Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Heading Towards A Massive Tax Increase

“Nothing is so well calculated to produce a death-like torpor in the country as an extended system of taxation and a great national debt.”

William Cobbett, English pamphleteer and journalist, February 10, 1804


It would seem that what we are doing today is reinventing a very old wheel. We have the "great national debt," compliments of a left wing spending spree of astronomical proportions. Indeed, the level of debt and borrowing and the massive increase in the money supply is, to quote economist Arthur Laffer, "potentially far more inflationary than were the monetary policies of the 1970s, when the prime interest rate peaked at 21.5% and inflation peaked in the low double digits."

We are not on the road to economic recovery. Indeed, Bizzyblog documents that the Treasury is showing that federal tax receipts continue their steady decline, with yet another slump in June. Obama's Keynesian experiment in using massive government spending to make the economy grow is failing spectacularly. But Obama is clearly not going to forego any of his plans for ever more massive spending, making confiscatory new taxes inevitable.

As it stands today, no new taxes are in the cards for anyone who earns under $250,000 - unless of course they use tobacco, they use energy or purchase any good or service that requires energy, or they get non-union health care benefits. But even those proposed or already enacted taxes - which in the case of cap and trade will be massive - will not be enough to fund the grandiose socialist schemes of our Profligate Spender In Chief. So what will be the next to fall?

According to Roger Altman, Bill Clinton's Deputy Treasury Secretary, more taxation is inevitable and will likely come in the form of a VAT tax - driving up the cost of every good and service in our country in what amounts to highly regressive national sales tax. This from Mr. Altman writing in the WSJ:

Only five months after Inauguration Day, the focus of Washington's economic and domestic policy is already shifting. This reflects the emergence of much larger budget deficits than anyone expected.

Larger than anyone expected? Obama just borrowed and spent us into penury and the deficit surprises Altman? Apparently he was in suspended animation until yesterday.

. . . Why has the deficit outlook changed? Two main reasons: The burst of spending in recent years and the growing likelihood of a weak economic recovery.

Burst of spending in recent years? Try the burst of uncontrolled spending since January, 2009, multiplying the 2008 deficit by a factor of 4.

[A weak economic recovery] would mean considerably lower federal revenues, the compiling of more interest on our growing debt, and thus higher deficits. Yes, the President's Council of Economic Advisors is still forecasting a traditional cyclical recovery -- i.e., real growth of 3.2% next year and 4% in 2011. But the latest data suggests that we're on a much slower path. Probably along the lines of the most recent Goldman Sachs and International Monetary Fund forecasts, whose growth rates average about 2% for 2010-2011.

A speedy recovery is highly unlikely given the financial condition of American households, whose spending represents 70% of GDP. Household net worth has fallen more than 20% since its mid-2007 peak. This drop began just when household debt reached 130% of income, a modern record. This lethal combination has forced households to lower their spending to reduce their debt. So far, however, they have just begun to pay it down. This implies subdued spending and weak national growth for some time.

In a March 27 forecast, Goldman Sachs estimated average annual deficits of $940 billion through 2019. If this proves true, deficits would remain above 4% of GDP through the next decade and the national debt would reach a whopping 83% of GDP, a level not seen since World War II. The public is restive over this threat: In a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, Americans were asked which economic issue facing the country concerned them most. Respondents chose deficit reduction over health care by a ratio of 2 to 1.

Mr. Obama and his economic advisers understand this deficit outlook and undoubtedly view it as unsustainable.

I think Mr. Altman assumes too much. Obama seems bound and determined to push ahead with his massive plans irrespective of the cost to our economy. As to what Mr. Obama "understands," I think that is very much at issue, particularly in light of his incredibly cynical push for "paygo" legislation that would exempt his massive pet projects from its provisions. I have yet to see a single thing from Obama that he understands the debt he proposes to saddle us with is "unsustainable."

. . . The poor budget outlook may impel the administration to follow up health-care legislation with an effort to fix Social Security. The shortfall in Social Security's trust funds -- which adds to the long-term deficit -- is much smaller than the companion problem in Medicare funding. Public anxiety over deficits may make this fix possible now even though it has been elusive for years. If this could be done, confidence in Washington's capacity to address its debt challenge would rise.

But even with a Social Security fix the medium-term deficit outlook will be poor. Sometime soon, perhaps in 2010, Main Street and financial markets will exert irresistible pressure to reduce the deficit.

The problem is the deficit's sheer size, which goes way beyond potential savings from cuts in discretionary spending or defense. It's entirely possible that Medicare and Social Security will already have been addressed, and thus taken off the table. In short we'll have to raise taxes.

Today, the U.S. ranks next to last among the 28 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development nations in total federal revenue as a share of GDP. Our federal revenues represent 18% of national output, down from 20% just 10 years ago. That makes the mismatch between our spending and our revenue very large, producing the huge deficits we face.

We all know the recent and bitter history of tax struggles in Washington, let alone Mr. Obama's pledge to exempt those earning less than $250,000 from higher income taxes. This suggests that, possibly next year, Congress will seriously consider a value-added tax (VAT). A bipartisan deficit reduction commission, structured like the one on Social Security headed by Alan Greenspan in 1982, may be necessary to create sufficient support for a VAT or other new taxes.

This challenge may be the toughest one Mr. Obama faces in his first term. Fortunately, the new president is enormously gifted. That's important, because it is no longer a matter of whether tax revenues must increase, but how.

Hold on to your wallets. There has long been talk of using a VAT tax to replace the income tax system. But what Altman is suggesting is a VAT tax on top of the income tax. And the chances of this being a bipartisan effort - other than a bare handful of nominal Republicans in the House and Senate - is zero. The left has brought us to the brink with spending on a heretofore unseen scale. They own it. I hope the left enjoys their complete control of the levers of our federal government at the moment. File this one under "give 'em enough rope and they will hang themselves."


