Wednesday, September 17, 2014

227 Years and Counting

Today is the 227th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution. The Constitutional Convention had convened on May 14, 1787 and work was finished and the delegates signed the Constitution on September 17.




The Constitution was then sent to the 13 states for ratification.  Nine were required for the Constitution to fully "unite" the states. That did not occur until June 21, 1788 when New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the document.

In the interim, the Federalist Papers were written to explain the theories, rationale and reasoning of our Founders.  Alexander Hamilton devised the idea to write and publish this series of papers in an effort to enlist support for ratification in the states and to answer the many criticisms that were lobbied against the Constitution. This was particularly the case when it came to defending the need for a federal government at all.  Oh, how times have changed!

Hamilton enlisted James Madison and John Jay to join him in writing the series of essays.  Hamilton ended up writing 51 of the 85 articles.  John Jay fell ill and ended up writing only five papers.  This left the remainder to Madison who is known today as the "Father of the Constitution".  By the way, Madison was just 36 years old and Hamilton was 32 when they were writing the Federalist Papers.

What is truly amazing in reading the Federalist Papers is how well our Founders understood human nature and the efforts they took to provide safeguards in the Constitution against human fallibilities and foibles.

I have written about the Federalist Papers before, and it being Constitution Day, I thought I would once again highlight what is perhaps my favorite blog post since I started writing BeeLine.

If you have any doubt about the brilliance of our Founding Fathers and of the Constitution they drafted, read on about "Improper and Wicked Projects" in the Federalist Papers.  What were Improper and Wicked Projects?

This is their list.  I kid you not.

A rage for paper money 

A rage for the abolition of debts 

A rage for an equal division of property

A little eerie?  Read it all and send it on to others.  The answers to our problems are already in existence.  It was written down 227 years ago today. We just need the good sense to return to these founding principles.


Improper and Wicked Projects (originally posted August 22, 2011)

Power, politics, greed, bias, conflicts of interest, oppression.  There is nothing going on today that our Founders did not anticipate.

Due to the intelligence and insights of our Founding Fathers they wrote a document that considered all of the above and more in writing the U.S. Constitution.  They knew that instability, injustice and confusion within the institution of government had caused many to fail.  They were determined to build a governmental structure that could endure for the ages.

Federalist Paper #10 was written (by James Madison) to describe "How the Union Will Act as a Safeguard Against Domestic Division and Rebellion". The Founders understood that opposing political factions were the greatest potential threat to any government and that in many governments the only redress was violence.  They wanted to insure that factions could not wield power that would be dangerous to either the rights of other citizens or the common good.  What did they see as the most common and tangible source of faction?  The conflict between rich and poor. Here are the exact words from #10.

The most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. 
Where did they see the most danger for a majority to trample on the rights of a minority?  Taxation.

The apportionment of taxes on the various descriptions of property is an act which seems to require the most exact impartiality; yet there is, perhaps, no legislative act in which greater opportunity and temptation are given to a predominant party to trample on the rules of justice. Every shilling with which they overburden the inferior number, is a shilling saved to their own pockets. 
They understood that those that governed us had to be a cut above to balance and mediate these conflicting interests and put the public interest above any special interests.  However, they also knew that this was naive. The Common Argument modern translation puts it this way.

Enlightened statesmen will not always be in power, and even if such mediation could happen, it would rarely take place with long-term interests in mind, since the immediate "here and now" interests of the party in power would most likely win the day at the expense of the rights of the other party, or the good of the whole.
Our Founding Fathers were one smart group.

They also knew that there was little they could do to prevent factions from occurring.  That could only be done by limiting liberties or insuring every citizen has the same opinions, feelings and the same interests. Neither was acceptable to the Founders.  They had no interest in preventing the causes, which is what Communist and Totalitarian governments do.  They focused on controlling the effects of factions.  Thus, they constructed a republican governmental framework with an ultimate goal of securing both the public good and private rights against the dangers of an oppressive majority faction.  Everything in the Constitution was built on this foundational principle. 

They built a government which derived all of its power directly or indirectly from the People, administered by representatives who hold their offices at the pleasure of the People, for a limited period of time, or during good behavior. Using different time periods for holding office, including the separation of powers between the three branches of the federal government and limiting the power of the federal government relative to the states were all important foundational principles to achieve their overarching goal of facilitating majority rule but protecting minority rights.

Perhaps most applicable to today is what Federalist #10 says in the second to last paragraph.  It explains why they set up the republican form of government we have and not a democracy or parliamentarian system. It literally stopped me in my tracks when I read it.  I re-read it several times in The Original Argument and then went to the actual Federalist Papers to read it exactly as it was written.  There could not be a better example to show how far we have deviated from the path the Founders established and why they set up safeguards in the Constitution to protect the People. 
It reads as follows with the bold emphasis being mine:

The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States. A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the Confederacy; but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it must secure the national councils against any danger from that source. A rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project, will be less apt to pervade the whole body of the Union than a particular member of it; in the same proportion as such a malady is more likely to taint a particular county or district, than an entire State.
How much more relevant can you be to what we have seen in recent years in this country, most particularly in the Obama Administration?  The Founders found all of these to be "improper or wicked projects"by dangerous factions.  These were the types of government abuses they were trying to prevent. 


  • a rage of paper money (what is the Federal Reserve doing?)
  • an abolition of debt (what was done to the secured creditors in the GM and Chrysler bankruptcies or with the bailout of Wall Street?)
  • for an equal division of property (Redistribution of income and wealth through a focus on taxing the rich)

Isn't it interesting that each of these "improper or wicked projects" is also at the core of what has motivated the Tea Party?  Terrorists?  I think not.  These are the sons and daughters of the Founding Fathers united against the very factious leaders our forefathers warned us about.  

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Future Shock and Fraud

Alvin Toffler made this profound statement in his book, Future Shock, in 1970.

"Our technological powers increase, but the side effects and potential hazards also increase."



Technology has provided us so much over the years but with each advance we also see side effects and hazards arise that weren't there before the technological progress took place.

I have seen this up close and personal over the last few weeks as I have been a victim of identity theft. In the process I have seen the ugly underbelly of technology as well as the dark side of power and greed when it is mixed into the equation. It is not a pretty picture when you pull back the covers.

My identity theft story began when I received what appeared to be a promotional prepaid debit card in the mail. It stated that I needed to call an 800 number to activate the card. I quickly shredded the card and did not think much about it as it appeared to be merely a marketing promotion.

Several days later I received a letter in the mail from the prepaid debit card company telling me that I had opted-in for overdraft protection. I immediately knew something was wrong because how could I have opted in for overdraft protection on a card I had never applied for or activated?

