Friday, November 21, 2014

Of mice and men

It has long been known that results from mouse research often do not generalize to humans so it is good to see an explanation for that below.

Food freaks often use the results of mouse experiments to claim that following their latest food fad will lengthen your life.  I have always argued that mice are particularly inappropriate in that application as mouse lifespans differ so markedly from human lifespans.  Making generalizations about lifespan from a short-lived species to a long-lived species is particularly absurd.

The finding below of large intrinsic differences between mouse and man should strengthen that criticism.  Food and health claims based on mouse research should be routinely disregarded.  The only occasion when mouse research could be of interest is when mouse research, human epidemiology and theory all point to the same conclusion

Mice and men are genetically far further apart than was previously thought, calling into question the important role the rodents play in medical research.

A new study has found that while mice and humans share many protein-coding genes, the way their genes are regulated is often very different.

US scientists were surprised to find that gene activity diverged wildly between the two species in some key biological pathways.

The finding may help explain why more than 90% of new medicines that pass animal tests then fail in human trials.

Laboratory mice have been a pillar of medical research for more than a century, being used by scientists investigating everything from social behaviour to obesity.

Only half of human and mouse DNA match compared with 96% of human and chimpanzee DNA.

Co-author Dr Michael Beer, from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said: "Most of the differences between mice and humans come from regulation of gene activity, not from genes themselves. Because mice are an important model for human biology, we have to understand these differences to better interpret our results."


(Yes.  My allusion in the heading to John Steinbeck and Robert Burns was deliberate)


Turley Takes Obama to Task

Barack Obama claims to be a “professor of constitutional law,” but a genuine constitutional scholar, George Washington University’s Jonathan Turley, a self-acknowledged liberal Obama supporter, has offered severe criticism of Obama’s “über presidency,” his abuse of executive orders and regulations to bypass Congress.

When asked by Fox News host Megyn Kelly how he would respond “to those who say many presidents have issued executive orders on immigration,” Turley responded, “This would be unprecedented, and I think it would be an unprecedented threat to the balance of powers.”

In July, Turley gave congressional testimony concerning Obama’s abuse of executive orders: “When the president went to Congress and said he would go it alone, it obviously raises a concern. There’s no license for going it alone in our system, and what he’s done is very problematic. He’s told agencies not to enforce some laws [and] has effectively rewritten laws through active interpretation that I find very problematic.”

He continued: “Our system is changing in a dangerous and destabilizing way. What’s emerging is an imperial presidency, an über presidency. … The president’s pledge to effectively govern alone is alarming but what is most alarming is his ability to fulfill that pledge. When a president can govern alone, he can become a government unto himself, which is precisely the danger that the Framers sought to avoid in the establishment of our tripartite system of government. … Obama has repeatedly violated this [separation of powers] doctrine in the circumvention of Congress in areas ranging from health care to immigration law to environmental law. … What we are witnessing today is one of the greatest challenges to our constitutional system in the history of this country. We are in the midst of a constitutional crisis with sweeping implications for our system of government. There could be no greater danger for individual liberty. I think the framers would be horrified. … We are now at the constitutional tipping point for our system. … No one in our system can ‘go it alone’ – not Congress, not the courts, and not the president.”

Turley reiterated this week: “[Obama has] become a government of one. … It’s becoming a particularly dangerous moment if the president is going to go forward, particularly after this election, to defy the will of Congress yet again. … What the president is suggesting is tearing at the very fabric of the Constitution. We have a separation of powers … to protect Liberty, to keep any branch from assuming so much authority that they become a threat to Liberty. … The Democrats are creating something very, very dangerous. They’re creating a president who can go it alone – the very danger that are framers sought to avoid in our Constitution. … I hope he does not get away with it.”



The Leftmedia Blinders

Speaking truth to power?  What a joke!

The big broadcast companies, ABC and NBC, stayed silent as the story that Jonathan Gruber boasted of lying to get ObamaCare passed gathered steam in conservative media. Didn’t it matter that the person who Barack Obama claimed was one of the major minds behind the law lied to get it passed? But yet, as Newsbusters reports, the networks stayed loyal to the Washington establishment. Perhaps they hoped the Gruber story would just go away.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that what is news in Washington often only matters to the players of Washington. The Leftmedia don’t hustle for the stories that matter to the public because the media and the government are often bedfellows – literally. Mark Leibovich, in his book “This Town,” tells of the marriage between Andrea Mitchell, a reporter for NBC News, and Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve. During the financial collapse of 2009, Mitchell treaded a thin line to report on her husband’s economic policies. Talk about a conflict of interest.

It seems only when journalists are pushed out of the system do the most damning stories come to light. On Nov. 14, Melissa Francis of Fox Business Network told viewers that her previous bosses at CNBC told her not to report the hard numbers on ObamaCare because it was – get this – disrespectful to the president.

Here’s how Francis told the story: “I said on the air that you couldn’t add millions of people to the system and force insurance companies to cover their preexisting conditions without raising the price on everyone else. I pointed out that it couldn’t possible be true that if you liked your plan, you can keep it. That was a lie, and in fact, millions of people had their insurance canceled. As a result of what I said at CNBC, I was called into management where I was told that I was ‘disrespecting the office of the president’ by telling what turned out to be the absolute truth.”

To be fair, telling the truth is to disrespect this president.

Based on Francis’s account, the producers at CNBC don’t have a clue what journalism is. Disrespect? Good journalism is never awed by those in power. Not to mention, as in this case, Obama’s “you can keep your plan” comment was awarded the “Lie of the Year” from Politifact.

When the New York Post reached out to CNBC for response to Francis’s allegation, a representative for the company replied, “That’s laughable, but we take notice, because as the fastest-growing network in prime time, we’re always on the lookout for high quality comedy writers and actresses.” Instead of confirming or denying what happened, they just make fun of their old news anchor. That should prove their commitment to journalism.

But Francis is not the only journalist to be pushed from the mainstream broadcast news networks because of how she did the job. Sharyl Attkisson left CBS in March in what she called an “amicable” manner. But sources in the company allege that Attkisson, then an Emmy award-winning investigative reporter, left after months of disagreement with management. CBS wasn’t supporting as much investigative journalism as they did in the past, and it certainly didn’t want to go hard charging after Obama like Attkisson did with her reporting of the Fast and Furious scandal, or her proposal to further investigate the Benghazi attack and subsequent cover-up.

Recently, the most damning of Washington scandals have not originated from the top of the Washington media food chain. They have been sniffed out from the bottom, where independent journalists and bloggers discover the documents and the sound bytes. It wasn’t the mainstream media that dug into the archives of Obama’s comments to come out holding the one in which the president said he liberally stole ideas from Jonathan Gruber.

The Washington press corps is too close to the problem. They don’t see why Gruber’s comments are germane because such deceitful games are the modus operandi in Washington. As Obama said in denying Gruber’s comments, ObamaCare was “extensively debated” and “fully transparent” – by which he meant lying and obfuscation are just part of American politics.

The American voter needs to know what the swamp along the Potomac is really like. They need the information to decide whether to put their trust in such a government. But the Leftmedia wear blinders when it comes to the very power to whom they purport to speak truth.



A White House Mass Pardon for Identity Thieves

President Obama is poised to show his "compassion" this week by granting work cards to an estimated five million illegal immigrants through an imperial executive order. As for the vast, untold number of law-abiding citizens whose identities have been stolen by foreign law-breakers, two words: Tough luck.

Social Security card fraudsters have made out like bandits thanks to the White House. Their victims are about to get kicked in the teeth again.

Two years ago, when Obama launched his first administrative amnesty known as "DACA" (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), the White House gave aid and comfort to illegal alien applicants who were concerned that their previous felony identity theft and fraud crimes would preclude them from the new non-deportation benefits. The Department of Homeland (In)security made clear that illegal workers who wanted coveted employment documents would not have to disclose to the feds whether they used stolen Social Security numbers.

Center for Immigration Studies analyst Jon Feere reported at the time that ethnic lobbyists and open-borders businesses lobbied the Obama administration hard "to keep American victims of ID theft in the dark while shielding unscrupulous businesses from enforcement." As an Obama official told The New York Times, DHS employees are "not interested in using this as a way to identify one-off cases where some individual may have violated some federal law in an employment relationship."

Translation: See no identity theft. Hear no identity theft. Speak no identity theft.

A high-profile immigration attorney crowed: "Good news for deferred action applicants: If you used a false Social Security card, you need not reveal the number on your deferred action application forms. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has clarified that when the forms ask for an applicant's Social Security number, it refers to Social Security numbers issued to the applicant. If you used a friend's number, a made-up number or a stolen number, you should answer N/A for 'not applicable' where it asks for the number."

