Friday, November 22, 2013

The War Against Achievement

Thomas Sowell

A friend recently sent me a link to an inspiring video about an upbeat young black man who was born without arms. It showed him going to work -- unlike the record number of people living on government payments for "disabilities" that are far less serious, if not fictitious.

How is this young man getting to work? He gets into his car and drives there -- using controls set up so that he can operate the car with his feet.

What kind of work does he do, and how does he do it? He is involved in the design of racing cars. He sits at his computer, looking at the screen, with the keyboard on the floor, where he uses his toes as others use their fingers.

His story recalls the story of Helen Keller, who went to an elite college and on to a career, despite being both deaf and blind. Her story was celebrated in books, in television documentaries and in an inspiring movie, "The Miracle Worker."

But our culture has changed so much over the years that the young man with no arms is unlikely to get comparable publicity. Helen Keller's achievement was seen as an inspiration for others, but this young man's achievement is more like a threat to the prevailing ideology of our times.

The vision on which the all-encompassing and all-controlling welfare state was built is a vision of widespread helplessness, requiring ever more expanding big government. Our "compassionate" statists would probably have wanted to take this young man without arms, early on, and put him in some government institution.

But to celebrate him in the mainstream media today would undermine a whole ideological vision of the world -- and of the vast government bureaucracies built on that vision. It might even cause people to think twice about giving money to able-bodied men who are standing on street corners, begging.

The last thing the political left needs, or can even afford, are self-reliant individuals. If such people became the norm, that would destroy not only the agenda and the careers of those on the left, but even their flattering image of themselves as saviors of the less fortunate.

Victimhood is where it's at. If there are not enough real victims, then fictitious victims must be created -- as with the claim that there is "a war on women." Why anyone would have an incentive or a motivation to create a war on women in the first place is just one of the questions that should be asked of those who promote this political slogan, obviously designed for the gullible.

The real war -- which is being waged in our schools, in the media and among the intelligentsia -- is the war on achievement. When President Obama told business owners, "You didn't build that!" this was just one passing skirmish in the war on achievement.

The very word "achievement" has been replaced by the word "privilege" in many writings of our times. Individuals or groups that have achieved more than others are called "privileged" individuals or groups, who are to be resented rather than emulated.

The length to which this kind of thinking -- or lack of thinking -- can be carried was shown in a report on various ethnic groups in Toronto. It said that people of Japanese ancestry in that city were the most "privileged" group there, because they had the highest average income.

What made this claim of "privilege" grotesque was a history of anti-Japanese discrimination in Canada, climaxed by people of Japanese ancestry being interned during World War II longer than Japanese Americans.

If the concept of achievement threatens the prevailing ideology, the reality of achievement despite having obstacles to overcome is a deadly threat. That is why the achievements of Asians in general -- and of people like the young black man with no arms -- make those on the left uneasy. And why the achievements of people who created their own businesses have to be undermined by the President of the United States.

What would happen if Americans in general, or blacks in particular, started celebrating people like this armless young man, instead of trying to make heroes out of hoodlums? Many of us would find that promising and inspiring. But it would be a political disaster for the left -- which is why it is not likely to happen.



DC Walmart More Selective than Harvard

The District of Columbia's first Walmart store has received over 23,000 job applications for only 600 jobs, Business Insider reported on Tuesday. That means that one out of every 38 applicants will be offered a position with the store, or about 2.6 percent. Harvard University, one of the most selective colleges in the United States, has an acceptance rate of 6.1 percent.

DC's first Walmart almost didn't happen. The D.C. Council had proposed a "living wage" bill that would require a minimum wage of $12.50 per hour for all "large" retailers with annual corporate sales that exceed $1 billion. This would have effectively shut out Walmart from the city. The bill was vetoed by D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and minimum wage in the city remains at $8.50.

While Walmart is maligned by critics, many fail to realize that for many associates, Walmart is the only place they would be able to actually be employed. Having a job—any job—is better than having no job, which 23,000 DC residents were quick to realize. While your average D.C. Council member may sneer at the thought of working at a Walmart, it may in fact be the best option for someone with a very limited skill set. The vast majority of Walmart associates aren't exactly turning down jobs left and right to work at Walmart.

While it's a sad reminder of how disastrous employment statistics are today to see over 23,000 people apply for 600 jobs, it's fortunate overall that these jobs were even able to come to DC in the first place.



War on the Little Guy

John Stossel

Marty the Magician performed magic tricks for kids, including the traditional rabbit-out-of-a-hat. Then one day: "I was signing autographs and taking pictures with children and their parents," he told me. "Suddenly, a badge was thrown into the mix, and an inspector said, 'Let me see your license.'"

In "Harry Potter" books, a creepy Ministry of Magic controls young wizards. Now in the USA, government regulates stage magicians -- one of the countless ways it makes life harder for the little guy.

Marty's torment didn't end with a demand for his license. "She said, from now on, you cannot use your rabbit until you fill out paperwork, pay the $40 license fee. We'll have to inspect your home."

Ten times since, regulators showed up unannounced at Marty's house. At one point, an inspector he hadn't seen before appeared. He hoped things had changed for the better.

"I got a new inspector and I said, oh, did my first one retire? She said, 'No, good news! We've increased our budget and we have more inspectors now. So we'll be able to visit you more often.'"

Here are your tax dollars at work.

The inspectors told Marty that the Animal Welfare Act required him to file paperwork demonstrating that he had "a comprehensive written disaster plan detailing everything I would do with my rabbit in the event of a fire, a flood, a tornado, an ice storm."

The federal forms list "common emergencies likely to happen to your facility ... not necessarily limited to: structural fire, electrical outage, disruption in clean water or feed supply, disruption in access to facility (e.g., road closures), intentional attack on the facilities ... earthquake, landslide/mudslide/avalanche ... "

Sadly, this Kafkaesque enforcement of petty rules is not a bizarre exception.

Some regulation is useful. But when we passively accept government regulation of everything, thinking we're protecting people from evil corporations run amok, we're really making life harder for ordinary people. Every profession, from cab driving to floral arrangement, is now burdened with complex rules.

You can't even give tours of Washington, D.C., the city that produces most of these insane rules, without getting a special license. Tour guides must pay about $200 for criminal background checks, provide four personal references, show passport photos and pass a written test -- a difficult one.

People who reflexively defend government may feel no pity for businesses that face extra costs: Let businesses pay fees and take tests -- we don't want unlicensed tour guides describing famous statues incorrectly! But these costs add up. Often, they make a small, barely profitable business impossible to operate. These rules also violate Americans' right to free speech. They are unnecessary. If tour guides are no good, people can patronize others. The government doesn't need to be gatekeeper.

These rules generally prevail because existing businesses are politically connected. They capture licensing boards and use license rules to crush competition from businesses just getting started.

In some places, you can't open a business like a limo service or moving van company unless you can prove that your business is needed and won't undermine existing businesses in the same field.

But undermining competition is the whole idea. If Starbucks or Home Depot had to prove new coffee shops and hardware stores were "needed," we wouldn't have those companies. Apparently they were needed, since these companies thrived, but no one could have "proven" that beforehand.

Jeff Rowes, an attorney at the Institute for Justice, a civil liberties group that defends many people caught up in regulatory cases, says, "America was conceived as a sea of liberty with islands of government power. We're now a sea of government power with ever-shrinking islands of liberty."

The little guys don't have an army of lawyers to defend those islands of liberty one regulatory battle at a time. We should get rid of most of these regulations -- and sail back, together, to a free country



The Writing Is on the Wall

It has been obvious for some time that ObamaCare is full of lies, and that one of the primary lies was this: "You can keep your plan. Period." Barack Obama "apologized" for this "misstatement," while other Democrats are torn between arguing Obama said nothing wrong and asserting that they knew all along that you couldn't keep your plan.

