Crony Capitalism, from Santa Fe to Silver City

Crony capitalism is when the government favors private industry with subsidies or non-cash help such as import quotas, tariffs, etc. It is not something confined to Washington, D.C., where examples abound, some quite outrageous. Who, for example, do you think is the biggest beneficiary of the subsidies given to windmill operators? None other than mega-billionaire Warren Buffet, longtime Democrat.

Piker stuff compared New Mexico’s Spaceport America, perhaps the dumbest crony capitalist deal of all time. You’re thinking, “What do you mean Burro? The Spaceport was ‘only’ $250 million or so. How is that so bad compared to, for example, the solar panel company Solyndra that cost U.S. taxpayers over $500 million?”

Solyndra? Ha! Chump change on a per capita basis. At $125 for every New Mexican, a national boondoggle comparable to the Spaceport would be $40 billion. Add in the fact of New Mexico’s relative poverty, and I bet a comparable D.C. boondoggle would be over $50 billion.

The Spaceport saga started back in 2004 when Democrat Governor Bill Richardson met with British multi-billionaire Richard Branson and agreed to build a spaceport, at New Mexico’s expense, so billionaire Branson could play Buck Rogers and have a place from which to launch “space tourists” into suborbital flight. Flights were supposed to start as early as 2009, with hundreds of thousands of tourist gawkers coming to inundate us with their money.

In addition to the hundreds if not thousands of jobs that the Spaceport would create, New Mexico’s grade-schoolers and high-schoolers would be inspired to take science classes, study math, and learn how to use slide rules. (OK, I made that last one up.) When a government spending proposal has as one of its justifications that it will be good for our children, you can be sure — YOU CAN BE SURE — that it doesn’t make economic sense.

Now it’s 2017 and nothing has happened and nothing will ever happen. Branson’s test spaceship crashed on Oct. 31, 2014, from an altitude of 70,000 feet, delaying indefinitely a commercial launch. Note that 70,000 feet is only about 25 percent of the target altitude of 60 miles. Also, the 66-year-old Branson almost killed himself recently in a high speed bicycle crash.

This brings up an embarrassing detail: The contract between New Mexico and Branson’s company, Virgin Galactic, has no clauses that protect New Mexico from adverse events. An example of such a clause: If Richard Branson were to suffer an untimely death prior to the commencement of commercial operations, New Mexico would receive the proceeds of a “key man” insurance policy of $200 million, or something like that. Another example: If commercial flights did not start before 2015, New Mexico could demand payment for the cost of the Spaceport, in full, from Virgin Galactic.

I will hazard an unscientific guess that ninety-nine percent of private sector entrepreneurs would include such clauses, and ninety-nine percent of government sector “entrepreneurs” wouldn’t have a clue.

Why, why, would a poor state like New Mexico agree to build a $200+ million facility for a foreign multi-billionaire? One answer is that it is easy to be a visionary with other peoples’ money, when you have NO PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY if the project fails.

Governor Richardson had nothing to lose by building the Spaceport. It was a “heads he wins, tails we lose” proposition. If the Spaceport lived up to expectations, Richardson would be remembered as a great, visionary governor. If the Spaceport became a huge failure, as it is in fact becoming, that would be a long way down the road and it’s the taxpayers who’d get stiffed. Big Bill? Who’s he?

The really big bill is the one we taxpayers are footing. The very least we should demand in return is that the white elephant be renamed. “Spaceport America” is pretentious, risible, and embarrassing. Somebody should suggest to Governor Martinez that she issue an executive order renaming it ” The Bill Richardson Spaceport.” Maybe she can’t do that, but it would be interesting to see what response she would get if she tried.

In fairness, Democrat Richardson had plenty of Republicans backing the Spaceport. Republican Dianne Hamilton, longtime State Representative for District 38, was one of them. Also, then-Chairman of the Dona Ana County Republican Party, Sid Goddard, wrote a long letter to the Sun-News urging Dona Ana voters to vote for an additional tax to help build the spaceport. Bernie Sanders could have written it.

More recently, at a meeting discussing the state’s budget shortfall, I suggested to Republican State Representative John Zimmerman, District 39, that the state consider selling the spaceport, or even giving it away. Oh, no. The spaceport needed “only” a million dollars of support this year. Silly me. Only a million. I notice Zimmerman lost his reelection bid.

Here in Silver City, we’re no better than the state pols. Back in 2011 a “quality of life” bond was passed that approved, amongst other projects, a half million dollars to build a clubhouse out at the golf course, sold as a necessity to attract people who deemed a nice golf course essential to their life styles, e.g. retirees and WNMU executives.

Well, the clubhouse was finished just as the private group leasing the course threw in the towel. Thankfully, Western New Mexico University stepped in to run the course so that now the losses are spread over the entire state, not just Silver City.

In 2013, Grant County proposed a quality of life bond, totaling $10 million, which as I recall, included over $2 million to build a multiplex theater and then lease it to a private operator. This idea was strongly supported by a couple of prominent Republicans and at least one outspoken business owner.

My Progressive friend Lynda Aiman-Smith wrote an excellent analysis of Deming’s experience with a similar project that turned into a huge white elephant, supported to this day with taxpayer dollars. Her conclusion: “The Deming Starmax multiplex is a case example of terrible judgment and terrible use of taxpayer money.” She strongly recommended against such a project in Grant County and also recommended a NO vote on the bond.

Think about it. If a multiplex movie theater made economic sense here in Silver City, investors wouldn’t need to have public financing. THEY WOULD USE THEIR OWN MONEY. Too many elected officials think that THEY can and should use the public’s money to make such investments because private investors obviously lack the necessary “vision.” Investment geniuses aren’t born, you see, they’re elected.

There is hope: The bond referendum lost two-to-one.

An Infidel’s Guide To The Koran, a 26 minute speech

Speech, part one, 26 -28 minutes   revised  12/30/16

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you about Islam. Is it really a religion of peace?  In just the last month (Nov 2016) Islamic terrorists worldwide killed 2008 people in 231 attacks in 29 countries, which included 27 suicide bombers, and last month was not exceptional. Since the 9-11 attack on the twin towers in NYC over 15 years ago there have been  ______ acts of terror by Muslims around the globe, almost two thousand a year.  You can update these numbers on the web site, religion of

We hear very little about these terrorist attacks  unless they occur on our soil, and since 9-11 there have been 44 deadly terrorist attacks in which 139  Americans died. When such attacks have occurred, the political response has been to run to the nearest Mosque and tell the Muslims how peaceful, they, the Muslims are. For example:
*President George Bush less than a week after the 9/11 attack addressed the  Islamic Center in Washington D.C. and said “Islam is peace.“
*Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton addressed the Council on Foreign Relations in November of 2015 and said, “Let’s be clear: Islam is not our adversary. Muslims are peaceful and tolerant people and have nothing to do with terrorism.”  This was less than a week after Muslim terrorists killed 138 people in Paris.
*Three weeks after Hillary’s comments, director of homeland security Jeh Johnson, addressed a mosque in Northern Virginia and declared, “anyone who does not understand” that Muslims want peace, “does not understand Islam.”  This was less than a week after two Muslims killed 14 people in San Bernardino.
* and I don’t have time to list President Obama’s statements defending Islam.

In my opinion, our political leaders couldn’t be more mistaken, and I am not alone.  Let me quote the best-known Muslim cleric of the 20th Century, that beatific, sweet old man, the Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran’s supreme leader after the fall of the Shah.  He said: “Those who know nothing of Islam pretend that Islam councils against war.  (They) are witless.  Islam says: kill all the unbelievers — he goes on to say there are hundreds of verses in the Koran and sayings of Muhammad, quote:  “urging Muslims to value war and to fight!”

While the Ayatollah said that both the Koran and Muhammad urge Muslims to wage war, we only have time for a brief look at the Koran, but that will more than prove the Ayatollah’s point.