Since then, more than 500,000 DACA applications have been approved with abysmal oversight, little public disclosure and total absolution for identity rip-off artists. The latest planned administrative amnesty will dwarf that ongoing fiasco.

Victimless crimes? Tell that to those who have been harmed by the estimated 75 percent of working-age illegal aliens who have fraudulently used Social Security cards to obtain employment. Tell it to victims in border states with the highest percentages of illegal aliens, where job-related identity theft is rampant.

Tell it to hardworking Americans like Wisconsinite Robert Guenterberg, whose Social Security number was exploited by illegal aliens for years to buy homes and cars — while the IRS refused to tell the victims about the fraud to protect the thieves' privacy rights.

Tell it to U.S. Air Force veteran Marcos Miranda, whose name and Social Security card were filched by an illegal alien to work at a pork slaughterhouse. He was even thrown in jail for unpaid traffic tickets racked up by his identity thief. "Even though I am Hispanic, I am against illegal immigration," Miranda told the Associated Press. "Even though a lot of them come to work, there are always bad apples. (Identity theft) has really made my perspective ... negative about immigration."

And what about the children? As the Center for Immigration Studies points out: "Children are prime targets. In Arizona, it is estimated that over one million children are victims of identity theft. In Utah, 1,626 companies were found to be paying wages to the SSNs of children on public assistance under the age of 13. These individuals suffer very real and very serious consequences in their lives."

They include Americans like Jay Di Napoli of Colorado Springs, who has fought for years to clear his name and financial records after his late father — an illegal alien who abandoned his American wife and children — "took my original Social Security card and birth certificate when I was 2 years old." The criminal "began selling these documents to undocumented workers coming across our border with Mexico. In fact, he sold my Social Security number to illegals over 28 times before his death in 2009, and my number continues to be sold to this day. What's more, my late father's actions have caused extremely grave damage in virtually every facet of my life."

The amnesty brigade loves to extol the virtues of those who are "doing the work no Americans will do." But when it comes to punishing illegal workers who have raided the lives of innocent Americans to feloniously secure jobs, mortgages and medical care, mum's the word.

Obama's new "American Dream" is the stuff of hellish nightmares: Reward the law-breakers. Punish the law-abiders. And sell out our national identity in pursuit of cheap votes and cheap labor. R.I.P.



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

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


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Our Futile Efforts to Boost Children's IQ

The twin studies have always shown little influence from family environment  -- both as regards IQ and personality.   Charles Murray notes more evidence to that effect below

It’s one thing to point out that programs to improve children's cognitive functioning have had a dismal track record. We can always focus on short-term improvements, blame the long-term failures on poor execution or lack of follow-up and try, try again. It’s another to say that it's impossible to do much to permanently improve children's intellectual ability through outside interventions. But that’s increasingly where the data are pointing.

Two studies published this year have made life significantly more difficult for those who continue to be optimists. The first one is by Florida State University’s Kevin Beaver and five colleagues, who asked how much effect parenting has on IQ independently of genes. The database they used, the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, is large, nationally representative and highly regarded. The measures of parenting included indicators for parental engagement, attachment, involvement and permissiveness. The researchers controlled for age, sex, race and neighborhood disadvantage. Their analytic model, which compares adoptees with biological children, is powerful, and their statistical methods are sophisticated and rigorous.

The answer to their question? Not much. “Taken together,” the authors write, “the results … indicate that family and parenting characteristics are not significant contributors to variations in IQ scores.” It gets worse: Some of the slight effects they did find were in the “wrong” direction. For example, maternal attachment was negatively associated with IQ in the children.

There’s nothing new in the finding that the home environment doesn’t explain much about a child’s IQ after controlling for the parents’ IQ, but the quality of the data and analysis in this study address many of the objections that the environmentalists have raised about such results. Their scholarly wiggle-room for disagreement is shrinking.

The second study breaks new ground. Six of its eight authors come from King’s College London, home to what is probably the world’s leading center for the study of the interplay among genes, environment and developmental factors. The authors applied one of the powerful new methods enabled by the decoding of the genome, “Genome-wide Complex Trait Analysis,” to ask how much effect socioeconomic status has on IQ independently of genes. The technique does not identify the causal role of specific genes, but rather enables researchers to identify patterns that permit conclusions like the one they reached in this study: “When genes associated with children’s IQ are identified, the same genes will also be likely to be associated with family SES.” Specifically, the researchers calculated that 94 percent of the correlation between socioeconomic status and IQ was mediated by genes at age 7 and 56 percent at age 12.

How can parenting and socioeconomic status play such minor roles in determining IQ, when scholars on all sides of the nature-nurture debate agree that somewhere around half of the variation in IQ is environmental? The short answer is that the environment that affects IQ doesn’t consist of the advantages that most people have in mind -- parents who talk a lot to their toddlers, many books in in the house for the older children, high-quality schools and the like.

Instead, studies over the past two decades have consistently found that an amorphous thing called the “nonshared” environment accounts for most (in many studies, nearly all) of the environmentally grounded variation. Scholars are still trying to figure out what features of the nonshared environment are important. Peers? Events in the womb? Accidents? We can be sure only of this: The nonshared environment does not lend itself to policy interventions intended to affect education, parenting, income or family structure.

The relevance of these findings goes beyond questions of public policy. As a parent of four children who all turned out great (in my opinion), I’d like to take some credit. With every new study telling me that I can’t legitimately do so with regard to IQ or this or that personality trait, I try to come up with something, anything, about my children for which I can still believe my parenting made a positive difference. It’s hard.

There’s no question that we know how to physically and psychologically brutalize children so that they are permanently damaged. But it increasingly appears that once we have provided children with a merely OK environment, our contribution as parents and as society is pretty much over. I’m with most of you: I viscerally resist that conclusion. But my resistance is founded on a sustained triumph of hope over evidence.



Why the November 4th GOP Victory Will Disappoint

           By all accounts, the recent mid-term election was a GOP victory of epic proportions. But, as the euphoria dissipates, let me add a cautionary note--the victory was not a grand as it seems since the Left (and this includes the Democratic Party) still dominates the political culture. The parallel is the gambling casino-the house always enjoys the advantage since it sets the odds, the game's rules and who is permitted to play. The recent GOP's victories might be compared to a gambler having a big day but, in the long run, the odds are stacked against him.
 The Left's "house advantage" comes from its domination of the mass media, its army of "expert" talking heads able to quickly spin narratives (think Ferguson) and its overwhelming control of universities. It is this domination that permits it to classify some ideas as "too extreme" and "controversial" and thereby beyond the mainstream. How else can we possibly explain how supporting the legalization of marijuana has suddenly become praiseworthy and drastically curtailing immigration-a long-standing government role is now tantamount to xenophobic hatefulness. Put bluntly, it is the Left that decides "what everybody knows to be good" and, conversely, what is beyond the pale.    
 The political upshot is that those who reject the Left's cosmology must overcome long odds just to make their case, no different than a blackjack player having to be exceptional skilled just to be even when competing against a mediocre dealer. To continue the gambling parallel, a GOP candidate is advised to avoid "games" where the House has too much of an advantage, e.g., slot machines, and instead play where the House edge may only be 2-3%, e.g., backgammon. .
   Consider how GOP candidates steadfastly avoided the hot-button issues of affirmative action, government mandated set-asides, racial quotas and all else in the racial spoils system. This evasion cannot be explained as a rational aversion to an unpopular policy-several states (including liberal California) have banned racial preferences and polls regularly confirm public hostility to race-based preferences. Rather, a GOP candidate who campaigned on an anti-affirmative action position is at an immediate disadvantage since "respectable folk" will accuse him of trying to reverse decades of civil rights progress. Such a candidate's past utterances will also be put under a microscope to uncover any hint of racism, even an ambiguous off-hand remark or Facebook posting as "proof" that opposition to affirmative action is "really" about being anti-black.

In other words, the discussion will go into reverse so instead of, say, discussing how affirmative action makes the US less competitive internationally, the candidate will instead waste time defending himself as having the right to talk openly about an issue that surely deserves a public airing. Only an extraordinarily clever candidate can accomplish this task and so prudence dictates selecting another less "controversial" menu item.

