Leftists just KNOW what is good for us. Conservatives need evidence..

Why are Leftists always talking about hate? Because it fills their own hearts

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30 January, 2015

Fat: A big backflip underway

Up until a couple of years ago, we were all told that being fat was bad for us. Then we heard that fat could be OK. Now fat is positively GOOD for you. Could there be any better evidence of government wisdom being often wrong? In this matter, ignoring government pronouncements would clearly have been the wisest course

Because many diabetics are overweight, health crusaders have long argued that obesity causes diabetes -- ignoring the fact that most overweight people are not diabetic. But obsessive eating and drinking is a symptom of diabetes so the most reasonable conclusion is that diabetes causes obesity, not the other way around. But never expect logic from people with a barrow to push

Fat can PROTECT you against obesity and diabetes, improving blood sugar control and metabolism, study finds

It has long been thought to be the enemy of the waistline. But fat can actually protect people against obesity and developing diabetes, scientists have today claimed.

Before reaching for a cream cake though, take note - it is 'good' brown fat that is beneficial to the body, not white fat, which is amassed from gorging on too many calories.

Adults have a small amount of healthy brown fat, usually found in the front and back of the neck and upper back, which burns calories in order to generate heat.

In contrast, white fat is troublesome. It is the result of eating too many calories and is stored around the stomach, thighs and forms the dreaded love handle.

Brown fat, usually found in the front and back of the neck and upper back, can actually protect against obesity and diabetes, a study has found

A new study has revealed for the first time, those people with higher levels of brown fat have better blood sugar control, higher insulin sensitivity and a better metabolism for burning white fat stores.

The findings suggest the ability of brown fat to better regulate levels of sugar in the blood, could make it a potential medical weapon against diabetes.



Employers Who Dump Workers onto Medicaid: The New Corporate Welfare Queens?

There have been a lot of predictions about the future of employer-based health benefits under Obamacare. Reports suggest that increasing numbers of small businesses are dropping health benefits and sending their employees to Obamacare's insurance exchanges, where they are partially subsidized.

Other businesses have found a bigger cost-shifting approach. BeneStream, a new benefits advisor, advises employers how to make their workers dependent on Medicaid, a welfare program fully funded by taxpayers. And businesses are taking advantage of its advice.

So: Are these employers corporate welfare queens? Well, it depends on how you look at it. On the one hand, Medicaid is welfare. It is disturbing to see Medicaid categorized as "health insurance" in the same way employer-based benefits or individually owned policies are. Nobody would consider someone in a homeless shelter to be "housed" in the way that someone paying rent or a mortgage is.

On the other hand, these employers pay corporate income taxes, which many economists consider double or triple taxation (because both the employees and investors have also paid income taxes). So, one way to look at their taking advantage of Medicaid could be to categorize it as a perverse sort of tax rebate.

Whichever way you look at it, it is not an outcome that the politicians who gave us Obamacare told us to expect.



Study: 2014's Employment Boom Almost Entirely Due to the Expiration of Unemployment Benefits

Those who've listened to President Obama's speeches over the past couple months have heard him boast that 2014 has seen impressive improvements in the labor market - the best year in job creation since 1999, he points out, and he's right. But there's no obvious explanation for why 2014 has been, by a good margin, the best year of a weak jobs recovery. The president has naturally credited his policies (without any justification). But what if 2014's jobs boom is mostly thanks to the expiration of a program that the Obama administration and Democrats fervently pushed to renew?

That's the finding of a new NBER working paper from three economists - Marcus Hagedorn, Kurt Mitman, and Iourii Manovskii - who contend that the ending of federally extended unemployment benefits across the country at the end of 2013 explains much of the labor-market boom in 2014.

About 60 percent of the job creation in 2014, 1.8 million jobs, they find, can be attributed to the end of the extended-benefits program. That's a huge amount, and suggests that long-term unemployment benefits, while there's a good charitable case for them, could have played a big role in the ongoing lassitude of our labor market. (Indeed, an earlier working paper from a few of the same authors argued that extended benefits raised the unemployment rate during the Great Recession by three percentage points; see a summary of that paper here.)

So what was the program Democrats wanted to renew? States run their own unemployment-insurance programs, which provide around 26 weeks of benefits to people who've lost jobs and are looking for new ones. But during the recent recession, as they have in other downturns, Congress repeatedly authorized federal extensions that allowed people to draw benefits for much longer. At the end of 2013, the Senate narrowly passed a renewal of the program, but the House never took it up and the extensions, already much longer than any previous recession had seen, expired.

This created something of a "natural experiment." States had unemployment-insurance programs of widely varying length - they ranged from 40 weeks up to 73, roughly - but after the end of the federal extensions at the start of 2014, the duration of benefits in almost all states went back to around 26 weeks.

The paper uses that shift to examine how expiring benefits might have affected the labor market, and they find that the expiration of extended benefits produced a big boost to job creation, labor-force participation, and hiring. It's a dramatically different result than what the White House and Democrats were predicting at the end of 2013: The Obama administration was predicting that the drop-off in stimulative spending from the expiration would cost 240,000 jobs, while the NBER paper finds that it created 1.8 million jobs.

The authors don't think this happened the way you think it might: It's not so much that the cut-off drove individuals on benefits back to work, but more that less-generous benefits actually spurred job creation on a macro level, getting employers to hire and drawing into the labor force people who hadn't been looking for a job. They don't lay out how that worked, but in their October 2013 paper, argue that extended unemployment benefits artificially boosts wages - when they expire, employers then boost job openings and start hiring people.

Of course, the usual caveats apply: This is not a perfect experiment at all, and the paper, while very rigorous, can't get past the fact that it's just crunching numbers about macro trends. And there are some concerns with the authors' county-level data, though they try to make up for that.

The simplest form of the analysis was just looking at states that had long benefit terms versus short ones. In 2013, job creation was worse in more generous states than the national average; in 2014, after those states dropped their much more generous programs, it was much better than the national average:

There's a lot more analysis they did, which I won't get into - but to untangle related effects, they look at neighboring counties in states with different unemployment regimes, etc.

Now, this is just one paper and it involves some fancy econometrics, but it answers an unresolved question - why 2014 saw the labor market perk up (there's also a possible end-of-austerity explanation, but it's the labor market, not the economy overall, that's really improved noticeably).

It should prompt passionate supporters of the extended unemployment-insurance program to consider whether it made as much sense as they thought. Even conservative economists, such as Michael Strain, pushed for the extension of long-term benefits. The length and scale of benefits during the Great Recession was unprecedented, but advocates for the program argued that this was necessary so long as unemployment, and especially long-term unemployment, remained historically elevated.

Besides the moral case for supporting the unemployed, the market-friendly case for extending benefits is that one has to be searching for a job to get them. Cut the benefits, and you'll see the long-term unemployed drop out of the labor force for good, the argument went. (It's extremely hard to tell what did happen with these people when benefits expired, and the NBER paper here doesn't comment on that.)

Advocates for extended benefits also argued that it was just an effective form of stimulus for the economy, because recipients spend their benefits immediately. That was always a pretty lame case, since the program's value to the economy in spending terms - in the Obama White House's generous estimation, 240,000 jobs in 2014 - would probably be outweighed if either side's arguments about the labor-market effects proved mostly true. Indeed, if the new NBER paper is right, letting benefits expire produced 7.5 times as many jobs as the White House said it would cost.

The general economic consensus has always been that unemployment insurance slightly boosts the unemployment rate. Even liberal economists accept this, although they lampoon the idea that people might prefer benefits to working (that isn't the point, Paul - people act at the margin). But we still have unemployment insurance, of course, because we want a safety net for people in the event of job loss. That just has to be balanced against the costs that the program imposes on the labor market. The new NBER paper doesn't find that those costs in general are much higher than economists generally assume; rather, it suggests that the benefits of reining in long-term programs can be quite substantial.

There was always good reason to think this is the case: One of the many differences between American and European labor markets is that most of the latter have unemployment benefits systems of effectively unlimited duration - and much higher levels of structural unemployment.



FDIC Changes Tactics in Response to Operation Choke Point

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has acknowledged its role in Operation Choke Point and is taking dramatic steps to reverse its policies in targeting legal and legitimate industries that are disfavored by the Obama administration.

"We're very pleased they've acknowledged their wrongdoing and they've accepted our suggestions to put in place measures to stop this activity," Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., told The Daily Signal in a phone call this morning.

Luetkemeyer, a member of the House Financial Services Committee and leader in the fight to end Operation Choke Point, met with FDIC Chairman Martin Gruenbery and Vice Chairman Thomas Hoenig earlier today as a follow-up to concerns voiced last November.

The Justice Department contends that Operation Choke Point combats unlawful, mass-market consumer fraud by "choking" their access to banking systems. But a report by the House Oversight Committee found the program's targets, under direction of the FDIC, included legal businesses such as short-term lenders, firearms and ammunition merchants, coin dealers, tobacco sellers and home-based charities.

To address concerned raised about Operation Choke Point, the FDIC will now require bank examiners to put in writing any recommendation or requirement for an account termination.

The examiner will also be required to indicate what law or regulation they believe the bank or the customer of the bank is violating.

The policy shift was announced today in an official Financial Institution Letter sent to all FDIC supervisory staff. In it, the FDIC states:

The FDIC is aware that some institutions may be hesitant to provide certain types of banking services due to concerns that they will be unable to comply with the associated requirements of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA). The FDIC and the other federal banking agencies recognize that as a practical matter, it is not possible for a financial institution to detect and report all potentially illicit transactions that flow through an institution.

The letter reiterates that decisions on accounts need to be made on a case-by-case basis and stresses they should not be made based on industry or moral objection.

The Daily Signal has reported multiple cases of legal business owners being dropped by their banks and payment processors simply because their industry is considered a "reputational risk."

Last December, a 20-page investigative report by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee detailed FDIC officials working closely with the Justice Department to implement Operation Choke Point.

Emails unearthed by investigators showed employees scheming to influence banks' decisions on who to do business with by labeling certain industries "reputational risks," ensuring banks "get the message" about the businesses the regulators don't like, and pressuring banks to cut credit or close those accounts, effectively discouraging entire industries.

FDIC officials were also seen inserting their personal and moral opinions into banking decisions.

"The FDIC has allowed a culture within their agency to blossom that they believe it's OK to impose their personal opinions and value system in a regulatory way," says Luetkemeyer. "They are not a regulatory police-their job is to enforce the law."

Luetkemeyer left his meeting this morning pleased that the FDIC has implemented the majority of his proposed policy changes administratively, but says he still intends to move forward with a bill introduced last year that aims at ending Operation Choke Point.

Luetkemeyer says the FDIC also intends to work with the Justice Department's inspector general to investigate Operation Choke Point and hold those within the FDIC accountable for any wrongdoings.

"We're pleased that they're working with the [inspector general] so that they can change the culture of what goes on in their agency," he said. "But we're not going to take anything off of the table until we get this program stopped."



For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


29 January, 2015

Leftists are cold bastards

The psychology of politics was my specialty during my research career and one of the most striking things I noted at that time was the way Leftist psychologists would spin ANYTHING they found in a way detrimental to conservatives. So I occasionally showed how you could do some reverse spinning and pointed out ways in which the findings were detrimental to liberals. The sort of data collected by political psychologists tend to be vague enough to make many interpretations equally feasible. It probably needs to be like that. Straightforward findings would likely be too uncomfortable to Leftists.

So the research reported below is rather fun. The authors have definitely had a challenge in spinning the findings their way. From data with VERY contestable meaning they claim to have found that conservatives are "holistic" thinkers and liberals are "analytic" thinkers. And they have to admit that both styles have their uses.

That amused me immediately. Who are the great advocates of "holistic" thinking in the world today? Alternative medicine freaks. Not a notably conservative group. So I think alternative interpretations of the findings are clearly called for.

I think a clue lies in the finding that liberals are extreme outliers in the human population. Conservatives are more normal. Combine that with the finding that liberals are more socially isolated and I think you have a far-reaching conclusion: liberals are emotionally cold. Most of humanity values its relationships with others highly. So do conservatives. Liberals do not. Family is all in many human sub-groups but from Marx onwards Leftists have always despised the family. And conservative Christians always stress the importance of family.

That liberals are emotionally cold can be summed up in a famous utterance by Stalin. "One death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic." That the great socialist murderers -- Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, Kim Jong un -- were/are emotionally cold has great explanatory value. How could they do what they did otherwise?

An abbreviated account of the study below plus the journal abstract


Political conservatives in the United States are somewhat like East Asians in the way they think, categorize and perceive. Liberals in the U.S. could be categorized as extreme Americans in thought, categorization and perception. That is the gist of a new University of Virginia cultural psychology study, published recently in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

"We found in our study that and conservatives think as if they were from completely different cultures - almost as different as East and West," said study leader Thomas Talhelm, a U.Va. doctoral candidate in cultural psychology. "Liberals and conservatives categorize and perceive things differently, just as East Asians and Westerners look differently at the world."

According to Talhelm, political conservatives in the United States, generally, and East Asians, particularly, are intuitive or "holistic" thinkers, while Westerners, generally, and American liberals, in particular, are more analytical thinkers.

The so-called "culture war," he said, is an accurate if dramatic way to state that there are clear cultural differences in the thought processes of liberals and conservatives.

"On psychological tests, Westerners tend to view scenes, explain behavior and categorize objects analytically," Talhelm said. "But the vast majority of people around the world - about 85 percent - more often think intuitively - what psychologists call holistic thought, and we found that's how conservative Americans tend to think."

Holistic thought more often uses intention and the perception of whole objects or situations, rather than breaking them down to their parts - such as having a general feeling about a situation involving intuition or tact.

There is value in both ways of thinking, Talhelm said. Intuitive thinking likely is the "default" style most people are born with, while analytical thinking generally must be learned, usually through training, such as in Western-style school systems.

Psychologists test thought styles by giving study participants a short battery of tests to determine if they are holistic or analytic thinkers.

One such test asks participants to choose two of three items to categorize together, such as a mitten, a scarf, and a hand. Analytic thinkers usually match the scarf and mitten because they belong to the same abstract category - items of winter clothing. Holistic thinkers usually match the mitten and hand because the hand wears a mitten.

He noted that liberals in the West tend to live in urban or suburban areas and often have fairly weak social and community ties, move more often and are less traditionally religious. They are more individualistic than conservatives and very unlike most people in Eastern cultures.

Conservatives, on the other hand, tend to be more connected to their communities and may live in the same areas throughout their lives, maintaining strong social and familial bonds and commitments, and are more traditionally religious. This puts them more in line with the holistic-thinking majority of the world.


Liberals Think More Analytically (More "WEIRD") Than Conservatives

Thomas Talhelm et al.


Henrich, Heine, and Norenzayan summarized cultural differences in psychology and argued that people from one particular culture are outliers: people from societies that are Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic (WEIRD). This study shows that liberals think WEIRDer than conservatives. In five studies with more than 5,000 participants, we found that liberals think more analytically (an element of WEIRD thought) than moderates and conservatives. Study 3 replicates this finding in the very different political culture of China, although it held only for people in more modernized urban centers. These results suggest that liberals and conservatives in the same country think as if they were from different cultures. Studies 4 to 5 show that briefly training people to think analytically causes them to form more liberal opinions, whereas training them to think holistically causes shifts to more conservative opinions.


A personal note: I think that some people drawn to Leftist causes are genuinely compassionate and caring people who are VERY emotional about suffering they see in the world. They let their feelings swamp their thought processes. But they are too soft to get far in Leftist politics. It is the machine men like Joseph Stalin who rise to the top. And Stalin very smartly killed off all the old Bolsheviks, some of whom would seem to have genuinely cared about the welfare of the average worker.

So the Leftist population is probably bi-modal -- comprised of two distinct groups: the useful fools and the hard men lusting for power. But no psychological survey would ever show that. The hard men know the camouflage they need to wear and will present themselves as caring every time. In my surveys I routinely found Leftists emphatically disclaiming many of the motives -- such as authoritarianism -- that we know to be typical of the Left. The hard men are skilful liars.

So there is a balance to be sought in emotionality. If you are too emotional in your reactions you are likely to be used as a tool by the hard men. What is needed is moderate emotionality. And that is what conservsatives seem to have. They can get emotionally upset about things such as abortion (I do) but they don't allow feelings to ditch their rationality.

I see myself that way. Abortion horrifies me and triumphs of life (e.g. when the life of a very ill baby is saved) bring tears of joy from me. But many things that bother other people (e.g. household accidents) get no emotional reaction from me at all. I just deal with them. I don't sweat the small stuff. So I am alexithymic about minor things but also sentimental about other things -- life particularly. It is a balance that seems to have served me well in living a contented and trouble-free life -- JR


Michelle Obama meets Saudi Arabia's King Salman but opts not to wear headscarf

What a fuss the Left would put up had she been a Republican! Instead: Crickets

FOR first lady Michelle Obama, just a few hours in Saudi Arabia were enough to illustrate the stark limitations under which Saudi women live.

Joining President Barack Obama for a condolence visit after the death of the King Abdullah, Mrs Obama stepped off of Air Force One wearing long pants and a long, brightly coloured jacket - but no headscarf.

Under the kingdom's strict dress code for women, Saudi females are required to wear a headscarf and loose, black robes in public. Most women in Saudi Arabia cover their hair and face with a veil known as the niqab.

But covering one's head is not required for foreigners, and some western women choose to forego the headscarf while in Saudi Arabia.

As a delegation of dozens of Saudi officials - all men - greeted the Obamas in Riyadh, some shook hands with Mrs. Obama. Others avoided a handshake but acknowledged the first lady with a nod as they passed by.



Released Illegal Alien Murders Innocent Store Clerk

President Obama has promised that his immigration executive actions aren't `amnesty.' He claims that his actions are nothing but an attempt to refocus manpower towards dealing with real criminals. Apparently, crossing the border illegally isn't a `real crime.'

The President promises to increase enforcement along the border, but all we've been seeing is more of the same catch-and-release tactics that get Americans killed.

Don't believe me? I'd like to introduce you to Apolinar Altamirano. This 29 year-old illegal alien has been in and out of police custody for years. In 2012, he was arrested and CONVICTED of burglary. He was not deported and was subsequently let out of prison.

He was cited for trespassing at a convenience store on January 9th of this year and was subsequently served with an injunction for harassment a few days later.

If the Obama administration did their job and deported this criminal, as the law requires, they might have saved a life.

Instead, Apolinar Altamirano was released on bond. He promptly returned to the convenience store and allegedly murdered the store clerk over a box of cigarettes.

We hear about this far too often. How the Obama administration catches an illegal alien only to release them and allow them to murder, rape, or assault innocent Americans.

It's become so common that we've been desensitized to it.

The fact of the matter is that our immigration system is designed the way it is for a reason. Inevitably, illegal aliens are going to slip through the cracks. They are going to get in this country because politicians in both parties refuse to actually protect the border.

But eventually, they mess up. Eventually, they get caught speeding, drunk driving, or are arrested on lesser charges. The law says that they must be deported. Obama says the opposite.

Instead of using these lesser arrests as an opportunity to deport these criminal illegal aliens, the administration chooses to release them back into the population.

They had an illegal alien in custody who was CONVICTED of burglary. He was caught, arrested, and given a fair trial where a jury of Americans determined he was guilty.

If an American had committed the crime, they would still be in jail. But in Obama's America, illegal aliens get off.

Enough is enough. Newly elected Senator Joni Ernst put it simply: "We are legislators, the President is not, and we need to stop that executive overreach, and that includes executive amnesty."

Obama's executive amnesty has made it open season for illegal alien murderers, rapists, and violent criminals.

Instead of protecting the country and upholding the constitution - which Obama swore to do - he has opened the floodgates for illegal aliens to pretty much do whatever they want without fear of deportation.

The threshold for getting deported is now ridiculously high. I mean, look at this case. Apolinar Altamirano was caught on videotape murdering a store clerk. He also has a prior conviction.

Yet, Immigration officials are still debating whether he should be deported or not! This is lunacy! I hardly recognize this country anymore.



The liberal media's pro-abortion bias is out there for all to see

The Annual March for Life, which attracted over 200,000 participants from around the country, marked the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationally.

The response to this massive event from the big three networks?

ABC: 0 minutes
NBC: 0 minutes
CBS: .25 minutes

If these were a few dozen hipsters protesting corporate profits while taking selfies with iPhones, the networks would have wall-to-wall coverage.

But the media cannot be bothered to cover 200,000 pro-lifers who came to Washington in the middle of winter to march for the unborn.

It's shameful. If you're throwing Molotov cocktails at police officers, the media will provide sympathetic coverage to your cause. If you're standing up for the most vulnerable in our society, the media turn a deaf ear.

With each passing day, the media continue to hemorrhage their credibility.

In response, twenty two leading pro-life organizations joined the Media Research Center to sign a statement chastising the networks for their near blackout of the 2015 March for Life.

Email from MRC


For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


28 January, 2015

Will this finally squash the anti-salt crusaders?

The latest research report, appearing in a top journal (Abstract below), shows that eating a lot of salt does NOT lead to high blood pressure, heart disease or early death. The bad effect of salt was a great theory but, like many theories, it was an oversimplification and wrong. I have previously noted several other recent research reports that exonerate salt so I hope that this is now the end of the nonsense

Dietary Sodium Content, Mortality, and Risk for Cardiovascular Events in Older Adults

The Health, Aging, and Body Composition (Health ABC) Study

Andreas P. Kalogeropoulos et al.


Additional information is needed about the role of dietary sodium on health outcomes in older adults.

To examine the association between dietary sodium intake and mortality, incident cardiovascular disease (CVD), and incident heart failure (HF) in older adults.

Design, Setting, and Participants
We analyzed 10-year follow-up data from 2642 older adults (age range, 71-80 years) participating in a community-based, prospective cohort study (inception between April 1, 1997, and July 31, 1998).

Dietary sodium intake at baseline was assessed by a food frequency questionnaire. We examined sodium intake as a continuous variable and as a categorical variable at the following levels: less than 1500 mg/d (291 participants [11.0%]), 1500 to 2300 mg/d (779 participants [29.5%]), and greater than 2300 mg/d (1572 participants [59.5%]).

Main Outcomes and Measures
Adjudicated death, incident CVD, and incident HF during 10 follow-up years. Analysis of incident CVD was restricted to 1981 participants without prevalent CVD at baseline.

The mean (SD) age of participants was 73.6 (2.9) years, 51.2% were female, 61.7% were of white race, and 38.3% were black. After 10 years, 881 participants had died, 572 had developed CVD, and 398 had developed HF. In adjusted Cox proportional hazards regression models, sodium intake was not associated with mortality (hazard ratio [HR] per 1 g, 1.03; 95% CI, 0.98-1.09; P?=?.27). Ten-year mortality was nonsignificantly lower in the group receiving 1500 to 2300 mg/d (30.7%) than in the group receiving less than 1500 mg/d (33.8%) and the group receiving greater than 2300 mg/d (35.2%) (P?=?.07). Sodium intake of greater than 2300 mg/d was associated with nonsignificantly higher mortality in adjusted models (HR vs 1500-2300 mg/d, 1.15; 95% CI, 0.99-1.35; P?=?.07). Indexing sodium intake for caloric intake and body mass index did not materially affect the results. Adjusted HRs for mortality were 1.20 (95% CI, 0.93-1.54; P?=?.16) per milligram per kilocalorie and 1.11 (95% CI, 0.96-1.28; P?=?.17) per 100 mg/kg/m2 of daily sodium intake. In adjusted models accounting for the competing risk for death, sodium intake was not associated with risk for CVD (subHR per 1 g, 1.03; 95% CI, 0.95-1.11; P?=?.47) or HF (subHR per 1 g, 1.00; 95% CI, 0.92-1.08; P?=?.92). No consistent interactions with sex, race, or hypertensive status were observed for any outcome.

Conclusions and Relevance
In older adults, food frequency questionnaire-assessed sodium intake was not associated with 10-year mortality, incident CVD, or incident HF, and consuming greater than 2300 mg/d of sodium was associated with nonsignificantly higher mortality in adjusted models.

JAMA Intern Med. Published online January 19, 2015. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.6278


Supreme Court hears Texas case that tests extent of civil rights doctrine

A sharply divided US Supreme Court on Wednesday took up a challenge to the Fair Housing Act (FHA) in an action that liberal critics say could gut the major civil rights provision.

At issue in a case from Dallas, Texas, is whether the housing law authorizes lawsuits over racially neutral measures that nonetheless disproportionately impact minority residents.

Liberals support the so-called disparate impact theory of civil rights enforcement, while conservatives warn that such an approach could lead to racial quotas in housing and other areas.

The case has attracted significant attention, with friend-of-the-court briefs filed by various civil rights groups, 17 states, and 20 cities and counties. On the other side, briefs have been filed by a number of conservative groups and business associations, including insurance companies, banks, finance companies, and home builders.

The FHA prohibits anyone from refusing to sell, rent, or otherwise make unavailable a house or apartment to a person because of their race, religion, or national origin. There is no dispute about this aspect of the law.

After the FHA was enacted in 1968, federal courts and agencies began embracing a broader interpretation of the law's scope, concluding that, in addition to barring intentional discrimination, the statute also authorizes lawsuits when housing decisions disproportionately harm minority groups.

The case before the high court involves a lawsuit challenging decisions by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs in awarding tax credits for low-income housing in Dallas. The Housing Department sought to provide new affordable housing in areas where existing housing was blighted or nonexistent. It sought to do so under race-neutral criteria.

Despite that goal, not everyone was satisfied with the agency's performance. A Dallas-based group seeking to foster racial integration, the Inclusive Communities Project, sued the Housing Department because it said the agency had failed to provide adequate opportunities for low-income housing in Dallas' more affluent suburbs.

The suit cited a statistical analysis that showed the agency approved disproportionately more applications for housing in minority neighborhoods than in more affluent white suburbs.

This selection and allocation of low-income housing units in the Dallas area was the functional equivalent of intentional racial segregation, the group charged. Regardless of whether the housing decisions were based on race-neutral criteria, the end result was a perpetuation of racial segregation, the ICP said.

The question at the Supreme Court is whether the Fair Housing Act authorizes such lawsuits based on disparate impacts, or whether the FHA requires litigants to prove there was an intentional effort to engage in illegal discrimination.

The hour-long case was presented after an unusual outburst in the courtroom at the start of the high court session on Wednesday. At least five protesters shouted out various slogans, including, "One person, one vote" and "We are the 99 percent." Court security officers restrained them and quickly ushered them out of the courtroom.

The protests were apparently timed to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the high court's January 2010 decision in the Citizens United case. In that case, the court ruled 5 to 4 that corporations and labor unions have a First Amendment right to spend money on issue advertisements during election season.

The justices' questions during oral argument in the Texas case suggest that the court's more liberal members favor the broader interpretation of the FHA, including allowing disparate impact liability, while the court's more conservative members are troubled by the implications of allowing disparate impact claims.

At one point Chief Justice John Roberts asked US Solicitor General Donald Verrilli which of the actions of a housing authority would be considered good or bad in terms of a disparate impact on minorities: revitalizing housing in a low-income area or making low-income housing available to help integrate more affluent neighborhoods?

Mr. Verrilli acknowledged that there might be difficult questions in such cases. And he conceded several times that the underlying allegation in the Texas case might not be a valid disparate-impact claim.

"But which [one] counts [when] you are trying to see if there's a disparate impact on minorities?" the chief justice asked. One benefits integration, he said, while the other benefits housing opportunities in low-income areas.

Verrilli said it is not enough to show a statistical disparity. He said the plaintiff must also demonstrate that a particular practice is resulting in a disproportionate impact on minorities.

Chief Justice Roberts persisted. "You say you look at which provision is having the disparate impact, but I still don't understand which is the disparate impact."

Verrilli replied that there must an analysis of whether there is a valid justification for the disputed practice.

"You're saying you need the justification, but for what?" Roberts asked. "Which is the bad thing to do: not promote better housing in the low-income area or not promote housing integration?"

Verrilli said that either justification might be an acceptable reason to dismiss a lawsuit.

But that response prompted a question from Justice Anthony Kennedy: "Are you saying that in each case that the chief justice puts, there is initially a disparate impact?"

"That may be right," Verrilli told Justice Kennedy.

"That seems very odd to me," Kennedy said.

Several justices on the liberal side of the court offered a vigorous defense of the disparate impact approach.

"This has been the law of the United States uniformly . for 35 years," Justice Stephen Breyer said. "So why should this court suddenly come in and reverse an important law which seems to have worked out in a way that is helpful to many people?"

Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller said that the measure raised stark equal protection issues that could lead to the functional equivalent of a quota system in public housing.

In response to the chief justice's questions, Mr. Keller said a state housing agency could be held liable for disparate impacts under both scenarios.

"Here the department could have faced disparate impact liability if it was going to take tax credits and send them to lower-income neighborhoods or more affluent neighborhoods," he said.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor offered perhaps the most persistent and aggressive defense of the disparate impact approach.

She disputed suggestions by the Texas solicitor general that enforcement of such claims would inhibit development in blighted areas.

"If I'm right about the theory of disparate impact, and I can tell you I've studied it very carefully, its intent is to ensure that everyone who is renting or selling property or making it unavailable is doing so not on the basis of artificial, arbitrary, or unnecessary hurdles," she said.

The case is Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project (13-1371).

A decision is expected by late June.



Oxfam, capitalism, and poverty

(Oxfam is a British charity octopus with a heavy Leftist lean)

After Thomas Piketty's "Capital in the 21st Century" told us about rising inequality, it's perhaps unsurprising that a new report from Oxfam tells us the global 1% will soon own half of all the world's wealth. But things are not quite as they seem.

Oxfam's figures look at net wealth, implying that Societe Generale rogue investment banker Jerome Kerviel is the world's poorest person, and Michael Jackson was afflicted by the direst poverty before he died.

Ivy League graduates about to start a job as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs are judged far poorer than rural Indian farmers with the tiniest amount of capital.

Seven point five per cent of the poorest tenth of the world live in the USA, the figures say, almost as many as live in India.

And the claim that 85 own as much as 3.5bn is even more misleading, since the bottom 2bn don't have nothing, but negative wealth-something like $500bn of it.

What's more the global 1% probably contains more Times readers than CEOs or oil sheikhs-you need own a house worth around œ530,000 to enter it.

All these facts skew Oxfam's figures to make them astonishingly misleading.

Better figures tell a completely different and far more optimistic story.

Global poverty has actually fallen enormously with the rise of global capitalism. The fraction of the world's population living on less than $2 a day (measured in constant dollars) has crashed from 69.6 per cent in 1981 to 43 per cent today.

Even if you take out India and China, where the most spectacular improvements have been made, and look only at Sub-Saharan Africa, the worst-off region, there have been improvements. From 1981-2006 8.6 percentage points fewer were living on under $1 a day and 4.9 percentage points fewer were living on under $2 a day.

In virtually every respect global poverty is falling and poor people are living longer, better lives. That is less sexy than Oxfam's claims, but at least it is true.



Tolstoy Exposes the State

Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910) is world-famous for having penned War and Peace, Anna Karenina, and other novels of nineteenth-century Russia, but the writer was also well-known in his day for criticizing government power and championing Christian libertarianism and pacifism. One of the best examples of his thinking on those topics is his often overlooked nonfiction book, The Kingdom of God Is Within You (1893), a work bursting with memorable insights. Although his economic reasoning is often flawed, Tolstoy has much to offer contemporary political thinkers, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Robert Higgs.

“He even makes an analyst such as [public choice theorist] James Buchanan, who often complained about people’s ‘romantic’ views of politics and the state, seem himself utterly romantic,” Higgs writes in the Winter 2015 issue of The Independent Review.

Here’s one of several quotable passages that Higgs found in the Russian writer’s unjustly neglected book: “Undisguised criminals and malefactors do less harm than those who live by legalized violence, disguised by hypocrisy.” Here’s another: “The good cannot seize power, nor retain it; to do this men must love power. And love of power is inconsistent with goodness; but quite consistent with the very opposite qualities—pride, cunning, cruelty.” More than a century later, Tolstoy’s insights about government power still sound fresh.



For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


27 January, 2015

The problem of the "peaceful" Muslims

Given the infernal nuisance that Muslims make of themselves, many of us would like to send them all back whence they come. Let them murder one-another -- which they already do with great enthusiasm -- and leave us alone.

But there is the difficulty -- constantly drummed into us by Leftists -- that the Jihadis mounting terrorist attacks in the Western world are only the tiniest fraction of the Muslim population. So is it fair to penalize the many for the deeds of the few? That is the problem I wish to address.

Muslims are like Catholics. They may regularly go to church/Mosque but they disobey much that their faith commands. Catholics, for instance, almost all use contraception and get divorced if in a bad marriage.

And the commandments of Islam are even more onerous than Roman doctrine. The slightest reading of the Koran -- and I read all of it in my teens -- will tell you that it is a supremacist religion. White supremacism is way out of fashion now but religious supremacism is alive and well in the Koran. And there are many Mullahs who energetically remind Muslims of their obligations in that direction. They preach Jihad against non-Muslims with perfect Koranic justification. And the Jihadis are in fact the obedient Muslims. They do what the Koran commands.

But 99% of Muslims have enough brains to see that any hope of subjugating Western civilization is totally hopeless -- so do nothing towards subjugating anyone outside their own families. But most DO harbour disrespect for Western ways. They think that they, as Muslims are superior by way of having the true faith even if they are careful about how they behave. But they do on occasions push their luck. They wave placards and shout their silly slogans. But once they start pushing or attacking people around them the police usually suppress them in some way.

Australia's main Muslim problem is with Lebanese Muslims. Many Lebanese Muslim young men make their feelings of superiority obvious in minor ways. They make themselves obnoxious by pushing past peple without apology, harassing women etc. And some of them of course join criminal gangs. The Sydney police have a "Middle Eastern Crime Squad" devoted to them.

The point to note, however, is that the hostility to the rest of us is there among Muslims generally even if they rarely have the guts to do anything about it.

And that is what justfies restraining action against the Muslim community in general. They cannot be blamed for the deeds of the few but they can be blamed for providing the sea in which the jihadis swim. They provide community support and encouragement to the jihadis. The problem is the religion.

So a Western national leader might well address his Muslim residents as follows:

"Would you like to have a person hostile to you living with you in your own house? Obviously not. And we in this country don't like to have living among us a class of people who are hostile to us. And it is sadly clear that many Muslim people in this country are hostile to the rest of us and our ways. Many Muslims living in this country came to us as refugees or in search of a better life and we have always been glad to give a safe place to refugees and support opportunity for all. But we expect gratitude for what we have done for such people, rather than hostility. And we normally get that -- but not from Muslims on many occasions. So I say to you now: Either go back to a place and people you like better or abandon your hostility to us. If you stay here we expect you to become one of us. We expect you to adapt to us rather than us adapting to you.

And we all know that your feelings of superiority and hostility to us originate in your religion. What you do reflects the teachings of the Koran and what your Mullahs tell you. So if you wish to remain among us you must change your religion. You have six months to either depart these shores or instead develop a new religious affiliation.

To encourage that I am going to legislate that the restrictions which presently apply to Christians in Saudi Arabia apply immediately to Muslims in this country. That means no mosques and no Muslim activities of any sort. As soon as the necessary legislation is passed, all mosques will become government property and will thenceforth be used for welfare housing only."

I apologize to those Muslims who do not feel hostile towards us but many of you ARE hostile towards us and the government does not have mind-reading machines that could tell us who is hostile and who is not. So to the only way to rid ourselves of hostile Muslims is to rid ourselves of all Muslims. I wish you well as you return to your ancestral countries

The prohibition of Muslim practice would not of course pass constitutional muster in America under the freedom to practice your religion provisions of the First Amendment (or in Australia under Section 116 of the Constitution) but the command to depart almost certainly would. The First Amendment and its Australian equivalent protects religious practice for people living in the USA or Australia but it says nothing about who is permitted to live there.

I suspect that most Muslims born and bred in Western countries would take the option of changing their religion rather than lose the life they have become used to. Any Muslims who failed to leave would of course have to be deported but all the Anglospheric countries have had plenty of practice at deporting illegal immigrants so deporting a few Muslims as well should not require much more in the way of resources in those countries. France and Germany would have bigger problems.


Untrue Truisms in the War on Terror

V.D. Hanson

In the current tensions with the Islamic World, pundits bandy about received wisdom that in fact is often ignorance. Here are a few examples.

1) The solution of radical Islam must come from within Islam.

Perhaps it could. It would be nice to see the advice of General Sisi of Egypt take root among the Islamic street. It would have been nice had the Arab Spring resulted in constitutional republics from North Africa to Syria. It would be nice if an all-Muslim force took on and defeated the Islamic State. It would be nice if Iran suddenly stopped stonings and Saudi Arabia ceased public whippings. It would be nice if Muslims dropped the death penalty for apostates.

Unfortunately, there is no reason to believe that any of these scenarios is soon likely. Nor is there much historical support for autocracies and totalitarian belief systems collapsing entirely from within. Hitler was popular enough among Germans until the disaster of Stalingrad. The Soviet Union only imploded under the pressures of the Cold War. Mussolini was a popular dictator — until Italy’s losses in World War II eroded his support. The Japanese emperor only was willing to end the rule of his militarists when Tokyo went up in flames and the U.S. threatened more Hiroshimas. Only the collapse of the Soviet Union and its bloc pulled the plug on the global terrorism of the 1980s.

Until Muslims themselves begin to sense unpleasantness from the crimes of radical Islam, there is little likelihood of Islamism eroding. Were France to deny visas to any citizens of a country it deemed a terrorist sponsor, or to deport French residents that support terrorism, while weeding out terrorist cells, then gradually Muslims in France would wish to disassociate themselves from the terrorists in their midst. If the U.S. adopted a policy that it would have no formal relations with countries that behead or stone, Islamists might take note.

2) The vast majority of Muslims renounce terror.

True, current polls attest that grassroots support for Islamic terror is eroding among Muslim nations, largely because of the violence in Libya, Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere that is making life miserable for Muslims themselves.

But if even only 10% of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims favor radical Islamists, the resulting 160-million core of supporters is quite large enough to offer needed support. Again, by 1945 most Germans would have polled their opposition to Hitler. But that fact was largely meaningless given the absence of action against the Nazi hierarchy.

In truth, the majority of Muslims may oppose Muslim-inspired violence in their homelands, but will do so abroad only if radical Islam diminishes the influence and prestige of Muslims. If terrorism does not, and instead another charismatic bin Laden wins the sort of fear abroad and popularity at home (cf. his popularity ratings in some Muslim countries circa 2002), then it matters little that most Muslims themselves are not actual terrorists — any more than the fact that most Russians were not members of the Communist Party or Germans members of the Nazi Party. Likewise, the idea that Muslims are the greatest victims of Muslim-inspired terrorism is not ipso facto necessarily significant. Stalin killed far more Russians than did Hitler. That Germans suffered firsthand from the evils of National Socialism was no guarantee that they might act to stop it. Mao was the greatest killer of Chinese in history; but that fact hardly meant that Chinese would rise up against him.

3) There is no military solution to radical Islam.

Yes and no. The truth is that military action is neutral: valuable when successful, and counter-productive when not. In 2003, there were few terrorists in Iraq. In 2006, there were lots. Then in 2011, there were few. Then, in 2014, there were lots again. The common denominator is not the presence or absence of U.S. troops, but the fact that in 2003 and 2011 the U.S. military enjoyed success and had either killed, routed, or awed Islamists; in 2006 and 2014 the U.S. military was considered either impotent or irrelevant. U.S. military force is counter-productive when used to little purpose and ineffectively. It is invaluable when it is focused and used successfully. If the U.S. bombing campaign against the Islamic State were overwhelming and devastating Islamic state territories, it would matter. Leaving a Western country to join the jihad in Syria would be considered synonymous with being vaporized, and the U.S. would find itself with far fewer enemies and far more allies. Otherwise, sort of bombing, sort of not will have little positive effects, and may do more harm than good.

4) Reaching out to Islam reduces terrorism.

It can. No one wants to gratuitously incite Muslims. But the fact that Mediterranean food and Korans were available in Guantanamo did not mean that released terrorists were appreciative of that fact or that the world no longer considered the facility objectionable. Obama’s name, paternal lineage, apologies and euphemisms have neither raised U.S. popularity in the Middle East nor undermined the Islamic State.

The 2009 Obama Cairo speech went nowhere. Blaming the filmmaker Nakoula Nakoula for Benghazi did not make the Tsarnaev brothers reconsider their attack at the Boston Marathon. The use of “workplace violence” and declarations that the Muslim Brotherhood is secular or that jihad is a legitimate religious tenet has not reduced Islamic anger at the U.S.

The Kouachi brothers did not care much that under Obama Muslim outreach has become a promised top agenda at NASA. Backing off from a red line in Syria did not reassure the Middle East that the United States was not trigger-happy. Had Obama defiantly told the UN that Nakoula Nakoula had a perfect right to be obnoxious while on U.S. soil, or had the Tsarnaev family long ago been denied entry into the United States, then Islamic terrorists might at least have had more respect for their intended victims. Current American euphemisms are considered by terrorists as proof of weakness and probably as provocative as would be unnecessary slanderous language.

The best policy is to speak softly and accurately, to carry a large stick, and to display little interest in what our enemies think of our own use of language. The lesson of Charlie Hebdo so far is that the French do not care that radical Islamists were offended and so plan to show the cartoons any way they please. If they stay the course, there will eventually be fewer attacks; if they back off, there will be more.

5) We need to listen to Muslim complaints.