I quickly reached the company and told them I knew nothing about the card. They told me that I had 'purchased' the original card (a $10 fee is charged to get the card) at one of their retail partners and had "enrolled' online. As I continued the dialogue I found out that they had quite a bit of personal information on me in their file. I asked where the prepaid debit card had been purchased. I was told that it was at a 7/11 store in Washington, D.C.

It took me only a second to say, FRAUD! First, I probably have not been in a 7/11 in ten years. Second, I certainly was not in Washington, D.C. on the date the prepaid card was purchased.

However, for the life of me I could not figure out why someone would buy a prepaid debit card with their own funds in my name and fund it with $20 which brought the crook's total investment in "my card" to $30 ($10 to open it and $20 in cash on the card per the company).  Was it a money laundering scheme?  More on that below.

Two days later I received a call from a payday loan company asking me why I was late on my online loan. This time it took about a millisecond to say FRAUD. This company had even more personal information on me although some of the data was not currently accurate. In this case, "I had borrowed" $2,650 on a 8 month installment loan and I had "missed" the first payment. I understood the crook's motivation much more clearly on this one. What was more difficult to understand was why the loan company would have underwritten the loan if someone had looked at little deeper at my credit history and other facts.




Although the identity theft element of this story has been a hassle with the required police report, identity theft affidavit reporting and credit report agency fraud alerts, what is most troubling is what I found is occurring right under our noses in the United States of America. It is as if there is a parallel universe in play that many of us as law-abiding, hard working, straight shooting Americans never come into contact with.

It is also a world in which technological powers have increased and made things easier to defraud, cheat and steal and yet those in power are doing nothing about it. In fact, it can be said that they are actually complicit in creating incentives in the system for frauds like this to take place in the interests of their own power and greed.

Let me explain.

The online loan that was taken out in my name was done entirely online with stolen personal information or other personal information that was easily obtainable on me with a few keystrokes at a computer. At this point I don't know where the breach was in the numerous systems that have my personal information (banks, credit card companies, employer, health insurance, hospitals, doctors, investment companies). The reality is that your personal information is stored in a lot of different places. A whole lot of which you have little control no matter how careful you may try to be.

What is really unbelievable is that the loan was approved even though the review of my credit report showed a several generous credit limits were available on my credit cards.

Why is this significant?

Would you care to guess what the APR was on the loan I took out?

I have asked a number of friends and acquaintances this question as I told them my story. No one guessed higher than 25%.

The actual APR on this loan.

362.1%!

That's not a typo. The loan carried interest at a rate of 4.36% per day!

That $2,650 loan would require payments of $6,943 within 8 months to pay the loan off.

As I got into the details with the loan company, I asked them why would someone with my credit history and with substantial credit limits available on credit cards (at APR rates of around 15%) take out a loan at 362%? Needless to say, I did not get a good answer to that one.

This led me to do a little research into the dark side of the payday loan industry (or the small-dollar or alternative credit industry as they are more likely to refer to themselves in their political lobbying) in this country.

What I found was shocking.

  • The United States has an estimated 30,000 payday loan stores. That is more than the number of McDonald's and Starbucks in this country, combined!
  • Nearly 43% of U.S. households have used some type of alternative credit product in the past according to the FDIC.
  • It is estimated that alternative financial products generated approximately $89 billion in fees and interest in 2012.

I think you can also see that when you are charging an interest rate of 362.1% you can afford a good number of fraudulent loans and defaults and still do way, way, way better than your local banker who is lending money at 5%, 6%, 7% or 8%.

The obvious question is how can this be legal? You would think that this is one area where our government should be protecting our citizens. These interest rates are higher than the loan shark charges down by the wharf. Also, what about usury laws which are supposed to prevent this type of exorbitant interest rate?

This is where the story gets really interesting as this loan was established under the laws of the state of Ohio. In 2008, the Short-Term Loan Act was enacted in Ohio which was supposed to impose a 28% interest rate cap on payday lenders in the state. However, six years later not a single lender is subject to the law according to this article in Cleveland.com.

This raises the question of whether the payday loan lobbyists outsmarted the legislators, the lawyers exploited a loophole in the law or the legislators passed a law without any teeth to give themselves plausible deniability.

The latter conclusion is easy to arrive at when you look at the political contributions of the payday loan industry in Ohio and nationally. In fact, the two principals of the parent company that "my loan" was with are spreading money around to anyone who has a vote at the state, local and national levels. Republicans. Democrats. Conservatives. Liberals. It does not matter.

For example, Federal Election Commission reports indicate that both Sherrod Brown, the Democrat for the 2012 U.S. Senate seat in Ohio, and Josh Mandel, the Republican, got money. Harry Reid (D) and Barney Frank (D) both received contributions in recent years as did Marco Rubio (R) and Trey Gowdy (R). From looking at the reports, these were not political contribution motivated by principles or values, but payments clearly intended to protect their business from any unfriendly government action.

If people want to see an example of how the system is rigged by an unholy alliance of powerful monied interests and power hungry politicians they should look no further than the payday loan industry. How can this be in anyone's interest but the payday loan owners and the politicians?

Back to the prepaid debit card? What was that all about?

My research led me to this article on CNN.com.

Criminals across the country are raking in billions of dollars in tax refunds through a new and brazen form of fraud that takes advantage of the IRS's fast online returns, law enforcement officials say.
Using laptops and free Wi-Fi connections, criminals are stealing identities and using the names of legitimate taxpayers to file fraudulent online tax returns. They've raked in billions, buying luxury cars, expensive jewelry and plastic surgery, police said.
"It's like the federal government is putting crack cocaine in candy machines," said Detective Craig Catlin of the North Miami Beach, Florida, Police Department. "It's that easy." 
First, thieves obtain Social Security numbers and other personal information from insiders at hospitals, doctor's offices, car dealerships or anywhere the information is stored. Then, they file an online tax return using the real taxpayer's name and a fictitious income. In most cases, the criminals buy a debit card so the IRS can issue the refund on that card, although some thieves have also gotten their returns on actual Treasury checks.
The thieves know that the IRS does not verify the employer W-2s sent with the return until after the refund is issued.

Credit:Kay Bell, Don't Mess With Taxes


In case you can't believe what you just read, let me repeat what is going on under the very noses of hard-working taxpayers like you that are paying the bills in this country.

A thief can steal your name and Social Security number and e-file a completely phony tax return. The IRS has no way of checking the accuracy of the return data at the time the return is filed (including whether the withheld taxes are correct because no W-2 is filed with electronic filing). The IRS accepts the tax return at face value and if a refund is claimed it will transfer the money on to a prepaid bank debit card.

All the fraudster has to do is file the fraudulent tax return before you file your legitimate return. In fact, if you file your tax return after the fraudulent tax return, I have heard stories that indicate that you will feel like the criminal. As you can imagine, it can take hours and hours of your time to get the IRS bureaucracy straightened out.