            Examples of this Left-defined "no-go" zone abound. Consider the tribulations any Republican will face when addressing the Left's pagan-like infatuation with the environment. Envision a GOP candidate insisting that like any decent human being he has nothing against the Alabama Cave Shrimp, the American Cinchona Plantation Treefrog or the Big-footed Minute Salamander (all actual endangered species) but such protection hurts the creation of decent jobs and with job loss comes poverty and, in turn, poverty brings ill-health, inadequate education, and even upsurges in domestic violence. Again, as with challenging affirmative action, the argument will proceed backwards as the speaker has to explain that he really does love Mother Nature and has no desire to decimate the rain forest. Tellingly, not one in a thousand knows what an Alabama Cave Shrimp looks like let along its contribution to the eco-system though everybody knows the harmful consequences of joblessness.

            What is particularly troubling is the asymmetrical nature of these "no go zones." A liberal Democrat might safely suggest all those earning less than $50,000 receive Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program or SNAP ("food stamps") and that unhealthy food be heavily taxed. This proposal at worst would be deemed impractical but few would castigate the advocate's moral character. But, picture the reaction if a Republican suggests that SNAP benefits ought to be limited to five years and recipients required to learn how to cook healthy, inexpensive meals. Such advocacy is not just impractical -even to suggest it betrays an Ebenezer Scrooge-like mean spirited "war on the poor." And good luck to the GOP candidate who claims that his policy limiting SNAP is a "war on dependency" versus a plan to starve babies.
 Clearly, what explains the Republicans flight from is its cowardice, a dread of being labeled "out of the mainstream" albeit a recently defined mainstream that contravenes centuries of tradition, and may actually be unpopular (save, of course, among our Mandarins). Indeed, I suspect that RNC campaign consultants have a secret list of policies that every GOP candidate must avoid lest he becomes politically radioactive and thus run afoul of those who define "the mainstream" and what is out-of-bounds. I can hear the RNC advisor saying "Don't mention the federal government's overreach in trying to combat campus sexual harassment -you will be tarred as being anti-women, pro-rape and no amount of talking about limited government will permit escape. Just mouth the usual banalities about more government funding for a college education."
Short of inventing spine-stiffing pills for nervous GOP candidates, what can be done? Forget about trying to educate the public that, for example, a lifelong dependency on Washington largess is not a constitutionally guaranteed right or that colorblind college admissions is not racist. This is too complicated for TV sound bites and such pronouncements will somehow be twisted into more evidence that the GOP lacks compassion.
     Let me instead suggest a strategy that goes back a millennium to a Norse fighter -the berserker (as in the phrase "going berserk").  This warrior usually dressed in a bearskin and whose wild, out-of-control behavior and fearlessness verged on insanity. The very sight of the ax wielding, foaming-at-the-mouth madman often caused the enemy to flee.
    As with Viking raiding parties, only a few suffice. These "crazy" candidates will confront what the Left has certified as "taboo" and thereby clear the path for more timid types of follow. He (or she) will unashamedly declare that diversity is not our strength, it is a liability and its celebration only invites trouble. He will continue on by insisting that national sovereignty absolutely requires controlling borders and that pouring yet more money into education now resembles trying to get blood from turnips. And that relentlessly expanding government welfare entitlements only creates a nation of docile toy poodles. And on and on.  The MSNBC pundits will be horrified!  O dear.
      His "wild" utterances will not, of course, bring the policy changes that many conservatives crave, at least not immediately. Nor will they win elections. But, they will make "unspeakable" views speakable and therefore stop the process where the unspeakable eventually becomes unthinkable. At a minimum, many who secretly harbor these Left-defined "controversial" views will at least now know that they are not isolated kooks. I look forward to the day when one of the participants in a staid PBS election debate arrives in a bearskin suit and shocks everyone by simply telling the truth.



The Left’s legacy of lies

In her exceptional book "American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation's Character," Diana West writes that Wirt, a Gary, Indiana schools superintendent, asserted before a Congressional committee in May 1934 that there was a deliberately conceived plot among members of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal administration to overthrow the established social order in the United States and substitute a communist-style planned economy.

For performing his patriotic duty, Wirt was branded a liar by committee Democrats, smeared by the press and even ridiculed by Roosevelt himself, a fate that would likewise befall future anti-communists such as ex-Soviet agent Whittaker Chambers, journalist M. Stanton Evans, Representative Martin Dies (D-TX) and Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI).

According to Diana West, there are many striking parallels between America's struggle with Communism and the present battle with radical Islam. The government's "see-no-Islam" policy makes truth, evidence and reality subservient to cultural sensitivity to maintain the Big Lie that "Islam is the religion of peace." It is the systematic suppression or altering of facts that advances and sustains the ideology of the left and its barricades in academia and the media.

Stated simply, the left has a tradition of deceit and a history of changing history.

MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, a leading architect of Obamacare, is now under fire for comments in which he conceded that to pass the healthcare law, supporters relied on "the stupidity of the American voter" to hide its actual effects and represents the latest example of how the law was built on a foundation of lies.

Consistent with the left's pattern of deception, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) denied ever hearing about Gruber, but her website in December 2009 featured a lengthy blog post citing his analysis of Obamacare in an effort to dispel "myths" about the bill. C-SPAN also posted a clip from a Nov. 13, 2009 press conference where she touts Gruber's work.

Obama used the Internal Revenue Service and three-letter security agencies to suppress political speech with which he disagreed and harass news reporters who filed stories critical of him, while claiming there was not a "smidgen of corruption" in the so-called IRS scandal.

Obama supported and armed Islamic jihadists in Egypt, Libya and Syria, some of whose weapons may have ended up in Afghanistan and were used against American troops, while rejecting that his administration has misled the public on the Benghazi, Libya attack.

Military records and sources reveal that on July 25, 2012, Taliban fighters in Kunar province, Afghanistan successfully targeted a US Army CH-47 helicopter with a new generation Stinger missile. According to this report, the US Special Operations believe the Stinger fired against the Chinook was part of the same lot the CIA turned over to the Qataris in early 2011, weapons Hillary Rodham Clinton's State Department intended for anti-Khadafy forces in Libya, but were subsequently given to the Taliban.

Now Obama is planning an executive amnesty that would give work permits, Social Security numbers, and drivers licenses to as many as 8 million illegal immigrants, after insisting for years that he had absolutely no legal authority even to slow deportations.

Leftists have a legacy; they lie to get elected, they lie to enact their policies and they lie when those policies fail.



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

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


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

McClosky revisited

I recently received the following query from a reader:

I am working on a book on liberal/conservative differences from a conservative’s point of view.  In this process I came across a very old study (McClosky, Herbert (1958) "Conservatism and Personality".  The American Political Science Review 52 (1)  This was the wildest set of findings about Conservatives that I have ever seen--Adorno et al. included.  Here are a few of his statements.

“By every measure available to us, conservative beliefs are found mos frequently among the uninformed, the poorly educated and so far as we can determine, the less intelligent”

And “Far from being the elite or the masters or the prime movers, conservatives tend on the whole to come from the more backward and frightened elements of the population, including the classes that are socially and psychologically depressed.”

And: “ ..the extreme conservatives are easily the most hostile and suspicious, the most rigid and compulsive, the quickest to condemn others for their imperfections or weaknesses, the most intolerant, the most easily moved to  scorn and disappointment in others…”

This study actually had a few years of popularity (and criticism) and then seemed to just fade away.

In reply, I wrote

His scale was invalid.  It did not predict vote.  Like most (all?) conservatism scales constructed by Leftists, it was a caricature of what conservatives believe

Some further comments:

I commented on the McClosky work in my 1973 paper: "CONSERVATISM, AUTHORITARIANISM AND RELATED VARIABLES: A Review and Empirical Study" but a few more words here might not go astray.

McClosky's work was one of a long line of Leftist attempts to demonstrate psychological inadequacy in conservatives.  His work is distinguished however by the care he took to define conservatism adequately, unlike the ludicrous Altemeyer, who gave that no thought at all. McClosky was basically a political scientist so was aware of an array of conservative thinkers such as Kirk, Burke, Rossiter etc.  He quoted from them to define what conservatism is.

He was not exactly a searching thinker, however, so largely missed the wood for the trees.  The issues that concern conservatives vary with the times.  It is only recently, for instance, that homosexual marriage has become an issue of concern for conservatives.  So he failed to go beneath the day to day issues that have energized conservatives over the years and figure out what the root causes of conservative thinking are.  He failed to see that simple cautiuousness is the most basic level of conservatism and that a concern for individual liberty is one of the most basic deductions from a cautious attitude.  So he failed to trace any of the day to day concerns back to the basics.  He failed to see that a conservative respect for tradition and history stems from a very basic cautious desire to find out what works.  If someone wants to know whether a proposed policy will work as intended, history may in fact be the only guide to that.