There are a couple of things you have to know about the Koran. First, the Koran is NOT like the Bible.  The Bible has only a few words considered directly from God, directly, not indirectly as is most of the Bible, and those words are the Ten Commandments, revealed through Moses.  The Koran is the opposite, almost every word in the Koran is the word of God revealed through Muhammad. The few words that AREN’T from God make up the very short first chapter, only a few sentences long, called al-fatihah, The Opening, and it’s a prayer recited 17 times a day by devout Muslims.  The rest of the Koran is God’s response to that prayer.

The fact that virtually every word in the Koran is the word of God has profound implications.  In Islam, to disagree with something in the Koran is to disagree with God, to be an apostate. Only God can disagree with God, something I’ll get to in a minute.

I use two Korans and the one I’ve found most helpful is one recommended by Robert Spencer, who has written extensively on Islam. It‘s a 20th Century translation by the Pakistani scholar Sayyid Mawdudi, who died in 1979.  It has many explanatory footnotes clarifying the meaning of many verses. This is very important because it helps us understand the Koran and from the perspective of a 20th Century Muslim. Since the Mawdudi Koran is a translation from Arabic to Urdu and then Urdu to English, I have a second Koran which is straight Arabic to English, published in 1999, translated by two scholars living in Medina, the birthplace of Islam.  It’s published out of Riyad, the capital of Saudi Arabia, with accompanying Arabic text, and it’s also extensively footnoted –very scholastic.  If you are interested, it’s referred to as the Al-Hilali translation.
Since I’ve found no discrepancies between the two and since Mawdudi is far more readable, that’s the one I’d recommend. I purchased both through

The author of the FORWARD to this translation, an educated and devout Pakistani Muslim, gives us non-Muslims an insight into how Muslims view the Koran, and by extension, their religion. Here’s what he wrote, and I’m paraphrasing a bit:  The Koran is the foundation and mainstay of Islamic faith—. The uniqueness of the Koran lies in its being the Final Revelation. ——. It was God’s will that (his) final revelation should be preserved in its entirety exactly as it had been communicated to the prophet (Muhammad) —. All this was essential since this last Book was meant to serve as a BEACON LIGHT FOR THE GUIDANCE OF ALL HUMANITY TILL THE END OF TIME.” (Repeat) —

He goes on to write “The Koran, uncreated Word of God though it doubtlessly is—” meaning he believes the Koran is without question the word of God that has existed forever.  God just reached over and picked it up and said to the angel Gabriel, Gabe, take this down to my messenger Muhammad and reveal it to him, which occurred one revelation at a time for the next 23 years of Muhammad‘s life.

Implicit in all this is that the Koran is God’s infallible word and GOD’S WORD MUST BE OBEYED!!

Now, the second thing you must know about the Koran, is that the revelations or verses in the Koran that were dictated to Muhammad are God’s words for the guidance of humanity till the end of time unless they aren’t  God’s words for the guidance of humanity till the end of time. Now, you’re probably thinking I put a little something extra in my coffee this morning, but no, let me explain.

Muhammad began his missionary work in Mecca, where he first heard voices and saw apparitions.  His wife  convinced him he was hearing the word of God from the angel Gabriel.  Muhammad preached in Mecca for 12 years with little success and much hostility from the Meccans who were quite happy with their polytheistic religions.  Muhammad fled Mecca to avoid assassination, and he and his followers, some 80 to 150, settled in Medina, over a hundred miles away, where he soon became undisputed ruler.  After 12 years in Mecca, he had gained at most 150 followers; after ten years in Medina, he had conquered all of Arabia and his armies were on the march, east and west and didn‘t have a major defeat until 732 AD, 100 years after Muhammad‘s death.

The journey to Medina is called the hijrah, and marks the beginning of the religion of Islam as both a political and religious force, a theocratic ideology.  In Medina, Muhammad built his first Mosque where his sermons attracted Jewish rabbis from the surrounding Jewish settlements.  The rabbis didn’t believe Muhammad’s claim to be God’s prophet and they asked a most embarrassing question: Why would Muhammad’s “revelations” from God occasionally contradict earlier revelations?

Allah, ever quick to come to the aid of Muhammad, sent down a new revelation that saved the day, and it’s the most important revelation in the Koran, verse 106 in chapter two, called the abrogation verse, to abrogate meaning to annul, cancel, supersede. Let me read it: “For whatever verse We might abrogate or consign to oblivion, We bring a better one or the like of it. Are you not aware that Allah is all-powerful?“  Let me read you the translator’s footnote, Mawdudi’s footnote, to this ‘revelation:’  “This is in response to a doubt which the Jews tried to implant in the minds of Muslims. Why, they asked if earlier scriptures/verses were from God, had they been replaced by new ones in the Koran?”  The bottom line is that the all-knowing God of Islam would occasionally CHANGE HIS MIND, and who are you to say He can’t? As I mentioned earlier, only Allah can disagree with Allah.

This means, and this is very, very important, the second thing you should know about the Koran is that the chronology of “Allah’s” revelations determines their legitimacy.  Islamic defenders frequently quote the Koran out of chronological context, probably the most well known out-of-context revelation is 2:256: “There is no compulsion in religion.”  If a Muslim or anybody comes up with that one, be sympathetic. Oh, you poor dear, as my grandmother would have said, don’t you know that Allah changed his mind about that?  That nonsense about no compulsion doesn’t count anymore, it‘s been abrogated.

Furthermore, knowledge of abrogating and abrogated verses has been of fundamental importance in Islamic theology since the beginning of Islam. Sharia law — Islamic law –requires Islamic judges to know which verses abrogate which verses and Sharia law cautions the layman from discussing the Koran without knowledge of abrogation, as doing so could be considered an apostasy, the punishment for which is not excommunication, oh no, no: it’s death.  The bottom line: The chronology of the verses is all important which is the second thing you should know about the Koran.

The third thing you have to know is that THE KORAN IS NOT IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER. After the very short chapter one, the opening prayer, it is pretty much longest chapter to shortest. The very long chapter two is the 87th chapter chronologically. Fortunately, the chronology of the chapters is no secret and a quick Internet search puts all 114 chapters in their chronological sequence, as determined by Islamic scholars over the centuries.

So, to avoid wasting your time reading verses that may have been annulled later on, I suggest you read the Koran chronologically backwards, starting with the last chapter of revelations, chapter 110. Chapter 110 was the last of the 114 chapters, chapter 96 the first.   Confusing, no? Let me first read you the footnote to chapter 110 (Page 977): According to reliable traditions, this was the last chapter (sura) of the Qur’an that was revealed some three months before the Prophet’s demise.

Sura 110 Al-Nasr (Help)  “When the help comes from Allah and victory (is granted) and you see people entering Allah’s religion in multitudes, then extol the praise of your Lord and pray to Him for forgiveness. For He indeed is ever disposed to accept repentance.” That’s it. Now, if you’re like me, you probably didn’t find much in there that we could call a “beacon light for the guidance of humanity for all time.” So, you ask, what is the next to the last chapter of revelations? So glad you asked.

The next to last is Chapter nine, (Al-Taw bah (Repentance)) the most  important chapter in the Koran, some 28 pages of UNABROGATED commands from Allah, the final revelations of the final revelation,  Perhaps the most well-known revelation in chapter nine is the Verse of the Sword, 9:5, which one Muslim scholar has estimated abrogated 124 earlier revelations, including that no compulsion one, so why waste your time reading them? Let me read it 9:5:  “–when the sacred months expire (there are four holy months of the year in which Muslims are forbidden to initiate war) slay the Pagans wherever you find them, — seize them–beleaguer them and lie in wait for them in every stratagem of war — “ unless, of course, the pagans become Muslims.