With the increased use of e-filing this fraud has become rampant. For example, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration recently reported  that it believed that the IRS paid out over $5.2 billion in fraudulent refunds in 2011 alone!

Tax-related identity theft jumped from approximately 52,000 incidents in 2008 to over one million in 2012, according to a 2012 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. All of this clearly driven by the trend toward e-filing of tax returns.

Why has this become such a popular way to defraud the federal government and law-abiding taxpayers?

Technology and the advent of electronic filing is part of the answer. However, a significant share of blame must go to the Internal Revenue Service for allowing a tax refund to be put on a prepaid debit card. The IRS argues that they are merely trying to make it easier for individuals who do not have bank accounts to access funds. However, it is hard to believe that this benefit outweighs an annual cost of over $5 billion in fraudulent payments.

After all, for decades and decades, individuals got tax refund checks and somehow found a way to cash those checks. It would seem to me that until the IRS can do a better job of matching returns with W-2 and other information at the time of filing, that they should not allow tax refunds on prepaid debit cards with the overwhelming evidence of fraud that is occurring.

The IRS also rarely investigates these incidents of fraud due to the small amount ($5,000 or less on average) of each individual case. The majority of identity fraud cases are never investigated and the criminals face no legal repercussions.  In addition, privacy laws limit local law enforcement from investigating many cases because they cannot access IRS information.

It seems that I am good company having my identity stolen as even Attorney General Eric Holder was the target of the IRS refund scam this past March. In that case someone at the IRS figured something was suspicious when Holder's return listed WalMart as his employer and the fact that he wanted his refund on a prepaid debit card. There clearly are a few sharp minds still working at the IRS!

You begin to understand how bad it is when you realize that former drug dealers in Florida have given up the cocaine business and spend their time filing tax returns instead. As one suspect told police.

“Why would I take the risk to sell drugs and get busted when I can put $10,000 on a card and do it all day long from home while the cartoons are on?”

Indeed. Who can argue with that logic?

The only problem is that I am the one that thinks they are in the middle of The Looney Tunes.




Who is running the IRS to let this occur?

What are our elected officials doing to allow anyone to charge someone 362.1% annual interest?

Future Shock is here and it did not take long for power, greed and fraud to come along for the ride.

As usual, it is only those who are living the straight and narrow who pay the price.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Division, Secession, Suppression?

The impending vote in Scotland this week on secession from the United Kingdom seems like an opportune time to republish a post I wrote a year ago on similar disruptive possibilities in the United States.

I know that there are many who will undoubtedly say, "It could not happen here". You might want to get a little perspective before you are quick to repeat that statement to someone.

Since The Fourth Turning has been on my mind lately, I will quote another passage from the book that predicts that we are in period where "the American firmament is malleable in ways that would stagger" our traditional thinking.  Howe and Strauss said this about what might occur during The Fourth Turning...

The prospect for great civic achievement-or disintegration-will be high. New secessionist movements could spring from nowhere and achieve their ends with surprising speed. Even if the nation stays together, its geography could be fundamentally changed, its party structure altered, its Constitution and Bill of Rights amended beyond recognition. (emphasis added).

With this in mind, consider these two additional headlines from the past week.

Texas nationalists see hope in possible Scottish secession
Texas nationalists are awaiting Scotland's pending vote on seceding from the United Kingdom in the hopes it could happen in Texas. 


Senate Dems to Hold Vote to Change the First Amendment
Senate Democrats brought to the floor of Senate for a vote a bill to amend the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution to limit free speech by limiting the ability to influence elections.

Pay attention to what happens in Scotland this week. It may be another signal event of The Fourth Turning. Where are we headed? More division? Calls for secession? More aggressive attempts to suppress free speech from those that do not share our individual views?



How Many States Are In Our Future? 57, 54, 49?
(originally published 9/11/13)

We all know that there is a lot of political division and unrest across the country. A lot of this seems to stem from a fundamental difference in the outlook and values of those who live in urban settings and cities as opposed to rural areas and towns.

For the last 30 years, those of like minds have increasingly decided to live closer together.  It really is a case of birds of a feather flocking together.

You can readily see the effects of this political polarization by looking at the results of Presidential elections since 1976 as Bill Bishop and Robert Cushing did in their 2008 book, The Big Sort. Consider the differences in voting between 1976 and 2000 as pointed out by Jonathan Last in his book, What To Expect When No One's Expecting.

In 1976, only 26.8% of the counties in America went for either Jimmy Carter of Gerald Ford by a margin of 20 points or more.
In the razor thin race between George W. Bush and Al Gore in 2000 it was not even remotely close in nearly half of U.S counties (45.3%) as either Bush or Gore won by more than 20 points.  
In 2004 the '"landslide counties" increased to 48.3% of the total. 

Last observes that this "sorting' is not an accident.  People are more mobile today than in years past and they increasingly move to find areas where people have similar lifestyles, attitudes, values and political views.  That is why Arlington County, Virginia has become overwhelmingly Democrat (Obama 69%, Romney 29% in 2012) and Collin County, Texas is overboard for Republicans (Romney 65%, Obama 34%). Arlington is populated by a bunch of young, single, liberal Yuppies. The northern suburbs of Dallas are filled with married couples with families who go to church and like July 4th fireworks displays.

These demographic changes are a big reason that there is so much polarization in our politics today in Congress. Districts are likely to be solidly Democrat or Republican because there is not a lot of diversity of thinking in most locales compared to 35 years ago. Politicians that walk down the middle of the road today get run over by the electorate because of the Big Sort.

This polarization is also showing up in state politics.  For example, twice in the last month I have seen stories about groups that want to form a new state because they are dissatisfied with the representation they are getting in their current state.

The first example is in Northern Colorado. Voters in several rural Colorado counties will be asked in the November elections whether they want to form a new state tentatively named "Northern Colorado".

The Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors in far Northern California have the same idea.  They want their county to join other Northern California and Southern Oregon counties in the establishment of a new state called Jefferson.

Establishing a new state by seceding from an old state is permitted under the U.S. Constitution. Article IV, Section 3 requires that the proposal must first be approved by the existing state(s) legislature.  It then must also be approved by Congress.

A state breakup is not without precedent. Maine used to be part of Massachusetts. It did not become a state until 1820. West Virginia used to be part of Virginia.  It became a separate state in 1863.

However, the fact that you need the consent of both the state legislature (who would be giving up land and power) and Congress makes any such effort a long shot.

One of the more interesting historical factoids on this subject involves the state of Texas.  It seems to have special privileges not provided to the other 49 states.  When Texas was being wooed to join the union in 1845 (it was then an independent country), Congress wrote into the resolution granting it statehood that Texas could later slice itself up into two, three, four or even five distinct states without the subsequent approval of Congress. Texas would only need to have its state legislature agree to the split. This clearly was done due to the sheer size of Texas compared to other states at the time.