A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

Ramierez couldn't have summed it up any better. As I said in the post below, Obama's foreign policy is wholly dysfunctional. He is dangerous.


Masters Of Disaster Set To Strike Again - Will The Ricci Decision Stop Them

(Picture from Protein Wisdom)

Many of the same people who brought us the current economic collapse - the left generally, with Barney Frank, ACORN and Obama in particular - are at it again. Rather than fixing the problems they created over two decades, each are doubling down. Obama is planning to vastly exand the Community Reivestment Act. Barney Frank is pushing a new version of subprime lending on Fannie Mae. ACORN is out thugging the major mortgage brokers. But a speed bump may now be in their path. The Supreme Court decision in Ricci yesterday might actually be the tool that defangs the racially charged Community Reinvestment Act and curbs some its abuses by the Masters of Disaster.


We are in the worst recession since the Great Depression because of a catastrophic failure of the mortgage loan market. At the very heart of that failure is the racially charged Community Reinvestment Act. (For an in-depth discussion of the CRA and its impact on our economy, please see Hurricane Subprime, 1977-2000.) Without that, we have no economic collapse.

The CRA was used by the likes of ACORN and Obama to force reduced lending standards. Barney Frank and Chris Dodd pushed Fannie and Freddie to provide a vastly expanded market for these sub-prime and reduced standard loans. There were other significant contributing factors.

There were the bond rating services that inexplicably and wholly misrated mortgage backed securities. There is mark to market accounting rules that require corporation to show mortgages that cannot be sold in the current collapsed market as having no value, irrespective of the fact that they do have value. And we had the derivative market that failed catastrophically when the entire mortgage market failed. All these played ancillary roles in the meltdown that has had a severe domino effect throughout our economy.

But all of that has gone down the memory hole with the left in complete charge of the government. No hearings have been held on the causes of this economic nightmare. If you listen to Barney Frank, he has always been the paragon of fiscal responsiblity. If you listen to Obama, the CRA played no role in the meltdown, it was all the fault of evil capitalist pigs on Wall St. Indeed, instead of fixing any of the above problems, Obama, Frank, and ACORN are busy doubling down.

As to Barney Frank, this from the WSJ documents his latest insanity:

Back when the housing mania was taking off, Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank famously said he wanted Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to "roll the dice" in the name of affordable housing. That didn't turn out so well, but Mr. Frank has since only accumulated more power. And now he is returning to the scene of the calamity -- with your money. He and New York Representative Anthony Weiner have sent a letter to the heads of Fannie and Freddie exhorting them to lower lending standards for condo buyers.

You read that right. After two years of telling us how lax lending standards drove up the market and led to loans that should never have been made, Mr. Frank wants Fannie and Freddie to take more risk in condo developments with high percentages of unsold units, high delinquency rates or high concentrations of ownership within the development. . . .

Fannie and Freddie have always been political creatures under the best circumstances. But we don't remember anyone electing Mr. Frank underwriter-in-chief of the United States.

Read the whole article. Frank is, I've long maintained, a clear and present danger to the United States.

ACORN, for its part, is out doing what it does best - strong-arming financial institutions. This from the American Spectator:

ACORN, which played a starring role in creating the subprime mortgage crisis, plans to add insult to injury by harassing lenders across the nation with protests tomorrow in an effort to coerce them into supporting President Obama's Making Home Affordable foreclosure-avoidance program.

Austin King, director of ACORN Financial Justice, sent out a press release today advising of the demonstrations that are planned as part of its "Homewrecker 4" campaign. The four financial companies targeted are Goldman Sachs, HomEq Servicing, American Home Mortgage, and OneWest. . . .

ACORN plans to hit Dallas, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, St. Louis, New York City, Wilmington (Del.), Columbus (Ohio), Houston, Little Rock, Boston, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco, and Seattle.

But let's not forget that ACORN helped to cause the mortgage bubble by strongarming banks into making loans they shouldn't have. And cheering them on was ACORN's lawyer, Barack Obama, who contributed to the increasingly hostile environment for banks when he represented plaintiffs in the 1995 class action lawsuit Buycks-Roberson v. Citibank. The suit demanded that Citibank grant mortgages to an equal percentage of minority and non-minority mortgage applicants. The bank settled the case three years later and reportedly agreed to beef up its lending to unqualified applicants. . . .

But the worst of the worst is Obama and his plan to put the disasterous Community Reinvestment Act on steroids as part of his 89 page proposal for massive government intervention in our economy, “A New Foundation: Rebuilding Financial Supervision and Regulation.” The CRA uses an analysis precisely like that in a "disparate impact" claim under Title VII to determine whether financial institutions are making enough loans to minorities. As it stands now, banks cannot defend against a finding of insufficient loans to minorities under the CRA by pointing to their individual portfoloio to show that they have not engaged in discrimination, but rather have applied loan standards evenly and without reference to color. The government applies the CRA to require a racially balanced result.

You will recall that yesterday, the Supreme Court decided in Ricci that application of legitimate, race neutral criteria was what Title VII required and that it would be an unlawful act of racism for an institution to throw out the results of a test because it did not provide a racially balanced result. Though decided in the context of Title VII, Ricci provides a general principle of law that should be applicable to the misuse of the CRA by our government to engage in outcome oriented, social engineering. One can only hope that some attorney, somewhere, is polishing the Ricci decision and preparing to use it as the centerpiece against the CRA. That would go a long way to defanging Obama, Frank, and ACORN.