Now you’re probably thinking, “I’m no pagan, I’m Jewish” or “I’m Christian.” Sorry. There’s another verse in chapter nine, Verse 9:29 that says, “Fight against those do not believe in Allah—even if they are people of the book, until they pay the jizya with willing submission and feel themselves utterly subdued.”  “People of the Book” means Jews and Christians; the jizya is the tax Jews and Christians pay to live in peace in Muslim ruled countries.  Here’s the illuminating footnote from Mawdudi: The purpose for which Muslims ARE REQUIRED TO FIGHT is not–to compel unbelievers into embracing Islam –but to end the rule of unbelievers–The authority to rule should only be vested in those who follow the True Faith” i.e. only Muslims should have political power. That’s the word of God, the beacon light for humanity forever. Out damn Democrats and Republicans!

OK. So far, in chapter nine God has laid down the forever law to slay or convert Pagans, slay, convert or give Jews and Christian the added option to essentially become slaves, and you’re thinking, “That about does it.”  Nope. One more group of errant sinners to go.  Verse 9:123 says, “Believers! Fight against the unbelievers who live around you –.” these being, as explained in the footnotes, “hypocrites” who are further defined as those who claim to be Muslims but are not.  As a practical matter, this means kill those Muslims you have theological differences with or those Muslims deemed insufficiently devout.  You want to know why Muslims are killing Muslims around the world today? That‘s why. Islamic law, Sharia, even prescribes death for those Muslims who forget to pray at the correct time. (Reliance of the Traveler F1.4) Recently Swiss authorities closed a mosque in Zurich after the imam called for the death of those Muslims lax in their attendance.  They closed the mosque! Gosh. I guess there’s no freedom of religion in Switzerland. I wonder what it will take to close a mosque in America?

So, Muslims fight pagans, Christians, Jews and other Muslims, and this is not optional.  Sticking with chapter nine, Verse 9:38  commands believers to “March forth in the cause of  Allah. Do you prefer the worldly life to the Hereafter?” In other words, go die for Allah.  And verse 9:39 continues, “If you do not march forth, Allah will chastise you grievously. —.” Then verse 9:41 commands “march forth whether light or heavy (in your armaments) and strive in the way of Allah with your belongings and your LIVES.”  And the purpose of all this marchin’ around?  Verse 9:33 explains: (Allah) has sent his Messenger with the guidance and the True Religion that He may make it prevail over all religions, howsoever those who associate others with Allah in his Divinity might detest it.”  In other words, the God of Islam has commanded Muslims to fight until Islam rules the world.
Period. Whether non-Muslims like it or not.

Finally, still in chapter nine, verse 111 is the verse of the bargain: “–Allah has purchased of the believers their lives and their belongings and in return has promised they shall have Paradise. They fight in the way of Allah and slay and are slain. Such is the promise He has made—. Rejoice, then, in the bargain you have made with Him.”

Let me summarize: (1) The Koran is Allah’s revelations — the word of God — to guide humanity forever but (2) Allah would occasionally change his mind, which makes knowing the chronology of the verses crucial for understanding Islam.  (3) The Koran is not in chronological order, so don’t waste your time reading it. (4) Chapter nine is virtually the last chapter of revelations, is therefore none are abrogated, and is the most important chapter.  Nine is about 95% of what you need to know about the Koran.

There are a few other verses that are especially important in understanding how Allah directs Muslims to treat women and non-Muslims, but nine is the one that proves the Ayatollah Khomeini was right:  Muslims are commanded by their God to kill, convert or enslave infidels and hypocrites until the world is ruled by Islam and sharia law which will then bring the “peace” Muslims claim to seek.  In return for slaying and being slain to bring this about, devout Muslims will live in Paradise forever.  That’s Islam in a nutshell. It is not peaceful, it is not tolerant. Muslims make no secret of this and haven’t for 1400 years

I realize this is contrary to what virtually all our politicians have been saying about Islam for years.  Well, they are wrong, the Ayatollah was right.  Look at the evidence: Muslims are murdering people around the world, not because they are “radicals” who are “perverting” the religion of Islam, but because they are devout Muslims, obeying Allah’s commands in the Koran.

I am very encouraged that our new administration is reversing the suicidal political correctness that has ruled the last two administrations.  My wish is that the term “radical Islam” will someday –soon– be recognized as the redundancy it is. I’m afraid however, that before that happens there will be hundreds if not thousands of Americans murdered by devout Muslims we have allowed to immigrate here.

Remember, Muslims are commanded to march forth, whether armed lightly or heavily, to kill the infidels.  Grab a knife and head to the mall; drive a truck through a crowd; shoot em’ up at an office party, whatever; and off to paradise you go.  The press and the politicians are always in search of motives and terrorist links when an act of terror occurs but terrorists don’t need to be directed by ISIS or al-Queda, although they may be. All Muslim terrorists are guided by their religion, and do we want such a religion to be protected by the First Amendment? I think not.   TYVM—–

Jill Stein: Agent Provocateur

Jill Stein: Agent Provocateur  by Peter Burrows 12/17/16

I was told months ago by a number of my confidential sources, and I have hundreds of them, that Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein was a clandestine Trump operative.  I scoffed at such an absurdity, but it’s looking more and more like they were right and I was wrong.

Just look at the evidence. First, if all the Stein voters in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin had voted for Hillary Clinton, Old Bubba would be now be First Gentleman in Waiting.  Secondly, even though she had no chance of winning, Stein asked for a recount in those three states.  This was a devastatingly subversive move.

Had the recounts been allowed to proceed, evidence of Democratic Party/Clinton Campaign voting irregularities in Michigan and Pennsylvania would have surfaced like a dead carp.  Wisconsin, where the recount was completed, actually gave Trump an extra 131 votes. Nothing suspicious from the heavily Democratic Milwaukee County, which a cynic would say reflects the clean-up efforts of the battle-hardened Scott Walker team.

Michigan, however, is a different story.  Detroit’s Wayne County is a Democratic stronghold and always goes big for the Democrat candidate. This election was no different, but the Wayne County total was just not enough to prevent a Trump victory.  They tried.  And that’s where Jill baby’s Trumpian hand is showing.

She complained that Michigan had both election irregularities and laws making it difficult to verify election results. Sure enough, the Huffington Post reported that “about 60 percent of precincts in Detroit” couldn’t do a recount because there was a discrepancy between the number of registered voters and the number of ballots counted by the optical scanners.  “An obscure provision of Michigan law prevents a recount in those circumstances.”

I don’t know what that “obscure provision” is, but it sounds like it protects people who steal votes, probably Detroit Republicans.  Sure.

The Detroit News reported that Michigan’s recount problems “were the worst in Detroit, where discrepancies meant officials couldn’t recount votes in 392 precincts, or nearly 60 percent, and two-thirds of those precincts had too many votes.”  The Huffington Post also wrote, “A Detroit election official reported that 87 of the city’s optical scanners broke on Election Day, which may have led to the over-or-under-counting of ballots.”

Optical scanners can break? Of course they can!  All at once, too, and by the dozens!! Detroit’s problems, you see, are due to mechanical failures, not human error or — GASP! —  fraudulent vote counting.  And “under-counting” ??  I wonder if that means Hillary was supposed to get 150% of the registered voters but only got 110%, or something like that.

We’ll probably never know. A judge found Jill Stein didn’t have standing as an aggrieved party and halted the Michigan recount.  Mission accomplished, though.

Pennsylvania has tougher recount standards and a recount was never started there, which is too bad.  It would have been interesting to see how 2016 compared to 2012.  In the 2012 election, 59 voting precincts in the Philadelphia region went 100% for Obama, not even one vote for Romney. The virtual impossibility of this pales in comparison to the chutzpah the Democratic Party machine showed in reporting such incredulous results.  (Chutzpah is Yiddish slang for gall, brazenness, or as I prefer, “balls.”)

So, thanks to Jill Stein, the integrity of our voting system has been called into question in a way that exposes the Democrats as the biggest vote thieves in America, and, oh, the hypocrisy! If the Republicans were engaged in such shenanigans, the Democrats and their media slaves would be going crazy, and rightly so.