I always have wanted to write a political thriller based on this little known historical footnote wherein Texas used this power to effectively add eight senators to represent its people in Washington to change the balance of power on a major issue (for example, oil and gas) that was critical to the state. Oh, to find all the time I need to do everything I want to!

There are some that have even gone to the trouble to propose borders and names for what The Five States of Texas might look like. The picture below is from a site called "Fivethirtyeight" which also projected what the county by county face off between Obama and McCain in 2008 would have looked like in the five states of Texas.



Source:Fivethirtyeight

Our Founding Fathers also thought that it was possible that two or more states might also be formed by the junction of two or more states, or parts of states at some point in the future.  This has not occurred yet but might it be a possibility if a state found itself in dire financial straits or in bankruptcy?  Could we eventually see state mergers much like corporate takeovers or mergers?  It is allowable in the Constitution.  How about a future in which we have Chicago,Wisconsin or Detroit, Indiana?

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting story several years ago on some of the history of "Altered States" that provides more background about past efforts to establish new states.  It also provided this map of some of the proposed states that never quite made it.  The states of Lincoln (Western Washington and Eastern Idaho), Acadia (Northern Maine) and Chesapeake (Eastern Shore of Maryland) are just a few examples.


You can go to an interactive map to get details on the background and history of each of these proposed states.

When President Obama was running for office in 2008 he made one of his famous "off Teleprompter" remarks and referred to the fact that he had visited 57 states during the campaign.

All of this shows that he may actually be proven right one day.  At some point we may very well see success from one or more of these state secession efforts.  Its been done in the past.  There is no reason that it might not occur again. I never ignore history.  It may never repeat, but it does rhyme.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Atlas Shrugged: Who Is John Galt?

The final installment of the Atlas Shrugged movie trilogy will be opening at theaters tomorrow (September 12, 2014).




You can find a theater where the film is showing here.

It is a film that I had doubts would ever make the big screen. I went to see Parts 1 and 2 and both movies did poorly at the box office. Atlas Shrugged: Part I only grossed $4.6 million and Part II brought in $3.3 million.

It is a real testament to the producers and financial backers of the project that they have stayed the course and finished the series.

Were the first two parts of Atlas Shrugged a couple of the greatest films I have ever seen? Certainly not. They were fairly low budget films with no-name casts. However, Atlas Shrugged is a story worth telling and learning from. Especially in the country we live in today.

I urge all of my readers to support the effort of these filmmakers and see the movie. If you have not seen Parts I and II, try to see them on DVD.  Both are available through Netflix. I believe that only Part II is available on Netflix online.

I have written about Atlas Shrugged several times in BeeLine. Below you can see two of the most relevant posts for background on the book and the movies.

Who is John Galt?

Atlas Shrugged Again
(originally posted July 25, 2012)

I have finally shrugged and decided to actually read Atlas Shrugged.  I have written about the book and the movie previously but I could never commit to starting the 1,168 page tome. The eerie nature of how closely President Obama's remarks on "you didn't build that" parallels a book written over 50 years ago as a cautionary tale on the dangers of socialism and collectivism pushed me over the edge. I plan to begin reading it this week.

If you somehow missed Barack Obama's view of entrepreneurship and success here it is again...

"If you’ve got a business -- you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen."

Compare that to this dialogue in Atlas Shrugged written by Ayn Rand in 1957 that makes the same argument as to why the government is justified in heavily taxing and regulating a successful entrepreneur named Rearden...

“He didn’t invent iron ore and blast furnaces, did he?”

“Who?”

“Rearden. He didn’t invent smelting and chemistry and air compression. He couldn’t have invented his Metal but for thousands and thousands of other people. His Metal! Why does he think it’s his? 

Why does he think it’s his invention? Everybody uses the work of everybody else. Nobody ever invents anything.”

She said, puzzled, “But the iron ore and all those other things were there all the time. Why didn’t anybody else make that Metal, but Mr. Rearden did?

Is this life imitating art or art predicting life when we forget the principles that made America what it is?

By the way, Atlas Shrugged: The Movie-Part 2 is scheduled for an October 12, 2012 release.

I went to Part 1 when it was released in May, 2011. Apparently not many others went to see it as it only grossed $4.6 million per IMDb.

I enjoyed the film but was concerned when I saw the box office results that Parts 2 and 3 of the trilogy would never make it to theaters.  Thank you to whoever has backed this project financially! Putting this movie together in liberal Hollywood is not an easy task.

It appears that a different cast will play the main characters in Part 2 than we saw in Part 1. You can find out more at the Atlas Shrugged Part II web site.

I can only imagine what Ayn Rand is thinking as she looks down on us.  I don't think she is shrugging.



Who is John Galt? BeeLine Now Knows
(originally posted October 10, 2012)

Just in time for the theater release of Atlas Shrugged, Part II this Friday, BeeLine has completed reading Atlas Shrugged as I promised I would.

I have three general thoughts about the book that was written by Ayn Rand in 1957. Rand was a Russian emigre who saw first hand the dangers of collectivism, socialism and communism and could appreciate individualism and capitalism like few Americans.

It is ponderous.  It is wordy and weighty.  It is not an easy read.  Its seems as if some paragraphs go on for pages.  Many times I thought Rand could have used one-third the words and got the same point across.  However, it is well written and thought provoking throughout.

It is prophetic.  At times it was almost eerie in how Rand wrote about where the socialist, anti-capitalist mindset leads us.  I had to keep reminding myself that this book was written in 1957. Federal government outlays in 1957 were $77 billion.  We now spend that in about one week.  She is spot on in writing about the liberal intelligentsia and how they always "know what is right and fair". (Sound familiar?) She writes about a "Project Soybean" in the book the  purpose of which is to recondition the dietary habits of the nation. Wheat and corn are so inefficient. Everyone should eat soybeans. ( Sound familiar?)   She writes about getting oil from shale in Colorado. (Sound familiar?) She writes about top down government planning on technology (Sound familiar?).

It is philosophical.  The book is almost equal parts novel and philosophy.  It challenges the concepts of right and wrong and good and evil that we have become accustomed to.  Rand questions why we demonize the producers in our society who move the world and carry the masses to places they could not get to on their own. Is it evil to want to create, innovate and profit from your industriousness? How is it noble to produce nothing and add no value to society but expect that you should benefit from the work of others?

I can understand it if you don't read the book. It is a major investment of time. However, you need to think deeply about the message of Atlas Shrugged.  Rent the DVD movie, Atlas Shrugged, Part I, or go see Part II beginning this week at a local theater.

Who is John Galt?

All I know is that I will take as many guys like that as I can find.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Why ISIL, Not ISIS?

