Friday, February 21, 2014

Political Orientation and Moral Conviction

Comments on: "Political Orientation and Moral Conviction: A Conservative Advantage or an Equal Opportunity Motivator of Political Engagement?"  by Linda J. Skitka G. Scott Morgan Daniel C. Wisneski, University of Illinois at Chicago (Preprint here (PDF))

There is a paper coming out in a book edited by Joe Forgas that tends to throw Haidt's findings into a cocked hat.  Haidt found  that conservatives were more morally complex than are liberals.  Since liberals often proclaim:  "There is no such thing as right and wrong", that is not exactly a surprising finding. Liberals do nonetheless use moral language:  "Racism is wrong" etc., but I showed long ago (Ray, 1974) that they do so only as a matter of convenience.  For them it is just a device to influence others. Any such beliefs are not deeply held.

I'm critical of a few points in the introduction to the paper  -- e.g. the homage to the risible Lakoff, who confuses the diachronic  with the synchronic, but I think the big problems in the paper are methodological.  The use of meta-analyses is in principle admirable but in practice can deteriorate severely where the author has a barrow to push.  One of the better known studies in this field did to my particular knowledge omit from consideration around 100 relevant studies  -- in order to come to fairly conventional conclusions.

Another problem is  the  shotgun approach to sampling.  Lumping general population samples in the with student samples is most incautious.  The two groups often give very different results.  One one occasion I repeated a study I had dome among students using a sample of army conscripts.  A correlation of .808 among students dropped to something negligible with the more representative sample.  I never wrote that study up but I probably should have.  It was in the era when "positive" results were essential so it would probably not have been published anyway.

And I am pretty confident that something similar would have happened in the Skitka work.  The students would have given complex responses and the ordinary folk would have given much simpler responses.  So combining the two would have given you medium complexity across the board and erased Right/Left differences.  In short, I don't think Skitka & co, have made their case.

Mother Jones has however welcomed the study.  The Left like to think they are moral, despite their propensity for mass murder.


Why is the Obama Administration Putting Government Monitors in Newsrooms?

The Obama Administration’s Federal Communication Commission (FCC) is poised to place government monitors in newsrooms across the country in an absurdly draconian attempt to intimidate and control the media.

Before you dismiss this assertion as utterly preposterous (we all know how that turned out when the Tea Party complained that it was being targeted by the IRS), this bombshell of an accusation comes from an actual FCC Commissioner.

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai reveals a brand new Obama Administration program that he fears could be used in “pressuring media organizations into covering certain stories.”

As Commissioner Pai explains in the Wall Street Journal:

Last May the FCC proposed an initiative to thrust the federal government into newsrooms across the country. With its "Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs," or CIN, the agency plans to send researchers to grill reporters, editors and station owners about how they decide which stories to run. A field test in Columbia, S.C., is scheduled to begin this spring.

The purpose of the CIN, according to the FCC, is to ferret out information from television and radio broadcasters about "the process by which stories are selected" and how often stations cover "critical information needs," along with "perceived station bias" and "perceived responsiveness to underserved populations."

In fact, the FCC is now expanding the bounds of regulatory powers to include newspapers, which it has absolutely no authority over, in its new government monitoring program.

The FCC has apparently already selected eight categories of “critical information” “that it believes local newscasters should cover.”

That’s right, the Obama Administration has developed a formula of what it believes the free press should cover, and it is going to send government monitors into newsrooms across America to stand over the shoulders of the press as they make editorial decisions.

This poses a monumental danger to constitutionally protected free speech and freedom of the press.

Every major repressive regime of the modern era has begun with an attempt to control and intimidate the press.

As Thomas Jefferson so eloquently said, "our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost."

The federal government has absolutely no business determining what stories should and should not be run, what is critical for the American public and what is not, whether it perceives a bias, and whose interests are and are not being served by the free press.

It’s an unconscionable assault on our free society.

Imagine a government monitor telling Fox News it needed to cover stories in the same way as MSNBC or Al Jazeera.  Imagine an Obama Administration official walking in to the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal and telling it that the American public would be better served if it is stopped reporting on the IRS scandal or maybe that reporting on ObamaCare “glitches” is driving down enrollment.

It’s hard to imagine anything more brazenly Orwellian than government monitors in newsrooms.

Is it any wonder that the U.S. now ranks 46th in the world for freedom of the press?  Reporters Without Boarders called America’s precipitous drop of 13 places in its recent global rankings “one of the most significant declines” in freedom of the press in the world.

Freedom of the press is proudly extolled in the First Amendment, yet our nation now barely makes the top fifty for media freedom.

We cannot allow the unfathomable encroachment on our free speech and freedom of the press to continue.

We’ve seen, and defeated, this kind of attempt to squelch free speech before in the likes of the Fairness Doctrine and the Grassroots Lobbying Bill (incidentally one of my first projects at the ACLJ).  Each one of these euphemistically named government programs is nothing more than an underhanded attempt to circumvent the Constitution and limit free speech – speech that the government finds inconvenient.  They’re equally unconstitutional, and they each must be defeated.



Cruz Control?

Freshman Senator Ted Cruz says many things that need to be said and says them well. Moreover, some of these things are what many, if not most, Americans believe wholeheartedly. Yet we need to remember that the same was true of another freshman Senator, just a relatively few years ago, who parlayed his ability to say things that resonated with the voters into two terms in the White House.

 Who would disagree that if you want your doctor, you should be able to keep your doctor? Who would disagree with the idea of a more transparent administration in Washington, or a President of the United States being a uniter instead of a divider?

There are many things like this that freshman Senator Barack Obama said that the overwhelming majority of Americans -- whether liberal or conservative -- would agree with. The only problem is that what he has actually done as President has repeatedly turned out to be the direct opposite of what he said as a candidate.

Senator Ted Cruz has not yet reached the point where he can make policy, rather than just make political trouble. But there are already disquieting signs that he is looking out for Ted Cruz -- even if that sets back the causes he claims to be serving.

Those causes are not being served when Senator Cruz undermines the election chances of the only political party that has any chance of undoing the disasters that Barack Obama has already inflicted on the nation -- and forestalling new disasters that are visible on the horizon.

ObamaCare is not just an issue about money or even an issue about something as important as medical care. ObamaCare represents a quantum leap in the power of the federal government over the private lives of individual Americans.

Chief Justice Roberts' decision declaring ObamaCare constitutional essentially repeals the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, which declares that powers not given to the federal government belong to the states "or to the people."

That central support of personal freedom has now been removed. The rest of the structure may not last very long, now that the Obama administration is busy quietly dismantling other bulwarks against the unbridled power of the government in general, and the unbridled power of the presidency in particular.

The Federal Communications Commission, for example, is already floating the idea of placing observers in newspaper editorial offices to "study" how decisions are made there. Nothing in the Constitution grants the FCC this dangerous power, nor is there any legislation authorizing any such activity.

But what the federal government can do is not dependent on what the Constitution authorizes it to do or what Congressional legislation gives them the power to do.

The basic, brutal reality is that the federal government can do whatever it wants to do, if nobody stops them. The Supreme Court's ObamaCare decision shows that we cannot depend on them to protect our freedom. Nor will Congress, as long as the Democrats control the Senate.

The most charitable interpretation of Ted Cruz and his supporters is that they are willing to see the Republican Party weakened in the short run, in hopes that they will be able to take it over in the long run, and set it on a different path as a more purified conservative party.

Like many political ideas, this one is not new. It represents a political strategy that was tried long ago -- and failed long ago.

In the German elections of 1932, the Nazi party received 37 percent of the vote. They became part of a democratically elected coalition government, in which Hitler became chancellor. Only step by step did the Nazis dismantle democratic freedoms and turn the country into a complete dictatorship.

The political majority could have united to stop Hitler from becoming a dictator. But they did not unite. They fought each other over their differences. Some figured that they would take over after the Nazis were discredited and defeated.

Many who plotted this clever strategy died in Nazi concentration camps. Unfortunately, so did millions of others.

What such clever strategies overlook is that there can be a point of no return. We may be close to that point of no return, not only with ObamaCare, but also with the larger erosion of personal freedom, of which ObamaCare is just the most visible part.



Obama(S)care: Con Artists and Criminals in Charge

Question: If Obamacare officials cannot prevent accused embezzlers from infiltrating their offices, how can they protect enrollees from grifters, con artists and thieves in the federal health insurance exchange system?

Here in my home state, a director of Connect for Health Colorado — the state-sponsored Obamacare health insurance exchange — was just put on administrative leave. No, Christa Ann McClure did not go on leave over the chronic problems plaguing the cursed Connect for Health website. She's on leave because she has been indicted for filching funds from her last employer in Montana.

No, the guardians of Obamacare didn't smoke her out on their own. McClure 'fessed up only after the local Billings (Mont.) Gazette newspaper reported on the charges against her. She was indicted by a grand jury on Jan. 16. But her current state government employers did not find out until last week, when McClure finally informed them because the press had published the indictment.

The Keystone Kops of the Colorado health exchange tell us they conducted "thorough" background checks of McClure. They say they "fully vetted" and investigated her references when they hired her last March for her six-figure job helming the state Obamacare office of "partner engagement." Colorado officials say she was "well-qualified" for the Obamacare job, which involves being a "liaison" with other government agencies.

But mum's the word on who recommended her, which references they talked to and who in Colorado Democratic circles might have known about her history in Montana.

The 12-page federal indictment is a blood-boiling document outlining government waste, fraud and abuse in the federal affordable housing racket. The feds say McClure siphoned untold amounts of money from the nonprofit group Housing Montana, which received a half-million-dollar federal grant to build homes for poor people.

McClure allegedly was paying herself "significant sums" for bogus "consulting services" while also taking a full-time salary as executive director of the nonprofit. She is accused of raiding the organization's funds for family expenses, personal travel and a laptop and lying to the IRS to obtain false reimbursements.

She further defrauded the government by inflating her unused sick and annual leave hours. The feds say she also bilked Montana homeowners who participated in the federal affordable housing program by charging them for a fake $750 warranty and a $1,000 fee for "leasing tools."

Here's another disturbing fact: In a classic dance of the lemons, McClure had bounced around successfully from government-funded job to job until now. The Montana state auditor's office disclosed last week that McClure had managed three grants worth more than $2 million to implement Obamacare in that state. McClure worked on the project for three years at an annual salary of $98,000. She was "responsible for managing a broad range of contracts and making sure they got delivered on time," according to The Billings Gazette.

I'd like to be able to tell you that she'll never work in another Obamacare job again. But take a look at California. Just a few weeks ago, Jillian Kay Melchior reported in National Review that "at least 43 convicted criminals are working as Obamacare navigators in California, including three individuals with records of significant financial crimes." The crimes include forgery, petty theft, shoplifting, welfare fraud, child abuse and evading an officer.



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

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


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Concealing Evil

By Walter E. Williams

Evil acts are given an aura of moral legitimacy by noble-sounding socialistic expressions, such as spreading the wealth, income redistribution, caring for the less fortunate, and the will of the majority. Let's have a thought experiment to consider just how much Americans sanction evil.

Imagine there are several elderly widows in your neighborhood. They have neither the strength to mow their lawns, clean their windows and perform other household tasks nor the financial means to hire someone to help them. Here's a question that I'm almost afraid to ask: Would you support a government mandate that forces you or one of your neighbors to mow these elderly widows' lawns, clean their windows and perform other household tasks?

Moreover, if the person so ordered failed to obey the government mandate, would you approve of some sort of sanction, such as fines, property confiscation or imprisonment? I'm hoping, and I believe, that most of my fellow Americans would condemn such a mandate. They'd agree that it would be a form of slavery — namely, the forcible use of one person to serve the purposes of another.

Would there be the same condemnation if, instead of forcing you or your neighbor to actually perform weekly household tasks for the elderly widows, the government forced you or your neighbor to give one of the widows $50 of your weekly earnings? That way, she could hire someone to mow her lawn or clean her windows. Would such a mandate differ from one under which you are forced to actually perform the household task? I'd answer that there is little difference between the two mandates except the mechanism for the servitude. In either case, one person is being forcibly used to serve the purposes of another.

I'm guessing that most Americans would want to help these elderly ladies in need but they'd find anything that openly smacks of servitude or slavery deeply offensive. They might have a clearer conscience if all the neighbors were forced (taxed) to put money into a government pot. A government agency would then send the widows $50 to hire someone to mow their lawns and perform other household tasks. This collective mechanism makes the particular victim invisible, but it doesn't change the fact that a person is being forcibly used to serve the purposes of others. Putting the money into a government pot simply conceals an act that would otherwise be deemed morally depraved.

This is why socialism is evil. It employs evil means, confiscation and intimidation, to accomplish what are often seen as noble goals — namely, helping one's fellow man. Helping one's fellow man in need by reaching into one's own pockets to do so is laudable and praiseworthy. Helping one's fellow man through coercion and reaching into another's pockets is evil and worthy of condemnation. Tragically, most teachings, from the church on down, support government use of one person to serve the purposes of another; the advocates cringe from calling it such and prefer to call it charity or duty.

Some might argue that we are a democracy, in which the majority rules. But does a majority consensus make moral acts that would otherwise be deemed immoral? In other words, if the neighbors got a majority vote to force one of their number — under pain of punishment — to perform household tasks for the elderly widows, would that make it moral?

The bottom line is that we've betrayed much of the moral vision of our Founding Fathers. In 1794, when Congress appropriated $15,000 for relief of French refugees who had fled from insurrection in San Domingo to Baltimore and Philadelphia, James Madison rose on the floor of the House of Representatives to object, saying, "I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents."

Tragically, today's Americans — Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative — would hold such a position in contempt and run a politician like Madison out of town on a rail.



The Right To Take (Even Really Stupid) Risks

The value of life is determined not by the mere drawing of one breath after another, but by the freedom to make our own decisions

J.D. Tuccille

There's nothing like the feeling of a motorcycle sliding out from beneath you on a busy thoroughfare to focus the mind beautifully on the value of life. As your ass bounces from the cushioned seat toward the hard tarmac with the screech of unseen cars slamming on their brakes to your rear, you have one glorious moment in which to ask yourself: "What the hell am I doing?"

You see, that's the precise question that flashed through my mind as my accelerating rear wheel spun helplessly on an oil slick and 400lbs of Japanese machinery cushioned its fall with 170lbs of J.D. Tuccille.

My left elbow slammed against the asphalt before I had time to consider the answer.

But to a large extent, it's the question itself that matters the most: "What the hell am I doing?" Sooner or later most of us ask that same question. We ask it when we're doing something foolish, or brave, or unfamiliar, and we especially ask it when the situation goes sour—when we find ourselves airborne in late-morning traffic. And if we don't ask it of ourselves, somebody else is sure to do us the favor: "What the hell are you doing?"

The question means that we're taking risks, trying something new, or just pushing the boundaries of our usual behavior. It means that we're living, not just existing; to pass through life without facing that question would imply a tightly constrained existence lacking risk and adventure.

Not every situation that provokes the question is to our credit, of course. Sometimes we've made a mistake, sometimes we've embarrassed ourselves, and sometimes we've made a complete balls-up of a situation and we find ourselves staring up from the ground into the face of an Emergency Medical Technician. And whether we decide that our latest venture was a moment of glory or shame, it's a sure bet that somebody else views our decision with disdain; we all have our own lives, and our own very different standards by which to judge them.

But it's important to remember that while everybody has the right to ask the question of himself and others, only the person on the spot, the person living that moment has the right to decide whether the answer is justifiable—so long as that person also bears the costs and consequences of the answer, that is. And that is what gives life so much of its value. We have the right to try, to risk dignity and even death as we take the basic fact of existence and mold it into a life worthy of the name through a personal choice of experiences, occupations, and adventures.

So when others try to answer the question for us, to prevent us from taking the risk because they don't approve, they don't just do us a disservice—they rob us of the freedom that gives life its value. Through laws and taxes and regulations they try to consign us to an existence instead of a life; and this is not because the decisions they would make for us are necessarily bad decisions, but because they are not our own.

Some people—not enough—do understand this. After the accident, when the EMTs had assured themselves that my limbs were all in place and that I remembered my name, one turned to me and said: "And now for the important question: How's the bike?" (Answer: Not so good.) As an EMT he had certainly seen his share of nasty motorcycle accidents—incidents that ended with consequences more serious than my broken arm. But he understood, or at least respected, my decision to ride and to take risks that others find unacceptable.

We have the right to demand that attitude of everybody: disagree with us, call us fools, live your own lives differently, but don't try to tell us what decisions we may make in the conduct of our lives. Because the value of life is determined not by the mere drawing of one breath after another, but by the freedom to make our own decisions; to mold our lives as best we can into a shape that pleases us, and to enjoy the benefits or suffer the consequences.

What the hell was I doing? I was living my life. Now hand me my helmet or get out of the way.



Thank You President Obama for Freeing Me

Bruce Bialosky

Hi, I’m Dave.

Until recently I was a full-time employee and had a very good job. In fact most years we were so busy I worked some long hours and received some significant bonuses from my employer. But now I have been freed from having to spend so much time supporting my family. Because of some great new policies from our government, I am now working part-time and spending more time with my family.

It has been an adjustment. When I told my wife the exciting news that I would spending more time at home, initially she wasn’t delighted. She sure seemed like she did not want me around.She asked how we were going to put the money away for the kids’ college educations. I was a little surprised she was not more focused on the time we could spend together, working on our relationship. She seemed like she thought having me at work was more beneficial for us. Then I told her about all the neat government programs that would help the kids pay for college. Plus, I am confident we will grow closer as we have more quality time together. I did point out we may have less money to spend, but sharing time was what life was all about.

The kids were really excited to hear about me being around a lot more. Kinda. Madison asked if I really was not going to work. When I told her it would give us more time to get to know each other, she said “Dad, get real. I’m like really busy with school and my friends.Maybe soon.”And then she stared at her phone and said she was having a conversation with a friend. Buddy Boy was a lot more receptive. I told him I could now learn how to play those video games and we could play together. He said, “Hey, don’t you think it would be geekish for me to be playing video games with my old man?” When I told him no, he turned and closed the door to his room.I am sure once he warms up to the idea we will have a blast together.

I went on and found out that my income is now going to be lower so I qualify for some really big subsidies. As long as I don’t go back to working full-time, the government will pay for over half of my family’s health insurance. All I have to do is just keep my work at the current reduced level and we will have some great coverage.I can even pick up some work on the side (if you know what I mean) and not have it affect my ability to have the government pay for most all our health insurance. Once I figured it out, we are really better off with me working less and staying home more.

Then with my new free time I found a speech that Mrs. Obama gave to college students.She told them “Don’t leave money on the table. ”This was regarding getting student aid that she told them did not have to be paid back.Pondering that I thought why not me?So I applied for Food Stamps -- thankfully now called SNAP -- and it makes me feel so much better. I was really surprised to find out that at my new income level that we qualify as a family.

The nice people at the SNAP office told me there are other state and federal programs I qualify for to help underwrite my new reduced income.For example, they will help pay for my utilities. While I was so busy working I never realized there were so many programs to help people. I have researched it and found there are over 100 programs to help pay for me.How stupid I feel working hard all these years when I could have been home and the government would pay for all these things.

As I begin my new less demanding life, I am really just beginning to explore the universe I am now part of each day. Who knew I could work so little and still get all this stuff from the government? President Obama, thank you for freeing me from the burden of having to work so hard to support my family.Now I just have to get my family used to having me around. And find something to do with my time.

I’m Dave, and I love this new America.



Lawmakers Fight Obamacare Labeling Regulation

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are joining forces to curtail an overbearing labeling regulation mandated by Obamacare.

Embedded in the 906-page behemoth bill is a requirement that all chain restaurants (those with 20 or more locations) provide nutrition information for every item listed on the menu.

Now stop—mull over the reality of that regulation for a moment. A pizza place would need to provide the number of calories and the list of ingredients found in every pizza topping. Dominoes offers at least 31 topping options.

In accordance with Obamacare, the Food and Drug Administration has proposed requirements and is close to making them finalized. However Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) have initiated a bill that would amend the proposed rules to allow more leeway for businesses. Adjustments would include allowing delivery restaurants to post nutrition information online and limiting the penalties for labeling mistakes. More than 50 co-sponsors have rallied behind the bill.

The Hill reported:

 “Specifically, the proposed rule limits the ability of businesses to determine for themselves how best to provide nutritional information to customers,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg. “As a result, the proposal harms both those non-restaurants that were not intended to be captured by the menu labeling law as well as those restaurants that have flexibility and variability in the foods they offer.”
The lawmakers pressed the FDA to limit the scope of the regulations, which they say would harm small businesses that are already complying separately with the 1990 Nutrition Labeling and Education Act.

Similar Obamacare labeling regulation for vending machines are estimated to cost $25.8 million initially and $24 million annually.

Estranging businesses from government management and allowing them freedom to invest time and money into what they deem profitable is undoubtedly the best option for the economy.



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 19, 2014


Here’s something illuminating about female millionaires.

Turns out, they prefer conservative men in and out of bed. Darren Shuster, the publicist for, the company that commissioned a survey, stressed in an email, “Especially in bed. Don’t kill the messenger.”

Hot off the presses from Silicon Valley, has released the results of a survey showing that show that rich ass females prefer their men on the “right” side of the political spectrum. According to site stats, 81.4 percent of female millionaires prefer a conservative man rather than someone liberal (this includes Republicans, Democrats and independents). A whopping 76.6 percent of Democrat female millionaires said they “would prefer to date a conservative man.”

Some comments from rich females to the site:

“I don’t want a liberal man, I want someone who believes in a traditional family.”

“I want to be with a man who is ambitious, liberal men simply aren’t as ambitious.”

“Conservative men plan for the future, they’re in it for the long run.”

“Liberal men are less masculine.”

“Politics doesn’t matter to me when we’re inside the bedroom.”

“I’m very liberal, but I’m open to other opinions.”

Two comments that could infuriate some women involved females who remarked on how conservative males take care of the female financially and how conservative males perform in bed.

One of the surveyed women explained why she believes conservative men are more appealing: “Simply put, conservative men are real men. They are the breadwinners, they wear the pants and they treat you like a lady.”

And of the women surveyed, 85 percent apparently agreed that conservative men are better in bed.

Said one woman, “Conservative men have so much masculine energy, they’re dominant.”



U.S. unemployment: A third view

The Congressional Budget Office's latest budget projections, released last week, estimated that 2.5 million people would leave the job market as a result of Obamacare. Immediately the two political sides engaged in verbal bickering, with Republicans saying the program would cause 2.5 million to lose their jobs, while Democrats claimed that 2.5 million people choosing leisure over work was a net increase in human welfare. Actually, both sides were wrong. It's worth examining why, and what the skewed incentives at modest earnings levels mean for our future.

The Democrats are right that the direct loss of jobs due to Obamacare is likely to be fairly limited. Although it imposes substantial costs on some employers, and makes the healthcare system overall less efficient, employers always have the option of restricting pay rises for employees whose healthcare costs have been increased, or of raising their healthcare premiums. There is a likely to be a certain squeezing of hours worked by part-timers, to keep them below the 30-hour week level, but direct job losses should be limited, according to the CBO. And of course, if the number of people with health insurance increases, and to the extent that the population covered by Medicare increases, there will be jobs created in the healthcare system to cover the newly insured people.

Nevertheless, the Republicans are correct that the 2.5 million people whose incentives are so changed by Obamacare that they will choose not to work are a problem not a side-benefit. If they do not work, the 2.5 million people will not contribute to the tax and benefits system, imposing greater costs on the rest of us. The 2.5 million themselves may value increased leisure time sufficiently to give up their income from work, they may receive enough in unemployment, social security and disability benefit that they are little worse off or (without being too cynical about it) they may feel they can earn nearly as much from working "off the books" on odd jobs, landscaping or some other activity for cash, thus avoiding costly interaction with the tax system.

But from society's point of view, we are much less well-off for the loss of the labor of those 2.5 million people. Their output would presumably have been worth more than their pay, so losing it is a blow to the economy. Further, if they had worked they would normally have contributed, possibly modest payments of income tax, certainly rather less modest payments of payroll tax. Without working, they will contribute nothing in direct tax to the general coffers, though they will still of course pay sales taxes on their purchases and property taxes if they own a home. What's more, as unemployed they will likely benefit from welfare, disability and other benefits. Thus the scales, which may be close to balanced from the individual points of view of the 2.5 million people themselves, are heavily unbalanced from the point of view of the U.S. economy as a whole and its tax base.

This is one of the reasons the U.S. budget is still so severely out of whack, with a projected deficit of $514 billion in the year to September 30. The labor force participation rate is now 63%, compared with 66.4% at its peak in December 2006. The unemployment rate at 6.6% is only 2.2 percentage points above its December 2006 level, so an additional 3.5 million more people are officially unemployed. However there are an additional 8.4 million people, over and above those 3.5 million, who would have been in the labor force if participation was at its December 2006 level, but who have dropped out of the labor force altogether. Some of those are early-retiring baby boomers, but by no means all of them; participation rates have also declined for young and prime-age workers.

It is thus not surprising that the United States is still running a $500 billion deficit, in spite of substantial tax increases since 2006, a reining back of military spending, and some moderation in the giant increases in domestic spending pushed through by the Democrat-controlled Congress in 2007-10. With 11.9 million fewer people than there should be paying for the costs of government, and not providing economic output, we should expect government to be further from being paid for than it was in 2006.



Failing Liberals Turn To Oppression To Hold On To Power

If you’re a conservative, you don't need to silence the opposition.

In fact, we conservatives want liberals to talk, to make buffoons of themselves, to prove their folly. We want liberals to expound upon their ridiculous ideas, to show the world exactly what they're about. Nancy Pelosi? Give that tiresome woman a microphone. Chatty liberals are the best advertisement for conservatism.

But liberals just can’t have conservatives speaking. We’ll tell the truth, and that’s why liberals need to shut us up.

Their traditional intimidation tactics are wearing out. Calling someone a “racist” used to be a devastating moral indictment. Liberals’ promiscuous employment of the word first turned it into a cliché and then into an ironic punchline.

I know, saying that out loud is racist. And sexist. And cisgender heteronormative, whatever the hell that means.

So now liberals have stepped up to formal governmental repression. Take the IRS scandal – or ex-scandal, in the eyes of the mainstream media. The Obama administration, at the urging of red state Democrat senators who are about to lose their seats because of their track records of failure, are doing everything they can to turn the taxman loose on the organizations that are pointing out their track records of failure.

Sure, the liberals come up with excuses, with justifications, with rationales for this prima facie oppression. But understand that the left was never against political repression. The left is only against being repressed itself.

It’s open season on everyone else. Don't dare bow down to god whose name isn’t spelled "G – O – V – E – R – N – M – E – N – T." Today’s heretic hunters work for Kathleen Sebelius, ready to burn you at the stake for expecting grown men and women to come up with the dough for their own contraceptives. No one expects the HHS Inquisition!

The Federal Communications Commission just floated a trial balloon about going out to radio and television stations to evaluate reporters on how they cover the news. There was a time when journalists' response to a government inquiry into how they did their job would be "Go to hell, you goose-stepping bureaucratic flunky."

Not anymore. Now, their response is slavish submission to their progressive governmental dominatrix. When supposedly independent, iconoclastic liberal journalists let themselves to be dominated by the feds, their safeword is “Hillary.”

Liberalism has to muzzle the truth because it operates on lies. It is built on lies, fueled by lies, and creates an empire of lies.

Look at the Obamacare scam. Liberals don't even blink at the fact that its foundational premise that if you liked your health care, you could keep it, was a lie. They’re not even offended by the lie. They’re offended that we point out that it was a lie.

Now the same people who got us into this mess are telling us we should go along and trust them to fix the same damn problem that they created in the first place. Liberals are the Lucys of American politics, holding the football and promising that this time it’ll be different. We need to stop being the Charlie Browns.

In the Senate, liberals toss traditions like the filibuster out the window for political expediency. The president creates his own laws or changes ones that are already in place on a whim. There are no norms, there are no standards. Everything is a short-term political gambit, and little things like the Constitution are just obstacles to progress.

How does all this end well? It doesn't. It can't. That is, unless the American people come to their senses and demand that the Constitution, as it is written, be respected. That change come through the political process, through persuasion rather than diktat.

But if that doesn't happen, what then? What becomes of our system? How do we act when we take power again? Should we also ignore those same principles that we seek to reaffirm in order to reaffirm them?

Does the next Republican president simply announce that he's repealing Obamacare by executive order? Does he simply refuse to implement other laws we dislike? Does he refuse to collect foolish taxes? Does he use his prosecutorial discretion to decide to refuse to prosecute his allies? Is that what we want?

No, it is not what we want, but it may be what we get. We are not ones for unilateral disarmament. Our constitutional system is not a suicide pact, as many have observed. The liberals aren't going to like it when we apply the same ruthlessness to them.

If the rules of the game are now that there are no rules, then the only political currency is raw power. But we know what happens when there are no rules, where pure power is the sole measure of right and wrong. I served in countries like that. They are full of mass graves

The American system’s strength is not that everyone always wins. It is that the system cultivates our ability to lose gracefully, to understand that you were heard, that you had your say, that there was a process, and that you lost fair and square. It sustains itself by reinforcing its own legitimacy.

But if your losses aren’t fair, if you haven't been heard, if the rules have been bent or broken or ignored, that crucial legitimacy is gone. And then there are no rules to respect.

What keeps this grand experiment in freedom going is that we honored, at least until now, our Constitution’s boundaries. Sure, we pushed at the edges, nudged the envelope, sometimes fudged the line, but what is happening now is different. What's happening now is that the line is being erased.




Awesome: Left-Wing UAW Rejected in Chattanooga:  "Big Labor has just suffered a blow in the South.  Thanks in large part to efforts by Americans for Tax Reform to expose the left-wing United Auto Workers, employees at Chattanooga, Tennessee’s Volkswagen assembly plant have rejected the labor union’s representation in a vote of 712-626.  ATR’s Executive Director Matt Patterson released the following statement in response to the victory:  "The workers at Volkswagen looked at the history of this union and made the best decision for themselves, their jobs and their community. In spite of the UAW's multi-million dollar propaganda machine, and with company and government officials at Obama's NLRB aiding the union in every possible way, workers learned the facts and were able to make an informed decision."

CA: Court strikes law restricting concealed weapons:  "California must allow law-abiding citizens to carry concealed firearms in public, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday, striking down the core of the state's permit system for handguns. In a 2-1 decision, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said San Diego County violates the Constitution's Second Amendment by requiring residents to show 'good cause' (and not merely the desire to protect themselves) to obtain a concealed-weapons permit."

"Chocolate city" mayor convicted of graft in Katrina recovery:  "A federal jury on Wednesday found former New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin guilty of accepting bribes and trading on the public trust during the critical years of rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005. A jury of six men and six women convicted Nagin on 20 of 21 counts, including bribery, wire fraud, conspiracy, money laundering and tax evasion. It acquitted him on one bribery count. Sentencing will come at a later date but Nagin, 57, faces at least 20 years in jail."

VA: A Federal judge defies voters again:  "A federal judge declared late Thursday night that Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, confirmed Michael Kelly, Director of Communications, for Attorney General Mark Herring. ... A lawsuit challenging the commonwealth’s ban on same-sex marriage went before U.S. District Judge ­Arenda L. Wright Allen on February 4, in Norfolk. The case of Bostic vs. Rainey argued that the Virginia Marriage Amendment, passed in 2006 by 57 percent of voters, is unconstitutional."


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 18, 2014

5 Virtues That Liberals Take To The Extreme:  Taking things to extremes is what they do

"If one oversteps the bounds of moderation, the greatest pleasures cease to please." -- Epictetus

"The world is full of people who will help you manufacture tornados in order to blow out a match." -- Shaun Hick

There are few things on the planet more necessary than water. In fact, roughly 60% of the human body is water. Yet, water isn't ALWAYS a good thing as Noah could tell you. Virtues can be like this as well. In moderation, they're good for you, but taken to extremes, they become destructive.

1) Tolerance: A little tolerance is a good thing, but too much tolerance makes people blind, dumb and stupid. It's just fine for people and societies to set boundaries instead of giving the thumbs up to wallowing in a human pig pen. Yes, the Bible does say, "Judge not, that ye be not judged." However, it doesn't say there's no difference between the Bible and the Koran, right and wrong, or good and evil. We've taken tolerance to such an extreme that many Americans think it's better to abandon their morals, common sense, and history lessons rather than come across as "being judgmental."

2) Compassion: Compassion and $2.00 will get you a cup of overpriced coffee at Starbucks. At best, compassion doesn't mean much and at worst it has become an act of destructive self-congratulation. America is packed with angry, spiteful, nasty people who never give a dime to charity or personally help a soul; yet they consider themselves to be deeply compassionate for supporting harmful government programs with pleasant-sounding names. If you get into trouble, pray you'll be spared what passes for "compassion" in America today in favor of actually getting some real help.

3) Being nice: Sure, nice beats mean, but it's not an end unto itself. "Nice” is vanilla. "Nice" is generic. If all you bring to the table is "nice," you don't have much to offer. Furthermore, wanting to be "nice" keeps people from saying what needs to be said. It's the "nice" parent who has brats bothering everyone in the store because she won't discipline them. It's the "nice" relative who enables an alcoholic rather than encouraging him to go to rehab. It's the "nice" politicians who don't want to say "no" to anyone no matter how bad his lifestyle choices turn out to be. Meanwhile, our society seems to be getting ruder, stupider and more degenerate by the day, mainly because there are so many "nice" people who aren't willing to stand up and do something about bad behavior. Unfortunately at the end of the day, the nicest dog in the dung heap is still living in a dung heap.

4) Self-Esteem: We may be the first society in history to completely divorce self-esteem from actual accomplishment and self-worth. So, what happens when little Johnny, who coasted through school being told how "special" he was gets into the real world and starts getting his teeth kicked in on a regular basis because he brings nothing of value to the table? Next thing you know, he's marching at an Occupy protest, demanding government handouts and trolling the comment sections on conservative websites because he doesn't understand why he can't do anything productive with his life despite the fact he's been told that he's gifted. Instead of building a kid's self-esteem, we should be teaching him how to be good at things. Then he'll be of use to himself, his family and his society while building REAL self-esteem in the process.

5) Diversity: Diversity is a strength? Tell that to Afghanistan or Iraq. Both nations are so diverse they want to murder each other. That's not to say there isn't some value to diversity of thought, but we've taken it to such an extreme that we've started embracing tribalism. We tell immigrants to forget about the melting pot and embrace their old culture. We treat illegal immigrants who waltzed across the border two months ago as if they're indistinguishable from Americans. We sneer at patriotism and encourage Americans to fragment off from each other by race, gender, age, and sexual orientation. Then we're shocked that Americans have become so alienated from each other. Anyone emphasizing diversity should be aware that diverse groups of people generally don't get along particularly well. Conservatives and liberals? Northerners and Southerners? Muslims and Jews? Jocks and nerds? If these groups don't tend to see eye to eye, why should we expect other equally diverse groups of people to be best buddies while we're celebrating how different they are from each other?



Palestinian Authority Human Rights Violations Ignored by Media, West

Evidently, most Western governments, journalists and human rights organizations have chosen to endorse the Palestinian Authority's stance that the only evil-doers are the Israelis. And that is precisely why the ICHR report on the anarchy, lawlessness and human rights violations by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas will be completely ignored in the West.

A report issued by the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) this week criticized the Palestinian Authority [PA] and Hamas for assaults on human rights and freedoms in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The report, which has been ignored by mainstream media and human rights organizations in the West, reveals that 10 Palestinians died in January 2014 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as a result of anarchy, lawlessness and misuse of weapons.

The report also lists cases of torture and mistreatment in PA and Hamas prisons. ICHR pointed to an increase in the number of torture cases in prisons belonging to the PA's much-feared Preventive Security Service in the West Bank.

During January, ICHR wrote that it received 56 complaints about torture and mistreatment in Palestinian prisons: 36 in the Gaza Strip and 19 in the West Bank. In addition, the human rights organization received innumerable complaints about arbitrary and unlawful arrests of Palestinians by the PA and Hamas.

A Palestinian Authority policeman attacks protestors. (Image source: "Palestinians for Dignity" Facebook Page)
ICHR wrote that it also received complaints from Palestinians who accused the Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank of unlawfully seizing their money.

The organization also received complaints about assaults on freedom of expression and the media, as well as on peaceful protests and academic freedoms.

Of the 10 Palestinians who died during January, the report found that half of them died as a result of violent disputes between clans. One Palestinian was killed while working in a smuggling tunnel along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. Three Palestinians died in what the organization describes as cases of "security anarchy and misuse of weapons." In the Gaza Strip, the report said, a 13-year-old girl named Wisam Ashour committed suicide by hanging herself in her family home.

With regards to torture, the organization stated that it received complaints from Palestinians who said they had been tortured while in detention in Palestinian Authority and Hamas prisons.

ICHR related that it received 85 complaints during January concerning unlawful and arbitrary arrests by the two Palestinian governments. Many detainees said they were taken into custody for "politically-motivated" offenses.

As for assaults on freedom of expression and peaceful protests, the human rights organization pointed out that on January 12, 2014, PA policemen used force to break up a protest by Palestinian youths north of Ramallah. Between 60-70 protesters, the report continued, were wounded in the head and legs after policemen attacked them with clubs and stun grenades.

On January 28, 2014, Palestinian Authority policemen used live ammunition to disperse stone-throwers in the center of Ramallah, according to the report. It also stated that there was no reason for the use of live ammunition during the incident. Four protesters were wounded, the report documented, when policemen attacked them with clubs.

During the last week of January, the report noted, Hamas security forces raided two university campuses in the Gaza Strip and used excessive force to disperse student protests against high tuition.

In the West Bank, the Preventive Security Service summoned for interrogation a number of students suspected of involvement in political activities, and, the report revealed, a University in Jericho expelled a student on suspicion that his brother and cousin belonged to Hamas.

Referring to anarchy and lawlessness in the West Bank, the human rights organization pointed to an incident that took place near Hebron on January 18. On that day, more than 100 men attacked the building of the Yatta Municipality, using a bulldozer to force their way inside.

Mayor Musa Makhamarah said the assailants were relatives and friends of a municipal council who had been dismissed from his job. The mayor complained that although he had warned the Palestinian Authority police in advance about the possibility of such an attack, no police reinforcements were dispatched to the scene.

The report found that the Palestinian Authority was continuing to ignore court rulings. The Preventive Security Service and the General Intelligence Force regularly ignore orders issued by various courts to release Palestinian detainees, it pointed out, listing seven cases that occurred last month.

Earlier last week, representatives of ICHR met with PA Interior Minister Said Abu Ali and discussed with him cases of torture and human rights violations in the West Bank. They also discussed the continued security crackdown on Palestinian students at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank. Many students have complained that they were being targeted for "political reasons" by various branches of the Palestinian security establishment.

The report's findings once again show that neither the Palestinian Authority nor Hamas respect human rights and freedom of expression in the territories under their control.

That Hamas is responsible for human rights violations and assaults on freedom of expression should not come as a surprise to anyone.

But what is surprising is that the Palestinian Authority leadership, which often boasts that Palestinians living under its jurisdiction enjoy freedom of expression and democracy, is continuing to lie not only to its constituents, but also to the Western media and international donors about its human rights record.

The PA has been successful in diverting attention from these problems by putting all the blame on Israel. As far as the PA is concerned, Israel alone is responsible for human rights violations and assaults on freedom of expression and the media.

Evidently, most Western journalists, governments and human rights groups have chosen to endorse the Palestinian Authority's stance that the only evil-doers are the Israelis. And that is precisely why the ICHR report about the anarchy, lawlessness and human rights violations by the PA and Hamas will be completely ignored in the West.



Using the IRS to Suppress Free Speech

The latest round of the IRS scandal, in which Tea Party and conservative groups have been selectively targeted for harassment by our tax collection agency, is now unfolding.

This comes in the form of proposed new rules from the IRS regarding the operation of organizations falling under the 501c4 provision of the tax code.

These are organizations whose purpose is to promote "social welfare" and therefore their income is tax-free.

Because promoting a cause or agenda in our free and democratic country cannot be isolated from political activity associated with that agenda, such activity is permitted by 501c4 organizations, as long as politics does not become its main purpose.

These are the rules of the game that have existed since 1959. But now the IRS wants to change the game.

The new rules they propose expand the definition of "candidate related activity" so broadly - to include voter education campaigns and grass roots lobbying campaigns - and to forbid even the mention of a candidate in any context 30 days before a primary or 60 days before a general election - that it will make it impossible for these organizations to function.

The IRS would like us to believe they are just trying to clear up some rules that are too vague regarding how these organizations are permitted to operate.

But can it be an accident that these new rules come in the midst of the current scandal in which an IRS official, Lois Lerner, admitted that Tea Party groups were being targeted for harassment?

It was revealed this week at a House committee hearing, at which new IRS commissioner John Koskinen testified, that an email was found from an IRS official indicating intent to scrutinize 501c4 organizations.

How much of this was generated by inappropriate politicized activity within the IRS and to what extent it relates to the IRS taking guidance from higher authority -- like the White House -- remains to be seen.

It does defy common sense to conclude that the White House has not been involved in this.

IRS activity in pursuit of non-profit organizations escalated in 2010.

It so happens that early 2010 the Supreme Court ruled, in the case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, that the ban on independent political expenditures by corporations violated the free speech provisions in the first amendment of the constitution.

And it so happens funding escalated into 501c4 organizations after the Supreme Court lifted this ban. And it so happens a good deal of this activity has been Tea Party related activity.

After the Citizens United decision, the president himself weighed in, expressing his outrage about the decision, indicating his intent to "develop a forceful response to this decision."

To the dismay of our president and those with political agendas at the IRS, our constitution permits free speech and allows corporations to use funds to express a political viewpoint. So the IRS is now trying to render inoperative the vehicles that often receive and use those funds -- 501c4 organizations.

It is not an accident that if we look around the world, the one thing that uniformly characterizes un-free nations is lack of free speech.

Those that love political power hate those who want to question their power and who want to inform citizens and provide a different point of view.

This is what the current IRS scandal is about. IRS officials, whose job it is to collect taxes, have abused their power to harass those whose politics they do not like. And this is what the current attempt to shut down 501c4 organizations by rewriting long standing rules by which they operate is about.

Free flow of information and free speech is the oxygen of a free society. Every freedom loving American should vigorously push back against this abuse of power by the IRS to stifle free speech.


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


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

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


Monday, February 17, 2014


Richard Baehr has published a masterful analysis of the decline of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which recently had to back away from Iran sanctions for the first time in two decades. It did so to preserve the façade of bipartisan support for Israel, even though Democrats are jumping ship under pressure from the Obama administration and the radical academics and leftist organizers from whence Obama comes.

Baehr points to the central reason for AIPAC's decline--and for the deterioration in relations between the U.S. and Israeli governments: namely, President Barack Obama's desire to change the strategic reality of the Middle East. He resented American influence there, and has undone it entirely, destabilizing the region. Moreover, the president is busily propping up the Iranian regime to counteract the Sunni states plus Israel, and vice versa.

The president made that strategy explicit, Baehr notes, in his recent interview with David Remnick of the New Yorker, when Obama called for a "new equilibrium"--one "developing between Sunni, or predominantly Sunni, Gulf states and Iran in which there’s competition, perhaps suspicion, but not an active or proxy warfare." That idea, Lee Smith points out, likely comes from the anti-Israel (and so-called "realist") academic Stephen Walt.

Obama's "new equilibrium" requires downgrading the power of both Israel and the Sunni states--which is why the Saudis are suddenly just as furious as the Israelis about the way they are being treated, not just on Iran but overall. The "Arab Spring" has not changed Obama's thinking--he was against it before he was for it--except in that Obama deliberately protected the Iranian regime from the same impulses, and the regime knows it.

All of the above means that AIPAC has an increasingly difficult job. It is a task made more difficult by the fact that Obama has supported an alternative group, J Street, whose dishonest leaders and ignorant followers have not only clouded the debate with their left-wing views but who have actively suppressed the views of their opponents. AIPAC is also suffering from the fact that Israel is no longer a priority for many American Jews.

Yet AIPAC is also suffering from a political challenge that faces Americans in general: namely, the weakening of Congress in the face of a president who increasingly ignores the constitutional process and instead imposes his will through executive actions. The same Democrats who mindlessly applauded the president's threat, in his State of the Union address, to circumvent Congress are also the ones backing down on new Iran sanctions.

AIPAC's power base has always been in Congress. That is because, firstly, the vast majority of Americans are pro-Israel, and secondly because AIPAC has been extremely skillful in training local organizers to build contacts with congressional leaders even before they win their seats. The executive branch has always been less pro-Israel--and, at the State Department, often anti-Israel, especially under Obama (and Hillary Clinton).

The mistake AIPAC has made over the past five years was to put faith not only in Obama's promises but in its contacts in his administration. It elevated a Chicagoan to its presidency largely because of his friendship with Obama, and touted long associations with Joe Biden. Many of AIPAC's flip-flops over the past several months--Chuck Hagel, Syria, Iran--can be understood as an effort to protect these connections. It has done no good.

There are some Americans, on both the right and the left, who would no doubt applaud AIPAC's declining influence. They should think twice. Obama isn't just ignoring Congress on the questions of Israel and Iran: he is ignoring Congress altogether. He is creating a pattern and a precedent that will erode the ability of Americans to lobby or petition their elected representative for any cause, great or small. He is undermining democracy.

That seems to suit today's Democrats, and their left-wing hangers-on, just fine. As long as Obama (or Clinton) are in office, and they are close to power (or hope to be), they will not only ignore the constitutional threat, but celebrate it. As law professor Jonathan Turley noted yesterday: "I think many people will come to loathe that they remained silent during this period." The danger is not limited to AIPAC, Israel, or conservatives.



Was assault on California Power Station a rehearsal for a major terrorist attack?

April Sniper Attack Knocked Out Substation, Raises Concern for Country's Power Grid  -- giving a valuable warning

The attack began just before 1 a.m. on April 16 last year, when someone slipped into an underground vault not far from a busy freeway and cut telephone cables.

Within half an hour, snipers opened fire on a nearby electrical substation. Shooting for 19 minutes, they surgically knocked out 17 giant transformers that funnel power to Silicon Valley. A minute before a police car arrived, the shooters disappeared into the night.

With over 160,000 miles of transmission lines, the U.S. power grid is designed to handle natural and man-made disasters, as well as fluctuations in demand. How does the system work? WSJ's Jason Bellini has #TheShortAnswer.

To avoid a blackout, electric-grid officials rerouted power around the site and asked power plants in Silicon Valley to produce more electricity. But it took utility workers 27 days to make repairs and bring the substation back to life.

Nobody has been arrested or charged in the attack at PG&E Corp.'s  Metcalf transmission substation. It is an incident of which few Americans are aware. But one former federal regulator is calling it a terrorist act that, if it were widely replicated across the country, could take down the U.S. electric grid and black out much of the country.

The attack was "the most significant incident of domestic terrorism involving the grid that has ever occurred" in the U.S., said Jon Wellinghoff, who was chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission at the time.

The Wall Street Journal assembled a chronology of the Metcalf attack from filings PG&E made to state and federal regulators; from other documents including a video released by the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department; and from interviews, including with Mr. Wellinghoff.

The 64-year-old Nevadan, who was appointed to FERC in 2006 by President George W. Bush and stepped down in November, said he gave closed-door, high-level briefings to federal agencies, Congress and the White House last year. As months have passed without arrests, he said, he has grown increasingly concerned that an even larger attack could be in the works. He said he was going public about the incident out of concern that national security is at risk and critical electric-grid sites aren't adequately protected.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation doesn't think a terrorist organization caused the Metcalf attack, said a spokesman for the FBI in San Francisco. Investigators are "continuing to sift through the evidence," he said.

Some people in the utility industry share Mr. Wellinghoff's concerns, including a former official at PG&E, Metcalf's owner, who told an industry gathering in November he feared the incident could have been a dress rehearsal for a larger event.

"This wasn't an incident where Billy-Bob and Joe decided, after a few brewskis, to come in and shoot up a substation," Mark Johnson, retired vice president of transmission for PG&E, told the utility security conference, according to a video of his presentation. "This was an event that was well thought out, well planned and they targeted certain components." When reached, Mr. Johnson declined to comment further.

A spokesman for PG&E said the company takes all incidents seriously but declined to discuss the Metcalf event in detail for fear of giving information to potential copycats. "We won't speculate about the motives" of the attackers, added the spokesman, Brian Swanson. He said PG&E has increased security measures.

Utility executives and federal energy officials have long worried that the electric grid is vulnerable to sabotage. That is in part because the grid, which is really three systems serving different areas of the U.S., has failed when small problems such as trees hitting transmission lines created cascading blackouts. One in 2003 knocked out power to 50 million people in the Eastern U.S. and Canada for days.

Many of the system's most important components sit out in the open, often in remote locations, protected by little more than cameras and chain-link fences.

Transmission substations are critical links in the grid. They make it possible for electricity to move long distances, and serve as hubs for intersecting power lines.

Within a substation, transformers raise the voltage of electricity so it can travel hundreds of miles on high-voltage lines, or reduce voltages when electricity approaches its destination. The Metcalf substation functions as an off-ramp from power lines for electricity heading to homes and businesses in Silicon Valley.

The country's roughly 2,000 very large transformers are expensive to build, often costing millions of dollars each, and hard to replace. Each is custom made and weighs up to 500,000 pounds, and "I can only build 10 units a month," said Dennis Blake, general manager of Pennsylvania Transformer in Pittsburgh, one of seven U.S. manufacturers. The utility industry keeps some spares on hand.

A 2009 Energy Department report said that "physical damage of certain system components (e.g. extra-high-voltage transformers) on a large scale…could result in prolonged outages, as procurement cycles for these components range from months to years."

Mr. Wellinghoff said a FERC analysis found that if a surprisingly small number of U.S. substations were knocked out at once, that could destabilize the system enough to cause a blackout that could encompass most of the U.S.

Not everyone is so pessimistic. Gerry Cauley, chief executive of the North America Electric Reliability Corp., a standards-setting group that reports to FERC, said he thinks the grid is more resilient than Mr. Wellinghoff fears.

"I don't want to downplay the scenario he describes," Mr. Cauley said. "I'll agree it's possible from a technical assessment." But he said that even if several substations went down, the vast majority of people would have their power back in a few hours.

The utility industry has been focused on Internet attacks, worrying that hackers could take down the grid by disabling communications and important pieces of equipment. Companies have reported 13 cyber incidents in the past three years, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of emergency reports utilities file with the federal government. There have been no reports of major outages linked to these events, although companies have generally declined to provide details.

"A lot of people in the electric industry have been distracted by cybersecurity threats," said Stephen Berberich, chief executive of the California Independent System Operator, which runs much of the high-voltage transmission system for the utilities. He said that physical attacks pose a "big, if not bigger" menace.

There were 274 significant instances of vandalism or deliberate damage in the three years, and more than 700 weather-related problems, according to the Journal's analysis.

Until the Metcalf incident, attacks on U.S. utility equipment were mostly linked to metal thieves, disgruntled employees or bored hunters, who sometimes took potshots at small transformers on utility poles to see what happens. (Answer: a small explosion followed by an outage.)

Last year, an Arkansas man was charged with multiple attacks on the power grid, including setting fire to a switching station. He has pleaded not guilty and is undergoing a psychiatric evaluation, according to federal court records.

Overseas, terrorist organizations were linked to 2,500 attacks on transmission lines or towers and at least 500 on substations from 1996 to 2006, according to a January report from the Electric Power Research Institute, an industry-funded research group, which cited State Department data.

To some, the Metcalf incident has lifted the discussion of serious U.S. grid attacks beyond the theoretical. "The breadth and depth of the attack was unprecedented" in the U.S., said Rich Lordan, senior technical executive for the Electric Power Research Institute. The motivation, he said, "appears to be preparation for an act of war."

The attack lasted slightly less than an hour, according to the chronology assembled by the Journal.

The substation's cameras weren't aimed outside its perimeter, where the attackers were. They shooters appear to have aimed at the transformers' oil-filled cooling systems. These began to bleed oil, but didn't explode, as the transformers probably would have done if hit in other areas.

Riddled with bullet holes, the transformers leaked 52,000 gallons of oil, then overheated. The first bank of them crashed at 1:45 a.m., at which time PG&E's control center about 90 miles north received an equipment-failure alarm.

Grid officials routed some power around the substation to keep the system stable and asked customers in Silicon Valley to conserve electricity.

In a news release, PG&E said the substation had been hit by vandals. It has since confirmed 17 transformers were knocked out.

Mr. Wellinghoff, then chairman of FERC, said that after he heard about the scope of the attack, he flew to California, bringing with him experts from the U.S. Navy's Dahlgren Surface Warfare Center in Virginia, which trains Navy SEALs. After walking the site with PG&E officials and FBI agents, Mr. Wellinghoff said, the military experts told him it looked like a professional job.

In addition to fingerprint-free shell casings, they pointed out small piles of rocks, which they said could have been left by an advance scout to tell the attackers where to get the best shots.

"They said it was a targeting package just like they would put together for an attack," Mr. Wellinghoff said.

Mr. Wellinghoff, now a law partner at Stoel Rives LLP in San Francisco, said he arranged a series of meetings in the following weeks to let other federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, know what happened and to enlist their help. He held a closed-door meeting with utility executives in San Francisco in June and has distributed lists of things utilities should do to strengthen their defenses.

A spokesman for Homeland Security said it is up to utilities to protect the grid. The department's role in an emergency is to connect federal agencies and local police and facilitate information sharing, the spokesman said.

As word of the attack spread through the utility industry, some companies moved swiftly to review their security efforts. "We're looking at things differently now," said Michelle Campanella, an FBI veteran who is director of security for Consolidated Edison Inc.  in New York. For example, she said, Con Ed changed the angles of some of its 1,200 security cameras "so we don't have any blind spots."

Some of the legislators Mr. Wellinghoff briefed are calling for action. Rep. Henry Waxman (D., Calif.) mentioned the incident at a FERC oversight hearing in December, saying he was concerned that no one in government can order utilities to improve grid protections or to take charge in an emergency.

As for Mr. Wellinghoff, he said he has made something of a hobby of visiting big substations to look over defenses and see whether he is questioned by security details or local police. He said he typically finds easy access to fence lines that are often close to important equipment.

"What keeps me awake at night is a physical attack that could take down the grid," he said. "This is a huge problem."



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 16, 2014

So, who are the smartest scientists?

The paper below is a curious one. The authors seem to be making mountains out of molehills.  There IS for instance a correlation between IQ and conventional religion but it is slight  -- unlikely to be of any practical importance and probably artifactual anyway.  See here

But the thing which amused me most was the claim that social scientists are more religious.  I spent many years teaching the social sciences in Australian universities and during that time  went to a lot of conferences both in Australia and overseas  -- where I met many fellow social scientists.  And it is true that most social scientists are religious, but the religion is Leftism. Anybody who can still believe in socialism after all the socialist disasters of the 20th century is in the grip of deep faith.  I think I only ever met three Christian social scientists.  So I would have thought that social scientists were the LEAST religious academic group as far as conventional religions are concerned.  So the study below would seem to rely on some very strange sampling.  Journal abstract included below

SOCIAL science professors at elite institutions are more likely to be religious and politically extreme than their counterparts in the natural sciences, argues a new paper. Why? Natural scientists are just smarter.

“There is sound evidence of a negative correlation between intelligence and religiosity and between intelligence and political extremism,” reads the paper in the Interdisciplinary Journal on Research and Religion which examines existing data on academic scientists’ IQs by field, and on religious beliefs and political extremism among science professors in the US and Britain. “Therefore the most probable reason behind elite social scientists being more religious than are elite physical scientists is that social scientists are less intelligent.”

The paper, written by Edward Dutton, adjunct professor of cultural anthropology at the University of Oulu, in Finland, and Richard Lynn, a retired professor of psychology from the University of Ulster, in Northern Ireland, who is known for his work on race and IQ, continues: “Intelligence is also a factor in interdisciplinary differences in political extremism, [with] physicists, who have high IQs, being among the least extreme and lower-IQ scholars being among the most extreme.”

In an interview, Dutton said social scientists aren’t stupid, or necessarily extreme in their politics or overly religious. But, statistically speaking, they have lower IQs than their colleagues in biological and physical sciences and are likelier to be extremely conservative or liberal or religious, or both.

Dutton said that there are many similarities between political extremism and religious fundamentalism; in other research, he uses the term “replacement religions” to describe the phenomenon.

“[Physical] scientists are overwhelmingly atheist,” Dutton said. “This is predicted by their high IQ, which allows you to rise above emotion and see through the fallacious, emotional arguments.” Arguments about God are all emotional arguments, he added.

The paper is a meta-analysis of existing data showing several things: that natural scientists have higher IQs than social scientists; that low intelligence “predicts” political extremism and religiosity; and that physical scientists at elite institutions are less likely to believe in God or be politically extreme than their counterparts in the social sciences.

The connection between all three research areas has never been made until now, Dutton said. But — in just one example of potentially problematic methodology — the logic can’t be extended to academe in general. Several studies cited in the paper drawing from a wider mix of colleges and universities than simply the most elite show that life sciences professors are more likely to attend church than their peers in the social sciences, not less. The paper assumes this is because professors at elite institutions are smarter than their peers elsewhere.

The researchers also use IQ as the sole measure of intelligence (they mention Howard Gardner’s multiple forms of intelligence, but argue that they could also be considered personality traits).

The researchers acknowledge some of their limitations, including that some older data in the analysis involve a very small sample size. Dutton and Lynn say that future research involving larger academic samples would be “extremely useful” in exploring these areas in greater depth.

Dutton said he knew his paper would upset some readers, but that he invited feedback from fellow scholars. The point of research, even when controversial, is to “get closer to the truth of human life,” he said.

Interdisciplinary Journal on Research and Religion. 2014 Volume 10, Article 1

Intelligence and Religious and Political Differences Among Members of the U.S. Academic Elite


Many studies have found inverse correlations between intelligence and religiosity, intelligence and political conservatism, and intelligence and political extremism. Other studies have found that academics tend to be significantly less religious and more liberal than the general population. In this article, we argue that interdisciplinary differences in religiosity and political perspective among academics are predicted by interdisciplinary differences in intelligence between academics. Once personality factors correlating with religiosity have been substantially controlled for, physicists, who have higher average intelligence, are less religious than are social scientists, who have lower average intelligence. Physical scientists are also less politically extreme than are social scientists.



Why Valentine's Day Makes Me Queasy

Andrew Klavan has some good thoughts below but I do not agree with him entirely.  He seems to find the transactional nature of male/female relationships objectional but most psychologists would see that as basic.  A relationship is a trade of sorts.  Not very romantic, I guess, but it explains a lot

As Valentine's Day approaches, I find myself looking at contemporary depictions of romance with a distinct feeling of nausea. TV ads for flowers, Teddy Bears and jewelry all suggest that men will — wink, wink — get lucky if they give their girl the right gift and will have some serious 'splaining to do if they do not. It's awful tripe. I mean, I understand the Kay Jeweler slogan "Every Kiss Begins with Kay," is meant as a clever nonsense, but my mind reflexively responds, "Yeah, and Every Prostitute Begins with Pay!"

Do these ads really speak to any human males and females in actual relationships?

I fear they must. The ABC-TV show The Bachelor has been running for 18 seasons and, according to Slate television critic Willa Paskin, it basically makes popular entertainment out of women giving themselves in sex and even marriage in return for luxury and treacly lies. "It's callow, sordid behavior made somehow acceptable by the use of Hallmark Card language and a really fly hotel room."

I would chalk this up to trash TV, and yet I see with my own eyes the elaborate and expensive lengths young men now go to in order to propose to their girlfriends "romantically," not to mention the enormous gobs of cash these couples then shell out to turn the wedding into "her special day." I don't think you have to be a psychologist to suspect that this extravagance is meant to disguise the emptiness of such white-dress rituals in a world where virginity goes cheap, divorce is easy and gender roles are blurred.

But worse, beneath such displays of conspicuous enchantment, there also lies, I think, an insecurity about the depth of true affection between man and mate. I was not surprised to read a column this week by the Wall Street Journal's Elizabeth Bernstein in which, under the headline "Answers to the Relationship Question Readers Ask Most," she deals with the absence of sex in marriage. Well, at least the wedding was nice!

Listen, at this point, to be frank, I have no chips in this game. My marriage of more than three decades has been a God-sent miracle of love and hilarity. I have no idea what our "secret" is. We try to be nice to each other. We made a conscious decision to ignore cultural pressures from all sides. She treats me like a king. I worship the ground she walks on. It works for us. I really don't care what the rest of you do.

But I have an observation which, in lieu of chocolates, I offer as a Valentine's gift from an old campaigner to the romancing young.

I think in all the modern hysteria over gender roles, young people have become trapped between two competing materialist world-views, both wrong. On the one side are the idiot feminists, whining about a mathematical equality no one wants, prattling endlessly about their tiresome vaginas as they seek to intimidate men out of their inborn natures and pressure women to forgo their deepest dreams.

On the other side are the latest scientific and sociological studies that inevitably prove that boys will continue to be boys and girls girly. The gifts-for-sex jewelry ads and "reality" shows are outgrowths of this deterministic view of human sexuality: exaggerated Darwinian kabukis of power and fertility in which I give you presents and romance to show I can and will support you, you parade your body to show you can and will bear young.

And it's true, I know, nature shapes us. We shouldn't let the culture bully us out of our native selves. But in the end, both Darwinian fundamentalism and reactionary feminism are reductive and foolish. We are individuals — and more: incarnate spirits, fearfully and wonderfully made. It is love, not money, not sex, not even reproduction, that is our true heart's desire.

Trust me on this. You can do without the Teddy Bear. Come Valentine's Day, man or woman, devote your soul to your lover's. You'll get a lot luckier than you ever imagined.



The Rushdie Fatwa 25 Years Later

By Daniel Pipes

Twenty-five years ago today, Ayatollah Khomeini brought his edict down on Salman Rushdie. Iran’s revolutionary leader objected to the author’s magical-realist novel The Satanic Verses because of its insults to the Muslim prophet Muhammad and responded by calling for the execution of Rushdie and “all those involved in the publication who were aware of its contents.”

That Rushdie was born in India, lived in Britain, and had no significant connections to Iran made this an unprecedented act of aggression, one that resounded widely at the time and has subsequently had an enduring impact. Indeed, one could argue that the era of “creeping sharia” or “stealth jihad” or “lawful Islamism” began on February 14, 1989, with the issuance of that short edict.

If Rushdie, 66, is alive and well (if not exactly flourishing; his writings deteriorated after The Satanic Verses), many others lost their lives in the disturbances revolving around his book. Worse, the long-term impact of the edict has been to constrain the ability of Westerners freely to discuss Islam and topics related to it, what has come to be known as the Rushdie Rules. Long observation of this topic (including a book written in 1989), leads me to conclude that two processes are underway:

First, that the right of Westerners to discuss, criticize, and even ridicule Islam and Muslims has eroded over the years.

Second, that free speech is a minor part of the problem; at stake is something much deeper – indeed, a defining question of our time: will Westerners maintain their own historic civilization in the face of assault by Islamists, or will they cede to Islamic culture and law and submit to a form of second-class citizenship?

Most analyses of the Rushdie Rules focus exclusively on the growth of Islamism. But two other factors are even more important: Multiculturalism as practiced undercuts the will to sustain Western civilization against Islamist depredations while the Left’s making common political cause with Islamists gives the latter an entrée. In other words, the core of the problem lies not in Islam but in the West.



Communist echoes haunt Sochi

As the Olympics got underway in post-Soviet Russia this weekend, a moment in NBC's coverage briefly revived a Soviet-era controversy: the charge that Western liberals are soft on communism.

Narrating the network's lead segment on the opening ceremonies, actor Peter Dinklage mused on Russia's history and referred to "the revolution that birthed one of modern history's pivotal experiments." Conservative blogs quickly accused NBC of glorifying Russia's Soviet past. Unfortunately, such a rose-tinted view of communism is not an isolated instance. It is a mindset that still infects the left and, too often, spills over into more mainstream liberalism., a leader in the left-of-center media, recently published an article by activist Jesse Myerson titled "Why you're wrong about communism," purporting to debunk American "misconceptions" on the subject. Among those alleged errors: the notion that "communism killed 110 million people for resisting dispossession."

First, Myerson writes that the 110 million figure is not rooted in "sound research." Actually, the figure, based on "The Black Book of Communism," a landmark 1999 work, may be too low: The book lists a body count of 20 million for the Soviet Union, but some scholars put the number of terror victims at 20 million-25 million and the death toll from regime-made famines as high as 10 million.

Second, Myerson argues, many victims were not resistant property owners but people who were Communists. So? No anti-communist ever claimed that all of communism's victims died for refusing collectivization. Rather, the idea of collective ownership could be imposed only through such violent coercion that even supporters of that "dream" were caught in the terror machine.

Myerson offers other standard excuses (the Soviets had to fight a revolutionary war and battle the Nazis) before turning to China to conclude that Mao's Great Leap Forward, which caused a famine that killed tens of millions, had nothing to do with communism. Then, he asserts that if communism must be held accountable for its terror toll, capitalism should be blamed not only for the deaths in wars against Communist regimes, but also for presumed future deaths from climate change. Someone should tell him communism was no environmental paradise.

While Myerson is on the far left, milder versions of such apologetics can be found closer to the media mainstream. In 2005, reviewing a biography of Mao, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof argued that "Mao's legacy is not all bad" and that his rule "brought useful changes to China."

Meanwhile, U.S. Communists such as folk singer Pete Seeger, a onetime admirer of Josef Stalin, often get a pass for supporting murderous totalitarianism. After Seeger's death last month, David Graham, a political editor at The Atlantic, admitted the singer took some "distressing and dangerous positions" -- but argued that his pro-communist politics were part of an idealistic commitment to social justice that also led him to embrace the civil rights movement.

After "The Black Book of Communism" was published, socialist writer Daniel Singer lamented in The Nation that to see communism as "merely the story of crimes" -- rather than flawed but real "social advancement" -- is to give up on the possibility of "radical transformation" today. It's a telling admission. Many on the left still yearn for egalitarian alternatives to capitalism, often finding them in authoritarian left-wing regimes such as the rule of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela.

Democratic capitalism is nothing if not flawed. But if there is one thing the 20th century should have taught us, it's to beware of noble "experiments" that use human beings as their fodder.



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)