The latter group is far closer to the truth. Former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy unearthed a brief filed by the Justice Department in Priests for Life v HHS that acknowledges and argues for regulations that would cancel millions of insurance plans: "Even under the grandfathering provision, it is projected that more group health plans will transition to the requirements under the regulations as time goes on. Defendants [the government] have estimated that a majority of group health plans will have lost their grandfather status by the end of 2013."

As for Obama's "fix" -- allowing state insurance commissioners to decide whether insurance companies in their state can extend cancelled policies through next year's elections -- it quickly turned from illegal farce to unwanted flop. Insurance commissioners in Washington, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont and Minnesota (all blue states) have already declined to participate; more will undoubtedly follow. Georgia's commissioner called it a "political stunt," but promised to do everything he can to help Georgians kicked off their plans.

Meanwhile, user data at remains at "critical risk," according to congressional testimony from an IT expert Tuesday. An inspector general report warned over the summer about the lack of security testing, and, in August, 14 attorneys general demanded a delay of the launch in order to address security issues. Evidently the site is no better seven weeks after its launch, but the administration continues to offer nothing but Jedi mind tricks: "This is not the security vulnerability you're looking for."

Worse, Henry Chao, the deputy chief information officer for Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), estimates that 30% of the website still hasn't been built. And that includes the payment system, which brings up another question: If people can't pay, is anyone actually enrolled? Political considerations alone pushed HHS to proceed with the Oct. 1 rollout, but they badly miscalculated because ObamaCare will continue to fail and it will continue to bring Democrats down.

It wasn't long ago that Obama was bragging that when opponents saw how well the "Affordable" Care Act worked, they'd quit calling it "ObamaCare." After its calamitous rollout, however, it's Democrats who are quietly dropping the term. The word is disappearing from and Democrats' websites, as well as from TV talking points and speeches. Nancy Pelosi even corrected David Gregory for using the term on NBC. But Democrats can't erase the term "ObamaCare" completely; it is the writing on the wall.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  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)


Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Moral, Emotional and Intellectual Bankruptcy of Progressivism

By Arnold Ahlert

Last Thursday, President Obama did the nation a profound favor, albeit unintentionally. He revealed the utter fraud of a progressive ideology that is about nothing more than the accumulation of power – by any means necessary. It is an ideology where there are no values, save those that apply to a given moment, right here, right now. If and when the moment changes, progressives like the president are entirely comfortable with taking positions that are completely the opposite of those they previously embraced, even as they remain immune to their own hypocrisy.

Up through last Wednesday, the president and his minions in government and the media waged an unrelenting campaign against “bad apple” insurance companies and their “substandard” policies. Policies for which millions of “unwitting” Americans had developed a thoroughly misguided sense of satisfaction, undoubtedly buttressed by assurances from the president himself that, irrespective of the Democrats and their social utopian impulses, if they liked what they had, they could keep it – period.

Then that lie unraveled. And make no mistake: other than for those equally corrupted by the same ideology, it was indeed a bald-faced lie. It was not, as some have asserted, an utterance made by a somewhat misinformed president. The Wall Street Journal blew that nonsense out of the water when it exposed the bankrupt machinations of Obama's advisors. Two quotes from that article are invaluable with regard to understanding the progressive mindset. “Simplification and ease of explanation were a premium, and that was true throughout the process,” said Jon Favreau, who served as Mr. Obama's top speech writer. Translation: Americans are too stupid to understand anything told to them, unless it's reduced to the simplest of terms. “You try to talk about health care in broad, intelligible points that cut through, and you inevitably lose some accuracy when you do that,” said a former unnamed official.

Translation: it's OK to lie in order to advance the progressive agenda.

Which is precisely what the equally contemptible and corrupted New York Times did when they asserted that Obama “clearly misspoke,” rather than lied. Unfortunately for the Times and other true believers, Obama “clearly misspoke” on 30 separate occasions.  Nonetheless the Times' editorial continues. “By law, insurers cannot continue to sell policies that don't provide the minimum benefits and consumer protections required as of next year. So they've sent cancellation notices to hundreds of thousands of people who hold these substandard policies.”

Yet as of last Thursday, they can sell those “substandard” policies once again. The moment has changed, and that which was contemptible for at least three years prior to that moment has been re-defined as acceptable.

The “by law” part? Once again, when you embrace a bankrupt ideology, the law becomes as malleable as anything else – even as one professes allegiance to it, much as Democrats endlessly repeated that Americans must accept ObamaCare because it is the “law of the land.”

Really? Which part? Certainly not the employer mandate, which the president imperiously postponed, absent any input from the apparently superfluous legislative branch of government. Ditto for the 75 percent insurance premium subsidies for Congress and their staffs. And now, in a grandiose assertion that would make any dictator proud, the president has broken the law's backbone, namely the requirement that all insurance policies must comply with the ObamaCare mandates.

Hopefully, by the time you are reading this, many Americans will have figured out that the president's “fix” is as big a lie as his original assertion. Most Americans whose insurance has been cancelled won't be able to get their old policies back, for two very good reasons. One, they no longer exist. Two, with a big hat tip to National Review's Andrew McCarthy, insurance companies are not going to put themselves in the position of being held legally liable for issuing polices based on a presidential “waiver,” as opposed to legally enforceable law. McCarthy illuminates the details:

“The health-insurance companies … would be deluged with lawsuits by insureds who claimed that the policies were illegal and wrongly denied coverage for this or that treatment. The insurance companies themselves would get into the act, filing suits to be compensated for payouts they'd made based on the illegal policies. The Obama 'waiver' would avail them of nothing in a court, where a judge would be obliged to follow the law, not Dear Leader's enforcement preferences.”

It is useful to reveal that the aforementioned contempt for the average American's intelligence is once again in play here. Don't think for a nanosecond that the president isn't fully aware of the reality that the proverbial toothpaste cannot be shoved back into the tube. This particular lie is all about shifting the onus of blame back onto the same “bad apple” turned “good apple” soon-to-be “bad apple” again insurance companies, rather than where it truly belongs.

As in, they don't call it ObamaCare for no reason.

A remarkable quote from president's speech last week further underscores the bankruptcy of progressivism. After once again blaming everyone else for the debacle of the website's rollout, he said something that should stun every American. “What we're also discovering is that insurance is complicated to buy.” Obama and Democrats concoct a 2000 page healthcare bill and another 11,000 pages of regulations that apply to it, and the president is just now discovering that buying insurance is complicated?

A gargantuan case of hubris, coupled with stunning level of ignorance about how the real world works, is the essence of progressivism.

Unfortunately in this particular case, that hubris and ignorance only serves to advance the progressive agenda. While I refuse to believe dim-bulbs like Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, or even Obama himself had the foresight to know how bad the ObamaCare rollout would be, there is little question they are more than willing to use the misery of millions of Americans to advance their ultimate healthcare agenda, as in moving to a single-payer, government-controlled system. And I am certainly willing to believe that an inveterate liar like the president is fully aware that his half-in, half-out hybrid insurance purchasing scheme will facilitate that transformation.

And then what? Let me reduce that reality to its simplest terms. Before ObamaCare, many Americans were doubtlessly dealing with “heartless” insurance companies. But here's the thing: if they got too heartless, one could sue them and/or switch to another company. When a government bureaucrat makes the same decision – much like Kathleen Sebelius already did when she was willing to allow a 10-year-old girl in need of lung transplant to die, rather than bend the rules to save her – Americans will have no recourse. As for litigation, good luck suing the federal government. Even if ObamaCare survives in its current incarnation, Americans will be beholden to a new level of heartlessness known as the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). The IPAB will be comprised of a group of appointed “experts” tasked with deciding whether the “greater good” is served by giving Grandma a new hip – or a new cane.