No more than we do to any other group’s complaints. Greeks are not blowing people up over a divided Nicosia. Germans are not producing terrorists eager to reclaim East Prussia, after the mass ethnic cleansings of 1945. Muslims are not targeting Turks because Ottoman colonial rule in the Middle East was particularly brutal. Latin Americans are not slaughtering Spaniards for the excesses of Spanish imperial colonialism.

Christians are not offended that Jesus is Jesus and not referenced as the Messiah Jesus in the manner of the Prophet Mohammed. The Muslim community has been constructed in the West as a special entity deserving of politically correct sensitivity, in the manner of privileged groups on campus that continuously suffer from psychodramatic “micro-aggressions.” That Muslims abroad and in the West practice gender separation at religious services or are intolerant of homosexuals wins greater exemption from the Left than a Tea Party rally. If the West were to treat satire, parody and caricature of Islam in the fashion of other religions, then eventually the terrorists would learn there is no advantage in killing those with whom they disagree. Once Westerners treat Islam as they do any other religion, then the Islamist provocateurs will be overwhelmed with perceived slights to the point that they are no longer slights. The Muslim world needs to learn reciprocity: that building a mosque at Ground Zero or in Florence, Italy, is no more or no less provocative than building a cathedral in Istanbul, Riyadh, or Teheran.



Uncovered California

Covered California, the Golden State’s wholly owned subsidiary of Obamacare, has been cancelling the coverage when people report changes in their income, changing their eligibility for tax credits. This problem exposes people to severe tax penalties but Covered California bosses blame it on their $454 million computer system. On the other hand, those turning 65 and going on Medicare find it practically impossible to cancel their Covered California deal. Covered California bosses blame this on the $454 million computer system, but it is probably a ruse to inflate the number of people Covered California can claim are enrolled. This kind of incompetence, waste and abuse are hard to top but as Emily Bazar of the Center for Health Reporting observes, Covered California appears to have pulled it off.

Bazar has been receiving notices from an “untold number” of consumers asking what coverage they qualify for, “if any.” She cites the case of Los Angeles writer Juniper Ekman, who dutifully applied during the first enrollment period with her husband and two-year old daughter. They began getting letters from Covered California, five or eight at time. Some letters said they did not qualify for tax credits. Then, last September, “I received 18 notices from Covered California in one day. Fourteen say we’re covered and four say we’re not. Which one should I believe?” No clear answer emerged, and Ekman is not alone. As Bazar notes, one Bay Area consumer received 40 notices in less than a month and in another case, “four people in the same household received four different eligibility decisions in the same notice.”

Covered California boss Dana Howard blamed the problem on the computer system. “This is the same system that has cost nearly half a billion dollars so far,” writes Bazar. The system may have helped “multitudes” apply for health insurance but “it also is responsible for countless glitches and widespread consumer misery.” That misery is inherent in the Obamacare system. Congress had to pass it for people to find out. If you don’t like the plan, you have to keep it.


There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.


For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


26 January, 2015

Thaddeus Russell

A reader has directed my attention to the work of Thaddeus Russell. He is a very iconoclastic historian who seems to enrage both Leftists and conservatives. A lot of his writings appear in libertarian sources.

I have not read his book and doubt that I will have time to do so -- so if anyone wants to do a substantial book review of it I will be happy to put it up here.

I was not impressed by his recent article showing that it was mostly "progressive" legislators who were responsible for putting huge numbers of blacks behind bars. I think it was the extraordinary rate of black crime that put huge numbers of blacks behind bars.

His main idea seems to be that the underclass has been a major driver of social change. Underclass refusal to abide by rules laid down by the elites of the day have forced the elites to back off and allow more liberty.

Without reading his book, I don't know how good his evidence is for that but it does occur to me that the repeal of Prohibition is a good case in point. The puritanical elite of the early 20th century were so dominant and powerful that they even got through a constitutional amendment to make America "dry". Mere legislation was not enough. It had to be a constitutional requirement

So what kicked that restriction to death? It was the sheer disobedience of ordinary people -- some middle class but mostly working class. In their "Speak-easys" they continued drinking. Faced with the reality of Prohibition, Americans rejected it -- even though it took another constitutional amendment to do so. Maybe the slowly dawning reality of Obamacare will have a similar effect.


Typical Democrat hypocrite

Do as I say, not as I do

"Billionaire property investor Jeff Greene recently spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, saying he believes people in the United States need to stop aiming so high and start living with less. 'America's lifestyle expectations are far too high and need to be adjusted so we have less things and a smaller, better existence,'

Greene, who ran for the Democratic Senate nomination in Florida in 2010, said in an interview. The only issue Americans took with the 60-year-old's opinions was, well, everything, given he owns a $195 million palace in Beverly Hills, which has 23 bathrooms and a rotating dance floor, as well as four other blue ribbon properties, and is famous for throwing wild parties on a 145-foot yacht.

Greene, 60, is a billionaire property investor and entrepreneur. He made his money betting against subprime mortgages"



Remembering the Last Lion

By Victor Davis Hanson

Fifty years ago this Saturday, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill died at age 90.

Churchill is remembered for his multiple nonstop careers as a statesman, cabinet minister, politician, journalist, Nobel laureate historian, and combat veteran. He began his career serving the British military as a Victorian-era mounted lancer and ended it as custodian of Britain’s nuclear deterrent.

But he is most renowned for an astounding five-year-tenure as Britain’s wartime prime minister from May 10, 1940, to June 26, 1945, when he was voted out of office not long after the surrender of Nazi Germany.

Churchill took over the day Hitler invaded Western Europe. Within six weeks, an isolated Great Britain was left alone facing the Third Reich. What is now the European Union was then either under Nazi occupation, allied with Germany or ostensibly neutral while favoring Hitler.

The United States was not just neutral. It had no intention of entering another European war – at least not until after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor a year and half later.

From August 1939 to June 1941, the Soviet Union was an accomplice of the Third Reich. Russian leader Josef Stalin was supplying Hitler with critical resources to help finish off Great Britain, the last obstacle in Germany’s path of European domination.

Some of the British elite wished to cut a peace deal with Hitler to save their empire and keep Britain from being bombed or invaded. They understandably argued that Britain could hardly hold out when Poland, Denmark, Norway the Netherlands, Belgium and France all had not. Yet Churchill voiced defiance and vowed to keep on fighting.

After the fall of France, Churchill readied Britain’s defenses against a Nazi bombing blitz, and then went on the offensive against Italy in the Mediterranean.

As much of London went up in flames, Churchill never flinched, despite the deaths of more than 40,000 British civilians.

By some estimates, the Soviet Red Army eventually killed three out of four German soldiers who died in World War II. The American economic colossus built more military ships, aircraft, vehicles and tanks than did any other country during World War II.

In comparison to such later huge human and material sacrifices, the original, critical British role in winning World War II is often forgotten. But Britain was the only major power on either side of the war to fight continuously the entire six years, from September 3, 1939, to September 2, 1945. Britain was the only nation of the alliance to have fought Nazi Germany alone without allies. Churchill’s defiant wartime rhetoric anchored the entire moral case against the Third Reich.

Unlike the Soviet Union or the United States, Britain entered the war without being attacked, on the principle of protecting independent Poland from Hitler. Unlike America, Britain fought Germany from the first day of the war to its surrender. Unlike Russia, it fought the Japanese from the moment Japan started the Pacific War to the Japanese general surrender.

Churchill’s Britain had a far smaller population and economy than either the Soviet Union or the United States. Its industry and army were smaller than Germany’s.

Defeat would have meant the end of British civilization. But victory would ensure the end of the British Empire and a future world dominated by the victorious and all-powerful United States and Soviet Union.

It was Churchill’s decision that Britain would fight on all fronts of both the European and Pacific theaters. He ordered strategic bombing over occupied Europe, a naval war against the German submarine and surface fleets, and a full-blown land campaign in Burma.

He ensured that the Mediterranean stayed open from Gibraltar to Suez. Churchill partnered with America from North Africa to Normandy, and he helped to supply Russia – even as Britain was broke and its manpower exhausted.

In the mid-1930s, Churchill first – and loudest – had damned appeasement and warned Europe and the United States about the dangers of an aggressive Nazi Germany. For that prescience, he was labeled a warmonger who wished to revisit the horrors of World War I.

After the end of World War II, the lone voice of Churchill cautioned the West that its former wartime ally, the Soviet Union, was creating an “Iron Curtain” and was as ruthless as Hitler’s Germany had been. Again, he was branded a paranoid who unfairly demonized communists.

The wisdom and spirit of Winston Churchill not only saved Britain from the Third Reich, but Western civilization from a Nazi Dark Ages when there was no other nation willing to take up that defense.

Churchill was the greatest military, political and spiritual leader of the 20th century. The United States has never owed more to a foreign citizen than to Winston Churchill, a monumental presence 50 years after his death.



More on Churchill

Daniel Mandel

Churchill was guided by a few elementary ideas: that Britain and the Anglosphere more generally was a force for good; that its division and vacillation invited destructive forces to fill the vacuum; and that “democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” Together, they might even be called the Churchill Doctrine.

Today the Churchill Doctrine is denigrated or even despised in various polities, especially in Europe, but also here. Patrick J. Buchanan, for example, devoted an entire book to arguing that Churchill was largely to blame for both world wars and managed only to destroy Western civilization in the process. The late Christopher Hitchens before him also devoted a whole book to denigrating the Anglo-American relationship and its Churchillean bedrock –– but then converted to its mercurial advocate after 9/11 when he belatedly realized it might prove of some importance to fighting the radical Islam he detested. He even paid Churchill the tribute, “a lover of war and wine and brandy, genial in victory and unbowed in defeat.”

Hitchens’ turn is the exception. Those who disliked Churchill before 9/11 continue to do so. Likewise, Cold Warriors such as Reagan and Thatcher were cordially detested in their day. Britons will remember the Marxist firebrand unionist Arthur Scargill deriding “President Ray-Gun.” (Fewer will remember that Scargill also condemned Poland’s brave anti-communist trade union movement, Solidarity.) Here, the Democrat éminence grise Clark Clifford denigrated Reagan as an “amiable dunce.”

Contemporary political passions across a range of policies make denigration of a Reagan an easy trick. But Churchill cannot die so easily a death by a thousand cuts. In particular, his astonishing literary and oratorical attainments make it impossible for opponents of muscular anti-totalitarianism to level charges of stupidity. This has presented them with a problem. Diminishing the Churchill Doctrine has usually demanded more subtle portraiture: a whisky-sodden brooder, an unrestrained military enthusiast, an imperialist. And there is truth in all this, although these critics have also been unscrupulous, inasmuch as they do not acknowledge his corrective high sense of purpose and overriding desire to avoid still greater bloodbaths, whether in Europe or India.

Some are less scrupulous still. Michael Lind, writing in the British Spectator a decade ago, gleefully quotes Churchill from 1919, “I do not understand the squeamishness about the use of gas. I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes.” Crows Lind, “citing Churchill to support Bush’s war to rid Iraq of alleged weapons of mass destruction was particularly ironic.”

In fact, the full quote reveals that Lind lifted two isolated sentences from a passage indicating the very opposite: Churchill believed in upholding the ban on Weapons of Mass Destruction but favored the use of non-lethal agents. Why? “The moral effect” said Churchill, “should be so good that the loss of life should be reduced to a minimum.”

More significant than the sleight of hand and the implicit contradictions in Lind’s demolition job –– either the muscular anti-totalitarians are untutored militarists, or they wrongly claim descent for democratic and humane ends from a bloodthirsty imperialist –– is the clear urge to invalidate the Churchill Doctrine by besmirching the man as a potential war criminal.

Others have also tried to burrow into the doctrine. Radical British historian A.J.P. Taylor argued once to the late Churchill biographer, William Manchester, that Churchill’s Anglosphere “had few merits… he never considered how far England and America had been associated, which was very little, and — particularly — how far they could be associated in the future.” Yet post-war history has vindicated Churchill’s unfashionable view. Surely Korea, Kuwait, Afghanistan, and Iraq suggest the opposite?

What would Churchill counsel today for America if it had to stand alone? Here, we do not need to hypothesize. In 1938, at a dinner party, the American ambassador in London, Joseph Kennedy, an appeaser through and through, predicted to Churchill that England would go under in a fight. It drew from Churchill an impromptu oration that included these words:

"It will then be for you, for the Americans, to preserve and maintain the great heritage of the English-speaking peoples. It will be for you to think imperially, which means to think always of something higher and more vast than one's own national interests."

This counsel is risky, hard to execute, and liable to earn unpopularity. But it remains the indispensable meaning of the Churchill Doctrine today.




DoJ to recommend no civil rights charges in Ferguson shooting: "The Justice Department has begun work on a legal memo recommending no civil rights charges against a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., who killed an unarmed black teenager in August, law enforcement officials said. That would close the politically charged case in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. The investigation by the F.B.I., which is complete, found no evidence to support civil rights charges against the officer, Darren Wilson, the officials said."

CO: Potential jurors want out of theater shooting case: "Prospective jurors in the Colorado theater shooting trial presented a judge with a number of excuses on Wednesday for why they shouldn't be on the panel that decides if defendant James Holmes was insane at the time of the deadly attack. By the end of the second day of what promises to be a long slog to picking a jury, Judge Carlos Samour had excused at least 20 people who had doctors' notes, didn't speak English, or weren't residents of Arapahoe County, where the 2012 attack occurred. However, in a sign of how difficult it might be to get excused, a summons for a woman who reported being 'violently ill' and requested an ambulance was only delayed but not canceled."

Netanyahu to Address Congress: "House Speaker John Boehner wasted little time in responding to Barack Obama’s absurd assertion in the State of the Union that “we’ve halted the progress of [Iran’s] nuclear program.” To make the point that Obama’s living in an alternate reality, Boehner invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress on Feb. 11, specifically on “the grave threats radical Islam and Iran pose to our security and way of life.” Boehner said, “There’s a serious threat that exists in the world and the president last night kind of papered over it.” Boehner also added feistily, “[Obama] expects us to stand idly by and do nothing while he cuts a bad deal with Iran. Two words: ‘Hell no!’ We’re going to do no such thing.”


For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


25 January, 2015

Will feminism produce great works of art?

DVDs are a wonderful thing. I have a DVD recording a performance at the Mariinsky theater in St Petersburg of the great ballet "Firebird". The company is the Ballet Russes. I am far from a balletomane but the wonderful music of Igor Stravinsky gets me in every time. And the reconstructed choreography of Michel Fokine is of course excellent too. It is no wonder that Firebird has a prominent place in the classical ballet repertoire.

And I couldn't help noticing that the chief ballerina (The Firebird) got thrown around an awful lot by the chief male dancer. It was done with enormous athleticism and grace but there was no doubt who was the dominant character in the scenes concerned. And it struck me that feminists would almost certainly find that repugnant -- with words like "patriarchy" and "inequality" popping into their addled brains. Perhaps they think the ballerina should have thrown the larger male dancer about!

But Firebird is not alone in its representation of male/female roles. A traditional representation of such roles is virtually universal in opera and in classical ballet. So, having seen what artistic wonders traditional thinking can bring forth can we expect such art to emerge from feminist attitudes? Feminism has been around since the likes of Emmeline Pankhurst and her girls over a century ago but I know of nothing notable that has emerged so far. The only possible candidate appears to be the disgusting Vagina Monologues and they seem to be notable only for their crudity.

So my proposed answer to the question in my heading is a blunt "No". Most prominent feminists are radicals and seem quite deranged most of the time. They seem to have no beauty in their souls. And they don't care about women anyway. They ignore the terrible plight of most women in Muslim lands and content themselves with nitpicking criticisms of everyday speech in their own country.

Fortunately most women are not feminists. They believe in things like equal pay for equal work but have little in common with the fountains of rage and hatred who are the radical feminists. So what I have written above is in no way critical of women generally. I have been married four times so I clearly think women are pretty good. And plenty of ladies find my views acceptable -- particularly ladies around my own age.


Slavery via the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB)

I don't take as read the "unrepealability" claims below about the IPAB. The authors of the legislation have certainly done their best to make it unrepealable but it is a basic principle of parliamentary government everywhere that no parliament can bind a later sitting of that parliament. The only way to bind a future parliament is via a constititional amendment. And even that can be repealed -- as we saw with Prohibition.

Given the breathtaking remarks by Gruber and Ezekiel Emanuel, key architects of Obamacare, it behooves all Americans to be reminded of the overarching power that Obama has bestowed upon the Independent Payment Advisory Board or IPAB, a central feature of the ACA or inaptly named Affordable Care Act.

In June 14, 2012, Diane Cohen and Michael F. Cannon co-authored Policy Analysis No. 700 highlighting the egregious assault on the Constitution via IPAB. Entitled "The Independent Payment Advisory Board: PPACA's Anti-Constitutional and Authoritarian Super-Legislature" it underscores the absolute dictatorial hold the government now has on all Americans. The salient features of this report bear constant repetition and the need for the Republican-dominated Congress to act swiftly to repeal every single part of this law.

Obamacare gives "unfettered power to unelected government officials." Actually it "bypasses the constitutionally prescribed manner by which proposed legislation becomes law" and even more frightening, the ACA "...attempts to prevent a future Congress from repealing IPAB."

Let's elaborate on this totalitarian and "unprecedented delegation of legislative, executive, and judicial authority in violation of the Separation of Powers doctrine." In effect, Obamacare

* automatically funds IPAB in perpetuity.

* does not require the IPAB to be bipartisan.

* has designated that the IPAB be made up of 15 unelected individuals; in fact, "the board may conduct business whenever half of its appointed members are present and whenever as few as eight members gather." Actually, Obamacare would allow a "sole appointed member to constitute a quorum, conduct official business, and issue proposals."

* authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services to exercise the board's powers unilaterally. This includes the "ability to appropriate funds to her own department to administer her own directives."

The stated mission of IPAB is to "prevent Medicare spending from growing faster than their specified target rate." In other words, they will ration care and invoke death panels by denying life-saving medicines and treatments. In effect, the IPAB faces "almost no limitations on its power to limit, reallocate or regulate health care." Beginning this year (2015), Obamacare gives IPAB "the power to impose price controls and to impose taxes and to ration care." It is as simple as that.

Medicare payments to health care providers and private insurers participating in Medicare will be cut. IPAB has the ability to threaten states by blackmail, i.e., it will require states to implement federal laws or enact new state laws in order to receive federal funding.

Those who would argue that the ACA prohibits rationing per se fail to see through the murky definition of rationing. Thus, in Alice-in-Wonderland fashion, "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."

"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master - - that's all." -- (Through the Looking Glass, Chapter 6)

Moreover, the IPAB can actually increase taxes and those who would argue that this is not possible, remember that the "PPACA specifically states that the Secretary's implementation of IPAB's proposals is not judicially reviewable."

In effect, Obamacare has nothing to do with enhancing health care; it has everything to do with controlling every aspect of Americans' lives. Consequently, Obamacare "creates an unaccountable lawmaking body, and leaves elected officials with little to stop it."

And it does not stop with Medicare rationing. IPAB "will have the power to ration or reorganize care even for those who are not enrolled in government programs." And this power was always "the clear intent of IPAB's architects." Price controls will surely be a component as the "board is likely to end up setting prices for all medical services."

And with malicious intent, Obama fought hard for IPAB over strong opposition from Congress which rightly understood that the IPAB was "usurping [Congressional] power."

IPAB's decision "will have the force of law." And here is the crux of the despotic feature of this law. Accordingly, "PPACA's authors included several provisions designed to prevent future Congresses, presidents, and courts from blocking IPAB's proposals." Thus, there will be no accountability to the very people whose lives will be affected.

Obamacare exempts the IPAB from "any rule making requirement that Congress imposes on other executive-branch agencies." Therefore, no hearings, testimonies or evidence from the public are required.

Even when he is out of office, Obama will be forever influencing America since, via the law, any future president's authority will be restricted. Thus, the "PPACA unconstitutionally attempts to deny [a] president his constitutional prerogative to use his own discretion as to what measures he submits to Congress." One may scoff at the constitutional scholarship of Obama but I submit he knows enough to trash the Constitution and it is never just a coincidence that all of his actions are aimed at the total destruction of this country's most important legal foundation.

And finally, Obamacare limits Congress' ability to make "any changes that would result in greater Medicare spending." Consequently, Congress becomes inconsequential. And these are just the initial steps to the time when congressional interference with this heinous law becomes completely irrelevant.

Most terrifying though is that without GOP concerted action to repeal every scintilla of Obamacare, in 2020 Congress will lose all power to control IPAB. According to the law,

"Congress may amend or reject IPAB proposals, subject to stringent limitations, but only from 2015 through 2019. If Congress fails to repeal IPAB in 2017, then after 2019, IPAB may legislate without any congressional interference.

Moreover, if "Congress fails to repeal IPAB ... then after 2020, Congress loses the ability even to offer substitutes for IPAB proposals." Thus, "to constrain IPAB at all after 2020, Congress must repeal it between January and August in 2017."

Is the GOP listening? Will it act accordingly? Will Americans be unrelenting in speaking up and demanding action to "resist this arrant tyranny?"

As we have come to expect from the most non-transparent administration in history, Obama and the Democrats "went to extraordinary, unconstitutional, . . . lengths to try to protect IPAB from. . . being repealed by future Congresses." Henceforth, the Act states that Congress may only repeal IPAB if it follows these precise steps:

* Wait until the year 2017

* Introduce a specifically worded "Joint Resolution" in the House and Senate between January 1 and February 1

* Pass that resolution with a three-fifths vote of all members of each chamber by August 15.

As Cohen and Cannon meticulously point out in their analysis, "the IPAB's constitutional infirmities are numerous." In fact, "after 2017, Congress could repeal Medicare, but not the board it created to run Medicare. Congress (and the states) could repeal the Bill of Rights. But not IPAB." Astounding!

Is this America? Or China?

Aaron Klein points out that "Obama has also established a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute with funding of $3.8 billion." While a section of Obamacare states that "the secretary of health and human services may not use research data ... in a manner that treats the life of an elderly, disabled, or terminally ill individual as lower in value than that of an individual who is younger, non-disabled, or not terminally ill" there is a qualifier which does allow the health secretary to limit any "alternative treatments ... if such treatments are not recommended by the new research institute." Thus the health secretary is given unlimited power to determine treatments -- think death panels, anyone?

Pundits wonder if we are entering a dictatorship. I maintain we are already there. The "government's control of America's health care sector closely tracks the predictions of economist Friedrich Hayek, author of The Road to Serfdom." In essence, Obamacare, as always intended, is not "merely unconstitutional--it is anti-constitutional." Until the entire law is dismantled and the IPAB becomes an acronym in a dustbin, this country will no longer be the America most of us love and cherish.



Another open letter to President Obama

Dear Mr. Obama:

In last-night’s State of the Union address you said “And to everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.”

The premise of your plea is mistaken: raises aren’t given by votes, by you, or by Congress: they’re given only by employers. And employers must fund these higher payments out of the revenues they earn by competing successfully in markets. Employers, therefore, can afford to raise their workers’ pay only if their workers become more productive - an outcome that is not achieved by a legislature waving its wand over workers’ paychecks.

You are, however, correct in one sense. Because the policy you propose would price many workers out of jobs, that policy would indeed change these workers’ incomes: it would drop them to $0. So I say this: If you truly believe you could be unemployed full-time and support a family on $0 a year, go try it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America opportunities to work that they are now denied. Abolish the minimum wage.

Donald J. Boudreaux



Woman Showcased by Obama in SOTU is a Former Democratic Campaign Staffer

Woman apparently the only economic success story in Obama's America

The woman whose story of economic recovery was showcased by President Barack Obama in his State of the Union address is a former Democratic campaign staffer and has been used by Obama for political events in the past.

Rebekah Erler has been presented by the White House as a woman who was discovered by the president after she wrote to him last March about her economic hardships. She was showcased in the speech as proof that middle class Americans are coming forward to say that Obama’s policies are working.

Unmentioned in the White House bio of Erler is that she is a former Democratic campaign operative, working as a field organizer for Sen. Patty Murray (D., Wash.).

This also wasn’t the first time the White House used the former Democratic campaign staffer as a political prop. Obama spent a “day in the life” of Erler in June so that he could have “an opportunity to communicate directly with the people he’s working for every day.”

Reuters revealed Erler’s Democratic affiliations following that June event, and the Minnesota Republican Party attacked Obama for being “so out of touch with reality that he thinks a former Democrat campaign staffer speaks for every Minnesotan.”

Obama used Erler as an example that the economy is getting better. Her political work goes unmentioned



For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


23 January, 2015

The Prince of Thieves

During his lame-duck term, Barack Obama intends to pursue what he calls "middle-class economics," i.e., proposals to reduce income inequality through taxation. Apparently a one-trick pony, Obama is back to raising taxes on the rich.

In last night's State of the Union Address, Obama explained "middle-class economics" as "the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, everyone plays by the same set of rules. We don't just want everyone to share in America's success, we want everyone to contribute to our success."

Except his policies don't give everyone a fair shot, or set the same rules for everyone. And only a few at the top "contribute to our success."

The Hill calls him Robin Hood, taking from the rich and giving to the poor and middle class. But that's misrepresenting his theft. The idea of Obama's "giving" anything to the American middle class, for whom his enmity is all but palpable, is ridiculous, but the notion of his playing Robin Hood insults our intelligence. During the Obama era, both the middle class and the poor have lost more ground economically than during any time in the last four decades, yet suddenly along comes Robin Hood to right the wrongs of his first six years.

As Rush Limbaugh astutely explained Monday, Robin Hood did not steal from the rich to give to the poor. According to legend, Robin Hood reclaimed the excessive taxes extorted by the sheriff of Nottingham from the commoners in his shire. In modern parlance, Obama is the sheriff, not the woodsman.

Yet Obama's appeal to those who believe the wealthy steal from the rest of society has served him well. Rush alluded to exit polls in the 2012 presidential election that showed 81% said they voted for Obama because he "cares about people like me." For decades, the Left has sweetly whispered into the ears of the unhappy, the aggrieved and the gullible, telling them the rich have stolen everyone else's wealth. If only the playing field could be equalized, if only everyone had an equal share, all would be peachy.

The socialist utopian dream just will not die because there is always wealth to be redistributed. Obama claims tax hikes will help balance wealth distribution, but not a dime will ever reach a single productive person. Ironically, much of what's not swallowed by the gaping maw of government will likely go to Obama's buddies in Big Business, purportedly the Left's most hated foe.

The Left has seized upon a recent study by two neo-socialist economists, who claim the top 1% (written "0.01" to increase its impact) hold 80% of the wealth in the United States. But like all lefties in good standing, they leave out relevant facts. In this case, they ignore the wealthiest sector of the nation: the United States government.

The federal government forcibly extracted more than $3 trillion from American citizens in 2014 -- the first time it crossed that threshold. The study's authors complain about billionaires but say not a word about the trillionaire in the room. And according to the latest Forbes list of worldwide billionaires, the aggregate wealth of them all totals only $6.4 trillion, barely enough to finance the U.S. government for a year-and-a-half. It's also less than a third of federal debt. Added to the federal government, the states have their own billionaire club, particularly California, which has one of the largest economies (and hence, governments) in the world.

Enhancing its rather extravagant income, the federal government owns vast swaths of real estate inside our borders (including 87% of the land in the West), an asset of enormous value. So in comparison, the wealthy in our country, two-thirds of whom according to Forbes earned their wealth, could be among the lowest 1% when compared to government.

The authors conclude that the "public will favor more progressive taxation only if it is convinced that top income gains are detrimental to the 99%." So keep feeding them class envy.

We don't mean to be apologists for wealthy corporatists, some of whom -- such as George Soros and Tom Steyer -- use their wealth to buy our political system. (This while leftists hypocritically attack the Koch brothers or other conservative financiers, whose contributions are dwarfed by leftists.) Of course, others are admirable people who've made a fortune by grit and guts. This nation's founding principles guarantee every person the right to the fruits of his labor. Since the 16th Amendment passed, however, that principle has been turned on its head by busybody activists and government officials -- hypocritical officials, we might add.

Inside the most exclusive club in the world, congressmen and women "earn" more than several average families combined -- on average, just one of them surpasses 18 families' incomes. And the Redistributionist in Chief lives the life of royalty on a scale never before witnessed, jetting around in the world's most expensive plane with entourages of hundreds in tow. Where does he -- the laughable "savior" of the 99% -- get off demanding higher taxes from a "10% family" earning 225,000 badly devalued dollars?

Unfortunately, as long as Democrats can buy votes with taxpayer money, the class warfare of "middle-class economics" will live on. All Obama did Tuesday night was preview the central message of the 2016 presidential campaign.



The Legend of Chris Kyle

The late Chris Kyle is an American legend, joining the likes of Jim Bowie, Daniel Boone and Alvin York. When a solider suffering from PTSD killed Kyle at a gun range in 2013, Kyle's legacy as one of the great American snipers, with nearly 160 confirmed kills in Iraq, was already cemented into the annals of American war. And when "American Sniper," the film depicting Kyle's life, blew out the box office this past weekend, Kyle's reputation was preserved as an American icon.

To put "American Sniper" in perspective, its opening weekend earned the film $89.5 million. Usually, only superhero movies like "Guardians of the Galaxy" and "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" do this well. But Americans wanted to see the biopic of a real hero. It's Kyle's story -- with its focus on the cost of war and the struggle he had balancing duty to country with duty to family -- that resonated with the American audience. After all, it's an American story.

The film, starring Bradley Cooper and directed by Clint Eastwood, was nominated for six Academy Awards, but that didn't stop (or perhaps led to) some members of Hollywood's leftist elite lambasting the film. Actor Seth Rogen said, "American Sniper kind of reminds me of the movie showing in the third act of Inglorious Basterds." Did Rogen just compare the life of Chris Kyle to a Nazi propaganda film? Rogen is about as moronic as the character he plays in the assassination-comedy "The Interview," which is being used as anti-North Korean propaganda.

Anti-gun documentarian Michael Moore mocked Kyle as a coward: "My uncle killed by sniper in WW2. We were taught snipers were cowards. Will shoot u in the back. Snipers aren't heroes. And invaders r worse." The only coward here is the one who does his sniping from behind a camera -- using a high-capacity magazine full of made-up "facts," we might add.

Run-of-the-mill liberals also joined in the clamor against "American Sniper," saying the film is racist because Kyle describes jihadis as savages in the movie, or that Kyle is a war-drunk killer.

There is a difference between Chris Kyle the man and Chris Kyle the legend. The Leftmedia could dredge up enough valid dirt on the man, but they attack the legacy of the fallen sniper because of the American values Kyle represents. Kyle, like any man, was flawed. For example, he was perhaps prone to exaggerated braggadocio, likely fabricating some stories -- including having punched former pro-wrestler and Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura in the face. Ventura won a defamation suit over it, which is difficult to do.

But Kyle didn't return to Iraq again and again because he was arrogant or gloried in killing. According to Kyle, he returned to protect his brothers in arms. "The ideal thing would be if I knew the number of lives I saved, because that's something I'd love to be known for," Kyle said in 2012. "But you can't calculate that."

If that isn't an American ideal, what is?

Kyle's widow, Taya Kyle, took to Facebook to express how overwhelmed she was that "American Sniper," an "honest" depiction of her husband's life, was so successful in movie theaters.

"Thank you for being willing to watch the hard stuff," she wrote, "and thank you for hearing, seeing, experiencing the life of our military and first responders. I put them together because the battlefields may be different but the experience is the same on many spiritual levels."

If Kyle has become our hero, he shows the values America still holds dear on and off the battlefield. We laud the man who runs toward the sound of chaos, who handles a gun with ease, yet is still gentle enough to hang up the weapons of war to be with wife and children.

Violence comes at a price, as Eastwood explores in his cannon of films, and that may cost a man his soul or his mind. For thousands of American soldiers, war is a hell that rages in their minds in the form of PTSD. Yet as Kyle shows, that is a burden the American hero bears out of love of country.



Conservatives Rethink Liberty Vs. Order

This week, the Supreme Court made a decision that was somewhat newsworthy: upholding the right of a prison inmate to do something the prison authorities prohibit. What made it really unusual is that the decision was unanimous, with all the conservative justices signing on, and that the opinion was written by one of the most conservative, Samuel Alito.

Alito is not a staunch friend of prison reformers. In a case involving the treatment of inmates in California, he wrote scornfully, "The Constitution does not give federal judges the authority to run state penal systems. Decisions regarding state prisons have profound public safety and financial implications, and the states are generally free to make these decisions as they choose." Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas have been no more sympathetic.

Yet here they were, joining the court's liberals to tell the Arkansas Department of Corrections that it may not force a Muslim convict to shave his face. That demand, the court said, violates his freedom to practice his religion.

The case is a reminder of the everlasting tension within conservative thought between the rights of individuals and the power of the authorities, particularly in matters of public safety and order.

Many on the right instinctively side with police, intelligence agencies and corrections officers when their conduct comes under fire. But another strand of conservative thinking preaches the need to protect citizens against government overreaching and abuse. It's the authoritarian school vs. the libertarian school, Rudy Giuliani vs. Rand Paul.

Jack Hunter, writing in The American Conservative, says controversies like those over torture and police abuse show "there is a significant and perhaps even irreconcilable philosophical contradiction developing on the right."

But in this case, the conservative members of the Supreme Court sounded unabashedly libertarian -- forcing the government to accommodate the inconvenient demands of a violent felon who follows a minority religion that is distrusted by many Americans.

The inmate, Gregory Holt, is doing a life sentence in a supermax prison for burglary and domestic battery. The Arkansas Department of Corrections bans beards (except for medical necessity) because, it says, they can be used to hide dangerous items like razor blades and needles and can be grown or removed for purposes of disguise.

Holt argued that under the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), he is entitled to grow whiskers in accordance with his faith. A federal district court and a federal appeals court were not persuaded. They insisted on leaving the matter up to the people charged with running the prisons.

But the Supreme Court disagreed. Alito said the ban on beards violates that law, which limits the government's right to limit the religious freedom of prisoners. The justices had no trouble substituting their judgment for that of corrections officers.

Inmates, the court noted, could also hide weapons in their hair, clothing or shoes. "Nevertheless," wrote Alito, "the Department does not require inmates to go about bald, barefoot or naked."

Why did the conservatives on the court side with the criminal? One reason is RLUIPA, which was partly meant to limit the power of prison wardens. But part of it is that the rule affected something conservatives generally care a lot about: religion.

In 1990, the Supreme Court allowed the denial of unemployment benefits to drug counselors fired for using peyote in a Native American Church ceremony. The decision, written by Scalia, mocked the idea that religious conduct should be exempt from certain laws. "Any society adopting such a system would be courting anarchy," he proclaimed.

But conservatives soon realized that, in a society where Christianity has lost ground, laws that could burden minority religions could also burden their own. They got Congress to pass laws to head off that prospect.

One of those, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, was crucial in last year's Hobby Lobby decision by the Supreme Court. It let for-profit employers who oppose contraceptives on religious grounds exclude them from health insurance coverage. Without the statute, a forerunner of RLUIPA, "Hobby Lobby would probably have lost," says Douglas Laycock, a University of Virginia law professor.

In that case and this one, the conservative justices showed a notable sensitivity to claims of religious believers. They also showed a new willingness to place individual liberty and autonomy above security and order.

They even dared to question whether sacrificing liberty actually enhances security. The authoritarian element of conservative thought persists, but it may be getting weaker.



For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


22 January, 2015

Supreme Court Agrees to Define Marriage

I should perhaps mention the libertarian perspective here. Conservatives find much libertarian thought congenial and they might find the libertarian perspective on marriage helpful as well in a legal environment that is hostile to the traditional view of marriage.

Libertarians think governments should butt out of involvement with marriages altogether. Libertarians hold the view (And I know some who have put it into practice) that marriage is simply an agreement between two people and that such an agreement or contract may be whatever suits the couple concerned. The contract could be formalty registered as a contract in some way and then it would be just another contract under normal contract law. And two homosexuals could obviously make contracts with one another.

But people have always wanted heavy social recognition of such contracts and that is where churches, mosques or temples have always figured prominently. So a traditional marriage is basically a religious occasion. And until about a century ago, church records were the only formal records we had of who had married whom. Libertarians ask: Can that be so hard to go back to? The traditional nature of such arrangements should be attractive to conservatives.

And churches can of course have different views about who gets their blessings. Episcopalians would probably marry dogs if asked and Catholics won't marry divorced people. But that is just part of the rich texture of society and as long as nothing is forced upon us, let people go to hell in their own way (As Elizabeth I once said to the King of Spain).

So ALL marriage laws should be abolished and replaced by contracts that can be solemnized in any way that can be agreed on by the parties concerned.


For Americans who maintain that marriage is between one man and one woman, gear up for the next battle. On Friday, the Supreme Court announced it had agreed to hear cases regarding same-sex marriage. Given the track record of activist judges on the High Court, we are not overly optimistic the justices will rule in favor of the third pillar of Liberty.

In October, the Supreme Court declined to hear cases from five states seeking to preserve their lawful, voter-approved definitions of marriage. By choosing not to take on those cases, the Supreme Court left in place lower court rulings overturning laws on same-sex marriage.

And two years ago, the Supreme Court tossed Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, ruling that the federal government is bound to recognize same-sex marriages from states in which they are legal. The justices did not, however, go so far as to declare same-sex marriage a right – yet.

The result of that decision led to most of the lower courts striking down numerous state bans on same-sex marriage.

There was one exception: The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld traditional marriage laws in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. Judge Jeffrey Sutton said in that ruling it was not the place of the courts to decide such an important social issue. What a novel concept. “When the courts do not let the people resolve new social issues like this one, they perpetuate the idea that the heroes in these change events are judges and lawyers,” Sutton wrote. “Better in this instance, we think, to allow change through the customary political processes, in which the people, gay and straight alike, become the heroes of their own stories by meeting each other not as adversaries in a court system but as fellow citizens seeking to resolve a new social issue in a fair-minded way.”

Given the split among the circuit courts, it was almost certain the Supreme Court would step in to settle the dispute.

It’s worth noting the timing of the Court’s announcement. There is growing capitulation among Republicans on the issue, and the party’s candidates offered little debate over marriage during the campaign season. The GOP’s new congressional majorities are occupied with other agenda items. Should the Supreme Court rule to redefine marriage (as many political pundits presume it will), the GOP could be further divided on this issue leading up to the 2016 presidential election.

Regardless of whether the Supreme Court discovers a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, any Republican candidate who has or continues to oppose same-sex marriage will be portrayed as a bigot. But a Court ruling could move the needle further. There will also be many potential candidates who would argue that, since the Court ruled, the matter is settled.

On the other hand, there could also be ample opportunity for candidates to stand firmly on principle. Ramesh Ponnuru of National Review notes, “If the Supreme Court does issue such a ruling, Republicans in the presidential primaries will be under a bit more pressure to say that they back a constitutional amendment reversing the decision and to say explicitly that they’ll appoint justices who don’t tend to agree with that sort of decision.”

Aside from the political fallout for the GOP from a Supreme Court decision that is presumed to side with the homosexual agenda, the greater impact will be on the people. A majority of voters in a majority of states have said that marriage is a sacred institution that does not change at the whim of progressive lobbyists and activist judges. Their voice will have been rejected.

And don’t think for a moment that a ruling redefining marriage will have no impact on churches and religious liberty in America. If the Supreme Court can redefine marriage, then is that same Supreme Court not powerful enough to impose its will on those who preach, teach and believe that the only true marriage is that between one man and one woman? Where does it end? Bakers, florists and photographers are already under assault – just wait until same-sex marriage is a “constitutional right.”

America had better wake up, because regardless of which way the Court rules the issue of what constitutes marriage isn’t going away any time soon.



The case against annual health insurance contracts

In Australia, health insurance is bought by individuals dealing directly with insurance companies, all of which are private businesses. Having insurance tied to your employer is virtually unknown. And once you buy a health insurance policy, the policy stays current for as long as you pay your monthly premiums -- unto death even. So permanent insurance can be done. And health insurance in Australia is much more affordable than in the USA.

The new U.S. Congress—and the American public—will be hearing numerous ideas for improving the healthcare system, including several spelled out in publications such as Independent Institute Senior Fellow John C. Goodman’s Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis and Healthcare Solutions for Post-Obamacare America. But one of the most badly needed reforms may be so obvious that, paradoxically, we usually overlook it. That reform, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow John R. Graham, is for the United States “to move beyond the ‘Heliocentric Doctrine’ of health insurance, whereby patients and insures switch dance partners every January 1.”

“This nonsensical Heliocentric Doctrine is enshrined in employer-based plans, Obamacare exchange plans, and Medicare plans,” Graham writes in the Daily Caller. Not only is the practice of tying most insurance plans to the calendar year completely arbitrary, but it can lead to costly absurdities. Graham makes this point with a hypothetical example of two brothers—identical twins—both diagnosed with a genetically caused cancer in the second half of last year. Their medical histories are exactly alike in every relevant way except one: one of them incurred medical expenses stemming from a skiing accident in the first half of the year, leading him to reach his out-of-pocket limits earlier than the other. This difference can result in the brothers paying wildly different costs for their cancer treatments. But it doesn’t have to be this way—not if we drop the Heliocentric Doctrine of health insurance.

“In other countries where private health insurance dominates, with Switzerland being the prime example, no one tolerates this absurdity,” Graham continues. “Instead, patients and insurers have contracts that last multiple year, and each are rewarded for good behavior during the long term. This type of health insurance is especially effective for very sick people with lots of illnesses, who would no longer have to worry about losing their doctors because of having to choose a new plan every year.”