You may wonder, as I did, why President Obama and his administration refer to ISIS as ISIL.

As ISIS rose to power in Syria and Iraq over the last year or so, we consistently heard it referred to as ISIS for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

All of a sudden our President started referring to it as ISIL.

I understood where ISIS came from. What does ISIL stand for?

It turns out it is the acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

What is the Levant?

It is a term used for centuries for the area shown in the map below.  The Levant today consists of the island of Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, and part of southern Turkey. It does not include Iraq.



Credit: Beforeitsnews.com


In other words, Obama is effectively giving due recognition to the ambitions and dreams of these extreme Islamists for their caliphate by his use of the term ISIL. Notice also that ISIL includes all of the territory of Israel, ISIS does not.

Consider this perspective from BeforeItsNews.com, which wonders about the President's use of ISIL instead of ISIS.
Now, to us Westerners we don’t really make much of a distinction, do we? No, honestly from our perspective its all about the same. But how would a Muslim living in the Middle East view it? Just what is the Levant anyway? Let’s take a look.
The geographical term LEVANT refers to a multi-nation region in the Middle East. It’s a land bridge between Turkey to the north and Egypt to the south. If you look on a map, however, in the near exact middle of the nations that comprise the Levant, guess what you see? Come on, guess!
It’s Israel.
When Barack Obama refers over and over to the Islamic State as ISIL, he is sending a message to Muslims all over the Middle East that he personally does not recognize Israel as a sovereign nation, but as territory belonging to the Islamic State.
With the exception of Reuters, no news organization was using the term ISIL until President Obama started to use it. However, it seems the ISIL label is being used more in the media thanks to the consistent use of it by our President and his administration. For example, the Associated Press recently started referring to ISIL instead of ISIS. The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Washington Post still refer to the group as ISIS.

When has the President of the United States ever been so deferential to a sworn enemy of the United States?

ISIS is a group that has stated,


“I say to America that the Islamic Caliphate has been established and we will not stop."

“We will raise the flag of Allah in the White House."


We are a long way away from when President George Herbert Walker Bush (41) referred to Saddam Hussein leading up to and during the Gulf War as SAD-em rather than Suh-DOM, which was the accepted pronunciation of Hussein's name. Bush clearly did this intentionally to get under Hussein's skin in some way. It should be noted that he stopped pronouncing it this way when the war was over.

There was an ulterior motive. Does Barack Obama have his own motive in using ISIL, rather than ISIS?

Those who are regular readers of BeeLine know that I am not a conspiracy theorist. I draw my conclusions based on facts and analysis of those facts. However, in this case, it really does make you wonder what Obama is doing, doesn't it?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

At The Helm At The Fourth Turning

The headlines are dispiriting and depressing.

ISIS.

Russia and Ukraine.

The Beheading of Americans.

Hamas and Israel.

IRS Scandal.

Benghazi.

VA Scandal.

Obamacare.

Border Chaos.

Racial Violence.

Bergdahl/Taliban Swap.

$17.5 Trillion in Debt.

Everything seems to be unraveling before our eyes. Any one of these headlines could drive news coverage for months. However, there is only room for one headline at a time and each of us only has so much bandwidth. What is really scary is that all of these headline issues are still there. They just got moved to the back burner in the news cycle but they are all still burning red hot in the background. We just don't notice because of whatever conflagration that is on the front burner that day.

When does it stop?

I wrote this the day after the last Presidential election.

The results of yesterday's election clearly show that we are in The Fourth Turning. History is not made by events but by the reaction of human beings to events.  We saw clear evidence of that yesterday.  We are hurtling down the road for a rendezvous with history of our own making.  Two clearly marked paths were there for choosing.  The American people made their choice.  We all will have to deal with where it leads.

I have written about the book, The Fourth Turning, by Neil Howe and William Strauss several times in BeeLine.

The Fourth Turning refers to the cycles of history.  There is a pattern to history. There are four turns much as there are four seasons.  A new era -or turn- occurs about every two decades or so.  As the authors describe it...

At the start of each turning, people change how they feel about themselves, the culture, the nation, and the future.  Turnings come in cycles of four.  Each full cycle spans the length of a long human life, roughly 80 years.

The four turnings are much like the seasons. And each lasts roughly 20 years.

There is a Spring which is a High where institutions are strengthening and individualism is weakening and a new civic order is implanting.  This was the period beginning right after WW II to the late 1960's

There is a Summer which is the Awakening.  This is an era of spiritual upheaval when the new civic order comes under attack from a new values regime.  This period began in the late 1960's with the flower children and Vietnam War protests and lasted until the late 1980's.

There is a Fall which is the Unraveling.  This is a period of strengthening individualism and weakening institutions.  The old civic order decays and the new values regime firmly implants.  This began in the late 1980's and the authors predicted that it would run for about 20 years.

The Fourth Turning is the Crisis which is the Winter.  It is a decisive era of secular upheaval according to Strauss and Howe. In 1997 (when they wrote the book), they predicted that "sometime around the year 2005, perhaps a few years before or after, America will enter the Fourth Turning."

The last Fourth Turning began in 1929 with the stock market crash. It ran until 1946 encompassing both the Great Depression and WWII. The authors of The Fourth Turning originally projected 2005 as the target date for the turn stating that it could be several years before or after that date. 9/11, Katrina and the 2008 financial meltdown might all be likely beginnings. We will not know for sure until we see it all play out. The point of maximum crisis is usually about 3/4 of the way through the FourthTurning. If they are right we will likely see it within the next 10 years.

One of the important points that Howe and Strauss make in The Fourth Turning is that history does not necessarily repeat, but it rhymes. Why is that? Because with each succeeding generation the learnings of the past are forgotten or never learned. As a result, there is a tendency to ignore the past lessons of history as previous generations were not there and did not "live it". The same mistakes are made again and again over time.

For example, children who grew up in the Depression did not later become adults who thought the answer to every need was to borrow the money to get what they wanted today. They saved first and then got what they needed tomorrow. On the other hand, Baby Boomers, who grew up in an age of prosperity, and accustomed to the wealth produced by their parents' generation, have no perspective on what that time was like. As a result, they have not provided the necessary financial sobriety that society desperately needs today. We see the results of this lack of perspective every day.

What this all means is that history seems to repeat or rhyme because people react in similar ways within each cycle to the events of the world. For example, why did the American Revolution occur in 1776 and not 1756? The British had been ruling the colonies for years. Why did the Civil War erupt in 1861? Slavery had been controversial and a lighting rod issue between the states since the U.S Constitution was written.  Why did those events occur when they did?

When you look at the headlines above you can clearly see the huge impact that the election of Barack Obama has had on the direction of the country.  Obama did not initiate Middle East turmoil, create the IRS or become the first United States President to fail to secure our southern border. However, if you look at the headlines you see that his reactions to each of the issues is having an enormous effect on the direction of our country and where history will take us.