Gov. Sanford & Iran's Supreme Guide Khameini

According to South Carolina's Governor for the moment, Mark Sanford, God wants him to finish out his term as governor. Somehow, I doubt that he got that message from a burning bush.

I find Gov. Sanford's invocation of God as supporting his decision to be substantially the same as Iran's mid-level cleric-cum-Supreme Guide Khameini invoking God as having supported the landslide reelection of Ahmedinejad. Both are making despicable use of religion to support the unsupportable. They claim divine intervention to color their obvious moral wrongs. Both are equally detestable and do harm to their respective religions by their actions.

The only difference between the two is that Khameini should be hung for the murder and repression he has ordered in the wake of his illegal acts. Sanford should be prosecuted for misuse of state funds. Beyond that, both will ultimately answer to a higher power whom I doubt will take a permissive view of their actions.


Obama - 180 Degrees of Wrong

Is Obama insane?

The democraticaly elected President of Honduras, Zelaya, makes an extra-Constitutional power grab even after the highest Court in Honduras rules it illegal. On the eve of that act, he is replaced during the final six months of his administration. That wasn't a coup. That was defense of democracy and the rule of law. It was ordered by a properly convened Court. It was supported by a democraticaly elected legislature. And now Obama is joining hands with Chavez, Castro and other enemies of the U.S. and of democracy to condemn the actions in Honduras and reinstate the President?

If you ever needed evidence that Obama should never have been let near the oval office, this completes the mosaic we saw begin over a year ago with Georgia, when their democratic regime came under assault from Russia. Obama did not come out in support of democracy then, not until he took a lesson from McCain. The lesson didn't stick. Two weeks ago, as Iranians were being brutalized and murdered in the streets by a regime that had just engaged in massive vote fraud, Obama sat silent and then, despicably, played down the importance of the revolt. Now, when a country acts to preserve its laws and Constitution against an extra-Constitutional assault from a rabid socialist following the Chavez model, Obama supports the one who was seeking to violate the constitution. Obama really does see the U.S. as the problem. He has no understanding of the intrinsic importance of democracy and the rule of law. He has embraced moral equivalence and is unable to discriminate friend from foe.

History is important, and true, the U.S. has been involved in more than one coup in Central and South America. History should inform all of our acts - but it should never hold us hostage. As Hot Air notes, it may be that, in some incredibly naive burst of deeply opaque motivation, Obama is trying to repair America's image by coming out on the side of Chavez, Castro et al. If so, it is inexplicably foolish.

This is bad - and holds the potential to get much, much worse. The last president that even approached this level of dysfunction was James Earl Carter, and he gave the world the Iranian theocracy. I do not know what Obama's legacy will be, but I fully expect it to be far worse.

For Obama's future reference on such matters, Charles Krauthammer provides a rule of thumb:


Monday, June 29, 2009

Ricci - The Rest Of The Story

The Supreme Court, in deciding the case of Ricci v. Destefano yesterday, held that, while employers have a duty to make their hiring criteria racially neutral, once they have done that, they can't use race as a basis to disregard merit. This decision . . .

. . . should significantly impact those class of claims where no actual racism is shown but claims of racisim are made on the basis of statistics;

. . . will make it harder for plaintiffs to prevail in "disparate impact" claims and should significantly curb the practice of employers caving to the demands of race baiters;

. . . may well have an important effect in areas outside of employer-employee law where such statistical evaluations of race are used, such as in college admissions and, of critical importance, under the Community Reinvestment Act;

. . . marks a step towards answering whether and to what extent affirmative action is Constitutional under the Equal Protection Clause.

. . . looks bad for Sotomayor but will not by itself derail her nomination.

. . . the little publicized facts of Ricci are that vile race baiting and blatant reverse discrimination were the driving forces behind the City's decision to throw out the test results in that case. The claim of potential liability for disparate impact was a pretext.


The Ricci case was brought by some white and Hispanic firefighters from New Haven, Connecticut under Title VII and the Equal Protection Clause. The firefighters had passed a promotion test that the City refused to certify because no blacks had scored high enough to also be promoted.

The penultimate issue is whether using race as a discrimating factor is constitutional under the Equal Protection Clause. The Supreme Court did not reach that issue, limiting its holding to Title VII law. But as Justice Scalia noted, the case marks a step towards "the evil day" when the Court will have to answer that question.

Title VII allows two ways to prove discrimination. One is actual discrimination against a specific individual. In the legalese of Title VII, that is called "disparate treatment."

The second way is to prove discrimination under Title VII is statistically. If the overall process of hiring and promoting results in minorities being underrepresented, then it raises what is called a "disparate impact" claim. Once a plaintiff statistically shows a disparate impacat, then the employer has to show that the criteria it used was racially neutral and business related. If the employer can show this, then the plaintiff can only prevail if he or she shows that there was an equally viable test or criteria that would not have resulted in the disparate impact.

On the facts of Ricci, it was clear that New Haven took great care to insure that the hiring process would be racially neutral and carefully tailored to question on the most important topics relating to fire fighting duties. The people that were hired to design the test came to New Haven, engaged in extensive interviews and ride alongs, and when they developed the questions, they oversampled minorities to insure that the questions would not inadvertently favor whites. As to the boards for the oral exams, the people that sat on the boards were fire dept. senior personel from outside New Haven, two thirds of whom were minorities.

In short, the City had adopted a hiring criteria that resulted in situation where a minority plaintiff could bring suit and prove a prima facie case of disparate impact because no minorities scored high enough to be promoted. However, to toss the test based simply on this fact would be an unlawful act of racism / "disparate treatment" against those people who passed the test. And that was precisely what the Supreme Court said an employer cannot do. An employer can now only lawfully throw out tests and start over if they can show "a strong basis in evidence that the test was deficient . . ."