Liberals Push Dental Coverage for All, Health Insurance for Illegals--And More

At a time when Republicans are trying to roll back certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act (if not the entire law), a liberal advocacy group is looking ahead to the next round of taxpayer-subsidized health care "reform."

Families USA says the ACA was a good start, but it has now outlined 19 specific proposals "to improve health care for everyone in our nation."

The plan, called Health Reform 2.0, would "improve coverage and extend care."

That means making dental coverage universally available; reducing cost-sharing, with low-cost, low-deductible plans; expanding Medicaid in every state; getting rid of fee-for-service care; enabling "public payers" (the government) to set prescription drug prices; and stopping hospital mergers and other "uncompetitive" provider consolidations that can drive up prices.

Health care for illegal immigrants

"One other coverage matter demands attention: the uninsured status of American immigrants," says Health Reform 2.0.

"At a time when Congress refuses to consider pathways to citizenship and scorns administrative proposals that would enable people to stay in the country, practical proposals to secure health coverage for immigrants are elusive.

"However, immigrants -- who often fill key jobs that disproportionately place them in harm's way -- should be able to obtain necessary health care. We must ensure that immigrants can receive health coverage so that they can get the care they need."

Families USA said the Affordable Care Act granted every legal resident the "right to health coverage," which it calls a "historic achievement."

"However, enacting this unprecedented legal right is not the same as making it a living reality. We must take additional steps to ensure that health coverage and care become concrete realities for everyone. In Health Reform 2.0, we identify the steps necessary to transform America’s health care system to ensure that all Americans are able to get the high-quality care they need, when they need it, at an affordable price."

The nonprofit group says in the years ahead, it will start building support for its radical proposals to speed their adoption:

"The time is right to promote this forward-looking agenda. Since meaningful social change does not occur overnight and is never easy, we must lay the groundwork now for the essential goals that lie ahead. It is in this spirit that we offer our call to action, Health Reform 2.0."

Families USA, aided in 2013 by a $1 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, collects "personal health care stories" of people who have benefited from Obamacare, then distributes those stories to the media.



Controversy builds at U.S. consumer protection bureau

The arrogance of America's mainly Leftist bureaucracy on display

Costly building renovations at the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are raising more congressional concerns that the agency is out of control.

A government report pegs the price of the work at $210 million — $120 million more than initial estimates, with off-site leasing costs included.

“That’s more per square foot than the Bellagio hotel-casino in Las Vegas,” said John Berlau, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

And, critics add, CFPB doesn’t even own the building.

The Office of Inspector General for the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve Board found that “approval of funding for the renovation was not in accordance with the CFPB’s current policies for major investment.”

“A sound business case is not available to support the funding of the renovation,” the OIG concluded.

Lawmakers have mocked the project, which includes a glass staircase, concession kiosk and a ‘water wall’ ending in a splash pool.

CFPB Director Richard Cordray countered: “We don’t own the building, but the notion we are building some kind of palace is ridiculous.”

Cordray acknowledged, however, that he did not know the square footage of the office located near the White House. Still, the project lives.

The building battle is an ironic twist for the 4-year-old CFPB, whose website declares, “We want to help consumers make smarter decisions.”

“They say they need sensitive mortgage and credit card data to do their job,” said Berlau. “No other agency has this power — they’re rivaling the National Security Agency.”

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling said the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, which created the CFPB, made the agency “unaccountable to taxpayers and to Congress.”

“We’re seeing the results of this dangerous unaccountability today in a Washington bureaucracy that is running amok, spending as much as it wants on whatever it wants,” the Texas Republican said.

Hensarling estimated that halting the renovation plans and finding a cheaper office would save the bureau about $100 million. He recommends that the government sell the building to the highest bidder.



For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


21 January, 2015

Obama has no shame: Releasing Illegal Alien Criminals!

Max McGuire

All we ever hear from liberals is that you “can’t deport all the illegal aliens.” Personally, I think that’s wrong. But one thing that people on both sides should be willing to admit is that there are illegal aliens who SHOULD be deported.

And many of them are scheduled to be kicked out of the country. There’s only one problem: Obama won’t let law enforcement do its job!

Apparently, no sooner had Obama announced his amnesty plan, law enforcement across the country began receiving orders to stand down and let captured illegal aliens go.

We’re not talking about little children caught trying to cross the border. ICE agents were told to stop going after criminal illegal aliens and to release detained illegals who were scheduled to be deported. In these cases, a judge had already signed off on deportation.

Immigration enforcement agents have begun calling this the Obama “get out of jail free” card.

Illegal aliens who have pending criminal cases are just being released; In many cases, local law enforcement drops lesser charges against illegals under the assumption that they’ll be deported. Obama is letting those illegals out of prison;

The Federal government is releasing illegal aliens with significant traffic violations like drunk driving, felony hit-and-run, and even grand theft auto;

These criminals are being set free without even warning their victims.

This is just so shameful. But not only that… these releases are illegal and unconstitutional.

These aliens have been given deportation orders by federal judges. The Obama administration does not have the constitutional authority to simply disregard these court orders.

Congress has to put a stop to this clear executive overreach. No president has the authority to go against a lawful court order, not even King Obama.

The White House is clearing out the prisons and sending criminal illegal aliens back into society.

President Obama released thousands of illegal aliens from prison last year. He’s already released hundreds since announcing his amnesty executive actions.



Martin Luther King, Jeremiah Wright and Barack Obama: From Dream to Nightmare

By Mark Alexander

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ … I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. … And if America is to be a great nation this must become true.” –Martin Luther King Jr., August 28, 1963

Today, the once-noble Democratic Party of MLK’s era has devolved into a propaganda machine fueled by hate and division, which has turned the wisdom of this iconic sovereign’s most quoted remark upside down. It’s as if King had said, “I have a dream that my children will one day be judged by the color of their skin, not the content of their character.”

To keep you fully informed, your Patriot team follows Sun Tzu’s maxim from “The Art of War”: “Know your enemy.” Thus, we review the whole spectrum of news, policy and opinion, including notable daily dispatches from organizations like the Communist Party USA and other leftist groups, in order to better engage the adversaries of Liberty.

To that end, I attended this year’s MLK “Unity Prayer Breakfast,” ostensibly in honor of Martin Luther King, featuring keynote speaker Jeremiah “GD America” Wright. My objective was to determine if Wright was still wrong.

As you recall, Wright was the charismatic “pastor” to Barack Obama, who, for two decades prior to 2008, indoctrinated his disciple with the black supremacist doctrines of hate and the Marxist “social gospel.” Wright married Barack and Michelle, baptized their children and later was identified by Obama in his biography as his primary “father figure.”

But in 2008, as Obama was seeking to dupe American voters and slide into the White House, Wright disappeared from the political grid after videos of his hate-filled “US-KKK-A” racist rhetoric hit YouTube. Who can forget some of his more colorful protests: “‘God Bless America.’ No, no, no, G-d d–m America – that’s in the Bible – for killing innocent people. G-d d–m America for treating our citizens as less than human. G-d d–m America for as long as she acts like she is god and she is supreme.”

Shortly after those videos surfaced, Obama tried to distance himself from decades under Wright’s rhetoric, claiming in 2008, “I am outraged by the comments that were made. His comments were not only divisive and destructive; I believe they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate… They offend me. They rightly offend all Americans. And they should be denounced.”

Of course, Obama, himself a master of the “the BIG Lie,” was elected and re-elected on “divisive and destructive” rhetoric preying on hate – and indeed, he learned from a master!

Now that Obama has completed his last election – the 2014 midterm in which his policies were, as he claimed, “on the ballot, every single one of them,” all of which were resoundingly defeated – Jeremiah Wright has come out of exile.

Needless to say, Wright’s message was NOT about “unity.”

Front and center at this event was the table of honor reserved for the “peace-loving” Nation of Islam leaders, and, according to those introducing Wright, he was selected to “raise holy hell” and “set us ablaze.” But, we were reminded, “Our speaker has often been misquoted and misunderstood … as most voices for God are.”


Wright began by ingratiating himself to his audience for a few minutes – before dragging them down to hell. He declared that we should all be thankful for Obama’s two inaugurals, saying, “Praise God and Party, but the race ain’t over yet.” It took him almost five minutes before singling out conservative white folks as “racist,” suggesting that among those looking down on black folks today are “the countless bodies of estranged fruit hung up in the trees and left hanging in a country that is taught to hate the color of their skin. … Black men, women and children lynched, watching to see if we understand that the Tea Party ain’t nothing but a 2.0 upgrade of a lynch mob!”

Sitting next to me at Wright’s hatefest was my colleague, Tennessee Tea Party principal Mark West, and of course he and I were in the one-percent minority at this venue. The grassroots Tea Party movement is about Liberty for all Americans, as was Martin King’s dream, but Wright would have none of that.

We believe that Liberty is colorblind, but asserting individual rights and responsibilities is an affront to Wright and other race-baiters, including Obama’s chief race relations counselor, Al Sharpton, and Attorney General Eric Holder.

Wright wasted no time heating up Obama’s latest race-bait stew: “Michael Brown was left rotting in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, in the hot August sun like road kill … while his murderer walks free because the prosecutor orchestrated a verdict not to indict. … Eric Garner … choked to death in front of a video camera while his murderers are set free by bigoted bozos.”

And so Wright continued – ad nauseum.

In addition to my Tea Party colleague, there were three other people at our table, black folks, who were genuinely devoted to “unity in Christ” as clearly distinguishable from Wright’s message of racial disunity. One of them had an interesting observation: “If one was to examine the civil rights movement of the Sixties and compare it to the social justice movements of today, you would find one glaring difference. MLK’s success was partly due to thousands of college students and young people actively engaged and empowered by the message and practice of non-violence. But young people are not as engaged in the ‘social justice’ movements of the Al Sharptons and the Jeremiah Wrights because we are several generations removed from the racism and discrimination that was experienced by blacks prior to the civil rights movement.

The next generation has no actual point of reference for such racism. We have enjoyed the fruit of King’s labor. Thus, the Baby Boomers of the civil rights movement endeavor to instill their hate and bitterness into the current generation by fomenting social unrest over incidents like Brown and Garner. When those race baiters are dead and gone, then we might be truly ‘free at last.’”

At Martin King’s funeral, one Bible passage, Matthew 5:9, summed up his life’s mission: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”

But Obama and his cadres of race-baiters are anything but peacemakers. They have betrayed King’s legacy, turning his dream into a nightmare for millions of black men, women and children now enslaved on urban poverty plantations by five decades of failed “Great Society” economic and social policies.



Robert E. Lee

Today we take a moment to remember the birth anniversary of Robert E. Lee (1807-1870), one of the greatest military commanders in American history. He was also a great man of faith who gave his all for the cause of Liberty and states' rights.

There were many honorable men of the Confederate States of America, whose objective was, first and foremost, the protection of states rights, and decidedly not the continuation of abhorrent institution of slavery. For a better understanding on the issues of the day, read this perspective on Abraham Lincoln, which was not included in your grade-school civics class. The honor we give these men has its roots in the founding of this great nation.

Mark Alexander notes in his essay, “Lincoln’s Legacy at 200,” that “the causal case for states' rights is most aptly demonstrated by the words and actions of Gen. Lee, who detested slavery and opposed secession. In 1860, however, Gen. Lee declined President Abraham Lincoln’s request that he take command of the Army of the Potomac, saying that his first allegiance was to his home state of Virginia: ‘I have, therefore, resigned my commission in the army, and save in defense of my native state… I hope I may never be called on to draw my sword.’ He would, soon thereafter, take command of the Army of Northern Virginia, rallying his officers with these words: ‘Let each man resolve to be victorious, and that the right of self-government, liberty, and peace shall find him a defender.’”



Another stupid new Leftist theory

Martin Hutchinson

In an inevitable development, the proponents of greater government spending have developed a new theory to encourage it. With Senator Bernie Sanders (I.-VT)'s appointment of its proponent University of Missouri-Kansas City professor Stephanie Kelton as minority chief economist to the Senate Budget Committee, the new Modern Monetary Theory is about to get a serious airing. Those of us who are hoping against hope that some day the global economy will return to sound monetary and fiscal principles should understand this new form of economic sophistry, and divert some of our fire against it.

Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) goes back a fair way; the beginnings of the theory were propounded in a 1905 work "State Theory of Money" by Georg Friedrich Knapp (1842-1926), since when others including Wynne Godley and Hyman Minsky have added to the superstructure. Knapp was the first to propound that money had no intrinsic value and was simply a government token; he was unlucky to live long enough for the Weimar Republic's Rudolf von Havenstein to put this theory to a thorough test and disprove it pretty decisively.

Under MMT, the central bank printing money and the Treasury running a budget deficit are regarded as equivalent; both involve the public sector running a deficit, thereby allowing the private sector to run a surplus. Hence balanced budgets are regarded as highly restrictive, as is taxation in general. An MMT government seeking to maximize private sector output would run permanent large budget deficits, thereby encouraging the private economy to invest and expand. Cutting budget deficits curbs private saving, since the saving/investment relationship is supposed to be fixed.

On the trade side, the last couple of decades have made MMT look somewhat plausible. MMT theorists consider that the goods are irrelevant to a trade transaction; it the demand for the importer's currency that makes it work. Thus imports are beneficial to an economy, because they provide valuable goods and services, whereas exporters deprive domestic users of the goods and services exported. Under MMT therefore, the continual U.S. $500 billion payments deficits for the last decade are beneficial, the result of sound policy.

Under MMT, while private sector debt is genuinely debt, government debt is really a benefit to the private sector, since governments can always fund their own debt by handing out newly printed $100 bills to the lender. The theory rests on a central fallacy: that governments and countries can continue increasing their debts ad infinitum, without ever having to pay them back.

It was indeed the Weimar Republic's von Havenstein, as President of the money-printing Reichsbank, who provided the clearest disproof of that theory. By trying to fund the Weimar Republic's excessive deficits through printing money, he produced hyperinflation and collapse. The Weimar authorities had found the proto-MMT attractive, because it appeared to provide them with the collateral benefit of bilking the Allies of the war reparations they demanded. However even in this limited objective it failed over any but the shortest timeframe.

However 1923 is not really within living memory, even in Germany, and we need to examine the implications of MMT to today's economy, in which inflation appears notably absent. Clearly MMT provides a renewed rationale for those whose principal wish is to increase government spending, of whatever kind. If government can either print or borrow money, without having to increase taxes or suffer any other adverse consequences for the economy, then government spending is indeed a free good. Were that true, the left could indeed indulge their hobby of devising infinite new ways to hand out what, according to MMT, is not even the taxpayers' money.

There's no doubt that the policies pursued in 2009-11 followed the prescriptions of MMT pretty closely. The Federal budget deficit was allowed to soar well over $1 trillion, aided by $800 billion of spending "stimulus" while interest rates were kept at rock bottom levels and the Fed engaged in multiple rounds of "quantitative easing" – buying Treasury bonds rather than printing money directly, thus subsidizing Wall Street rather than ordinary people.

Since 2012, while the Fed has continued to pursue the dictates of MMT, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has reversed course, allowing taxes to rise at the end of 2012 and then imposing the spending "sequester" in 2013 and to a lesser extent in 2014-2015. This has resulted in an acceleration of growth and job-creation, as government's deadweight on the economy has been forced to decline. Because of the deficit's decline, banks have been less able to buy government bonds and borrow short-term, profiting from the interest rate "gap." Thus bank lending to small and medium sized businesses has increased, by 16.2% in the year to December 2014 according to Fed figures, reversing the dearth of 2009-12. Of course, MMT would have predicted the opposite to occur in both cases.

Via email

There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc. He has some good comments on Muslims this time


For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


20 January, 2015

Does Australia have the ideal healthcare system?

You might not think so from the news report below. The report covers just one episode of inaccessible healthcare but it is typical of what happens all the time in all states in Australia and in Britain. Both Australia and Britain have a system of "free" hospitals and local doctors but also (unlike Canada) allow private health services. And it is a testimony to how bad the "free" system is that 40% of Australians have private health insurance, which enables them to take advantage of Australia's large network of excellent private hospitals at little or no out-of-pocket cost.

Why would you pay for something if you can have it for free? The answer of course is that the "free" system is so bad as to be life threatening on occasions. As the various parts of Obamacare go live, Americans too will experience that. For many, health services will be "free" but unavailable.

Private health insurance is affordable in Australia. Many people on relatively low incomes have it. I pay $160 a month for mine. It is bought directly by the person covered rather than through an employer. So it is a significant budget item for many and the majority would rather spend their money on beer and cigarettes than on insurance. So they rely on the taxpayer for "free" health care. They rely on bureaucratic healthcare provision.

And the ineffectiveness of that gets steadily worse. Bureaucracies do not die overnight. They are like cancer, slowly growing but they will kill you eventually. They gradually choke themselves to death. And what we read below shows that process to be in an advanced state in Australia -- the State health services all go back many decades. And the services will get even worse in future.

So the present situation is in fact mostly fair. If you put your money into beer and cigarettes instead of health insurance you deserve only third-rate care and that is what you get. You are mainly raiding people who have already paid for their own care and asking them to pay for your care too.

Can that be improved? Do the improvident public have to be treated so badly? If you think improvement is needed the way to it would probably be to get the beer and cigarettes money redirected into private health insurance -- so that the government system is left to care for the few who cannot afford even beer and cigarettes. If that were done, much of the demand would be taken off the government service and the genuinely poor would get better service.

So if you see the situation described below as a problem, your rational response would be to mandate private health insurance for all but the very poor. But if you don't like the compulsion in that you can console yourself that the existing system may be rather horrible for many but it is at least fair for the great majority. Most of those being poorly treated could have chosen otherwise

I have a fairly average health insurance policy so my treatment in a recent health emergency is instructive. I had an attack of kidney stones. So I went straight to the Wesley private hospital here in Brisbane -- a church-run hospital named after two great Christians. Within less than two hours of the pain developing, I was given morphine as pain relief and within 6 hours I was on the operating table. The ideal is possible and readily available in Australia. It just isn't free

If America ever gets a rational Congress and President, I think they could learn something from Australia

A Sydney hospital left a patient in its emergency department for almost six days, prompting condemnation from an expert in emergency medicine.

Details about the incident are scarce. But a hospital source said the patient was admitted to Blacktown Hospital's emergency department on Wednesday evening the week before last.

The hospital confirmed the patient had been sitting in a recliner chair in its emergency department and was discharged at some time on Tuesday last week.

"This is absolutely extreme," said Clinical Associate Professor Paul Middleton from Sydney University. "In 25 years working in hospital emergency departments I've never seen anybody stay for that long.

"The lights are on all the time. It's noisy. There are wailing children, mental health patients, people pissed off with waiting and shouting; there's trauma; there's blood and there's vomiting. It's not a place to spend a long time. Patients don't do well [in emergency]."

The hospital, citing patient confidentiality, declined to provide details about the patient's illness. It said they had been treated while in the emergency department and been referred to hospital specialists.

Danny O'Connor, the CEO of the western Sydney local health district, said the patient was discharged after the hospital was satisfied with their progress.

Mr O'Connor also said the case "presented many social complexities" and that the hospital continued to care for patients who were unable to leave for "family or social reasons".

But Professor Middleton said a ward was the only place for a patient in hospital that long.

"There are also alternatives to staying in hospital [such as refuges]," he added.

The Health Minister, Jillian Skinner, declined to comment.

"Our members are sick of being abused by patients who are facing major delays," said Judith Kiedja from the nurses' and midwives' union.

The union advocates the government impose a ratio of one nurse for every three patients to maintain standards of care. Blacktown's emergency department has often run at twice that ratio of nurses this fortnight.

Tanya Whitehouse, from the Macarthur Domestic and Family Violence Service, said she found the case baffling.

"If the patient was facing domestic violence or homelessness, they should have seen a social worker and been found a refuge," she said.

A spokesman for the Family and Community Services Minister, Gabrielle Upton, said over the next three years the government would "invest a record half billion dollars to tackle homelessness across the state".

This latest case comes after a fortnight of major delays at Blacktown Hospital, where between 40 and 60 beds have been closed for the holidays.

A dozen patients, half aged over 80, were waiting more than two days in emergency two weeks ago.

There were further delays last week. Paramedics waited for 17 hours to hand one patient over to the care of the hospital.

"If they're closing that many beds it's a potential for disaster," Professor Middleton said.



NYC may yank terrorism report to appease mosque ‘spying’ critics

You can be sure that the hate-filled De Blasio will do all he can get away with to facilitate the Muslim haters

In top-secret talks to settle federal lawsuits against the NYPD for monitoring mosques, the city is weighing a demand that it scrub from its Web site a report on Islamic terrorists, The Post has learned.

The groundbreaking, 92-page report, titled “Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat,” angers critics who say it promotes “religious profiling” and discrimination against Muslims. But law-enforcement sources say removing the report now would come at the worst time — after mounting terror attacks by Islamic extremists in Paris, Boston, Sydney and Ottawa.

“The harm is that it sends the message that the NYPD is ­going to back down on its counterterrorism effort in the name of political correctness,” said a former NYPD official. “Shame on the NYPD if they do.”

Sources familiar with the case confirmed that removal of the NYPD report is one of the major sticking points in settlement negotiations.

Also on the table are demands that the NYPD halt any ongoing surveillance in the Muslim community and that records of prior monitoring be expunged, sources said.

With what seems today like a crystal ball, the 2007 NYPD report identified an “emerging threat” — al Qaeda-inspired jihadists in the United States and abroad, hell-bent on attacking their host countries.

“Radicalization is something the NYPD saw happening in Europe,” said the former NYPD official. “It was prescient in identifying this phenomenon and predicting it would increase.”

Among the report’s warnings:

“The majority of radical individuals began as ‘unremarkable’ — they had ‘unremarkable’ jobs, had lived ‘unremarkable’ lives and had little, if any criminal history.”

Most terrorist wannabes are reasonably well-educated male Muslims between ages 18 and 35, local residents, second- or third-generation with roots in the Middle East or South Asia, and from middle-class families.

“The Internet is a driver and enabler for the process of radicalization” — providing information on extremist beliefs to practical advice on constructing weapons

Recent converts to Islam can be the most radical. “Their need to prove their religious convictions to their companions often makes them the most aggressive.”

Potential jihadists flock to mosques as their religious beliefs deepen, then withdraw from them when “the individual’s level of extremism surpasses that of the mosque.”

Once a person is radicalized, an attack can happen very quickly. “While the other phases of radicalization may take place gradually, over two to three years, this jihadization component can be a very rapid process, taking only a few months, or even weeks.”

Under former Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, the report served as a blueprint for the NYPD’s “demographic unit,” which sent plainclothes detectives into Muslim cafes, stores and mosques to detect potential terrorists.

After the initiative was exposed by The Associated Press, Muslim leaders and groups filed two lawsuits in Brooklyn federal court claiming they were subjected to unwarranted surveillance.

The suits complain the radicalization report puts virtually all Muslims under suspicion.

Last April, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton disbanded the intelligence-gathering unit.

A spokesman for the city Law Department said, “Discussions are ongoing, and nothing is final.”



Why Orthodox Jewish Women are Happy

Orthodox Jewish women and conservative Muslim women both follow modesty rules, but Orthodox Jewish women are devout without abandoning their individuality and civil liberties.

26-year-old Hayat Boumedienneis the suspected accomplice in last week’s 3-day terror attack in Paris, France. Her common law husband, Amedy Coulibaly, murdered four Jews and a policewoman in a kosher Paris market.

Boumedienne is now the poster girl for young, insecure Western women who abandon Western mores for radical Islam. Boumedienne’s close friend described her to France24 News as an emotional basket case “who often cries and has little confidence in herself.” After discarding her string bikini for a niquab and a crossbow, she became violent instead of loving and merciful. In other words, her radical religious zeal seemed to make her more dark and vengeful than serene and peaceful.

Orthodox Jewish women in France now feel unsafe practicing their faith in public. Jewish women are emigrating from France to Israel in historically high numbers even as scores of young French women are being recruited by ISIS. It is crucial for you and me to ask whether political correctness is misleading women.

Orthodox Jewish women who meticulously follow the Torah abide by “tznius” or modesty laws that direct them to wear stockings, skirts or dresses that fall below the knees as well as blouses that cover their elbows and collarbone. But the Orthodox Jewish woman’s face is always unmasked: her mouth is unrestricted, showing that her religious community values her voice and opinion; she is a unique individual; she is equal to men.

A woman who is free to speak her mind would not feel compelled to cover her mouth with a black cloth. Orthodox Judaism recognizes that all women have a natural right to free speech, and therefore does not ask women to hide their mouths.

Orthodox Jewish women who cover their hair with a wig after marriage are saving some parts of their beauty for their marriage—while retaining their freedom and distinct personalities. Even after marriage, Orthodox Jewish women retain their individuality and their femininity: waistlines, the shape of the lower legs, the slenderness of the ankle and other curves remain visible.

Certainly there are many Muslims of integrity such as Lassana Bathily, a store employee at the kosher supermarket in Paris who courageously helped police gain control over the violence on January 9.

But we also don’t hear repeated stories of Jewish, Christian or atheist men attacking their wives with acid; stoning alleged adulteresses without due process; or refusing to let women drive.

As individuals, we must reject political correctness in our elected representatives and ourselves. Instead of trying to please everyone, let us strive to live our lives as we see fit while allowing our neighbors to do the same. This means being tolerant of others’ words, actions and faith—as long as they do not use their faith to justify violence, coercion or sexism. Religious freedom, not radical relativism, is the key to happiness.



For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


19 January, 2015


The Committee for Symbol Security has released its tentative redesign of the American flag to include the previously unrepresented District of Columbia, which is not part of any of the 50 states. This omission is now rectified by giving Washington, DC, it's rightful place - a super star with the 50 states nestled safely between its legs.

The committee initially proposed the D.C. star be on the far left, before realizing when seen from the reverse side it would be on the far right. To solve that problem the idea of a one-sided flag was entertained until it was pointed out, while a one-sided media is possible, a one-sided flag was a physical impossibility. While the D.C. star placement issue seems settled, some committee members have not given up and have appealed to President Obama to issue an executive order that the wind must always blow from the left.

The White House responded that the red and white stripes should be dropped because, "It's the twenty-first century, nobody cares what the original intent of the flag's designers was." The committee announced it will form a special task force to study the suggestion.



Sorry, liberals, Scandinavian countries aren’t utopias

In the American liberal compass, the needle is always pointing to places like Denmark. Everything they most fervently hope for here has already happened there.

So: Why does no one seem particularly interested in visiting Denmark? (“Honey, on our European trip, I want to see Tuscany, Paris, Berlin and . . . Jutland!”) Visitors say Danes are joyless to be around. Denmark suffers from high rates of alcoholism. In its use of antidepressants it ranks fourth in the world. (Its fellow Nordics the Icelanders are in front by a wide margin.) Some 5 percent of Danish men have had sex with an animal. Denmark’s productivity is in decline, its workers put in only 28 hours a week, and everybody you meet seems to have a government job. Oh, and as The Telegraph put it, it’s “the cancer capital of the world.”

So how happy can these drunk, depressed, lazy, tumor-ridden, pig-bonking bureaucrats really be?

Let’s look a little closer, suggests Michael Booth, a Brit who has lived in Denmark for many years, in his new book, “The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia” (Picador).

Those sky-high happiness surveys, it turns out, are mostly bunk. Asking people “Are you happy?” means different things in different cultures. In Japan, for instance, answering “Yes” seems like boasting, Booth points out. Whereas in Denmark, it’s considered “shameful to be unhappy,” newspaper editor Anne Knudsen says in the book.

Moreover, there is a group of people that believes the Danes are lying when they say they’re the happiest people on the planet. This group is known as “Danes.”

“Over the years I have asked many Danes about these happiness surveys — whether they really believe that they are the global happiness champions — and I have yet to meet a single one of them who seriously believes it’s true,” Booth writes. “They tend to approach the subject of their much-vaunted happiness like the victims of a practical joke waiting to discover who the perpetrator is.”

Danes are well aware of their worldwide reputation for being the happiest little Legos in the box. Answering “No” would be as unthinkable as honking in traffic in Copenhagen. When the author tried this (once), he was scolded by his bewildered Danish passenger: “What if they know you?” Booth was asked.

That was a big clue: At a party, the author joked, it typically takes about eight minutes for people to discover someone they know in common. Denmark is a land of 5.3 million homogeneous people. Everyone talks the same, everyone looks the same, everyone thinks the same.

This is universally considered a feature — a glorious source of national pride in the land of humblebrag. Any rebels will be made to conform; tall poppies will be chopped down to average.

The country’s business leaders are automatically suspect because of the national obsession with averageness: Shipping tycoon Maersk McKinney Moller, the richest man in the country before his death in 2012, avoided the national shame of being a billionaire by being almost absurdly hoi polloi. He climbed stairs to his office every day, attended meetings until well into his 90s and brown-bagged his lunch.

An American woman told Booth how, when she excitedly mentioned at a dinner party that her kid was first in his class at school, she was met with icy silence.

One of the most country’s most widely known quirks is a satirist’s crafting of what’s still known as the Jante Law — the Ten Commandments of Buzzkill. “You shall not believe that you are someone,” goes one. “You shall not believe that you are as good as we are,” is another. Others included “You shall not believe that you are going to amount to anything,” “You shall not believe that you are more important than we are” and “You shall not laugh at us.”

Richard Wilkinson, an author and professor who published a book arguing for the superiority of egalitarian cultures, told Booth, “Hunter-gatherer societies — which are similar to prehistoric societies — are highly egalitarian. And if someone starts to take on a more domineering position, they get ridiculed or teased or ostracized. These are what’s called counter-dominance strategies, and they maintain the greater equality.”

So Danes operate on caveman principles — if you find it, share it, or be shunned. Once your date with Daisy the Sheep is over, you’d better make sure your friends get a turn. (Bestiality has traditionally been legal in Denmark, though a move to ban it is under way. Until recently, several “bestiality brothels” advertised their services in newspapers, generally charging clients $85 to $170 for what can only be termed a roll in the hay.)

The flip side of the famous “social cohesion” is that outsiders are unwelcome. Xenophobic remarks are common. At gatherings, the spirit of “hygge” — loosely translated as cozy — prevails. It’s considered uncouth to try to steer the conversation toward anything anyone might conceivably disagree about. This is why even the Danes describe Danes as boring.

In addition to paying enormous taxes — the total bill is 58 percent to 72 percent of income — Danes have to pay more for just about everything. Books are a luxury item. Their equivalent of the George Washington Bridge costs $45 to cross. Health care is free — which means you pay in time instead of money. Services are distributed only after endless stays in waiting rooms. (The author brought his son to an E.R. complaining of a foreign substance that had temporarily blinded him in one eye and was turned away, told he had to make an appointment.) Pharmacies are a state-run monopoly, which means getting an aspirin is like a trip to the DMV.

Other Scandinavian countries (Booth defines the term broadly, to include Nordic brethren Iceland and Finland in addition to Denmark, Sweden and Norway) raise other questions about how perfect the nearly perfect people really are. Iceland’s famous economic boom turned out to be one of history’s most notorious real estate bubbles. A common saying in Denmark about Icelanders: They wear shoes that are too big for them, and they keep tripping over the shoelaces.

The success of the Norwegians — the Beverly Hillbillies of Europe — can’t be imitated. Previously a peasant nation, the country now has more wealth than it can spend: Colossal offshore oil deposits spawned a sovereign wealth fund that pays for everything.

Finland, which tops the charts in many surveys (they’re the least corrupt people on Earth, its per-capita income is the highest in Western Europe and Helsinki often tops polls of the best cities), is also a leader in categories like alcoholism, murder (highest rate in Western Europe), suicide and antidepressant usage.

Their leading filmmaker, Aki Kaurismaki, makes features so “unremittingly morose they made [Ingmar] Bergman look like Mr. Bean,” reports Booth.

Finnish etiquette demands little in the way of conversation (the men, especially, speak as if being charged by the syllable) but much in the way of alcohol abuse. It’s considered poor form to leave the party when there is anything left in a bottle. Although their overall alcohol consumption is near the European average, they binge-drink more than almost any other country on the continent. Booze-related disease is the leading cause of death for Finnish men, and second for women.

The suicide rate is 50 percent higher than in the US and more than double the UK rate. Party guests, even at upscale gatherings, report that, around 11:30 at night, things often take a fighty turn.

It turns out that the “warrior gene” — actually the enzyme monoamine oxidase A, which is linked to impulsive behavior, violence and alcoholism — is especially prevalent in Finland. “Dark” doesn’t just describe winter in the Arctic suburbs, it applies to the Finnish character.

Macho isn’t a problem in Sweden. Dubbed the least masculine country on Earth by anthropologist Geert Hofstede, it’s the place where male soldiers are issued hairnets instead of being made to cut their hair.

But Scandinavian cohesion may not work in conjunction with massive immigration: Almost one-third of the Swedish population was born elsewhere. Immigration is associated in the Swedish mind with welfare (housing projects full of people on the dole) and with high crime rates (these newcomers being more than four times as likely to commit murder). Islamist gangs control some of the housing projects. Friction between “ethnic Swedes” and the immigrants is growing.

Welfare states work best among a homogeneous people, and the kind of diversity and mistrust we have between groups in America means we could never reach a broad consensus on Nordic levels of social spending.

Anyway, Sweden thought better of liberal economics too: When its welfare state became unsustainable (something savvy Danes are just starting to say), it went on a privatization spree and cut government spending from 67 percent of GDP to less than half. In the wake of the global financial crisis, it chose austerity, eliminating its budget deficit (it now runs a slight surplus).

As for its supposedly sweet-natured national persona, in a poll in which Swedes were asked to describe themselves, the adjectives that led the pack were “envious, stiff, industrious, nature-loving, quiet, honest, dishonest and xenophobic.” In last place were these words: “masculine,” “sexy” and “artistic.”

Scandinavia, as a wag in The Economist once put it, is a great place to be born — but only if you are average. The dead-on satire of Scandinavian mores “Together” is a 2000 movie by Sweden’s Lukas Moodysson set in a multi-family commune in 1975, when the groovy Social Democratic ideal was utterly unquestioned in Sweden.

In the film’s signature scene, a sensitive, apron-wearing man tells his niece and nephew as he is making breakfast, “You could say that we are like porridge. First we’re like small oat flakes — small, dry, fragile, alone. But then we’re cooked with the other oat flakes and become soft. We join so that one flake can’t be told apart from another. We’re almost dissolved. Together we become a big porridge that’s warm, tasty, and nutritious and yes, quite beautiful, too. So we are no longer small and isolated but we have become warm, soft and joined together. Part of something bigger than ourselves. Sometimes life feels like an enormous porridge, don’t you think?”

Then he spoons a great glutinous glob of tasteless starch onto the poor kids’ plates. That’s Scandinavia for you, folks: Bland, wholesome, individual-erasing mush. But, hey, at least we’re all united in being slowly digested by the system.



Another dose of Leftist hypocrisy

There will be an election for the State government in my home State of Queensland on 31st of this month. And the campaigns reflect much of what is true elsewhere. This campaign is an excellent example of how Leftists live in an eternal and unprincipled present. The Left is attacking the ruling conservatives over the sell-offs of government property that the conservatives are doing. Yet the last Leftist government also did big sell-offs, including the government freight railroad. What is good for the goose is evidently not good for the gander. What makes a policy right when Leftists do it but wrong when others do it?

A small excerpt from a current news report below:

The first stop in Cairns was Barron Gorge hydro power station — owned by Stanwell, one of the government-owned corporations slated for privatisation under the Newman government. And in Townsville, Ms Palaszczuk will continue her anti-privatisation message, attending a rally in the north Queensland capital The policy difference is the key contrast between the ALP and the LNP ahead of the January 31 poll.



For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


18 January, 2015

Nazi ideology

I have been including in my postings here occasional comments on history because I believe that you need to know how we got to where we are today before you can understand what is going on in the world today. Leftists, of course shrink from knowing anything about history because of the way it falsifies their claims. In particular it shows that their "solutions" to the problems of today have already been tried and found wanting. They are like a dog returning to its vomit (Proverbs 26:11).

My offering today is an excerpt from psychohistorian Richard A. Koenigberg. He shows where collectivism leads and in so doing displays how alien to conservatism Nazism was. There was NOTHING "Right wing" about it. It was totally alien to the individual liberty concerns that have always been basic to conservative thought

Robert J. Lifton's book, The Nazi Doctors (1986) provides evidence that the fantasy that drove Hitler's thinking drove the thinking of other Nazis as well. Lifton spent several years interviewing 29 men who had been significantly involved at high levels with Nazi medicine. Lifton's reconstruction of the deep-structure of Nazi ideology presented in his book is based upon these interviews, combined with an analysis of written accounts, documents, speeches, diaries, and letters.

The central fantasy uncovered by Lifton was that of the German nation as an organism that could succumb to an illness. Lifton cites Dr. Johann S. who spoke about being "doctor to the Volkskorper (‘national body’ or ‘people's’ body)." National Socialism, Dr. Johann S. said, is a movement rather than a party, constantly growing and changing according to the "health" requirements of the people's body. "Just as a body may succumb to illness," the doctor declared, so "the Volkskorper could do the same."

When Lifton asked another doctor, Fritz Klein, how he could reconcile the concentration camps with his Hippocratic Oath to save lives, he replied "Of course I am a doctor and I want to preserve life. And out of respect for human life, I would remove a gangrenous appendix from a diseased body. The Jew is the gangrenous appendix in the body of mankind." Lifton mentioned this phrase "gangrenous appendix" to another Nazi, Dr. B., who quickly answered that his overall feeling and that of the other Nazi doctors was that "Whether you want to call it an appendix or not, it must be extirpated (ausgerottet, meaning also "exterminated," "destroyed," "eradicated").

Goebbels put it this way: "Our task here is surgical; drastic incisions, or some day Europe will perish of the Jewish disease." Hans Frank, General Governor of Poland during the Nazi occupation, called Jews "a lower species of life, a kind of vermin, which upon contact infected the German people with deadly diseases." When the Jews in the area he ruled had been killed, he declared that, "Now a sick Europe will become healthy again."

Finally, on February 22, 1942, Hitler made the following astonishing statement: "The discovery of the Jewish virus is one of the greatest revolutions that have taken place in the world. The battle we are engaged in is of the same sort as the battle waged during the last century, by Pasteur and Koch."



Ducking Reality: Administration Goes to Rhetorical Extremes on Terror Attacks

Jonah Goldberg

Could this argument be any dumber? The Obama administration has forced America and much of the world into a debate no one wanted or needed. Namely, does Islamic terrorism have anything to do with Islam.

This debate is different than the much-coveted "national conversation on race" that politicians so often call for (usually as a way to duck having it), because that is a conversation at least some people want. The White House doesn't want a conversation about Islam and terrorism.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest says, "We have chosen not to use that label [of radical Islam] because it doesn't seem to accurately describe what happened."

What happened was the slaughter last week at the satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo. The sound of the terrorists' gunfire was punctuated by shouts of "Allahu akbar!" and "We have avenged the prophet Muhammad!"

Since no one questions the sincerity of these declarations, that alone should settle the issue of whether Islam had anything to do with the attack. And for normal people it would.

The problem is that the White House's position is categorical denial. It is not that the role of Islam in such attacks is exaggerated. Nor is it that these attacks should not be used to disparage more than a billion peaceful Muslims around the world. These are mainstream and defensible positions.

But, again, that's not what the White House is saying. It is saying that one should not associate these attacks with the word "Islamic," no matter what adjective you hang on it -- radical, extreme, perverted, etc. -- even when the murderers release videos attesting to their faith and their association with Islamist terror groups.

By taking this radical and extremist rhetorical approach, the Obama administration invites people to talk about Islam more, not less.

Think of it this way. A bird waddles into the room. It walks like a duck, it talks like a duck, it gives off every indication of duckness. If Josh Earnest says, "That's not a mallard," well, OK. You can have a reasonable conversation about which species the bird might be. But if Earnest says, "That is not a duck. It has no relation or similarity to anatine fowl in any way, shape or form, and any talk of ducks is illegitimate"

Well, now we have a problem. Such rhetorical extremism almost forces people into an argument about what a duck is. Likewise, by denying the role of radical Islam, they invite sane people everywhere to focus more, not less, on Islam.

There are, of course, many problems with this analogy. The most important one is that ducks cannot talk. They cannot say, “Look, I am a duck.”

Terrorists can talk. And they do. They also form organizations with magazines and websites and Twitter accounts. They issue manifestos. They recruit in mosques. When we capture them alive, they demand Qurans and pray five times a day, bowing toward Mecca.

You know who else can talk? Non-extremist Muslims. And millions of them routinely refer to the bad guys as radical Islamists and the like.

I could go on, but you get the point — if you don’t work at this White House.

The Obama administration seems to believe that the wonder-working power of their words can get everyone to stop believing their lying eyes and ears. It’s tempting to ask, “How stupid do they think we are?” But the more relevant question is, “How stupid do they think the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims are?” Whatever appeal the Islamic State may or may not have in the larger Muslim world, Barack Obama insisting “it is not Islamic” surely makes no difference whatsoever. And as for the jihadists, it’s not like his words speak louder than his drone strikes.

It’s true that the Obama administration has had remarkable success playing word games. They “created or saved” millions of jobs — as if that was a real economic metric. (For what it’s worth, I do or save 500 pushups every morning). They decimated “core al-Qaeda,” with the tautological definition of “core al-Qaeda” being “the parts of al-Qaeda that we have decimated.”