So the list of conservative attitude statements that he compiled and used in his surveys sounded very old fashioned and did not address basic conservative concerns.  And, probably unintentionally, he expressed conservative attitudes in an implausible way.  He wrote down what Leftists think conservatives believe rather than using statements uttered by actual contemporaneous conservatives.  And the result was to vitiate his work.  He failed to find out anything about actual conservatives because he misidentified who conservatives were.  His allegedly conservative statements were agreed to just as much by Leftist voters as by conservative voters.  Hilarious! So the characteristics he observed in his surveys were not the characteristics of conservatives at all.  They were probably the characteristics of old-fashioned people, if anything.

And other Leftist reseachers both before and after him (Adorno, Altemeyer) have fallen into the same trap.  They clearly have a horror of actually talking to conservatives so rely for their impression of conservatives on the caricature of conservatism  that exists in their little Leftist mental bubble-world.  They see opposition to homosexual marriage, for instance, as an expression of "homophobia" rather than acknowledging that caution may cause it to be seen as a dangerous departure from what we know works in human family arrangements.

But Leftists do bad research in general. The global warming nonsense alone should tell us that.  It is theory totally divorced from the data. Leftist researchers leap to conclusions and lack basic caution about inferences.  It is no wonder that something like 99% of academic journal articles are only ever read by the author and his mother.  And as I think most published academic journal article authors will tell you, even the referees who evaluate the article for publication clearly only skim-read it at best.  So we have to be very thankful indeed for the occasional real advance in our understanding of the world that comes out of academic research -- JR.


The one thing Obama is good at:  Short-sheeting Israel

At least in his handling of US relations with the Jewish state, Obama has exhibited a mastery of the tools of the executive branch unmatched by most of his predecessors.

Consider two stories reported in last Friday’s papers.

First, in an article published in The Jerusalem Post, terrorism analyst and investigative reporter Steven Emerson revealed how the highest echelons of the administration blocked the FBI and the US Attorney’s Office from assisting Israel in finding the remains of IDF soldier Oron Shaul.

Shaul was one of seven soldiers from the Golani Infantry Brigade killed July 20 when Hamas terrorists fired a rocket at their armored personnel carrier in Gaza’s Shejeia neighborhood.

As Emerson related, after stealing his remains, Hamas terrorists hacked into Shaul’s Facebook page and posted announcements that he was being held by Hamas.

Among other things it did to locate Shaul and ascertain whether or not he was still alive, the IDF formally requested that the FBI intervene with Facebook to get the IP address of the persons who posted on Oron’s page. If such information was acquired quickly, the IDF might be able to locate Oron, or at least find people with knowledge of his whereabouts.

Acting in accordance with standing practice, recognizing that time was of the essence, the FBI and the US Attorney’s Office began working on Israel’s request immediately. But just before the US Attorney secured a court order to Facebook requiring it to hand over the records, the FBI was told to end its efforts.

In an order that senior law enforcement officials told Emerson came from Attorney General Eric Holder’s office, the FBI was told that it needed to first sign an “MLAT,” a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty with Israel, a procedure that would take weeks to complete, and is generally used in cases involving criminal prosecutions and other non-life threatening issues.

In other words, facing a bureaucracy acting independently, Holder – reportedly Obama’s most trusted cabinet secretary – acted quickly, decisively and effectively. And thanks to his intervention at the key moment, although Israel was able – after an exhaustive forensic investigation – to determine Oron’s death, today it is poised to begin negotiations with Hamas for the return of his body parts.

Then there was the unofficial arms embargo.

In August, The Wall Street Journal reported that the White House and State Department had stopped the Pentagon at the last minute from responding favorably to an Israeli request for resupply of Hellfire precision air-to-surface missiles. The precision guided missiles were a key component of Israel’s air operations against missile launchers in Gaza. The missiles’ guidance systems allowed the air force to destroy the launchers while minimizing collateral damage.

In keeping with the standard decades-long practice, Israel requested the resupply through European Command, its military-to-military channel with the US military.

And in keeping with standard practice, the request was granted.

But then the White House and State Department heard about the approved shipment and spun into action. As in the case of Oron’s Facebook page, they didn’t reject Israel’s request. They just added a level of bureaucracy to the handling of the request that made it impossible for Israel to receive assistance from the US government in real time.

As State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf put it at the time, “We’re not holding anything. A hold indicates, technically, that you are not moving forward on making a decision about a transfer…. These requests are still moving forward; there’s just additional steps in the process now, and there’s been no policy decision made to not move forward with them…. They’re just going to take a little while longer.”

The Hellfire missiles, along with other ammunition Israel requested during the war, arrived in September – a month after the cease-fire went into effect.

On Friday veteran military affairs reporter Amir Rappaport reported in Makor Rishon that the hold on the Hellfire missiles was only one aspect of the White House’s decision to stop arms shipments to Israel during the war. Shortly after Operation Protective Edge began, the administration stopped all contact with the Defense Ministry’s permanent procurement delegation in the US.

According to Rappaport, for the first time since the 1982 war in Lebanon, “The expected airlift of US ammunition [to the IDF] never arrived at its point of departure.”

The difference between Obama’s actions during Operation Protective Edge and Ronald Reagan’s partial arms embargo against Israel 32 years ago is that Reagan made his action publicly. He argued his case before the public, and Congress.

Obama has done no such thing. As was the case with the FAA’s scandalous ban on flights to Ben-Gurion Airport during the war, Holder’s prevention of the FBI from helping Israel find Oron, and Obama’s arms embargo were justified as mere bureaucratic measures.

As Harf claimed in relation to the embargo, there was no hostile policy behind any of the hostile policy moves.  Obama and his senior advisors are simply sticklers for procedure. And since during the war Obama insisted that he supported Israel, policymakers and the public had a hard time opposing his actions.

How can you oppose a hostile policy toward Israel that the administration insists doesn’t exist? Indeed, anyone who suggests otherwise runs the risk of being attacked as a conspiracy theorist or a firebrand.

The same goes for Obama’s policy toward Iran. This week we learned that the administration has now offered Iran a nuclear deal in which the mullahs can keep half of their 10,000 active centrifuges spinning.

Together with Iran’s 10,000 currently inactive centrifuges which the US offer ignores, the actual US position is to allow Iran to have enough centrifuges to enable it to build nuclear bombs within a year, at most.

In other words, the US policy toward Iran exposed by Obama’s nuclear offer is one that enables the most active state sponsor of terrorism to acquire nuclear weapons almost immediately.

But Obama denies this is his policy. For six years he has very deftly managed Congressional opposition to his wooing of the Iranian regime by insisting that his policy is to reduce the Iranian nuclear threat and to prevent war.

Opposing his policy means opposing these goals.

Consistent polling data show that Obama’s policies of harming Israel and facilitating Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear arsenal are deeply unpopular. His successful advancement of both policies despite this deep-seated public opposition is a testament to his extraordinary skill.

On the other hand, Obama’s virtuoso handling of the federal bureaucracy and Congress also reveal the Achilles heel of his policies. He conceals them because he cannot defend them.

Obama’s inability to defend these policies means that politicians from both parties can forthrightly set out opposing policies without risking criticism or opposition from the administration.

How can Obama criticize a serious policy to support Israel when he claims that this is his goal? And how can he oppose a serious policy to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons when he says that he shares that goal?

At least as far as Israel is concerned, Obama’s mastery of the federal bureaucracy is complete. It is not incompetence that guides his policy. It is malicious intent toward the US’s closest ally in the Middle East. And to defeat this policy, it is not necessary to prove incompetence that doesn’t exist. It is necessary to show that there are far better ways to achieve his declared aims of supporting Israel and blocking Iran’s nuclear weapons program.



Six Conundrums Of Socialism

Here are six Conundrums of Socialism in the United States of America:

1. America is capitalist and greedy – yet half of the population is subsidized.

2. Half of the population is subsidized – yet they think they are victims.

3. They think they are victims – yet their representatives run the government.

4. Their representatives run the government – yet the poor keep getting poorer.

5. The poor keep getting poorer – yet they have things that people in other countries only dream about.

6. They have things that people in other countries only dream about – yet they want America to be more like those other countries.

Think about it! It pretty much sums up the USA in the 21st Century. Makes you wonder who is doing the math.