The general consensus is that this will make it harder to prove "disparate impact" claims. Further, it should significantly curb the practice of employers caving to the demands of race baiters when they have acted reasonably and without discriminatory intent - which actually is what went on Ricci. I cover those facts in detail at the end of this post.

The decision should also impact outside of employer-employee arena, in areas such as college admissions. Additionally, it might well have an impact on banks and mortgage lenders under the Community Reinvestment Act - that piece of ill advised legislation at the very center of our economic meltdown. The CRA now includes provisions that use statistical analysis to punish banks who have not made "sufficient" loans to minorities, irrespective of whether neutral lending criteria was followed in each and every loan decision. Obama has proposed vastly expanding the CRA under his proposal for massive regulation of our financial sector. But I see no reason that the Ricci decision would not also apply in the banking context.

As to Justice Sotomayor, this Ed Whelan at NRO

Judge Sotomayor thought it appropriate to use an unpublished summary order to dispose of the claims of the New Haven firefighters in Ricci v. DeStefano. Today the Supreme Court issued 93 pages of opinions in the case that Sotomayor acted to bury.

Further, although there is a sharp 5-4 divide among the justices, not a single justice thought that Judge Sotomayor acted correctly in granting summary judgment for the City of New Haven.

All of that is true, but the bottom line is that this was a split decision and trying to make the fine point that there is a significant difference between Sotomayor's handling of the case and the position of the four dissenters will likely be lost in the spin.

Justice Ginsburg wrote a dissent in essence arguing for the good to be had from practicing reverse discrimination in the future to atone for original sins of our forebearers. Richard Epstein does a good job of fisking her stroll down memory lane.

On a final note, the facts of this case are far more objectionable than I have ever seen in the MSM stories covering it. The City threw out the test not simply out of fear of being sued disparate impact. Reverse racism played a predominant and ugly role. Justice Alito tells us the rest of the story in his concurring opinion.

This story is, I think, truly typical of the split in the African American community. You see on one side the majority of the african american community who take no substantial part in identity politics. On the other side are those for whom identity politics defines everything. Thus, in this case, the vast majority of African Americans who were involved in the hiring process thought it fair and that the results should be certified. Where you get the vile reverse racism is from a race baiting community organizer/Rev. Wright style preacher and a left wing Mayor who feeds the preacher in return for votes.

Here are the facts from Justic Alito's opinion minus the citations:

. . . “[A] jury could rationally infer that city officials worked behind the scenes to sabotage the promotional examinations because they knew that, were the exams certified, theMayor would incur the wrath of [Rev. Boise] Kimber and other influential leaders of New Haven’s African-American community.”

This admission finds ample support in the record. Reverend Boise Kimber . . . is a politically powerful New Haven pastor and a self-professed “‘kingmaker.’” On one occasion, “[i]n front of TV cameras, he threatened a race riot duringthe murder trial of the black man arrested for killing white Yalie Christian Prince. He continues to call whites racist if they question his actions.”

Reverend Kimber’s personal ties with seven-term New Haven Mayor John DeStefano (Mayor) stretch back more than a decade. In 1996, for example, Mayor DeStefano testified for Rev. Kimber as a character witness when Rev. Kimber — then the manager of a funeral home — was prosecuted and convicted for stealing prepaid funeral expenses from an elderly woman and then lying about the matter under oath. “Reverend Kimber has played a leadership role in all of Mayor DeStefano’s political campaigns, [and] is considered a valuable political supporter and vote-getter.” According to the Mayor’s former campaign manager (who is currently his executive assistant), Rev. Kimber is an invaluable political asset because “[h]e’s very good at organizing people and putting together field operations, as a result of his ties to labor, his prominence in the religious community and his long-standing commitment to roots.”

In 2002, the Mayor picked Rev. Kimber to serve as the Chairman of the New Haven Board of Fire Commissioners (BFC), “despite the fact that he had no experience in the profession, fire administration, [or] municipal management.” In that capacity, Rev. Kimber told fire fighters that certain new recruits would not be hired because “‘they just have too many vowels in their name[s].’” After protests about this comment, Rev. Kimber stepped down as chairman of the BFC, but he remained on the BFC and retained “a direct line to the mayor.”

Almost immediately after the test results were revealed in “early January” 2004, Rev. Kimber called the City’s Chief Administrative Officer, Karen Dubois-Walton, who “acts ‘on behalf of the Mayor.’” Dubois Walton and Rev. Kimber met privately in her office because he wanted “to express his opinion” about the test results and “to have some influence” over the City’s response. . . . Rev. Kimber adamantly opposed certification of the test results . . .

On January 12, 2004, Tina Burgett (the director of theCity’s Department of Human Resources) sent an e-mail toDubois-Walton to coordinate the City’s response to the test results. Burgett wanted to clarify that the City’s executive officials would meet “sans the Chief, and that once we had a better fix on the next steps we would meet with theMayor (possibly) and then the two Chiefs.” The “two Chiefs” are Fire Chief William Grant (who is white) and Assistant Fire Chief Ronald Dumas (who is African-American). Both chiefs believed that the test results should be certified.