But this is different. Those distortions were political buzzphrases intended for domestic consumption and a re-election campaign. This is a much bigger deal. The threat of Islamic extremism transcends Obama’s theological hubris and lexicological shenanigans. All that Obama’s insipid rhetorical gamesmanship does is send the signal to friend and foe alike that he can’t or won’t see the problem for what it is.



Leftmedia Self-Censors to Appease Violent Islamists

The Leftmedia’s resolve to uphold the freedom of speech buckled this week as, one by one, television news stations reported on the latest Charlie Hebdo edition featuring a weeping Muhammad but did not show the cover. (We haven’t shown the cover for the simple reason that it’s lousy and even phallic.)

NBC’s “Today” and ABC’s “Good Morning America” told its viewers what to think of the image that they didn’t show, describing the front page as “a triumph for free speech.” SkyNews went so far as to reprimand a writer for Charlie Hebdo when she tried to show the image during a live interview. As she held up the paper, the station cut away and the anchor said, “We at SkyNews have chosen not to show that cover, so we’d appreciate it, Caroline, not showing that.” He continued, “I do apologize, for any of our viewers who may have been offended by that.”

CNN digressed even further when its religion editor, Daniel Burke, compared the Muslim communities in France to the community in Ferguson, Missouri. “There is a prevailing feeling in France among many Muslims that they are not treated as part of the state at large,” Burke complained. Pandering to violent extremism is only one sign that our culture’s moral fortitude has begun to decay.



Don't Get Sick in Canada! Wait Times Grow Even Longer

The Doctor Will See You in 18.2 Weeks

An updated report by a Canadian think tank documents long waits for necessary medical care in Canada's government-run, single-payer health care system. Canada’s single-payer health system is frequently touted as a model for the United States to follow.

According to the report, by Bacchus Barua and Frazier Fathers of the Fraser Institute, Canadians wait for necessary medical treatments an average of 18.2 weeks between referral from a general practitioner and the time the patient receives treatment from a specialist. Barua and Fathers surveyed specialist physicians across 10 provinces and 12 specialties and found the average wait time is 96 percent longer than in 1993, when it was just 9.3 weeks.

“Canada rations through long waiting times and limited access,” said Dr. Roger Stark, a health care policy analyst at the Washington Policy Center and a retired physician. “These long waits would not be acceptable to Americans who are rightly accustomed to timely health care.”

The Fraser report was the 25th annual report on wait times in Canada.

Variation in Waits

The wait times reported by Barau and Fathers are median waits, meaning half of the patients are seen in less than the reported time while half are seen in more than the reported time.

The report found a great deal of variation between provinces in the total wait times patients face. Ontario has the shortest total wait, 14.1 weeks, followed closely by Saskatchewan with an average wait of 14.2 weeks.

At the other end of the spectrum, patients in New Brunswick have the longest wait at 37.3 weeks, with Prince Edward Island reporting waits of 35.9 weeks and Nova Scotia patients wait 32.7 weeks.

Wait times also varied by specialties. The longest wait is for orthopedic surgery, 42.2 weeks, while neurosurgery patients wait an average of 31.2 weeks. Cancer patients have relatively short waits, only 3.3 weeks for medical oncology and 4.2 weeks for radiation oncology. Elective cardiovascular surgery patients wait 9.9 weeks.

Barua told Health Care News Canadian taxpayers are funding a very expensive system that is failing to deliver timely access to health care for patients in need of medically necessary treatment.

“Wait times have become a defining feature of Canada’s health care system, and they can have serious consequences,” said Barua. “For example, they may force some patients to endure months of physical pain and mental anguish, they may result in lower worker productivity and forgone wages, they can sometimes result in a potentially treatable illness being transformed into a debilitating permanent condition, and in the worst cases they may result in death.”

Wait Lists Growing

According to Dr. Barua, it’s easy to understand what hasn’t caused waiting times to soar from 9.3 weeks in 1993 to 18.2 weeks in 2014.

“It clear that it is not likely due to insufficient funding, as health care expenditure per capita increased about 51 percent (after adjusting for inflation) during the period,” said Barua. “We also currently have one of the most expensive universal health care systems in the world – we’re just not receiving commensurate value in return.”

Barua points to the nature of single-payer health care as the cause of the waits. “The necessity to ration health care through wait times essentially results from an basic imbalance between demand and supply -- a situation that is a product of the government monopoly on the financing and delivery of core medical services, the lack of appropriate incentives for providers, and the absence of means-tested cost-sharing for patients,” explained Barua.

Dr. John Dale Dunn, an emergency physician and policy advisor to The Heartland Institute, identifies the bureaucratic nature of Canadian health care as a source of the problem.

“The reason this happens is that a province gets a global budget which is arbitrarily set by bureaucrats with no effort made to respond to what people need,” Dunn said. “The people in control of this money know they must spend everything, but not go over the budget, so they do this by restricting access.”

Dunn described how the incentive for bureaucrats is to treat less-serious cases ahead of patients with more serious medical issues in order to avoid going over budget.

“Say you need an operation, you are by definition in the Canadian system defined as an outlier,” explained Dunn. “You are going to have to bang on the door to get any treatment. So what they do is fill their beds with people who don't have exotic care and this restricts access,” for patient with expensive and complex medical needs.

“This is indirect rationing -- it's the kind of thing that is bound to happen with global budgets,” Dunn said. “Almost 30 years ago, I started to see doctors leaving Canada because they were disgusted with the system because it prevented them from treating patients.”

U.S. Single Payer Advocates

Despite the continued problem of long waits for needed medical care, as well as the recent abandonment of a single-payer health system by longtime proponent Governor Peter Shumlin of Vermont, there remains some support in the U.S. for moving towards a completely government-financed health system.

The New York State Assembly’s health committee will hold a hearing tomorrow, January 13, on Assembly Member Richard Gottfried’s (D-Manhattan) legislation to adopt single-payer health care in the state of New York. Gottfried chairs the health committee.



For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


16 January, 2015

Should we all live on beans?

There is a book called “The Blue Zones” which researched areas of the world that have an unusual concentration of centenarians (people reaching the age of 100). Let me put up a brief summary of its conclusions before I comment:

All long-lived people live on a high-carb, low-fat, plant-based diet

All long-lived people eat a lot of vegetables, including greens.

Whenever they can get it, long-lived populations eat a lot of fruit and it seems to contribute to their longevity

When animal products are consumed, it’s occasionally and in small amounts only. But the 7th Day Adventist study also showed that vegans live longer than vegetarians or meat eaters, so the ideal is to avoid all animal products. If you do eat animal products, it shouldn’t be more than a few times a month (paleo eaters take note).

All long-lived people had periods in their life when a lot less food was available and they had to survive on a very sparse, limited diet. For example, the centenarians in the book in Okinawa describe a time during World War II when they lived on sweet potatoes for three meals a day. When discussing the centenarians in Italy: “When their family was young, in the 1950s, they were very poor. They ate what they produced on their land — mostly bread, cheese and vegetables (zucchini, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and most significantly, fava beans). Meat was at best a weekly affair, boiled on Sunday with pasta and roasted during the festivals.” This reinforces my concept of periodic fasting. Because we live in a society of such abundance, we have to force ourselves to go through periods of restrictions with periodic cleanses and fasting.

All long-lived people live in a sunny, warm climate — but not necessarily tropical. They got plenty of vitamin D from natural sunshine. The warmer climate probably also contributes to less stress and a more relaxed lifestyle.

All long-lived people consume beans in some form or another.

Nuts appear to be good for health. The 7th Day Adventists who ate a small serving of nuts several times a week had about half the risk of heart disease of those who didn’t.

The typical centenarian diet is very simple. If you analyze all these diets from long-lived people around the world, they essentially eat the same simple foods every day. It appears that you do not need a wide variety of foods in your diet to be healthy. Quality food over variety is more important. Also, rich foods like meat and cheese are reserved for special occasions, and eaten at the most a few times a month if at all.

They did not constantly change their diet or jump on the latest superfood fad. They ate the same seasonal things every day of the year.


Those conclusions were derived from a study of just 5 populations -- and from a statistician's point of view a sample size of 5 is most unlikely to support accurate generalizations.

But let us accept that the generaliations are accurate and ask whether there are other factors that explain the findings. One such stood out to me as I read it: Food shortage. Note that the groups above lived on very little. A sub-demand food intake both increases longevity and reduces stature. It get you lots of long-lived short people -- as in Japan, where the food supply was very sparse for most people up until about 1960.

The effect of food shortage on stature can be extreme -- as we see in North Korea today, where the average North Korean army recruit averages out at around 4'6". And in reverse we see that the young people of Japan today are much taller than their grandparents. From memory the average has increased from about 5' to about 5'6"

So my theory that the long lives in the study groups are attributable to food shortage is thus easily testable. It follows from my theory that the individuals concerned will be very short. That should be easily testable if the authors want to advance their claims. I think there is a fair likelihood that they won't need to go back with tape-measures, however. I think they will recollect themselves towering over their study populations.

The next question concerns the California Adventists. They presumably had no food shortages, living in one of the great centers of agricultural productivity. That may be so but the Adventists could be a special case for reasons other than their food. They are also members of a very religious group and it has been observed that very religious people (also the Mormons, for instance) tend to live long and healthy lives -- presumably because both the religion itself and the community that usually comes with it de-stresses people.

But, again, let us assume that both food shortage and religion were irrelevant to the findings above. We then come to the policy decision: Is it worth it to live longer on a much less palatable diet than what we are used to? I think there is not much doubt that the majority answer is a resounding: "No". I happen to like beans but that is certainly my answer


Revolutions Eat Their Parents

Left-wing revolution is one of history's biggest bait-and-switches. Both for the intellectuals who hanker for the grapeshot, and for the marginalized peoples who get concentration camps instead of the anti-capitalist utopia they were promised.

"Revolutions eat their children." This observation, by a journalist during the French Revolution, was only partly true. In reality, revolutions eat their parents. In particular, history’s left-wing revolutions eat the left-wing intellectuals who made them happen. By “left-wing” here I mean revolutions that explicitly aim to use government power to reshuffle society. To remake society so it matches whatever version of “justice” strikes its promoters as attractive.

Of course, in such reformist revolutions the eggheads are just an appetizer. History's reformist revolutions move straight on to the main course: the marginalized and minorities who were often the revolution's most passionate supporters to begin with.

The left-wing revolutions of the twentieth century have all followed this pattern: midwifed by utopian intellectuals, power is quickly seized by political entrepreneurs who play to the basest instincts of the common people. Even in the most “civilized” places, such as “anything goes” Weimar Germany or 1950s “playground of the stars” Cuba, these newly enthroned are happy to see those eggheads and their “perverted” friends interred, tortured, hung from the nearest lamp post.

The litany is depressing. Especially for any tenured radical drawing taxpayer money to cheer on the violence. Mao famously boasted of “burying 46,000 scholars alive” meaning he shipped them wholesale to concentration camps so they would shut up and die. Pol Pot’s radical communist movement famously executed intellectuals in the thousands, extending to anybody who wore glasses. Even the supposedly “cool” regimes like Fidel Castro set up concentration camps for homosexuals, while the Soviet Union illegalized homosexuality for over fifty years, outdoing by a mile that light-weight hater Putin.

Most ironically, given his campus stardom, radical hero Che Guevara gleefully and personally executed homosexuals, whom he detested, while helping set up Fidel's network of camps across the county to torture gays and effeminate men into renouncing their allegedly wicked perversions that were supposedly the product of morally corrosive capitalism.

Why do reformist revolutions enjoy executing both left-wing intellectuals and the very “vulnerable groups” so near to the leftist heart? Because power has its own logic. Because any government based on violence has to constantly watch its back. And that means it has to appeal to the basest instincts of the masses. If the masses hate gays, or Jews, or the eggheads, then the government will do what it's told, stuffing the Gulags with gays, Jews, and eggheads. What the basest people hate, omnipotent government hates.

Why are intellectuals so blind to this horrible pattern? Presumably, they hope this time is different and that the campus radicals and their pet politicians will hold on this time. If history is a guide, they will not. Instead, their revolution will get snatched from them by political entrepreneurs and turned into their worst nightmare: a revolution that is anti-intellectual, anti-gay, racist, and anti-Semitic. No matter how pure the birth of the revolution, history suggests this is what it will come to.

This gives no pleasure to point out. None of us want radical leftists hanging from lampposts, or executed in Che's office for his entertainment. What we do wish is that violence-promoting reformers would have a bit more respect for the fire they play with. For them to study a bit more history. To understand why it is, always and everywhere, so dangerous to ride the tiger of unlimited government.

The left thinks it can control the tiger of the masses unleashed. It cannot, and indeed it will be the first to hang. And that would be very sad for us all, left and right.



A Leftist-Islamic Alliance

The twin massacres in Paris were, according to the perpetrators themselves, payback for blasphemy. In other words, Islamists believe in the “right not to be offended.” If that sounds familiar, maybe it’s because the American left believes exactly the same thing.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s (FIRE) latest report reveals that of the 437 colleges and universities they surveyed, more than 55 percent maintain what FIRE refers to as “red light” restrictions on free speech. In 2012, FIRE president Greg Lukianoff offered examples of those “speech codes,” noting that they may consist of restricting speech that “feels offensive,” “demeaning,” that which will “discredit the student body” or any language deemed to be “abusive, indecent, profane or vulgar.”

And that’s just a small sampling of the official stances taken by colleges themselves. As revealed by Healther Mac Donald, "microaggressions,“ a laughably pathetic concept defined as "a form of unintended discrimination…depicted by the use of known social norms of behavior and/or expression that, while without conscious choice of the user, has the same effect as conscious, intended discrimination,” has become entrenched on college campuses as well. Thus one no longer has to make a conscious effort to offend. As long as someone else feels offended, it is more than enough to engender criticism, or as Mac Donald chronicles, the sacking of a 79-year-old UCLA college professor for creating “a toxic, unsafe and intellectually stifling environment at its current worse (sic)” in his classroom – according to a “Day of Action Statement” written by “Scholars of Color.”

Note that even the most rabid Islamists require some kind of overt blasphemy to instigate their murderous rampages. At campuses like UCLA, where the commitment to “social justice” conquers all, the thought police are out in full force. And they have more “ammo” to work with than just microaggressions. “White privilege," defined as "a term for societal privileges that benefit white people in western countries beyond what is commonly experienced by the non-white people under the same social, political, or economic circumstances,” is another hammer designed to induce guilt in the unsuspecting. Such privileges are defined (I kid you not) by such things as flesh-colored band-aids and pantyhose, and shampoos that “are in the aisle and section labeled ‘hair care’ and not in a separate section for ‘ethnic products,’” according to Jennifer R. Holladay, M.S., author of "White Anti-Racist Activism: A Personal Roadmap.“

The effort pursued by both the Islamists and the American left is exactly the same: the deconstruction of Western culture and one of its bedrock principles, free expression.

Unfortunately, Western culture has demonstrated it is more than willing to go along for the ride, and nothing speaks to this more forcefully than open borders, coupled with the notion that we owe something to the 11 million people (or perhaps 20 or 30 million) that have ignored our immigration laws. Even more incredibly, our leftist-dominated ruling class continues down this road, even as the price of allowing millions of people more interested in preserving their own way of life rather than embracing a host nation’s culture is playing itself out in Europe at this very moment. And while one sympathizes with the current tribulations endured by the French, a daunting reality cannot be ignored:

They brought these atrocities upon themselves.

And not just with unrestrained immigration. In 2008, the European Union mandated religious hate-speech laws. France itself has laws against speech that "insults, defames or incites hatred, discrimination or violence on the basis of religion, race, ethnicity, nationality, disability, sex or sexual orientation.” Moreover, the very same Charlie Hebdo staff characterized as “courageous chroniclers” by French President Francois Hollande was the staff who had hate speech charges leveled at them in 2006-2007 by then-president Jacques Chirac. “Anything that can hurt the convictions of someone else, in particular religious convictions, should be avoided,” he said at the time. “Freedom of expression should be exercised in a spirit of responsibility.”

How to reconcile the difference between free expression and the spirit of responsibility is impossible to know, but it is telling that, on this side of the Atlantic, the same leftists who embrace campus speech codes are the ones more than willing to embrace expressions such as “nativist,” “xenophobic,” bigoted,“ "racist,” “Islamophobic,” and a number of other equally gratuitous insults all of which are designed – irony notwithstanding – to suppress the speech of those who would disagree with the leftist agenda.

It is the same leftist agenda that tossed the melting pot mentality on the ash heap of history and replaced it with the multicultural-inspired notion that immigrants should “celebrate their differences,” rather than assimilate American customs, culture, traditions and language.

That’s exactly what occurred in France last week. Islamists embraced their jihadist culture, in all suppressive and murderous glory. And even worse, they were aided and abetted by one “courageous” media outlet after another, all of whom refused to print the offending cartoons altogether, or pixilated the insulting parts. And then, adding insult to injury, they proceeded to warn us about “seething" anti-immigrant feelings and a rise in Islamophobia, both of which feed the "far-right nationalist parties.”

In other words, nationalism and the desire to protect the prevailing culture is a bad thing.

And so we will endure the alternative. In France, “law enforcement officers have been told to erase their social media presence and to carry their weapons at all times because terror sleeper cells have been activated over the last 24 hours in the country,” CNN reports. In America, “Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat and her party’s ranking member on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, flatly stated that she believes terrorist cells are hiding in Europe and the U.S., waiting to be activated and carry out attacks similar to the ones that claimed 17 lives in France last week," reports the Washington Times.

Those would be terror cells undoubtedly inspired by the ongoing advances of ISIS and al Qaeda in the Middle East, the Boko Haram in Nigeria, and a host of other Islamic terrorist entities allowed to fester or flourish, lest terms like "overseas contingency operation,” “man-caused disaster,” “militants,” “insurgents,” “extremists,” “workplace violence,” etc., etc., are revealed for the utterly bankrupt frauds they truly are. And as long as the West continues to make politically correct war against this Islamist cancer, it will remain a source of inspiration for every wannabe jihadist-in-waiting – even as feckless Western leaders walk on politically correct eggshells to avoid making the direct connection between the two.

And perhaps no one speaks to that fecklessness better than our own president, who declined to attend the rally in Paris where more than 40 other heads of state, and 1.5 million people, convened to denounce the atrocities. Even Obama apologists such as NBC’s Andrea Mitchell noted the “stunning” nature of the snub, while the reliably leftist Ron Fournier insisted it was “mistake,” but not a “disgrace.”

More to the point, it was no accident. Obama has made it clear he disdains American exceptionalism and our nation’s role as the world’s last remaining superpower. And while apologists like Fournier insist it isn’t disgraceful that our president decided to watch NFL football instead of attending the rally, it is quite disgraceful when none of America’s top leaders, including Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry or Attorney General Eric Holder – who was in Paris at the time – were there to represent our nation. Instead ambassador Jane Hartley, who raised more than $500,000 in campaign funds for Obama, was our highest ranking official on the scene.

In other words, Clint Eastwood was right on the money when he portrayed Obama as an empty chair at the Republican National Convention. And it is that empty chair America must endure for two more years, the one who will convene a Feb. 18 “Summit on Countering Violent Extremism” that makes no mention whatsoever of Islamic extremism.

No doubt our president doesn’t want to say anything that might offend someone.



For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


15 January, 2015

Are better looking women conservatives?

The authors below are careful not to draw that conclusion but it is a reasonable inference from the findings reported. We read below: "But the women rated as more physically attractive by their peers were more likely to endorse values like conformity and tradition rather than values like self-direction and universalism". That sounds like a pretty clear Left/Right split to me. The essence of conservatism is caution so that could well be perceived as being more conforming. Conservatives tend to be much more acceptant of the status quo than Leftists are and don't like to rock the boat. The Leftist authors, of course, put quite a different spin on their results. See particularly what they "suggest" in the last sentence of their journal abstract below. Being unattracted by world government is apparently "self-promotion"!

Does being beautiful on the outside make you beautiful on the inside? Not necessarily, although attractive women are often thought to have more desirable personality traits in the eyes of strangers, new research shows.

In actuality, beautiful women might be more likely to have some less attractive values, favoring conformity and self-promotion over independence and tolerance, the study found.

Researchers from the Open University of Israel and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem recruited 118 female students to serve as "targets" in the study. These women completed questionnaires to measure their values (such as tradition, self-direction, conformity and benevolence) and personality traits (such as extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism). The participants, whose average age was 29, were then video-recorded for about a minute as they entered a room and read a weather forecast while looking into the camera.

Another 118 participants served as judges. Forty percent of this group was male and each watched the video footage of a different target, chosen randomly, before evaluating that woman's values, traits and attractiveness.

If a target was judged as physically attractive, the researchers found she was also perceived to be agreeable, open to experience, extroverted, conscientious and emotionally stable — all socially desirable traits. The judges were also more likely to believe that more attractive women valued achievement compared with less attractive women.

"People are warned not to 'judge a book by its cover,' but they often do exactly that," the researchers wrote in their paper in the journal Psychological Science.

Meanwhile, the questionnaires that the targets filled out about themselves showed no correlations between these personality traits and their perceived attractiveness. But the women rated as more physically attractive by their peers were more likely to endorse values like conformity and tradition rather than values like self-direction and universalism, which is linked to tolerance and a concern for others, the researchers said.

"Thus, whereas people hold the 'what is beautiful is good' stereotype, our findings suggest that the beautiful strive for conformity rather than independence and for self-promotion rather than tolerance," wrote the authors, led by Lihi Segal-Caspi of the Open University.



Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover, Revisited

Perceived and Reported Traits and Values of Attractive Women

By Lihi Segal-Caspi et al.


Research has documented a robust stereotype regarding personality attributes related to physical attractiveness (the “what is beautiful is good” stereotype). But do physically attractive women indeed possess particularly attractive inner attributes? Studying traits and values, we investigated two complementary questions: how perceived attractiveness relates to perceived personality, and how it relates to actual personality. First, 118 women reported their traits and values and were videotaped reading the weather forecast. Then, 118 judges rated the traits, values, and attractiveness of the women. As hypothesized, attractiveness correlated with attribution of desirable traits, but not with attribution of values. By contrast, attractiveness correlated with actual values, but not actual traits: Attractiveness correlated with tradition and conformity values (which were contrasted with self-direction values) and with self-enhancement values (which were contrasted with universalism values). Thus, despite the widely accepted “what is beautiful is good” stereotype, our findings suggest that the beautiful strive for conformity rather than independence and for self-promotion rather than tolerance.



In Denial About the Attack in France

When America was hit on 9/11, the world united around us. France just had its 9/11, and again the civilized world has come together, all except the United States. Where were America's leaders as the rest of the world united?

The reaction to Islamic terrorists killing 17 people in Paris in the name of their radical creed has been greeted with a very strange perceived need to deflect or just dismiss it in liberal political and media circles.

Most journalists tried to downplay or ignore Obama's failure to attend the huge Sunday "unity" rally in Paris, where 40 world leaders gathered in a show of support for France. While the New York tabloids mocked Obama, most national newspapers mentioned "World leaders link arms" and barely noticed the leader of the free world had stayed home to watch football games.

Even after the White House spokesman admitted it was an error for top American officials to skip the event, obviously in reaction to national and international outrage, still some newspapers buried it inside their papers like it was no big deal.

There were other distressing signs of liberal deflection. CNN International anchor Christiane Amanpour called the terrorists mere "activists" in her reporting on the shootings at the satire magazine Charlie Hebdo: "On this day, these activists found their targets, and their targets were journalists."

Amanpour was quoting one of the dead cartoonists, who said, "When activists need a pretext to justify their violence, they always find it." Words matter, especially to journalists, and this was the wrong word. Activists write letters to the editor, join a community organization or protest, volunteer for a political campaign, man a phone bank.

Men who terrorize by slaughtering innocent men, women and children are terrorists.

Even during an outbreak of terrorism, some leftists deflect, putting bizarre political spins on the events at hand. Some continue to insist that the terrorism du jour is caused by Bush's war in Iraq, or any other response to 9/11, like the prisoners held at Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo.

Or it's those Jews. It was amazing to listen to Jimmy Carter (who simply refuses to leave the world stage, even decades after the curtain fell) suggest the Jews and "the Palestinian problem" bore responsibility. BBC reporter Tim Willcox upbraided a Jewish woman saying Jews are being targeted in France, insisting to her that "many critics though of Israel's policy would suggest that the Palestinians suffer hugely at Jewish hands as well." (He later apologized for a "poorly phrased question," which it wasn't. It was an inaccurately stated declaration.)

After the terrorist attack, liberal journalists worried about the "backlash" from the "far right" that opposes rapid immigration or the spread of aggressive Islam. On MSNBC, for example, Andrea Mitchell lectured the attacks would be "a challenge for France," a country "where immigration and the Muslim population has been under fire." The challenge is not to "react negatively and not to paint people with a broad brush."

The left also loves to smear Christians and Jews into the conversation about radical religion. On MSNBC, former Rolling Stone executive editor Eric Bates compared the mass murder in Paris to Jerry Falwell's lawsuit against the porno magazine Hustler. "This isn't just Islamic extremism. If you go back to the '80s, during the Reagan administration, when Jerry Falwell sued Hustler magazine for portraying him having, I believe it was drunken incest with his mother in an outhouse." How on Earth can you compare Falwell filing a lawsuit to the mass murder of 17 people in France?

The left passionately attempts to inflame the world against such slow-emerging, life-threatening crises as "catastrophic global warming" or fast-food menus without calorie counts. But when it comes to Islamic jihad, they seem oddly incapable of outrage or alarm. They just deflect or dismiss.



Open Letter To Muslim World

by Abdennour Bidar

"Dear Muslim world: I am one of your estranged sons, who views you from without and from afar—from France, where so many of your children live today. I look at you with the harsh eyes of a philosopher, nourished from infancy on tasawwuf (Sufism) and Western thought. I therefore look at you from my position of barzakh, from an isthmus between the two seas of the East and the West.

"And what do I see? What do I see better than others, precisely because I see you from afar, from a distance? I see you in a state of misery and suffering that saddens me to no end, but which makes my philosopher's judgment even harsher, because I see you in the process of birthing a monster that presumes to call itself the Islamic State, and which some prefer to call by a demon's name—Da'esh. But worst of all is that I see that you are losing yourself and your dignity, and wasting your time, in your refusal to recognize that this monster is born of you: of your irresoluteness, your contradictions, your being torn between past and present, and your perpetual inability to find your place in human civilization.

"What do you [Muslims] say when faced with this monster? You shout, 'That's not me!' 'That's not Islam!' You reject [the possibility] that this monster's crimes are committed in your name (#NotInMyName). You rebel against the monster's hijacking of your identity, and of course you are right to do so. It is essential that you proclaim to the world, loud and clear, that Islam condemns barbarity. But this is absolutely not enough! For you are taking refuge in your self-defense reflex, without realizing it, and above all without undertaking any self-criticism. You become indignant and are satisfied with that—but you are missing an historical opportunity to question yourself. Instead of taking responsibility for yourself, you accuse others, [saying]: 'You Westerners, and all you enemies of Islam, stop associating us with this monster! Terrorism is not Islam! The true Islam, the good Islam, doesn't mean war, it means peace!'"

"Oh my dear Muslim world, I hear the cry of rebellion rising within you, and I understand it. Yes, you are right: Like every one of the great sacred inspirations in the world, Islam has, throughout its history, created beauty, justice, meaning and good, and it has [been a source of] powerful enlightenment for humans on the mysterious path of existence... Here in the West, I fight, in all my books, [to make sure that] this wisdom of Islam and of all religions is not forgotten or despised. But because of my distance [from the Muslim world], I can see what you cannot... and this inspires me to ask: Why has this monster stolen your face? Why has this despicable monster chosen your face and not another? The truth is that behind this monster hides a huge problem, one you do not seem ready to confront. Yet in the end you will have to find the courage [to do so]...

"Where do the crimes of this so-called 'Islamic State' come from? I'll tell you, my friend, and it will not make you happy, but it is my duty as a philosopher [to tell you]. The root of this evil that today steals your face is within yourself; the monster emerged from within you. And other monsters, some even worse, will emerge as well, as long as you refuse to acknowledge your sickness and to finally tackle the root of this evil!

"Even Western intellectuals have difficulty seeing this. For the most part they have forgotten the power of religion—for good and for evil, over life and over death—to the extent that they tell me, 'No, the problem of the Muslim world is not Islam, not the religion, but rather politics, history, economics, etc.' They completely forget that religion may be the core of the reactor of human civilization, and that tomorrow the future of humanity will depend not only on a resolution to the financial crisis, but also, and much more essentially, on a resolution to the unprecedented spiritual crisis that is affecting all of mankind."

"Will we be able to come together, across the world, and face this fundamental challenge? The spiritual nature of man abhors a vacuum, and if it finds nothing new with which to fill the vacuum, tomorrow it will fill it with religions that are less and less adapted to the present, and which, like Islam today, will [also] begin producing monsters.

"I see in you, oh Muslim world, great forces ready to rise up and contribute to this global effort to find a spiritual life for the 21st century. Despite the severity of your sickness, you have within you a great multitude of men and women who are willing to reform Islam, to reinvent its genius beyond its historical forms, and to be part of the total renewal of the relationship that mankind once had with its gods. It is to all those who dream together of a spiritual revolution, both Muslims and non-Muslims, that I have addressed my books, and to whom I offer, with my philosopher's words, confidence in that which their hope glimpses."

"But these Muslim men and women who look to the future are not yet sufficiently numerous, nor is their word sufficiently powerful. All of them, whose clarity and courage I welcome, have plainly seen that it is the Muslim world's general state of profound sickness that explains the birth of terrorist monsters with names like Al-Qaeda, Jabhat Al-Nusra, AQIM, and Islamic State. They understand all too well that these are only the most visible symptoms of an immense diseased body, whose chronic maladies include the inability to establish sustainable democracies that recognize freedom of conscience vis-a-vis religious dogmas as a moral and political right; chronic difficulties in improving women's status...; the inability to sufficiently free political power from its control by religious authority; and the inability to promote respectful, tolerant and genuine recognition of religious pluralism and religious minorities."

"Could all this be the fault of the West? How much precious time will you lose, dear Muslim world, with this stupid accusation that you yourself no longer believe, and behind which you hide so that you can continue to lie to yourself?

"Particularly since the eighteenth century—it's past time you acknowledged it—you have been unable to meet the challenge of the West. You have childishly and embarrassingly sought refuge in the past, with the obscurantist Wahhabism regression that continues to wreak havoc almost everywhere within your borders—the Wahhabism that you spread from your holy places in Saudi Arabia like a cancer originating from your very heart. In other ways, you emulated the worst [aspects] of the West—with nationalism and a modernism that caricatures modernity. I refer here especially to the technological development, so inconsistent with the religious archaism, that makes your fabulously wealthy Gulf 'elite' mere willing victims of the global disease— the worship of the god Money.



For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


14 January, 2015

An al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula Leader Claims the Paris Attacks on Twitter

By Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi

The data below- a series of tweets by Bakhsaruf al-Danqulah (an AQAP leader active on Twitter)translated by me- seem to point to a growing probability of AQAP involvement behind the recent attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices etc. in Paris.

While the media have reported that one of the attackers supposedly claimed to be loyal to the Islamic State, that could just be an attempt to mislead the media with the worst Western nightmare: namely, a supposed coming together of al-Qa’ida and IS to attack the West.

1. Many followers are asking about the link between al-Qa’ida and those who carried out the Charlie Hebdo attack. The link is direct and the operation was supervised by AQAP.

2. The operation was directed by AQAP’s leadership. And they chose these targets out of desire to avenge the insult to the Holy Prophet.

3. And in France in particular for its undisguised role in the war on Islam and oppressed peoples.

4. The operation is an implementation of the threat of Sheikh Osama bin Laden in which he warned the West of the consequence in the long run of affront to the sanctities of Muslims.

5. He said in his message to the West: “If there is no limit to your freedom of speech, your chests will become broadened targets for our actions.”

6. The organization delayed implementation of the operation for security reasons dependent on the operatives. And the operation has a number of messages for all Western states.

7. Infringing on Islam’s sanctities and protecting those who mock them will bear a very heavy price. And the consequence will be severe and terrible.

8. The crimes of the Western states- especially America, Britain and France- will be turned on their heads within their abodes.

9. The policy of striking the far enemy which has remained for al-Qa’ida under Zawahiri’s leadership will continue in the realization of its aims, until the West falls back on itself.

10. The policy of the mujahideen of al-Qa’ida’s media incitement, especially Inspire magazine, has produced splendid results in the defining of its aims and marshalling potential.

11. For one of the authors put his name and photo [i.e. that of the editor of Charlie Hebdo] as a dead or alive target for the mujahideen, so the Western states should expect evil consequences and ruins by God’s power.

He then concludes with a call for people to disseminate and translate his tweets.



How are Things in Kobani?

By Jonathan Spyer

The battle for the Syrian Kurdish city of Kobani just entered its fourth month. It is now a fight for a heap of ruins. Four months of intense ground combat, involving tanks, mortars and RPGs as well as small arms, has reduced the city to rubble.

Nevertheless, Kobani matters. It is where the Syrian Kurds showed that with the right support, local fighters are capable of turning back the forces of the Islamic State.

Kobani also matters because as a result of the stand of the Kurdish YPG organization in the city, a potential reliable ally of the west in northern Syria has been identified. In the fight between rival successor entities over the ruins of Syria and Iraq, this is a relationship which deserves to be nurtured and developed.

I visited Kobani before the IS assault of the autumn. In March of last year, the enclave was under siege from four directions – the jihadis from south, east and west, and the Turkish authorities from the north. The Turks had a strange and ambiguous relationship with the ISIS jihadis. Sometimes the border gates would be opened to let them exit and enter. Wounded jihadis were treated in hospitals in Ceylanpinar across the border, with no questions asked.

Still, the Kurds were holding out. The positions near Tal Abyad to the east, and Jarabulus to the west, were well defended. In a place called Haj Ismail, I observed as the YPG responded swiftly and efficiently to the first signs of an ISIS attack.

Within the enclave, life was close to normal. There wasn’t a great deal of food. But the schools were operating, the hospitals were open. The Kurdish enclave had become a place of refuge for Syrian Arabs, too, seeking to flee the chaos of the fighting further west in Aleppo.

But the uneasy half-cold siege ended in September. The Islamic State, flush with new weaponry from the garrison in faraway Mosul, descended on the peaceful enclave. Their intention was to destroy it, so as to clear the way for their forces to move more easily between Raqqa province and Aleppo and Idleb.

They nearly succeeded. Despite the dogged defense of the YPG, the villages surrounding Kobani city began to fall. The civilian population was evacuated across the border. The YPG fighters prepared for a last stand within the city. What reversed the situation was the commencement of U.S. and coalition air attacks on the IS positions after October 6th. The air campaign evened out the YPG’s inferior weaponry, and the Kurds began to claw back control of the city.

Earlier this week, I spoke to Perwer Mohammed Ali, one of the Kurdish activists with whom I had worked back in March. Arrested by the Turks on leaving Kobani, Perwer made his way back to the enclave. I asked him about the current situation in the city.

“Right now its calm,” he told me. “The YPG control about 80% of the city. Daesh is still holding two neighborhoods – Kaniya Kurdan and Mikteleh. A couple of days ago, they tried to launch a counter attack. They had a tank with them, but they didn’t succeed.”

And are the coalition airstrikes helping?

“The coalition is good but we’d like them to target the tanks. IS has a bunch of them in Mikteleh.”

The liberation of Kobani seems near. The real task, says Perwer, will come afterwards. “Kobani is destroyed,” he told me, “so the big problem will be after the liberation.”

The liberation, nevertheless, seems imminent. When it comes, it will be testimony to the potency of U.S. air power, of course, but it will also be the result of the courage and determination of the fighters of the YPG.

The Middle East is the most dysfunctional political space on the planet. As has been amply demonstrated in recent days, ideas emanating from it and the bloody actions they inspire represent one of the most potent dangers to free societies anywhere.

The west cannot ignore the Middle East without abandoning it to anti-western forces. Engaging with the region, supporting allies, facing down dangers are all essential.

In the darkest days before the commencement of coalition bombing in Kobani, I sat in London with two leaders of the Kurdish PYD, the party that controls the Kurdish cantons in Syria. “Our situation,” they told me at that time, “is desperate.” The absence of even RPGs to deal with the IS armor seemed to presage doom.

Belatedly, Kobani was saved. The joint action of the U.S. Air Force and the YPG fighters who protected the town ought to be the start of a political relationship between the west and the Syrian Kurds. Dialogue with the PYD has begun. It should lead to a recognition of Kurdish national rights in both Syria and Iraq. In the ruins of these fragmented countries, there aren’t many reliable friends. There are some. The Kurds — in Syria as in Iraq — are chief among them. Their courage and their moderation deserve to be recognized and this recognition needs to be reflected in policy.



Fracking, Not Obamacare, Has Helped the Middle Class

Americans of all income levels would benefit from faster economic growth that raises wages. Unfortunately, wages are being held back by the very policies supported by those criticizing slow wage growth.

Liberals across the country supported the misnamed Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). The law’s mandates have made health coverage more expensive for both individuals and businesses.

However, it has not made those businesses any more profitable, or their workers any more productive.

Economic theory predicts that when benefit costs rise, employers cut wages. Empirical research confirms this prediction. Ironically, some of the most rigorous evidence for offsetting wage cuts comes from Jonathan Gruber, the Obamacare architect who boasted the health law takes advantage of Americans’ “stupidity.”

As of Jan. 1, Obamacare requires employers to pay a stiff penalty for each full-time worker they do not offer expensive “qualifying” health coverage to. They owe no penalty for part-time employees without such coverage. This gives many businesses a strong incentive to cut hours below 30 a week — cutting their workers’ take home pay in the process.

Fortunately, workers’ living standards have jumped recently — for reasons most liberals oppose. New “fracking” technology now allows entrepreneurs to extract oil from previously inaccessible shale formations. And America has a lot of shale oil. As a result, domestic energy production has surged. North Dakota alone now produces 1.2 million barrels of oil a day.

Fracking has created tens of thousands of good jobs. It has also reduced global energy prices. Gas prices have fallen by more than $1.25 a gallon since July. These lower energy prices will boost household spending power by $900 a year.

All this has happened over the objections of a lot of those complaining about low wages. Many liberals want to curtail fracking. Gov. Andrew Cuomo just banned it in New York state. Major unions have called for moratoriums on fracking. Yet energy entrepreneurs have done far more to boost the middle class than the health care overhaul liberals championed.



White House: We "Erred" in Skipping Parisian Rally

As I wrote yesterday, major officials from the United States skipped out on the massive anti-terrorism unity rally in Paris. Today, the White House admitted that they "erred" in their decision to not send someone other than the American ambassador to the country.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest admitted this afternoon that the United States should have sent someone with a higher profile. Both President Obama and Vice President Biden both had open schedules on Sunday, and while Attorney General Holder was in Paris at the time of the march, he was not present at the event. World leaders from more than 40 different nations were, however, at the march.

The decision to skip out on the rally has been criticized by many, from both the left and the right.



Netanyahu Implores Jews to Leave France, Come to Israel

Four Jews were murdered in Paris last week at a kosher grocery store. French President Francois Hollande summarily and emphatically declared it an “anti-Semitic” attack and urged all French citizens to spurn "racism and anti-Semitism” in all its forms. But Jews who have lived in France for their whole lives are again (and increasingly) questioning whether they should stay where they are, or uproot themselves to more tolerant and safer climates.

Tapping into these concerns, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explicitly said over the weekend that all Jews in Europe are welcome -- and indeed belong -- in the Jewish State:

"In a statement late on Saturday, Netanyahu said an Israeli governmental committee would convene in the coming week to find ways to boost Jewish immigration from France and other European countries "which are being hit by terrible anti-Semitism".

"To all the Jews of France and to all the Jews of Europe, I wish to say: the State of Israel is not only the place to which you pray, the State of Israel is also your home," he said.

In an exclusive interview with the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, however, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said if Jews were to emigrate en masse from France, as is rumored to happen, the nation would “be judged a failure”:

The choice was made by the French Revolution in 1789 to recognize Jews as full citizens,” Valls told me. “To understand what the idea of the republic is about, you have to understand the central role played by the emancipation of the Jews. It is a founding principle.”

Valls, a Socialist who is the son of Spanish immigrants, describes the threat of a Jewish exodus from France this way: “If 100,000 French people of Spanish origin were to leave, I would never say that France is not France anymore. But if 100,000 Jews leave, France will no longer be France. The French Republic will be judged a failure.”

In other words, French Jews aren’t merely a community of people who happen, by chance, to live in France; they are inherently French and therefore their exodus would foundationally change the country itself. Nevertheless, it is expected that as many as 10,000 (if not more) Jews could leave France for the Jewish State in 2015 alone:

Natan Sharansky, head of the Jewish Agency promoting emigration to Israel, said his estimate for 2015 was 10,000 French immigrants, after 3,300 in 2013 and 7,000 last year.

"It will probably be much more than 10,000," he told Reuters at a Jewish Agency meeting for French considering emigration. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liebermann, at his side, said about 700 Jews had attended the session during the day.

That’s nowhere near the 100,000 feared by Prime Minister Valls -- but it’s not insignificant, either.

“If I were 30, I would get out of France,” a middle-aged Jewish Frenchman named "Laurent S" recently told AFP. He suggested that anti-Semitism was on the rise and thus Israel would be an ideal place for him to resettle. But his age, he implied, makes this option less-than-desirable.

Still, it seems likely others will in time heed his advice, especially if Jewish families continue to feel unsafe and under threat in Western democracies throughout Europe.



