Friday, August 30, 2013

Al Gore and the Chicken Littles, Part Tres

Al Gore and his traveling medicine show is back in town with his new, improved snake oil, guaranteed to grow hair, improve digestion, promote regularity and kill roaches, rats and bedbugs. Al and his wagon rumbled into town on the eve of "a major forthcoming report" from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is a panel of scientists affiliated with the United Nations. Their report is expected to buck up the spirits of the tycoons of the snake-oil industry.

A snake-oil salesman's lot, like a policeman's, is not a happy one. There's always a skeptic or two (or three) standing at the back of the wagon, eager to scoff and jeer. The global-warming scam would have been right up Gilbert and Sullivan's street. Would Al and the U.N. deceive us? No! Never! What! Never? Weeeell, hardly ever.

Read more:
Follow us: @washtimes on Twitter

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Classic Quote, Churchill

"Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen."
Winston Churchill

No Braver Warrior

Fifty years ago today, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. electrified the nation with his "I Have A Dream" speech - and helped establish himself as one of America's founding fathers.

A half-century later, King stands equal to Jefferson, Adams, Madison, and Hamilton, the people who invented America, designed its government, and shaped its unique democratic experiment. Taylor Branch, the incomparable civil rights historian, has called him "a new founding father." An insightful essay in Time Magazine by another great historian, Jon Meacham, also awards King that stellar status.

Here is why I believe King is the most significant American since Lincoln in his impact on how we live and work together in the world's oldest democracy.

King changed America forever. It was largely his movement that finally extinguished Jim Crow in the South, ending the overt racism and segregation that had persisted for a century after the Emancipation Proclamation. In a very real way, King picked up where Lincoln had left America at the end of the Civil War. That America had yet to overcome what Condoleezza Rice calls the "original sin" of our Constitution: African-Americans were not treated as fully human.

King led that fight more skillfully and convincingly than any American in our history. He offered a hopeful, transcendent idea of how America could be truly great. Meacham observed in Time that during his memorable speech at the Aug. 28, 1963, march on Washington, "King - like Jefferson and Lincoln before him - projected an ideal vision of an exceptional nation . . . In doing so, King defined the best of the nation as surely as Jefferson did in Philadelphia in 1776 or Lincoln did at Gettysburg in 1863."

King also found a way to touch the conscience of white Americans all too complacent about the need for change during the tumultuous decades of the civil rights struggle from Birmingham to Little Rock, Selma, and beyond. It was not preordained that the most important black leader would wave a flag of nonviolent civil disobedience and redemption rather than hatred and revenge.

His message even reached places where whites knew precious few black neighbors, such as the privileged town where I grew up, Wellesley. I have no memory of King's great speech at the Lincoln Memorial, which occurred when I was 7. But I retain a clear and sharp image from five years later, when our enlightened sixth-grade teacher, Jean Barton, wheeled a television into our classroom in April 1968. She asked us to watch the funeral of a great man, Martin Luther King. In the years that followed, when I went looking for a true hero, I found one in King and his ringing message of what was clearly right and clearly wrong.

In many ways, King's most lasting legacy is the America we know today - far from perfect, still halting on the question of race, but light years from the hateful South of Bull Connor, George Wallace, and the pathetic nostalgia for the failed cause of the Confederacy. King created in its place the America that chose Barack Obama, now leading a country turning an irreversible corner to redeem the promise of our founding.

Throughout the lonely years of the civil rights struggle, King embraced the power of language in his ministry to the nation. In reworking a powerful statement by the nineteenth century Boston abolitionist, the Rev. Theodore Parker, Kingnever let us forget a central truth that Obama later evoked on the campaign trail in 2008: "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

It must have been this deep reservoir of faith that brought King to his brilliant, beautiful, lyrical, rousing vision on that hot day in Washington 50 years ago.

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

Martin Luther King Jr., founding father.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Lincoln and Constitution

Washington, August 22, 1862.

Hon. Horace Greeley:
Dear Sir.

I have just read yours of the 19th. addressed to myself through the New-York Tribune. If there be in it any statements, or assumptions of fact, which I may know to be erroneous, I do not, now and here, controvert them. If there be in it any inferences which I may believe to be falsely drawn, I do not now and here, argue against them. If there be perceptable in it an impatient and dictatorial tone, I waive it in deference to an old friend, whose heart I have always supposed to be right.

As to the policy I "seem to be pursuing" as you say, I have not meant to leave any one in doubt.

I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be "the Union as it was." If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.

I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men every where could be free.

A. Lincoln.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Are you saying ... Congress Doesn't Know What the Frock it is Doing?

Yet four years after the end of the Great Recession, and three years after the passage of the financial-reform legislation, America's megabanks are even bigger. Wall Street is more concentrated and the financial sector is more politically powerful than ever before, and there is little evidence that the most important lessons from the 2008 financial crisis have been taken to heart. What happened?

The gravest of the many problems with Dodd-Frank is that the law is based in a fundamental misunderstanding of how and why the megabanks it seeks to tame grew so large and complex in the first place. That growth was caused not by an unregulated market spun out of control, but by a set of disastrous federal policies. By repeatedly bailing out banks deemed too essential or too interconnected to fail, the federal government has incentivized - and even facilitated - the consolidation and astronomical expansion of the big banks. The certainty of a government backstop has provided the largest banks with a significant competitive advantage in the marketplace, which has created an artificial incentive for massive growth and risk-taking that is detrimental to the financial system.

It's just disgusting.

The Death Spiral

By one recent estimate, the total pension gap for the states is $2.7 trillion, or 17% of GDP. That understates the mess, because it omits both the unfunded pension figure for cities and the health-care promises made to retired government workers of all sorts. In Detroit's case, the bill for their medical benefits ($5.7 billion) was even larger than its pension hole ($3.5 billion).

Some of this is the unfortunate side-effect of a happy trend: Americans are living longer, even in Detroit, so promises to pensioners are costlier to keep. But the problem is also political. Governors and mayors have long offered fat pensions to public servants, thus buying votes today and sending the bill to future taxpayers. They have also allowed some startling abuses. Some bureaucrats are promoted just before retirement or allowed to rack up lots of overtime, raising their final-salary pension for the rest of their lives. Or their unions win annual cost-of-living adjustments far above inflation. A watchdog in Rhode Island calculated that a retired local fire chief would be pulling in $800,000 a year if he lived to 100, for example. More than 20,000 retired public servants in California receive pensions of over $100,000.

Public employees should retire later. States should accelerate the shift to defined-contribution pension schemes, where what you get out depends on what you put in. (These are the norm in the private sector.) Benefits already accrued should be honoured, but future accruals should be curtailed, where legally possible. The earlier you grapple with the problem, the easier it will be to fix. Nebraska, which stopped offering final-salary pensions to new hires in 1967, is sitting pretty.

Classic Quote, Washington

"Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon him and to let him know that you trust him."
~ Booker T. Washington