Petitioners allege, and the record suggests, that the Mayor and his staff colluded “sans the Chief[s]” because “the defendants did not want Grant’s or Dumas’ views to be publicly known; accordingly both men were prevented by the Mayor and his staff from making any statements regarding the matter.” The next day, on January 13, 2004, Chad Legel, who had designed the tests, flew from Chicago to New Haven to meet with Dubois-Walton, Burgett, and Thomas Ude, the City’s corporate counsel. “Legel outlined the merits of the examination and why city officials should be confident in the validity of the results.” But according to Legel, Dubois-Walton was “argumentative”and apparently had already made up her mind that the tests were “‘discriminatory.’” Again according to Legel, “[a] theme” of the meeting was “the political and racial overtones of what was going on in the City.” “Legel came away from the January 13, 2004 meeting with the impression that defendants were already leaning toward discarding the examination results.”

On January 22, 2004, the Civil Service Board (CSB orBoard) convened its first public meeting. Almost immediately, Rev. Kimber began to exert political pressure on the CSB. He began a loud, minutes-long outburst that required the CSB Chairman to shout him down and hold him out of order three times. Reverend Kimber protested the public meeting, arguing that he and the other fire commissioners should first be allowed to meet with the CSB in private.

Four days after the CSB’s first meeting, Mayor DeStefano’s executive aide sent an e-mail to Dubois-Walton, Burgett, and Ude. The message clearly indicated that the Mayor had made up his mind to oppose certification of the test results but nevertheless wanted to conceal that fact from the public:

“I wanted to make sure we are all on the same pagefor this meeting tomorrow. . . . [L]et’s remember, that these folks are not against certification yet. So we can’t go in and tell them that is our position; we have to deliberate and arrive there as the fairest and most cogent outcome.”

On February 5, 2004, the CSB convened its second public meeting. Reverend Kimber again testified and threatened the CSB with political recriminations if they voted to certify the test results:

“I look at this [Board] tonight. I look at three whites
and one Hispanic and no blacks. . . . I would hope that you would not put yourself in this type of position, a political ramification that may come back upon you as
you sit on this [Board] and decide the future of a department and the future of those who are being promoted.

One of the CSB members “t[ook] great offense” because he believed that Rev. Kimber “consider[ed] [him] a bigot because [his] face is white.” The offended CSB member eventually voted not to certify the test results.

One of Rev. Kimber’s “friends and allies,” Lieutenant Gary Tinney, also exacerbated racial tensions before the CSB. After some firefighters applauded in support of certifying the test results, “Lt. Tinney exclaimed, ‘Listen to the Klansmen behind us.’” Id., at 225a. Tinney also has strong ties to the Mayor’s office. After learning that he had not scored well enough on the captain’s exam to earn a promotion, Tinney called Dubois-Walton and arranged a meeting in her office. Tinney alleged that the white firefighters had cheated on their exams — an accusation that Dubois-Walton conveyed to the Board without first conducting an investigation into its veracity. The allegation turned out to be baseless.

Dubois-Walton never retracted the cheating allegation, but she and other executive officials testified several times before the CSB. In accordance with directions from the Mayor’s office to make the CSB meetings appear deliberative, executive officials remained publicly uncommitted about certification — while simultaneously “work[ing] as a team” behind closed doors with the secretary of the CSB to devise a political message that would convince the CSB to vote against certification. At the public CSB meeting on March 11, 2004, for example, Corporation Counsel Ude bristled at one board member’s suggestion that City officials were recommending against certifying the test results. . . . But within days of making that public statement, Ude privately told other members of the Mayor’s team “the ONLY way we get to adecision not to certify is” to focus on something other than “a big discussion re: adverse impact” law.

As part of its effort to deflect attention from the specifics of the test, the City relied heavily on the testimony of Dr.Christopher Hornick, who is one of Chad Legel’s competitors in the test-development business. Hornick never “stud[ied] the test [that Legel developed] at length or in detail,” but Hornick did review and rely upon literature sent to him by Burgett to criticize Legel’s test. For example, Hornick “noted in the literature that [Burgett] sent that the test was not customized to the New Haven Fire Department.” The Chairman of the CSB immediately corrected Hornick. . . . Hornick also relied on newspaper accounts — again, sent to him by Burgett — pertaining to the controversy surrounding the certification decision. Although Hornick again admitted that he had no knowledge about the actual test that Legel had developed and that the City had administered, the City repeatedly relied upon Hornick as a testing “guru” and, in the CSB Chairman’s words, “the City ke[pt]quoting him as a person that we should rely upon more than anybody else [to conclude that there] is a better way — a better mousetrap.” Dubois-Walton later admitted that the City rewarded Hornick for his testimony by hiring him to develop and administer an alternative test.

At some point prior to the CSB’s public meeting on March 18, 2004, the Mayor decided to use his executive authority to disregard the test results — even if the CSB ultimately voted to certify them. Accordingly, on the evening of March 17th, Dubois-Walton sent an e-mail to the Mayor, the Mayor’s executive assistant, Burgett, and attorney Ude, attaching two alternative press releases. The first would be issued if the CSB voted not to certify the test results; the second would be issued (and would explain the Mayor’s invocationof his executive authority) if the CSB voted to certify the test results. Half an hour after Dubois-Walton circulated the alternative drafts, Burgett replied: “[W]ell, that seems to say it all. Let’s hope draft #2 hits the shredder tomorrow nite.”

Soon after the CSB voted against certification, Mayor DeStefano appeared at a dinner event and “took credit for the scu[tt]ling of the examination results.”

Those are some ugly facts indeed, but are hardly unique. To the contrary, this fact pattern is often seen with the race baiting crowd, from Al Sharpton, to Jeremiah Wright to Jesse Jackson, etc. They have suffered a significant blow as a result of Ricci. They only bad thing about this decision is that it was a 5-4 split. Should we lose any of the conservative justices, instead of equal protection of the laws, we will have reverse discrimination ensconced as Constitutional law. God please save the Court . . . at least through 2012.