These three, short sentences tell you a lot about the direction of our current government and cultural environment:

1. We are advised to NOT judge ALL Muslims by the actions of a few lunatics, but we are encouraged to judge ALL gun owners by the actions of a few lunatics.  Funny how that works. And here’s another one worth considering…

2. Seems we constantly hear about how Social Security is going to run out of money. But we never hear about welfare or food stamps running out of money? What’s interesting is the first group “worked for” their money, but the second didn’t.  Think about it… and Last but not least:

3. Why are we cutting benefits for our veterans, no pay raises for our military and cutting our army to a level lower than before WWII, but we are not stopping the payments or benefits to illegal aliens.

Am I the only one missing something?



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

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


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The NYT (below) notices racial disparities in voting

So it's now OK for us all to talk about race?

It has not escaped the notice of political analysts that 72 percent of whites without college degrees — a rough proxy for what we used to call the white working class — believe that “the U.S. economic system generally favors the wealthy.” Or that on Nov. 4, these same men and women voted for Republican House candidates 64-34.

Similarly, the overwhelmingly white electorates of Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota voted decisively in referendums to raise the minimum wage while simultaneously voting for Republicans, whose party has adamantly rejected legislation to raise the minimum wage.

There is an ongoing debate among politicians, political scientists and partisans of both parties over the dismal support of Democratic candidates among whites. Does it result from ideological differences, racial animosity or a perception among many whites that they are excluded from a coalition of minorities, the poor, single women of all races, gays and other previously marginalized constituencies?

Arguably, the poor Democratic showing among whites does not represent naked race prejudice, as Obama’s election and re-election attest. But it can be seen as a reflection of substantial material interests that affect the very voters who carry greater weight in low turnout midterm Congressional elections.

Whites as a whole, who made up 75 percent of this year’s electorate, voted for Republican House candidates by a 24-point margin, 62-38, the exact same margin by which they supported Republican candidates in the 2010 midterms. In 2006, when opposition to President George W. Bush was intense, Republicans won white voters by eight points, 52-44.

The opposition of whites to the Democratic Party is visible not only in voting behavior, but in general opposition to key Democratic policy initiatives, most tellingly in hostility toward the Affordable Care Act. A November 2013 National Journal poll found, for example, that 58 percent of whites said Obamacare would make things worse for “people like you and your family,” more than double the 25 percent that said that Obamacare would make things better.

Asked whether the Affordable Care Act would make things better or worse for the country at large, 60 percent of whites said worse and 35 percent of whites said better.

Obamacare shifts health care benefits and tax burdens from upper-income Americans to lower-income Americans, and from largely white constituencies to beneficiaries disproportionately made up of racial and ethnic minorities. The program increases levies on the overwhelmingly white affluent by raising taxes on households making more than $250,000.

To achieve its goals, Obamacare reduces spending on Medicare by $500 billion over 10 years, according to the Medicare board of trustees, which oversees the finances of the program. Medicare serves a population that is 77 percent white. Even as reductions in Medicare spending fall disproportionately on white voters, the savings are being used to finance Obamacare, which includes a substantial expansion of Medicaid. Medicaid recipients are overwhelmingly poor and, in 2013, were 41 percent white and 59 percent minority.

In addition to expanding Medicaid, the overall goal of Obamacare is to provide health coverage for the uninsured, a population that, in 2010 when the program was enacted, was 47 percent white, and 53 percent black, Hispanic, Asian-American and other minorities.

It’s not hard to see, then, why a majority of white midterm voters withheld support from Democrats and cast their votes for Republicans.

Republicans are not satisfied with winning 62 percent of the white vote. To counter the demographic growth of Democratic constituencies whose votes threaten Republican success in high-turnout presidential elections, Republicans have begun a concerted effort to rupture the partisan loyalty of the remaining white Democratic voters. Their main target is socially liberal, fiscally conservative suburbanites, the weakest reeds in the Democratic coalition. These middle-income white voters do not share the acute economic needs of so-called downscale Democratic voters and they are less reliant on government services.

The Republican strategy to win over these more culturally tolerant, but still financially pressed, white voters is to continue to focus on material concerns – on anxiety about rising tax burdens, for example — while downplaying the preoccupation of many of the most visible Republicans with social, moral and cultural repression.

The current effectiveness of the anti-tax strategy was demonstrated in the unexpected victory of Larry Hogan, the Republican gubernatorial candidate in deep blue Maryland, who defeated Anthony Brown, the highly favored Democratic lieutenant governor.

“The average Marylander sees a governor and legislature willing to impose record tax increases on the rest of us that we don’t need, don’t want and can’t afford,” Hogan declared at the start of his campaign and repeated relentlessly until Election Day.

Hogan won by decisively carrying all the majority white suburbs surrounding Baltimore city, including Howard County, a former bastion of suburban Democratic strength.

In Colorado, Cory Gardner, the Republican Senate nominee, joined the Republican assault on Obamacare and taxes:

"The President’s healthcare law has added countless new taxes to millions of Americans, and economic growth will continue to struggle until we can accomplish real, meaningful tax reform. The future of our economy depends on it."

Significantly, Gardner also stiff-armed the Christian right on issues of contraception and abortion in his successful two-point win over Mark Udall, the Democratic incumbent. Gardner highlighted a more culturally tolerant approach when he endorsed over the counter access to the “morning after” pill – a form of contraception many in the right to life movement consider a form of abortion – and when he renounced past sponsorship of a “personhood” constitutional amendment titled “The Life Begins at Conception Act.”

In a mea culpa comment rarely heard in campaigns, Gardner told The Denver Post:

"I’ve learned to listen. I don’t get everything right the first time. There are far too many politicians out there who take the wrong position and stick with it and never admit that they should do something different."

Despite this, not only did the Christian right stick with Gardner, but white evangelicals provided his margin of victory. These religious voters, who made up 25 percent of the Colorado midterm electorate, voted for Gardner over Udall by a resounding 70 points, 83 to 13. This margin was enough to compensate for Udall’s 20-point victory, 57 percent to 37 percent, among the remaining 75 percent of the Colorado electorate.

The clear implication of these results for Republican candidates running in 2016 and beyond is that you can break with conservative orthodoxy on some issues to better appeal to a general election electorate without paying the price of losing white Christian support.

If Republicans are successful in toning down their candidates, it will take from Democrats a weapon that has proved highly successful in state and federal elections: demonizing Republican Party candidates as a collection of knuckle-dragging Neanderthals.

The Democrats’ portrayal of Republicans has served to motivate both Democratic voters and donors, especially suburban white Democrats, by tapping into their anger and fear of a morally intrusive Republican Party.

“Anger in politics can play a particularly vital role, motivating some people to participate in ways they might ordinarily not,” according to Nicholas Valentino, a professor of communication studies and political science at the University of Michigan, and the lead author of “Election Night’s Alright for Fighting: The Role of Emotions in Political Participation,” a 2011 study of voter motivation.

Anger leads citizens to harness existing skills and resources in a given election. Therefore, the process by which emotions are produced in each campaign can powerfully alter electoral outcomes.

A Democratic tactic designed to focus on mobilizing white voters – the sustained effort led by Senator Harry Reid to demonize the Koch brothers – has not yet, by most accounts, paid off.

Insofar as the Republican Party successfully sandpapers its sharp edges, the necessity for change will now shift to the Democrats. Most recently, this kind of metamorphosis was accomplished by Bill Clinton’s 1992 “Southern governor’s strategy” presidential campaign when he defied liberal orthodoxy on such issues as welfare and the death penalty.

One question presents itself: how transformative a political leader is Hillary Clinton? Can she avoid entrapment by divisive issues of key importance to competing wings of the center-left coalition: L.G.B.T. rights; marijuana legalization; climate change; gun control; racial profiling; fracking; pension rights for public employee unions; citizenship for undocumented immigrants; and the ever pressing social welfare needs of the country’s poor?

In May 2008, with Obama taking the lead, Hillary Clinton committed to continue the race “for the nurse on her second shift, for the worker on the line, for the waitress on her feet, for the small-business owner, the farmer, the teacher, the coal miner, the trucker, the soldier, the veteran.”  As James Oliphant, the National Journal’s White House correspondent wrote:

"Clinton didn’t say “white people,” but she didn’t need to. The message was clear. And she was even more explicit in an interview with USA Today that month, saying, “Obama’s support among working, hardworking Americans, white Americans, is weakening.”

The white vote in the years since 1992 has become consistently more committed to Republican candidates. Mitt Romney carried whites by a 20-point margin, 59-39, larger than either John McCain, 12 points, or George W. Bush, 17 points.