Thus, the ultimate question arises. Have you had enough yet? Have you had your fill of a naked lust for total control being promoted as caring and compassion? Are you sick and tired of seeing the outright destruction of dignity and integrity that serving one's government masters demands? Are you aware of that fact that even if this disaster comes to full flower, the Congressional Budget Office projects that 32 million people will still be uninsured ten years from now, even as an additional $1.8 trillion will be spent by the federal government to achieve that result?

How come our progressive champions never mention that reality?

Because, in the end, what's going on isn't really about healthcare. It's about control. And if 32 million people are left out in the cold? So what. Remember when this whole thing blew up, Press Secretary Jay Carney noted that “only” 5 percent of the country would be losing their health insurance coverage. That number represents 14 million Americans whose lives have been turned upside down. But that was when insurance companies were still “bad apples” offering Americans “substandard” plans.

Now they're not bad apples, and those plans are OK. At least until they're not again.

That's vintage progressivism – in all it's moral, emotional and intellectual bankruptcy. With any luck it will be consigned to the ash heap of history, as Americans continue to get shafted, one dropped doctor from their new policy after another, one policy cancelation after another – and most importantly, one unsustainable lie after another unsustainable lie.



Crisis of Political Authority? I Wish!

By Robert Higgs

I have often received unsolicited copies of recently published books from the publishers, who hope to obtain reviews that will help them drum up sales. Today’s mail delivery brought me such an unrequested volume, a book titled The End of Authority: How a Loss of Legitimacy and Broken Trust Are Endangering Our Future, by Douglas E. Schoen.

Skimming quickly, I found that the book deals with what the author calls “a crisis of governance, a crisis of legitimacy, and, indeed, a crisis of authority.” “All around the world,” he declares, citizens “have lost confidence in those charged with the responsibility of governing them.” (Notice the language, “those charged with the responsibility,” rather than “those who, by hook and by crook, have impudently imposed themselves on their exploited subjects.”) In this dire situation, Schoen intends his book “to offer clear, unambiguous solutions” to this allegedly urgent problem (p. 245).

My first reaction was, “Crisis of Authority? I wish.” Although ruling elites may be distressed by the various expressions of discontent and even outrage being expressed by particular groups of (what they surely take to be) troublemakers, they are accustomed to a certain amount of discontent and rebellion. Suppressing such outbreaks and pounding, tricking, or soothing people back into line are all in a day’s work for the rulers. Given the ruling elites’ disproportionate possession of wealth, connections, and firepower, they usually succeed, and I expect that in most cases those who are feeling pressed today will, sooner or later, succeed in reining in their restive populations. The Arab Spring will turn to Arab Summer, Arab Fall, and Arab Winter. The Tea Partiers will lose interest and drift away—many have already been coopted or politically disarmed by the established major parties. The little bands of libertarians will squander their energies, feuding with their fellows and arguing about not-so-pressing issues in lifeboat ethics. The European rioters will be tear-gassed, sprayed with fire hoses, and beaten about the head and shoulders until they find better uses for their time and energy.

Douglas Schoen clearly writes as a friend of the international elite, for whom he has worked in the past as a pollster, consultant, and strategist. One has only to consider what he takes as a given, namely, that existing Establishment institutions deserve to occupy their powerful positions in social and economic life and ought to be reconfigured to exercise their powers more effectively—that is, in a way that gives rise to fewer troublesome reactions from the peasantry.

Well, one man’s treasure is another man’s trash. I have a different view of the situation. I perceive that the existing institutions—above all, the various nation states—have highly problematic legitimacy. To speak more bluntly, the state in particular has none at all, aside from the somnolent or distracted acquiescence of the mass of its subjects. If there really were a crisis of authority for the state per se, I could only say, thank God, it’s about time; bring it on! A few thousand years of people’s being bullied, plundered, humiliated, and even killed by their loving masters is more than enough, and the subjects can scarcely move fast enough to suit me in challenging this immoral domination.

Even before I opened the book, I had a strong premonition that I would find its message impossible to swallow. Four blurbs on the dust jacket express high praise for the author and the book. The blurbs are signed by former U.S. president Bill Clinton, former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney, former Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski, and publisher Steve Forbes. If such persons actually approved of what Schoen has to say, I knew with almost complete certainty that I would not approve. Call me an incurable skeptic, but I simply cannot imagine that anything good could come from the current masters of the world, the very people who have contributed so magnificently to the world’s present horrors.



Obamacare "Success Story" is Actually Unable to Afford Insurance

On October 21st, President Obama spoke about Jessica Sanford, a woman in Washington state who had previously been unable to buy insurance and was able to buy an affordable, decent plan using Washington's health insurance exchange (Washington Healthplanfinder).

Except she wasn't.

Shortly after being told she was eligible for a subsidy to purchase a "gold" plan for $198 a month, she was informed that there was an error on the website in calculating her tax credit amount, and that her plan actually cost $280 a month. That was also a mistake—it turns out Sanford, who is self-employed single mother, was not actually eligible for any subsidy and has to pay the full cost of the plan. Sanford, who makes around $50,000 a year, is unable to afford the plan and will instead pay the $95 penalty.

Sanford's son has attention deficit disorder and has medications that cost $250 per month, and Sanford has been uninsured for the past 15 years. While she had thought that the Affordable Care Act was going to help her and her son, it in fact made their situation worse.

I feel for this woman. She was lied to by multiple parties, and simply wanted to get insurance for herself and her son. It is not her fault that she was deceived, and now she's being fined for being unable to afford something. This is absolutely ridiculous and a total embarrassment for the Obama administration.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  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)


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The genetics of politics

People on both the Left and the Right are usually quite firm in their view that their political choices are reasonable and the product of thought.  But what if they are not?  It would tend to explain the vast gulf in views betweeen the Left and the Right in America today.  And I have for some years been pointing out the various studies that have found that there is a substantial element of genetic inheritance behind our political preferences.  We are to a degree born to be Leftists or Rightists.

This sits comfortably with just about no-one so it behooves us to check and recheck the research concerned.  That has recently been done, looking at many of the bodies of data that enable us to research the matter.  The result is a remarkable degree of agreement that genetics IS a major factor influencing our political opinions.  The abstract of the paper concerned is given below.

The paper also tried to identify specific genes behind the effect but was unsuccessful.  Investigations of that sort are still at an early stage.  The paper also did not try to ascertain if there were any personality variables that mediated the genetic connection.  My deduction is that the correlation indicates that Leftists are just born miserable.  All the research certainly shows that conservatives are happier.

The paper below was concerened with detailed political questions  such as abortion, gay marriage etc.  It did not deal with actual vote at election time.  Is Democrat or Republican loyalty inherited too?  We do have some data on that from elsewhere which points to a somewhat qualified conclusion.  Hatemi et al (2007) found that vote was substantially inherited but only because many of the things influencing vote were inherited -- church attendance, specific attitudes etc.  Vote does not have its own set of genes behind it.

REFERENCE: Hatemi (2007) "The Genetics of Voting: An Australian Twin Study" Behav. Genet., 37:435–448

Genetic Influences on Political Ideologies: Genome - Wide Findings on Three Populations, and a Mega - Twin Analysis of 19 Measures of Political Ideologies from Five Western Democracies

Forthcoming in Behavior Genetics – Lindon Eaves Festschrift

By Peter K. Hatemi et al.


 Almost forty years ago evidence from large studies of adult twins and their relatives suggested that between 30 - 60% of the variance in Liberal and Conservative attitudes can be explained by genetic influences. However, these findings have not been widely accepted or incorporated into the dominant paradigms that explain the etiology of political ideology. This has been attributed in part to measurement and sample limitations as well the inability to identify specific genetic markers related to political ideology

Here we present results from original analys es of a combined sample of over 12,000 twins pairs, ascertained from nine different studies conducted in five western democracies (Australia, Hungary, Denmark, Sweden, and the U.S.A.), sampled over the course of four decades. We provide definitive evidence that heritability plays a role in the formation of political ideology, regardless of how ideology is measured, the time period or population sampled. The only exception s are questions that explicitly use the phrase “Left - Right”.