Supreme Court's Ricci Decision - Half A Loaf (Updated)

I just scanned the Supreme Court's decision in Ricci v. DeStafano, holding 5-4 for the firefighters. That was the case brought by 11 New Haven Connecticut firefighters who had all achieved top scores on a promotion test. The City threw out the test results because no blacks were among their number. The firefighters argued that this act was unlawful under Title VII and that it was unlawful under the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.

Unfortunately, the Court's decision was limited in scope. Instead of deciding the penultimate issue - that the Equal Protection clause means that all discrimination, including reverse discrimination, is unlawful - the Supreme Court opted to limit its holding to Title VII. The decision changes the law of Title VII disparite impact claims - i.e., claims established based on a purely statitstical analysis of whether a hiring criteria resulted in too few of whatever minority or gender were hired as a result. If my initial read is correct, the holdings effect is ultimately to lessen the evidentiary value of such statistical claims as proof of racism.

While the outcome of the case is good, and it certainly points in the direction of an ultimate holding that the Equal Protection clause means what it says, the fact is that four liberal justices would have held otherwise. We are but one activist justice away from an Obama Supreme Court given the racially tinged green light to reverse racism.

Much more on this after I have a chance to pull it apart.

Update: Heh. I missed this. Johnathan Adler at The Volokh Conspiracy points out that Justice Alito, in his concurring opinion, had a terse rebuke of the "empathy standard":

There's also some interesting language at the close of Justice Alito's concurrence (joined by Justices Thomas and Scalia) that I read as a subtle rebuke to Judge Sotomayor and the Second Circuit panel (which expressed sympathy to the firefighters in its per curiam opinion), as well as a rejection of an "empathy" standard for judicial decision-making.

. . . The dissent grants that petitioners’ situation is “unfortunate” and that they “understandably attract this Court’s sympathy.” Post, at 1, 39. But “sympathy” is not what petitioners have a right to demand. What they have a right to demand is evenhanded enforcement of the law—of Title VII’s prohibition against discrimination based on race. And that is what, until today’s decision, has been denied them.


Larwyn's Linx

Doug Ross runs one of the most interesting blogs on the net. If you're not a regular visitor, you're missing out. Beyond straight blogging, he also does a daily round-up of links, Larwyn's Linx, that is always quite good, and he was kind enough to include one of my posts in the round-up. Do please pay him a visit.


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Impeachment - Honduran Style; Obama Acts As To Be Expected

Left wing Honduran President and Chavez ally Manuel Zelaya has been arrested by the military pursuant to a Court Order in a Constitutional crisis of his own making. The radical lefties - Chavez, Castro & the Obama administration - weigh in to support Zelaya.

President Zelya was, until today, in his second term as Honduran President. The Honduran Constitution provides a two term limit on the Presidency. Further, their Constitution provides a single method for amending the constitution - a 2/3rds vote of the legislative body in two consecutive regular annual sessions. Zelya had attempted to get around this by calling a country wide referendum. Honduras's highest Court ruled such a move illegal. Zelya continued ahead with the planned referendum, firing officials along the way who refused to take part in this extra-constitutional act. Accordingly, the Court ordered Zelya's arrest today and the military complied. At his own request, Zelya has been flown to Costa Rica. Fausta has the whole story.

This from the WSJ:

Honduras's Congress formally removed Mr. Zelaya from the presidency and named congressional leader Roberto Micheletti as his successor until the end of Mr. Zelaya's term in January. Mr. Micheletti and others said they were the defenders, not opponents, of democratic rule.

"What was done here was a democratic act," Mr. Micheletti, who was sworn in as president Sunday afternoon, said to an ovation. "Our constitution continues to be relevant, our democracy continues to live."

It should be noted that Micheletti was also a member of Zelya's party. Although the Constitutional issue provided the impetus for this act by the Courts and military, underlying it was concern with the role of Venezuela's clown dictator, Hugo Chavez, in Honduran politics. The WSJ quotes retired Honduran Gen. Daniel López Carballo, who "justified the move against the president, telling CNN that if the military hadn't acted, Mr. Chávez would eventually be running Honduras by proxy." The WSJ further notes that this was "a common view Sunday."

All of the rabidly left wing governments are attacking this arrest and the installation of a new President. Chavez, for one, is threatening war. The Obama administration has, according to the WSJ, "called the removal of President Zelaya a coup and said it wouldn't recognize any other leader." And Sec. of State Clinton goes one further. This from the WP:

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says the action taken against Honduras' president should be condemned by everyone.

She says Honduras must embrace the principles of democracy and respect constitutional order. . . .

It certainly sounds like the Hondurans played by the Constitutional rule book. Yet the U.S. seems to want to favor the Chavista's unconstitutional acts. You know, honest to God, watching Obama foreign policy is like watching the Keystone Cops.


A Very Guilty Laugh

Tired of 24/7 eulogizing about the talents of Michael Jackson? TNOY puts its all into perspective with some very funny . . . and really bad humor. See Michael Jackson's last order of take-out, memorialized at TNOY.


Politicized Science

. . . The public must be able to trust the science and scientific process informing public policy decisions. Political officials should not suppress or alter scientific or technological findings and conclusions. If scientific and technological information is developed and used by the Federal Government, it should ordinarily be made available to the public. To the extent permitted by law, there should be transparency in the preparation, identification, and use of scientific and technological information in policymaking. . . .