Instead, what we hear today are complaints about how the Russians — the Russians!!– are endangering the integrity of our elections by allegedly hacking into Democratic email accounts and publicizing them. Seems to me that, if so, the Russians were just adding transparency to our election process, and transparency is something Democrats say they are especially big on.

Of course, the “transparency” revealed a little bit of the Democratic Party’s dirty laundry, and that is blamed for Trump getting too many suburban and rural votes to be overcome by inner-city vote theft.  As Hugh Hewitt’s book title says, “If It’s Not Close, They Can’t Cheat.” Actually, Hugh, they can but they can’t cheat ENOUGH.

Thank you, Jill Stein! I hope you find happiness in President Trump’s administration.

The Tragedy of the Minimum Wage

The Tragedy of the Minimum Wage by Peter Burrows 11/3/16 –

Harry Browne, candidate for Grant County Commissioner, District 5, has said that it is a “moral imperative” for Grant County to consider a county-wide minimum wage law, perhaps as high as $15 per hour. Unfortunately, the majority of voters probably agree with him.

The popularity of minimum wage laws does not mean such laws make economic sense.  The economist Walter Williams once wrote that trying to reduce poverty with higher minimum wages was “breathtakingly stupid.”  Dr. Williams occasionally goes a little over the top, but he has a point.  Think about it: Why doesn’t Haiti eliminate that country’s poverty by passing a $15 an-hour minimum wage law?

Advocates of minimum wage laws like to point to studies that “prove” such laws do not reduce employment.  What this means is that the law of supply and demand, which says that demand is an inverse function of price, e.g.. the higher the price the lower the demand, doesn’t apply to labor markets. Another way to look at is that a law of human nature can be nullified by a legislative law.  In other words, GOVERNMENT IS GOD. (See Walter Williams’ quote above.)

Most studies show what common sense would conclude: higher wages equal lower employer demand. The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco released a study last December that estimated that a 10% increase in the wage floor would reduce teenager, 16-19, employment by 1% to 3%, and possibly larger than that.

The problems in measuring the real-world effects of minimum wage laws are formidable, with lots of variables.  Nobody in their right mind, though, would deny that at some level higher minimum wages don’t have a negative effect, or claim that higher minimums actually INCREASE employment.  If that were the case, let’s pass a $500 per hour law, or $1,000 per hour, etc. (See Walter Williams’ quote above.)

Probably the biggist problem with most minimum wage studies is that they try to measure short-tem effects when it’s the long-term effects that should concern us.  As noted in the San Francisco study, an existing firm hit with higher minimums may find itself trapped in a business model that is relatively uneconomic compared to a new firm that can adjust to the higher minimum with fewer employees.

I remember for example, and you young’uns out there will NOT believe this, that many years ago when you’d pull in to a gas station two kids would run out and one would fill your tank while the other cleaned your windshield. You’d just sit there. Really.  Along came self-service stations and adios, kids.

In fact, the most dramatic, and tragic, long-term effect of minimum wage laws is seen in teenage unemployment, especially minority teens.   This is a fact that has been known for a long time and is something politicians of both parties should be ashamed of.  The following quote is from a 1973 –1973 — interview of the libertarian economist Mjilton Friedman:

“In the early Fifties, the unemployment rate among teenagers was about the same for blacks as for whites. Both were about eight percent when the overall employment rate was about four percent. —after the minimum wage rate was raised from seventy-five cents to a dollar, the unemployment rate of black teenagers shot up from eight percent to domething like 20 to 25 percent.  For white teenagers, it shot up to something like 13 percent. From that day to this, the rates for both black and white teenagers have been higher than before 1956. When they start to decline, a new rise in the minimum wage rate comes along and pushes them up again. The black teenage rate has been very much higher than the white teenage rate for reasons that highly regrettable and that we ought to be doing something about: Blacks get less schooling and are less skilled than whites. Therefore the minimum wage hits them particularly hard. I’ve often said that the minimum wage rate is the most anti-Negro law on the books.”

Nothing has changed. Black teen unemployment is in the 35-45 percent range, and last night I saw on one of the news shows that a lack of jobs for black kids was a serious inner-city concern.  The political blindness also continues. A couple of years ago the then-Secretary of Education Arne Duncan hosted “an Intenet discussion aimed at uncovering why young black and Hispanic men are ‘less successful’ in the job market —.”

It’s enough to make you weep.

The real moral imperative when considering minimum wage laws is to, at the very least, exempt teenagers.  I would go even farther and exempt all teenager wages from Social Security withholding.  That would be a small price to pay for the education kids would get from having a job. Small indeed.

Never Vote For Progressives

Never Vote For progressives: They Are Soooooooooo Superior .by Peter Burrows 11/3/16 –

I attended a forum last week that featured the three candidates for Grant County District 5: Harry Pecotte,  Harry Browne, and DeAnn Bencomo. I agreed with each of the candidates in some areas, disagreed with each in other areas.  In my opinion, the most prepared, articulate candidate was Harry Browne (hereafter “HB”).  He was also the candidate I personally found most polarizing, i.e. the candidate I was both very much in agreement with and very much in disagreement with.

I wouldn’t vote for HB for a number of reasons, perhaps the most trivial being that if elected he will hold two government jobs.  I have the cynical opinion that us taxpayers are going to get shortchanged on one or both of the jobs, in spite of HB’s assertion that he normally works a 60-hour week and can cut back on his school administrator job, proving my point.

Another not so trivial reason I’d never vote for HB is that people who describe themselves as “progressive” or “liberal” are usually people who think they are imbued with moral and intellectual superiority.  Think about it: When you meet someone who says they are a progressive or a liberal there is always an implied superiority. After all, who wants to be illiberal or regressive, or — GADS! HEAVEN FORBIDE!! — conservative.

HB displayed this attitude in spades when he said Grant County should explore a $15 minimum wage law, both because it was within the County’s power to do so and  because he considered it a “moral imperative” to do so. A moral imperative!  Oh, my. There you have it in a nutshell, folks. Given the opportunity, “superior” people will pass laws to implement THEIR vision of “moral imperatives.”

HB cited a study that shows cities that enacted higher minimum wages saw no slowing of job growth. Gosh, normally higher prices mean lower demand, but not for labor markets? To make that nasty supply-and-demand effect go away, I guess you just have to pass a law.

However, for whatever study HB might cite, there are three or four that come to the conclusion one would expect if the law of supply and demand is still operative: higher minimum wage laws produce lower employment in the relevant labor markets.

Furthermore, minimum wage laws have had an especially negative impact on minority teenagers, blacks and Hispanics.  In an interview in 1973, OVER FORTY YEARS AGO, the economist Milton Friedman pointed out that black teenage unemployment had been lower than that of white teens until minimum wage laws began to bite in the late 1950s. Since then, black teenage unemployment has been about twice that of white teens. Friedman called minimum wage laws “the most anti-negro laws on the books.”  What’s changed? Nothing.

For an update on the disparate racial effects of minimum wage laws, I strongly urge HB to go on Amazon and buy the economist Walter Williams’ book, “Race and Economics.”  Chapter three, Race and Wage Regulation, is the chapter HB should read first.  Pay especial attention to footnote 44 on page 40 which refers to numerous studies supporting the conclusion that minimum wage laws cause unemployment.

Williams follows that footnote with this statement: “While there is debate over the magnitude of the effects, the weight of research by academic scholars points to the conclusion that the unemployment effects of the minimum wage law are felt disproportionately by nonwhites.”

Put another way, if white supremacists had the brains, they’d support minimum wage laws. I’m sure HB is not a white supremacist.  I’m not so sure he isn’t one of those people Williams writes about on page 49:  “The fact that a well-intentioned policy such as the minimum wage can foster and promote racial discrimination might be incomprehensible to some people.”

Is it incomprehensible to you, HB?  I hope not. I think you have both the brains and the moral imperative to study this issue before you propose a minimum wage for Grant County, which I hope you never get the chance to do.