Clinton has her work cut out for her, especially if the Republican nominee heeds the advice of party leaders and makes a concerted effort to further erode — by whatever means necessary — white Democratic support.



Obama's hatred of Israel again

 Obama State Department prevents Israeli from playing in the NBA

The Dallas Mavericks thought they had waived Israeli Gal Mekel to the Indiana Pacers. But then the US State Department stepped in. At a time when the Obama administration is trying to legalize millions of illegal aliens, and has doubled the number of student visas from China the State Department refused to extend Mekel's visa to allow him to continue to play in the NBA. Mekel is returning to Israel, the Pacers didn't get the player they wanted, and the Obama administration has managed to hurt another Israeli.

    The NBA granted the injury-depleted Pacers a hardship exemption that allowed them to sign a 16th player through last ‎Thursday. When the State Department refused to move up the expiration date on Mekel’s visa even by one day, the Pacers, who had only 9 players on their active roster, backed out of the deal to sign another player before their waiver lapsed.

    The Pacers were desperate to sign the Israeli star because only one of their five guards was able to play. Four of the five are injured.

    Normally, visas for foreign-born players in the NBA are automatically transferable with the players to whom they are issued. More than 100 foreign-born players are currently in the NBA. This is the first instance many basketball analysts can recall where a foreign-born player was prevented from signing with a new NBA team because a visa could not be transferred.

    Indiana wanted the 26-year-old Israeli shooting guard after his impressive start in Dallas, which included 19 points and 9 assists against the Pacers in Indianapolis on October 18.

    Mekel was one of two Israelis in the NBA; the other is Omri Caspi of the Sacramento Kings. But then you're not surprised, are you?



Rand Paul Confronts EEOC Bureaucrat: ‘How Can You Show Up to Work with a Straight Face?’

 Sen. Rand Paul got a bit fiery on Thursday when given the opportunity to confront a bureaucrat who works for the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

While speaking during the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing on the nomination of P. David Lopez to serve as EEOC’s General Counsel, Sen. Paul expressed a heavy dose skepticism about the agency’s bureaucratic enforcement methods, wondering aloud how Lopez could do his job with a straight face.

“Do you realize the downside of the unlimited nature of going after people with no complaint and what this is going to do to business?” he asked Lopez. “Do you not understand what we’ve got to somehow balance that we want people to have jobs?”

The senator was especially incensed about the concept of the EEOC investigating workplaces that have no prior complaints about hiring discrimination. “You’re going after law-abiding people where there’s been no complaint,” he said, “and you don’t feel, at all, any compunction or guilty over what you were doing?”

He continued: “How can you show up to work with a straight face? I don’t understand how you wouldn’t resign immediately, and say, ‘This is abhorrent.’” The senator also accused Lopez of using the “bully nature” of his agency to “punish business.”

Lopez responded that he grew up the son of small business owners, and so he understands their daily struggles. However, he added, the EEOC targets businesses even without explicit complaints because: “Most individuals who get discriminated against in the hiring process do not know that they’ve been discriminated against because employers usually do not say that they’ve been discriminated against.”

Paul was dismissive: “We’re going after mythology then.”


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


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

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


Monday, November 17, 2014

Liberal compassion is a fraud

William Voegeli below analyses Leftists as big and hungry egos -- something I also do

Four years ago I wrote a book about modern American liberalism: Never Enough: America’s Limitless Welfare State. It addressed the fact that America’s welfare state has been growing steadily for almost a century.

All along, while the welfare state was growing constantly, liberals were insisting constantly it wasn’t big enough or growing fast enough. So I wondered, five years ago, whether there is a Platonic ideal when it comes to the size of the welfare state—whether there is a point at which the welfare state has all the money, programs, personnel, and political support it needs, thereby rendering any further additions pointless. The answer, I concluded, is that there is no answer—the welfare state is a permanent work-in-progress, and its liberal advocates believe that however many resources it has, it always needs a great deal more.

Why do liberals feel that no matter how much we’re doing through government programs to alleviate and prevent poverty, whatever we are doing is shamefully inadequate?

Mostly, my book didn’t answer that question because it never really asked or grappled with it. It showed how the Progressives of a century ago, followed by New Deal and Great Society liberals, worked to transform a republic where the government had limited duties and powers into a nation where there were no grievances the government could or should refrain from addressing, and where no means of responding to those grievances lie outside the scope of the government’s legitimate authority. This implied, at least, an answer to the question of why liberals always want the government to do more—an answer congruent with decades of conservative warnings about how each new iteration of the liberal project is one more paving stone on the road to serfdom.

Readers could have concluded that liberals are never satisfied because they get up every morning thinking, “What can I do today to make government a little bigger, and the patch of ground where people live their lives completely unaffected by government power and benevolence a little smaller?” And maybe some liberals do that. Perhaps many do. The narrator of “The Shadow,” a radio drama that ran in the 1930s, would intone at the beginning of every episode, “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?”

Well, the Shadow may have known, but I don’t. The problem with this kind of explanation for liberal statism is that very, very few liberals have been compliant or foolish enough to vindicate it with self-incriminating testimony. Maybe they’re too shrewd to admit that ever-bigger government is what they seek above all else. Or maybe they don’t realize that’s what they’re up to.

If we make the effort—an effort to understand committed liberals as they understand themselves—then we have to understand them as people who, by their own account, get up every morning asking, “What can I do today so that there’s a little less suffering in the world?” To wrestle with that question, the question of liberal compassion, is the purpose of my latest book, The Pity Party.

Indifference to Waste and Failure

All conservatives are painfully aware that liberal activists and publicists have successfully weaponized compassion. “I am a liberal,” public radio host Garrison Keillor wrote in 2004, “and liberalism is the politics of kindness.” Last year President Obama said, “Kindness covers all of my political beliefs. When I think about what I’m fighting for, what gets me up every single day, that captures it just about as much as anything. Kindness; empathy—that sense that I have a stake in your success; that I’m going to make sure, just because [my daughters] are doing well, that’s not enough—I want your kids to do well also.” Empathetic kindness is “what binds us together, and . . . how we’ve always moved forward, based on the idea that we have a stake in each other’s success.”

Well, if liberalism is the politics of kindness, it follows that its adversary, conservatism, is the politics of cruelty, greed, and callousness. Liberals have never been reluctant to connect those dots. In 1936 Franklin Roosevelt said, “Divine justice weighs the sins of the cold-blooded and the sins of the warm-hearted in different scales. Better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference.” In 1984 the Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives, “Tip” O’Neill, called President Reagan an “evil” man “who has no care and no concern for the working class of America and the future generations . . . . He’s cold. He’s mean. He’s got ice water for blood.” A 2013 Paul Krugman column accused conservatives of taking “positive glee in inflicting further suffering on the already miserable.” They were, he wrote, “infected by an almost pathological meanspiritedness . . . . If you’re an American, and you’re down on your luck, these people don’t want to help; they want to give you an extra kick.”

The fact that liberals are, if anything, increasingly disposed to frame the basic political choice before the nation in these terms suggests that conservatives have not presented an adequate response.

A first step in that direction is to note a political anomaly pointed out by Mitch Daniels, the former Republican governor of Indiana. Daniels contended that disciplining government according to “measured provable performance and effective spending” ought to be a “completely philosophically neutral objective.” Skinflint conservatives want government to be thrifty for obvious reasons, but Daniels maintained that liberals’ motivations should be even stronger. “I argue to my most liberal friends: ‘You ought to be the most offended of anybody if a dollar that could help a poor person is being squandered in some way.’ And,” the governor added slyly, “some of them actually agree.”

The clear implication—that many liberals are not especially troubled if government dollars that could help poor people are squandered—strikes me as true, interesting, and important. Given that liberals are people who: 1) have built a welfare state that is now the biggest thing government does in America; and 2) want to regard themselves and be regarded by others as compassionate empathizers determined to alleviate suffering, it should follow that nothing would preoccupy them more than making sure the welfare state machine is functioning at maximum efficiency. When it isn’t, after all, the sacred mission of alleviating preventable suffering is inevitably degraded.

In fact, however, liberals do not seem all that concerned about whether the machine they’ve built, and want to keep expanding, is running well. For inflation-adjusted, per capita federal welfare state spending to increase by 254 percent from 1977 to 2013, without a correspondingly dramatic reduction in poverty, and for liberals to react to this phenomenon by taking the position that our welfare state’s only real defect is that it is insufficiently generous, rather than insufficiently effective, suggests a basic problem. To take a recent, vivid example, the Obama Administration had three-and-a-half years from the signing of the Affordable Care Act to the launch of the website. It’s hard to reconcile the latter debacle with the image of liberals lying awake at night tormented by the thought the government should be doing more to reduce suffering. A sympathetic columnist, E.J. Dionne, wrote of the website’s crash-and-burn debut, “There’s a lesson here that liberals apparently need to learn over and over: Good intentions without proper administration can undermine even the most noble of goals.” That such an elementary lesson is one liberals need to learn over and over suggests a fundamental defect in liberalism, however—something worse than careless or inept implementation of liberal policies.