President Barack Obama, Memorandum, Subject: Scientific Integrity, 9 March 2009


Obama strikes the highest of moral poses, yet scratch the surface and you will find no morality underneath. As has regularly been the case with Obama and the far left, the statists at the UN included, the gulf between words and deeds is a yawning chasm. In terms of politicized science, we have been treated over the past two months to:

- Obama's EPA making repeated claims that the science of global warming is "settled" and that regulation of CO2 is the only way to stave off disaster, yet suppressing its own internal study critical of the underlying science and that calls these conclusions into doubt. (H/T What Bubba Knows)

Update: This from CNET News:

The Environmental Protection Agency may have suppressed an internal report that was skeptical of claims about global warming, including whether carbon dioxide must be strictly regulated by the federal government, according to a series of newly disclosed e-mail messages.

Less than two weeks before the agency formally submitted its pro-regulation recommendation to the White House, an EPA center director quashed a 98-page report that warned against making hasty "decisions based on a scientific hypothesis that does not appear to explain most of the available data."

The EPA official, Al McGartland, said in an e-mail message (PDF) to a staff researcher on March 17: "The administrator and the administration has decided to move forward...and your comments do not help the legal or policy case for this decision

The e-mail correspondence raises questions about political interference in what was supposed to be an independent review process inside a federal agency--and echoes criticisms of the EPA under the Bush administration, which was accused of suppressing a pro-climate change document

Alan Carlin, the primary author of the 98-page EPA report, said in a telephone interview on Friday that his boss, McGartland, was being pressured himself. "It was his view that he either lost his job or he got me working on something else," Carlin said. "That was obviously coming from higher levels." . . .

(H/T Memorandum)

- Last week, Team Obama released a 196 page report, "Global Climate Change Impacts In The United States" that contains so many inaccuracies and false claims that, as one climate scientist has stated, it would "make Pravda blush." And indeed, one of the major scientists whose data is relied upon in the report, Roger Pielke Jr., has taken the authors to task for wholly misrepresenting his work.

- Several weeks ago, during the House Energy Committee's truncated hearings on cap and trade, Democrats trotted out Al Gore, yet shielded him from testifying alongside Lord Christopher Monckton. Gore, who has long explicitly advocated suppressing dissenting voices on global warming, regularly ducks debates on the topic. There is probably no greater measure of how politicized the science of global warming actually is than the fact that its foremost proponent is unwilling to engage in public debate on the topic.

- The UN International Panel On Climate Change, an organization notorious for its suppression of dissenting voices and for presenting twisted and sometimes outright false data, is preparing for the next round of talks in Copenhagen. A subcommittee on polar bears is meeting now to prepare their report for the conference - but absent is one of the leading polar bear experts, Dr. Mitchell Taylor. He was disinvited because he does not believe carbon dioxide is a cause of global warming. Further, his own findings are that "global warming" is not harming the polar bears, with their numbers at optimum or growing - a truly inconvenient truth that we will not hear at the Copenhagen Conference. (H/T Crusader Rabbit)

When it comes to politicization of science, Obama and the left are bathing in it. They are pushing it to promote the vast expansion of government into, as Speaker Pelosi said, "every aspect of our lives."

The problems of politicized science are obvious. One is that, if acted upon, it will result in the massive misallocation of resources. A person need look no further in that regard than the House vote on Friday to enact a massive carbon tax. The plan will have negligible impact on global temperatures yet will have a huge negative impact on our lives. If enacted, it will drive substantial resources away from productive areas of the economy while, as Doug Ross notes, providing the engine for massive social engineering. Another example has been the disastrous push into bio-fuels. That push has critically lessened world agricultural production and, last year, drove food prices rocketing upwards to a level from which they have not returned.

The second effect of politicized science is more subtle, but equally as destructive. It is that scientific theories and observations that do not fit the politicized paradigm get ignored.

One example of that concerns the growing problem of droughts. According to the global warming crowed, carbon dioxide is the culprit. This from Peter Schwerdtfeger, emeritus professor of meteorology at Flinders University, writing in the Australian:

. . . Two decades ago, I pored over the spectral properties of the infra-red radiation of [carbon dioxide], which is essential to plant life, and found that it was almost completely overshadowed by the radiative properties of water vapour, which is vital to all forms of life on earth.

Repeatedly in science we are reminded that happenings in nature can rarely be ascribed to a single phenomenon. For example, sea levels on our coasts are dependent on winds and astronomical forces as well as atmospheric pressure and, on a different time scale, the temperature profile of the ocean. Now, with complete abandon, a vociferous body of claimants is insisting that CO2 alone is the root of climatic evil. . . .

. . . I do not believe for one moment that undisciplined burning of fossil fuels is harmless, but the most awful consequence of the burning of carboniferous fuels is not the release of CO2 but the large-scale injection of minute particulate pollutants into the atmosphere.

Detailed studies led by internationally acclaimed cloud physicist Daniel Rosenfeld of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have revealed that the minute water vapour droplets that form around some carbon particles are so small as to be almost incapable of being subsequently coalesced into larger precipitable drops. In short, the particulates prevent rainfall.

Rosenfeld's research group has shown that humans are changing the climate in a much more direct way than through the release of CO2. Rather, pollution is seriously inhibiting rain over mountains in semi-arid regions, a phenomenon with dire consequences for water resources in the Middle East and many other parts of the world, including China and Australia.

Rosenfeld is no snake-oil salesman. As an American Meteorological Society medallist, he has an internationally endorsed research record in cloud physics that no living Australian can claim to emulate. . . .

If Rosenfeld's scientific interpretations are correct, then southern Australia would greatly benefit from the application of his discoveries. At the very least, Rosenfeld's conclusions should be accorded appropriate evaluation and testing by an unprejudiced panel of peers.

Yet his work so far has been ignored in Australia because it does not fit in with the dominant paradigm that holds CO2 responsible for reduced rainfall in semi-arid regions. . . .