Studies in Islam: Abrogation

Peter Burrows, Studies in Islam: ABROGATION                           9/25/16

The fact that a verse in the Koran can supersede or annul another, earlier, verse is called abrogation.  It is an extraordinarily important concept to the understanding of Islam. What it means is that the chronology of revelations can determine their validity.  Allah, you see, would change his mind, cancelling His earlier revelations.

Knowledge of verses abrogating and those abrogated is a requirement under sharia law for anyone to knowledgeably discuss the Koran. See Reliance of the Traveler r14.1 and r14.2. Furthermore, Among the necessary qualifications to be an Islamic judge, one must know which verses (nansikh) supersede previous revealed Koranic verses, and which verses (mansukh) are superseded by later verses. See Reliance of the Traveler o22.1.d (9) and (10).

The word “abrogation” appears only in verse 2:106, but it is alluded to in Meccan verse 16:101 which says: “Whenever We replace one verse by another verse – and Allah knows what he should reveal – they are wont to say: ‘You are nothing but a fabricator (who has invented the Qur’an.)’ The fact is that most of them are ignorant of the truth.”

Sura 16 is a late Meccan sura, so it appears Muhammad’s critics were beginning to catch him giving out “revelations” that were contradictory or at least inconsistent with his earlier revelations, and this was perhaps not wearing well with the Meccan polytheists.  When he got to Medina, the Jewish rabbis in the area immediately became formidable critics of  Muhammad and his “revelations.”

Ibn Ishaq’s  biography, The Life of Muhammad, on page 239 has this to say: “About this time, the Jewish rabbis showed hostility to the apostle in envy, hatred and malice, because God had chosen His apostle from the Arabs. —It was the Jewish rabbis who used to annoy the apostle with questions and introduce confusion, so as to confound the truth with falsity.”  Ibn Ishaq then proceeds to  name these rabbis in a list about half-a-page long!

This fits well with verse 2:106 and its footnote from the Mawdudi Pakistani Koran: “For whatever verse We might abrogate or consign to oblivion, We bring a better one or the like of it. Are you not aware that Allah is all powerful?” Mawdudi’s footnote says: “This is in response to a doubt which the Jews tried implant in the minds of Muslims. If both the earlier Scriptures and the Qur’an were revelations from God, why was it – they asked –  that the injunctions found in the earlier scriptures had been replaced by new ones in the Koran?”

Three things to be noted here. First, the rabbis didn’t criticize Muhammad for very long as it quickly became something that would get them killed. Second, while the revelation says “verse,” Mawdudi refers to “Scriptures,” meaning the Torah and Bible, and it is an accepted fact of abrogation that it applies not only to Koranic verses, but that the principle applies to religions generally, i.e. Christianity abrogates Judaism, Islam abrogates Christianity. Finally, 2:106 is one of many verses in which Allah comes to Muhammad’s rescue.  The Koran, while not ostensibly about Muhammad, is in fact very much about him.

The Khan Saudi Arabia Koran is a little more straight forward with 2:106: “Whatever a Verse (revelation) do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, We bring better one or similar to it. Know you not that Allah is Able to do all things?”  This leaves no doubt that “revelations” can be abrogated as Allah changes His mind.

The Khan Koran then has an interesting footnote to a verse that comes shortly after verse 2:106. Verse 2:109 says: “Many of the people of the Scriptures (Jews and Christians) wish that they could turn you away as disbelievers after you have believed, out of envy from their ownselves even after the truth (that Muhammad is Allah’s messenger) has become manifest unto them. But forgive and overlook, till Allah brings His Command. Verily, Allah is Able to do all things.”

Anyone who has studied Islam knows the phrase “forgive and overlook” is shockingly incongruent and out of place.  Sure enough, the Khan footnote says “The provision of this verse has been abrogated by the verse 9:29.” Verse 9:29 orders Muslims to strive against Jews and Christians until they are utterly subdued and willingly paying the jizya, the tax paid by those under Muslim protection.

There is another verse in chapter two, verse 2:256, that famously says: “There is no compulsion in religion.” This verse is also abrogated by a verse in chapter nine, verse 9:5, The Verse of the Sword, which commands Muslims to slay pagans wherever they are found, unless they become Muslims.

What is interesting is that chapter two in the Koran is the 87th chapter chronologically, and is the first of the chapters revealed in Medina.  Chapter nine, with its abrogating verses, is the penultimate chapter of all revelations, number 113 chronologically, and is essentially the last of the revelations, occurring ten years after those in chapter two and shortly before Muhammad’s death..

What I find most damning is that in those ten years Allah goes from “forgive and overlook,” and “there is no compulsion in religion” to an Allah totally unforgiving and to an Allah demanding conversion under penalty of death. What happened in those ten years that could explain God changing his mind so drastically?  The answer is quite simple: It wasn’t God changing his mind, it was Muhammad.

Muhammad came to Medina with only 150 or so followers after preaching in Mecca for 12 years.  Ten years later Muhammad was undisputed ruler of all of Arabia and his armies were on the march both east and west.  Muhammad was absolute ruler of his world, wielding absolute power.  As Lord Acton said, power tends to  corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Abrogation always involves replacing benign revelations with malign ones, never the other way.  Since abrogation occurs more and more as Muhammad gains power, the obvious conclusion is that the human, Muhammad, was the one making the “revelations,” a charge frequently made by those around him. As mentioned, the Koran has numerous examples of God magically coming up with a “revelation” specific to the needs of Muhammad at the moment.

To summarize: Abrogation means that the God of Islam would change His mind about something, thereby nullifying whatever the God of Islam had previously said on the topic, all being said through His Messenger, Muhammad. A skeptic can be forgiven for noting that the Koran came from Allah because Muhammad said so, and that Muhammad was Allah’s Messenger because the Koran says so.

Devout Muslims accept abrogation as an inherent part of their religion without realizing how destructive the doctrine is to their religion’s credibility.  And make no mistake, the doctrine of abrogation IS inherent to Islam, even being recognized in sharia law.  To repeat, the primary book of sharia law for Sunnis, Reliance of the Traveler, has in Book O: Justice, section 22, the requirement that to be an Islamic judge, one must know those verses, nansikh, which supersede previously revealed Koranic verses, and those verses, mansuhk, which are superseded by later  verses.  (See R of T r14.2 for further confirmation of sharia support for abrogation.)

Abrogation reveals the corrupting influence of power on Muhammad, not the changing mind of a whimsical God. To my mind, abrogation abrogates the entire “religion” of Islam.

Don’t vote for Progressives: They don’t represent progress

Don’t Vote For Progressives: They Don’t Represent Progress by Peter Burrows 8-19-16

There are three Grant County Commissioner seats up for grabs in the election next November.  All three have candidates on the ballot who proudly call themselves Progressives: Alicia Edwards for district 3, Marilyn Alcorn for district 4, and Harry Browne for district 5.

Of the three, I’ve only briefly met Browne and Alcorn, but I’ve known Alicia Edwards for years and I think she’s wonderful, as is Harry Browne’s mother Fran, whom I met over ten years ago.  Marilyn Alcorn is, like me, a Michigan State grad, so what’s not to like?

However, as much as we may like people who call themselves Progressives, they should never be voted into public office.  Progressives place too much faith in the efficacy of government. To them, government is the solution to all our problems: Just pass a law  Government is good, and more government is better.

We see this at the national level in the Democrat’s platform. In a Washington Post article of July 12, “The most progressive Democratic platform ever,” by Katrina vanden Heuvel, we learn Bernie’s Progressives were able to get the following included in the Democrat’s platform:

1) Free (OMG!) college tuition at in-state schools for families making less than $125,000 (!!!!) per year.
2) Expand, not contract, Social Security benefits.
3) 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave, per year.
4) Card check organizing for non-unionized workers.
5) Taxing U.S. corporations’ overseas earnings at U.S. levels.

They failed to get “Medicare for all,” a ban on fracking, a carbon tax, or rejection of the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal.  But, they did get a $15 minimum wage, which with card check and paid family leave, means, vanden Heuvel writes,  “Democrats stand for putting their thumb on the scales in favor of workers and unions.”