Mitt Romney or John McCain would have undoubtedly taken us in a very different direction on a number of these issues. Each might have been better or worse although it is hard to imagine right now how the sum total could be worse.

Of course, the American voter provided the power to Barack Obama. He would not be there but for the choice the American people made. The voters also have short memories and lack perspective based on their life experience.

As I re-read parts of  The Fourth Turning over the weekend and thought about where we are right now, I could not help noticing once again how Howe and Strauss describe what they believe public reaction will be when the realization finally sinks into the American public that we are in Crisis. What will be the reaction of the American people once we reach the point that everyone realizes that that life as we know is gone and the future we expected is at risk?

Eventually, all of America's lesser problems will combine into one giant problem. The very survival of society will feel at stake...
History warns that when a Crisis catalyzes, a previously dominant political party (or regime) can find itself directly blamed for perceived "mistakes" that led to the national emergency. 
Key persons associated with it could find themselves defamed, stigmatized, harassed, economically ruined, personally punished---or worse. 

I will let you fill in the blanks as to whose reputation is most on the line right now.  He may leave office with some of his reputation intact but if what follows after 2016 is more of the same there is going to be plenty of blame to pass around between him and his successor.

It may actually be a good idea to enjoy the golf now. Retirement may prove to be a difficult season for anyone who was at the helm in the middle of The Fourth Turning.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Our Immigration System Is Not Broken, Just Its Enforcement

We often hear that "our immigration system is broken".

There are probably not many leading politicians, on either side of the aisle, who have not said it at some point. Obama. Bush. Reid. Boehner. Schumer. McCain. Rubio.

However, I would submit that our immigration system is not broken, just our will to enforce it.

I provided some context on the immigration issue in July in this post. Some of the facts in that post bear repeating.


  • Although the United States has less than 5% of the world's population, 20% of all international migrants reside in the United States.



  • 45 million immigrants currently live in the United States. This is 4 times as many who live in any other country in the world.



  • Approximately 1 million immigrants are granted legal permanent residency status in the United States per year. 10.7 million were granted permanent status over the last 10 ten years.



  • In 2012, 15 million people applied for a green card for just 50,000 spots from so-called underrepresented countries in what is called the Diversity Visa Lottery. Generally, these are people from countries that have not sent at least 50,000 immigrants to the U.S. in the previous five years.  The Bahamas, Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, South Korea, UNITED KINGDOM (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, Vietnam are all not eligible for the Diversity Visa Lottery.



  • Immigrants working in the United States of working age (16-65) increased by 5.7 million between 2000 and 2014. However, total employment by working age native-born Americans actually decreased by 157,000 over the same period according to an analysis by the Center for Immigration Studies that was released last month.


Byron York takes on the "our immigration system is broken" meme in his Washington Examiner column, "No, Our Immigration System Is Not Broken".

The only problem is, our immigration system is not broken. The part of the system that lets people into the United States is working — not without flaws, of course, but successfully managing the country's immigration needs every day. And while the part that keeps people out of the country, or expels them if they overstay their permission to be here, is not working very well, it's not because the system is broken, but because Congress and the president do not want it to work. 
First, the part that lets people in. The United States grants legal permanent resident status — better known as a green card — to about one million people each year. The actual numbers, according to the Department of Homeland Security 2012 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics — the most recent full set of data available — were 1,031,631 in 2012; 1,062,040 in 2011; 1,042,625 in 2010; and so on going back. Legal permanent resident status is what it sounds: a recipient can stay in the United States permanently, and become a citizen if he or she chooses.
"We are the most generous nation on earth to immigrants, allowing over one million people a year to come here legally," wrote Sen. Rubio in 2013. The new million each year come from all around the world, with heavy concentrations in a few places. According to the Yearbook, in 2012, 416,488 came from Asia, while 389,526 came from Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America. That's a lot of the million right there; other sources include 103,685 from Africa and 86,956 from Europe.
Of the total, the vast majority — 680,799 in 2012 — were given green cards because they have family members in the United States. A much smaller group, 143,998, were admitted for employment reasons. The rest were given refugee status, or asylum, or came from the so-called "diversity" lottery.
Under current law — that is, if there is no immigration reform at all — those grants of legal permanent resident status will continue, million after million, year after year, for the foreseeable future. Under the Gang of Eight comprehensive immigration reform bill passed by the Senate last year, the one million each year would increase dramatically, perhaps even doubling to about two million. That's one of the key debates, if not the key debate, about immigration reform: Is it wise to greatly increase the already large number of immigrants admitted to the country each year, especially in a time of high unemployment and economic anxiety?
In addition to all of these legal immigrants who are given permanent residency every year, we also are generous in providing a substantial number of visa for temporary residency in our country. For example, in 2012, the United States granted over 500,000 student visas and 690,000 work visas which included about 135,000 H-1B visas for skilled workers.

However, one of the big problems we have is that by some estimates almost 40% of those that come to the United States on one of these temporary student or work visas overstays their permission to stay. And little is done to go after those that go from "legal" to "illegal" status when they continue to live in the United States after their permission period has expired.

But virtually nothing has been done in all those years, through both Democratic and Republican administrations and Congresses, which suggests that the U.S. does not stop visa overstays because its political leaders do not want to. The Gang of Eight bill includes a new entry-exit system, which would allegedly crack down on visa overstays. Given recent history, however, there is absolutely no reason to believe that would actually happen were the bill to become law. There's also no reason to say the system is broken if the political leadership of the U.S. government is actively preventing it from working.

You begin to see the dimensions of the problem when you look at these three charts prepared from U.S. Border Control data by Walter Hickey of Business Insider.

We are spending almost $4 billion on border enforcement. That is up almost 4-fold since 1990.




However, apprehensions are only about 25% of what they were in 1990.






As a result, the cost per apprehension has risen from $238 per apprehension in 1990 to $10,431 in 2011.

Therefore, why do we keep hearing that the immigration system is broken when you can see from the above that the only thing that is really broken is our enforcement of the system? York provides his take.

So if the system basically works — and in some instances, does not work only because American political leaders don't want it to — then why do we hear so often that the system is broken? Because supporters of comprehensive reform believe that is the best way to convince the public that action is urgently needed. Listening to some of the most zealous reformers, an average voter might never know that the U.S. successfully admits so many immigrants, temporarily and permanently, each year.

And why do many of our political leaders and business interests keep calling for "immigration reform" when they really just want to increase the numbers of "legal" immigrants despite the fact that our economy can't provide enough good paying jobs to native born citizens as it is?