That defect, I came to think, can be explained as follows: The problem with liberalism may be that no one knows how to get the government to do the benevolent things liberals want it to do. Or it may be, at least in some cases, that it just isn’t possible for the government to bring about what liberals want it to accomplish. As the leading writers in The Public Interest began demonstrating almost 50 years ago, the intended, beneficial consequences of social policies are routinely overwhelmed by the unintended, harmful consequences they trigger. It may also be, as conservatives have long argued, that achieving liberal goals, no matter how humane they sound, requires kinds and degrees of government coercion fundamentally incompatible with a government created to secure citizens’ inalienable rights, and deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed.

I don’t reject any of those possibilities, or deny the evidence and logic adduced in support of each. But my assessment of how the liberal project has been justified in words, and rendered in deeds, leads me to a different explanation for why, under the auspices of liberal government, things have a way of turning out so badly. I conclude that the machinery created by the politics of kindness doesn’t work very well—in the sense of being economical, adaptable, and above all effective—because the liberals who build, operate, defend, and seek to expand this machine don’t really care whether it works very well and are, on balance, happier when it fails than when it succeeds.

The Satisfaction of Pious Preening

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the Latinate word “compassion” means, literally, “suffering together with another”—it’s the “feeling or emotion, when a person is moved by the suffering or distress of another, and by the desire to relieve it.” Note that suffering together does not mean suffering identically. The compassionate person does not become hungry when he meets or thinks about a hungry person, or sick in the presence of the sick. Rather, compassion means we are affected by others’ suffering, a distress that motivates us to alleviate it. As Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote in Emile, “When the strength of an expansive soul makes me identify myself with my fellow, and I feel that I am, so to speak, in him, it is in order not to suffer that I do not want him to suffer. I am interested in him for love of myself.”

We can see the problem. The whole point of compassion is for empathizers to feel better when awareness of another’s suffering provokes unease. But this ultimate purpose does not guarantee that empathizees will fare better. Barbara Oakley, co-editor of the volume Pathological Altruism, defines its subject as “altruism in which attempts to promote the welfare of others instead result in unanticipated harm.” Surprises and accidents happen, of course. The pathology of pathological altruism is not the failure to salve every wound. It is, rather, the indifference—blithe, heedless, smug, or solipsistic—to the fact and consequences of those failures, just as long as the empathizer is accruing compassion points that he and others will admire.

As philosophy professor David Schmidtz has said, “If you’re trying to prove your heart is in the right place, it isn’t.”

Indeed, if you’re trying to prove your heart is in the right place, the failure of government programs to alleviate suffering is not only an acceptable outcome but in many ways the preferred one. Sometimes empathizers, such as those in the “helping professions,” acquire a vested interest in the study, management, and perpetuation—as opposed to the solution and resulting disappearance—of sufferers’ problems. This is why so many government programs initiated to conquer a problem end up, instead, colonizing it by building sprawling settlements where the helpers and the helped are endlessly, increasingly co-dependent.

Even where there are no material benefits to addressing, without ever reducing, other people’s suffering, there are vital psychic benefits for those who regard their own compassion as the central virtue that makes them good, decent, and admirable people—people whose sensitivity readily distinguishes them from mean-spirited conservatives. “Pity is about how deeply I can feel,” wrote the late political theorist Jean Bethke Elshtain. “And in order to feel this way, to experience the rush of my own pious reaction, I need victims the way an addict needs drugs.”

It follows, then, that the answer to the question of how liberals who profess to be anguished about other people’s suffering can be so weirdly complacent regarding wasteful, misdirected, and above all ineffective government programs created to relieve that suffering—is that liberals care about helping much less than they care about caring. Because compassion gives me a self-regarding reason to care about your suffering, it’s more important for me to do something than to accomplish something.

Once I’ve voted for, given a speech about, written an editorial endorsing, or held forth at a dinner party on the salutary generosity of some program to “address” your problem, my work is done, and I can feel the rush of my own pious reaction. There’s no need to stick around for the complex, frustrating, mundane work of making sure the program that made me feel better, just by being established and praised, has actually alleviated your suffering.

This assessment also provides an answer to the question of why liberals always want a bigger welfare state. It’s because the politics of kindness is about validating oneself rather than helping others, which means the proper response to suffering is always, “We need to do more,” and never, “We need to do what we’re already doing better and smarter.”

That is, liberals react to an objective reality in a distinctively perverse way. The reality is, first, that there are many instances of poverty, insecurity, and suffering in our country and, second, that public expenditures to alleviate poverty, insecurity, and suffering amount to $3 trillion, or some $10,000 per American, much of it spent on the many millions of Americans who are nowhere near being impoverished, insecure, or suffering.

If the point of liberalism were to alleviate suffering, as opposed to preening about one’s abhorrence of suffering and proud support for government programs designed to reduce it, liberals would get up every morning determined to reduce the proportion of that $3 trillion outlay that ought to be helping the poor but is instead being squandered in some way, including by being showered on people who aren’t poor.

But since the real point of liberalism is to alleviate the suffering of those distressed by others’ suffering, the hard work of making our $3 trillion welfare state machine work optimally is much less attractive—less gratifying—than demanding that we expand it, and condemning those who are skeptical about that expansion for their greed and cruelty.


Those of us accused of being greedy and cruel, for standing athwart the advance of liberalism and expansion of the welfare state, do have things to say, then, in response to the empathy crusaders. Compassion really is important. Clifford Orwin, a political scientist who has examined the subject painstakingly, believes our strong, spontaneous proclivity to be distressed by others’ suffering confirms the ancient Greek philosophers’ belief that nature intended for human beings to be friends.

But compassion is neither all-important nor supremely important in morals and, especially, politics. It is nice, all things being equal, to have government officials who feel our pain rather than ones who, like imperious monarchs, cannot comprehend or do not deign to notice it.

Much more than our rulers’ compassion, however, we deserve their respect—for us; our rights; our capacity and responsibility to feel and heal our own pains without their ministrations; and for America’s carefully constructed and heroically sustained experiment in constitutional self-government, which errs on the side of caution and republicanism by denying even the most compassionate official a monarch’s plenary powers.

Kindness may well cover all of Barack Obama’s political beliefs, and those of many other self-satisfied, pathologically altruistic liberals. It doesn’t begin to cover all the beliefs that have sustained America’s republic, however. Nor does it amount to a safe substitute for those moral virtues and political principles necessary to sustain it further.



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

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


Sunday, November 16, 2014

San Francisco shows how "Progressive" Policies Are BAD for the poor

In recent years, a contradiction has unfolded in San Francisco. On the one hand, the city continues to practice progressive economic policies. But rather than helping its poor and middle-class—as such policies are advertised as doing—these groups in San Francisco have become more unequal, downwardly mobile, and altogether priced-out. This raises the question of whether the policies themselves are contributing to the problem.

First, though, it's worth noting the magnitude of the city's inequality, which is problematic not so much because the rich have gotten richer, but because everyone else has gotten poorer. This was determined by a Brookings Institution paper earlier this year which found that between 2007-2012, San Francisco trailed only Atlanta as the nation's most unequal city, with the top 5 percent of households earning average incomes nearly 17 times higher than the bottom 20 percent. During this period, inequality grew far more quickly in San Francisco than in any other U.S. city, with incomes for those top households increasing by nearly $28,000 to $353,576, and incomes for the bottom 20 percent decreasing by over $4,000 down to $21,313. But other brackets were hit also, as incomes declined for the bottom 80 percent of households, meaning those making up to $161,000. The study validated media narratives about how gentrifying San Francisco had become exclusive to the rich at everyone else’s expense.

A lot of the reason for this shift is because of the tech industry's emergence. Once confined to the southern part of the region, Silicon Valley's imprint expanded across the city throughout the 2000s, and is now a mainstream cultural force. Not only have businesses like Twitter opened offices downtown, but once-working-class areas like the Mission provide housing and start-up space for industry workers, causing an influx of new wealth and neighborhood disruption.

But the city's progressive tendencies seem only to have worsened this shift, with an over-reaching government that offers inadequate—or plain wrongheaded—solutions to problems.