For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


13 January, 2015

Why is Charlie Hebdo Assassination 100% Islam



Eric Holder, Other U.S. Leaders, Skip Unity Rally in Paris

More of Mr Obama's pro-Muslim foreign policy

Today, a large "Unity Rally" occurred in Paris to condemn the atrocities that occurred in the city earlier this week. The rally was attended by thousands, including French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Notably absent? Any major official from the United States, including Attorney General Eric Holder, who was in Paris for a terrorism summit.

From the New York Daily News:

"The U.S. did send Attorney General Eric Holder to attend a pre-march terrorism summit convened by French President Francois Hollande.

Holder, 63, joined with Hollande in condemning the recent Paris attacks in the strongest possible terms and said the U.S. will hold another terrorism summit in D.C. in February.

But his support apparently stopped there — because he wasn’t seen at the emotional “Je Suis Charlie” rally afterward that attracted 1.3 million. Across France, nearly 4 million people turned out in similar demonstrations.

As chanting spectators filled the Place de la Republique, the only U.S. dignitary present was the U.S. Ambassador to France Jane Hartley.

Both the president and vice president reportedly had open schedules on Sunday."

While I know it isn't the responsibility of the United States to babysit the entire world, it is quite strange that there was effectively no U.S. presence at the largest rally in Parisian history. The United States has been the victim of attacks by Islamic extremists--our presence would have been entirely appropriate at the rally.



The Sword Is Mightier Than The Pen

The world is being rocked by a rash of “workplace violence,” though what the Administration believes the Koran has against workplaces remains unclear. Those who eschew the willful blindness of the cowardly and foolish see clearly that the Islamofascist freaks are running up the body count across the globe. The question is what, if anything, are we going to do about it?

Vigils are nice. People get together, hold candles, talk about solidarity and hug, and thereby reinforce the view that Western civilization has lost the intestinal fortitude that kept the jihadi hordes from overrunning Europe during the Middle Ages and that has kept a lid on these fanatics ever since. It’s nice to pick up a pen – as we will see, writing, persuasion and mockery are all vital supporting efforts in the counter-offensive in what Senator Lindsey Graham accurately told Hugh Hewitt is “a religious war.” But it’s necessary to pick up a rifle.

No, it’s not a religious war on our part, but it’s a flat out lie to say it’s not a religious war on theirs. And it is a war to the death. Given my druthers, all-in-all, I’d prefer that the jihadis do the dying.

The pen is not mightier than the sword, or more aptly, the M4 carbine, the 2000-pound JDAM bomb or the Hellfire missile. The way to win a war is to kill the enemy until he surrenders. That’s it. The Romans’ rules of engagement were simple: “Wipe them out.” Two thousand years later, Carthage still isn’t a threat, while a couple years after terrorists massacred four Americans, Benghazi still is.

All those people talking about “limited deployments” and “red lines” and “proportional use of force” – how’s their track record been so far? Iraq went from lost to won to lost again. They simply announced that we had won in Afghanistan, which was a big surprise to the Taliban. And today, you can’t even draw a cartoon in a major Western metropolis without worrying about some degenerate blowing your head off – to be followed by a gang of primarily leftist cultural kapos asking, “What do you expect would happen for saying things that offend people?”

The solution is victory. The West needs to choose to defeat them, not just put off the day when these sociopaths hoist their scuzzy little banners over our capitals. That means fighting, and fighting to win – not just fighting to ensure that the collapse of the next country happens on the next politician’s watch.

War is about killing, and we are not doing enough of it. This is not rocket science. You look at a map of Iraq and ISIS’s zone of influence and you see right where to put the infantry/armor divisions to close them off and wipe them out once and for all. But the West won’t do it. We want to pretend that a few sorties a day to pick off random gun trucks is a substitute for an overwhelming, ruthless attack to take ground and wipe out anyone we find on it who isn’t a friend or surrendering.

Nicking them at the margins is not enough, and our gutless, feckless unwillingness to take the fight to the enemy with our heavy firepower is no secret. They see our weakness. That just makes them stronger.

Hell, if we can’t man up and put our own boots back on the ground, there is a partial solution. As with most questions, our Constitution provides an answer. Maybe we should look to Article I, Section 8, and grant some letters of marque and reprisal. In the olden days, these fabulous documents allowed private ships the right to sail the high seas attacking their nation’s enemies. Maybe we should put a bounty on these ISIS creeps and let private enterprise go to town. Considering it takes a million bucks or more a year to keep a single U.S. soldier in the field over there, even at $100,000 a head – attached or otherwise – taxpayers would be getting a great deal.

Outraged? Offended? So now you’re smarter than James Madison?

Regardless of how we do it, killing vast numbers of jihadis and destroying everything around them is imperative. It not only decreases the raw numbers of fighters, but it dramatically decreases the number of people who want to help them, as doing so will rapidly become associated with getting killed.

The sword is the main effort, but it is not the only effort. The pen – the ideological offensive – is a key supporting effort that complements, but can never replace, the central role of massive, controlled violence.

There is our pen, an intellectual effort by the West to attack Islamofascism head-on. We need to stand up for our culture, not apologize for it. We need to mock the foolishness of jihadism and the delusions of its drooling, sexually inadequate adherents. We need to call it what it is – a savage, primitive, stupid perversion of Islam.

That leads to the second part of the pen/influencing effort, that of the Islamic world. While it is a lie to say that the terrorists have nothing to do with Islam, it is also untrue to say that all Islam supports the terrorists. All Muslims don’t believe in this jihadi idiocy. In fact, right now – as they have for years – decent, brave Muslims are fighting side by side with our troops against jihadi morons. To ignore that is not only a shameful betrayal of our allies but a foolish squandering of a valuable weapon against extremism.

And good Muslims are fighting back. We waited for years for reasonable, rational Muslim voices to make themselves heard, and it has happened. Egypt’s President al-Sisi – you know, the guy who screwed up President Obama’s plan to turn the most important country in the Middle East over to the Muslim Brotherhood – went in front of Islam’s most noted scholars and chewed them out. He called for a rethink and reexamination of Islam, pointing out that jihadi foolishness was turning the Muslim world into a pariah. That’s huge, but few know about it because of both the focus on the murders in Paris and the general cluelessness of our media.

So the pen remains a vital component of victory. But let’s not fool ourselves. We aren’t going to talk the jihadi punks who claim to love death out of their delusions. We need to treat them like Old Yeller – except when they get put out of our misery, no one’s going to cry.



Obama's $181 billion in executive actions are being passed on to consumers through higher prices

Consumers will pick up the tab for Obama's regulations

Americans already face a $1.8 trillion regulatory burden. These heavy costs are passed on by businesses to consumers, who spend almost a quarter of their annual income complying with regulations often approved executive-level agencies, which have effectively become the fourth branch of the federal government.

The regulatory burden Americans faced was further exacerbated in 2014, which President Barack Obama dubbed a "year of action," in which he would use his "pen and phone" to get around Congress to enact his agenda. Through executive fiat, the Obama administration proposed and finalized tens of thousands of new regulations last year, which, according to an analysis by Sam Batkins of American Action Forum, come with a $181.5 billion overall price tag.

"In 79,066 pages of regulation, Americans will feel higher energy bills, more expensive consumer goods, and fewer employment opportunities. The year was highlighted by EPA’s proposed 'Clean Power Plan” (CPP), which the administration admitted would raise electricity prices by more than six percent by 2020, not to mention the $8.8 billion price tag," writes Batkins. "Amazingly, the CPP was not the most expensive measure in 2014. EPA’s proposed ozone rule, which could force dozens of state and national parks into non-attainment, could impose $15 billion in costs."

"In terms of proposed and final net present value costs, regulators imposed $79 billion in final rule burdens, including deregulatory measures. For proposals, there were $102.5 billion in net present value costs; this total for proposed rules likely portends yet another $100 billion year in 2015," he notes. "Since 2010, President Obama’s regulators have published more than $100 billion in burdens every year."

While the EPA's economically destructive regulations received a lot of attention last year, the administration also issued new Dodd-Frank rules that, according to Batkins, "added $16.7 billion in total costs and more than 4.4 million paperwork burden hours." ObamaCare continues to be a regulatory nightmare, as well. The FDA's utterly pointless menu-labeling mandate, which was part of the Affordable Care Act, comes with a $1.6 billion price tag, though estimates elsewhere predict the cost will be significantly higher, and 2 million paperwork hours.

The administration published 39 rules that come with an annual cost of $100 million or more. These are the sort of rules that would require congressional approval under the Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act. Though this measure, which was supported by FreedomWorks, passed the House in August 2013, the Senate, then controlled by Democrats, refused to bring it up for a vote.

It's highly likely that the REINS Act will be reintroduced in the new Congress, and it should be one of its top priorities. The regulatory state has long been out of control, regardless of which party controls the executive branch, and it's high time Congress -- the, you know, actual lawmaking branch under our Constitution -- reasserts itself.



Still Lying About Hollywood's Communists

Ask anyone under 40 to identify Paul McCartney or "I Want to Hold Your Hand," and the odds are you'll get a blank look in return. Ask someone under 30 to describe the Soviet menace and you may well get the same response. The first one is harmless ignorance, and some might argue the second one is as well. After all, it's over and we won, right?

What's not harmless is a never-ending effort to glorify communist conspirators in Hollywood, like the forthcoming movie "Trumbo," starring "Breaking Bad" star Bryan Cranston as blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo.

Entertainment Weekly magazine spewed the usual leftist apologist narrative: "Trumbo — who had been a member of the Communist party during World War II when the Soviets were a major American ally — was punished for his principled stand for free speech and the Constitution."

These deluded people never stop shamelessly declaring that communists were the true libertarians and constitutionalists, no matter how ludicrous it sounds. That 100 million people died at the hands of the communists doesn't register.

Luckily, there's a new antidote to this film's message, a book called "Hollywood Traitors" by longtime Human Events editor Allan Ryskind. His father, screenwriter Morrie Ryskind, was ruined professionally by the post-blacklist backlash against industry conservatives. Trumbo, like many Stalin-era Communist Party members, was an agent of Stalin's dictatorship, and for several years a mouthpiece for Hitler during the Hitler-Stalin pact.

Trumbo has been glorified as a member of the "Hollywood Ten" who refused to tell the truth to the House Un-American Activities Committee about their Communist Party membership. But here's what Trumbo admitted later (and you can bet it won't be in the movie). He told author Bruce Cook in the 1970s that he joined the party in 1943, that some of his "very best friends" were Communists and that "I might as well have been a Communist 10 years earlier." He also says about joining the party: "I've never regretted it. As a matter of fact, it's possible to say I would have regretted not having done it."

Bruce Cook is a screenwriter on this new movie. Now how can Cook regurgitate the lame old concept of a Washington "witch hunt" when he's published Trumbo's own words triumphantly proclaiming he was very happily a communist?

Ryskind reports Trumbo not only supported Stalin (and Hitler when he was a Stalin ally), but he also supported North Korean dictator Kim Il Sung after the Korean War. In an unpublished movie script, he had the heroine proclaim that North Korea's invasion of the South was perfectly justifiable, for this is "Korea's fight for independence, just as we had to fight for our own independence in 1776."

Ryskind adds Trumbo even wrote a poem called "Korean Christmas" which made Christian Americans the murderers of Korean children: "Hear then, little corpse...it had to be/ Poor consolation, yet it had to be/ The Christian ethic was at stake/ And western culture and the American Way/ And so, in the midst of pure and holy strife/ We had to take your little eastern life."

Does this sound like a man who was punished for his love of our constitutional rights? It sounds like a man who exploited our freedom and mocked the "American way" as murdering little children for Jesus and "Western culture." But some Hollywood die-hards dearly love that communist lie, and never stop lying.


There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.


For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


12 January, 2015


Worldwide, the Left are critical of patriotism. They hate the world they live in and that includes their own country. Most Americans, however, are very patriotic. So Democrat politicians are very defensive about patriotism. Like Leftists everywhere they are not patriotic but in America they dare not admit it. "Are you questioning my patriotism?" Democrat politicians sometimes huff. The correct answer to that would generally be: "Yes". But conservatives are usually too polite to say that.

In England, patriotism has been under elite attack for around a century but it still hangs on. Below is a very patriotic hymn from Britain which is still frequently sung. Note that both the Queen and the (Conservative) Prime Minister are present at the recent performance below in the Royal Albert Hall..


The sentiments are definitely of the "my country right or wrong" sort, which is an uncommon view today. The hymn was written around the time of WWI. One reason why that view no longer prevails is that such a defence was disallowed at the Nuremberg war crimes tribunals immediately after WWII. It was held that German soldiers had a duty to disobey immoral or unethical orders. Just because the orders came from your country's high command was not good enough justification for obeying them. That disobedience to an order in the WWII German armed forces would get you promptly shot did not seem to be considered.

The Nuremberg rules are not however entirely blue sky. The Israeli Defence Force has a "black flag" system. If an officer gives a man what seems an inhumane order, the soldier is duty bound to report that and not to obey the order. It seems to work -- but only because it is taught as part of their military law.

So these days loyalty to your country is mostly based on your country being in the right. And given the chronic feelings of alienation among the Left, it is mainly a conservative virtue.

Leftists, Leftist psychologists particularly, do of course sometimes try to equate patriotism with racism but I carried out an extensive and international research program on exactly that question in the '70s and 80's and found no association between the two attitudes among general populations samples. I know of no subsequent research that has contradicted that. See e.g. here and here and here

Patriotism is of course to be distinguished from nationalism: The feeling that your country has a right to dominate others. You can love your own country while also respecting that other people love theirs. Nationalism seems to have died with Hitler and Tojo's Japan. We do however have a closely related problem: Religious supremacism from Muslims. White and Bushido supremacism may be dead but religious supremacism is very much alive and kicking. It too may eventually need nuclear weapons aimed at selected targets to kill it.

I myself don't much feel great loyalty to one country. I am delighted to have been born and bred in the "Lucky country" but I think the Anglosphere generally has characteristics that I would fight for. Whether I am in Australia, Britain, New Zealand, Canada or the USA I feel I am largely among my own people -- people like me in many ways and whom I readily understand -- and that those people have a good balance in values and in what they collectively regard as important.

Just a small footnote: The name "Lucky country" for Australia, was intended as derogatory by Donald Horne, who invented it. He thought Australia became well-off just out of luck. Australia is however roughly at the centre of Anglospheric variation so by that criterion the whole Anglospere is lucky, which would be lucky indeed, considering their considerable differences in history and geographical location. But that is nonsense. The Anglospheric countries are certainly good places to live -- witness the flood of migration toward them -- but they are good places to live because of the people who live in them -- people who generally have respect for others, who are substantially honest, who tolerate diversity, who respect the rule of law and who are generally peaceful in nature. We make our luck.


10 Outrageous Examples of Government Regulators Invading Our Lives

10. Federal Censorship Commission. The FCC began considering a petition to revoke the broadcast license of a Washington, D.C., radio station for using the name of the city’s football team, the Redskins. FCC chairman Tom Wheeler declared the moniker “offensive” and urged owner Dan Snyder to change it “voluntarily.” The agency has yet to rule on the petition.

9. April Fool’s Rule. The Volcker Rule prohibits banks from trading securities on their own accounts. The 1,000-page regulation crafted by five federal agencies over three years supposedly remedies one of the causes of the 2008 financial crisis. But there is no evidence to support that claim. That the rule took effect on April Fool’s Day is thus entirely appropriate.

8. The Environmental Protection Agency’s power grab. In its quest to replace cheap and reliable fossil fuels with costly and unreliable “renewables,” the EPA in June unveiled new restrictions on so-called greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants. These hugely expensive regulations are all the more maddening for accomplishing virtually nothing to affect the climate or protect human health.

7. Uber regulation. The popular ride-sharing service Uber is changing the way Americans get around town. Its fleet of independent drivers offers an efficient alternative to traditional taxis. Yet Uber faces significant hurdles as local regulators try to stop its expansion, claiming that the service is “unfair” to the excessively regulated cab drivers. So far, though, Uber and its loyal customers have fought off those opposing competition, but many hurdles remain.

6. Choking Justice. Woe to any business disfavored by the Department of Justice. Under “Operation Chokepoint,” federal regulators have been leaning hard on banks to end ties with enterprises that the government doesn’t like, including payday lenders, firearms dealers and credit repair services. These businesses are perfectly legal, but the DOJ’s efforts to close them down are not.

5. Halting home financing. New regulations on mortgage financing took effect in January, compliments of Dodd-Frank. Virtually every aspect of financing a home – including mortgage options, eligibility standards, and even the structure and schedule of payments – is now governed by the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. Alas, critics’ predictions about the restrictions are proving correct: Mortgage lending is running at its lowest level in 13 years, and 2014 will be the worst year for mortgage volume since 2000.

4. Force feeding calorie counts. Knowing the number of calories in various food products does not change our menu choices, several studies have shown. But in keeping with government’s insatiable appetite for control, the Food and Drug Administration in November finalized rules requiring calorie counts to be posted on restaurant menus, supermarket deli cases, vending machines and even in movie theater concessions. Compliance will require tens of millions of hours each year, which is sure to thin consumers’ wallets.

3. Forgetting free speech. In one of the worst public policy decisions in European history (and that’s saying a lot), the European Union ruled in May that links to embarrassing information that is “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant” must be scrubbed from the Internet. Thus, Google must take down that 1975 picture of you dancing in a leisure suit as well as reports on child pornography arrests that regulators deem “irrelevant.” This “right to be forgotten” is a massive violation of free expression in Europe. And it could get worse: The EU is considering applying this gag order worldwide.

2. Polluting the economy. Ozone levels have dropped significantly during the past three decades, reflecting the overall improvement in air quality. Nonetheless, the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed more stringent ozone standards that would cost tens of billions of dollars, making it perhaps the most costly regulation ever imposed. (President Obama pulled a 2011 version for threatening the economy – just as the election neared.)

1. Regulating the Internet. The FCC proposed new rules to require Internet carriers to deliver all online content in a “neutral” fashion. Defining such neutrality is, of course, easier said than done, and doing so without harm to the Internet would be virtually impossible. President Obama recently upped the ante by urging regulators to impose 1930s-style public utility rules on the net. But the Internet is too important, and innovative, to be treated like the local water company.



Kill Subsidies to Big Sugar

Taking candy from a baby is easy. Taking sugar from a senator? Not so much. For decades, economists, free market think tanks, good-government advocates, newspaper columnists, and even the occasional elected official have decried the special treatment enjoyed by the American sugar industry.

Under current policies, U.S. sugarcane and sugar beet farmers receive minimum price guarantees regardless of market conditions. In addition, the federal government allots 85 percent of the U.S. sugar market to domestic producers, and it imposes quotas and tariffs on the 40 countries that are allowed to export sugar to America.

In 1993, the Government Accounting Office (GAO) estimated that such policies were costing U.S. consumers $1.4 billion a year because they resulted in "higher prices for domestic sugar." Twenty years later, the University of Michigan–Flint economist Mark J. Perry estimated that this annual cost had grown to $3 billion by 2012, and that consumers and U.S. sugar-using businesses had paid "more than twice the world price of sugar on average since 1982."

In other words, sugar producers are getting a sweet deal, while consumers are getting screwed.

Alas, it's not just the nation's 3,913 sugar beet farms and 666 sugarcane farms that crave the sugar program's artificially sweetened revenues. The program also persists because it offers a steady source of money to elected officials.

In a June 2014 report, Bryan Riley, a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, noted that while sugar constitutes just 2 percent of the total value of U.S. crop production, the nation's sugar farmers account for 35 percent of the crop industry's total campaign contributions and 40 percent of its lobbying expenditures.

Over the years, major sugar companies such as American Crystal Sugar and Florida Crystals have donated millions of dollars to individual candidates and political action committees. According to OpenSecrets.org, the industry as a whole has donated $41.7 million since 1990. Traditionally it has contributed more to Democrats than Republicans, but in the 2012 election cycle it split its contributions 50/50.

The industry's aggressive lobbying gets results. In 2008, for example, the U.S. sugar trade got somewhat less regulated, when provisions that were drafted as part of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement finally kicked in and gave Mexican producers the ability to import unlimited amounts of duty-free sugar to the U.S. In March 2014, however, the U.S. sugar industry accused Mexican producers of dumping their crops on the U.S. market—i.e., selling it for less than the cost of its production, or for less than its domestic price—and asked the U.S. International Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Commerce to take corrective action.

In October, Commerce announced an agreement between the U.S. and Mexico that will "prevent imports from being concentrated during certain times of the year, limit the amount of refined sugar that may enter the U.S. market, and establish minimum price mechanism to guard against undercutting or suppression of U.S. prices." So don't expect a price cut on Snickers bars any time soon.

Perhaps because the extra $3 billion we spend on sugar each year is amortized over a few hundred billion cans of soda and other sugar-laden treats, consumers don't seem to mind it much.

Greg BeatoAnd yet if we're truly in the midst of a "libertarian moment," when everyday Americans are supposedly fed up with politics as usual and corporate cronyism, how does sugar protectionism remain as American as apple pie? If there ever was a cause that might still inspire comity amongst the highly polarized populous, surely it's sugar.

Indeed, while 11 other countries consume more sugar per capita than the U.S. does, the average American still enjoys around 75 pounds of sugar a year. (This figure doesn't include high fructose corn syrup, zero-calorie artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose, or zero-calorie naturally derived sweeteners such as stevia.) Our appetite for the stuff cuts across all demographics: Whether you're a progressive elitist snapping up $5 Cronuts in Manhattan or a red-state value shopper buying club packs of Little Debbie Nutty Bars at Costco, you stand to gain from lower sugar prices.

Naturally, sugar farming lobbyists insist this isn't the case. "Sure, cheap subsidized foreign sugar might sound great," exclaims an American Sugar Alliance (ASA) promotional video that alludes to the fact that sugar farmers in Brazil, Mexico, and other countries benefit from their own homegrown subsidy programs. "But depending on others for food never works out as expected."

If we lose our strategic capacity to plant sugar crops, the video suggests, we'll compromise our food security, putting ourselves at the mercy of foreign sugar overlords able to increase prices when global supplies tighten. In October 2013, Tom Giovanetti, president of a Dallas-based research organization called the Institute for Policy Innovation, elaborated on this theme in an essay that argues against unilateral U.S. sugar subsidy disarmament. "Eventually," he concluded, "foreign producers would take advantage of a decimated U.S. domestic sugar industry and would raise prices on U.S. consumers."

But could Brazil—"the OPEC of sugar," according to the ASA—really jack up prices until even those club packs of Little Debbie bars become a rare delicacy only the 1 percent can afford?

"Why on earth wouldn't another producer come and try to take some market share if he sees a monopolist raking in the money?" asks Ike Brannon, formerly chief economist of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and now a fellow at the George W. Bush Institute, in a May 2014 editorial that appeared in USA Today.

Indeed, in a U.S. market free of price supports, allotments, tariffs, and quotas, Brazil wouldn't just be competing with domestic producers for America's business. It'd be competing with the hundred other countries where sugar farming occurs. And as the American Sugar Alliance and various other sugar farming advocates have themselves pointed out, scores of additional countries are just as willing as Brazil or Mexico to subsidize their crops. So if one country even started flirting with the idea of raising prices to non-competitive levels, others would jump at the opportunity to gain a foothold in the large U.S. market by offering more attractive prices.

The truth is that America's food security would in no way be jeopardized by the loss of a domestic sugar industry. Even America's Ding Dongs security would remain intact. "Sugar is a global commodity, with hundreds of thousands of producers all over the world," Perry explains. "This weakens the possibility that one could ever have market power over the U.S. Also there are close substitutes for sugar, like high fructose corn syrup and honey, which further weakens the case that the U.S. could ever be at the mercy of one country, or even a small group of them."



For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


11 January, 2015

More on the decline of Roman civilization

Read here both an essay by Ludwig von Mises and a reply by Sean Gabb. I agree with Gabb.

In my recent essay on the subject I attributed the decline of Roman civilization to Mediterranean piracy that arose in response to the destruction of central authority. Von Mises attributes the decline to price control.

I think Mises has a point and there is of course no doubt that there were several sources of decay. Gabb however sees price control as being at best only a small influence. His reason is that the Roman state was generally ineffective at central control. It could do major and important things like fight wars and suppress pirates (as Caesar did) but detailed social control was beyond it. Price control never really bit, in other words.

Sean Gabb is a libertarian conservative -- as I am -- so is totally opposed to the destructive folly of government price control. But we both prioritze facts over theory.

There is one way in which I don't go quite so far as Sean, however. I doubt that taxes were unimportant. I suspect that they did have substantial destructive impact. But at this point in time, there is no possibility of certainty.

But please read both authors. Both are very scholarly. Mises is of course well known but Gabb is no lightweight. He has even published a book recently that is partly in Latin. I have a copy -- to my considerable delectation. Between them, the two authors do round out our view of one of the most important episodes in human history.


The Real Islamic Threat

Two weeks after terrorists killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stephens and three other Americans in Benghazi in September 2012, Barack Obama announced to the UN, "The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam."

The Religion of PeaceT took his advice Wednesday in Paris, as jihadis killed 12 people for daring to "slander the prophet of Islam."

Two of the victims were police officers (one of whom was wounded and then executed), and 10 were journalists (including the editor-in-chief) for the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which was firebombed in 2011 for printing cartoons of Muhammad. Charlie Hebdo recovered from that terrorism and published a few more cartoons skewering Muhammad and, more recently, the Islamic State. ISIL filled the terror vacuum in the Middle East after Obama claimed victory against al-Qaida ahead of his 2012 re-election bid.

Three masked men perpetrated the well-planned attack with Kalashnikov rifles and other small arms -- perhaps either a rocket or grenade launcher. They reportedly knocked on office doors asking by name for individuals who had created certain offensive cartoons. In a clip aired on French television, the attackers were recorded shouting, "We have killed Charlie Hebdo. We have avenged the Prophet Mohammad."

The men told the journalist they forced to let them in the building that they were from al-Qaida. Meanwhile, ISIL supporters praised the attack.

Not surprisingly, however, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest initially declined to call it terrorism: "[T]his is an act of violence that we certainly do condemn. And, you know, if based on this investigation it turns out to be an act of terrorism then we would condemn that in the strongest possible terms, too." He also once again referred to Islam as a "Religion of PeaceT."

And the White House issued a statement condemning the attacks while not mentioning the words Islam, Muslim or jihad.

Former DNC Chief Howard Dean flat out denied Islam's culpability: "I stopped calling these people Muslim terrorists. They're about as Muslim as I am. I mean, they have no respect for anybody else's life. That's not what the Koran says. ... I think ISIS is a cult. Not an Islamic cult. I think it's a cult."

Meanwhile, numerous media outlets cowered in fear, refusing to show the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, blurring them out if images were shown at all. By contrast, the Associated Press and other outlets had no problem showing the "piss Christ" "art" some years ago.

Not cowering, however, was cartoonist and Charlie Hebdo editor Stephane Charbonnier, who was killed Wednesday. In 2012, he said, "I prefer to die standing than living on my knees."

The Obama administration clearly would rather kneel, or at least bow. Yes, Secretary of State John Kerry declared the murdered French journalists "martyrs for liberty," and said we "wield something that is far more powerful" than the weapons the jihadis used. But, again, it was his boss who said, "The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam."

Ironically, in 2012, Obama was condemning an obscure Internet video defaming Muhammad, which his administration blamed ahead of the 2012 presidential election for the al-Qaida attack on Benghazi. Obama's campaign was built on having defeated al-Qaida. And not only did he criticize free speech, U.S. taxpayers footed the bill for ads in Pakistan condemning the video.

Not only will Obama not stand for such "slander," but he has been regularly releasing terrorist leaders from Gitmo, who historically just return to their deadly trade.

While there was much media handwringing about freedom of speech after North Korea compelled Sony to censor a satirical movie, the real threats to free speech are Islamist terrorists. For example, instead of firing off a nasty letter to the editor, the Paris jihadis brutally murdered Charlie Hebdo employees.

Also noteworthy is that the police who initially responded to the attack were, incredibly, unarmed and quickly fled. Indeed, given all the videos that were shot of this attack, it's too bad that Paris is a gun free zone -- instead of shooting videos, someone could have been returning fire.

Furthermore, the French have allowed this Islamist menace to fester in their country for years. In fact, one of the men was a known and convicted terrorist. Now they are paying the price, and make no mistake, this menace is also festering in our homeland. Islamists, like Nidal Malik Hasan, who killed 14 people (including an unborn child) and wounded 30 others at Fort Hood, will continue to strike with increasing frequency. See also the attacks in Boston, Australia and Canada.

While the media refers to these deadly assaults as "lone wolf attacks," there are no such thing. Nor is there a "homegrown" Western threat. All these actors are part of an ideological Islamist web that is not Western. (Anyone for terrorist profiling?)



Mark Steyn: 'A Lot of People Will Retreat Even Further Into Self-Censorship'

Wednesday's terror attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris will make major Western newspapers even more fearful to say anything about Islam, conservative pundit Mark Steyn warned on Wednesday.
"I think one consequence of this is that a lot of people will retreat even further into self-censorship," Steyn told Fox News's Megyn Kelly.

In fact, several major newspapers on Wednesday, in reporting on the Paris attack, obscured the cartoon images of Mohammed published by Charlie Hebdo.

"The New York Daily News won't even show -- and it dishonors the dead in Paris by not even showing properly the cartoons. They pixilated Mohammed out of it, so it looks like Mohammed is into the witness protection program, but they left the hook-nose Jew in, and that exactly gets to the double standard here.

"You can say anything you like about Christianity, you can say anything you like about Judaism, but these guys -- everybody understand the message that if you say something about Islam, these guys will kill you.

"And we will be retreating into a lot more self-censorship if the pansified Western media doesn't man up and decide to disperse the risk. So they can't just kill one little small French satirical magazine, they've got to kill all of us."

Steyn noted that Charlie Hebdo was one of the few publications willing to reprint the Danish Mohammed cartoons in 2006: "I'm proud to have written for the only Canadian magazine to publish those cartoons," Steyn added.

"And it's because The New York Times didn't, and Le Monde in Paris didn't and the London Times didn't, and all the other great newspapers of the world didn't, that they (Charlie Hebdo) were forced to bear a burden that should have been more widely dispersed."

The cartoons have become a news story, especially after people have been killed for them, Steyn said: "But the fact that major newspapers still didn't have the courage to show these cartoons after they became a news story, is why these brave men at Charlie Hebdo had to bear the burden almost single-handed."



7 Offensive Images The New York Times Wasn't Afraid to Publish

Dean Baquet, the executive editor of The New York Times, is defending his decision not to reprint any Charlie Hebdo cartoons depicting Mohammad with an argument that might confuse Times readers. Today he told Politico: "We don't run things that are designed to gratuitously offend."

This dictum is confusing because it's false: On many occasions the paper of record has printed images that are "designed to gratuitously offend." Here are 7 examples; there are surely more.

1. The Times printed this anti-Semitic cartoon in 2010:

2. This racist Dr. Seuss drawing in 2011:

3. This anti-Semitic caricature in 2005:



California Just Started Another Insane Government Project

Talk about a trainwreck. Today, California broke ground on another disastrous government-funded project: high-speed rail that will eventually go from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

The project is estimated to cost $68 billion. The plan is that the private sector will ultimately invest around one-third of the total cost, but so far, there have been no takers. And it's no wonder. It's hard to see how this project makes sense.

Backers say the train will be able to make the trip between San Francisco and Los Angeles in under 2 hours, 40 minutes. However, according to a 2013 Reason Foundation study, it's likely the trip will ultimately take around four hours (and sometimes closer to five hours) for various reasons (for example, the high-speed train will share tracks with slower trains).

To put that into context, consider this: A flight from San Francisco to Los Angeles is about 1 hour, 15 minutes. Driving, if there isn't traffic, takes a little under six hours-more time than the train would take, but you also have a vehicle at the end of your trip. (Neither San Francisco nor Los Angeles are cities easy or convenient to navigate via public transit, although San Francisco certainly has more options than Los Angeles.)

So in other words, it's a $68 billion project to build a method of transit that combines the longer time of driving with the lack of convenience of flying (that is, arriving without a car).

And this is all assuming the full project is completed. Currently, the state has only $12.6 billion-from federal funding and a voter-approved bond measure-ready for the project.

The first steps will lead to tracks connecting Fresno and Bakersfield-two cities that have no public transportation other than buses. It's hard to see why a big market of people would be looking to take the high-speed train between these two places, which are already connected by highways and train.

Furthermore, it's possible that the high-speed rail train, rather than making a profit or breaking even, will lose even more money when operating. Remember, that $68 billion is just to build it.

From the 2013 Reason Foundation study:

Even if the system managed to equal European train ridership levels it would hit just 7.6 million rides a year. Thus, ridership in 2035 is likely to be 65 percent to 77 percent lower than currently projected.

As a result of these slower travel times, higher ticket costs and low ridership, California taxpayers should expect to pay an additional $124 million to $373 million a year to cover the train's operating costs and financial losses.

Heritage Foundation transportation analyst Emily Goff offers yet another possible snag: "It's typical for big-ticket infrastructure projects like this train to experience cost escalations-of gargantuan proportions. Cue Northern Virginia's defunct Arlington Streetcar and Washington Metro's Silver Line. We'll see any increases in the $68 billion cost reflected in more severe operating losses down the line."

California's struggling enough as is. Building a costly high-speed rail train with few obvious consumers is a mistake-and one that will likely cost taxpayers dearly.



For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


9 January, 2015

Another nail in coffin of the antioxidant religion

Are antioxidants a waste of money? Latest study says eating expensive 'superfoods' or taking supplements WON'T help you live longer. That dynamo of research in the area, Beatrice Golomb, will not be surprised. In a recent correspondence with me she said: "Personally, I have never advocated, to anyone, carotenoids, vitamin C, vitamin E as d-alpha tocopherol, or folic acid in supplement form". The only pill that she is favors these days is the recently revived CoEnzyme Q10 -- but see here, here and here for skepticism about that

People who get a lot of antioxidants in their diets, or who take them in supplement form, don't live any longer than those who just eat well overall, according to a long term study of retirees in California.

Antioxidants, including vitamins A, C and E, are plentiful in vegetables and fruits and may help protect against cell or DNA damage. As a result, they've been touted for cancer prevention, heart disease prevention and even warding off dementia.

'There is good scientific evidence that eating a diet with lots of vegetables and fruits is healthful and lowers risks of certain diseases,' said lead author Annlia Paganini-Hill of the Clinic for Aging Research and Education at the University of California, Irvine.

'However, it is unclear whether this is because of the antioxidants, something else in these foods, other foods in people's diet, or other lifestyle choices,' Paganini-Hill told Reuters Health by email.

Most double-blind randomized clinical trials - the gold standard of medical evidence - have found that antioxidant supplements do not prevent disease, she said.

The researchers used mailed surveys from the 1980's in which almost 14,000 older residents of the Leisure World Laguna Hills retirement community detailed their intake of 56 foods or food groups rich in vitamins A and C as well as their vitamin supplement intake.

With periodic check-ins and repeated surveys, the researchers followed the group for the next 32 years, during which time 13,104 residents died.

When Paganini-Hill's team accounted for smoking, alcohol intake, caffeine consumption, exercise, body mass index, and histories of hypertension, angina, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and cancer, there was no association between the amount of vitamins A or C in the diet or vitamin E supplements and the risk of death.

Participants in the new study were largely white, educated and well-nourished.



The TSA: A Brief Tale

By Abigail Hall

This Christmas I flew out of town with my fiancé to see his family. Since we’d be out of town for several days, I checked a bag with the airline.

We arrived to our destination without any fuss and drove to see his family. As I went to my bag to retrieve some things before bed, I was greeted by a note from the TSA. The paper stated that my bag had been searched as a part of necessary “security” precautions.

Aside from looking like a five-year-old had packed my bag, everything seemed fine (I’m a careful packer—so the fact my folded clothes were left in wads was particularly irritating). Upon further inspection, however, I realized some things were missing from my luggage.

Those things were my underwear.

Now, in the “best” case scenario, either these items were taken out of my bag and accidentally put in someone else’s (that’s awkward) or the person who searched my bag decided fruit of the loom posed a security risk (I always thought those characters from the commercial looked shady). Worst case scenario, some TSA agent stole my underwear.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who has wound up with some missing items at the hands of the TSA. In fact, some 29 TSA employees were fired for theft from Miami’s airport between 2002 and 2011. Over the same period, 27 agents were fired from JFK International. In total, a report on TSA theft obtained through the Freedom of Information Act found that the TSA fired over 400 employees for theft between 2002 and 2011.

The agents tasked with “keeping travelers safe” have gotten their hands on more than passengers’ small trinkets. Former TSA officer Pythias Brown, for example, was convicted of stealing some very expensive items from passengers. He admitted to taking some $800,000 worth of cameras and other items from checked bags.

When discussing his crime, Brown said the TSA had “a culture” of theft. He stated it was easy for TSA employees to take advantage of passengers’ luggage because of lax oversight and tips from their fellow employees. “[Stealing from checked bags] became so easy, I got complacent,” Brown said in an interview.

Brown certainly isn’t the only one. One officer was arrested for stealing some $5,000 in cash from a passenger’s jacket while another made off with a $15,000 watch. While the TSA is quick to point out that the number of thefts by TSA agents represents only a small proportion of their employees (which is true), it may be more commonplace than admitted. After all, it’s not exactly difficult to blame lost items on the general gross incompetence of airlines. The agency also states they have a “zero tolerance” policy for theft.

In spite of this zero tolerance policy, TSA agents have been arrested and convicted for stealing items including iPads, laptops, and a $40,000 piece of luggage.

The problem of theft seems simple enough to address. For example, how about that card put in my suitcase informing me of the “necessary procedure?” One could easily assign a number to each agent and print this number on the tickets placed in passenger suitcases. This would allow complaints to be easily traced to specific agents.

I’ve written elsewhere about problems with the TSA. Not only does the TSA violate your individual liberties every time you fly, it has also failed to catch a single terrorist since it was formed in 2001.

Put simply, the TSA faces poor incentives. The bureaucratic structure of the agency, without having to contend with the profit and loss mechanisms of for profit firms, means the agency must constantly appeal to the government for support.

As opposed to increasing revenues through improving its product and customer service, the TSA obtains more money and personnel by being worse at its job. Why? Poor performance, theft, and other problems means the TSA can say to the larger government, “we perform poorly because we need more resources. We have theft problems, we need more people to supervise, more training, and more resources.”

The result of these incentives is an ever-growing, dysfunctional organization. This agency not only fails to “keep you safe,” but might just steal your underwear.



The Next Detroit

What’s wrong with giving government employees every single dollar they ask for in pensions and benefits?

After having seen the role of out-of-control public employee pensions in helping drive the city of Detroit into bankruptcy, which the city was only just able to exit in November 2014 after the city’s public pensioners finally agreed to cut their overly generous pensions and benefits to levels that are more affordable for the city’s taxpayers, we wondered which local government in the U.S. is most like Detroit in the disconnect it has between the size of its debts and its ability to make good on those liabilities.

We didn’t have to spend much time researching the topic. America’s next Detroit is Illinois. At least, according to The Economist, which being international in scope, directly compares the fiscal state of Illinois with its most similarly dysfunctional European equivalent: Greece....

Illinois is like Greece in one obvious way: it overpromised and underdelivered on pensions and has little appetite for dealing with the problem, says Hal Weitzman of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. This large Midwestern state, with a population of 13m (Greece has 11m, though a far smaller GDP than Illinois), has the most underfunded retirement system of any state and the largest pension burden relative to state revenue. It also has the highest number of public-pension funds close to insolvency, such as the one looking after Chicago’s police and firemen. According to the Civic Federation, a budget watchdog, Illinois has piled up a whopping $111 billion in unfunded pension liabilities (see chart), in addition to $56 billion in debt for health benefits for pensioners. The state devotes one in four of its tax dollars to pensions, which is more than it spends on primary and secondary education.

Mainly as a result of this gargantuan pension debt, Illinois’s bond rating is the lowest of all the states, which means dramatically higher borrowing costs. When the state government failed to address pension underfunding in its budget for 2014, two credit-rating agencies, Fitch and Moody’s, cut the state’s bond rating, which in Moody’s case put Illinois on a par with Botswana. (An incensed editorial in the Chicago Tribune asked what Botswana had done to be so insulted.)

The main reason for the pension debacle is decades of underfunding. “Everything was always done with a short-term view,” says Laurence Msall, head of the Civic Federation. “Unique to Illinois is the idea that you don’t have to pay for pensions and you don’t have to follow actuarial recommendations.”

Unlike Detroit, however, Illinois has an extra barrier that is preventing desperately needed reforms for making its public employee pensions sustainable by reducing promised pension payments and benefits to affordable levels: the State of Illinois’ Constitution.

Here, the state’s top law prevents lawmakers from even being able to address its worsening public employee pension crisis by diminishing or impairing pension benefits to retired government employees at all. The state’s only way out is a “long shot” attempt to amend its Constitution, but that would require that the people responsible for creating the crisis in the first place, public employee unions and the large number of officials they helped put into power, go against their own greedy interests in favor of the public’s best interest.

Unfortunately, with such a stacked deck, it’s in their greedy interest to push Illinois to the very edge of insolvency. And all indications are that they will fight reform rather than give up their guaranteed gravy train.

That’s the sort of thing that doesn’t even fly in communist China, which has implemented real public employee pension reforms to meet the public’s interest! If only Illinois’ elected officials would show similar public spirit.



Jonathan Gruber: No Obamacare Subsidies in States That Don't Set Up Exchanges

In this new year, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear another challenge to the Affordable Care Act. And this time, Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber's own words may help the people who are challenging a key provision of the law.