We then present results from one of the first genome - wide association studies on political ideology using data from three samples : a 1990 Australian sample involving 6,894 individuals from 3,516 families; a 2008 Australian sample of 1,160 related individua ls from 635 families and a 2010 Swedish sample involving 3,334 individuals from 2,607 families . Several polymorphisms related to olfaction reached genome - wide significance in the 2008 Australian sample, but did not replicate across samples and remained suggestive in the meta - analysis. The combined evidence suggests that political ideology constitutes a fundamental aspect of one’s genetically informed psychological disposition, but as Fisher proposed long ago, genetic influences on complex traits will be composed of thousands of markers of very small effects



Obamacare Schadenfreudarama

It feels pretty good to watch the whole thing fail

Jonah Goldberg

To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, you’d have to have a heart of stone not to laugh at the unraveling of Obamacare.

First, the obligatory caveats. It is no laughing matter that millions of Americans’ lives have been thrown into anxious chaos as they lose their health insurance, their doctors, their money, or all three. Nor is it particularly amusing to think of the incredible waste of time and tax dollars that has gone into Obamacare’s construction. And the still-unfolding violence that this misbegotten legislation will visit on the economy and our liberties is not funny either. This very magazine has been downright funereal about the brazen and unconstitutional seizure of one-sixth of the economy, and rightly so.

But come on, people.

If you can’t take some joy, some modicum of relief and mirth, in the unprecedentedly spectacular beclowning of the president, his administration, its enablers, and, to no small degree, liberalism itself, then you need to ask yourself why you’re following politics in the first place. Because, frankly, this has been one of the most enjoyable political moments of my lifetime. I wake up in the morning and rush to find my just-delivered newspaper with a joyful expectation of worsening news so intense, I feel like Morgan Freeman should be narrating my trek to the front lawn. Indeed, not since Dan Rather handcuffed himself to a fraudulent typewriter, hurled it into the abyss, and saw his career plummet like Ted Kennedy was behind the wheel have I enjoyed a story more.

Alas, the English language is not well equipped to capture the sensation I’m describing, which is why we must all thank the Germans for giving us the term “schadenfreude” — the joy one feels at the misfortune or failure of others. The primary wellspring of schadenfreude can be attributed to Barack Obama’s hubris — another immigrant word, which means a sinful pride or arrogance that causes someone to believe he has a godlike immunity to the rules of life.

The hubris of our ocean-commanding commander-in-chief surely isn’t news to readers of this website. He’s said that he’s smarter and better than everyone who works for him. His wife informed us that he has “brought us out of the dark and into the light” and that he would fix our broken souls. The man defined sin itself as “being out of alignment with my values.” We may be the ones we’ve been waiting for, but at the same time, everyone has been waiting for him. Or as he put it in 2007, “Every place is Barack Obama country once Barack Obama’s been there.”

In every tale of hubris, the transgressor is eventually slapped across the face with the semi-frozen flounder of reality. The Greeks had a god, Nemesis, whose scythe performed the same function. It was Nemesis who lured Narcissus to the pool where he fell in love with his own reflection. Admittedly, most of Nemesis’s walk-on roles were in the Greek tragedies, but in the modern era, comeuppance-for-the-arrogant is more often found in comedies, and the “rollout” of has been downright hilarious. (I put quotation marks around “rollout” because the term implies actual rolling, and this thing has moved as gracefully as a grand piano in a peat bog.) But, as the president says, “it’s more than a website.” Indeed, the whole law is coming apart like a papier-mâché yacht in rough waters. The media feeding frenzy it has triggered from so many journalistic lapdogs has been both so funny and so poignant, it reminds me of nothing more than the climax of the classic film Air Bud, when the lovable basketball-playing golden retriever finally decides to maul the dog-abusing clown.

During the government shutdown, Barack Obama held fast, heroically refusing to give an inch to the hostage-taking, barbaric orcs of the Tea Party who insisted on delaying Obamacare. It was a triumph for the master strategist in the White House, who finally maneuvered the Republicans into revealing their extremism. But we didn’t know something back then: Obama desperately needed a delay of In his arrogance, though, he couldn’t bring himself to admit it. The other possibility is that he is such an incompetent manager, who has cultivated such a culture of yes-men, that he was completely in the dark about the problems. That’s the reigning storyline right now from the White House. Obama was betrayed. “If I had known,” he told his staff, “we could have delayed the website.”

This is how you know we’re in the political sweet spot: when the only plausible excuses for the administration are equally disastrous indictments.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, it took about five minutes for liberals to cast the chaos and confusion of the disaster as a searing indictment of not just the Bush administration but of conservatism itself. Whatever the merits of that argument (and there are not many), Katrina was at least a surprise. The October 1 deadline for Obamacare was set by Obama’s own administration years ago — and it caught them completely off guard. The president may now claim that he knew nothing, but he must have wondered why Henry Chao,’s chief project manager, set the bar of success at sea level last March: “Let’s just make sure it’s not a Third World experience.” At this point, it could only be more of a Third World experience if required enrollees to pay with chickens



Obama's War On America's Standard of Living

Some quotes to remember

When Barack Obama was campaigning for the 2008 Democratic nomination for President in Oregon, he made some very revealing comments about his plans to "fundamentally transform the United States." On January 17, 2008, he told the San Francisco Chronicle that he would put an aggressive cap and trade system in place, "more aggressive than anybody else's out there," and that he is willing to let the coal industry go bankrupt. Obama said: "So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; it's just that it will bankrupt them because they're going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that's being emitted. That will also generate billions of dollars that we can invest in solar, wind, and other alternative energy approaches. ... We can't drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times -- and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK."



Democrats Panic Over ObamaCare

On Friday, the House of Representatives voted 261-157 in favor of the “Keep Your Health Plan Act,” authored by Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI). Some 39 Democrats joined all Republicans in voting yes just a day after Barack Obama announced his own unilateral and illegal “fix” for his ailing law.

The Wall Street Journal summarized Upton's bill:“The one-page bill would allow insurers to continue offering for sale in 2014 the policies that ObamaCare terminated, exempting them from federal regulatory edicts.” However, because insurance companies have spent the last three and a half years working to comply with ObamaCare regulations, Upton's bill is unlikely to actually save many plans. Such is the nature of Obama's “you can keep your plan” lie.

By contrast, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) offered her own version of a “keep your plan” bill in the Senate. In this case, the Journal writes, Landrieu's bill “would order insurers to continue to offer the dumped plans that in many cases no longer exist. This is also a substantive due process violation for business and unconstitutional commandeering of state regulators.” That would be par for the course.

Unfortunately, but predictably, the House vote didn't come close to a veto-proof majority as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) did the necessary nagging to prevent a caucus-wide jackass stampede. Furthermore, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) vowed that he won't take up the House bill. Either way, Obama would never let Congress compromise his legacy when he can come to the rescue himself.

But the House vote does indicate that, thanks to the disastrous rollout of ObamaCare, at least 39 Democrats are in near-total panic over their election prospects in 2014. Nearly all of them barely won their 2012 elections, and many are in Republican-leaning districts. Their short-sighted scrambling is quite a shift from 2010, when Democrats gleefully used their Washington hegemony to realize the 100-year-old progressive dream of “universal” health care. Recall that Democrats lost a near-record 63 seats in 2010 after passing the law.

It's also clear that ObamaCare will hang like an albatross around Democrats' necks. They'll never admit it – in fact, DNC chair Debbie Wassermann Schultz swears Democrats will run on ObamaCare next year – but they all know it's true.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  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)


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Obama Refuses to Speak to Netanyahu

US President Barack Obama has refused to answer phone calls from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu "more than once," according to Kuwaiti news source Al-Jarida.