None of the above has a great deal of relevance to Grant County, but don’t be surprised if future labor negotiations for Grant County employees find the Progressives on the side of the unions, not the taxpayers.  It’s too bad there are “sides” on that issue, but all across America public unions and their politically elected enablers, of both parties, have negotiated ridiculously generous pay and benefits that simply cannot be paid.

Left leaning politicians will try to solve the problem by raising taxes. It’s what they ALWAYS do.  This will pit public employees against taxpayers, and drive states and municipalities over a fiscal cliff.  Check out Chicago and Illinois.   At the national level, expanding — or even holding flat– Social Security/Medicare benefits will do the same thing to the country.

At a Progressive Voters forum a couple of months ago for the Progressive candidates running in the Grant County primaries, a smart arse asked if any of the panelists had any ideas to CUT county spending.  HA!  Of course not. Progressives don’t CUT spending  — unless it’s military spending.

If the smart arse would have had his brain working, he would have asked if Antony Gutierrez’s vacant county job should be allowed to remain vacant.  Gutierrez was hired as Executive Director of the CAP Entity, and his former job as Grant County Planning & Community Development Director has since been filled. One has to ask: Why does no-growth Grant County need such a job, and a fairly high paying one at that?

(I would have done it for nothing, but nobody asked me. Sigh.)

Also at the forum, the above three candidates all thought passing a living wage law was a good idea but not something a county should pass. State, yes. County, no.  Too much confusion otherwise.  Pass a law, eliminate poverty.  What a great idea. They should do that in Haiti.

Passing laws to set prices, which is what minimum wage laws do, are a prime example of why Progressives should never be elected.  They think that they can legislate away natural laws like the law of supply and demand.  Kind of like passing a law against gravity.

Furthermore, Progressives have been passing price control laws since The Edict of Diocletian in A.D. 284, which had the same disastrous effects of similar laws more recently passed in the Progressive Paradise of Venezuela, where shelves are empty and people are hunting cats and dogs, not to adopt but to EAT.

Progressives never learn.  They can’t, because that would mean admitting the fallibility of their God: Government.

(In all fairness, there are people who call themselves Progressives simply because it is such a flattering term.  After all, who wants to be a regressive?  But don’t let the label fool you, folks.  Progressives are  progressives like Scientologists are scientists.)

The Progressives’ worship of government is not a new idea. In fact, it’s an old idea.  The Divine Rights of Kings, Emperors, Popes and Caliphates existed for centuries.  It only disappeared in Japan in 1945, and has been reborn today in the Islamic Caliphate of ISIS, and while Progressives will tell you that they, of course, don’t think government is God, they act like government is God.

The God of progressives is not a benign God.  Their God punishes “rich” people and corporations, the prime “exploiters” of other people.  Progressives say they’re just pursuing economic justice.  Progressives like to talk about “justice,” and apply the term to all sorts of things.  Being for “justice” makes Progressives feel good about themselves, makes them feel superior.

Did you know there is something called The Global Justice Movement? Their website says they are in favor of monetary justice, social justice, economic justice, environmental justice and peace justice, all of which is in pursuit of inclusive justice. Oh, my.  They left out fresh-fruit justice, just to name one obvious omission.

The problem with this Progressive obsession with “justice” is that it requires someone to judge. Gosh, who do you think the Progressives have in mind for that task?  Government, of course, and who do you think they think is best able to govern?  If you said “Progressives” go to the head of the class.

There are two problems with these nebulous concepts of justice.  The first is that they are quite subjective, meaning that justice would be a helluva lot different with ME as Cosmic Supreme Ruler rather than Bernie Sanders.  Secondly, the enforcement of subjective, always changing standards of “justice” means that government power is not held in check by objective laws.  Such power will always be abused. Witness Hugo Chavez’s billionaire kids.

In fact, humanity did not begin to make real social and economic progress until they began to put specific legal restraints on the power of government, starting with the Magna Carta and culminating in what is truly the most progressive document in history, the United States Constitution.  People who call themselves Progressives want to do away with the Constitutional constraints on government, and they have been working on that since Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.  This is progress?

At heart, Progressives are totalitarians who think that people should work for the government, not the other way around.  In Grant County, as elsewhere, that means every problem can be solved by the government if only the government had the power to force people to ride bicycles, use paper sacks, install solar panels, grow their own food, etc. etc, and of course, if this requires more money, the people, especially the rich ones, will have to pay more in taxes.  Taxes, you see are “good.”  Just ask a Progressive.

How The Political World Works

How the Political World Works 8/6/16

Democrats and Progressives may not know how the world outside of politics works, but they sure know how the world inside of politics works: EMOTIONS TRUMP FACTS.  They know this instinctively. I think it’s in their genes.

For example, at a meeting of the local Democrats a few months back, they were discussing issues to use in the coming elections and one of their really big hitters piped up and said, “We’ve got to get emotional!!” She knew what she was talking about.

On issue after issue, state, local and national, emotions win elections.  Pundits blame Romney’s loss in the last presidential election because voters perceived he “didn’t care.”  That was actually an issue in the election. Think about that.

An occasional Republican gets it. Jack Kemp used to say that voters don’t care what you know until they know you care.  That’s sad because how do politicians show they “care?” By spending other peoples’ money, usually  on programs that do more harm than good. Sometimes the “caring” is in the form of laws that force other people, usually businesses, to spend money on such things as minimum wages, day care centers, sick leave, health insurance, maternity leave, wheelchair ramps, and so on.

I call this the compassion con, the “I feel your pain” con, and it really gets my knickers knotted when politicians are praised for their “generosity” when no such thing was involved.  What brought this to mind was an ad I saw on the Internet by some company in the business of refinancing mortgages. The headline said that “Obama generously” gave homeowners a one-time chance to refinance.  A lot of people, including Obama, probably think he was in fact “generous.”

Maybe the number one emotional hot-button of politics that doesn’t involve money is the identity con.  Why vote for Hillary? Because she’s a woman.  Why vote for Barrack Obama? Because he’s black.  The Democrats have mastered identity politics, and they have managed to fool their Republican colleagues into supporting immigration laws that over the years have resulted in a virtual stuffing of the ballot box for Democrats.

They knew what they were doing.  It is doubtful the nation can survive if racial identity becomes more important than national identity.  Anybody who criticizes La Raza, Black Lives Matter, CAIR, whatever, is a racist, troglodyte, xenophobe, a.k.a. a Republican. Maybe the Republicans can figure out how to divide and conquer before the nation is torn apart by identity politics, but I doubt it.

The emotional hot-button that brings it all together is the victim con.   “Oh, you poor (black, Hispanic, woman, single mom, unemployed college grad/factory worker/etc., LGBT, Muslim, welfare recipient, and so on ), your problems ARE NOT YOUR FAULT. Vote for me and I’ll punish your tormentors, be they corporations, banks, Christians, Jews, racists (if they‘re white), employers, cops, imports and whatever/whomever is the devil du jour.”

It’s very discouraging. As Winston Churchill once said, the biggest argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.  On the other hand, the biggest argument against a dictatorship is after your five-minute conversation with that man on-the-street, ask yourself, would you like to be ruled by THAT SOB?

Unfortunately, if that SOB is a skilled demagogue able to hit enough hot buttons,  he, or she, will rule you.  It’s democracy’s fatal flaw.

The FBI and me

The FBI and me by Peter Burrows 7/17/16 –

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the FBI, has shamed our nation with its abject cowardice or corruption –take your pick– in the Hillary Clinton email case.  Now, they have added stupidity to the list. The following is from a Washington Post article dated July 15, 2016, by Adam Goldman:

The FBI has found no evidence so far that Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people and wounded more than 53 at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, chose the popular establishment because of its gay clientele, said U.S. law enforcement officials. “While there can be no denying the significant impact on the gay community, the investigation hasn’t revealed that he targeted pulse (sic) because it was a gay club,” a U.S. law enforcement official said.