In petitioning the Supreme Court to take their case, the plaintiffs quoted Gruber, who said in 2012: "[I]f you're a state and you don’t set up an Exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits. … I hope that’s a blatant enough political reality that states will get their act together and realize there are billions of dollars at stake here in setting up these Exchanges, and that they’ll do it.”

The problem arose when only 14 states took federal money to set up their own exchanges.

So the question before the Supreme Court is this: How can people in states with federally-run exchanges get tax-credit subsidies? The law says they can't; but the IRS, by regulation, said they can.

In their request for Supreme Court review, the petitioners noted that the Affordable Care Act authorizes federal tax credit subsidies for health insurance coverage that is purchased through an “Exchange established by the State."

“Congress did not expect the states to turn down federal funds and fail to create and run their own Exchanges,” the petition says. "Accordingly, for example, Congress did not appropriate any funds in the ACA for HHS to build Exchanges, even as it appropriated unlimited funds to help states establish theirs...Indeed, ACA proponents emphasized that '[a]ll the health insurance exchanges … are run by states,' to rebut charges that the Act was a federal 'takeover.'"

The petition continues: "Notwithstanding the ACA’s text and purpose, the IRS in 2011 proposed, and in 2012 promulgated, regulations requiring the Treasury to grant subsidies for coverage purchases through all Exchanges -- not only those established by states...but also those established by HHS."

Gruber's own words, therefore, appear to be central to the petitioners' case.

Repeating what he said in 2012: "[I]f you're a state and you don’t set up an Exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits. … I hope that’s a blatant enough political reality that states will get their act together and realize there are billions of dollars at stake here in setting up these Exchanges, and that they’ll do it.”

Under Obamacare, subsidies (or tax credits) are an essential part of "affordable" health insurance coverage. Without them, most people wouldn't be able to afford the health insurance they are now required by law to purchase (or else pay a fine).

On Dec. 30, the Department of Health and Human Services reported that 87 percent of people who selected 2015 plans through the federal exchange HealthCare.gov in first month of open enrollment were getting subsidies to lower their monthly premiums. That compares with the 80 percent of enrollees who purchased plans on the federal exchange in the same period last year.

According to SCOTUSblog, oral arguments in the case King V. Burwell are scheduled for Mar 4, 2015.



For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


8 January, 2015

Islam's great gap -- 650 to 800 AD -- and the destruction of Roman civilization. Was North African piracy the revenge of Carthage?

Thanks to Byzantium we have some idea of what happened in Europe during the "dark" ages. It is a common misconception that the sacking of Rome by barbarian tribes ended the Roman empire. It did not. Roman civilization had become decentralized by then -- which is part of the reason why Rome was too weak to defend itself effectively. So the other great cities of the Roman world continued on much as before, as most of them had already made their peace with the German barbarians. And the German barbarians in turn had by that time also absorbed a fair amount of civilization. So the sack of Rome was in some ways just an internal re-organization.

So Roman civilization did decline but it did not suddenly cease. And after a couple of centuries the decline was extensive and the times did really become dark ages in many ways.

So if the sack of Rome did not end Roman civilization, what did? Mediterranean piracy. The Roman empire was a huge free trade area and trade has always been the secret of economic prosperity. It's why we have things as NAFTA and the EU. Free trade brings specialization in what people and places are good at. In the Roman empire, for instance, much of Rome's grain was imported from Egypt.

And trade was far too advantageous for something like the fall of Rome to interrupt it. It carried on as before. But the loss of Roman authority did have one clear penalty. North African statelets evolved under no form of Roman control and acknowledging no debt to Rome. For a time Byzantium had control of North East Africa but North Western Africa (what we now call Algeria, Morocco etc) was a stretch too far. And it was from North West African statelets that a substantial pirate menace emerged. Piracy was a major economic support for the "Barbary" states. And that piracy continued in fits and starts for a long time -- until the restored French monarchy sent 500 ships across the water and brought North West Africa under French control in 1830.

And for a time the piracy killed the goose that laid the golden egg. So much of money and goods was lost to the pirates that trade became unprofitable and effectively impossible. And the cessation of trade pulled the rug out from under Roman prosperity. All the old Roman lands and cities went into a steep economic decline. Even Byzantium was affected to a degree though its large areas of control in the Eastern Mediterranean shielded it from the worst effects. A lot of its trade was internal and carried overland.

So who were these pirates? Most memory of them traces to the 19th century and identifies them as Muslim Arabs and Muslim Berbers. Both the administrations of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison in the newborn United States took them on. But were they Muslim in the Middle ages? Probably not -- for two reasons: Mohammed supposedly appeared in the 7th century and the Roman world was already in decline by then. More importantly, however, it seems likely that the whole Mohammed story is fiction and that the Koran was written in Egypt some time in the 9th century. See also here

Shock! Horror! Scholars who are bold enough to mention that probability do so at considerable risk and I guess I do too. But the matter is surely too important to be hushed up. The fact of the matter is that the story of Mohammed is much more poorly documented than the story of Christ. Not only do Christians have four separate histories of Christ's life (the Gospels) but there is also an extensive collection of letters from Paul and others -- all of which are collected into the New Testament. There is nothing like that for Mohammed. There is only the Koran, nothing else. There are hadiths but they are clearly later. And aside from the Koran there is no mention in history of Mohammed and his followers until about 800 AD. So was it in the 9th century that the Koran was written?

It seems likely. Egypt was at that time mostly Christian. But it was Christianity with Egyptian characteristics, to coin a phrase. In particular it was a hotbed of Gnosticism -- which was apparently much influenced by the old pagan Egyptian religion of the Pharaohs. And the Gnostics were prolific producers of false Gospels, accounts that claimed to tell of Christ's life and words but which were nothing but forgeries written to boost up a particular theological position or Gnostic belief. So in that hotbed of debate, the production of another forgery, the Koran, was nothing new. It would seem that someone thought to get one-up on his theological opponents by inventing a new account of holy deeds.

Raiders from the Arabian peninsula were certainly making a nuisance of themselves in the 7th and 8th centuries but there is no evidence that they were Muslims. They were generally called "Saracens" at the time.

And backing up the idea of the Koran as just another Gnostic forgery, is the fact that the Koran is very Bible-conscious. It borrows heavily from both the Old and New testaments and accepts much of what Christians say about Christ.

And by the 9th century, the old Roman word was comprehensively gone. So the North African pirates who destroyed that world cannot have been Muslim. They accepted Islam later on.

So if the early pirates were not Muslim, who were they? We know that lots of marauding German tribes did get to North Africa and settle there so it is likely that the pirate states originated as just another band or bands of German raiders -- but raiders with a nautical bent. And if they were of a nautical bent they probably came from the Baltic area. And we do know of another group of German raiders of around 500 AD who sailed from the Baltic area -- the Angles and the Saxons who invaded Roman Britannia and turned it into England. So seaborne Germans of the time are no myth.

But the raiding went on for a long time so the pirates would soon be comprised of some admixture of the Germans with the native people of the area. The geneticists tell us that the modern-day English are only around 50% German so that percentage may have been even less in North Africa, being further way from the German homeland. It is notable, moreover that some Berbers to this day have light skin and blue eyes.

And the native people would have been substantially descended from Rome's old adversary, Carthage. Carthaginians were originally Phoenicians but eventually included a large admixture of the native North African Berber people. Carthaginian general Hannibal had given the Romans huge problems -- the destruction of eight Roman legions at Cannae resounds to this day -- so when Publius Cornelius Scipio finally defeated Hannibal's Carthaginian army, the game was up for Carthage. And after further hostilities, Rome laid waste to the city and allegedly salted its fields. That something as valuable as salt then was, was wasted in that way makes it unlikely that much salt was used, however. But the Carthaginians were more than one city and we know that Carthage had substantially revived only a couple of centuries later -- but revived under firm Roman control of course.

So there is a certain irony in the destruction of the Roman world by probable descendants of the great city that Rome had tried to destroy.


How the Laffer Curve Changed America's Economy

It was 40 years ago this month that two of President Gerald Ford’s top White House advisers, Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld, gathered for a steak dinner at the Two Continents restaurant in Washington with Wall Street Journal editorial writer Jude Wanniski and Arthur Laffer, former chief economist at the Office of Management and Budget. The United States was in the grip of a gut-wrenching recession, and Laffer lectured to his dinner companions that the federal government’s 70 percent marginal tax rates were an economic toll booth slowing growth to a crawl.

To punctuate his point, he grabbed a pen and a cloth cocktail napkin and drew a chart showing that when tax rates get too high, they penalize work and investment and can actually lead to revenue losses for the government. Four years later, that napkin became immortalized as “the Laffer Curve” in an article Wanniski wrote for the Public Interest magazine. (Wanniski would later grouse only half-jokingly that he should have called it the Wanniski Curve.)

This was the first real post-World War II intellectual challenge to the reigning orthodoxy of Keynesian economics, which preached that when the economy is growing too slowly, the government should stimulate demand for products with surges in spending. The Laffer model countered that the primary problem is rarely demand – after all, poor nations have plenty of demand – but rather the impediments, in the form of heavy taxes and regulatory burdens, to producing goods and services.

In the four decades since, the Laffer Curve and its supply-side message have taken something of a beating. They’ve been ridiculed as “trickle down” and “voodoo economics” (a phrase coined in 1980 by George H.W. Bush), and disparaged in mainstream economics texts as theories of “charlatans and cranks.” Last year, even Pope Francis criticized supply-side theories, writing that they have “never been confirmed by the facts” and rely on “a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.” And this year, French economist Thomas Piketty penned a best-selling back-to-the-future book arguing for a return to the good old days of 70 percent tax rates on the rich.

But I’d argue – and not just because Laffer has been a longtime friend and mentor – that his theory has actually held up pretty well these past 40 years. Perhaps its critics should be called Laffer Curve deniers.

Solid supporting evidence came during the Reagan years. President Ronald Reagan adopted the Laffer Curve message, telling Americans that when 70 to 80 cents of an extra dollar earned goes to the government, it’s understandable that people wonder: Why keep working? He recalled that as an actor in Hollywood, he would stop making movies in a given year once he hit Uncle Sam’s confiscatory tax rates.

When Reagan left the White House in 1989, the highest tax rate had been slashed from 70 percent in 1981 to 28 percent. (Even liberal senators such as Ted Kennedy and Howard Metzenbaum voted for those low rates.) And contrary to the claims of voodoo, the government’s budget numbers show that tax receipts expanded from $517 billion in 1980 to $909 billion in 1988 – close to a 75 percent change (25 percent after inflation). Economist Larry Lindsey has documented from IRS data that tax collections from the rich surged much faster than that.

Reagan’s tax policy, and the slaying of double-digit inflation rates, helped launch one of the longest and strongest periods of prosperity in American history. Between 1982 and 2000, the Dow Jones industrial average would surge to 11,000 from less than 800; the nation’s net worth would quadruple, to $44 trillion from $11 trillion; and the United States would produce nearly 40 million new jobs.

Critics such as economist Paul Krugman object that rapid growth during the Reagan years was driven more by conventional Keynesian deficit spending than by reductions in tax rates. Except that 30 years later, President Obama would run deficits as a share of GDP twice as large as Reagan’s through traditional Keynesian spending programs, and the economy grew under Obama’s recovery only half as fast.

Supply-side economics was never just about slashing tax rates. As Laffer told me in a recent interview: “We also emphasized sound money, free trade and deregulation. It was a package of reforms to clear away the obstacles to increased economic output.”

I asked Laffer about the economy’s surge, while income tax rates rose, during the Clinton presidency – which critics cite as repudiation of supply-side theories. Laffer noted that tax rates on work and investment fell in the ‘90s. “Under Clinton we had the biggest reduction in government spending in 30 years, one of the steepest reductions in the capital gains tax, a big cut in the tax on traded goods thanks to NAFTA, and welfare reforms which dramatically increased incentives to work. Of course the economy soared.”

As to the concern that supply-side tax-cutting has exacerbated income inequality: The real story of the 1980s and '90s was one of upward economic mobility. After-tax incomes of middle-class families rose by roughly 30 percent (when taking into account government benefits and correctly adjusting for inflation) from 1982 to 2005. The middle class didn’t shrink, it grew richer – though the past decade has seen a big reversal.

Perhaps the most powerful vindication of the Laffer Curve comes from the many nations around the world that have successfully integrated supply-side economics into their fiscal policies. World Bank statistics reveal that almost every nation – from China to Ireland to Chile – has much lower tax rates today than in the 1970s. The average income tax rate among industrialized nations has fallen from 68 percent to less than 45 percent. The average corporate tax rate has fallen from nearly 50 percent to closer to 25 percent today. Political leaders learned from Reagan that in a globally competitive world, jobs, capital and wealth tend to migrate from high- to low-tax locations.

This vital link between low taxes and jobs has played out within the United States as well. It helps explain why, from 2002 to 2012, Texas – with no income tax – gained 1 million people in domestic migration, while almost 1.5 million more Americans left California, with its 12 percent top tax rate, than moved there.

It’s worth noting that there has been some shift in emphasis among advocates of supply-side economics. The original Laffer Curve illustrated that two tax rates lead to zero revenue: a rate of zero and a rate of 100 percent – because no one will work if all earnings are taken away. Yes, in some cases tax rates can get so high that cutting them will raise more revenue, not less. That was clearly true when capital-gains tax rates were slashed in the 1980s and 1990s, and when in 2004 the federal government enacted a repatriation tax cut on foreign earnings held captive overseas. Revenue rose in all of these instances. But today, even the most ardent disciples of the Laffer Curve don’t argue that cutting tax rates will increase revenue – except in extreme cases when rates are at the very highest range of the curve.

We do argue, and history is our guide, that lower tax rates are a private-sector stimulus that in many circumstances will rev up growth and lead to more jobs. It’s a happy byproduct that this growth will help generate higher revenue than the government’s “static” estimates always undercount.

Alas, the Laffer Curve effect is now working against the United States on corporate taxation. Our highest-in-the-world corporate tax rate of nearly 40 percent is chasing iconic U.S. companies such as Burger King and dozens of others out of the country for lower-tax climates where rates are half as high.

Even liberals unwittingly acknowledge the Laffer Curve truth when they support higher tobacco taxes to stop smoking or a new carbon tax to reduce global warming. If higher carbon taxes reduce CO2 emissions, why is it so hard to understand that higher taxes on work or investment lead to less of these?

When I asked Laffer if, 40 years later, there is any point of consensus in economics on the Laffer Curve, he replied: “I think today everyone agrees with the premise that when you tax something you get less of it, and when you tax something less, you get more of it.”



Harvard Profs Angry ObamaCare Made Their Premiums Rise

Liberal academics at Harvard are as incensed as anybody else that their health care costs for 2015 have headed for the ceiling because of the “Affordable” Care Act. Harvard professor Richard Thomas said the changes were “deplorable, deeply regressive, a sign of the corporatization of the university.” But – get this – these same professors advised the Obama administration as it crafted this policy.

The New York Times reports, “In Harvard’s health care enrollment guide for 2015, the university said it ‘must respond to the national trend of rising health care costs, including some driven by health care reform,’ in the form of the Affordable Care Act.

The guide said that Harvard faced ‘added costs’ because of provisions in the health care law that extend coverage for children up to age 26, offer free preventive services like mammograms and colonoscopies and, starting in 2018, add a tax on high-cost insurance, known as the Cadillac tax.”

National Review’s Patrick Brennan notes the Leftmedia can’t quite explain away this argument for free market health care. Maybe Harvard professors should advise the White House in a new health care policy given their new real-world experience.



For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


7 January, 2015

Once again we find that the Bible is good history

Have archaeologists discovered where Jesus was sentenced to death? Site at Herod's Palace 'matches Gospel of John description'

The exact spot upon which Jesus stood as he was sentenced to death, may have been pinpointed by archaeologists in Jerusalem.

Discovered around 15 years ago, the remains of Herod the Great’s palace have been carefully examined and a place between a gate and uneven stone pavement has been identified as fitting the description of the event in the Gospel of John.

Pilgrims and tourists will be able to visit the Biblical site, because tours are being offered by the Tower of David Museum, which is located nearby.

Archaeologists suspected the site’s religious and historical significance when they uncovered parts of foundation walls of the palace and an underground sewage system, when excavating an abandoned prison, The Washington Post reported.

While historians largely agree that Herod’s palace stood in the west of Jerusalem’s Old City, whether Jesus was sentenced to death by Pontius Pilate inside it, is the subject of much debate. This is mainly due to differing interpretations of the Gospels.

The Gospel of John describes the trial of Jesus taking place near a gate and uneven pavement, which some archaeologists, including Shimon Gibson, an archaeology professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, believe matches evidence at the site.

‘There is, of course, no inscription stating it happened here, but everything - archaeological, historical and gospel accounts - all falls into place and makes sense,’ he said.

The Reverend David Pileggi, minister of Christ Church located nearby the museum, told the newspaper that the discovery confirms ‘what everyone expected all along, that the trial took place near the Tower of David.’



Thank Gridlock for Economic Turnaround

The Obama Boom is finally here. Gross domestic product grew by a healthy 5 percent in the third quarter, the strongest growth we’ve seen since 2003. Consumer spending looks as if it’s going to be strong in 2015. Unemployment numbers have looked good. Buying power is up. And the stock market closed at 18,000 for the first time ever. All good things. So what happened?

Here’s David Axelrod on Twitter: “Note: The quarter before Obama took office, the U.S. economy SHRUNK by 8.9 percent, worst since 1930. Last quarter it GREW by 5 percent, best since 2003.”

Note: Contrasting the most severe quarter of your predecessor’s with the best one in your six-year presidency – one filled with extravagant and unmet economic promises – may strike you as a bit hackish. But let’s go with it.

Axelrod isn’t alone is claiming political credit for economic success, and the Obama administration certainly isn’t the first to try to take the glory. But if activist policies really have as big an impact on our economic fortunes as Washington operatives claim, I only have one question: What policy did Barack Obama enact to initiate this astonishing turnaround? We should definitely replicate it.

Because those who’ve been paying attention these past few years may have noticed that the predominant agenda of Washington has been to do nothing. It was only when the tinkering and superfluous stimulus spending wound down that fortunes began to turn around. So it’s perplexing how the same pundits who cautioned us about gridlock’s traumatizing effects now ignore its existence.

For instance, Paul Krugman wrote a column titled “The Obama Recovery.” The problem is that the author failed to justify his headline. It begins like this:

“Suppose that for some reason you decided to start hitting yourself in the head, repeatedly, with a baseball bat. You’d feel pretty bad. Correspondingly, you’d probably feel a lot better if and when you finally stopped. What would that improvement in your condition tell you?”

Suppose you tell us what the bat represents, because spending in current dollars has remained steady since 2010, and spending as a percentage of GDP has gone down. In 2009, 125 bills were enacted into law. In 2010, 258. After that, Congress, year by year, became one of the least productive in history. And the more unproductive Washington became the more the economy began to improve.

Krugman argues that the recession lingered because government hadn’t hired enough people to do taxpayer-funded busywork. The baseball bat. But then he undercuts this notion by pointing out that there was an explosion of public-sector hiring under George W. Bush – the man he claims caused the entire mess in the first place. Krugman also ignores the stimulus, because it screws up his imaginary “austerity” timeline. He then spends most of the column debunking austerity’s success in Britain.

He does this because, in theory, left-wing economic policies can never lose. For years, the administration rationalized the crippling unemployment we experienced by spinning a comforting counter-history: Things would have been a lot worse. But didn’t the stimulus fail even if we judged it on its own promises? Well, it should have been bigger. Wasn’t this the slowest recovery in history? Well, this was the worst situation since the Great Depression.

The Boston Globe, in an editorial reflecting much of the evidence-free praise the president has gotten, spins another myth. It points to policies passed in 2010 as the reason for growth today. But it’s just as easy – and more plausible, when we consider the history of our strong emergence from severe recessions – to suggest that the economy could have been a lot better had the administration alleviated many of its early regulatory and tax burdens. Or done nothing. Certainly, a person could just as effortlessly argue that shoehorning huge agenda items under the guise of spurring growth was more harmful than helpful.

“People often don’t realize that a political system is sometimes effective when it does not do certain things.” Pietro Nivola, a senior fellow in governance studies at The Brookings Institution, argued in 2012. “You can’t just measure the things it does, the actions it takes; you also have to measure the actions it does not take.” Nivola was impressed by how gridlock has the ability to stop the Republican House from cutting spending too abruptly for the economy.

And perhaps he’s right. Gridlock has caused an odd but pervasive stability in Washington. Spending has been static. No jarring reforms have passed – no cap and trade, which would have artificially spiked energy prices and undercut the growth we’re now experiencing. The inadvertent but reigning policy over the past four years has been “do no harm.”

On the strength of good economic news, Politico reports that Obama will use his State of the Union address to roll out an agenda aimed at the stagnating wages and those Americans left behind to build on the growth. I’m going to take a wild guess and say that it’s going to incorporate a lot of happy talk about “infrastructure” and a fairer reallocation of wealth. We need to grow from the middle out, if you will. No doubt, politically speaking, Democrats' fortunes are bound to improve somewhat as economic anxieties ebb. The president will surely see better approval numbers.

But let’s hear specifics. As I remember it, the administration hasn’t done anything in a long time. I know this because an incalculable number of op-eds have informed me that the president has had to contend with militant ideologues and has been unable to implement his agenda. I know this because I’ve had to listen to years of hand-wringing about politicians' inaction. You can’t have it both ways.



Truth Is, There's No One Behind the Wheel

By Jonah Goldberg

There’s an old joke in the newspaper business, now immortal on the Internet:

“The Wall Street Journal is read by the people who run the country. The Washington Post is read by people who think they run the country. The New York Times is read by people who think they should run the country. USA Today is read by people who think they ought to run the country but don’t really understand the New York Times. They do, however, like their statistics shown in pie chart format. … The Boston Globe is read by people whose parents used to run the country, and they did a far superior job of it, thank you very much. …”

And so on. The list gets updated from time to time, and it usually includes, “The National Inquirer is read by people trapped in line at the grocery store.” You get the point.

But the joke is on us. You see, no one is running the country.

I don’t mean that as a knock on President Obama. No president “runs” America because the government doesn’t run America – and the president barely runs the government. He can scarcely tell his own employees what to do. Civil service laws and union rules make it darn near impossible to fire even grossly incompetent employees for anything short of pederasty or murder.

I don’t have the space to rehash the Federalist Papers, but at the federal level there are three branches of government and each one monkey-wrenches the other, all the time. Meanwhile, do you know how many local governments there are in the United States?

Time’s up, and you probably guessed too low. There are, by the Pew Charitable Trust’s count, just over ninety thousand of them (90,056 to be exact).

What the joke gets right is that lots of groups think they should be running the show. But they all resent the fact that they’re not. From Ivy League eggheads to Wall Street fat cats, everyone talks like a backseat driver to a driver who isn’t there.

In recent years, I’ve had the good fortune to get to know some famous .001-percenters. Guess what? Not only do they not run the country, but they’re often desperate to find out who does.

For instance, listening to the Democratic Party or, say, the editors of the New York Times (tomayto-tomahto, I know), you’d think the Koch brothers owned America. Of course, if they did, they wouldn’t be spending so much money on elections, would they? Also, if the Kochs were half as evil and powerful as some claim, nobody would be criticizing them.

Meanwhile, for every rich conservative out there, there’s a rich liberal cutting checks, too. In other words, the one-percenters who supposedly run everything aren’t some homogenized class of economic overlords; they are, in fact, at war with each other. And, trust me, Charles and David Koch, Sheldon Adelson and Foster Friess no more think they are running the country than liberal super-donors Michael Bloomberg, George Soros and Tom Steyer do.

The notion that there’s a class or group of people secretly running things is ancient. It was old when the Roman consul Lucius Cassius famously asked, “Cui bono?” (“To whose benefit?”)

The reason is that we seem to be hardwired to assume there are no accidents, that the world is the way it is because people – hidden people – want it that way. The more extreme expressions of this cognitive reflex take many forms, whether anti-Semitic (Who benefits? The Jews!) or Marxist (Who benefits? The ruling classes!) or comedic (“Colonel Sanders with his wee beady eyes!”).

Today, on the left, such thinking has become institutionalized. When the champions of social justice can’t find an actual culprit, the villain becomes systemic racism or sexism or white privilege. But there is always evil intentionality lurking somewhere, like a ghost in the machine. The right has its bugaboos, too. For instance, there are many who think the mainstream media is biased (it is) and that its bias is somehow centrally orchestrated like a scheme by some Bond villain (it isn’t).

I think some people are scared of the idea that nobody is in charge, in part because they want someone to blame for their problems. Others don’t like this notion because they have an outsized faith in the power of human will. If villains aren’t to blame for our ills, then some problems cease to be problems and simply become facts of life.

Me? I like knowing no one is running things because, for starters, it means I’m free.



Do you or yours feel better? Last week’s GDP Estimate Included a Massive Upward Revision in Health Spending

Massive spending for what benefit?

Last week’s third estimate of 3rd quarter GDP contained a significant upward revision to the real (inflation-adjusted) increase in GDP, from a 3.9 percent in the second estimate (released in November) to 5.0 percent in the third estimate.

November’s second estimate of 3rd quarter GDP included very tempered growth in health spending. The third estimate blows that out of the water. Much of the upward revision to the GDP estimate was due to health spending.

The real dollar change in seasonally adjusted GDP (at annual rates) from the 2nd quarter to the 3rd quarter was estimated at $153.7 billion in the second estimate. The third estimate revised this up to $195.2 billion, a change of $41.5 billion (27 percent).

Health spending was revised up from $8.6 billion to $20.7 billion, an increase of $12.1 billion. That is, the upward revision of health spending accounted for almost one-third of the entire GDP revision. Health spending is a component of household consumption of services. The entire revision to that category was $21.8 billion. So, pretty much the entire net increase in the estimate for household consumption of services was accounted for by health spending.

Whether this is good or bad for Americans’ welfare cannot be determined from these figures. Especially under Obamacare, health spending is so politically driven that subsidized spending may be increasingly wasteful.

What is also concerning about these revisions is that figuring out the impact that Obamacare is having on health spending has been exceedingly difficult. Let’s hope that we are not back where we were last summer, when the Bureau of Economic Analysis was struggling to capture health spending accurately in its GDP estimates.



For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


6 January, 2015

Is this the ultimate dumbing down of education? Has educational success now become just a popularity contest?

If "niceness" gets you better grades than intelligence, it seems so.

A recent academic paper says personality is more important than IQ to educational success. And since the criterion of academic success was GPA I can believe it. GPAs these days are not a strong indicator of academic ability. They could well be influenced by "niceness". Teachers tend to give higher marks to students whom they like. And, as we know, GPAs are not a strong indicator of success in later years. IQ was in the past by far the best predictor of academic success but most of those findings go back to an era where education had not yet been "dumbed down".

Another problem is that high IQ students often find schoolwork boring so treat it cursorily, which is not a good way to get high marks, meaning that GPA marks may not adequately represent ability.

Leftists have always derided IQ because it is one of those pesky inborn differences that obstruct their dream of making everybody equal. It seems that they have now gone beyond derision and are actively making IQ irrelevant. Below is a popular summary of the paper followed by the journal abstract.

According to a new review of the link between personality and academic achievement, personality is a better way to predict success at school than intelligence as it's usually measured, by traditional standardized tests. Arthur Poropat, of Griffith University in Australia, compared measurements of what psychologists call the "big five" personality traits — openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism — to academic scores, and found that the students who were rated higher in openness and conscientiousness tended to receive better grades.

"In practical terms, the amount of effort students are prepared to put in, and where that effort is focused, is at least as important as whether the students are smart,” Poropat said in the release accompanying the paper, which was published in Learning and Individual Differences. "And a student with the most helpful personality will score a full grade higher than an average student in this regard."

It makes intuitive sense that both conscientiousness and openness would result in higher grades; it doesn't really matter how smart you are if you can't manage to turn your homework in on time, for one. And another word for openness is curiosity, another obviously necessary factor in learning. Still, it's an interesting way to think about academic achievement for anyone who grew up believing they did well in school simply because they were "smart."



Other-rated personality and academic performance: Evidence and implications

By Arthur E. Poropat


Considerable gaps remain in teachers' and students' understanding of factors contributing to learning and educational outcomes, including personality. Consequently, current knowledge about personality within educational settings was reviewed, especially its relationships with learning activities and academic performance. Personality dimensions have previously been shown to be related to learning strategies and activities, and to be reliably correlated with academic performance. However, personality is typically self-rated, introducing methodological disadvantages associated with informational and social desirability biases. A meta-analysis of other-rated personality demonstrated substantially higher correlations of academic performance with all of the dimensions of the Five-Factor Model of personality, which were not accounted for by associations with intelligence. The combined association of academic performance with all of the Five-Factor Model dimensions was one of the largest so far reported in education. The findings have implications for personality measurement. Teachers are able to assess students' personalities to match educational activities to student dispositions, while students' development of learning capacities can be facilitated by feedback on how their personalities are linked with effective learning.



White racism has all but vanished from US politics...

...says Jeff Jacoby below. But how does he know? Only Leftists are allowed even to mention race these days. I think Jeff is being a Pollyanna. I think it is white flight that tells the true story

THE TEMPTATION to play the race card is one that President Obama and his surrogates have too often found irresistible. Think of Attorney General Eric Holder's claim last summer that criticism of the Obama administration is fueled by "racial animus," or Vice President Joe Biden's warning to a largely nonwhite audience in 2012 that Mitt Romney was "going to put y'all back in chains" if he won the White House. Recall Obama himself, predicting that Republicans would demonize him because "he doesn't look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills."

Yet there are also times when the president heeds the better angels of his nature, and declines to stoke racial resentments.

One such moment came during an interview last week, when NPR's Steve Inskeep asked Obama if the country is "more racially divided than it was when you took office six years ago." Without hesitating, the president answered candidly: "No, I actually think that it's probably in its day-to-day interactions less racially divided." There may be a perception to the contrary, he acknowledged, but that has more to do with the media-driven focus on particular events, "like Ferguson or the Garner case in New York."

Nor did he take the bait when Inskeep, raising "a couple of data points" that "suggest a broad gulf" between the races, contrasted Obama's overwhelming share of the black vote in his two presidential campaigns with the "rather dramatic" drop in the white Democratic vote. Instead of endorsing Inskeep's inference that "political division between [the] races" is widening, Obama responded mildly that data can be spun to suggest anything. In reality, he noted, "when I was elected in '08, I actually did better among white voters … than John Kerry did."

In fact, Obama's share of the white electorate in 2008 not only surpassed Kerry's four years earlier, but Al Gore's in 2000, Bill Clinton's in 1992, Michael Dukakis's in 1988, Walter Mondale's in 1984, and Jimmy Carter's in 1980. The nomination of a black presidential candidate didn't send white voters fleeing from the Democratic Party — quite the contrary. White racism, once such a powerful force in US politics, is now almost undetectable when Americans go to the polls. Good for the president, at least on this occasion, for not encouraging the myth that blacks don't get a fair shake on Election Day.

Indeed, for all the controversy over voter-ID requirements and other election-law reforms, black participation in the electoral process is more robust than ever. Accusations that such laws are motivated by a desire to suppress minority voting may be cynical or sincere, but if the proof of the pudding is in the turnout, the black franchise is perfectly sound.

"Voting rates for blacks were higher in 2012 than in any recent presidential election, the result of a steady increase in black voting rates since 1996," reported the US Census Bureau in 2013. What's more, with 66.2 percent of black voters casting ballots, turnout among blacks was the highest of any racial group, surpassing the voting rate among whites by 2.1 percentage points. If this is voter suppression, let's have more of it.

Black turnout has been rising everywhere, even in states dominated by Republicans. Jason Riley, author of the new book Please Stop Helping Us, observes that the trend "was most pronounced in red states like Alabama, Kentucky, and Mississippi," and that black voter turnout in 2012 surpassed white turnout by statistically significant margins … [even] in states with the strictest voter-ID laws." When skeptical researchers at PolitiFact dug into Riley's claim, they rated it True.

There wasn't much joy for Obama or his party in last November's midterm elections, but the evidence of democratic engagement among African Americans showed no signs of letup. Overall, black turnout accounted for a higher share of the vote in 2014 than it had in 2010. Once again, it was hard to find significant evidence that voter-ID laws stifled voting, even in GOP strongholds. Looking at seven states below the Mason-Dixon Line, Bloomberg writer Francis Barry found that "the states with a voter-ID requirement, including Louisiana and Florida, had the highest turnout rates; the two states where no ID is required — Maryland and North Carolina — had the lowest."

Racial tensions obviously haven't vanished entirely from American life, but for all intents and purposes, racism as a political factor has. As the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act approaches, Jim Crow is dead in its grave, while black electoral vitality in America is alive and well.



Microaggression: desperately seeking discrimination

Have you heard of ‘microaggression’? Apparently it is everywhere. According to Wikipedia, ‘Microaggression is a form of “unintended discrimination”... which, without the conscious choice of the user, has the same effect as conscious, intended discrimination.’ Wikipedia provides the pronoun ‘he’ as an example of microaggression: this pronoun apparently makes me, a ‘she’, feel excluded and therefore it is a micro act of aggression. For other ludicrous examples of this nonsense, visit the microaggression project’s website. There you will find posts that read like an embarrassing adolescent diary.

But this is no laughing matter. The idea of microaggression is now having a real effect. For instance, there was the fiasco at Harvard earlier this month, when stickers from SodaStream, an Israeli company, were removed from soda machines because they were seen as an act of microaggression against students of Palestinian origin. There was the case of Professor Val Rust at UCLA, who, in 2013, was fired over spurious allegations of microaggression towards his students. As far as I can tell, his only crime was to ask his students to use better grammar. And, judging by their subsequent manifesto and online petition, he was right to do so.

What is most striking about those waging war on microaggression is the extent to which they have taken leave of reality. They see discrimination and oppression everywhere. Of course, there are plenty of things that need to be challenged in society, and spiked does so on a daily basis. But long gone are the days when women were kept at home, when black people weren’t welcome in pubs, and when gay and lesbian couples had to keep their relationships secret. In education, at work and at home, the old discrimination simply doesn’t exist anymore. Unfortunately, that hasn’t stopped some people desperately looking for discrimination in innocent remarks and actions.

For believers in microaggression, the slightest hint of an insult becomes discriminatory, an example of oppression. Anything can potentially be a microaggression, it seems - a comment, an advert, or just a look. You just have to feel hurt or uncomfortable after reading, hearing or seeing something for the ‘offending behaviour’ to be labelled microaggression. It doesn’t matter about the context; it doesn’t matter what the person actually meant; it doesn’t matter if it was just a bad joke between friends. Thanks to the idea of microaggression, you can elevate the most mundane of exchanges into symbols of deep-rooted oppression.

The idea of microaggression encourages people to see everyday comments or behaviour as abusive or discriminatory. And as such, it encourages a socially corrosive form of victimhood. This is bad. Most of the time, people are civil and decent – if you give them a chance they can even be fun, clever and interesting. Yes, bumping into one another has its risks, but you know what – that’s what makes life worth living.



Contrary to Administration Claims, Only a Tiny Fraction of 'Surge' Border-Jumpers Deported

An investigative report by a Houston television station exposed that only a tiny fraction of the families and children who crossed in the border surge of 2012-14 are being returned to their home countries, despite Obama administration claims that the cases are a priority. According to immigration court records obtained by the station, only a few of the illegal family or child arrivals are qualified to stay in the United States, and the vast majority (91 percent) have simply absconded from their proceedings after release and joined the resident illegal population, where they are no longer a priority for enforcement under the new, expanded "prosecutorial discretion" policies.

The Houston reporters obtained statistics from the immigration courts on 30,467 cases of families and unaccompanied alien children (UACs) who arrived illegally between July 18 and October 28, 2014. Of these, only 22 percent (6,093) have been completed.

In total, 17,042 people were apprehended as family units; 13,425 were UACs.

On December 19, DHS released its year-end enforcement statistics, showing a continued steep drop in deportations. The statistics were accompanied by this statement from DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, which seems downright laughable in light of the above facts:

"DHS's 2014 year-end enforcement statistics demonstrate that our front line officers and agents continue to execute their critical mission in a smart and effective way, focusing our resources on convicted criminals and those attempting to illegally cross our nation's borders."

It's not clear to me what is smart or effective about a massive and costly catch-and-release scheme that has resulted in the illegal resettlement of tens of thousands of illegal aliens, with taxpayers now picking up the tab for schooling, health care, housing, public safety, and other expenses, and which has only increased the incentives for more people to try to enter illegally.

In the context of current catch-and-release policies, a focus on border apprehensions as a measure of the effectiveness of border security is meaningless, and deliberately misleading. Apprehensions are not a metric of enforcement when illegal aliens are apprehended and then routinely released under the guise of "deportation proceedings", "asylum applications", or even "budget constraints".

Further, any proposals that claim to want to enhance border security and enforcement by providing more resources, more personnel, more technology, and more infrastructure for immigration agencies without addressing the underlying policies that serve to undercut enforcement should be viewed with great skepticism.

The imperative now is true immigration and border enforcement: more deportations, not just apprehensions, of not only criminals, but recent and not-so-recent arrivals, at the border and in the interior; provisions to prevent illegal employment and access to welfare benefits; a more efficient deportation process without unnecessarily protracted due process; restoration of effective partnerships with local law enforcement; and use of soft detention as a deterrent. These should be among the top priorities for the new Congress.


There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.


For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


5 January, 2015

Saving lives in the Middle East

Faith-based groups race against time, winter cold and Islamist butchers to reduce the slaughter

Paul Driessen

Yazidi and Christian communities trace their Syrian and Iraqi roots back nearly 2,000 years. Now they are being systematically exterminated. Not merely driven out. Exterminated – along with Jews, Bahais and even Muslims insufficiently fundamentalist to suit Islamic State (ISIS) butchers.

While they have not yet attained the scale of Nazi and Communist slaughters, these Islamofascist savages may have surpassed their Twentieth Century predecessors in depravity. They ask terrified children, “Who wants to be beheaded first?” then butcher them in front of the others. They bury people alive. Islamist “soldiers” teach little boys how to slice the heads off every man in “enemy” Syrian tribes. They torture and rape girls and women, before selling them into slavery, prostitution or forced marriage – and demand that surviving women dress “modestly” in black robes, gloves and veils, and be banned from school and public life. They sell their victims’ blood and organs, to finance still more weapons and atrocities.

One of the few safe havens for those who escape is Israel, which provides security, education, healthcare, jobs and religious freedom. Another million-plus refugees have fled to camps and streets in Turkey, whose government and people have become exhausted from trying to feed, clothe and shelter so many that Turkish military forces are now preventing Syrians from entering the country. American, European, Middle Eastern and other promises of weapons and aid have been too little, too late or simply not kept. Even the UN’s World Food Program has barely enough money to feed refugees beyond mid-January.

Terrorized multitudes unable to reach safety in Israel or Turkey are caught between Islamic State hordes and slow, painful deaths from starvation, disease and freezing winter temperatures. Many escaped with only the clothes they were wearing. Many precarious lives have been sustained only because RUN Ministries operates “Community of Hope” refugee camps and safe houses in the region.

These people have seen their relatives hung, shot, beheaded, crucified or beaten to death. They have left everything behind and been hunted down like animals. It they are able to escape, they travel by day and sleep in fields by night, hoping to reach a safe shelter – and hoping it has food, water, blankets, medicines and tents to share. By November 2014, Virginia-based RUN (Reaching Unreached Nations) was protecting 26,000 refugees; by the end of December, the number had skyrocketed to 100,000!

But as president Eric Watt says, it costs some $250,000 to build one Community of Hope camp and equip it with sufficient supplies to last 30 days for 1,000 men, women and children. Merely providing warm blankets costs tens of thousands of dollars. Contributions are sorely needed to save more lives.

In early December, RUN volunteers were forced to ask refugees who had already been in a camp more than a month to move out, at least for awhile, so that newly arrived families could be fed and protected. That would mean going back into the rocky fields, often without even blankets to keep warm at night.

“Please don’t make us leave,” parents pleaded. “If we leave, we are afraid our children will die.”

Meanwhile, Islamic State patrols periodically swoop into RUN camps, to kidnap girls, steal food, poison water supplies, and abuse and murder RUN volunteers and transport drivers.

Mr. Watt recounted the story of Alyssa, a 28-year-old Christian woman whose family was liquidated by ISIS death squads. “After my family was killed, I was kidnapped and brought to a terrorist camp, with more than 100 new widows my age,” she said. “We were forced to become ‘wives’ to these men. If we tried to leave, they would torture us. The other widows told me to obey everything these men said, if I wanted to live. Every night, a man would beat and rape me, and during the day we were forced to cook for the ISIS fighters. Many nights, the men would take turns with us and do very bad things.”

Eventually, Alyssa escaped – but with no family, income or future without RUN’s help, and our aid.

So far, the vaunted “international community” has done little. It has been quick to vilify and condemn Israel for “occupying” Palestinian land and “oppressing” Muslims. But it has done little to stop these Islamic State butchers from annihilating Christians and any others who resist. The “coalition of the willing” has been small and futile. It has provided insufficient aid, only muted outrage, and no calls for boycotts, divestment and sanctions for countries aiding and abetting ISIS or ignoring its depredations.

RUN Ministries has built six now-overflowing Community of Hope camps in Northern Iraq and is raising funds to construct four more. It’s purchased 5,000 water filters, to protect people against water-borne diseases, and countless thousands of heavy blankets. It fears that ISIS will continue murdering Yazidis until their millennia-old community is wiped out, and the Middle East is completely cleansed of “infidels.”