As I stated in my last post on the subject, immigration is not so much an economic issue as it is a political issue. Democrats need the votes. That is all they seem to care about. Corporate interests want to keep wage costs down. The labor unions should be anti-immigration but are more concerned with the success of the Democrat party than their own members. Republicans in Congress are caught between the monied interests who want the cheap labor supply and their rank and file voters who fervently oppose illegal immigration. It is all about political interests and has very little to do with the best interests of this country.

Keep that in mind when you hear calls for "immigration reform".  And keep the above facts in mind when you hear that "our immigration system is broken".

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Government That Is Not Spending Any Money On Government, Is Not A Government

When do you reach the point that government is no longer governing but it is doing nothing but redistributing?

Is it even a government at that point?

I have previously written about the gigantic increase in the amounts of payments for individuals in the federal budget over that last 70 years.




Less than 1/3 of the budget today is spent on what the Constitution established as the big priorities and what most people think of as the true functions of government---defense, justice, police, roads, parks, education, public health and the like.  In 1945, we spent 97.6% of the budget on these items. In 1960, we spent about 75% on these priorities. As late as 1990, we still spent the majority of the federal budget on these government roles.

Direct payments to individuals now account for 67.9% of all federal expenditures in the federal budget. In dollars, that is $2.57 trillion out of $3.77 trillion in total spending.

In other words, we are spending twice as much on these "special interest" payments as we do on defense, justice, prisons, roads, research, national parks and everything else that is for the overall "public interest"---combined!

If Defense spending is excluded (arguably the one function of the federal government that is probably most essential), direct payments to individuals account for 82% of all federal spending.

However, we have not seen anything yet. A recent Congressional Budget Office report shows that in only ten years payments for entitlements, mandatory spending and interest on the federal debt will consume 93% of projected federal revenues.

Put another way, there will only be enough tax revenues after paying for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, other mandatory federal spending programs (welfare etc) and interest that only 7% will be left for everything else.

I always find it interesting that in federal budget language, defense, roads, public health and running the government are discretionary but welfare, food stamps and unemployment compensation are mandatory.

The chart below provides a picture of how we are spending money today in the federal budget and what it will look like in 10 years based on the most recent Congressional Budget Office projections.

77% of federal revenues today are going to fund entitlements, mandatory spending and interest, leaving only 23% of federal revenues for traditional government functions like defense, roads, education, parks, public health, the post office and the like. By 2024, the CBO projects that 93% will be going to "mandatory" spending and only 7% will be left for everything else.

I dare say that when government is only spending 7% on government, you have no government left. It is scary to think that we will be at that point in a scant ten years.




Let's look at the numbers in a little more detail. The CBO has used % of Gross Domestic Product to reflect spending in each category and revenues so it is easy to compare the projections from year to year. To put this in context, U.S. GDP for 2014 is estimated at approximately $17.2 trillion. Therefore, 1% of GDP is equal to $172 billion in today's dollars.

Social Security spending is projected to increase from 4.9% of GDP to 5.6% in 2014.

Medicare spending is projected to go from 3.0% to 3.2%. This looks too low to me and obviously assumes that health care costs are going to be constrained more than they have been in the past.

Medicaid spending (including Obamacare exchange subsidies) is projected to increase from 1.9% to 2.7%. Note that in dollar terms this is larger than the increase in projected Social Security spending. It is also 4x the increase in the amount of projected Medicare spending.

Other mandatory spending (welfare, food stamps etc.) is actually projected to decrease from 2.5% to 2.2% of GDP. Good luck seeing that happen.

The biggest increase is going to involve paying interest on the federal debt. It is projected to increase from 1.3% of GDP in 2014 to 3.3% in 2024. That is $344 billion of additional costs in today's dollars.

How much is that? It would take a doubling of corporate income taxes across the board to just pay for that increase. Or a 25% across the board hike in individual income taxes. Or a 33% across the board increase in employer and employer FICA taxes. All of that to pay for something that provides no value whatsoever to those paying the taxes! The interest on the money that was borrowed to finance past spending will be a distant memory to those taxpayers when the bill comes due.

The overall annual deficit increases from 2.8% of GDP ($482 billion in 2014) to 3.6% of GDP in 2024 ( $619 billion in today's dollars) in the CBO projections. This is despite the fact that federal tax revenues are projected to increase from 17.6% of GDP today to 18.3% of GDP in 2024 based on current tax law.

The bottom line is that we are on a collision course with a catastrophe with our federal budget. Something is going to have to give over the next ten years. The government has nothing to give. They only have the power to redistribute.

Therefore, the American people are going to be the ones giving. Taxpayers will almost surely have to give more. Those with entitlements and those receiving mandatory spending amounts may also have to give something up. There is no other answer unless we are at the end of the federal government as we know it. I hope that is not the case but the numbers are leading us to some stark choices.

A government that is not spending any money on government, is not a government.

What choices are we willing to make to continue to have a government?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Elephant In Ferguson

In light of what has been going on in Ferguson, Missouri I thought it might be appropriate to once again republish a blog post that I wrote last year right after the George Zimmerman trial.

In that case, there were conflicting accounts of what happened. The same appears to be the case with Michael Brown and Officer Darren Wilson. We do know that the 18 year old Brown died from at least six shots fired by Wilson even though he though the young man was unarmed.

Does that automatically mean that Wilson is guilty? It is not supposed to in our system of justice. That is why there are internal police investigations, grand juries and criminal trials to sort out the evidence. That is why someone is supposed to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The bigger question is why is this happening all over again? Why is there such a rush to judgment? Why can't people wait for the facts and trust the system?  Why is there bias?

I wrote about this right after the Zimmerman acquittal and I think it bears repeating again because nothing seems to change.  This post is as relevant today as it was last year.

The Elephant In The Room
(Originally published July 21, 2013)


In the aftermath of the George Zimmerman acquittal there is a lot of talk about racial bias in the judicial system.  I have heard many African-American commentators argue on cable tv that there is inherent bias throughout the police and justice system against African-Americans.  They cite the Zimmerman verdict as just one more example of that bias.

I agree with that general conclusion.  However, I think it is misplaced in trying to make that point in the Zimmerman case. I have no doubt there is bias at times if you want to use that word.  If you are black in America there is undoubtedly a greater chance that you will be pulled over in a car.  You will be looked at with greater suspicion in a convenience store.  You will find it harder to get a fair shake in a court room.

It is not right.  However, as I wrote recently, profiling and stereotyping are fundamental to the way the human brain operates.  It is not fair but that is the way the brain is wired.  We are too quick to jump to conclusions based on past experiences, emotions, events, associations and their consequences.

The elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about is why does that bias exist?  Why do we keep hearing about a police and a justice system that is unfair to African-Americans?

These statements are particularly interesting when you look at who is overseeing these systems today at the federal level.

The President of the United States is an African-American.

The Attorney General of the United States is an African-American.

They have both been in place for almost five years.  Why all this talk of institutional bias when you look who is on top of our governing and justice system today?

Here are the cities with the highest violent crime rates in the United States according to the FBI.  The majority of the cities are headed by an African-American.

1. Flint, Michigan (African-American Chief of Police, Alvern Lock)

2. Detroit, Michigan (African-American Chief of Police, James Craig)

3. Oakland, California (African-American Chief of Police, Howard Jordan stepped down in May and was replaced by an interim Chief who is white.)

4. St. Louis, MO ( White Chief of Police, Sam Dotson)

5. Memphis, TN (African American Chief of Police, Toney Armstrong)

Therefore, we hear about the bias of the "system" but that "system" is increasingly being overseen by African-Americans.  The old argument of institutional bias just does not add up as it might have at one time.  If the deck is stacked, who is stacking the deck?

We also hear outcries that Republicans are somehow responsible for bias in the system and they simply don't care about the plight of African-Americans.  However, if you look at the Mayors that oversee the 30 largest U.S. cities, only two are Republicans. (Gregory Ballard in Indianapolis and Betsy Price in Fort Worth.)

What is the real elephant in room?  Let's look at the crime statistics.  In order to do that I went to the most recent Statistical Abstract of the United States.  It helps you better understand the dimensions of the issue.

First, it should be recognized that crime rates have decreased substantially in the last 15 to 20 years as this first chart demonstrates.  This is a very positive development especially in light of the challenging economic environment.



Blacks are much more likely to be victims of crime than Whites or Hispanics.


This is particularly the case for murder.  In fact, the chances of being murdered are over 5 times greater if you are Black than if you are White.  Note that there is currently no data for Hispanics in the next few charts because the federal government right now consider Hispanics to be an ethnicity rather than a race. This will change next year in the collection of this data.



Who is committing these crimes?  Blacks commit almost 5 times as many violent crimes (murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault) per 1,000 population as Whites according to FBI data based on arrests for violent crimes.



What about overall arrests that are made for both violent and property crimes?  The incidence of arrests for Blacks is over twice what it is for Whites on per capita basis.  In fact, this data suggests that, on average, there is one arrest each year for every 12 Blacks in the U.S.



What about hate crimes?  The Justice Department also tracks this data.  There are many more hate crime incidents perpetrated against Blacks than Whites.  However, these incidents pale in comparison to the hate that is spewed towards Jewish people.  How come we never hear about this?

In fact, Jewish people have almost six times the chance of being the victim of a hate crime as an African American and over four times the chances of a Muslim in this country!  For some reason these facts just never seem to make the evening news.



It is important to remember that the vast majority of crime is committed against people of the same race. Crime is a function of proximity and opportunity.  For example, from 1976 to 2005 according to this article in the Daily Beast, 94 percent of Black murder victims were killed by Black offenders.  At the same time, 86 percent of Whites were killed by other Whites.

However, what about interracial crime, white-on-black attacks and the reverse?

Patrick J.Buchanan wrote about this in a recent column.

After researching the FBI numbers for “Suicide of a Superpower,” this writer concluded: “An analysis of ‘single offender victimization figures’ from the FBI for 2007 finds blacks committed 433,934 crimes against whites, eight times the 55,685 whites committed against blacks.
Interracial rape is almost exclusively black on white – with 14,000 assaults on white women by African Americans in 2007. Not one case of a white sexual assault on a black female was found in the FBI study.”
Though blacks are outnumbered 5-to-1 in the population by whites, they commit eight times as many crimes against whites as the reverse. By those 2007 numbers, a black male was 40 times as likely to assault a white person as the reverse.
Today, 73 percent of all black kids are born out of wedlock. Growing up, these kids drop out, use drugs, are unemployed, commit crimes and are incarcerated at many times the rate of Asians and whites – or Hispanics, who are taking the jobs that used to go to young black Americans.
Buchanan points out the real elephant in the room.

As I stated above, discrimination and bias exists against Blacks in the criminal justice system and in their daily lives. It is disingenuous for anyone to deny this. However, all of the energy of the African American community about this problem seems to be only directed outwards.  I don't see much energy devoted to looking inward for solutions to the problem.

William Galston, who was an advisor to President Clinton, has spent a good part of his career studying the causes of poverty.  He concluded that in order to avoid being poor you just needed to do three things, (1) graduate from high school, (2) wait until getting married to have children, (3) wait until age 20 to have children.  His research indicated that only 8 percent of young people who followed these rules ended up poor.  However, breaking just one of these rules means a 79 percent chance of ending up below the poverty line.

Where are the voices talking about the nearly three out of four African American children born out of wedlock? Where are the voices decrying the culture among black youths that seems to glorify drugs and violence?  Where are the voices speaking out about the fact that only 54 percent of African Americans are graduating from high school?

Crime is largely a function of poverty and poor home environments.  The absence of a father in the home is a significant factor in this equation.  That is why I think it is especially ironic that there is so much energy being devoted to enabling gay marriages in this country but you hear almost nothing about encouraging African Americans to marry before having a child.

Failure to complete high school is almost a certain path to poverty in this day and age.  We are spending massive amounts of money on welfare and other programs to help the poor but you hear little about the massive failure of young African Americans to graduate from high school.  We are spending enormous sums of money on the symptoms but pay little attention to the underlying disease.

If we look at the data above, and you consider the way the human brain works and the role heuristics plays in our thinking, bias, racial profiling and stereotyping is going to occur.  It is not right and it is not fair but that is the way the human brain is wired.  It is always looking for shortcuts based on past experience and associations.  A lot of the time this is very helpful in assessing things.  However, it can also lead to generalizations, stereotypes and bias that lead us astray.

The only sure way to change that is from the inside-out in the African-American community. Discrimination, bias and stereotyping are not unique to Blacks. For example, prior to the 1950's, Asians who lived in the United States were stereotyped as cheap, poor, uneducated laborers.  Products from Asia were derided as nothing more than cheap junk.  That stereotype no longer exists.  It literally has been turned on its head.

Today, students in high school and college cringe when they see Asian-Americans entering their classrooms on the first day of class.  American businesses have learned some hard lessons from their Asian counterparts.  The old stereotype is gone.  That change did not occur because people just started to think differently one day.  It changed because they were forced to change their thinking because of what they experienced and the behaviors and results they saw from greater and greater numbers of Asians they came in contact with.

Someone needs to start talking about the elephant in the room in the African-American community. My hope would be that it would be the President of the United States. I think that was the hope of most Americans when he took office.  We were looking for a uniter and all we got was a divider.  I still have hope.  It just doesn't look like he is going to change.  That might end up being the biggest disappointment of the Obama Presidency when all is said and done (unfortunately, that would be saying a lot).