In a deliberate snub, Netanyahu's calls have instead been forwarded to US Secretary of State John Kerry.

An American source told Al-Jarida that Jewish American politicians have been keen to fix the situation, which has steadily been deteriorating over the past month, and are attempting to set up a meeting between the two world leaders at the White House.

The news is the latest in a series of public spats between the two nations, whose differences about the handling of a nuclear Iran threaten the traditional US-Israel alliance.

Obama, issued a direct warning to Congress against further sanctions on Iran last Thursday, saying that a deal in the works could prevent the "unintended consequences" of war.

"If we're serious about pursuing diplomacy, there's no need for us to add new sanctions on top of the sanctions that are already very effective and that brought them to the table in the first place," Obama said.

Obama has also reportedly been in the process of lifting the sanctions for over 5 months - without a deal with Iran or express Congressional approval.

The statements follow controversial remarks by Kerry last Wednesday, who told Republican senators who were briefed about recent talks with Iran to “ignore anything the Israelis say” about the issue.

Kerry's visit to Israel this past month to facilitate peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority was something of a diplomatic disaster, after he reportedly threatened a third intifada and then pledged over $75 million in financial support to the Palestinian Arabs.

Netanyahu, meanwhile, has been urging world leaders to avoid the deal, in a bid for both Israel's national security and international safety from a nuclear Iran. "Israel prefers the diplomatic option over any other option. But we want a genuine diplomatic solution that dismantles Iran's military nuclear capabilities,” Netanyahu said in remarks at the Bloomberg Fuel Choices Summit.

“The proposal that was put on the table, the details of which we are familiar with, is a bad deal. It leaves Iran with nuclear capabilities for military objectives, and provides it with a significant easing of sanctions. The additional danger is that it gives Iran legitimacy to be a nuclear threshold state. That goes against the interest of the international community,” he stressed.

The war of words has trickled down the political ladder this weekend; Naftali Bennett and Jewish Home members continue to rally US support for the Israeli stance on the issue, while US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro has reportedly approached the Israeli media in attempts to win over Israeli public support.

Shapiro's words may fall on deaf ears, however; a poll recently revealed that most Israelis believe that the IDF could and should strike Iran on its own



Israel said to be working with Saudi Arabia on Iran strike

Israel is working on coordinating plans for a possible military strike with Saudi Arabia, with Riyadh prepared to provide tactical support to Jerusalem, a British newspaper reported early Sunday.

The two countries have both united in worry that the West may come to terms with Iran, easing sanctions and allowing the Islamic Republic to continue its nuclear program.

According to the Sunday Times, Riyadh has agreed to let Israel use its airspace in a military strike on Iran and cooperate over the use of rescue helicopters, tanker planes and drones.

“The Saudis are furious and are willing to give Israel all the help it needs,” an unnamed diplomatic source told the paper.

The report comes as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in the midst of a blitz to lobby against a deal and cobble together an international alliance opposed to an agreement that allows Iran to continue enriching uranium.

On Sunday, Israel will welcome French President Francois Hollande, who a week earlier put the kibosh on a deal between six world powers and Iran that would ease sanctions in return for initial steps toward curbing enrichment.

Netanyahu on Friday urged France to remain firm in its pressure on Iran ahead of a new round of talks on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program in Geneva, kicking off Wednesday.

After meeting Hollande, Netanyahu will head to Moscow on Wednesday to meet with President Vladimir Putin and lobby against the deal.

Iran’s bid for the bomb “threatens directly the future of the Jewish state,” Netanyahu told CNN recently, in a short preview clip of an interview broadcast on Saturday. As the prime minister of Israel, he stressed, he had to care for “the survival of my country.”

CNN reported that Netanyahu also said in the interview that he would do whatever it was necessary to do in order to protect Israel. The full interview will air Sunday morning.

Should a deal be reached at talks set to resume in Geneva on Wednesday, according to the diplomatic source, a military option would be back on the table. Saudi tactical support, in lieu of backup from the Pentagon, would be vital for a long-range mission targeting Iran’s nuclear program.

Saudi Arabia, a Sunni Muslim country across the Persian Gulf from Iran has long been at odds with Tehran, and fears a nuclear weapon would threaten Riyadh and set off a nuclear arms race in the region.



When the translator has more sense than the politicians

A United Nations interpreter translating the proceedings of the General Assembly on Thursday was caught – not realizing her microphone was still piping her voice into the chamber – expressing her dismay that the world body is so focused on condemning Israel while ignoring every other country in the world.

Following votes at the General Assembly’s Fourth Committee which includes all 193 UN member states, nine resolutions were adopted condemning Israel. Not one resolution was adopted targeting any other country, not even Syria where more than 100,000 have been killed in just two-and-a-half years.

The unnamed interpreter, unaware she was still being heard both by delegates and online via a live webcast, said, “I mean, I think when you have five statements, not five, like a total of ten resolutions on Israel and Palestine, there’s gotta be something, c’est un peu trop, non? [It’s a bit much, no?] I mean I know… There’s other really bad sh** happening, but no one says anything, about the other stuff.”

After the translator spoke, the delegate chairing the meeting could be seen trying to suppress his laughter. This as other delegates laughed audibly after hearing the interpreter’s candid opinion about their work, including her use of an expletive.

Once she realized what was happening, the translator said, “apologies” after which the Secretary of the meeting commented, “I understand there was a problem with interpretation?”  The translator could then be heard saying “The interpreter apologizes.”

UN Watch, a non-governmental organization which monitors events at the United Nations, first caught the gaffe and posted a recording of it on YouTube.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday played the clip of the interpreter’s candid assessment at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. Should her job be threatened, Netanyahu said she would have a place to work in Israel, Ynet reported.

“I would like to tell this translator that she has a job waiting for her in the State of Israel. There are moments that tear the hypocrisy off the unending attacks against us and this brave translator did so,” he said according to a translation of the text posted by the Prime Minister’s Office website.



Desperation:  Bush resurrected

The NYT acknowledges Obama's in trouble by reminding us that Bush was really, really bad. Remember?!!

At the website front page the teaser headline  — which is also the headline in the paper version — is:  "As Troubles Pile Up, a Crisis of Confidence for Obama." But if you click to the article, the headline becomes "Health Law Rollout’s Stumbles Draw Parallels to Bush’s Hurricane Response."

I can think of a whole bunch of non-parallels:

1. Bush's political party didn't design and enact Hurricane Katrina.

2. Bush didn't have 5 years to craft his response to the hurricane.

3. Bush didn't have the power to redesign the hurricane as he designed his response to it.

4. The Republican Bush believed he could not simply bully past the Democratic Mayor of New Orleans and the Democratic Governor of Louisiana and impose a federal solution, but the Democrat Obama and his party in Congress aggressively and voluntarily took over an area of policy that might have been left to the states.

5. The media were ready to slam Bush long and hard for everything — making big scandals out of things that, done by Obama, would have been forgotten a week later (what are the Valerie Plame-level screwups of Obama's?) — but the media have bent over backwards for years to help make Obama look good and to bury or never even uncover all of his lies and misdeeds.

6. If Bush experienced a disaster like the rollout of Obamacare, the NYT wouldn't use its front page to remind us of something Bill Clinton did that looked bad.

But let's check out the asserted parallels in that NYT article by Michael D. Shear:

"The disastrous rollout of his health care law not only threatens the rest of his agenda but also raises questions about his competence in the same way that the Bush administration’s botched response to Hurricane Katrina undermined any semblance of Republican efficiency.  But unlike Mr. Bush, who faced confrontational but occasionally cooperative Democrats, Mr. Obama is battling a Republican opposition that has refused to open the door to any legislative fixes to the health care law and has blocked him at virtually every turn."

Oh, well, that's another nonparallel. Republicans oppose Obama, unlike those Democrats who sometimes helped Bush. And the NYT reinforces my point #5 (above).

But think about it this way, NYT. What if Bush and the Republicans had created the hurricane, and the Democrats adamantly believed it would be better not to have a hurricane? Would the Democrats have been "occasionally cooperative" to Republicans who smugly announced that they won the election and they've been wanting this hurricane for 100 years and canceling the hurricane was not an option?

"Republicans readily made the Hurricane Katrina comparison."

Oh? Note the wording. It doesn't say that important Republicans were bringing up Katrina on their own. I suspect that the journalist, Shear, asked various Republicans to talk about Bush and Katrina and some of them did.

“The echoes to the fall of 2005 are really eerie,” said Peter D. Feaver, a top national security official in Mr. Bush’s second term. “Katrina, which is shorthand for bungled administration policy, matches to the rollout of the website.”

Okay, so Shear got Feaver to put a name on the assertion that Republicans made the comparison. No other Republican is named. Shear moves on to Obama's "top aides" and tells us — here's my point #5 again —  that they stressed how unlike Katrina it is, since "Mr. Obama is struggling to extend health care to millions of people who do not have it. Those are very different issues."

I agree. The health care screwup isn't a natural disaster. Obama and the Democrats made their own disaster, stepping up to do something they should have known they weren't going to be able to do well, and they lied about what they were doing to get it passed.

And yet they meant well. They wanted to help people. Unlike Bush, who — what? — asked for that hurricane?


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, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  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)


Monday, November 18, 2013

None Dare Call It Fascism

John C. Goodman

Here is something that is odd:  For the past six years President Obama and the Democrats in Congress have waged a relentless attack on the health insurance industry. In the most recent iteration, the president assures us he is not responsible for the wave of health insurance policy cancellations. The insurance companies are.

Okay, so where is the other side?

When is the last time you saw an insurance industry executive interviewed on a TV talk show, presenting the industry's answer to all these attacks? You can't remember seeing that? I can't either.

Well what about the health insurance industry trade groups, the folks who are supposed to explain to Congress and the general public the industry's position? When is the last time you saw one of those representatives on TV? Can't remember? Nor can I.

Okay, let's try one more option. When is the last time you saw someone from a university or independent think tank giving the health insurance industry side of all the complaints that are being slung their way? Don't bother responding. We both know that answer as well.

I submit that this is not a small matter.

A free society requires the free flow of information. In any public policy dispute, if only one side is heard from, we are likely to get further and further away from the truth. The attackers will find there is no penalty for getting minor facts wrong or shading the truth. That will embolden them to make more serious errors, eventually resorting to downright lying. If the only entity providing any push back is the Washington Post fact checker, we are in real trouble. Roughly 99.99% of the population doesn't read the Washington Post.

But what threatens the foundations of a free society most of all is when it is the government (and its allies in the private sector) who are doing the attacking, and when the reason there is no response is that the victims of the attacks have been threatened and bullied into silence.

I believe that is where we are today -- not just with respect to health insurance, but with respect to health care generally. I'm afraid other industries are not far behind.

During the debate leading up to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, I talked to a number of CEOs of large health insurance companies. I frequently heard such comments as, "Don't tell anyone I told you this" or, "If you use this information, don't mention my name" and even, "Don't tell anyone that we ever had this conversation."

As far as I can tell, things have gotten worse. In fact I don't know any employee of any health insurance company that is willing to go on the record with any statement that is critical of the Affordable Care Act.

Now it's possible that my experience is unique. And I know that there are many readers of this blog who also interact with folks in the industry. So if I'm wrong about this, please correct me in the comments.

The result is unanswered charges that are getting more and more reckless. Within the past two weeks, for example, we have had the president himself, David Axelrod, Zeke Emanuel and others all asserting…

[BTW, have you ever noticed how Republicans in public tend to speak their own mind and as a result all seem to say something different? That doesn't happen to Democrats. When they go on TV they are the epitome of the disciplined message. They all say the same thing, even using the very same words. Have those words been tested before focus groups prior to the Democrats even appearing before the cameras? I would bet so.]

Anyway, back to the most recent charge, which is that under the pre-Obama system insurers cancelled policies after people got sick. Really? So says the president. And Axelrod. And Emanuel.

Hmmm. I remember when one insurer got hit with one of the biggest judgments ever because the insurer would not approve a bone marrow transplant to treat breast cancer (a procedure we all now know doesn't work). Are we supposed to believe that these same companies routinely cancel policies and refuse to pay medical bills just because someone gets sick?

Please, give us an example. I don't believe you.

In the early 1980s (while there was still a Berlin Wall), I went through Check Point Charlie from West Berlin to East Berlin. On either side of the wall, there were the same people with the same culture, same genes, etc. The only difference was a difference of political systems, and because of that difference East Berlin was of course poorer.

After about an hour of touring, though, I sensed that there was some other difference and it took me a while to pin point it. In East Berlin, no one smiled. No one laughed. No one joked. People looked at us and at each other with hesitation and even apprehension. Were we really tourists? Or might we be posing as tourists to report on their behavior?

If I could summarize everything in one word, it would be "fear." The East Germans were afraid. You could see it in their eyes. And that was something you never saw in the West.

So why am I telling you about a 30-year-old experience? Because I sense that same feeling again ? right here, in the United States of America.



An Incurious Or Willfully Ignorant President

When President Obama stepped in front of the cameras Thursday to magically waive a wand and arbitrarily change his signature accomplishment, he couldn’t help but lie to the American people…again. But lying about the accomplishments of his administration isn’t a compulsion; it’s a requirement.

Looking back on the last five years, what has the Obama administration accomplished? Anything? Put your partisanship aside and be honest – can you name any?

His trillion-dollar stimulus was such a failure that progressives had to invent a new, unverifiable measure to claim victory –and the pathetic “it stopped things from getting worse” defense was the absolute best his team of spin-doctors could muster.

The economy has not recovered. The unemployment rate has decreased only because people have given up the hope to find work and no longer count. We’re on the verge of acquiring as much debt under this president as under all previous presidents combined. And the Middle East is in shambles. The only growth we’ve seen is in a stock market propped up by the Federal Reserve’s printing presses, taxpayer subsidized “green” company bankruptcies, disability and food stamp rolls and the bottom lines of Canadian web design firms.

Obamacare was the only real hope the president had left. After months of scandals exposing him as either disconnected from his own administration or callous and vindictive, the president put all his chips on the Oct. 1 launch of The idea that the American people, who had just re-elected him, would turn on him and his baby was the furthest thing from his mind.

When they did he was ill-prepared to deal with that reality.

The failures of the website were far from his biggest problem. The website is but the portal to a failed concept, and its unveiling – luckily for the president – was drowned out in the news by the government shutdown. But after 16 days, the clouds cleared and the lousy website’s problems would give way to the failed concept taking center stage.

The failed concept is that the government can create a structure in which the private sector can function and flourish. The reality is the government can’t even build the most expensive website ever constructed and make it work.

When the concept started causing people to lose the health insurance they voluntarily purchased, Democrats were relieved to be talking about the failed website because it could be fixed. When the numbers of people losing their health insurance climbed into the hundreds of thousands, that aspect of the problem no longer could be ignored.

When the media switched from website crashes to human stories of people being harmed by the government, even cheerleaders of the law started putting down their pom-poms.

Had the president and scores of congressional Democrats avoided specifics and promised only that lives would be made better by the law, the media would have granted a pass, as usual. But they went out of their way. Period. More than three-dozen times in the case of the president alone. Period. To ensure us that if we liked our plan, we would be able to keep it, no matter what. Period.

Partisans and their friends in the media could not explain this away. The big lie was exposed. The game was up.

President Obama tried to fall back on his personal charm and talk his way out of it. Acting like a person summoning memories of what humility was like from stories heard long ago, he offered something resembling as close to an apology he has in him. The “I’m sorry you didn’t understand what I was saying was the opposite of what I was actually saying, so it’s really your fault” line went over like a brick. But it was all he had.

It was so ineffective that it, and the damage the law was doing to people, left former President Bill Clinton no choice but to attempt to distance and differentiate himself, and more importantly his wife, from this law and this president. Having the first prominent Democrat call for a change to the law be named Clinton without it being Hillary, to still give the illusion of loyalty, was important for their future plans.

When one rat starts to leave a ship, the rest follow…

The chorus rose to the point of legislation being introduced, not only by Republicans but by Democrats as well. Action was coming, one way or another.

Never one to worry much about Constitutional constraints, the president pre-empted his detractors and pretended the law that was set in stone only six weeks earlier was made of clay and he changed it.

When asked about his repeated promise he said, “With respect to the pledge I made that if you like your plan you can keep it, I think -- you know, and I've said in interviews -- that there is no doubt that the way I put that forward unequivocally ended up not being accurate.”

The only way he could not have known it was if he didn’t want to know – if his staff was under orders or chose not to tell him. There’s no reason to believe he’d know on his own. He has no real-world experience in business or the private sector in general, but he does have a staff. The motivation for his lie is either willful deceit or willful ignorance. But neither excuses it.

On the website, what he said was telling. “I was not informed directly that the website would not be working as -- the way it was supposed to.”

The key word is “directly.” Either the president was remarkably incurious about the main consumer aspect of his proudest achievement or he was lied to. If he was lied to, the fact that no one has been fired is a disgrace. If he was incurious…

So, either the president of the United States has surrounded himself with people who deliberately keep him in the dark and/or lie to him, or he is an incompetent man in over his head so far that he’s frozen in ignorance, unable to muster the wherewithal to ask even the most basic questions on major issues. Or else he’s lying.

History will judge, but the present, between now and the end of his term, can’t be allowed to forget.



MSNBC Guest: Abortionists Are “Doing Wonderful, Important Work”

This MSNBC segment was an attempt to soften the image of the pro-abortion side. You know, trotting out the super rare personal and (as usual) very emotional narrative that is supposed to make you forget the 99-plus-percent of abortions (that's why the the only go-to card pro-abortionists pull during their defense of the abortion industry is the rape or incest scenario).

After viewing this you will see the massive gulf between the two sides. Mrs. Weinstein tells us how she had an abortion to "end her pain," meaning, her unborn babies pain. Huh?! Consider the implications if we determined human life or death on whether one was experiencing "too much" pain? And how does one decide how much pain is too much for a fetus to endure? How did Mrs. Weinstein know her baby was experiencing too much pain? BTW: Since when did pro-choice activists become so concerned with the pain of a fetus? And then there was the "doing wonderful and important work" comment from Meaghan Winter....

The one part I did appreciate was their personal run-ins with pro-life protesters. This is life and death we're dealing with so I empathize with the intense passion and urgency expressed and felt from my pro-life brothers and sisters, but it MUST be done from a loving and compassionate heart--not just for the baby but for the women who have had or are considering having an abortion.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  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)


Sunday, November 17, 2013

This Just May Be the Libertarian Era

Old voters collecting Social Security may never change their minds, but libertarianism is growing fast among young Americans

John Stossel

I didn't know what a libertarian was when I started reporting. I was just another liberal. I knew the Republicans were icky, and Democrats were more like me—except they didn't care about debt.

I had no idea there was an actual movement of thinking people who want to honor the principles of the Founders—liberty and limited government. It took me a long time to wake up.

Now more Americans have woken up, say Matt Welch and Nick Gillespie, editors of Reason magazine.

"Poll after poll show you that Americans are much more fiscally conservative than their elected representatives," says Welch. "A majority of Americans thinks that we should balance the budget. Seventy-five percent think that we should not raise the debt ceiling ... Growing majorities—especially young people—are more socially tolerant. They think that we should legalize marijuana ... they're in favor of gay marriage."

Gillespie argues that some of the change comes from people seeing how the private sector offers us more options that we like, while government fails.

"The 21st century has been a demonstration project of how Republicans and conservatives screw things up, under the Bush years, and now we have the Obama version—the liberal Democrat version of screwing everything up ... you go to, you have a good experience and you get all sorts of interesting stuff. When you go to a government website, not so much."

It changes minds, they argue, when people see this is a strong pattern, not just the result of isolated mistakes unique to Obamacare or another specific government project.

But do people realize that it's a strong pattern? I don't think so. I wrote No, They Can't: Why Government Fails—But Individuals Succeed because I worry most Americans instinctively trust central planning. The spontaneous order of the invisible hand is harder to grasp. The invisible hand is ... invisible.

Maybe that's why leftists fear liberty. A sarcastic online video scares people by calling Somalia a "libertarian paradise." (It isn't. Libertarianism assumes private property and rule of law.) One of my Fox colleagues, Bill O'Reilly, calls my libertarian views "desperately wrong" and says "you're living in a world of theory!"

But Gillespie says even people who don't understand the theory at least see what the invisible hand produces. "Where people do things voluntarily and in free markets, everything is getting better, (but] when you go to this old model of command and control, things are terrible." True. But while Gillespie, Welch and I —and maybe you readers—pay attention to that, I suspect that the promises of the central planners will fool most people most of the time.

Politicians fool us with offers of free goodies like cheaper health care and "cures" for social problems, like the War on Drugs. They fool us with their promises to "contain" China, Iran, al-Qaida, etc. and "build democracy" in the Middle East.

If libertarian-leaning politicians express doubt, they may be condemned by others in their own party.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., filibustered until President Obama responded to their questions about drone strikes. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called them "wacko birds."

After some politicians criticized NSA spying, Gov. Chris Christie said, "This strain of libertarianism is a very dangerous thought."

Mainstream conservative pundit Fred Barnes tells me Ron Paul is "deluded" because he wants to shrink the military. Barnes says we're not seeing a new libertarian era, just a libertarian "blip." He points out that even government programs Ronald Reagan railed against are still with us 30 years later—and suggests that they probably aren't going away.

I'm not optimistic about most people recognizing liberty's benefits. Old politicians—and old voters collecting Social Security—may never change their minds. But libertarianism is growing fastest among the young, and groups like Students for Liberty give me hope. These young people certainly know more about liberty than I did at their age.

Maybe they will avoid prior generations' big-government mistakes. Maybe



The Intolerant State

Sometimes, government is the things that OTHERS choose for us

"Government is simply the name we give to the things we choose to do together."

That quote, usually attributed to former Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank, is one of those rare political statements of equal use to opposite sides of America's bitter ideological divide.

Bay State governor Deval Patrick deployed Frank's aphorism at the 2008 Democratic National Convention to make the case for Barack Obama's quest "to rebuild our national community." My first hit in a Google search for the quote reveals a San Francisco Foundation essay celebrating Tax Day, "that day that calls on all of us to think about what it means to be a citizen of the United States and what our obligations are to each other."

The right tends to deploy the quote sardonically. "'Government' is just a name for things we all do together, like shove elderly war heroes back from the memorials built in their honor," Human Events staff writer John Haywood tweeted at the beginning of the government shutdown in October. As Jonah Goldberg observed in The Tyranny of Cliches, "We do many things together, some of them involve the government, most don't. An estimated 111 million people watched the 2011 Super Bowl. Weren't we as 'together' for that as we are for, say, an OSHA hearing on the efficacy of toilet flush regulations?"