Until just a few months ago, Halan was a Yazidi elder, responsible for forty families. When Islamic State neared their village, he led the families into the mountains, where they built smaller makeshift homes that they hoped would be hidden and safe. But the butchers found them. “Their leaders told the terrorists to save bullets,” Halan said. “So they used big knives to cut men’s heads off and chop their bodies into pieces.” They murdered all the men, took the women and left him for dead.

“I had nothing left, and my heart was broken,” he wept. But he found a RUN camp, which took him in.

However, the new Holocaust is continuing, and growing. Thankfully, other private sector organizations have also stepped forward. Gleaning for the World, likewise based in Virginia, collects food, clothing, medicine, medical supplies, furniture and many other items; loads them on pallets; and ships them by air, sea and truck all over the world. Forbes magazine has rated it “the most efficient charity in America.”

Gleaning president Ron Davidson says accounting records demonstrate that every dollar in donations is multiplied 212 times when GFTW uses the money to collect and ship aid internationally.

Gleaning has now teamed up with Glenn Beck’s Mercury One Foundation and other faith-based organizations, Reverend Davidson notes, to raise money and send even more supplies to Iraq, Syria and Turkey. ISIS has trapped some 500,000 desperate people – and is indoctrinating and training teenage boys to become incredibly vicious terrorists. The stupider ones become suicide bombers, while others are groomed for export to foreign countries, to launch coordinated or lone-wolf attacks.

These butchers are an existential threat to families, human rights and religious communities everywhere – not just in Iraq, Syria or the Middle East, but in the United States, Europe and throughout the world.

Only intensified allied military campaigns can stop, roll back and obliterate Islamic State terrorists. However, we private citizens can play vital roles: raising our voices, demanding action, and supporting RUN Ministries, Gleaning for the World, Mercury One and other organizations that are doing all they can to prevent yet more horrific murders, slavery and ethnic cleansing.

There are few better ways to step forward … and begin your 2015 giving … than by helping now.

Via email


United Nations Going After the First Amendment!

Joe Otto

We have provided in-depth coverage of how the United Nations has tried to attack your Second Amendment rights. So, it should be no surprise for us to tell you that the U.N. is going after your First Amendment rights as well!

The U.N. is pushing for all member countries to adopt ‘hate speech legislation.’ They claim it is to protect “human rights.”

Now, I know what you may be thinking: “What’s so wrong about banning hate speech?” Well, there’s a lot wrong with it! Look at what is happening in the United Kingdom…

The U.K. is facing some pretty serious problems. For one, radical Islamists are terrorizing the country’s citizens on what seems like a daily basis. Sure there are the terrorist threats that pose a real danger to British society. But there are also the common criminals who are terrorizing society.

The U.K. also has a problem with immigration. The EU’s open border policy has led to an influx of unskilled, foreign workers who have leeched off the country’s entitlement system and made it harder for British citizens to find work (sound familiar?).

The country’s solution has been to introduce hate speech legislation banning the use of derogatory language towards ANY group of people!

This is what the U.N. wants for America… They want us to dismantle our First Amendment and force Americans to bite their tongues and accept political correctness.

There was a recent story out of England of a 19-year old man who videotaped himself ripping up a Koran, throwing it in the toilet, and then lighting it on fire.

Instead of protecting his speech rights, the Police brought charges against the man for hate speech and creating a public disturbance.

He now faces crippling fines and maybe even jail time… All for speaking his mind.

There’s also the case of Reality TV-star Katie Hopkins. After word broke that a Scottish nurse had contracted Ebola, Hopkins took to Twitter and wrote a series of tweets that, according to the police, constitute “hate speech.”

I realize that this is happening in the United Kingdom, not the United States. But it is important to paint this backdrop because if the United Nations had its way, the U.K.’s hate speech laws would be copied worldwide!

This is what they want in the United States. They want the police to arrest people for saying ‘mean things.’

And I’m not going to sugarcoat it… this is already happening here in the United States. Countless people have been arrested and harassed by police for writing disparaging comments about Barack Obama and the Democrat party.

If criticizing the Democrats were a crime, you’d have to lock me up and throw away the key…

Obviously I say that in jest, but this is actually what some Liberals want… They want for the government to police what citizens say and write. They want to stop you from talking about “inflammatory” topics. They want the ability to fact-check their opponents and take down Internet posts they deem to be “incorrect.”

I mean, look at the situation in Scotland. Do you know why Scottish Police are looking into Katie Hopkins’ tweets as hate speech? They enforced the law because they were inundated with citizens complaining about the posts.

Not only have these politicians made it illegal to talk bad about someone, but also they have conditioned the people to run to police the minute they hear something that offends them. That, to me, is worse.

This is the Left’s end-game. They want this country to become a place where citizens are terrified of opening their mouths. They are creating a modern day “1984” where the government monitors all your conversations and punishes any speech it doesn’t agree with it.

But more importantly, they want to gut the First Amendment and force citizens to comply with draconian government speech regulations.

This isn’t just hyperbole… Harry Reid tried to change the First Amendment this past year. He tried to gut the Constitution to stop you from engaging in political speech.

That failed. Now, the United Nations swoops in to finish the job and dismantle the First Amendment under the auspices of fighting “hate speech.”

I hate racism and bigotry just as much as anyone else. But I am not willing to abolish our Freedom of Speech just to fight it.



Are gun owners mentally unstable?

Asserting that gun owners are mentally unstable would appear to be the hidden agenda behind the piece of research reported below. What they found was that mental instability was just as likely in non-gun homes as in gun homes. How disappointing for them!

Psychiatric Comorbidity, Suicidality, and In-Home Firearm Access Among a Nationally Representative Sample of Adolescents

Joseph A. Simonett et al.


Suicide is the second leading cause of death among US adolescents, and in-home firearm access is an independent risk factor for suicide. Given recommendations to limit firearm access by those with mental health risk factors for suicide, we hypothesized that adolescents with such risk factors would be less likely to report in-home firearm access.

To estimate the prevalence of self-reported in-home firearm access among US adolescents, to quantify the lifetime prevalence of mental illness and suicidality (ie, suicidal ideation, planning, or attempt) among adolescents living with a firearm in the home, and to compare the prevalence of in-home firearm access between adolescents with and without specific mental health risk factors for suicide.

Design, Setting, and Participants
Cross-sectional analysis of data from the National Comorbidity Survey-Adolescent Supplement, a nationally representative survey of 10?123 US adolescents (age range, 13-18 years) who were interviewed between February 2001 and January 2004 (response rate 82.9%).

Risk factors for suicide, including a history of any mental health disorder, suicidality, or any combination of the 2.

Main Outcomes and Measures
Self-reported access to a firearm in the home.

One in three respondents (2778 [29.1%]) of the weighted survey sample reported living in a home with a firearm and responded to a question about firearm access; 1089 (40.9%) of those adolescents reported easy access to and the ability to shoot that firearm. Among adolescents with a firearm in home, those with access were significantly more likely to be older (15.6 vs 15.1 years), male (70.1% vs 50.9%), of non-Hispanic white race/ethnicity (86.6% vs 78.3%), and living in high-income households (40.0% vs 31.8%), and in rural areas (28.1% vs 22.6%) (P<.05 for all). Adolescents with firearm access also had a higher lifetime prevalence of alcohol abuse (10.1% vs 3.8%, P<.001) and drug abuse (11.4% vs 6.9%, P<.01) compared with those without firearm access. In multivariable analyses, adolescents with a history of mental illness without a history of suicidality (prevalence ratio [PR], 1.13; 95% CI, 0.98-1.29) and adolescents with a history of suicidality with or without a history of mental illness (PR, 1.20; 95% CI, 0.96-1.51) were as likely to report in-home firearm access as those without such histories.

Conclusions and Relevance
Adolescents with risk factors for suicide were just as likely to report in-home firearm access as those without such risk factors. Given that firearms are the second most common means of suicide among adolescents, further attention to developing and implementing evidence-based strategies to decrease firearm access in this age group is warranted.

JAMA Psychiatry. Published online December 30, 2014. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.1760


For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


4 January, 2015

Muslim Brutality versus the Western tradition

I think most of us recoil in horror when we read of the savage practices in Syria and Iraq by the "Islamic State". You don't have to know much history, however, to realize that they are "good" Muslims. Their deeds are well in line with what Muslims have done for centuries.

Take just one example: The Ottoman succession. The Muslim Ottoman Empire covered most of the territory that was "owned" for nearly a millennium by the old Byzantine Greek Christian empire -- centered on modern Turkey. And given Muslim rules about multiple wives, Ottoman emperors usually had multiple sons. So when an emperor died, which son became the next emperor? That was always a very competitive race indeed, with various factions of the court supporting rival sons. So when a new emperor was finally declared, what was the first thing he did? He killed off all his brothers! Muslims have always been savages.

So how do we explain that? There have been plenty of times when there have been rival claims to Western thrones but nothing like the Ottoman practice has been customary.

No doubt, Leftists would be able to come up with some cultural explanation for it but I keep some track of the scientific literature on genetics (e.g. here) and you cannot be aware of that literature without being struck at times by something I once heard Hans Eysenck say: "It's all genetic". Before I go further down that path, however, let me contrast the "Western" practice, beginning with the founders of Western civilization, the ancient Greeks.

And who was the most powerful ancient Greek? Alexander of Macedon, Alexander the Great. He conquered much of the ancient world, most notably the great Persian empire. And Greeks had no love of the Persians. Anyone who knows of the exploits of Pheidippides and of Leonidas and his Spartans at Thermopylae will have some inkling of that.

So what did Alexander do when he defeated the Persians at Issus? All the Persian royal family were captured. The Muslim response would of course have been automatic: Kill them all. But Alexander did no such thing. He treated the Royal family with all the courtesy that he felt was due to Royal personages. Enough said, I think.

So let us skip forward to 1870 and the battle of Sedan, a battle that had nothing to do with motor cars. Sedan is a place in France which is roughly pronounced as "say dong". Prussian chancellor Bismarck had deliberately insulted the French emperor, Napoleon III and French ideas of honor made Napoleon immediately declare war on the Germans. Not wise.

As with Alexander, Bismarck had a victory that was so sweeping that he captured Napoleon himself. So was it "Off with his head"!? Not at all. There are to this day photographs of Napoleon seated comfortably and engaged in friendly conversations both with Bismarck and the Kaiser. And Napoleon III was eventually released on the condition that he move to England and stay there, which he did.

So our forebears have always had an instinct of respect for others, which Muslims clearly have not had and still do not have.

But what about Saladin? someone will say. Saladin defended the Holy Land against the crusaders and was notable for his mercy. So here I come to what I think is the crux of the matter. Saladin was a remarkable man. He was a Kurd, a people previously conquered by the Arabs. And yet through sheer talent, he came to be the leader of the Arab armies. And his military skills were such that he had great authority. It was very hard for anyone in his retinue to question his judgment. So he could be merciful without getting substantial blowback from the Arabs he led.

So my contention is that race matters, infernally incorrect though that might be. The Kurds are the descendants of the Medes, a quite different race from the Arabs but with a long history of high civilization. And I think that Muslim brutality is basically Arab. And it is an inter-Arab contest at the moment in Syria.

I am not going to make much of the racial identity of the Kurds, though I do note that they speak an Indo-European language so are probably our cousins. Certainly, Kurdistan is the only really orderly part of the failed state that is Iraq today. Kurds are still more civilized than the Arabs.

The distinction I want to make, however, is between Arabs and non-Arabs. Arabs are good at only one thing: Self-sacrifice in war. But that one thing did enable them eventually to conquer most of the Middle East: Persians, Assyrians, Kurds etc. Though the Christian Greeks of Byzantium resisted them for 500 years. In the end it was the Venetians under the remarkable Doge Dandolo who destroyed the Byzantine regime.

And the Middle East is the cradle of civilization. The people conquered by the Arabs were often highly civilized. And it was their continued limited functioning under the Arabs which gave the Arab world a veneer of civilization. You can read here all about that. The claim that the Arab world conserved the wisdom and culture of the Greeks and Romans during the Dark Ages of the West is utter tosh. There was no Dark Age in Byzantium and it was the Byzantine Greeks who brought their treasured books and learning to Italy and thus sparked the Renaissance.

So I would argue something fairly uncontroversial among geneticists: That Arabs are genetically different. And looking at the history of their behaviour, I would extend the claim to it being their genetic makeup that accounts for Muslim savagery and brutality. And from Alexander through Saladin to Bismarck we stand outside that.

But (pace Eysenck) it's not all genetic. Culture does play a part. And Islam is Arab culture embodied. And after more than 1,000 years of Arab/Muslim domination, Arab attitudes have filtered to varying degrees into the minds of Muslims everywhere. So in racially very different people from the Arabs, Pakistanis in particular, we find today Arab attitudes and behaviour.

And there is nothing more pernicious culturally than a relatively recent invention called socialism. It was socialism that gave us Hitler and Stalin. But those excursions did come to an end and normal Western civilization has returned to both Germany and Russia, though both, of course, have their own characteristics -- JR


Alan Caruba reminds Americans


Another hysterical Leftist accusation becomes unglued

As you undoubtedly know, liberal politicians and pundits have been hailing the claim that House Republican Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana attended a meeting of a white supremacist group in 2002 as the biggest story since Bridgegate. Scalise himself said that he had no recollection of addressing such a meeting, but if he did it was an error in judgment for which he apologizes.

Now it turns out that the alleged incident may never have happened at all. To back up: the claim is that Scalise addressed a meeting of the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO) at the Landmark Best Western Hotel in Metairie, Louisiana in 2002. EURO was a tiny group associated with David Duke, who by 2002 was political poison. (He pled guilty to tax evasion and mail fraud in December 2002 and served time in prison.) At the time, Scalise was a state legislator and was going around speaking to various local civic groups about a tax proposal in Louisiana’s legislature.

The man who arranged Scalise’s appearance at the Metairie Hotel now says that the report is simply wrong. Scalise didn’t address the EURO conference, but rather an equally small meeting of the Jefferson Heights Civic Association that was held in the same hotel conference room, earlier in the day:

[Kenny] Knight said he rented and paid for the hotel conference room for the European-American Unity and Rights Organization, a group founded by Duke. Since he had already paid for the space, Knight said, he decided to also hold his local civic association meeting at the Metairie hotel. He stressed that the two gatherings were not connected.

“Steve Scalise did not address a EURO conference. … The conference was two-and-a-half hours later,” Knight said. …

Knight said Scalise, then a state representative, spoke to the civic association and was probably unaware the EURO conference was being held in the same room later that day. Knight and Scalise primarily knew each other as neighbors and not through politics necessarily, Knight said.

“The conference wasn’t going to start until 1 p.m., so I decided to have the members of the civic association there Saturday morning,” he said, “My relationship with Steve Scalise was as a neighbor. I don’t know that Steve Scalise and I ever talked about politics.”

Knight said about 18 members of the civic association showed up for the meeting, where Scalise spoke on a piece of tax legislation working its way through the Louisiana Legislature. A few people who arrived early for the EURO conference were also in the room and may have made the forum post that White discovered, Knight said. A member of the local Red Cross also spoke at the local civic association meeting that day, Knight said.

“There were not (EURO) signs. There were not banners” at the civic association meeting, Knight said.

Knight said he was not a member of EURO and did not arrange for any speakers at the 2002 conference, he said. He only booked and paid for the room as a favor to Duke, a personal friend whose campaigns he had worked on in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Knight’s then-girlfriend Barbara Noble, who was present at the event, agrees that Scalise spoke to the Jefferson Heights Civic Association, not EURO....

UPDATE: EURO put out a press release the day before the “workshop” that listed scheduled speakers. Scalise was not one of them. It appears that the Scalise “scandal” is going the way of the University of Virginia rape story.



Have We Finally Turned the Corner?

As 2014 came to a close, it was all about good economic news. Leading off the parade: In December, the Dow Jones Industrial Average capped off a torrid year of 7.5% growth when it reached 18,000 for the first time. Meanwhile, GDP grew at a 4.6% annual rate in the second quarter and an even faster 5% in the third – a pace not seen since 2003. And on top of that, Americans saved $14 billion at the gas pump in 2014, and could save even more this year. Things are looking a bit brighter for 2015.

With all that good economic news, experts feel the job market will further strengthen in 2015 so the headline unemployment rate will slide ever closer to 5%. The labor market may remain a little bit soft as the long-term unemployed will be the last to find work, but as a whole it’s no wonder the Left is boasting of the “Obama boom.” Even those on the Right are admitting this may end the “Age of Suck.”

This general feeling of economic optimism is reflected in increasing consumer confidence. While some worried about sluggish Black Friday sales as well as slower than expected last-minute shopping at retailers as the Christmas season wound down, online purchasing was strong enough to keep sales right around their predicted growth rate for the 2014 season.

While some try to credit Barack Obama for the rebound, the good news is rooted in two areas the president has tried his best to obstruct.

One is an overall slowdown in government spending growth, which is declining as a percentage of GDP. Congress hasn’t done nearly enough to cut spending given its tendency to govern by continuing resolution rather than a set budget – meaning the Obama spending bonanza of 2009 and 2010 is the new minimum.

But as columnist David Harsanyi puts it, “After [2010], Congress, year by year, became one of the least productive in history. And the more unproductive Washington became, the more the economy began to improve.”

The key date is 2010, when Republicans took over the House. Harsanyi argues gridlock has created part of this improvement, and there’s a compelling argument for that point. Imagine what we may have been saddled with had Republicans not taken over the House in 2010: endless government “stimulus” programs, cap and trade, and a faster implementation of ObamaCare for starters – all leading to a national debt far larger than the already-astronomical one we’re facing now.

Another part of the economic rebound stems from lower oil prices, which have plummeted by nearly half in the last six months. That steep drop is now reflected in gas-pump prices, resulting in what Citigroup estimates as an average $1,150 annual boost to consumers. This boom could have been amplified still further if not for Obama’s stalling of the Keystone XL pipeline or his refusal to open up federally controlled land to oil exploration. An activist EPA also waits in the wings with the potential for crippling regulations similar to those imposed on the coal industry.

Obama can try his best, but no president has figured out a way to kill the American free enterprise system. Its resilience has brought us out of numerous depressions, panics, recessions and economic slumps over the years as enough people found a way to work through or around the situation.

We will begin to see the effects of a truly divided government, with Republicans now totally in charge of Congress and Obama threatening to veto more legislation. “I haven’t used the veto pen very often since I’ve been in office,” Obama not-so-subtly threatened last month. “Now, I suspect, there are going to be some times where I’ve got to pull that pen out.”

While the economy is improving – at least according to the numbers our government releases, if not necessarily everyone’s personal situation – it will be up to those respective sides to make the case why things could be even better if their vision prevails. It’s a battle that will be joined as contenders for the 2016 presidential election come onto the scene and spell out their plans to continue the momentum.



For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


2 January, 2015

New Year's, The 'Especially American Tradition'

President Ronald Reagan called the New Year’s celebration “an especially American tradition.” It’s a time brimming with the “optimism and hope we're famous for in our daily lives—an energy and confidence we call the American spirit.” This spirit is what gives Americans the vigor to raise their glasses year after year, full of enthusiasm for a better future.

Tonight, nearly 72 percent of adults will be spending the holiday at home, according a recent Rasmussen Reports poll. Now, this could be due to a pinched wallet after the Christmas holiday, or perhaps merely because they want to spend more time with family.

Regardless, as you make your New Year’s resolutions for 2015, here are some words of wisdom from the great men who helped found and shape our nation, and paved the way for its indefatigable spirit.

(1). “Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.” - Benjamin Franklin

(2)."We should not look back unless it is to derive useful lessons from past errors, and for the purpose of profiting by dearly bought experience." - George Washington

(3). “To be good, and to do good, is all we have to do.” - John Adams

(4). "Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude." - Thomas Jefferson

(5). “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.” - Abraham Lincoln

Happy New Year!



Liberals: If The Shoe Doesn't Fit, Make Everyone Wear It

Ann Coulter

It is a common practice of the left to stage an incident and then demand enormous legal changes to respond to their hoax.

Griswold v. Connecticut was a scam orchestrated by Yale law professors to challenge the state's anti-contraception law. The case was a fraud: The law had never been enforced and never would have been enforced, until the professors held a press conference announcing they were breaking the law.

But we still got the new constitutional "privacy right" which, less than 10 years later, transmogrified into a constitutional right to kill an unborn baby.

The premise of that case, Roe v. Wade, was also a hoax. Norma McCorvey lied about being raped to get an abortion in Texas, but was denied because there was no police report. There was also no rape: She had gotten pregnant for the third time by her mid-20s as a result of a casual sexual encounter.

After Trayvon Martin was shot by George Zimmerman -- the "white Hispanic," since upgraded to full "white" by The New York Times -- liberals howled about Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law. The case had absolutely nothing to do with that law: Zimmerman wasn't standing his ground; he was lying on the ground having his head bashed in. The jury accepted Zimmerman's claim of self-defense and acquitted him.

The law of self-defense has been around since William of Orange ascended to the British throne in 1688. But liberals are still harping about the Trayvon Martin shooting to demand the repeal of Stand Your Ground laws.

Jamie Leigh Jones made fantastical claims about being fed Rohypnol, gang-raped and then held at gunpoint while working for KBR, a subsidiary of Halliburton, in Iraq in 2005. Without considering the likelihood of a military contractor doing this to an American citizen, knowing she'd get back to the U.S. someday and be able to tell her story, our adversary media and well-paid Democratic senators believed every word out of Jones' mouth.

As always happens when members of a disfavored racial and gender group -- i.e., white males -- are accused of heinous acts, liberals heard Jones' claims and concluded: Well, the one thing we know is: There was a gang-rape. All that's left to do now is to investigate the military/fraternity/lacrosse rape culture.

Thus, for example, Sen. Patrick Leahy began a hearing on Jones' insane accusations with this statement of facts: "Jamie Leigh Jones [is] a young woman from Texas who took a job at Halliburton in Iraq in 2005 when she was 20 years old. In her first week on the job, she was drugged and then she was gang-raped by co-workers. When she reported this -- remember, 20 years old -- she reported this assault, her employers moved her to a locked trailer, where she was kept by armed guards and freed only when the State Department intervened."

Sen. Al Franken raved about "the culture of impunity" among defense contractors, saying, "Jamie Leigh Jones was gang-raped by KBR employees." Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse helpfully added, "But as best I can tell, there is no legitimate intelligence function that involves rape."

And then, after all the grandstanding, it turned out Jones had made the whole thing up. DNA evidence proved she'd had sex with only one man, and he said it was consensual. The female doctor who examined Jones the day after the alleged attack found no traces of Rohypnol in her system. Both the female doctor, as well as Jones' own plastic surgeon back in Houston, contradicted Jones' claim that her breast implants had been ruptured. It also turned out that none of KBR's employees carry guns, much less machine guns. By the age of 20, even before Jones had left for Iraq, she was 0-for-2 on rape allegations, having already falsely accused two other men of raping her.

No grand jury would indict the poor, falsely accused KBR employee who foolishly had sex with Jones, so she filed a civil suit against that one man. The jury ruled for him, and the court ordered Jones to pay $145,000 in legal costs. Jamie Leigh Jones' place in the Crystal Magnum, Tawana Brawley Hall of Fame was thus secured.

But we still got Sen. Al Franken's pro-trial lawyer amendment to a Defense Department bill, touted as the "Anti-Rape Amendment," prohibiting military contractors from including mandatory arbitration clauses in their employment contracts. Any Republican brave enough to oppose this sop to trial lawyers was denounced as "pro-rape" in mass-phone calls to their offices and by liberal prophet Jon Stewart, who railed on his show, "How is ANYONE against this?"

Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson's shooting of Michael Brown is today being used as grounds to demand all sorts of new rules for cops. Most people had a pretty good sense of the case after seeing surveillance camera shots of Brown assaulting the manager of a liquor store he was robbing about 10 minutes before his encounter with Officer Wilson. By the time the grand jury documents were released, there was no serious doubt that the shooting was justified.

But again, as a result of a hoax racial incident, Democrats are demanding race quotas for arrests. To hell with due process. If we can stop just one thing that never happened from ever happening again, it will have been worth it.

The only new rule we really need is one to stop these infernal liberal hoaxes.



'Hands Up, Don't Shoot' Activists -- and Historical Ignorance

Larry Elder

What to say about "activists" pushing the "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" "movement," even as police shootings of blacks are actually down 75 percent over the last 45 years? Some protestors, many old enough to know better, say ridiculous things about race relations, like "things have gone backward." Time for perspective.

Booker T. Washington was born a slave. In his autobiography, "Up From Slavery," written in 1901 -- just a mere 36 years after the Civil War -- Washington wrote:

"As a rule, not only did the members of my race entertain no feelings of bitterness against the whites before and during the war, but there are many instances of Negroes tenderly caring for their former masters and mistresses who for some reason have become poor and dependent since the war. I know of instances where the former masters of slaves have for years been supplied with money by their former slaves to keep them from suffering. ... One sends him a little coffee or sugar, another a little meat, and so on. Nothing that the colored people possess is too good for the son of 'old Mars' Tom,' who will perhaps never be permitted to suffer while any remain on the place who knew directly or indirectly of 'old Mars' Tom.'...

"From some things that I have said one may get the idea that some of the slaves did not want freedom. This is not true. I have never seen one who did not want to be free, or one who would return to slavery.

"I pity from the bottom of my heart any nation or body of people that is so unfortunate as to get entangled in the net of slavery. I have long since ceased to cherish any spirit of bitterness against the Southern white people on account of the enslavement of my race. No one section of our country was wholly responsible for its introduction, and, besides, it was recognized and protected for years by the General Government. Having once got its tentacles fastened on to the economic and social life of the Republic, it was no easy matter for the country to relieve itself of the institution.

Then, when we rid ourselves of prejudice, or racial feeling, and look facts in the face, we must acknowledge that, notwithstanding the cruelty and moral wrong of slavery, the ten million Negroes inhabiting this country, who themselves or whose ancestors went through the school of American slavery, are in a stronger and more hopeful condition, materially, intellectually, morally, and religiously, than is true of an equal number of black people in any other portion of the globe. ...

"This I say, not to justify slavery -- on the other hand, I condemn it as an institution, as we all know that in America it was established for selfish and financial reasons, and not from a missionary motive -- but to call attention to a fact, and to show how Providence so often uses men and institutions to accomplish a purpose."

As for the future, Washington said: "When a Negro girl learns to cook, to wash dishes, to sew, to write a book, or a Negro boy learns to groom horses, or to grow sweet potatoes, or to produce butter, or to build a house, or to be able to practice medicine, as well or better than some one else, they will be rewarded regardless of race or color. In the long run, the world is going to have the best, and any difference in race, religion, or previous history will not long keep the world from what it wants."

Nelson Mandela was beaten and imprisoned for almost three decades. When released at last, some supporters criticized him for showing too much grace and forgiveness toward his enemies. But Mandela's attitude toward forgiveness set the tone for the nation. After his death, a South African wrote:

"History now shows (Mandela) did lead South Africa back from the abyss. But he did more, and it was this that sealed his reputation forever. He showed the world and his countrymen -- black, white, rich, poor -- that revenge is not the answer to years of injustice. Who among us, in coming out of prison after 27 years, would have had the generosity to turn away from settling scores? Who among us would have refused to avenge ourselves on those who had treated us with such cruelty?

"But he did. Nelson Mandela sat down with his enemies and forgave them and moved on. And in doing so, he rescued his country, and he rescued each one of us, and gave us hope that there could be a future for our beautiful, fractured land. And for the greater earth that we all share."

Washington, born a slave, and Mandela, held captive for nearly 28 years, demonstrate the power of forgiveness -- and of looking ahead. And these men forgave their actual oppressors.

My mother, born in the Jim Crow South, used to say, "The truth will not set you free -- if delivered without hope." The "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" "movement" is neither truthful nor hopeful.



N.Y. Mayor de Blasio Active Supporter of Brutal Communist Regime

No surprise. De Blasio just oozes hate

With Bill de Blasio making headlines for fanning the flames of racial tension between police and protesters it's worth recalling newsworthy information about the New York City mayor's dark past; that he was an active supporter of a brutal communist regime well known as one of the worst human rights abusers in Latin America.

Judicial Watch uncovered and reported the scandalous details last year. De Blasio was an active supporter of the communist Sandinista regime in Nicaragua in the 1980s. He was so enamored with Soviet-backed revolutionaries that he traveled to the capital city of the war-torn country, Managua, to aid their cause by participating in a relief mission. Upon de Blasio's return to the United States, he joined the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York (NSN).

The records show de Blasio was an ardent supporter of the communist revolutionaries in Nicaragua, who raised funds for the Sandinistas and was a subscriber to the party's newspaper, "Barricada" (The Barricade). He traveled to Nicaragua in 1988 and became active in the NSN upon his return to the U.S. New York's mayor has been unapologetic about his involvement with a foreign Marxist political movement accused of slaughtering innocent civilians and practicing the "disappearance" technique of eliminating political foes.

In fact, the Sandinistas were renowned as one of Latin America's worst human rights violators. During three years of revolution they carried out thousands of political executions and the disappearance of thousands more who were considered anti-revolutionary, according to a Russian-born scholar cited in a news article. By 1983 there were about 20,000 political prisoners held in the Marxist regime's jails, the highest number of political prisoners of any nation in the hemisphere with the exception of Fidel Castro's communist Cuba.



For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

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1 January, 2015

Economy grows in spite of Obama


Economic recovery grows from private sector, not government

It only took six years, but we’re finally starting to see the U.S. economy kick into gear. This isn’t a story of government-directed growth, but the opposite — Washington’s role in the economy starting to shrink after years of Obama administration activism. The private sector is starting to take over.

Let’s start with the positive news. Economic output soared in the third quarter at a rate of 5 percent. That comes on top of 4.6 percent growth in the second quarter. It appears that the U.S. economy has clawed out of its anemic 2 percent growth rut of the past five years and that we are now shifted into a higher gear with 3 percent-plus as the new normal.

The growth was propelled by a big rise in business investment, up nearly 9 percent, personal consumption up 3.2 percent and exports up 4.5 percent. Government spending, which is a negative for the economy, grew by 4.4 percent thanks to a big rise in military spending, but domestic spending is still restrained. The news was so good that even the threat that the Federal Reserve will now have an excuse to raise interest rates couldn’t deter the bulls on Wall Street.

What’s generating the growth? A huge factor has been the fall in energy costs. As the oil price fell from $105 a barrel this summer to close to $70 by September, the cost of oil imports tumbled. Imports fell by nearly 2 percent, and this alone added almost 0.2 percentage points to gross domestic product growth.

Even that badly understates the economic windfall from cheap energy. Production costs fall when energy costs do, so the supply of American-produced, non-oil and non-gas products, such as manufactured goods, rise when gas is cheap. With prices lower now in this quarter, the good news story rolls on. Thank you, fracking.

Businesses are clearly feeling less fearful about investing, and some of the negative, wet-blanket effect of Mr. Obama’s anti-business, anti-shareholder agenda has dissipated as the Republican Congress repels his worst ideas — cap and trade, minimum wage hikes, new taxes on the energy industry, and massive new spending initiatives out of Washington. Gridlock now looks to be built into the political system for the next two years, and in many ways that’s reassuring.

One troubling feature of the GDP report was that the largest contributor to personal consumption growth was health care spending.

This is the Obamacare effect — and the big rise in spending is more concrete evidence that Obamacare is driving the cost curve up, not down. Rising health costs is nothing to celebrate. It’s further evidence that Obamacare is still a giant negative on the real economy, but the betting is Congress will at the least trim back some of its worst features.

Despite the boost in military spending in the last quarter, the biggest story of the U.S. economy over the past three years has been the retrenchment of government spending. Federal spending has fallen from above 23 percent of GDP in 2011 to just under 20 percent of GDP in the last quarter, according to an analysis by Dan Clifton of Strategas, an economic policy consulting firm. This is creating an anti-Keynesian boost to growth, because the government is taking fewer private-sector resources each month.

As I have noted many times in these columns, this recovery from recession is still nearly $2 trillion behind where it should be if we had a Reagan-paced boom. This is still one of the most anemic recoveries, though it is clearly picking up steam. Wages are still flat for most workers.

Republicans could keep growth in the 3 percent to 4 percent range by picking off the low-hanging fruit of economic policy proposals. These include the Keystone XL pipeline, corporate tax reform and slamming the brakes on the Obama regulatory assault. It would also be helpful for Congress to pass a law allowing the repatriation of foreign capital back to the United States at a 5 percent tax rate, to provide even more jobs.

Mr. Obama, despite his executive branch power grabs, is mostly a lame duck, and that’s what have been waiting for. Businesses and investors now believe that less is more when it comes to Washington. For the most part, they are probably right. This is a recovery that the private sector is creating. And, no, Mr. President, you didn’t build that.



Are Facts Obsolete?

Thomas Sowell

Some of us, who are old enough to remember the old television police series "Dragnet," may remember Sgt. Joe Friday saying, "Just the facts, ma'am." But that would be completely out of place today. Facts are becoming obsolete, as recent events have demonstrated.

What matters today is how well you can concoct a story that fits people's preconceptions and arouses their emotions. Politicians like New York mayor Bill de Blasio, professional demagogues like Al Sharpton and innumerable irresponsible people in the media have shown that they have great talent in promoting a lynch mob atmosphere toward the police.

Grand juries that examine hard facts live in a different world from mobs who listen to rhetoric and politicians who cater to the mobs.

During the controversy over the death of Trayvon Martin, for example, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus said that George Zimmerman had tracked Trayvon Martin down and shot him like a dog. The fact is that Zimmerman did not have to track down Trayvon Martin, who was sitting right on top of him, punching him till his face was bloody.

After the death of Michael Brown, members of the Congressional Black Caucus stood up in Congress, with their hands held up, saying "don't shoot." Although there were some who claimed that this is what Michael Brown said and did, there were other witnesses -- all black, by the way -- who said that Brown was charging toward the policeman when he was shot.

What was decisive was not what either set of witnesses said, but what the autopsy revealed, an autopsy involving three sets of forensic experts, including one representing Michael Brown's family. Witnesses can lie but the physical facts don't lie, even if politicians, mobs and the media prefer to take lies seriously.

The death of Eric Garner has likewise spawned stories having little relationship to facts. The story is that Garner died because a chokehold stopped his breathing. But Garner did not die with a policeman choking him.

He died later, in an ambulance where his heart stopped. He had a long medical history of various diseases, as well as a long criminal history. No doubt the stress of his capture did not do him any good, and he might well still be alive if he had not resisted arrest. But that was his choice.

Despite people who say blithely that the police need more "training," there is no "kinder and gentler" way to capture a 350-pound man, who is capable of inflicting grievous harm, and perhaps even death, on any of his would-be captors. The magic word "unarmed" means nothing in practice, however much the word may hype emotions.

If you are killed by an unarmed man, you are just as dead as if you had been annihilated by a nuclear bomb. But you don't even know who is armed or unarmed until after it is all over, and you can search him.

Incidentally, did you know that, during this same period when riots, looting and arson have been raging, a black policeman in Alabama shot and killed an unarmed white teenager -- and was cleared by a grand jury? Probably not, if you depend on the mainstream media for your news.

The media do not merely ignore facts, they suppress facts. Millions of people saw the videotape of the beating of Rodney King. But they saw only a fraction of that tape because the media left out the rest, which showed Rodney King -- another huge man -- resisting arrest and refusing to be handcuffed, so that he could be searched.

Television viewers did not get to see the other black men in the same vehicle that Rodney King was driving recklessly. Those other black men were not beaten. And the grand jury got to see the whole video, after which they acquitted the police -- and the media then published the jurors' home addresses.

Such media retribution against people they don't like is part of a growing lynch mob mentality. The black witnesses in Missouri, whose testimony confirmed what the police officer said, expressed fears for their own safety for telling what the physical evidence showed was the truth.

Is this what we want? Grand juries responding to mobs and the media, instead of to the facts?



How Liberals Use Black People

By Walter E. Williams

Back in the day, when hunting was the major source of food, hunters often used stalking horses as a means of sneaking up on their quarry. They would walk on the opposite side of the horse until they were close enough to place a good shot on whatever they were hunting. A stalking horse not only concealed them but also, if their target was an armed man and they were discovered, would take the first shot. That's what blacks are to liberals and progressives in their efforts to transform America — stalking horses.

Let's look at some of the ways white liberals use black people. One of the more obvious ways is for liberals to equate any kind of injustices suffered by homosexuals and women to the black struggle for civil rights. But it is just plain nonsense to suggest any kind of equivalency between the problems of homosexuals and women and the centuries of slavery followed by Jim Crow, lynching, systematic racial discrimination and the blood, sweat and tears of the black civil rights movement.

The largest and most powerful labor union in the country is the National Education Association, with well over 3 million members. Teachers benefit enormously from their education monopoly. It yields higher pay and lower accountability. It's a different story for a large percentage of black people who receive fraudulent education. The NEA's white liberals — aided by black teachers, politicians and so-called black leaders — cooperate to ensure that black parents who want their children to have a better education have few viable choices.

Whenever there has been a serious push for school choice, educational vouchers, tuition tax credits or even charter schools, the NEA has fought against it. One of the more callous examples of that disregard for black education was New York Mayor Bill de Blasio's cutback on funding for charter schools where black youngsters were succeeding in getting a better education. That was de Blasio's way of paying back New York's teachers union for the political support it gave him in his quest for the mayor's office.

White liberals in the media and academia, along with many blacks, have been major supporters of the recent marches protesting police conduct. A man from Mars, knowing nothing about homicide facts, would conclude that the major problem black Americans have with murder and brutality results from the behavior of racist policemen. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there are about 200 police arrest-related deaths of blacks each year (between 300 and 400 for whites). That number pales in comparison with the roughly 7,000 annual murders of blacks, 94 percent of which are committed by blacks. The number of blacks being murdered by other blacks is of little concern to liberals. Their agenda is to use arrest-related deaths of blacks to undermine established authority.

Liberals often have demeaning attitudes toward blacks. When Secretary of State John Kerry was a U.S. senator, in a statement about so many blacks being in prison, he said, "That's unacceptable, but it's not their fault." Would Kerry also say that white prison inmates are also faultless? Johns Hopkins University sociologist Andrew Cherlin told us: "It has yet to be shown that the absence of a father was directly responsible for any of the supposed deficiencies of broken homes. ... (The problem) is not the lack of male presence but the lack of male income." The liberal vision is that fathers and husbands can be replaced by a welfare check.

Liberals desperately need blacks. If the Democratic Party lost just 30 percent of the black vote, it would mean the end of the liberal agenda. That means blacks must be kept in a perpetual state of grievance in order to keep them as a one-party people in a two-party system. When black Americans finally realize how much liberals have used them, I'm betting they will be the nation's most conservative people. Who else has been harmed as much by liberalism's vision and agenda?



Obamacare's Annus Horribilis

There's no candy coating the truth: Obamacare has had a very terrible, horrible, crappy, none-too-happy year. What it really means is that the victims of Obamacare -- taxpayers, health care consumers, health care providers, employers and employees -- have had a hellish, nightmarish 2014.

Let's start with premiums. President Candy Land promised that he'd "lower premiums by up to $2,500 for a typical family per year." But premiums for people in the individual market for health insurance have spiked over the last year. In fact, Forbes health policy journalist Avik Roy and the Manhattan Institute analyzed 3,137 counties and found that individual market premiums rose an average of 49 percent.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services itself admitted this month that average premiums will rise at least five percent for the lowest-cost plans offered by federal Obamacare health care exchanges. Democrats' reaction? Obamacare rate shock doesn't matter ... because government is redistributing the burden and taxpayers are footing the bill! HHS crowed this week that nearly 90 percent of exchange enrollees received public subsidies in order to pay their premiums.

"Affordable" doesn't mean what White House truth-warpers says it means -- just like everything else they've spewed about the doomed federal takeover of health policy in America.

As the White House tries to hype year-end enrollment numbers and hide Obamacare-imposed cancellations, just remember that the administration got caught this fall cooking the books by including 380,000 dental plan subscribers that have never been counted before. Innocent oopsie? The "erroneous" inflation just happened to push the Obamacare enrollment figures over the president's 7 million goal, while fudging the attrition of more than 1 million enrolled in Obamacare medical insurance plans.

A "mistake was made," HHS 'fessed up after GOP investigators discovered the Common Core math antics. Lying liars. Caught red-handed.

So, how about: "If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor?" Well, not if he or she isn't practicing anymore. After scoffing at conservative warnings for years that socialized medicine-light would create doctor shortages, Obamacare cheerleaders can no longer whitewash the grim reality. The Physicians Foundation found that 81 percent of doctors believe they are "either overextended or at full capacity." Another 44 percent said they "planned to cut back on the number of patients they see, retire, work part-time or close their practice to new patients."



For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


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Postings from Brisbane, Australia by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.) -- former member of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society, former anarcho-capitalist and former member of the British Conservative party.

Leftists are the "we know best" people, meaning that they are intrinsically arrogant. Matthew chapter 6 would not be for them.

Leftism is fundamentally authoritarian. Whether by revolution or by legislation, Leftists aim to change what people can and must do. When in 2008 Obama said that he wanted to "fundamentally transform" America, he was not talking about America's geography or topography but rather about American people. He wanted them to stop doing things that they wanted to do and make them do things that they did not want to do. Can you get a better definition of authoritarianism than that?

