Stories by Thomas
Amid all the heated crosscurrents of debate about the National Security Agency's massive surveillance program, there is a growing distrust of the Obama administration that makes weighing the costs and benefits of the NSA program itself hard to assess. The belated recognition of this administration's contempt for the truth, for the American people and for the Constitution of the United States has been long overdue. But what if the NSA program has in fact thwarted terrorists and saved many American lives in ways that cannot be revealed publicly?
One of the most common arguments for allowing more immigration is that there is a "need" for foreign workers to do "jobs that Americans won't do," especially in agriculture.
An all-too-familiar scene was enacted on the campus of Swarthmore College during a meeting on May 4 to discuss demands by student activists for the college to divest itself of its investments in companies that deal in fossil fuels.
We have truly entered the world of "Alice in Wonderland" when the CEO of a company that pays $16 million a day in taxes is hauled up before a Congressional subcommittee to be denounced on nationwide television for not paying more. Apple CEO Tim Cook was denounced for contributing to "a worrisome federal deficit," according to Senator Carl Levin -- one of the big-spending liberals in Congress who has had a lot more to do with creating that deficit than any private citizen has.
This time of year, as college students return home for the summer, many parents may notice how many politically correct ideas they have acquired on campus. Some of those parents may wonder how they can undo some of the brainwashing that has become so common in what are supposed to be institutions of higher learning.
If you are driving and suddenly see a ball come bouncing out into the street, you might want to put your foot on the brake pedal, because a small child may come running out into the street.
While it is not possible to answer all the e-mails and letters from readers, many are thought-provoking, whether those thoughts are positive or negative.
Someone called politics "the art of the possible." But, in the era of the modern welfare state, politics is largely the art of the impossible.
Amid all the heated, emotional advocacy of gun control, have you ever heard even one person present convincing hard evidence that tighter gun control laws have in fact reduced murders? Think about all the states, communities within states, as well as foreign countries, that have either tight gun control laws or loose or non-existent gun control laws. With so many variations and so many sources of evidence available, surely there would be some compelling evidence somewhere if tighter gun control laws actually reduced the murder rate.
Since when has it been considered smart to tell your enemies what your plans are? Yet there on the front page of the New York Times on April 8 was a story about how unnamed "American officials" were planning a "proportional" response to any North Korean attack. This was spelled in an example: If the North Koreans "shell a South Korean island that had military installations," then the South Koreans would retaliate with "a barrage of artillery of similar intensity."
The Obama administration treated the creation of "democracy" in the Middle East as a Good Thing. Ironically, those who created the United States of America viewed democracy with fear -- and created a constitutional republic instead.
Many ideas presented as "new" are just rehashes of old ideas that have been tried before -- and have failed before. So it is no surprise that the recent "Growth and Opportunity Project" report to the Republican National Committee is a classic example of what previous generations called "Me Too" Republicanism. These are Republicans who think that the key to winning elections is to do more of what the Democrats are doing.
The decision of the government in Cyprus to simply take money out of people's bank accounts there sent shock waves around the world. People far removed from that small nation had to wonder: "Can this happen here?"
Once we recognize that large differences in achievement among races, nations and civilizations have been the rule, not the exception, throughout recorded history, there is at least some hope of rational thought -- and perhaps even some constructive efforts to help everyone advance.
There are so many fallacies about race that it would be hard to say which is the most ridiculous. However, one fallacy behind many other fallacies is the notion that there is something unusual about different races being unequally represented in various institutions, careers or at different income or achievement levels.
Back in my teaching days, many years ago, one of the things I liked to ask the class to consider was this: Imagine a government agency with only two tasks: (1) building statues of Benedict Arnold and (2) providing lifesaving medications to children. If this agency's budget were cut, what would it do?
People on both sides of tax issues often speak of such things as a "$300 billion tax increase" or a "$500 billion tax decrease." That is fine if they are looking back at something that has already happened. But it can be sheer nonsense if they are talking about a proposed increase or decrease in the tax rate.
A nation's choice between spending on military defense and spending on civilian goods has often been posed as "guns versus butter." But understanding the choices of many nations' political leaders might be helped by examining the contrast between their runaway spending on pensions while skimping on military defense.
Now that the federal government is playing an ever larger role in the economy, a look at the track record seems to be long overdue.
An old-time trial lawyer once said, "When your case is weak, shout louder!"
There is no question that liberals do an impressive job of expressing concern for blacks. But do the intentions expressed in their words match the actual consequences of their deeds?
The gun control controversy is only the latest of many issues to be debated almost solely in terms of fixed preconceptions, with little or no examination of hard facts. Media discussions of gun control are dominated by two factors: the National Rifle Association and the Second Amendment. But the overriding factual question is whether gun control laws actually reduce gun crimes in general or murder rates in particular.
Many years ago, as a young man, I read a very interesting book about the rise of the Communists to power in China. In the last chapter, the author tried to explain why and how this had happened. Among the factors he cited were the country's educators. That struck me as odd, and not very plausible, at the time. But the passing years have made that seem more plausible. Today, I see our own educators playing a similar role in creating a mindset that undermines American society.
The political slogan "Forward" served Barack Obama well during last year's election campaign. It said that he was for going forward, while Republicans were for "going back to the failed policies that got us into this mess in the first place." It was great political rhetoric and great political theater. Moreover, the Republicans did virtually nothing to challenge its shaky assumptions with a few hard facts that could have made those assumptions collapse like a house of cards.
