nation.

And we also do not hear how much better the lives of the poorest people living in the direst conditions on Earth could be if we were helping them to use fossil fuels to their benefit the way the developed world does.

Technology enables us to modify the way we use fossil fuels to control our climate to our advantage, and to progressively improve the way we use fossil fuels to do less harm. Because of technological advances our air today is much cleaner than it was a hundred years ago. Technology not only provides many wonderful assets for us, but also improves itself, so that these crucial technologies now cause little harm to the environment.

Imagine where the world would be today if we had never learned to use fossil fuels and to develop those technologies for our benefit. Imagine what would happen if suddenly all of the facilities that burn fossil fuels for electricity production and for other purposes just simply stopped doing so for several weeks.

And perhaps that is what is needed to get the American people to open up to the truth that using fossil fuels not only is good for us, but also is not harmful to the environment to a significant degree.

A major fallacy in the war against fossil fuels is the belief that they are harmful because they are dirty, and “natural” sources of energy like wind and solar power are not harmful because they are not dirty. But both wind power and solar power also have their negative side, in addition to not being capable of replacing fossil fuels any time in the foreseeable future.

The rare Earth elements needed for wind turbines, for example, can be acquired only through an enormous and complex mining process to find and excavate them. And that mining process requires machinery driven by fossil fuels.

Establishing a wind farm on a mountaintop requires a great deal of clearing of wooded lands and the building of roads for access and towers for transmission lines. Enormous solar farms both substantially warm the acres of land beneath them and attract and kill birds.

Many leading environmentalists, including those who predict fossil fuel catastrophe, hold as their most important value what they call “pristine” nature or wilderness nature unaltered by man. They see humans as a plague upon the Earth.

Alex Epstein, author of the excellent book The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, holds human life as his most important value. When you accept that human life is the most important consideration, then small infringements on nature and the environment that yield great advances and benefits for humans are perfectly acceptable.

That is the sensible way to look at it. That is the human way to look at it.

Cross-posted from Observations

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Decadent and Decaying Baltimore Descends into Chaos


Decadent and decaying Baltimore descends into chaos

 

Ineptitude and incompetence defines Baltimore’s present government and its legion of public attorneys. More interested in the limelight than what is right the City’s gang of reigning political clowns have suspended sanity to curry favor with its residents. Death has found Baltimore in numbers too great to ignore. Forty-five murders were reported in July. Unless revised the record books will reflect a very hot summer in the city that bleeds. City Hall has taken to the streets to blame its own police department for the tribulation now being observed. Reality speaks to a far different explanation of the chaotic events unfurling in this locale. Police are swamped with the massive level of crime within the confines of Baltimore’s 92 square miles. Permissive government policies and a lax prosecutorial system have contributed to the increasing level of daily violence. Crime has always been pervasive amongst Baltimore’s 622,000 estimated residents. Using the Freddie Grey incident as an excuse, which remains to be resolved, Baltimore’s Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake bashed her own police department as the cause of the uptick in violence. Similar to other cities managed by incompetents violent interludes on their streets stem from intrinsic problems amongst the population not in the guardians hired to keep law and order. Ethnic violence will not stop until a firm hand with a logical mind behind it returns to the seat of power held by its present ineffectual mayor. Overwhelmed by Baltimore’s problems Rawlings-Blake pretends to be in control when the actions on the streets speak otherwise. Forced to bring in the feds to control violence Mayor Blake is admitting the job she holds is beyond her abilities.

 

Local media lives in an alternate reality. Crime reports are diluted to give the perception all is not so bad in the streets and corridors of this decaying jurisdiction. I am here to report Baltimore is entrenched in ethnic violence with no resolve in sight. Political masochists will grind anyone into dust who dares to offer solutions to effectuate change in the city. Mayor Blake and her associates enjoy the status quo and will not confront the hard issues entrenched in this swamp of a town. Books will be written, years from now, how a government used its own residents so its leaders could move up the food chain. If you are a cheerleader for Baltimore I dare you to walk through its neighborhoods once the lights go out. I pray you find the morning light.

 
Mark Davis, M.D. President of Davis Media and Writing Services. www.daviswritingservices.com platomd@gmail.com