And note that an American President is elected to administer the law, not make it. That seems to have escaped Mr Obama

That Leftism is intrinsically authoritarian is not a new insight. It was well understood by none other than Friedrich Engels (Yes. THAT Engels). His excellent short essay On authority was written as a reproof to the dreamy Anarchist Left of his day. It concludes: "A revolution is certainly the most authoritarian thing there is; it is the act whereby one part of the population imposes its will upon the other part by means of rifles, bayonets and cannon — authoritarian means"

Conservatives adapt to the world they live in. Leftists want to change the world to suit themselves

Given their dislike of the world they live in, it would be a surprise if Leftists were patriotic and loved their own people. Prominent English Leftist politician Jack Straw probably said it best: "The English as a race are not worth saving"

Why do conservatives respect tradition and rely on the past in many ways? Because they want to know what works and the past is the chief source of evidence on that. Leftists are more faith-based. They cling to their theories (e.g. global warming) with religious fervour, even though theories are often wrong

MESSAGE to Leftists: Even if you killed all conservatives tomorrow, you would just end up in another Soviet Union. Conservatives are all that stand between you and that dismal fate. And you may not even survive at all. Stalin killed off all the old Bolsheviks.


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)

Just the name of Hitler's political party should be sufficient to reject the claim that Hitler was "Right wing" but Leftists sometimes retort that the name "Democratic People's Republic of Korea" is not informative, in that it is the name of a dismal Stalinist tyranny. But "People's Republic" is a normal name for a Communist country whereas I know of no conservative political party that calls itself a "Socialist Worker's Party". Such parties are in fact usually of the extreme Left (Trotskyite etc.)

Most people find the viciousness of the Nazis to be incomprehensible -- for instance what they did in their concentration camps. But you just have to read a little of the vileness that pours out from modern-day "liberals" in their Twitter and blog comments to understand it all very well. Leftists haven't changed. They are still boiling with hate

Who said this in 1968? "I am not, and never have been, a man of the right. My position was on the Left and is now in the centre of politics". It was Sir Oswald Mosley, founder and leader of the British Union of Fascists

The term "Fascism" is mostly used by the Left as a brainless term of abuse. But when they do make a serious attempt to define it, they produce very complex and elaborate definitions -- e.g. here and here. In fact, Fascism is simply extreme socialism plus nationalism. But great gyrations are needed to avoid mentioning the first part of that recipe, of course.

Two examples of Leftist racism below (much more here and here):

Beatrice Webb, a founder of the London School of Economics and the Fabian Society, and married to a Labour MP, mused in 1922 on whether when English children were "dying from lack of milk", one should extend "the charitable impulse" to Russian and Chinese children who, if saved this year, might anyway die next. Besides, she continued, there was "the larger question of whether those races are desirable inhabitants" and "obviously" one wouldn't "spend one's available income" on "a Central African negro".

Hugh Dalton, offered the Colonial Office during Attlee's 1945-51 Labour government, turned it down because "I had a horrid vision of pullulating, poverty stricken, diseased nigger communities, for whom one can do nothing in the short run and who, the more one tries to help them, are querulous and ungrateful."

The Zimmerman case is an excellent proof that the Left is deep-down racist

Defensible and indefensible usages of the term "racism"

The book, The authoritarian personality, authored by T.W. Adorno et al. in 1950, has been massively popular among psychologists. It claims that a set of ideas that were popular in the "Progressive"-dominated America of the prewar era were "authoritarian". Leftist regimes always are authoritarian so that claim was not a big problem. What was quite amazing however is that Adorno et al. identified such ideas as "conservative". They were in fact simply popular ideas of the day but ones that had been most heavily promoted by the Left right up until the then-recent WWII. See here for details of prewar "Progressive" thinking.

Leftist psychologists have an amusingly simplistic conception of military organizations and military men. They seem to base it on occasions they have seen troops marching together on parade rather than any real knowledge of military men and the military life. They think that military men are "rigid" -- automatons who are unable to adjust to new challenges or think for themselves. What is incomprehensible to them is that being kadaver gehorsam (to use the extreme Prussian term for following orders) actually requires great flexibility -- enough flexibility to put your own ideas and wishes aside and do something very difficult. Ask any soldier if all commands are easy to obey.

It would be very easy for me to say that I am too much of an individual for the army but I did in fact join the army and enjoy it greatly, as most men do. In my observation, ALL army men are individuals. It is just that they accept discipline in order to be militarily efficient -- which is the whole point of the exercise. But that's too complex for simplistic Leftist thinking, of course

R.I.P. Augusto Pinochet. Pinochet deposed a law-defying Marxist President at the express and desperate invitation of the Chilean parliament. Allende had just burnt the electoral rolls so it wasn't hard to see what was coming. Pinochet pioneered the free-market reforms which Reagan and Thatcher later unleashed to world-changing effect. That he used far-Leftist methods to suppress far-Leftist violence is reasonable if not ideal. The Leftist view that they should have a monopoly of violence and that others should follow the law is a total absurdity which shows only that their hate overcomes their reason

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a war criminal. Both British and American codebreakers had cracked the Japanese naval code so FDR knew what was coming at Pearl Harbor. But for his own political reasons he warned no-one there. So responsibility for the civilian and military deaths at Pearl Harbor lies with FDR as well as with the Japanese. The huge firepower available at Pearl Harbor, both aboard ship and on land, could have largely neutered the attack. Can you imagine 8 battleships and various lesser craft firing all their AA batteries as the Japanese came in? The Japanese naval airforce would have been annihilated and the war would have been over before it began.

FDR prolonged the Depression. He certainly didn't cure it.

WWII did NOT end the Great Depression. It just concealed it. It in fact made living standards worse

FDR appointed a known KKK member, Hugo Black, to the Supreme Court

Joe McCarthy was eventually proved right after the fall of the Soviet Union. To accuse anyone of McCarthyism is to accuse them of accuracy!

The KKK was intimately associated with the Democratic party. They ATTACKED Republicans!

People who mention differences in black vs. white IQ are these days almost universally howled down and subjected to the most extreme abuse. I am a psychometrician, however, so I feel obliged to defend the scientific truth of the matter: The average African adult has about the same IQ as an average white 11-year-old and African Americans (who are partly white in ancestry) average out at a mental age of 14. The American Psychological Association is generally Left-leaning but it is the world's most prestigious body of academic psychologists. And even they have had to concede that sort of gap (one SD) in black vs. white average IQ. 11-year olds can do a lot of things but they also have their limits and there are times when such limits need to be allowed for.

Judged by his deeds, Abraham Lincoln was one of the bloodiest villains ever to walk the Earth. See here. America's uncivil war was caused by trade protectionism. The slavery issue was just camouflage, as Abraham Lincoln himself admitted. See also here

Did William Zantzinger kill poor Hattie Carroll?

Did Bismarck predict where WWI would start or was it just a "free" translation by Churchill?

Conrad Black on the Declaration of Independence

Malcolm Gladwell: "There is more of reality and wisdom in a Chinese fortune cookie than can be found anywhere in Gladwell’s pages"


The 10 "cannots" (By William J. H. Boetcker) that Leftist politicians ignore:
*You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
* You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
* You cannot help little men by tearing down big men.
* You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.
* You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.
* You cannot establish sound security on borrowed money.
* You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.
* You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn.
* You cannot build character and courage by destroying men's initiative and independence.
* And you cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they can and should do for themselves.

A good short definition of conservative: "One who wants you to keep your hand out of his pocket."

Beware of good intentions. They mostly lead to coercion

A gargantuan case of hubris, coupled with stunning level of ignorance about how the real world works, is the essence of progressivism.

The U.S. Constitution is neither "living" nor dead. It is fixed until it is amended. But amending it is the privilege of the people, not of politicians or judges

It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong - Thomas Sowell

Leftists think that utopia can be coerced into existence -- so no dishonesty or brutality is beyond them in pursuit of that "noble" goal

"England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality. In left-wing circles it is always felt that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman and that it is a duty to snigger at every English institution" -- George Orwell

Was 16th century science pioneer Paracelsus a libertarian? His motto was "Alterius non sit qui suus esse potest" which means "Let no man belong to another who can belong to himself."

"When using today's model of society as a rule, most of history will be found to be full of oppression, bias, and bigotry." What today's arrogant judges of history fail to realize is that they, too, will be judged. What will Americans of 100 years from now make of, say, speech codes, political correctness, and zero tolerance - to name only three? Assuming, of course, there will still be an America that we, today, would recognize. Given the rogue Federal government spy apparatus, I am not at all sure of that. -- Paul Havemann

Economist Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973): "The champions of socialism call themselves progressives, but they recommend a system which is characterized by rigid observance of routine and by a resistance to every kind of improvement. They call themselves liberals, but they are intent upon abolishing liberty. They call themselves democrats, but they yearn for dictatorship. They call themselves revolutionaries, but they want to make the government omnipotent. They promise the blessings of the Garden of Eden, but they plan to transform the world into a gigantic post office."

It's the shared hatred of the rest of us that unites Islamists and the Left.

American liberals don't love America. They despise it. All they love is their own fantasy of what America could become. They are false patriots.

The Democratic Party: Con-men elected by the ignorant and the arrogant

The Democratic Party is a strange amalgam of elites, would-be elites and minorities. No wonder their policies are so confused and irrational

Why are conservatives more at ease with religion? Because it is basic to conservatism that some things are unknowable, and religious people have to accept that too. Leftists think that they know it all and feel threatened by any exceptions to that. Thinking that you know it all is however the pride that comes before a fall.

The characteristic emotion of the Leftist is not envy. It's rage

Leftists are committed to grievance, not truth

The British Left poured out a torrent of hate for Margaret Thatcher on the occasion of her death. She rescued Britain from chaos and restored Britain's prosperity. What's not to hate about that?

Something you didn't know about Margaret Thatcher

The world's dumbest investor? Without doubt it is Uncle Sam. Nobody anywhere could rival the scale of the losses on "investments" made under the Obama administration

"Behind the honeyed but patently absurd pleas for equality is a ruthless drive for placing themselves (the elites) at the top of a new hierarchy of power" -- Murray Rothbard - Egalitarianism and the Elites (1995)

A liberal is someone who feels a great debt to his fellow man, which debt he proposes to pay off with your money. -- G. Gordon Liddy

"World socialism as a whole, and all the figures associated with it, are shrouded in legend; its contradictions are forgotten or concealed; it does not respond to arguments but continually ignores them--all this stems from the mist of irrationality that surrounds socialism and from its instinctive aversion to scientific analysis... The doctrines of socialism seethe with contradictions, its theories are at constant odds with its practice, yet due to a powerful instinct these contradictions do not in the least hinder the unending propaganda of socialism. Indeed, no precise, distinct socialism even exists; instead there is only a vague, rosy notion of something noble and good, of equality, communal ownership, and justice: the advent of these things will bring instant euphoria and a social order beyond reproach." -- Solzhenitsyn

"The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left." -- Ecclesiastes 10:2 (NIV)

My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government. -- Thomas Jefferson

"Much that passes as idealism is disguised hatred or disguised love of power" -- Bertrand Russell

Evan Sayet: The Left sides "...invariably with evil over good, wrong over right, and the behaviors that lead to failure over those that lead to success." (t=5:35+ on video)

The Republicans are the gracious side of American politics. It is the Democrats who are the nasty party, the haters

Wanting to stay out of the quarrels of other nations is conservative -- but conservatives will fight if attacked or seriously endangered. Anglo/Irish statesman Lord Castlereagh (1769-1822), who led the political coalition that defeated Napoleon, was an isolationist, as were traditional American conservatives.

Some useful definitions:

If a conservative doesn't like guns, he doesn't buy one. If a liberal doesn't like guns, he wants all guns outlawed.
If a conservative is a vegetarian, he doesn't eat meat. If a liberal is a vegetarian, he wants all meat products banned for everyone.
If a conservative is down-and-out, he thinks about how to better his situation. A liberal wonders who is going to take care of him.
If a conservative doesn't like a talk show host, he switches channels. Liberals demand that those they don't like be shut down.
If a conservative is a non-believer, he doesn't go to church. A liberal non-believer wants any mention of God and religion silenced. (Unless it's a foreign religion, of course!)
If a conservative decides he needs health care, he goes about shopping for it, or may choose a job that provides it. A liberal demands that the rest of us pay for his.

There is better evidence for creation than there is for the Leftist claim that “gender” is a “social construct”. Most Leftist claims seem to be faith-based rather than founded on the facts

Leftists are classic weak characters. They dish out abuse by the bucketload but cannot take it when they get it back. Witness the Loughner hysteria.

Death taxes: You would expect a conscientious person, of whatever degree of intelligence, to reflect on the strange contradiction involved in denying people the right to unearned wealth, while supporting programs that give people unearned wealth.

America is no longer the land of the free. It is now the land of the regulated -- though it is not alone in that, of course

The Leftist motto: "I love humanity. It's just people I can't stand"

Why are Leftists always talking about hate? Because it fills their own hearts

Envy is a strong and widespread human emotion so there has alway been widespread support for policies of economic "levelling". Both the USA and the modern-day State of Israel were founded by communists but reality taught both societies that respect for the individual gave much better outcomes than levelling ideas. Sadly, there are many people in both societies in whom hatred for others is so strong that they are incapable of respect for the individual. The destructiveness of what they support causes them to call themselves many names in different times and places but they are the backbone of the political Left

Gore Vidal: "Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little". Vidal was of course a Leftist

The large number of rich Leftists suggests that, for them, envy is secondary. They are directly driven by hatred and scorn for many of the other people that they see about them. Hatred of others can be rooted in many things, not only in envy. But the haters come together as the Left. Some evidence here showing that envy is not what defines the Left

Leftists hate the world around them and want to change it: the people in it most particularly. Conservatives just want to be left alone to make their own decisions and follow their own values.

The failure of the Soviet experiment has definitely made the American Left more vicious and hate-filled than they were. The plain failure of what passed for ideas among them has enraged rather than humbled them.

Ronald Reagan famously observed that the status quo is Latin for “the mess we’re in.” So much for the vacant Leftist claim that conservatives are simply defenders of the status quo. They think that conservatives are as lacking in principles as they are.

Was Confucius a conservative? The following saying would seem to reflect good conservative caution: "The superior man, when resting in safety, does not forget that danger may come. When in a state of security he does not forget the possibility of ruin. When all is orderly, he does not forget that disorder may come. Thus his person is not endangered, and his States and all their clans are preserved."

The shallow thinkers of the Left sometimes claim that conservatives want to impose their own will on others in the matter of abortion. To make that claim is however to confuse religion with politics. Conservatives are in fact divided about their response to abortion. The REAL opposition to abortion is religious rather than political. And the church which has historically tended to support the LEFT -- the Roman Catholic church -- is the most fervent in the anti-abortion cause. Conservatives are indeed the one side of politics to have moral qualms on the issue but they tend to seek a middle road in dealing with it. Taking the issue to the point of legal prohibitions is a religious doctrine rather than a conservative one -- and the religion concerned may or may not be characteristically conservative. More on that here

Some Leftist hatred arises from the fact that they blame "society" for their own personal problems and inadequacies

The Leftist hunger for change to the society that they hate leads to a hunger for control over other people. And they will do and say anything to get that control: "Power at any price". Leftist politicians are mostly self-aggrandizing crooks who gain power by deceiving the uninformed with snake-oil promises -- power which they invariably use to destroy. Destruction is all that they are good at. Destruction is what haters do.

Leftists are consistent only in their hate. They don't have principles. How can they when "there is no such thing as right and wrong"? All they have is postures, pretend-principles that can be changed as easily as one changes one's shirt

A Leftist assumption: Making money doesn't entitle you to it, but wanting money does.

"Politicians never accuse you of 'greed' for wanting other people's money -- only for wanting to keep your own money." --columnist Joe Sobran (1946-2010)

Leftist policies are candy-coated rat poison that may appear appealing at first, but inevitably do a lot of damage to everyone impacted by them.

A tribute and thanks to Mary Jo Kopechne. Her death was reprehensible but she probably did more by her death that she ever would have in life: She spared the world a President Ted Kennedy. That the heap of corruption that was Ted Kennedy died peacefully in his bed is one of the clearest demonstrations that we do not live in a just world. Even Joe Stalin seems to have been smothered to death by Nikita Khrushchev

I often wonder why Leftists refer to conservatives as "wingnuts". A wingnut is a very useful device that adds versatility wherever it is used. Clearly, Leftists are not even good at abuse. Once they have accused their opponents of racism and Nazism, their cupboard is bare. Similarly, Leftists seem to think it is a devastating critique to refer to "Worldnet Daily" as "Worldnut Daily". The poverty of their argumentation is truly pitiful

The Leftist assertion that there is no such thing as right and wrong has a distinguished history. It was Pontius Pilate who said "What is truth?" (John 18:38). From a Christian viewpoint, the assertion is undoubtedly the Devil's gospel

Even in the Old Testament they knew about "Postmodernism": "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" - Isaiah 5:20 (KJV)

Was Solomon the first conservative? "The hearts of men are full of evil and madness is in their hearts" -- Ecclesiastes: 9:3 (RSV). He could almost have been talking about Global Warming.

"If one rejects laissez faire on account of man's fallibility and moral weakness, one must for the same reason also reject every kind of government action." - Ludwig von Mises

The naive scholar who searches for a consistent Leftist program will not find it. What there is consists only in the negation of the present.

Because of their need to be different from the mainstream, Leftists are very good at pretending that sow's ears are silk purses

Among intelligent people, Leftism is a character defect. Leftists HATE success in others -- which is why notably successful societies such as the USA and Israel are hated and failures such as the Palestinians can do no wrong.

A Leftist's beliefs are all designed to pander to his ego. So when you have an argument with a Leftist, you are not really discussing the facts. You are threatening his self esteem. Which is why the normal Leftist response to challenge is mere abuse.

Because of the fragility of a Leftist's ego, anything that threatens it is intolerable and provokes rage. So most Leftist blogs can be summarized in one sentence: "How DARE anybody question what I believe!". Rage and abuse substitute for an appeal to facts and reason.

Because their beliefs serve their ego rather than reality, Leftists just KNOW what is good for us. Conservatives need evidence.

Absolute certainty is the privilege of uneducated men and fanatics. -- C.J. Keyser

Hell is paved with good intentions" -- Boswell's Life of Johnson of 1775

"Almost all professors of the arts and sciences are egregiously conceited, and derive their happiness from their conceit" -- Erasmus


"Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him" (Proverbs 26: 12). I think that sums up Leftists pretty well.

Eminent British astrophysicist Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington is often quoted as saying: "Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine." It was probably in fact said by his contemporary, J.B.S. Haldane. But regardless of authorship, it could well be a conservative credo not only about the cosmos but also about human beings and human society. Mankind is too complex to be summed up by simple rules and even complex rules are only approximations with many exceptions.

Politics is the only thing Leftists know about. They know nothing of economics, history or business. Their only expertise is in promoting feelings of grievance

Socialism makes the individual the slave of the state -- capitalism frees them.

Many readers here will have noticed that what I say about Leftists sometimes sounds reminiscent of what Leftists say about conservatives. There is an excellent reason for that. Leftists are great "projectors" (people who see their own faults in others). So a good first step in finding out what is true of Leftists is to look at what they say about conservatives! They even accuse conservatives of projection (of course).

The research shows clearly that one's Left/Right stance is strongly genetically inherited but nobody knows just what specifically is inherited. What is inherited that makes people Leftist or Rightist? There is any amount of evidence that personality traits are strongly genetically inherited so my proposal is that hard-core Leftists are people who tend to let their emotions (including hatred and envy) run away with them and who are much more in need of seeing themselves as better than others -- two attributes that are probably related to one another. Such Leftists may be an evolutionary leftover from a more primitive past.

Leftists seem to believe that if someone like Al Gore says it, it must be right. They obviously have a strong need for an authority figure. The fact that the two most authoritarian regimes of the 20th century (Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia) were socialist is thus no surprise. Leftists often accuse conservatives of being "authoritarian" but that is just part of their usual "projective" strategy -- seeing in others what is really true of themselves.

"With their infernal racial set-asides, racial quotas, and race norming, liberals share many of the Klan's premises. The Klan sees the world in terms of race and ethnicity. So do liberals! Indeed, liberals and white supremacists are the only people left in America who are neurotically obsessed with race. Conservatives champion a color-blind society" -- Ann Coulter

Politicians are in general only a little above average in intelligence so the idea that they can make better decisions for us that we can make ourselves is laughable

A quote from the late Dr. Adrian Rogers: "You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that my dear friend, is about the end of any nation. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it."

The Supreme Court of the United States is now and always has been a judicial abomination. Its guiding principles have always been political rather than judicial. It is not as political as Stalin's courts but its respect for the constitution is little better. Some recent abuses: The "equal treatment" provision of the 14th amendment was specifically written to outlaw racial discrimination yet the court has allowed various forms of "affirmative action" for decades -- when all such policies should have been completely stuck down immediately. The 2nd. amendment says that the right to bear arms shall not be infringed yet gun control laws infringe it in every State in the union. The 1st amendment provides that speech shall be freely exercised yet the court has upheld various restrictions on the financing and display of political advertising. The court has found a right to abortion in the constitution when the word abortion is not even mentioned there. The court invents rights that do not exist and denies rights that do.

"Some action that is unconstitutional has much to recommend it" -- Elena Kagan, nominated to SCOTUS by Obama

Frank Sulloway, the anti-scientist

The basic aim of all bureaucrats is to maximize their funding and minimize their workload

A lesson in Australian: When an Australian calls someone a "big-noter", he is saying that the person is a chronic and rather pathetic seeker of admiration -- as in someone who often pulls out "big notes" (e.g. $100.00 bills) to pay for things, thus endeavouring to create the impression that he is rich. The term describes the mentality rather than the actual behavior with money and it aptly describes many Leftists. When they purport to show "compassion" by advocating things that cost themselves nothing (e.g. advocating more taxes on "the rich" to help "the poor"), an Australian might say that the Leftist is "big-noting himself". There is an example of the usage here. The term conveys contempt. There is a wise description of Australians generally here

Some ancient wisdom for Leftists: "Be not righteous overmuch; neither make thyself over wise: Why shouldest thou die before thy time?" -- Ecclesiastes 7:16

Jesse Jackson: "There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery -- then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved." There ARE important racial differences.

Some Jimmy Carter wisdom: "I think it's inevitable that there will be a lower standard of living than what everybody had always anticipated," he told advisers in 1979. "there's going to be a downward turning."

The "steamroller" above who got steamrollered by his own hubris. Spitzer is a warning of how self-destructive a vast ego can be -- and also of how destructive of others it can be.

Heritage is what survives death: Very rare and hence very valuable

Big business is not your friend. As Adam Smith said: "People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. It is impossible indeed to prevent such meetings, by any law which either could be executed, or would be consistent with liberty or justice. But though the law cannot hinder people of the same trade from sometimes assembling together, it ought to do nothing to facilitate such assemblies; much less to render them necessary

How can I accept the Communist doctrine, which sets up as its bible, above and beyond criticism, an obsolete textbook which I know not only to be scientifically erroneous but without interest or application to the modern world? How can I adopt a creed which, preferring the mud to the fish, exalts the boorish proletariat above the bourgeoisie and the intelligentsia, who with all their faults, are the quality of life and surely carry the seeds of all human achievement? Even if we need a religion, how can we find it in the turbid rubbish of the red bookshop? It is hard for an educated, decent, intelligent son of Western Europe to find his ideals here, unless he has first suffered some strange and horrid process of conversion which has changed all his values. -- John Maynard Keynes

Some wisdom from "Bron" Waugh: "The purpose of politics is to help them [politicians] overcome these feelings of inferiority and compensate for their personal inadequacies in the pursuit of power"

"There are countless horrible things happening all over the country, and horrible people prospering, but we must never allow them to disturb our equanimity or deflect us from our sacred duty to sabotage and annoy them whenever possible"

The urge to pass new laws must be seen as an illness, not much different from the urge to bite old women. Anyone suspected of suffering from it should either be treated with the appropriate pills or, if it is too late for that, elected to Parliament [or Congress, as the case may be] and paid a huge salary with endless holidays, to do nothing whatever"

"It is my settled opinion, after some years as a political correspondent, that no one is attracted to a political career in the first place unless he is socially or emotionally crippled"

Two lines below of a famous hymn that would be incomprehensible to Leftists today ("honor"? "right"? "freedom?" Freedom to agree with them is the only freedom they believe in)

First to fight for right and freedom,
And to keep our honor clean

It is of course the hymn of the USMC -- still today the relentless warriors that they always were. Freedom needs a soldier

If any of the short observations above about Leftism seem wrong, note that they do not stand alone. The evidence for them is set out at great length in my MONOGRAPH on Leftism.

3 memoirs of "Supermac", a 20th century Disraeli (Aristocratic British Conservative Prime Minister -- 1957 to 1963 -- Harold Macmillan):

"It breaks my heart to see (I can't interfere or do anything at my age) what is happening in our country today - this terrible strike of the best men in the world, who beat the Kaiser's army and beat Hitler's army, and never gave in. Pointless, endless. We can't afford that kind of thing. And then this growing division which the noble Lord who has just spoken mentioned, of a comparatively prosperous south, and an ailing north and midlands. That can't go on." -- Mac on the British working class: "the best men in the world" (From his Maiden speech in the House of Lords, 13 November 1984)

"As a Conservative, I am naturally in favour of returning into private ownership and private management all those means of production and distribution which are now controlled by state capitalism"

During Macmillan's time as prime minister, average living standards steadily rose while numerous social reforms were carried out


The Bible is an Israeli book

To me, hostility to the Jews is a terrible tragedy. I weep for them at times. And I do literally put my money where my mouth is. I do at times send money to Israeli charities

My (Gentile) opinion of antisemitism: The Jews are the best we've got so killing them is killing us.

"And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed" -- Genesis 12:3

"O pray for the peace of Jerusalem: They shall prosper that love thee" Psalm 122:6.

If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy -- Psalm 137 (NIV)

Israel, like the Jews throughout history, is hated not for her vices but her virtues. Israel is hated, as the United States is hated, because Israel is successful, because Israel is free, and because Israel is good. As Maxim Gorky put it: “Whatever nonsense the anti-Semites may talk, they dislike the Jew only because he is obviously better, more adroit, and more willing and capable of work than they are.” Whether driven by culture or genes—or like most behavior, an inextricable mix—the fact of Jewish genius is demonstrable." -- George Gilder

To Leftist haters, all the basic rules of liberal society — rejection of hate speech, commitment to academic freedom, rooting out racism, the absolute commitment to human dignity — go out the window when the subject is Israel.

I have always liked the story of Gideon (See Judges chapters 6 to 8) and it is surely no surprise that in the present age Israel is the Gideon of nations: Few in numbers but big in power and impact.

If I were not an atheist, I would believe that God had a sense of humour. He gave his chosen people (the Jews) enormous advantages -- high intelligence and high drive -- but to keep it fair he deprived them of something hugely important too: Political sense. So Jews to this day tend very strongly to be Leftist -- even though the chief source of antisemitism for roughly the last 200 years has been the political Left!

And the other side of the coin is that Jews tend to despise conservatives and Christians. Yet American fundamentalist Christians are the bedrock of the vital American support for Israel, the ultimate bolthole for all Jews. So Jewish political irrationality seems to be a rather good example of the saying that "The LORD giveth and the LORD taketh away". There are many other examples of such perversity (or "balance"). The sometimes severe side-effects of most pharmaceutical drugs is an obvious one but there is another ethnic example too, a rather amusing one. Chinese people are in general smart and patient people but their rate of traffic accidents in China is about 10 times higher than what prevails in Western societies. They are brilliant mathematicians and fearless business entrepreneurs but at the same time bad drivers!

Conservatives, on the other hand, could be antisemitic on entirely rational grounds: Namely, the overwhelming Leftism of the Diaspora Jewish population as a whole. Because they judge the individual, however, only a tiny minority of conservative-oriented people make such general judgments. The longer Jews continue on their "stiff-necked" course, however, the more that is in danger of changing. The children of Israel have been a stiff necked people since the days of Moses, however, so they will no doubt continue to vote with their emotions rather than their reason.

I despair of the ADL. Jews have enough problems already and yet in the ADL one has a prominent Jewish organization that does its best to make itself offensive to Christians. Their Leftism is more important to them than the welfare of Jewry -- which is the exact opposite of what they ostensibly stand for! Jewish cleverness seems to vanish when politics are involved. Fortunately, Christians are true to their saviour and have loving hearts. Jewish dissatisfaction with the myopia of the ADL is outlined here. Note that Foxy was too grand to reply to it.

Fortunately for America, though, liberal Jews there are rapidly dying out through intermarriage and failure to reproduce. And the quite poisonous liberal Jews of Israel are not much better off. Judaism is slowly returning to Orthodoxy and the Orthodox tend to be conservative.

The above is good testimony to the accuracy of the basic conservative insight that almost anything in human life is too complex to be reduced to any simple rule and too complex to be reduced to any rule at all without allowance for important exceptions to the rule concerned

Amid their many virtues, one virtue is often lacking among Jews in general and Israelis in particular: Humility. And that's an antisemitic comment only if Hashem is antisemitic. From Moses on, the Hebrew prophets repeatedy accused the Israelites of being "stiff-necked" and urged them to repent. So it's no wonder that the greatest Jewish prophet of all -- Jesus -- not only urged humility but exemplified it in his life and death

"Why should the German be interested in the liberation of the Jew, if the Jew is not interested in the liberation of the German?... We recognize in Judaism, therefore, a general anti-social element of the present time... In the final analysis, the emancipation of the Jews is the emancipation of mankind from Judaism.... Indeed, in North America, the practical domination of Judaism over the Christian world has achieved as its unambiguous and normal expression that the preaching of the Gospel itself and the Christian ministry have become articles of trade... Money is the jealous god of Israel, in face of which no other god may exist". Who said that? Hitler? No. It was Karl Marx. See also here and here and here. For roughly two centuries now, antisemitism has, throughout the Western world, been principally associated with Leftism (including the socialist Hitler) -- as it is to this day. See here.

Karl Marx hated just about everyone. Even his father, the kindly Heinrich Marx, thought Karl was not much of a human being

Leftists call their hatred of Israel "Anti-Zionism" but Zionists are only a small minority in Israel

Some of the Leftist hatred of Israel is motivated by old-fashioned antisemitism (beliefs in Jewish "control" etc.) but most of it is just the regular Leftist hatred of success in others. And because the societies they inhabit do not give them the vast amount of recognition that their large but weak egos need, some of the most virulent haters of Israel and America live in those countries. So the hatred is the product of pathologically high self-esteem.

Their threatened egos sometimes drive Leftists into quite desperate flights from reality. For instance, they often call Israel an "Apartheid state" -- when it is in fact the Arab states that practice Apartheid -- witness the severe restrictions on Christians in Saudi Arabia. There are no such restrictions in Israel.

If the Palestinians put down their weapons, there'd be peace. If the Israelis put down their weapons, there'd be genocide.

Alfred Dreyfus, a reminder of French antisemitism still relevant today

Eugenio Pacelli, a righteous Gentile, a true man of God and a brilliant Pope


Many people hunger and thirst after righteousness. Some find it in the hatreds of the Left. Others find it in the love of Christ. I don't hunger and thirst after righteousness at all. I hunger and thirst after truth. How old-fashioned can you get?

The kneejerk response of the Green/Left to people who challenge them is to say that the challenger is in the pay of "Big Oil", "Big Business", "Big Pharma", "Exxon-Mobil", "The Pioneer Fund" or some other entity that they see, in their childish way, as a boogeyman. So I think it might be useful for me to point out that I have NEVER received one cent from anybody by way of support for what I write. As a retired person, I live entirely on my own investments. I do not work for anybody and I am not beholden to anybody. And I have NO investments in oil companies, mining companies or "Big Pharma"

UPDATE: Despite my (statistical) aversion to mining stocks, I have recently bought a few shares in BHP -- the world's biggest miner, I gather. I run the grave risk of becoming a speaker of famous last words for saying this but I suspect that BHP is now so big as to be largely immune from the risks that plague most mining companies. I also know of no issue affecting BHP where my writings would have any relevance. The Left seem to have a visceral hatred of miners. I have never quite figured out why.

I imagine that few of my readers will understand it, but I am an unabashed monarchist. And, as someone who was born and bred in a monarchy and who still lives there (i.e. Australia), that gives me no conflicts at all. In theory, one's respect for the monarchy does not depend on who wears the crown but the impeccable behaviour of the present Queen does of course help perpetuate that respect. Aside from my huge respect for the Queen, however, my favourite member of the Royal family is the redheaded Prince Harry. The Royal family is of course a military family and Prince Harry is a great example of that. As one of the world's most privileged people, he could well be an idle layabout but instead he loves his life in the army. When his girlfriend Chelsy ditched him because he was so often away, Prince Harry said: "I love Chelsy but the army comes first". A perfect military man! I doubt that many women would understand or approve of his attitude but perhaps my own small army background powers my approval of that attitude.

I imagine that most Americans might find this rather mad -- but I believe that a constitutional Monarchy is the best form of government presently available. Can a libertarian be a Monarchist? I think so -- and prominent British libertarian Sean Gabb seems to think so too! Long live the Queen! (And note that Australia ranks well above the USA on the Index of Economic freedom. Heh!)

Throughout Europe there is an association between monarchism and conservatism. It is a little sad that American conservatives do not have access to that satisfaction. So even though Australia is much more distant from Europe (geographically) than the USA is, Australia is in some ways more of an outpost of Europe than America is! Mind you: Australia is not very atypical of its region. Australia lies just South of Asia -- and both Japan and Thailand have greatly respected monarchies. And the demise of the Cambodian monarchy was disastrous for Cambodia

Throughout the world today, possession of a U.S. or U.K. passport is greatly valued. I once shared that view. Developments in recent years have however made me profoundly grateful that I am a 5th generation Australian. My Australian passport is a door into a much less oppressive and much less messed-up place than either the USA or Britain

Following the Sotomayor precedent, I would hope that a wise older white man such as myself with the richness of that experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than someone who hasn’t lived that life.

IQ and ideology: Most academics are Left-leaning. Why? Because very bright people who have balls go into business, while very bright people with no balls go into academe. I did both with considerable success, which makes me a considerable rarity. Although I am a born academic, I have always been good with money too. My share portfolio even survived the GFC in good shape. The academics hate it that bright people with balls make more money than them.

I have no hesitation in saying that the single book which has influenced me most is the New Testament. And my Scripture blog will show that I know whereof I speak. Some might conclude that I must therefore be a very confused sort of atheist but I can assure everyone that I do not feel the least bit confused. The New Testament is a lighthouse that has illumined the thinking of all sorts of men and women and I am deeply grateful that it has shone on me.

I am rather pleased to report that I am a lifelong conservative. Out of intellectual curiosity, I did in my youth join organizations from right across the political spectrum so I am certainly not closed-minded and am very familiar with the full spectrum of political thinking. Nonetheless, I did not have to undergo the lurch from Left to Right that so many people undergo. At age 13 I used my pocket-money to subscribe to the "Reader's Digest" -- the main conservative organ available in small town Australia of the 1950s. I have learnt much since but am pleased and amused to note that history has since confirmed most of what I thought at that early age. Conservatism is in touch with reality. Leftism is not.

I imagine that the RD are still sending mailouts to my 1950s address

Most teenagers have sporting and movie posters on their bedroom walls. At age 14 I had a map of Taiwan on my wall.

"Remind me never to get this guy mad at me" -- Instapundit

It seems to be a common view that you cannot talk informatively about a country unless you have been there. I completely reject that view but it is nonetheless likely that some Leftist dimbulb will at some stage aver that any comments I make about politics and events in the USA should not be heeded because I am an Australian who has lived almost all his life in Australia. I am reluctant to pander to such ignorance in the era of the "global village" but for the sake of the argument I might mention that I have visited the USA 3 times -- spending enough time in Los Angeles and NYC to get to know a fair bit about those places at least. I did however get outside those places enough to realize that they are NOT America.

"Intellectual" = Leftist dreamer. I have more publications in the academic journals than almost all "public intellectuals" but I am never called an intellectual and nor would I want to be. Call me a scholar or an academic, however, and I will accept either as a just and earned appellation

My academic background

My full name is Dr. John Joseph RAY. I am a former university teacher aged 65 at the time of writing in 2009. I was born of Australian pioneer stock in 1943 at Innisfail in the State of Queensland in Australia. I trace my ancestry wholly to the British Isles. After an early education at Innisfail State Rural School and Cairns State High School, I taught myself for matriculation. I took my B.A. in Psychology from the University of Queensland in Brisbane. I then moved to Sydney (in New South Wales, Australia) and took my M.A. in psychology from the University of Sydney in 1969 and my Ph.D. from the School of Behavioural Sciences at Macquarie University in 1974. I first tutored in psychology at Macquarie University and then taught sociology at the University of NSW. My doctorate is in psychology but I taught mainly sociology in my 14 years as a university teacher. In High Schools I taught economics. I have taught in both traditional and "progressive" (low discipline) High Schools. Fuller biographical notes here

I completed the work for my Ph.D. at the end of 1970 but the degree was not awarded until 1974 -- due to some academic nastiness from Seymour Martin Lipset and Fred Emery. A conservative or libertarian who makes it through the academic maze has to be at least twice as good as the average conformist Leftist. Fortunately, I am a born academic.

Despite my great sympathy and respect for Christianity, I am the most complete atheist you could find. I don't even believe that the word "God" is meaningful. I am not at all original in that view, of course. Such views are particularly associated with the noted German philosopher Rudolf Carnap. Unlike Carnap, however, none of my wives have committed suicide

Very occasionally in my writings I make reference to the greats of analytical philosophy such as Carnap and Wittgenstein. As philosophy is a heavily Leftist discipline however, I have long awaited an attack from some philosopher accusing me of making coat-trailing references not backed by any real philosophical erudition. I suppose it is encouraging that no such attacks have eventuated but I thought that I should perhaps forestall them anyway -- by pointing out that in my younger days I did complete three full-year courses in analytical philosophy (at 3 different universities!) and that I have had papers on mainstream analytical philosophy topics published in academic journals

As well as being an academic, I am an army man and I am pleased and proud to say that I have worn my country's uniform. Although my service in the Australian army was chiefly noted for its un-notability, I DID join voluntarily in the Vietnam era, I DID reach the rank of Sergeant, and I DID volunteer for a posting in Vietnam. So I think I may be forgiven for saying something that most army men think but which most don't say because they think it is too obvious: The profession of arms is the noblest profession of all because it is the only profession where you offer to lay down your life in performing your duties. Our men fought so that people could say and think what they like but I myself always treat military men with great respect -- respect which in my view is simply their due.

A real army story here

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day and there is JUST ONE saying of Hitler's that I rather like. It may not even be original to him but it is found in chapter 2 of Mein Kampf (published in 1925): "Widerstaende sind nicht da, dass man vor ihnen kapituliert, sondern dass man sie bricht". The equivalent English saying is "Difficulties exist to be overcome" and that traces back at least to the 1920s -- with attributions to Montessori and others. Hitler's metaphor is however one of smashing barriers rather than of politely hopping over them and I am myself certainly more outspoken than polite. Hitler's colloquial Southern German is notoriously difficult to translate but I think I can manage a reasonable translation of that saying: "Resistance is there not for us to capitulate to but for us to break". I am quite sure that I don't have anything like that degree of determination in my own life but it seems to me to be a good attitude in general anyway

I have used many sites to post my writings over the years and many have gone bad on me for various reasons. So if you click on a link here to my other writings you may get a "page not found" response if the link was put up some time before the present. All is not lost, however. All my writings have been reposted elsewhere. If you do strike a failed link, just take the filename (the last part of the link) and add it to the address of any of my current home pages and -- Voila! -- you should find the article concerned.

COMMENTS: I have gradually added comments facilities to all my blogs. The comments I get are interesting. They are mostly from Leftists and most consist either of abuse or mere assertions. Reasoned arguments backed up by references to supporting evidence are almost unheard of from Leftists. Needless to say, I just delete such useless comments.

You can email me here (Hotmail address). In emailing me, you can address me as "John", "Jon", "Dr. Ray" or "JR" and that will be fine -- but my preference is for "JR" -- and that preference has NOTHING to do with an American soap opera that featured a character who was referred to in that way

Index page for this site


"Tongue Tied"
"Dissecting Leftism" (Backup here)
"Australian Politics"
"Education Watch International"
"Political Correctness Watch"
"Greenie Watch"


"Marx & Engels in their own words"
"A scripture blog"
"Some memoirs"
"Paralipomena 3"
Western Heart
To be continued ....
Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).
Queensland Police -- A barrel with lots of bad apples
Australian Police News
Of Interest


"Food & Health Skeptic"
"Eye on Britain"
"Immigration Watch International" blog.
"Paralipomena 2"
"Leftists as Elitists"
Socialized Medicine
QANTAS -- A dying octopus
BRIAN LEITER (Ladderman)
Obama Watch
Obama Watch (2)
Dissecting Leftism -- Large font site
Michael Darby
AGL -- A bumbling monster
Telstra/Bigpond follies
Optus bungling
Vodafrauds (vodafone)
Bank of Queensland blues

There are also two blogspot blogs which record what I think are my main recent articles here and here. Similar content can be more conveniently accessed via my subject-indexed list of short articles here or here (I rarely write long articles these days)

Main academic menu
Menu of recent writings
basic home page
Pictorial Home Page (Backup here).
Selected pictures from blogs (Backup here)
Another picture page (Best with broadband. Rarely updated)

Note: If the link to one of my articles is not working, the article concerned can generally be viewed by prefixing to the filename the following: