Friday, February 07, 2014

The Left still hanker after Communism

While Soviet Russia existed, the Western Left defended it to the end.  Their over-riding goal at that time was to get the West to lay down its arms so that the Soviets could take over everywhere:  The so-called "Peace" movement.  As with the Left today, no facts could shake them from their beliefs and objectives.

An article has recently appeared in the iconic Leftist "Salon" magazine which shows that the love of Communism has not disappeared.  Leftists are still defending it. It's a pretty feeble effort  -- as ever.  I reproduce two parts of it below:

Communism killed 110 million* people for resisting dispossession

For one thing, a large number of the people killed under Soviet communism weren’t the kulaks everyone pretends to care about but themselves communists. Stalin, in his paranoid cruelty, not only had Russian revolutionary leaders assassinated and executed, but indeed exterminated entire communist parties. These people weren’t resisting having their property collectivized; they were committed to collectivizing property. It is also worth remembering that the Soviets had to fight a revolutionary war – against, among others, the US – which, as the American Revolution is enough to show, doesn’t mainly consist of group hugs. They also faced (and heroically defeated) the Nazis, who were not an ocean away, but right on their doorstep.

So much for the USSR. The most horrifying episode in 20th Century official Communism was the Great Chinese Famine, its death toll difficult to identify, but surely in the tens of millions. Several factors evidently contributed to this atrocity, but central to it was Mao’s “Great Leap Forward,” a disastrous combination of applied pseudoscience, stat-juking, and political persecution designed to transform China into an industrial superpower in the blink of an eye. The experiment’s results were extremely grim, but to claim that the victims died because they, in their right minds, would not volunteer for “a left-wing dream” is ludicrous. Famine is not a uniquely “left-wing” problem.

21st Century American communism would resemble 20th century Soviet and Chinese horrors.

Before their revolutions, Russia and China were pre-industrial, agricultural, largely illiterate societies whose masses were peasants spread out over truly vast expanses of land. In the United States today, robots make robots, and less than 2% of population works in agriculture. These two states of affairs are incalculably dissimilar. The simple invocation of the former therefore has no value as an argument about the future of the American economy.

For me, communism is an aspiration, not an immediately achievable state. It, like democracy and libertarianism, is utopian in that it constantly strives toward an ideal, in its case the non-ownership of everything and the treatment of everything – including culture, people’s time, the very act of caring, and so forth – as dignified and inherently valuable rather than as commodities that can be priced for exchange. Steps towards that state of affairs needn’t include anything as scary as the wholesale and immediate abolition of markets (after all, markets predate capitalism by several millennia and communists love a good farmer’s market). Rather, I contend they can even include reforms with support among broadly ideologically divergent parties.

Given the technological, material, and social advances of the last century, we could expect an approach to communism beginning here and now to be far more open, humane, democratic, participatory and egalitarian than the Russian and Chinese attempts managed. I’d even argue it would be easier now than it was then to construct a set of social relations based on fellowship and mutual aid (as distinct from capitalism’s, which are characterized by competition and exclusion) such as would be necessary to allow for the eventual “withering away of the state” that libertarians fetishize, without replaying the Middle Ages (only this time with drones and metadata)



ALL Communist revolutions have been bloody.  They know no other way

Excerpt from ALG in reply to the above mealy-mouthed tripe:

The truth, however, is that Communism has proven itself a cancer that demands unto itself a revolution baptized in the blood of human beings unwilling to subjugate themselves to the will of the sovereign man in his collective expression: the socialist state.

But Karl Marx’s vision was not one of peace or democracy. Marx was a man of violent action. The famous last lines of the Communist Manifesto read, “The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.”

In the United States centuries and decades past, there was a practical middle ground between the polar political persuasions. Some question, and rightly so, why the same is conspicuously absent from today’s political environment.

The fact is, there is no middle ground between the socialist and lover of individual responsibility, achievement, and liberty. At the end of the day, conservative annihilation is a necessary means to a socialist utopian end.



More community organizing at work

Trader Joe’s wanted to build a new store in Portland, Oregon. Instead of heading to a tony neighborhood downtown or towards the suburbs, the popular West Coast grocer chose a struggling area of Northeast Portland.

The company selected two acres along Martin Luther King Blvd. that had been vacant for decades. It seemed like the perfect place to create jobs, improve customer options and beautify the neighborhood. City officials, the business community, and residents all seemed thrilled with the plan. Then some community organizers caught wind of it.

The fact that most members of the Portland African-American Leadership Forum didn’t live in the neighborhood was beside the point. “This is a people’s movement for African-Americans and other communities, for self-determination,” member Avel Gordly said in a press conference. Even the NAACP piled on, railing against the project as a “case study in gentrification.” (The area is about 25 percent African-American.)

After a few months of racially tinged accusations and angry demands, Trader Joe’s decided it wasn’t worth the hassle. “We run neighborhood stores and our approach is simple,” a corporate statement said. “If a neighborhood does not want a Trader Joe's, we understand, and we won't open the store in question.”

Hours after Trader Joe’s pulled out, PAALF leaders arrived at a previously scheduled press conference trying to process what just happened. The group re-issued demands that the now-cancelled development include affordable housing, mandated jobs based on race, and a small-business slush fund. Instead, the only demand being met is two fallow acres and a lot of anger from the people who actually live nearby.

“All of my neighbors were excited to have Trader Joe’s come here and replace a lot that has always been empty,” said Nghi Tran. “It’s good quality for poor men.” Like many residents, Tran pins the blame on PAALF. “They don’t come to the neighborhood cleanups,” he said. “They don’t live here anymore.”

“There are no winners today,” said Adam Milne, owner of an area restaurant. “Only missed tax revenue, lost jobs, less foot traffic, an empty lot and a boulevard still struggling to support its local small businesses.” The store was to be built by a local African American-owned construction company.

Artist Kymberly Jeka insisted “this is not what the neighborhood people want. This is terrible.” Grayson Dempsey looked out of her window at the vacant lot: “I appreciate that (PAALF) is trying to talk about the origins of gentrification. That’s really essential, but they can’t stand up and say, ‘As residents of the King neighborhood, this is what we want.’ The residents of the King neighborhood want this to happen.”

Sometimes a community doesn’t want to be organized.

But have no fear, Portland. You might not have a new Trader Joe’s, but PAALF promised to hold a “community visioning process” later this month. No word yet if that brainstorming session will offer jobs, affordable housing or Two-Buck Chuck.



The Bay State's model of health care 'reform': Wait for it

by Jeff Jacoby

IS MASSACHUSETTS, now in its seventh year under Chapter 58, the health-care overhaul signed into law by Governor Mitt Romney in 2006, a preview of what the rest of the country can expect under ObamaCare? If so, my fellow Americans, you'd better get used to waiting.

According to a national survey of approximately 1,400 medical practices in 15 major metropolitan markets, the average wait for new patients scheduling a non-emergency doctor appointment between June and November 2013 was 18.5 days. In Boston, however, patients had to wait an average of 45 days, and considerably more than that for some specialties. The wait was 66 days to see a family physician and 72 days to see a dermatologist.

With 450 doctors per 100,000 residents, Boston has a higher ratio of physicians to population than any other metro market in the study, which was conducted by Merritt Hawkins, a Texas-based health care search and consulting firm. All other things being equal, such an abundance of providers ought to mean shorter waits for an appointment, not the longest in the country.

But all other things haven't been equal for Massachusetts, especially since the enactment of Chapter 58. Romney accurately predicted that the law would be "a model for the nation," and indeed it was the template of the Affordable Care Act — as President Obama and many Democrats have readily acknowledged. Which suggests that what's happening in Boston is unlikely to stay in Boston.

"Long wait times in Boston may be driven in part by the health-care reform initiative that was put in place in Massachusetts in 2006," the new study notes. As the share of residents without health coverage has shrunk to 3 percent, "many patients in Massachusetts are encountering difficulty in accessing physicians. . . . Long appointment wait times in Boston could be a precursor of what is to come nationally should some 25 million people or more eventually obtain health insurance through the ACA."

The Massachusetts Medical Society raises similar concerns. In a statewide survey last year, it found that half of primary-care practices were not accepting new patients. Among those that were, wait times averaged 39 days for an appointment with a family physician, and 50 days for an internist. The numbers have fluctuated over the years. But the trend is clear, and disturbing: The share of family physicians and internists available to new patients has dropped by one-fifth over the last seven to nine years.

Health insurance doesn't guarantee accessible and affordable health care, not even in the state with the nation's highest concentration of medical providers. Through a combination of penalties, subsidies, mandates, and moral suasion, Massachusetts has succeeded in achieving near-universal insurance coverage for Bay State residents. But that doesn't mean that those residents are getting the care they need, from the providers they prefer, at prices they can afford. Chapter 58 hasn't brought down health-insurance premiums, as its proponents were sure it would. Nor has it saved the commonwealth millions of dollars, freeing Beacon Hill to concentrate on other public priorities.

Last fall, amid the disastrous rollout of the ObamaCare exchanges, the president flew to Boston to defend the law in a speech at Faneuil Hall, where Romney had signed the Massachusetts legislation seven years earlier. "I'm confident these marketplaces will work," Obama said, "because Massachusetts has shown that the model works.

What Massachusetts really shows is that it's possible, in a state where roughly 90 percent of population already had health insurance, to deploy an elaborate series of carrots and sticks and boost coverage levels to about 97 percent. Beyond that, as the Pioneer Institute's health-policy analyst Joshua Archambault demonstrated in a series of eye-catching graphics at the time of Obama's Boston visit, the Massachusetts experiment only confirms that health-care reform is a lot easier to proclaim than to accomplish.

Romney's law didn't make a dent in the number of patients showing up in the state's emergency rooms. It didn't keep insurance premiums from racing ahead of inflation. It didn't relieve taxpayers from having to pour hundreds of millions of dollars annually into more and more "free" care for safety-net users.

And it hasn't made it any easier to get a doctor's appointment without a long wait.

Andrew Dreyfus, the CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, often introduces himself to out-of-state audiences by telling them: "I am from the future." Now there's a scary thought.




Report from the inimitable Phyllis Chesler:  "My trip through Security at JFK this afternoon was slowed when one of the agents spotted me holding a copy of the Jewish Press. He found it suspicious, brought it to another agent, and they had a discussion. At that point, my bags were opened and searched. Meanwhile, a woman in niqab – a veil covering the entire face except the eyes -- walked through without incident. I saw no one ask her to lift the veil to check her actual identity against her documents. [Phyllis is an elderly NYC Jewish lady so does not need anyone else to blow her trumpet but nonetheless let me recommend her latest book: here.  I admire her sincerity]

Gibson Strikes Back:  "In 2011, two Tennessee factories of the Gibson Guitar Corporation were raided by federal authorities, who seized guitars, office files and pallets of exotic wood used in the manufacture of instruments, including East Indian rosewood. The raid was conducted on the basis of India's law that discourages the processing of this wood outside India; the company did not violate any American laws. Now that the dust has settled, Gibson is introducing a new guitar series made from the very same wood targeted by the feds. According to Gibson, “Great Gibson electric guitars have long been a means of fighting the establishment, so when the powers that be confiscated stocks of tonewoods from the Gibson factory in Nashville – only to return them once there was a resolution and the investigation ended – it was an event worth celebrating.” That's a tune we love to hear!

Poster girl representing hard-working, low-paid 'American' in President Obama's minimum wage ad is actually a British woman on a LONDON train:  "In a new ad by a political action group affiliated with President Barack Obama urging the U.S. Congress to raise the minimum wage, one of the featured hardworking, underpaid taxpayers is not like the other. The nonprofit Organizing for America, which formed out of the President's campaign and is run by 2012 campaign manager Jim Messina, used what appears to be stock footage showing a woman on London's Overground commuter train.  The train car where the young woman is standing is empty enough to see the unmistakable yellow chairs and railings of Overground trains that run between central London and the suburbs."


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.

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Thursday, February 06, 2014

Bible critics assume what they have to prove

They say that domestic camels arrived in Israel after the times that the Bible says.  But they admit that some camel bones dated from earlier periods have been found.  To fit their theory they say that the earlier finds "probably belonged to wild camels".  How do they know?  They don't.  They are just assuming what they have to prove.

A more reasonable summary of the findings would be to say that most people were too poor in earlier periods for many of them to own camels  -- hence the rarity of camel remains in those earlier periods.

Dromedary camels are thought to have first been domesticated by humans in Arabia around 3,000 BC.  Considering that Arabia and Israel share a land border, how absurd is it to say that domestic camels were unknown in Israel at that time?

Atheists really give me the pip sometimes, even though I am one myself.  Why do they have to keep denigrating faith?  It seems childish and insecure to me

Camels are mentioned in Biblical stories involving Abraham, Joseph and Jacob as well as other famous characters.  But archaeologists have found that the mammals were not domesticated in Israel until centuries after famous figures were said to have ridden them.

They claim this shows that text in the Bible was compiled long after the events described in it and challenges the holy book as a historical document.

Camels were not domesticated in Israel until centuries after the Age of the Patriarchs – when Abraham, Jacob and Issac are said to have lived - between 2,000 and 1,500 BC.

Dr Erez Ben-Yosef and Dr Lidar Sapir-Hen of Tel Aviv University's Department of Archaeology and Near Eastern Cultures used radiocarbon dating to pinpoint the moment when domesticated camels arrived in the southern Levant.

They found camels came in the 9th century BC, not the 12th as previously thought.

‘The introduction of the camel to our region was a very important economic and social development,’ Dr Ben-Yosef said.

‘By analysing archaeological evidence from the copper production sites of the Aravah Valley, we were able to estimate the date of this event in terms of decades rather than centuries,’ he said.

It is believed that camels were originally domesticated in the Arabian Peninsula for use as pack animals sometime towards the end of the second millennium BC.

The oldest known domesticated camel bones were discovered in the Aravah Valley, in the southern Levant, which runs along the Israeli-Jordanian border from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea and come from a time when the valley was an ancient centre for copper production.

Dr Ben-Yosef dated an Aravah Valley copper smelting camp where the domesticated camel bones were found in 2009 and discovered they dated to between the 11th and 9th century BC.

He led another dig in the area in 2013 to determine exactly when domesticated camels appeared in the southern Levant.

Together with Dr Sapir-Hen, he used radiocarbon dating and other techniques to analyse the findings of these digs as well as several others done in the valley.

In all the digs, they found that camel bones were unearthed almost exclusively in archaeological layers dating from the last third of the 10th century BC or later – centuries after the patriarchs lived and decades after the Kingdom of David, according to the Bible.

The few camel bones found in earlier archaeological layers probably belonged to wild camels, which archaeologists think were in the southern Levant from the Neolithic period or even earlier.



LOL!  I rather naughtily left a pitfall in my comments above.  A reader writes to me  that Israel has Southern borders only with Egypt and Jordan.  It has no borders with Saudi Arabia.  That is true.  But I did not mention  Saudi Arabia.  I spoke of Arabia.  Jordan is part of Arabia.  Look at any map of the area for starters.


CBO: Obamacare Driving Millions Out of Work Force, Price Tag Tops $2 Trillion

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) determined in early 2011 that the president's healthcare overhaul would cost the US economy 800,000 jobs. Democrats balked at the figure, insisting that the new law would be a job creation boon. Nancy Pelosi said a fully-implemented Obamacare program would create four million American jobs -- and 400,000 "almost immediately:"

Implementation is upon us, and the CBO has revised its numbers:

 The Affordable Care Act will also reduce the number of fulltime workers by more than 2 million in coming years, congressional budget analysts said in the most detailed analysis of the law’s impact on jobs. The CBO said the law’s impact on jobs would be mostly felt starting after 2016. The agency previously estimated that the economy would have 800,000 fewer jobs as a result of the law. The impact is likely to be most felt, the CBO said, among low-wage workers. The agency said that most of the effect would come from Americans deciding not to seek work as a result of the ACA’s impact on the economy. Some workers may forgo employment, while others may reduce hours, for a equivalent of at least 2 million fulltime workers dropping out of the labor force.

The official numbers indicate that more than two million Americans will simply leave the work force (the workforce participation rate is already at a 36-year low) over the next four years as a result of the "Affordable" Care Act.

Democrats' sunny expectations were only off by about six million jobs -- in the wrong direction. NBC's Chuck Todd notices that the nonpartisan data reinforces Republicans' warnings about the law from day one.

The GOP campaign ads practically write themselves. This law is increasing national healthcare spending, raising premiums and out-of-pocket costs for millions, kicking people off of their preferred plans, limiting patients' access to care, contributing to deficits, and drastically reducing employment.

Panicked lefties online are squealing that the report merely states that people will choose to leave the workforce, not that Obamacare will directly kill jobs, per se. Good luck with that argument. Over the next few years, millions fewer Americans will get up in the morning and go to work because of Obamacare's impact on the economy.

The report's authors have concluded that the healthcare reform discourages work. That's horrible, unspinnable news. Attempts to spin it will sound desperate and tone deaf. The public will not buy "less people working" as anything other than bad news.

Another note from the CBO document: Democrats touted a $900 billion price tag for the law in 2010, citing a cynically-manufactured CBO score. What will the first ten years of Obamacare cost now that it's in full swing? More than $2 trillion. Beyond that, the government's projected Obamacare enrollment total for 2014 has dropped by one million people. Paul Ryan's office also notes that on our current path, the annual deficit is expect to shrink to "only" $514 billion next year (Bush's average deficit was in the neighborhood of $250 billion, even with two active wars), but it will begin a steady climb after 2015, hitting $1 trillion within eight years:

Our short-term deficits problem isn't good. Our long-term obligations crisis is a disaster, and Democrats have no solutions to fix it -- aside from raising taxes on "the rich," which they've already done, and won't work.



Unaffordable and Uncaring

We all knew there would be incredible transition pains from ObamaCare, and thus far the Affordable Care Act has predictably turned out to be anything but what its name implies. The latest is news that those who made mistakes in signing up via and later found out they're paying too much for coverage are trapped in a situation where there is no hope for change. In the case of one 27-year-old West Virginian, a botched calculation in her subsidy is costing her $100 more a month for her policy and an extra $4,000 on her deductible – bad news for her given that she needed gall bladder surgery in January. Unfortunately, even after she learned of the mistake, her appeal is stuck in a bureaucratic loop because the appeals system for the online signup is non-functional.

Others are finding out the hard way that premiums are going to be taking a much larger slice of their paycheck than falsely advertised. A Pennsylvania television station was on location when workers at a small business learned of the cost of their new group plan. To put it mildly, few of them considered it “affordable.” Others are seeing more modest premium increases, or even small decreases, but will have to bear steep out-of-pocket costs on deductibles or co-pays to keep their premiums in check.

As this sort of news trickles out through the gatekeeping Leftmedia, support for the ACA among the uninsured is dropping – a nearly 2-to-1 margin now view ObamaCare unfavorably. However, the same Kaiser poll showed respondents would rather fix the bill than kill it, and Republicans seem more willing to oblige. Since dozens of repeal votes went nowhere with the Senate or the president, GOP efforts are beginning to focus on realistic repairs to the system such as tax credits, allowing insurance to be sold across state lines, necessary tort reform, and a revived emphasis on health savings accounts.

While any and all aspects of ObamaCare are subject to change at the whim of namesake Barack Obama, the general feeling among those who were told that we had to “pass it to find out what was in it” is that we got a raw deal. Even though recent focus has been on the disaster of rolling out the online portion of ObamaCare, the balky website is the least of its problems.



Retirees not the ones to worry about, it is young people

The precipitous drop in the nation’s labor participation rate has fueled a debate amongst economic prognosticators about what it means for America’s economy.  Some, like the Philadelphia Federal Reserve’s Shigeru Fujita, say the rate is declining naturally due to our nation’s population aging and Baby Boomers hitting retirement age.

Others, like this author, have pointed to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data showing seniors are actually participating in the workforce at an even greater percentage than in the past.

On January 15, I wrote a piece published at, “Retirees are not the labor exodus problem,” in which I assembled data on contributions to the declining labor force participation rate, now at a 36-year low.

Since 2008, the civilian non-institutional population has jumped by 11.9 million, yet the civilian labor force has only increased by 1.1 million, according to annual figures published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

As a result, the participation rate has dropped from almost 66 percent throughout 2008 to its current level of 62.8 percent, the lowest it’s been since 1978.

In the Forbes piece, I noted that those 65 years old and over, because they were working longer, had added 1.13 percent to the labor participation rate, and those 55-64 years old added another 2.39 percent to it.

That in short, if older Americans were not working longer, the participation rate would be even lower than it already is. And that is certainly true.

However, after continuing to evaluate this issue, it became clear that this did not tell the whole story.

What it left out was who was not participating, and how old they are, numbers critical to making the case that the collapse of labor participation is a retirement problem.

To put this dilemma about what is happening in the U.S. workforce into perspective, younger Americans are certainly participating less. The participation rate for those aged 16-24 has dropped from 61.56 percent in 2003 to an average annual 55.05 percent in 2013. 25-54 year olds’ participation rate dropped from 82.98 percent to 82.01 percent.

This is a major problem as younger Americans are failing to enter the labor force and get their careers started.

Yet, younger Americans make a significantly smaller percentage of the population now. Those between the ages of 16 and 54 used to make up 71.9 percent of the non-institutional population in 2003. Now, they only make up 66.4 percent. This shift in population has made a tremendous difference in terms of the reported labor participation rate.

So has the increase of older Americans as a percentage of the population. Those aged 55 and older have increased from 28 percent of the overall population to 33.6 percent in just 10 years.

All of these factors show based on an Americans for Limited Government study of Bureau data that those aged 65 and older added 1.04 percent to non-participation. Those aged 55-64 added 0.95 percent to non-participation. 25-54 added 0.13 percent to non-participation. And 16-24 added 0.87 percent.

So even though older Americans are working longer and contributed to a net increase in participation, because they make up such a larger percent of the population, they simultaneously drove up the non-participation rate.

And although younger Americans are participating less, because they make up a smaller percent of the population, this limited their impact on non-participation.

In short, the aging workforce and retirees have unquestionably driven the participation rate lower, by almost 2 percent, accounting for about two-thirds of the drop.

All that said, poor labor market conditions have undeniably prevented about 4.9 million younger and middle-aged Americans from working or even looking for work — because there’s no work to be found. This too has driven labor participation lower, by 1 percent.

The 4.9 million are spread almost evenly between 2.5 million 16-24 year olds and 2.4 million 25-54 years olds. If these Americans were included in the labor force, the unemployment rate today would be about 9.5 percent or so, and not the 6.7 percent currently reported.

This underscores the continued weakness of the labor market, more than five years after the financial crisis.

It remains true that retirees are not the labor exodus problem. They are not the ones we need to worry about. It is those younger failing to enter the labor force who are not going to be able to get ahead that deserve our attention.

Even when the role of retirees are properly taken into account over the past decade, the fact remains that the current economy is not producing nearly as many jobs as it once did. And until it does, the impact on younger Americans trying to get their start will continue to be devastating — a sustained lost generation of opportunity.



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, February 05, 2014

Your racist family may just be feeling left out (?)

They draw that conclusion from the attitudes of 50 German students to the building of a mosque.  Attitudes to mosque building indicate racism?  I would have thought that they indicated attitudes to a vile religion.  This study is hardly even an  attempt at social science

YOU know that grandmother you have that seems to just be racist for no reason? Well, a new study out of Germany has revealed it's most likely because she feels left out.

The new research suggests that a narrow-mindset or racism can be triggered when someone feels ostracised or excluded.

The report reads that feeling excluded from a desirable social group threatens a person's "sense of personal control". This then leaves the person to reassert their control by putting down or making derogatory comments towards that group or minority.

The research was conducted around 50 students who were asked a series of questions about their approval on building a mosque, with 75% of those who felt excluded consistently opposing the idea.

"When threatened by uncertainty, people identify more strongly with extremist or ethnocentric groups," the researchers write. "Engaging in radicalism may reduce feelings of uncertainty by restoring a sense of predictability and controllability in one's social world."



Danielle Steel’s Amazing Ex-Husband

Thomas James Perkins is a stud. If he weren’t an octogenarian, I’d ask for his hand in marriage because he courageously and eloquently defends free market capitalism.

Perkins is the founder of the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB). He is also the ex-husband of the world’s reigning best-selling author alive: American novelist and San Francisco resident Danielle Steel.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal published a three-paragraph op-ed by Perkins in which he defended free market economics. The liberal media, especially the Silicon Valley tech blogs, went up in arms. HOW could he have the audacity to defend capitalism?!

Perkins basically expressed disappointment in “a rising tide of hatred of the successful,” including his ex-wife Steel. Despite the fact that she had donated millions of dollars to the San Francisco community, Perkins bemoaned that the San Francisco Chronicle continued to libel Steel as a ‘snob.’ He compared the attack against the successful one percent in America to fascist Nazi Germany’s attack on the Jews.

Valley Wag, a Gawker Media gossip blog about Silicon Valley celebrities, called Perkins’s op-ed: “one of the most disgustingly tone deaf statements on class tensions we've ever seen.” Media Bistro was appalled WSJ had the gall to “allow” Perkins to voice his opinion. Salon used imagery to compare Perkins to a villain in the movies. And on and on.

It’s interesting how quick these bloggers were to attack a capitalist. After all, most of them probably idolize one of the biggest free market entrepreneurs of all time: Steve Jobs, the late co-founder of Apple. If they took the time to read Walter Isaacson’s terrific biography of Jobs, they would learn that Jobs was a capitalist, not a socialist.

Perkins has a point. Progressives are looking for a fight; an unreasonable and puerile war against self-made success. Remember how on the 2012 campaign trail, Obama said: “If you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own.” And remember how he said the same thing but in a different way last week during his 2014 State of the Union address?

Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled. The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by; let alone to get ahead. And too many still aren't working at all. So our job is to reverse these trends.

Since he can’t blame Bush any longer, Obama is now trying to blame his historically slow recovery on the greed of the rich who cling to their profits, while offering a “solution” of more government intervention. In fact, Obama has had five years to reverse the trends of rising poverty and unemployment.

His “new” ideas sound exactly the same as those he peddled back in 2008. For example, during the 2014 SOTU, Obama said: “one of the biggest factors in bringing more jobs back is our commitment to American energy.” Oh, really? Well then why hasn’t he approved the northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline? Keystone XL could mean thousands of jobs and it would help the U.S. move away from dependence on Middle Eastern oil.

The U.S. State Department has thrice indicated that the XL pipeline is environmentally safe, but apparently that is not good enough for Obama. He’d rather tell the American public during his SOTU that “solar” holds the future for American energy. (He conveniently forgot to name all of the solar companies that went bankrupt after receiving taxpayer dollars.)

Why do you think it’s possible for Obama to receive cheers and applause when he says: “Let's continue that progress with a smarter tax policy that stops giving $4 billion a year to fossil fuel industries that don't need it so we can invest more in fuels of the future that do.” After all, we all rely on and need energy in some way. If it weren’t for companies like ExxonMobil and Chevron, we would not enjoy the same high quality of life.

Obama can get away with attacking big oil because he is not interested in telling the truth. With a complete straight face, he exaggerates the potential of solar. Without a twinge of guilt, he encourages Americans to envy the rich instead encouraging them to work harder and aspire toward their own self-made success.

We need more men and women like Tom Perkins who are willing to speak up and defend the truth about economic freedom. Remember: sticks and stones can break your bones but the words of a progressive can never hurt you.



Another Example Of Obama’s ‘Affordable’ Healthcare

In another example of just how affordable Obamacare is making health insurance for average Americans, Simonetta’s Collision Repair Center, a small business in Pennsylvania, shared its story of huge premium and deductible increases for its employees’ health insurance plans with a local news station.

According to WTAE-PA, the small business’s employee premiums have jumped from a 6 percent increase last year to a whopping 32 percent increase for this year and co-pays have doubled from $20 to $40. In addition, employees with children had their deductibles doubled from $2000 to $4000 thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

“They call it the ‘Affordable Health Plan’. There’s nothing affordable about it. I can’t afford it,” one employee said.

Business owner Gary Simonetta told the station that his healthcare premium now costs him an additional $500 per month, an increase of 63 percent.

Another Simonetta employee, whose premium jumped from $900 to over $1300 per month, said of Obamacare, “I don’t know how President Obama thinks that he’s helping us. We can’t afford this. We can’t afford to pay these co-pays, or these deductibles, on what we’re making.”



The Man Who Would Be King

Obama was elected to administer the law, not make it

Other than his fundamental dishonesty about certain conditions in America, what he stands for, his record, his failure to accept responsibility for his actions, his demonization, his divisive rhetoric, his arrogant promise to double down on his unconstitutional unilateral executive actions, his calls for yet more government instead of less, his foreign policy distortions and his diminution of the presidential office, President Obama's State of the Union address was pretty good.

President Obama remains on his high horse about minimum wage, but he conveniently ignores that only 1 percent of the people in the U.S. labor force earn minimum wage, that the largest group among them is teenagers, that most are younger than 25, that most work less than 30 hours a week and that there are more than six times more minimum wage workers now than there were in 2007, shortly before he took office. More importantly, he doesn't admit that increases to minimum wage invariably lead to increased unemployment.

He continued his phony GOP war on women meme with his distortion of the employment pay disparity between men and women. He has to know that it is outright misleading to imply that women who are in the same jobs as men are paid only 77 cents for every dollar the men are paid. Studies show that women who are doing the same work as men receive less, but it's closer to 91 cents for every dollar.

He boasted that "more than 9 million Americans have signed up for private health insurance or Medicaid coverage." He failed to mention that because of Obamacare, more than 5 million Americans have been forced out of their private plans and that many are losing access to their doctors. He didn't say that his law robs $700 billion from Medicare to finance unnecessary new health care spending under Obamacare. He omitted Obamacare's deliberate assault on religious freedom. Nor did he discuss his lawless edicts exempting entities from the law's mandates.

Obama says he has cut the deficit in half. That's only close to true if you use as a base line Bush's last (partial) fiscal year, which was an extraordinary year because of the financial crisis. He's probably the biggest spender in the history of the universe. His current deficit is about twice Bush's average deficit, and if it weren't for Republicans forcing spending cuts, it would be much higher. Obama blocks reform of entitlements, which will bankrupt the nation unless restructured, and if he had his way, he'd further increase spending, with more "stimulus" and infrastructure schemes.

Obama says we have "the lowest unemployment rate in over five years," conveniently ignoring that we have the lowest labor participation rate in decades and that some 50 million people are on food stamps! His spending, taxing and regulations are killing the job market.

Obama touted the American people's "profound belief in opportunity for all." "Opportunity," he said, "is who we are." No one believes that "he" is part of that "we." If he truly cared about opportunity, he would loosen his stranglehold on the private sector and promote jobs. He would quit opposing work requirements in welfare reform and stop sabotaging the labor market with his minimum wage and unemployment extension agenda.

Obama dovetailed this counterfeit fealty to opportunity with his demagoguery about income inequality. But his own policies are exacerbating income inequality, and he has no solutions to alleviate it -- other than to use government to confiscate the assets of some Americans and give them to others. He can't talk about upward mobility on the one hand and then do everything in his power to discourage people from helping themselves on the other.

In a staggering display of dishonesty, he took credit for increased American production of oil and natural gas and claimed he supports energy independence. In the meantime, he impedes both industries -- and the coal industry -- and implements oppressive fuel omission standards. Any increases in energy production, other than his failed green projects, are in spite of him, not because of him. He's pushed for cap and trade, imposed energy taxes and demanded more onerous regulations on oil, gas and coal. And though global warming, er, climate change is a "fact" and "settled," we're freezing our buns off in the Midwest.

Obama impugns the "wealthy" at every opportunity, implying that most have acquired their money unfairly or through inheritance, which is demonstrably, statistically false. He vilifies Republicans while saying he wants us to all work together.

He says Republicans are only against things and not "for" anything. In fact, they've proposed countless reform plans, on health care, energy, taxes, spending, entitlements, defense and job creation. He knows better, but he has but one mode of operation: division, polarization and demonization.

If all this weren't bad enough, he promises even more unlawful unilateral action, as if he were king and not the head of one of three coequal branches of government. If he had his way, he would be.



More Obama-led destruction

President Obama introduced in this year’s State of the Union address his proposal to create new retirement accounts for, in the words of the White House, “the millions of low and middle-income households earning up to $191,000.” What they are calling “MyRAs.”

How could enhancing retirement savings not be a good idea? And, even better, it is a free lunch. Again in the words of the White House, “the account balance will never go down in value” and will be totally secure because it will be “backed by the U.S. government.”

President Obama is creating these accounts with the greatest of ease, without even a new law from Congress, by doing what he has done better than any president in American history. Drive the U.S. government into debt.

These wonderful new retirement accounts will receive bonds from the U.S. Government. And who guarantees them?

Please, dear reader, if you are a U.S. taxpayer, look in the mirror and say “me.”

If the State of the Union was really about the president informing Congress and the nation, he would have reported the following from the recent 2013 Long-Term Budget Outlook report of the Congressional Budget Office:

“Federal debt held by the public is now about 73 percent of the economy’s annual output…higher than at any point in U.S. history, except a brief period around World War II, and it is twice the percentage at the end of 2007.”

“CBO projects,” the report continues, “that federal debt held by the public would reach 100 percent of GDP by 2038….even without accounting for the harmful effects that growing debt would have on the economy.”

Meanwhile, as President Obama uses U.S. government bonds to create magical new risk-free retirement savings accounts, there was not a word in the State of the Union of the broken state of affairs of the government’s oldest retirement plan – Social Security.

According to Social Security’s latest trustees report, the revenue shortfall, in today’s dollars, of projected requirements of Social Security to meet its long-term obligations is $9.6 trillion. Beginning in 2033, when those now in their late forties start retiring, there will be only funds “sufficient to pay 77 percent of scheduled benefits.”

If the president really wants to enhance retirement savings of low and middle income Americans, and create real savings and investment while addressing the fiscal disaster of Social Security, let these folks opt out of the Social Security black hole and use those funds to open a real retirement account.



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, February 04, 2014

Governing by Pen and Phone

Obama used to sigh that he was not a dictator who could act unilaterally. No more.

Lately a weakened President Obama has fashioned a new attitude about consensual government: “We’re not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help they need. I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone,” Obama boasted Tuesday as he convened his first cabinet meeting of the year. At least he did not say he intended to govern by “pen and sword.” If Obama used to sigh to supporters that he was not a dictator who could just implement progressive agendas by fiat, he now seems to have done away with the pretense of regret.

Obama has all but given up on the third branch of government since he lost control of it in 2010: “And I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions and administrative actions that move the ball forward in helping to make sure our kids are getting the best education possible, making sure that our businesses are getting the kind of support and help they need to grow and advance, to make sure that people are getting the skills that they need to get those jobs that our businesses are creating.”

There are lots of creepy things about such dictatorial statements of moving morally backward in order to go politically “forward.” Concerning issues dear to the president’s heart — climate change, more gun control, de facto amnesty, more massive borrowing supposedly to jump-start the anemic, jobless recovery — Obama not long ago had a Democratic supermajority in the Senate and a strong majority in the House. With such rare political clout, he supposedly was going to pass his new American agenda.

Instead, all he got from his Democratic colleagues was more borrowing and Obamacare. In the case of the latter, the bill passed only through the sort of pork-barrel kickbacks and exemptions to woo fence-sitting Democratic legislators that we hadn’t seen in the U.S. since the 1930s. And for what? Obamacare (be careful what you wish for) is proving to be the greatest boondoggle in American political history since Prohibition. If Obama sincerely wished to work in bipartisan fashion with Congress, he probably could easily get a majority vote to build the Keystone XL Pipeline, or a backup sanction plan against Iran in case his own initiatives fail.

Note as well that Obama says he will bypass Congress for “our kids.” Politicians usually cite the “kids” when promoting something that is either illegal or unethical. Meanwhile, apart from Obama’s support for late-term abortion, no president has waged a greater war against those under the age of 30 — passing on to them an additional $9 trillion in debt, socializing the economy and presiding over near-record youth and minority unemployment rates, taxing far poorer youth who will not use much health care to pay for more affluent baby boomers who will, or floating easy federal student loans to facilitate mostly liberal universities’ jacking up tuition at well above the rate of inflation (currently a $1 trillion bubble).

We are reentering Nixonian times, or perhaps worse, given that a free press at least went after Nixon’s misdeeds and misadventures. Now it has silenced itself for fear of harming a once-in-century chance for a fellow progressive’s makeover of America. We live in an age when a CNN moderator interrupts a presidential debate to help her sputtering candidate, and when a writer for the often ironic and sarcastic New Yorker sees no irony in doing a fawning interview with the president, tagging along on a shakedown jet tour from one mansion of crony capitalists to the next — as Obama preaches to the head-nodders about inequality and fairness in order to ensure that the bundled checks pour in.

Without the media acting as a watchdog, the administration has with impunity found the IRS useful in going after political opponents. When Obama’s IRS appointees were exposed, he for the moment called their deeds outrageous; when the media did not pursue the outrage, he wrote it off as a nothing story.

The media certainly thought it was nothing, given that none of the obsequious Washington press corps will be unduly audited or indicted. But the administration has also monitored Associated Press reporters. Most of what it initially said about the National Security Agency snooping proved untrue — including Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s flat-out lie to Congress while under oath, when he testified that the NSA was not collecting data on millions of Americans. All we know for now about Benghazi is that everything the administration alleged about the murders was false — from why Americans were there, to what prompted the violence, to why no help was sent before or during the attack, to the aftermath promises to hunt down the perpetrators.

The filmmaker and arch-critic of Barack Obama, Dinesh D’Souza, is now under indictment for improper campaign contributions. If he deliberately violated campaign-finance laws and compounded the violation by conspiring with others, then by all means he should face the full force of the law. The problem, though, is that even if D’Souza proves to be guilty as charged, others with far greater culpability — but with the correct political views — have not met the same degree of administration scrutiny.

Note, for example, what D’Souza did not do: He did not, as an Obama insider in the heat of the reelection campaign, leak classified information about vital national-security secrets like the Stuxnet virus attacks, the bin Laden raid, the drone protocols, or a double agent in Yemen in order to bolster the anti-terrorism credentials of the president; he did not, as a high-level Obama official, lie under oath to Congress about the NSA program; he is not a former Democratic governor who defrauded thousands of investors out of billions of dollars. Apparently none of that will get you arrested by this administration.

Mr. D’Souza also did not, as did Obama himself, have a soon-to-be-jailed felon sell him a lot next to his own house at below-market rates, without paying gift taxes on it, in exchange for perceived political favors. He did not pass illegally into the United States and reside here illegally by habitually lying on documents about his resident status. He did not go to the polls with clubs to intimidate voters. He did not bundle $500,000 to buy an ambassorship to Norway without knowing much of anything about Norway. He did not pitch green ideas to friends now in the Obama administration in order to land millions of dollars in federal loans that he would default on.

He did, though, make a movie critical of Barack Obama, and this is most likely what brought him under administration scrutiny, as did the activities of a video maker arrested for producing a politically incorrect video about Islam, or those of unduly audited Tea Party groups or Hollywood conservatives who have criticized the president. All of that, in this age of pen and phone, can get you arrested, audited, or on the IRS watch list.

Note the ripple effect, as partisans appreciate a new climate and a once-in-a-lifetime chance to even scores and advance the cause. The governor of New York announces that there is no place in his state for those whom he derides as “extreme conservatives” — only to be seconded by the new mayor of New York City. (Imagine the governor of Utah suggesting to liberal residents that their support for gun control, late-term abortion, and gay marriage might be good reasons for them to leave the state — and being seconded by the mayor of Salt Lake City. Or imagine a Republican president arbitrarily deciding that he does not like the DREAM Act component of a recently passed comprehensive immigration-reform bill, and so simply choosing to ignore it and deport students who are illegal aliens anyway.)

The first black senator from South Carolina since Reconstruction is blasted by a state NAACP official as a “dummy,” only to have that slur seconded by the national organization. On MSNBC, one newscaster hopes Sarah Palin ingests feces and urine; another takes a jab at Mitt Romney for having an African-American adopted grandchild; still another labels radio personality Laura Ingraham a “slut” — all convinced that the periodic presidential sermon about a new civility empowers their crudity and deters critics.

Under Obama, who you are and what you represent rather than what you have done are becoming the selective criteria for pen-and-phone legal enforcement. For the first time since 1974, America is no longer quite a lawful place.



Hollywood, Propaganda and Liberal Politics

Jonah Goldberg

The legendary media tycoon William Randolph Hearst believed America needed a strongman and that Franklin D. Roosevelt would fit the bill. He ordered his newspapers to support FDR and the New Deal. At his direction, Hearst's political allies rallied around Roosevelt at the Democratic convention, which some believe sealed the deal for Roosevelt's nomination.

But all that wasn't enough. Hearst also believed the voters had to be made to see what could be gained from a president with a free hand. So he financed the film "Gabriel Over the White House," starring Walter Huston. The film depicts an FDR look-alike president who, after a coma-inducing car accident, is transformed from a passive Warren Harding type into a hands-on dictator. The reborn commander in chief suspends the Constitution, violently wipes out corruption and revives the economy through a national socialist agenda. When Congress tries to impeach him, he dissolves Congress.

The Library of Congress summarizes the film nicely. "The good news: He reduces unemployment, lifts the country out of the Depression, battles gangsters and Congress and brings about world peace. The bad news: He's Mussolini."

Hearst wanted to make sure the script got it right, so he sent it to what today might be called a script doctor, namely Roosevelt. FDR loved it, but he did have some changes, which Hearst eagerly accepted. A month into his first term, FDR sent Hearst a thank-you note. "I want to send you this line to tell you how pleased I am with the changes you made in 'Gabriel Over the White House,'" Roosevelt wrote. "I think it is an intensely interesting picture and should do much to help."

I bring up this tale to note that Hollywood has never been opposed to propaganda. When Hollywood's self-declared auteurs and artistes denounce propaganda as the enemy of art, almost invariably what they really mean is "propaganda we don't like."

Consider the film "Lone Survivor," which tells the true story of heroic Navy SEALs in Afghanistan. The film has been denounced by some critics; a "jingoistic, pornographic work of war propaganda," in the words of one reviewer. Richard Corliss of Time chimed in: "That these events actually happened doesn't necessarily make it plausible or powerful in a movie, or keep it from seeming like convenient propaganda." Similar complaints (from non-conservatives, at least) about antiwar films made during the George W. Bush years are much harder to find.

Similarly, if Demi Moore proclaimed, "I pledge to be a servant to our president," at the dawn of the Bush presidency, it would have created a career-ending firestorm.

When it was owned by GE -- a company with billions of dollars invested in subsidy-dependent alternative energy technologies -- NBC began its "Green Week," seven days of sitcoms, sports shows and even news programs doing their part for the cause. There was nary a word of protest from TV critics or supposedly independent writers and producers about the corruption of art. I wonder, if Fox announced a "pro-life week," whether the same crowd would yawn as conspicuously.

In the book, "Primetime Propaganda," author Ben Shapiro quotes many TV producers boasting about blacklisting conservative actors and shilling for liberal issues. As Shapiro notes, perhaps no figure was more upfront -- or successful -- at yoking art to political proselytizing than Norman Lear, the creator of "All in the Family," "The Jeffersons" and other shows.

Which is fitting. Last fall, the California Endowment, which is spending millions to promote the Affordable Care Act, gave $500,000 to the Norman Lear Center at USC to work on ways to get Hollywood to do its part. In February, the center will cosponsor with the Writer's Guild of America an event in New York titled "The Affordable Care Act: Comedy, Drama & Reality," about portraying Obamacare in TV and film. The Obama administration, naturally, will be sending an emissary to help.

It's doubtful this will have any significant effect. The rollout has made its impression, and the changes wrought by Obamacare in the individual lives of millions of Americans won't be erased by a very special episode of "The Big Bang Theory." But it's a useful reminder that Hollywood is always eager to lend its services -- for the right president.



Income gap? Not many are obsessed

by Jeff Jacoby

THOUGH PRESIDENT Obama keeps insisting that income inequality is the "defining challenge of our time," most Americans beg to differ.

"What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?" asked Gallup in a nationwide survey this month. Dissatisfaction with the federal government — its incompetence, abuse, dysfunction, venality — topped the list, with 21 percent of respondents saying it was their key concern. The overall state of the economy was second, at 18 percent. Unemployment and health care were tied for third, with each cited by 16 percent as the nation's most pressing problem.

How many shared Obama's view that the gap between rich and poor is the issue that should concern us most? Four percent.

The president has been banging this populist drum for years. As a candidate in 2008, he famously told "Joe the Plumber" that it was good for everybody when the government acts to "spread the wealth around." In 2011 he went to Osowatomie, Kan., site of a famous speech by Theodore Roosevelt a century earlier, to condemn the "gaping inequality" in modern America, where those at the top of the economic ladder are "wealthier than ever before," while everyone else struggles with growing bills and stagnant paychecks. He told the Center for American Progress last December that "increased inequality and decreasing mobility pose a fundamental threat to the American Dream," and warned that America's basic bargain — "if you work hard, you have a chance to get ahead" — is disintegrating.

Class-war rhetoric excites the Democratic base. There have always been some voters for whom nothing is more repellent than a growing gap between the rich and the non-rich, or a stronger justification for more government regulation. But most Americans don't react that way. "When is the last time you heard a shoeshine person or a taxicab driver complain about inequality?" asks economist John C. Goodman. "For most people, having a lot of rich people around is good for business."

Obsessing over other people's riches isn't healthy. In a relatively free society, wealth is typically earned. There are exceptions, of course. Some people cheat their way to a fortune; some are just lucky; some pull political strings.

But on the whole, Americans with a lot of money have usually produced more, worked harder, aimed higher, or seen further than the rest of us. Inequality is built into the human condition, and the world is generally better off when people of uncommon talent and industry are free to climb as high as their abilities will take them.



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, February 03, 2014

Having sisters: Another elephant discovered

An NYT writer, Charles Blow,  has come across some survey findings by Andrew Healy and Neil Malhotra to the effect that people who have sisters are more "sexist" and more likely to vote Republican. There have been all sorts of efforts to turn that finding into something discreditable to conservatives.  One theory is that where there are girls around boys get let off from helping with housework and think that is a good racket for the rest of their lives.

The key to understanding the finding is however the word "sexist".  It is of course largely a term of abuse.  The factual content to it is however that the "sexist" person thinks men and women are different.  Thinking that way does of course have all the evidence on its side but what Leftist ever cared about evidence?  So, to the Leftist, people who think that way are evil and are rightly referred to with a term of abuse.

Once we get past the abuse, however, the implications of the finding become self-evident:  Growing up with girls leaves you in no doubt about how different they are.  It is a reality check.  Those evil sexists are simply more in touch with how things actually are.

And that also explains the Republican orientation.  It is in fact probably more an anti-Democrat orientation.  Democrats are always preaching feminist nonsense so people who know from experience how much nonsense it is turn to the realistic party  -- the Republican party.

So I am once again a discoverer of elephants in rooms.  I have only pointed out the bleeding obvious -- but nothing as simple as "sexism" being realistic can enter a Leftist mind, of course.  To them the elephant is invisible.

Steve Sailer has some useful notes on the matter


The Poison of Postmodern Lying

All presidents at one time have fudged on the truth. Most politicians pad their resumes and airbrush away their sins. But what is new about political lying is the present notion that lies are not necessarily lies anymore -- a reflection of the relativism that infects our entire culture.

Postmodernism (the cultural fad "after modernism") went well beyond questioning norms and rules. It attacked the very idea of having any rules at all. Postmodernist relativists claimed that things like "truth" were mere fictions to preserve elite privilege. Unfortunately, bad ideas like that have a habit of poisoning an entire society -- and now they have.

Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis was recently caught fabricating her own autobiography. She exaggerated her earlier ordeals, lied about the age at which she divorced and was untruthful about how she paid for her Harvard Law School education.

When caught, Davis did not apologize for lying. Instead, she lamely offered that, "My language should be tighter." Apparently, only old fogies still believe in truth and falsehood -- period. In contrast, Davis knows that promoting a progressive feminist agenda is "truth," and she only needs to be "tighter" about her fabrications to neutralize her reactionary critics.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren for years falsely claimed that she was a Native American. That fabricated ancestry proved useful in upping her career trajectory. When pressed about her racial background during her 2012 campaign, the Harvard law professor denied any deliberate misrepresentation and went on to be elected. Such progressive crusaders assume that they serve the greater truth of social change.

In the gospel of postmodern relativism, what did it matter if the president of the United States promised that Obamacare would not alter existing health-care plans when it was clear that it would? Instead, the good intentions of universal health care are the only truth that matters.

For that matter, the "law" that requires a president to enforce legislation passed by the Congress is likewise a construct. If ignoring bothersome laws -- whether the individual mandate and timetable of Obamacare, or federal immigration law -- serves a greater social justice, then such dereliction also becomes "truth." Blindly enforcing legalistic details of the law that are deemed no longer in the interest of the people would be the real lie, or so the reasoning goes.

Without notions of objective truth, there can never be lies, just competing narratives and discourses. Stories that supposedly serve the noble majority are true; those that supposedly don't become lies -- the facts are irrelevant. When Sen. Hillary Clinton in 2007 heard the factual details of the successful Iraq surge as related by Gen. David Petraeus, she said it required a "suspension of disbelief." In her postmodern sensibility, fighting an unpopular war was a lie, but opposing it was the truth -- and the actual metrics for whether the surge was working or not were simply an irrelevant narrative.

Later, as secretary of state, Clinton dismissed the circumstances surrounding the murders in Benghazi with the callous exclamation, "What difference does it make?" She had a postmodern point. If President Obama, then-United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice and Clinton herself all wrongly and deliberately assured the nation that a politically incorrect video had triggered the attacks in Benghazi, were they not on the right side of opposing religious bias and helping a progressive president to be re-elected? How could that good intention be a lie?

If Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lied under oath to the Congress that the National Security Agency does not snoop on American citizens, how can that be perjury if Clapper's goal was to silence Obama's right-wing critics? For that matter, if Clapper wanted to show tolerance for Islamists, how could it be a lie when he testified earlier that the radical Muslim Brotherhood was "largely secular"?

By what arbitrary rules can one claim that "Piss Christ" or other provocative anti-Christian art is blasphemous or inferior, if its apparent purpose is to lessen the influence of a purportedly pernicious religion? Was Obama's autobiography truth or fiction, or something in between -- as hinted by the president himself when he was caught in untruths and then backed away from some of his stories, claiming they were now just "composites"?

Part of old America still abides by absolute truth and falsity. A door is either hung plumb or not. The calibrations of the Atlas rocket either are accurate and it takes off, or inaccurate and it blows up. Noble intentions cannot make prime numbers like 5 or 7 divisible.

But outside of math and science, whose natural truth man so far cannot impugn, almost everything else in America has become "it depends." Admissions, hiring, evaluations, autobiographies, and the statements of politicians and government officials, all become truthful if they serve the correct cause -- and damn any reactionary discrepancies.

To paraphrase George Orwell, everything is relative, but some things are more relative than others.


Progressives Without Progress

There isn't very much progress in the progressive movement. Progress is the expansion of possibilities. Progressives however have a Malthusian obsession with the scarcity of all things. They believe that we are about to run out of everything from energy to water to wealth and education and that like starving survivors on a lifeboat we have to redistribute everything.

The progressive outlook predates the notion of progress. Its ideal is a static society, sustainable in its material practices and so utterly moral in its social attributes that it becomes immune to change. It is founded on the intertwining of the material and the moral through the insistence that the scarcity of material things makes their redistribution mandatory by an activist moral elite.

There is nothing as reactionary as utopia and no group as reactionary as utopians. A perfect society is a place that is immune to change. The search for such a society is the quest for an absolute way of living. Both the quest and the way of living become as unchallengeable as any theological utopia founded not on bad economics and political parochialism, but on a deeply spiritual faith.

The progress of progressives is not a rocket to the stars, but a slow elevator climbing up a constricted shaft to their ideal society. It's only progressive in the same sense that a television channel that moves from one show to the next within the confines of its programming is. It's programmed progress, not the progress of exploring infinitely expanding possibilities.

The left is actually deeply conservative. It is difficult for people in countries being contested by the left to see this because they observe the left as revolutionary and destructive. But every attempted conquest is accompanied by violent disruptions. The domestic left destroys everything it does not control as part of a cultural war; not because it seeks an open society of perpetual creative ferment.

Once the left achieves its dream of absolute power in a nation, that nation becomes socially backward, technologically backward and culturally backward. There is a reason that the USSR, Cuba and North Korea were not producing compelling new cultural products for export the way that their sympathizers in Hollywood did and do. It's the same reason that they don't keep having revolutions.

The creative energies harnessed by the left are a revolutionary tool for achieving an ideal society. Once that miserably ideal society is achieved, everything is regimented and unplanned change is locked out of the equation because reactionary progressive utopias have to be relentlessly planned. Science and culture are forcibly slowed down. Individuality is discouraged. Conformity produces mediocrity in all fields. Time slows down and utopia sinks into its own progressive muck.

Americans had trouble believing that the left of the counterculture had much in common with the conformist cultural factory of the USSR until the flower children became professional activists and politicians and ran a system of stale conformity interspersed with tedious displays of traditionally transgressive arts. The very slogan, Keep Berkeley Weird, is not revolutionary. It's traditionalist.

Nothing is more conservative than keeping things the way that they used to be.

On the opposite coast, the old radical artists and poets complain that the East Village isn't what it used to be and landmark everything in sight. Men and women who once did mountains of cocaine fight every bar liquor license with the outraged spleen of suburbanites threatened with a landfill.

The paradox of keeping weird things weird is that weird then just becomes another tradition and another proprietarian cultural impulse to avert a changing world by clinging to the way things used to be when you were young and everything made sense. It's not really keeping things weird, it's keeping the weird things that come from a changing outside world, out.

Utopians always carry that narrow-minded fragility with them. Their perfect society is always doomed by the rising tide of morality in the affairs of men. The more they try to hold on to it, the more it breaks apart right in front of their eyes. The left only believes in change when it moves in their direction. But once change has been achieved, then their ideal is a static changeless society.

Progress is confidence in human capabilities. The progressive movement however is tragic. It depends on the egocentric tantrums of individuals for its philosophy, its art and its activism; but it firmly believes that only the collective can make society work. And only the collective can lock it in.

Progressive utopians project their sense of fragility onto all material things. Fuel, water and even the atmosphere are all on the verge of running out. Everything must be safeguarded, counted and put in a locked box where qualified personnel will only distribute it at need. And that includes any and all human activities which might cause the warming of the planet.

Socially they are just as bad. Not only is wealth finite (except when they're spending it) but so is everything from education to employment.

The left doesn't think in terms of making more, but of redistributing what is available. Its goal is a static society in which everything is "fair", rather than a rapidly progressing society society that is unfairly distributed, but that focuses on creating, rather than sharing, and produces more for all.

Progressives equate progress to redistribution. They view the planet and every microcosmic society within it as a lifeboat with a finite amount of supplies to pass around for survival's sake. Their idea of progress is achieved when the redistribution achieves their ideal of fairness and no further bouts of redistribution are needed. Since that day will never come, utopia becomes an economic police state.

The progressive idea of progress is a sack race with a hundred feet in one sack. Progress must be communal. It must meet the needs of all stakeholders. It must comply with every detail of the plan. And so it is no wonder that we hardly build big things anymore or dream great dreams. Vision is individual and it's deeply disruptive. It changes the way that everyone lives.

Visions lead to utopias, but once utopia is achieved, there is no more room for vision. Visions, like viruses, are competitive creatures. When a Vision achieves a static order by killing all other visions, then vision dies, but that Vision remains with its dead hand on the wheel of history.

The vision of the left is a dead utopia, a tradition of weirdness and a hoarder's obsession with storing everything from the economy to the atmosphere in one lockbox before the sky falls. The utopian is really a cynic, certain that individualism will unleash everyone's worst impulses, and offering instead the iron order of his vision.

Utopia believes the worst of everyone and everything. It fears its own mortality and scents the taste of death on everything. It is convinced that the sky will fall, that everyone will starve and that the utter undoing of humanity is only a land use resolution or unrecycled plastic bottle away.

Progressives lock everyone into their narrow regimented and regulated idea of progress because they distrust people and they even distrust the universe. They are children certain that everything they love is about to be taken away from them and closet fascists obsessed with their moment of heroism when they rush out of the phone booth, biodegradable cape blowing in the wind, and save humanity from itself through a benevolent police state that extends into absolutely every area of human activity.

There is no progress in progressivism. There is instead a deep fear of progress. Utopians fear the unregulated and unplanned and they replace the true expansive progress of the human spirit with the false progress of social controls. Human genius is sold on the block in exchange for bureaucracy.

Progressives view every element of the world, from the grand vistas of oceans and skies to the minute intersections of human society as too fragile and limited for unregulated progress. Under their rule, progress in this country, once its secular faith, has slowed to a crawl outside of a few select industries that are able to move faster than the speed of progressive regulations.

The only way to resume progress is to fight the progressive movement.



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, February 02, 2014

The growing distance between Washington and the public it dominates

The State of the Union was a spectacle of delusion and self-congratulation in which a Congress nobody likes rose to cheer a president nobody really likes. It marked the continued degeneration of a great and useful tradition. Viewership was down, to the lowest level since 2000. This year's innovation was the Parade of Hacks. It used to be the networks only showed the president walking down the aisle after his presence was dramatically announced. Now every cabinet-level officeholder marches in, shaking hands and high-fiving with breathless congressmen. And why not? No matter how bland and banal they may look, they do have the power to destroy your life—to declare the house you just built as in violation of EPA wetland regulations, to pull your kid's school placement, to define your medical coverage out of existence. So by all means attention must be paid and faces seen.

I watched at home and thought: They hate it. They being the people, whom we're now supposed to refer to as the folks. But you look at the polls at how people view Washington—one, in October, had almost 9 in 10 disapproving—and you watch a kabuki-like event like this and you know the distance, the psychic, emotional and experiential distance, between Washington and America, between the people and their federal government, is not only real but, actually, carries dangers. History will make more of the distance than we do. Someday in the future we will see it most vividly when a truly bad thing happens and the people suddenly need to trust what Washington says, and will not, to everyone's loss.

In the country, the president's popularity is underwater. In the District of Columbia itself, as Gallup notes, it's at 81%. The Washington area is now the wealthiest in the nation. No matter how bad the hinterlands do, it's good for government and those who live off it. The country is well aware. It is no accident that in the national imagination Washington is the shallow and corrupt capital in "The Hunger Games," the celebrity-clogged White House Correspondents' Dinner, "Scandal" and the green room at MSNBC. It is the chattering capital of a nation it less represents than dominates.

Supposedly people feel great rage about this, and I imagine many do. But the other night I wondered if what they're feeling isn't something else.

As the president made his jaunty claims and the senators and congressmen responded semirapturously I kept thinking of four words: Meanwhile, back in America . . .

Meanwhile, back in America, the Little Sisters of the Poor were preparing their legal briefs. The Roman Catholic order of nuns first came to America in 1868 and were welcomed in every city they entered. They now run about 30 homes for the needy across the country. They have, quite cruelly, been told they must comply with the ObamaCare mandate that all insurance coverage include contraceptives, sterilization procedures, morning-after pills. If they don't—and of course they can't, being Catholic, and nuns—they will face ruinous fines. The Supreme Court kindly granted them a temporary stay, but their case soon goes to court. The Justice Department brief, which reads like it was written by someone who just saw "Philomena," suggests the nuns are being ignorant and balky, all they have to do is sign a little, meaningless form and the problem will go away. The sisters don't see the form as meaningless; they know it's not. And so they fight, in a suit along with almost 500 Catholic nonprofit groups.

Everyone who says that would never have happened in the past is correct. It never, ever would have under normal American political leadership, Republican or Democratic. No one would've defied religious liberty like this.

The president has taken to saying he isn't ideological but this mandate—his mandate—is purely ideological.

It also is a violation of traditional civic courtesy, sympathy and spaciousness. The state doesn't tell serious religious groups to do it their way or they'll be ruined. You don't make the Little Sisters bow down to you.

This is the great political failure of progressivism: They always go too far. They always try to rub your face in it.

Meanwhile, back in America, disadvantaged parents in Louisiana—people who could never afford to live in places like McLean, Va., or Chevy Chase, Md.—continue to wait to see what will happen with the state's successful school voucher program. It lets poor kids get out of failed public schools and go to private schools on state scholarships. What a great thing. But the Obama Justice Department filed suit in August: The voucher system might violate civil rights law by worsening racial imbalance in the public schools. Gov. Bobby Jindal, and the parents, said nonsense, the scholarship students are predominately black, they have civil rights too. Is it possible the Justice Department has taken its action because a major benefactor of the president's party is the teachers unions, which do not like vouchers because their existence suggests real failures in the public schools they run?

Meanwhile, back in America, conservatives targeted and harassed by the Internal Revenue Service still await answers on their years-long requests for tax exempt status. When news of the IRS targeting broke last spring, agency officials lied about it, and one took the Fifth. The president said he was outraged, had no idea, read about it in the papers, boy was he going to get to the bottom of it. An investigation was announced but somehow never quite materialized. Victims of the targeting waited to be contacted by the FBI to be asked about their experience. Now the Justice Department has made clear its investigation won't be spearheaded by the FBI but by a department lawyer who is a campaign contributor to the president and the Democratic Party. Sometimes you feel they are just laughing at you, and going too far.

In the past five years many Americans have come to understand that an agency that maintained a pretty impressive record for a very long time has been turned, at least in part, into a political operation. Now the IRS has proposed new and tougher rules for grassroots groups. Cleta Mitchell, longtime attorney for many who've been targeted, says the IRS is no longer used in line with its mission: "They're supposed to be collecting revenues, not snooping and trampling on the First Amendment rights of the citizens. We are not subjects of a king, we are permitted to engage in First Amendment activities without reporting those activities to the IRS."

All these things—the pushing around of nuns, the limiting of freedoms that were helping kids get a start in life, the targeting of conservative groups—all these things have the effect of breaking bonds of trust between government and the people. They make citizens see Washington as an alien and hostile power.

Washington sees the disaffection. They read the polls, they know.

They call it rage. But it feels more like grief. Like the loss of something you never thought you'd lose, your sense of your country and your place in it, your rights in it.



Politics of Hate and Envy

Walter E. Williams

Part of the progressive agenda is to create hate and envy. One component of that agenda is to attack the large differences between a corporation's chief executive officer's earnings and those of its average worker. CNNMoney published salary comparisons in "Fortune 50 CEO pay vs. our salaries"

Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf's annual salary is $2.8 million. CNN shows that it takes 66 Wells Fargo employees, whose average salary is $42,400, to match Stumpf's salary. It takes 57 Wal-Mart employees, who earn $22,100 on average, to match CEO Michael Duke's $1.3 million. At General Electric, 44 employees earning $75,300 a year match CEO Jeff Immelt's $3.3 million salary. For people with little understanding, such differences seem patently unfair. Before touching on the fairness issue, let's look at some high salaries that progressives ignore.

Forbes lists the "Highest-Paid Football Players 2013". Drew Brees, quarterback for the Saints, earned $40 million. If the average Saints organization employee earned $45,000, it would take almost 900 of them to match Brees' salary. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady earned $31.3 million, and Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant earns $23.5 million for playing basketball. It would take the earnings of more than 1,200 workers making $45,000 a year to match the earnings of Brady and Bryant.

But the "unfair" salaries of sports players pale in comparison with movie stars. According to Forbes' listing of the highest-paid actors, Robert Downey Jr. earned $75 million from June 2012 to June 2013. Channing Tatum: $60 million. Hugh Jackman: $55 million. Let's suppose the cameraman working with Downey earned $60,000. It would take the salaries of 1,250 of them to equal his salary. Oprah Winfrey's 2012 salary came to $165 million, thousands of times what the earnings of people who work for her are.

Though sports and Hollywood personalities earn multiples of CEO salaries, you'll never find leftists and progressives picketing and criticizing them. Why? The strategy for want-to-be tyrants is to demonize people whose power they want to usurp. That's the typical way tyrants gain power. They give the masses someone to hate. In 18th-century France, it was Maximilien Robespierre's promoting hatred of the aristocracy that led to his acquiring dictatorial power. In the 20th century, the communists gained power by promoting public hatred of the czars and capitalists. In Germany, Adolf Hitler gained power by promoting hatred of Jews and Bolsheviks.

I'm not equating America's progressives and liberals with Robespierre, Josef Stalin and Hitler. I am saying that promoting jealousy, fear and hate is an effective strategy for leftist politicians and their followers to control and micromanage businesses. It's not about the amount of money top executives earn. If it were, politicians and leftists would be promoting jealousy, fear and hatred toward multi-multimillionaire Hollywood actors, celebrities and sports stars. But there is no way that politicians could usurp the roles of Drew Brees, Kobe Bryant, Robert Downey Jr. and Oprah Winfrey. That means celebrities can make any amount of money they want and it matters not one iota politically. Do you think President Barack Obama would stoke the fires of hate and envy by remarking that he thinks that "at a certain point, you've made enough money" -- as he did in a 2010 Quincy, Ill., speech -- in regard to the salaries of Winfrey, Brees and Hollywood celebrities?

Why the high salaries? Ask yourself: If a corporate board of directors could hire a person for $45,000 who could do what a CEO could do, why would they pay CEOs millions? If an NFL team owner could hire a person with the athletic ability and decision-making capacity of Drew Brees for $100,000, why would he pay Brees $40 million? If some other actor could have created as many box-office receipts, why would movie producers have paid Downey $75 million?

There's another important issue. If one company has an effective CEO, it is not the only company that would like to have him on the payroll. In order to keep him, the company must pay him enough so that he can't be lured elsewhere.



The case against early voting

To the delight of anyone who’s ever waited in line to cast a vote, a bipartisan election commission convened by President Obama concluded last week that states across the country should increase their use of early voting.

But early voting run amok is bad for democracy. The costs to collective self-governance — which the report refers to only in passing, in a single sentence — substantially outweigh the benefits. Instead of expanding the practice, we should use this moment as an opportunity to establish clear limits on it before it becomes the norm.

Why? For all its conveniences, early voting threatens the basic nature of citizen choice in democratic, republican government. In elections, candidates make competing appeals to the people and provide them with the information necessary to be able to make a choice. Citizens also engage with one another, debating and deliberating about the best options for the country. Especially in an age of so many nonpolitical distractions, it is important to preserve the space of a general election campaign — from the early kickoff rallies to the last debates in October — to allow voters to think through, together, the serious issues that face the nation.

The integrity of that space is broken when some citizens cast their ballots as early as 46 days before the election, as some states allow. A lot can happen in those 46 days. Early voters are, in essence, asked a different set of questions from later ones; they are voting with a different set of facts. They may cast their ballots without the knowledge that comes from later candidate debates (think of the all-important Kennedy-Nixon debates, which ran from late September 1960 until late October); without further media scrutiny of candidates; or without seeing how they respond to unexpected national or international news events — the proverbial “October surprise.”

The 2008 election, for example, could have ended differently had many voters cast their ballots before the massive economic crisis that followed the collapse of Lehman Brothers that September. Similarly, candidates often seek to delay the release of embarrassing information, or the implementation of difficult policies, until after votes have been cast. A wave of votes starting months before the election date makes this easier.

Early voting not only limits the set of information available to voters; to the extent that it decreases the importance of debates, it might also systematically help incumbents and quasi-incumbents like vice presidents, who generally have the advantage of having been in the public eye longer.

More fundamentally, early voting changes what it means to vote. It is well known that voters can change their minds — polls always go up and down during a campaign season. A single Election Day creates a focal point that gives solemnity and relevance to the state of popular opinion at a particular moment in time; on a single day, we all have to come down on one side or the other. But if the word “election” comes to mean casting votes over a period of months, it will elide the difference between elections and polls. People will be able to vote when the mood strikes them — after seeing an inflammatory ad, for example. Voting then becomes an incoherent summing of how various individuals feel at a series of moments, not how the nation feels at a particular moment. This weakens civic cohesiveness, and it threatens to substitute raw preferences and momentary opinion for rational deliberation. Of course, those eager to cast early will be the most ideological — but these are precisely the voters who would benefit most from taking in the full back and forth of the campaign.

Moreover, there are other ways of achieving some of the benefits of early voting, such as old-fashioned absentee ballots or setting up more polling places. Even a limited few-days-early voting period could convey most of the advantages of the practice while limiting the most severe democratic costs.

Early voting is a matter of degree: Even Election “Day” lets people cast ballots at different times. But at the moment, there is no upper bound at all on the growing practice, and the president’s commission made no mention of such an option. With the group’s report opening a new round of discussion over voting policy, now is the time to consider whether the “quiet revolution” of early voting has gone too far.



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)