The beginning of a new year is often a time to look forward and look back. If there are any awards to be given to anyone for what they did in 2012, one of those rewards should be for prophecy, if only because prophecies that turn out to be right are so rare.
Must every tragic mass shooting bring out the shrill ignorance of "gun control" advocates?
With all the talk about taxing the rich, we hear very little talk about taxing the poor. Yet the marginal tax rate on someone living in poverty can sometimes be higher than the marginal tax rate on millionaires. While it is true that nearly half the households in the country pay no income tax at all, the apparently simple word "tax" has many complications that can be a challenge for even professional economists to untangle.
One of the big advantages that President Obama has, as he plays "chicken" with the Congressional Republicans along the "fiscal cliff," is that Obama is a master of the plausible lie, which will never be exposed by the mainstream media -- nor, apparently, by the Republicans.
Amid all the political and media hoopla about the "fiscal cliff" crisis, there are a few facts that are worth noting.
Many people think of labor unions as organizations to benefit workers, and think of employers who are opposed to unions as just people who don't want to pay their employees more money. But some employers have made it a point to pay their employees more than the union wages, just to keep them from joining a union.
Mitt Romney now joins the long list of the kinds of presidential candidates favored by the Republican establishment -- nice, moderate losers, people with no coherently articulated vision, despite how many ad hoc talking points they may have.
Among the objections to ObamaCare, one that has not gotten as much attention as it should is the president's power to waive the law for any company, union or other enterprise he chooses.
Books about the history of Harlem have long fascinated me — my favorite being "When Harlem Was in Vogue" by David Levering Lewis. However, a more recent book, titled simply "Harlem," by Jonathan Gill, presents a more comprehensive history -- going all the way back to the time when the Dutch were the first settlers of New York, and named that area for the city of Haarlem in the Netherlands.
Confidence men know that their victim — "the mark," as he has been called — is eventually going to realize that he has been cheated. But it makes a big difference whether he realizes it immediately, and goes to the police, or realizes it after the confidence man is long gone.
Much of the puzzling behavior by Barack Obama falls into place when we go behind the image that he projects ("Obama 1") to the factual reality of the man's whole life and thrust ("Obama 2").
While voters are busy comparing Mitt Romney with Barack Obama, what might be even more revealing would be comparing Obama with Obama. There is a big contrast between Obama based on his rhetoric ("Obama 1") and Obama based on his record ("Obama 2").
One of the many false talking points of the Obama administration is that a rich man like Warren Buffett should not be paying a lower tax rate than his secretary. But anyone whose earnings come from capital gains usually pays a lower tax rate.
Now that the National Football League has apparently learned that it can be costly to hire cheap officials, perhaps the rest of us should learn the same lesson when it comes to government officials, whose bad calls can do a lot more damage.
The recently discovered tape on which Barack Obama said back in 1998 that he believes in redistribution is not really news. He said the same thing to Samuel "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher four years ago. But the surfacing of this tape might serve a useful purpose if it gets people to thinking about the consequences of redistribution.
There was a time when Democrats and Republicans alike could talk sense about tax rates, in terms of what is best for the economy, without demagoguery about "tax cuts for the rich."
We have heard many times from President Barack Obama how he plans to raise taxes on "millionaires and billionaires," but not on the middle class. Apparently, if you don't happen to be a millionaire or billionaire, you don't have to worry. But the numbers say otherwise -- and say so big time.
Insurance is all about risk. Yet neither insurance companies nor their policyholders can do anything about one of the biggest risks, namely interference by politicians, to turn insurance into something other than a device to deal with risk.
Years, and sometimes decades, pass between my visits to movie theaters. But I drove 30 miles to see the movie "2016," based on Dinesh D'Souza's best-selling book, "The Roots of Obama's Rage." Where I live is so politically correct that such a movie would not even be mentioned, much less shown.
It has long seemed to me that there is far more rationality in sports, and in commentaries on sports, than there is in politics and in commentaries on politics. What has puzzled me is why this is so, when what happens in politics has far more serious effects on people's lives.
There was a time, within living memory, when the achievements of others were not only admired but were often taken as an inspiration for imitation of the same qualities that had served these achievers well, even if we were not in the same field of endeavor and were not expecting to achieve on the same scale.
If Milton Friedman were alive today — and there was never a time when he was more needed — he would be 100 years old. He was born on July 31, 1912. But Professor Friedman's death at age 94 deprived the nation of one of those rare thinkers who had both genius and common sense.
Since so many in the media cannot resist turning every tragedy into a political talking point, it was perhaps inevitable that (1) someone would try to link the shooting rampage at the Batman movie in Colorado to the Tea Party, and that (2) some would try to make it a reason to impose more gun control laws.
Anyone who wants to study the tricks of propaganda rhetoric has a rich source of examples in the statements of President Barack Obama.
One of the reasons for the popularity of political rhetoric is that everybody can be right, in terms of their own rhetoric, no matter how much the rhetoric of one side contradicts the rhetoric of the other side. President Obama repeats how many millions of jobs have been created during his administration, while his critics repeat how many millions of jobs have been lost during his administration.
Since this is an election year, the meaning of words is not always clear. So it may be helpful to have a glossary of political terms. One of the most versatile terms in the political vocabulary is “fairness.” It has been used over a vast range of issues, from “fair trade” laws to the Fair Labor Standards Act. And recently we have heard that the rich don’t pay their “fair share” of taxes.