(H/T EU Referendum)

Yet a second example of this same evil could well prove the most disastrous of all. Those who fully embrace global warming are ignoring the signs of a cooling earth and actual cold-weather related drops in agricultural production. See here and here.

I had to laugh in March when Obama excoriated Bush for supposedly "politicizing science," particularly on the stem cell issue - an issue, as Charles Krauthammer pointed out, on which Bush had taken an ethical stand that had nothing to do with politicization. Nothing Bush did begins to compare with how Obama, the UN and the green left have politicized the science of global warming. Indeed, one would have to go back to the Catholic Church of medieval times to find anything comparable. They get away with it because a corrupt media utterly ignores their mammoth hypocrisy. Thus, as Dr. North at EU Referendum notes, the debate is rigged:

This is a broader point that deserves more attention, touching on an effect we see in defence and elsewhere. The media – as a collective – has its own narratives and as long as an utterance fits with those narratives, it is given an airing. That which goes against the grain is buried.

Currently, the media narrative on climate change is that global warming is real and represents a major threat to the planet and humankind. Similarly, all the woes in the military stem from "under-resourcing" and all problems in Afghanistan will be solved by more "boots on the ground". Thus is the debate rigged, through which means our decline into obscurity, poverty and impotence is managed.

Welcome, Doug Ross readers.


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Watcher's Council Results

Each week, the Watcher's Council holds a contest for best post. The Council members submit a post they have written and one post by someone outside the Council for consideration. The Watcher tallies the votes and announces the winners each Friday.

There is an opening on the Council. If you would care to submit your blog for consideration, please visit the Watcher's site. You will find instructions on the right side bar for applying to join the Council.

You can find the results of the weeks voting and the Watcher's cogent commentary on the submissions here. This week's winners were:

Coming in first place this week was my post, Obama On Iran: A Broken Moral Compass, A Distorted Perception Of Reality. In it, I take Obama to task for prioritizing talks with the murderous theocracy over support for the protesters in Iran. Coming in second place, The Provocateur's Too Good To Check: How the Conservative Media Unwittingly Smeared ACORN and Handed Them a Gift. Coming in third was Soccer Dad with The njdc’s ledge.

In the Non-Council category, the winner was the greatest smackdown of a pompous fool possibly ever written, Christopher Badeaux Through the Looking Glass With Andrew Sullivan. Coming in second was the Dry Bones cartoon, Obama’s 3 AM Phone Call. And coming in a close third was my offering this week, scientist Roger Pielke Jr.'s Obama’s Phil Cooney And The New CCSP Report.

For full results of the weeks voting, please visit the Watcher's site.


The "Green Jobs" Canard - Devolving America

Green job advocates all make a fundamental error when they view the creation of jobs as the benefit arising from their green plans. Jobs are a cost. The services a job provides are the benefit. Green job advocates believe that greener technology for power generation, transport or food production will require more labor per unit of output than non-green or conventional methods. The fact that more workers will have to be hired to produce less energy is a cost not a benefit as they claim. Decreased labor productivity is the make-work path to poverty.

Green job subsidization will do nothing to help the United States recover from the current recession. It will only lower living standards by promoting inefficient technologies and artificially keeping labor and capital in construction and related industries that were the most over inflated during the bubble. These are the very industries that need to contract.

Beacon Hill Institute, Green Collar" Job Creation, A Critical Analysis, June 2009


The BHI, a think tank at Suffolk University in Boston, just released its analysis of "green jobs." Therein, they analyze three influential studies, a UN study, a study by the The Center for American Progress, and a study by the The U.S. Conference of Mayors, all of which promote the creation of "green jobs" and a fundamental alteration to the energy sector. The BHI authors find the logic of these studies fundamentally flawed and the assumptions underlying them unsupported. This from their press release:

“Contrary to the claims made in these studies, we found that the green job initiatives reviewed in each actually causes greater harm than good to the American economy and will cause growth to slow,” reported Paul Bachman, Director of Research at the Beacon Hill Institute, one of the report’s authors. . .

The executive director of the Beacon Hill Institute and co-author, David G. Tuerck, . . . [notes] that “these studies are based on arbitrary assumptions and use faulty methodologies to create an unreliable forecast for the future of green jobs.

“It appears these numbers are based more on wishful thinking than the appropriate economic models, and that must be taken into consideration when the government is trying to turn the economy around based on political studies and the wrong numbers,” Tuerck said. . . .

The authors concluded by noting that further economic analysis is needed before governments move forward on green job initiatives. “All three green jobs studies we reviewed are riddled with economic errors, incorrect methods, and dubious assumptions. Economic policy should not be based on such faulty analysis. Serious economic studies of costs and benefits are desperately needed before the adoption of any green jobs proposal.”

You can find their report here. A final snippet from the report on the UN's push for a world-wide green economy is worth a read:

The U.N.’s report [Green Jobs: Towards Sustainable Work in a Low-Carbon World] contains the most serious economic errors of the three reports we review. It argues for radical changes in industrial and agricultural policy that would have disastrous economic consequences and would likely result in widespread impoverishment and mass starvation. It mistakenly claims that increased labor productivity results in unemployment. As a result it advocates moving to less productive modes of transport, farming, and energy production. Taking people out of taxies and putting them into rickshaws, forcing people to use more labor to produce fewer crops, and doing more work to produce the same amount of energy would plunge society back to pre-modern standards of living. Humanity has advanced as productivity has increased. As the labor force has expanded so have the number of jobs to be done. The U.N. report amounts to a call for a return to the stone-age.

So, don't you feel better now about yesterday's vote to take us down this road.

(H/T EU Referendum)