Attention FBI Director Comey: Of course he targeted Pulse because it was a gay club.  He’s a devout Muslim.  Add in gun-free zoning laws, and the Pulse was a sitting duck.

The FBI is way, way, past the point where ignorance becomes stupidity.  I wonder how many Americans will have to die at the hands of fanatical Muslims before somebody in law enforcement learns the essentials of Islam. Mateen declared his Muslim bona fides with a 911 call to affirm his allegiance to ISIS, WHILE HE WAS KILLING PEOPLE AT PULSE. Director Comey: Don’t you think that’s a clue?

Let me help you out. Devout Muslims follow the teachings of the Koran, but only some of the teachings, depending on the chronology of the “revelations“ in the Koran.  One of those Koranic teachings, found only once in the early Meccan verses but numerous times in the later Medina verses, is that Muslims must obey Allah AND HIS MESSENGER, Muhammad being the Messenger.

Nowhere in the Koran is this command cancelled by a later revelation from Allah, and thus it is a command for Muslims to obey forever.  Muslims consider the Koran to be the timeless word of God, proving how stupid people can be when it comes to their religion. (I could give examples other than Islam, but not now.)

A kafir like myself reads the Koran and sees the all-too-human Muhammad at work making his life as easy as possible, which in this case is the SOB telling people to do as he says because Allah commands it. How convenient

Obeying Muhammad today, the devout Muslim looks to the Gospels of Islam, called the hadith, and the biographies of Muhammad, called the sira.  The two together are called the sunnah of Islam. Since Allah, in the Koran, also declared Muhammad a good example for Muslims to follow, it means not just Muhammad’s sayings but also his deeds are sanctified. Oh, my. Decapitation, anyone?

Through the centuries, Islamic scholars, using the Koran and the sunnah, have developed a body of Islamic law called sharia.  There are different schools of Islamic jurisprudence, both between Sunni and Shia Muslims, as well as within the Sunni and Shia sects, but there is universal agreement on about 75 percent of what constitutes sharia, the remainder a matter of interpretation and execution.

The most respected book of sharia laws in the Sunni sect is “Reliance of the Traveler and Tools for the Worshiper. ”  This 14th Century  compilation of sharia has pages of mind-numbing instructions on such things as personal hygiene and prayer rituals, as well as what us Westerners would consider traditional law.

The “Reliance” on page 665 quotes the Koran to declare that homosexuals “are people who transgress.”  Then comes the coup de grace:  “The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: Kill the one who sodomizes and the one who lets it be done to him.”   Remember, Muslims must obey the Prophet.

Director Comey and AG Lynch, now do you see any evidence that the Orlando shooter, a Muslim, may have in fact targeted the Pulse because it was a gay club?   What say?  Oh, you’re going to arrest ME for hate speech because I called Muhammad an SOB?   Why am I not surprised?

Income and Wealth inequality: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, Part Three: The Ugly

Income and Wealth Inequality: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly,  Part Three: The Ugly by Peter Burrows 5/14/16

It’s ironic that Bernie Sanders, who calls himself a socialist, rails incessantly against income inequality.  Ironic because income inequality in socialist countries is gargantuan, far, far more than in free enterprise countries.

Bernie has been bitching about the wealthiest family in America, the Waltons, who are the children of Sam Walton, founder of Walmart. Hey, Bernie: Sam Walton built the world’s largest retail chain by offering the best prices, by helping all his shoppers live better, especially the poorest, whom you claim to care about.  Not a nickel of the Walton’s money was stolen from anybody.

Contrast that with the wealthiest family in Cuba, the Castros.  Some years ago, Fortune Magazine estimated Fidel’s worth at $900 million, but I personally don’t give their estimate much credence. It was mostly guess-work.  What isn’t guess-work are documents leaked from London-based HSBC’s Swiss branch in February 2015 that revealed 29 Cubans with 70 accounts worth $83.8 million, with the largest account being $48.5 million.(1)

None of the clients were Castros, but it strains credulity to think Fidel and Raoul and all their children don’t also have many millions stashed away.  And  remember, this is from only ONE bank.  In fact, it has been alleged that the Castros have their own bank for their accounts. (2)

Of course, Bernie will say that’s a bad example as Cuba is a socialist dictatorship and Bernie is a democratic socialist, an elected socialist, like Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Ooops! Bad example.

The Castros are poor cousins compared to socialists who have better stuff to steal than sugar, such as the afore mentioned Hugo Chavez, the late socialist leader of oil-endowed Venezuela. (I first wrote “oil-rich” Venezuela, but having oil doesn’t make a nation rich if socialists are in charge.)  Chavez died in 2013, but not before running the nation into the ground in his 14 years in charge.

Things are no better under his successor, fellow-socialist Nickolas Maduro. Today, Venezuela rations toilet paper, food, electricity, and just about everything.  People are hunting stray dogs and cats, not to adopt, but TO EAT.(3)

However, there are a few Venezuelans who don’t have to stand in line for anything or worry about eating their pets. One of them is Hugo Chavez’s daughter, Maria, who reportedly has $4.2 billion in American and Andorran banks. (4) Gosh, I wonder how she got all that money. Probably wrote some books like J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, which were made into movies and made Ms. Rowling a billionaire.  Of course. Maria must have done something like that.

Chavez had two other daughters, and the three of them were estimated to have cost Venezuela $3.6 million a day. (5) That‘s $3.6 million A DAY. Over 14 years, that’s a lot of money.

The source of all this stolen money is the Venezuelan oil company, PDVSA, owned and operated by the Venezuelan government.  (American-based Citgo is a wholly owned subsidiary.) PDVSA had peak profits of $15.9 billion in 2013 when oil prices averaged about $95 per barrel.  How much was skimmed from PDVSA’s profits over the years is something we may never know, but the leaked HSBC documents revealed 1,138 Venezuelan accounts with $14.8 billion in deposits. (6) This in ONE bank.

Alejandro Andrade, Chavez’s former body guard who became Venezuela’s treasury minister from 2007 to 2010, had three HSBC accounts with $698 million in deposits.   Andrade is now living in Florida, and is reputedly a horse aficionado. (7) Probably works in some stable somewhere, shoveling stuff out.  Right.

The HSBC documents also showed some $270 million in the accounts of citizens of Zimbabwe, where at last count, 98% of the economy was run by the government.  Remember, this is just one bank. Estimates of the total amount deposited in Swiss banks by Zimbabweans is $4.5 billion. (8)

Sure is easy to get rich in socialist countries, as long as you’re not one of the socialist masses.  You have to be one of those Hugo Chavez/Bernie Sanders types who come to power wailing and moaning about how the little guy is being screwed by an evil private enterprise system that has bought the government, hates poor people, exploits workers and eats babies.  Out with those guys and in with the  “good” guys, the Hugos, the Bernies, the Maos, the Kim Jong Uns who will then proceed to enrich themselves in the economic justice con game.

Mao, too?  Yes, indeed. While his people starved, Mao had gourmet food flown in from around the country; while families of three generations communed in one room, Mao had over 50 estates, some of which included entire mountains and lakes for his exclusive use.  (9)

Mao’s example is carried on today by China’s satellite, North Korea, where Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un spends a fortune on luxury goods while his people suffer widespread hunger and malnutrition, according to a UN report released in 2014. (10)

Sadly, once in power, all these “economic justice” types quickly become the new fat cats.  Read George Orwell  classic “Animal Farm.”  In fact, if all this blather about “inequality” puts people who want to “fix” inequality in power, it guarantees the sort of inequality we see in places like Venezuela. The power to “correct”  subjective inequalities is too much power, which will be abused. Always.