On those rare occasions when the national political conversation focuses on the proper role of government in our lives, the sentiment behind Barney Frank's quip fills the airwaves and op-ed pages. On the third day of the federal government shutdown, for example, President Barack Obama trotted out this parade of horribles: "The impacts of a shutdown go way beyond those things that you're seeing on television. Those hundreds of thousands of Americans don't know when they're going to get their next paycheck, and that means stores and restaurants around here don't know if they'll have as many customers. Across the country you've got farmers in rural areas and small business owners who deserve a loan, but they're being left in the lurch right now. Veterans who deserve our support are getting less help. Little kids who deserve a Head Start have been sent home from the safe places where they learn and grow every single day."

So the federal government is apparently the name we give to the magical apparatus responsible for maintaining the status of public-sector workers, private sector retail managers, farmers, small entrepreneurs, and preschoolers, in addition to the one group (veterans) whose care is incontrovertibly the responsibility of the national government that sent them into war.

No wonder the 2012 Obama campaign didn't understand why critics were creeped out by its "Life of Julia" slideshow demonstrating how Democratic policies are crucial at every stage of a woman's life from age 3 to 67. When people depend on government for everything of value, it's hard to tell the difference between objecting to a smothering state and complaining about the very existence of other human beings.

Given the stakes, it's no surprise that Democrats and liberal columnists reacted to the government shutdown by portraying Republicans as anti-human. New York Times columnist Charles Blow warned that the GOP's tactics were "how the money-rich are able to prey on the knowledge-poor," opening up "the possibility that a government by the people may swiftly give way to a government dominated by dark money and dark motives." Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. singled out the "cranks and outliers within the party so addled by hatred of the president, so crippled by the mental disorder known as Obama Dementia, that they are incapable of rationality and reason."

I prefer to assume that people with whom I disagree about politics come to their opinions genuinely, rather than through sinister, anti-democratic motives and/or advanced mental illness. And while I believe that shutting down the federal government was mostly the result of a series of tactical and political blunders by the GOP majority in the House of Representatives, it's worth pausing to examine the broader argument about the role of government occasioned by the dispute.

Yes, in a universe where the overwhelming majority of federal government expenditure comes in the form of transfer payments, yanking the plug out is going to hurt some people and disrupt business as usual for many others. (Though most of those payments are actually unaffected by D.C. closing down, ensuring that more than four out of every five federal dollars gets spent regardless of whether the Grand Canyon is open to the public.) Those first days of October were filled with horror stories of children and widowed families not getting their planned clinical trials or day care or even funeral ceremonies. Many of the highlighted cases drew enough outrage to loosen either federal monies or private philanthropy.

But in our sea of federal spending and debt, these direct tales of woe are mere drops. A Congressional Research Service report released just before the shutdown about the effects of the 1995-96 Newt Gingrich/Bill Clinton federal work stoppages included in its top-line highlights such mundane hiccups as: "National Institute of Standards and Technology was unable to issue a new standard for lights and lamps that was scheduled to be effective January 1, 1996, possibly resulting in delayed product delivery and lost sales."

Meanwhile, Obama's magic machine is still capable of literally dumping hundreds of millions of dollars directly into the trash: The Dayton Daily News reported in October that a dozen brand new $50 million C-27J cargo planes were delivered straight to the Air Force's "boneyard" of abandoned aircraft in Tucson, Arizona, because no one actually needs the things. Amazingly, the production orders continue apace.

The shutdown should make us question these oozing pits of government waste and the folly of nationalizing so much of American life, from beaches in New York City to crab fisheries in Alaska. When you stuff so many disparate responsibilities into a single entity in Washington, the on/off switch becomes terrifyingly potent.

But D.C.'s latest dysfunction should also be an occasion to rethink the "things we choose to do together," reflecting on whether we are in fact making those choices consciously. And it's time to confront the neglected truth that government is also the things that centralizers inflict upon those of us just trying to exercise our freedom.

This issue of reason is all about the messy, heavily contested intersection between do-it-yourself technological liberation and the intolerant forces of state control. From the 3D-printed firearm on the cover ("The Unstoppable Plastic Gun," page 24) to the mind-bendingly decentralized currency and digital protocol Bitcoin ("Bitcoin: More than Money," page 34) to the sadly shuttered doors of once-thriving marketplaces ("The Death of Intrade," page 44, "How Poker Became a Crime," page 62), these cautionary tales reveal an unpredictable leviathan capable of suddenly throwing its massive weight onto whatever new innovation or subculture it considers suspicious.

As the George Mason University economist Robin Hanson points out regarding Intrade, "The history of financial regulation is that everything was illegal gambling to start with. Insurance, stocks, commodities futures, options—all of these things were illegal."

With the world's highest incarceration rate, the United States government spends far too much of its time using its monopoly on force cracking down on peaceable individual transactions. We need to reorient the default arrangement between federal government and American citizen, so that freedom is assumed to be desirable, instead of a national security threat. Or as George Will explains in a wide-ranging interview on page 50, "Before the government interferes with freedom or privacy, it ought to have a compelling reason. That's all, tell me your reason."



The Fix? Another BIG Lie

Barack Obama added another chapter to his politically motivated unconstitutional rewrites of the so-called “Affordable Care Act” Thursday. After more than 5 million insurance cancellations mandated by his ACA regulations, and the political consequences for Democrats, he declared that you can keep your plan (at least until after next year's elections). This was his latest political lie to cover his previous round of lies to cover his oft-repeated original lie that “you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period.”

His latest “pledge to the American people” is: “[W]e're gonna solve the problems that are there, we're gonna get it right, and the Affordable Care Act is going to work for the American people.” (He forgot to add, “Trust me!”) Obama plans to “fix it” through “enforcement discretion,” a patently unconstitutional maneuver typical of autocratic ineptocracies, but he has never allowed Rule of Law to be an impediment to this administration's political agenda.

Obama is crafting his latest blame-shifting cover story on the theme that insurance companies are the bad guys. But, the 2010 HHS regulations his administration wrote, and he signed into law, mandated that any policy adjustment in a plan after that enactment would require cancellation of that plan if it did not fully comply with ObamaCare's “comprehensive coverage” requirements. Now, with a wave of his magic wand, Obama says none of that applies, and that, as long as state insurance commissioners permit it, insurance companies can continue to offer the plans that they previously had to cancel due to regulations. In other words, he put this 600 lb. gorilla on the back of state commissioners and insurance companies.

As noted, Obama has no authority to enforce this proposed retrofit – or, as he put it, to “improve” the law. But he has a history of “selective law enforcement” according to his political agenda, and in the case of ObamaCare, he already unilaterally declined to enforce the employer mandate – now he's unilaterally declining to enforce the coverage mandate, at least until after the 2014 elections. He admits “we did fumble the ball” on the rollout, which directly affects a person's ability to replace a plan that was forcibly cancelled. He claims he only wants to fix what he broke. Apparently, Bill Clinton, who declared that Obama ought to let the American people “keep what they got,” is now calling the shots.

In reality, Obama's executive action is an effort to preempt a lawful Republican legislative correction to ObamaCare, aptly titled the “Keep Your Health Plan Act” – scheduled for a vote Friday. Many panicking Democrats were hinting at voting for the bill, mainly to save their own skin in 2014, but that would be too embarrassing for the president. He even threatened to veto the bill, likely because it would bolster private competition for his exchanges, and he simply can't tolerate that.

Responding to Obama's latest alteration, America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) warned that his fix will “destabilize the market” and drive prices higher. Insurance industry analyst Robert Laszewksi explained, “This means that the insurance companies have [six weeks] to reprogram their computer systems for policies, rates, and eligibility, send notices to the policyholders via US Mail, send a very complex letter that describes just what the differences are between specific policies and Obamacare compliant plans, ask the consumer for their decision – and give them a reasonable time to make that decision – and then enter those decisions back into their systems without creating massive billing, claim payment, and provider eligibility list mistakes. All by January 1.” And Obama could not get the website operational in three years with $600 million.



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