Gosh, you say, that sort of thing can‘t happen here.  Oh?  Have you ever heard of Franklin Raines?   He was President of Federal National Mortgage Corporation, a.k.a. Fannie Mae, from 1998 to 2004.  Fannie Mae was/is a government sponsored enterprise, a GSE, under the control of The Department of Housing and Urban Development.  It was also a publicly owned company with stock trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Raines resigned in the wake of an accounting scandal that involved overstating the earnings of Fannie Mae for years.  Those overstated earnings, to the tune of $6.3 billion, made Fannie Mae’s stock a Wall Street darling which resulted in BIG profits for Raines’s stock options:   “– of the more than $90 million in executive compensation received by Raines from 1998 through 2003, over $52 million  was directly tied to achieving earnings-per-share targets  through phony accounting.” (11)


A few years after Raines left, Fannie Mae spiraled into bankruptcy and helped take the entire nation down with it.  I think the government should have gone after Raines’s huge compensation in a “clawback” like they did with those innocents who profited from Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, but they didn’t.  Makes one wonder if there is a double standard in the Justice Department like there is in the mainstream media. If Raines had been a big-shot Republican, you‘d have heard of him!

Which brings to mind a thought experiment:  Assume that instead of the Clinton Foundation, there was a Bush Foundation that had received hundreds of millions in contributions from around the world, had hired Bush cronies at BIG salaries, had a Bush kid running it and that Jeb Bush was the Republican presidential nominee who had made $21 million giving speeches in a recent 18 month period. Now assume the New York Times had endorsed Bush —WHOA! That’s an assumption too far when it‘s a Republican being ugly. (12)

(5) ibid (4)

(11) Gretchen Morgenson And Joshua Rosner, Reckless Endangerment (Times Books, 2011)  p. 254.
(12) New York Times, 1/30/16: Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination – Voters have the chance to choose one of the most broadly and deeply qualified candidates in modern history –

Income and Wealth Inequality, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly – Part Two: The Bad by Peter Burrows 5/4/16 – (Note: I somehow failed to enter this blog back in May of 2016. Retyped and posted 3/20/2020. Another mistake. Sigh.)

Bernie Sanders is on to something when he says the top one percent of American workers are screwing the rest of us royally, and it’s all because they enjoy special privileges and protections from the government.  The system is rigged, all right.   

Where Bernie is wrong is saying it’s only one percent. It’s closer to seven percent. Here’s how I figure it:  The number of state, local and federal civilian workers is about 17 million. (1) Add almost seven million retired government workers and the number is about 24 million, or seven percent of the total population of 324 million. (2) This is the REAL “one percent.”  

This privileged group of fat cats is under-worked, overpaid, impossible to fire, retired too early and retired too generously. Most are unionized, and most are Democrats. Some enjoy job security that is absolutely scandalous.(3)  They form the backbone of the Democrat Party, supplying money, volunteers and party officials. Attend a meeting of your local Democrat Party and there they are: Government workers, active and retired, federal, state and local.  Don’t forget: School teachers and college professors are BIG in this group.   

These people enjoy the REAL income inequality we should do something about, not the meritorious inequality that Bernie et al hyperventilate about. I suspect part of the “one percent” meme is a smoke screen to divert attention from the inequality government workers enjoy, at taxpayers’ expense. This pay inequality is for the most part undeserved and simply a function of politicians buying the votes of government employees.  

The clueless Republicans should make this inequality an issue, and they should also raise the moral issue that part of the public payrolls are essentially involuntary donations to the Democrat Party from taxpayers who aren’t Democrats. Union dues, after all, come out of the workers’ pay that first comes out of the taxpayers’ pockets. 

We’re not talking trivial stuff here.  At the federal level, a Cato Institute study last year put the average difference in pay AND benefits at an astounding $52,000 per year, which amounts to federal employees receiving 78% more than workers in comparable private jobs.  The author of the study summed it up pretty well: “The federal government has become an island of secure and high-paid employment, separated from the ocean of average Americans competing in the economy.” (4) 

At the state and local level, things are not much better. The Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the total cost of a state or local worker at 45% more than for an equivalent private sector worker. (5) In fact, the state and local government jobs are by far the bigger problem. While the number of civilian employees at the federal level has been surprisingly flat for the last twenty years or so at about 2.7 million, state and local government employment has gone from six million in the 1950’s to over 19 million today. (6) 

Let me be clear about a number of things. First, I don’t blame the workers. They are taking advantage of a good deal that they individually had little to do with. At a recent visit to my dermatologist, while he was carving and freezing spots on my haggard old visage, he was opining that he should have gone to work for the VA years ago and I was saying I should have gone to work for the IRS. Why, instead of sitting in his office, we’d probably both be sitting on deck chairs enjoying a Caribbean cruise and blah, blah, blah. Hindsight.  

Second, not all government workers are Democrats. I know two Republicans in good health who retired, in their 50’s, from good government jobs and both are very active in Republican politics.  Both should still be on the job, but that’s just my opinion, one they would both take issue with, to put it mildly.  

Third, some government workers are worth every penny they are paid. Cops come to mind, some teachers, plenty of health workers, and the occasional conscientious vin ordinaire bureaucrat. But the 634 school custodians, a.k.a. janitors, who made over $100,000 per year in New York City for the school year 2013-2014? (7) Not them.  Also, not Chicago school teachers, whose median salary is $71,017, of which only two percent goes toward their fat pensions. This is outrageous considering that almost 92 percent of the Chicago schools have over half their students NOT proficient in reading or math for their grade level. (8) 

The Republicans share the blame for this inequity in government pay. When in control in Washington, D.C., they’ve done nothing to rein in Federal worker compensation, and today there are 32 states with Republican governors and Rauner of Illinois is the only one I know of who’s tried to get a handle on state pensions – unsuccessfully, I might add.  

A good start would be to tie state and local retirement outlays to the age requirements in the Social Security system.  For example, a state worker spends thirty years on the job, is 52, fully vested and wants to retire. Well, congratulations and Bon Voyage! Oh, by the way, your retirement checks won’t start showing up in your mailbox until you are 62, or 67 or whatever the Social Security ages are for partial and full payment. It’s a thought. 

The huge problem of unfunded pension/benefit obligations is beginning to get noticed. At least a couple of states, New Jersey and Illinois, have obligations that are simply unsolvable short of bankruptcy, an escape hatch states are not legally able to pursue.  Cities have the bankruptcy option but will first raise taxes, as is happening in Chicago, and then turn to their state governments for bailouts, and then from there will join their state governments in the queue to get the Federal government to foot bail-outs. Bet on it.  

I can hear the arguments now: If they did it for General Motors, they can do it for Poughkeepsie (or wherever.) If this is allowed to happen, the unions representing state and local workers will have pulled off a major tax swindle: Negotiate state and local labor contracts that pay the moon and send the bill to Washington.  

To prevent this, the stated need the potion of bankruptcy law protection. Bankruptcy allows contracts to be rewritten or even annulled, including pension agreements.  The Federal law disallowing state bankruptcies should be changed, but I’m not sure it will ever happen.  Too many retirees will flock to D.C. to tell their tales of impending doom, many of them absolutely true.  

FI don’t know how this problem can be solved without a lot of pain. Perhaps some sort of grandfathering scheme for pensioners with reasonable benefits, some sort of claw-back for pensioners with unreasonable benefits, but SOMETHING has to be done.  

Allowing states to declare bankruptcy still wouldn’t do anything about the Federal workers and their fst pay and fatter retirement benefits. Maybe Bernie will start bitching about this inequality, the inequality that government can, and should, do something about. I’m not holding my breath.   

(1)                                                                                                                  (2) I tried, hard, to get a number for all retired government workers, state, local and Federal. The best I could do is to use a number, seven million, implied in an article in the Wall Street Journal, 12/29/15, “States’ Pension Woes Split Democrats and Union Allies” by Timothy W. Martin and Kris Maher.                                                                                              (3)                                                                                                                                                  (4)                                                                                                                                      (5)                                                                                                                    (6) ibid (1)                                                                                                                                              (7) “Most New York City Custodians Do Really, Really Well” by Matt Vespa, Townhall 9/21/15                                                                                                                                                    (8)                  (9)