This is most evident in the way that it has handled housing. San Francisco now has one of the nation's most expensive markets, with median home prices at $1 million. Numerous explanations have surfaced for what caused the spike, ranging from the area's growing population and wealth, to its land constraints. But the spike can also be explained by regulations that discourage new housing. For example, lots within the city's downtown, where infrastructure is already in place to handle added population, are held to severe height restrictions, and this is even more the case in outlying neighborhoods. The structures that are built endure robust approval processes that can take years, and require millions in lobbying—creating expenses that get passed down onto customers. The developers of the proposed Washington 8 condo project on the downtown waterfront, for example, waited eight years and spent $2 million on campaigning only to have their project rejected.

The political establishment's response has been to impose anti-market forces onto the housing that does exist, under the impression that this will keep prices down. Three-quarters of San Francisco's units are rent-controlled because of a law that requires this for buildings constructed before 1979. Mainstream economists have long believed that such laws are counterproductive, because they encourage price spiking of market rate units, and under-maintenance or abandonment of the regulated ones. This has been the case in San Francisco: Along with laws that make evicting bad tenants difficult, rent control has prevented landlords from collecting the necessary fees for upkeep. As a result, they have left vacant an estimated 10,600 units, or 5 percent of citywide housing stock.

San Francisco's labor laws, also designed to help the poor, seem similarly counterproductive. In 2003, the city mandated a minimum wage of $8.50 per hour, with future increases tied to inflation. Later laws forced large businesses to also provide health care and paid sick leave. This has brought baseline hourly wages to roughly $13.12, with proposals to increase it to $15. But it's unclear whether the existing measure has been beneficial, or merely offset itself by raising living costs. A University of California, Berkeley, study showed that the law led to higher prices at restaurants, and it stands to reason that other low-wage industries were similarly affected, thereby causing inflation, but not necessarily any newly-created wealth. Indeed, in the decade since the law took effect, San Francisco's Consumer Price Index increased faster than any other Bay Area county. According to a Governing Magazine cost-of-living calculation, the purchasing power of $1 in San Francisco is 40 percent less than in cities like Houston and New Orleans.

Another thing jacking up prices is high taxes. San Francisco ranks ninth-highest out of 107 major cities in sales tax rates, with a combined state, county, and local rate of 9.5 percent. Although state laws have limited property tax rates to about the national average, San Francisco has a complex arrangement of business fees and taxes that can reach .65 percent of gross receipts. Residents also pay a flat income tax of 1.5 percent, in addition to a California income tax rate that can reach 13.3 percent, the nation's highest.

These taxes pay for government services that, in another ode to progressivism, are famously inefficient because of monopolistic union control. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and Bay Area Rapid Transit, the two main public transportation agencies, have some of the nation's highest-paid transit workers, although the former has dismal performance ratings, and both have gone on strike in the last 13 months. Other government unions have defeated ballot initiatives to reform an expensive public pension system that is crippling the city's ability to provide services.

But perhaps the ultimate mark of a progressive city is that it relies on the government, rather than private industry, to micromanage economic outcomes. In San Francisco, this has produced a regulatory and administrative style that favors certain businesses—and demographics—over others. The creation of something called PDR zoning allowed the city to impose costly fines on white-collar start-ups for using office space that it wanted available for “light industrial” craftsmen, who are presumably more authentic to the nouveau riche. The city-run cab industry, meanwhile, has long crowded out new drivers, and private options like Uber, in order to protect existing medallion holders. Other disruptive urban innovations, such as food carts, micro-housing, and Airbnb, tremble under hawkish government oversight while large tech companies have received millions in tax breaks to locate in neighborhoods that were already revitalizing.

These policies do not seem to have hurt San Francisco’s growth, thanks to engrained advantages like a good climate, interesting culture, and proximity to educated workers. But those studying the causes of inequality should note the uneven nature of the city’s growth: While overall population has boomed since 2007, middle-class population has declined, and the share of poor households moving to the suburbs has increased, suggesting that the next step after income loss has been exile. Progressive economic policies—or at least the way they are applied in San Francisco, without apparent knowledge of government bureaucracy’s pitfalls—have contributed to the trend. Those policies have caused higher taxes and living costs, poor services, regulatory barriers to entry, and a loss of economic freedom. This creates a system that the rich can endure, and sometimes exploit to their benefit, but that poorer people cannot abide, helping to explain San Francisco's further plunge into stark class division.



ObamaCare's Foundation of Lies

MIT professor Jonathan Gruber, one of the original architects of ObamaCare – which passed without a single Republican vote – is at the center of a new political storm Democrats can ill afford these days. Earlier this week, a video surfaced of a panel at the University of Pennsylvania last year in which Gruber discussed the “Affordable” Care Act. In the video, he argued the law had to be written in a way that obscured what it was actually about because there was no other way it could have passed. No kidding.

“Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage,” Gruber told the audience. “And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical to get the thing to pass.”

There can be no better example of the hubris, arrogance and utter lack of respect for the democratic process than the words of this elitist.

Enraged yet? Wait, there’s more.

In that same clip, Gruber said, “This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure [the Congressional Budget Office] did not score the mandate as taxes. If CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies.” Gruber also responded to a charge made earlier in the panel that the law had a “dumb way” of subsidizing high-risk insurance customers. Gruber tacitly granted as much, but said, “If you had a law which said that healthy people are going to pay in – you made explicit healthy people pay in and sick people get money, it would not have passed.”

Caught in the act, Gruber went on MSNBC this week to explain himself. “I was speaking off the cuff,” he said. “And I basically spoke inappropriately, and, uh, I regret having made those comments.” This non-apology apology was nothing more than Gruber saying he’s sorry the comments were made public.

Shortly after his MSNBC appearance, another clip surfaced from another 2013 forum where he explained how the Democrats collectively worked to fool voters and get the bill passed: “That passed because the American voters are too stupid to understand the difference.”

Gruber was also recorded thanking a Massachusetts “hero” for inventing the so-called “Cadillac tax” on premium health plans: “John Kerry said, ‘No, no. We’re not going to tax your health insurance. We’re going to tax those evil insurance companies. We’re going to impose a tax that if they sell insurance that’s too expensive, we’re going to tax them.’ And, conveniently, the tax rate will happen to be the marginal tax rate under the income tax code. So, basically, it’s the same thing: We just tax the insurance companies, they pass on higher prices that offsets the tax break we get, it ends up being the same thing. It’s a very clever, you know, basically exploitation of the lack of economic understanding of the American voter.”

The White House is now doing damage control. White House spokeswoman Jessica Santillo said, “The Affordable Care Act was publicly debated over the course of 14 months, with dozens of congressional hearings and countless town halls, speeches and debates. … Not only do we disagree with [Gruber’s] comments, they’re simply not true.” Another anonymous White House official said, “[Gruber] did not work in the White House.” Then why was he paid nearly $400,000 for his work?

Press Secretary Josh Earnest protested, “The fact of the matter is the process associated with writing and passing and implementing the Affordable Care Act has been extraordinarily transparent.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi went even further, telling reporters Thursday, “I don’t know who he is. He didn’t help write our bill.” Maybe if she had read the bill, she would have found out what’s in it – or at least who wrote it.

In truth, Pelosi praised Gruber’s work in 2009 before it became inconvenient to know him. And her website cites him by name in at least seven places.

The Obama administration relied heavily, for example, on Gruber’s data to predict the effect ObamaCare would have on health care costs. In fact, administration officials praised the computer model he devised. His mouth got him into trouble in 2009 when, in the heat of congressional debate, he admitted the legislation “really doesn’t bend the cost curve.” This was a point many Republicans, notably Rep. Paul Ryan, made during the debate over the bill.

Gruber himself also tried to qualify his remarks and tried to redirect attention back to Republicans. During his MSNBC appearance, Gruber said, “I think that this comes to the master strategy of the Republican Party, which is to confuse people enough about the law so that they don’t understand that the subsidies they’re getting is [sic] because of the law.”

Wait, who’s trying to confuse people? Take a quick look at some of Barack Obama’s gems regarding his precious health care law over the last six years:

“If you like your current insurance, you keep your current insurance. Period. End of story.”

“We can cut the average family’s premium by about $2,500 per year.”

“Under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions.”

“I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits – either now or in the future.”

And then there’s this one: “This is the most transparent administration in history.”

Not a single one of these statements contained a shred of truth. Now, thanks to Gruber, it’s even more clear these stump comments were never anything more than utter lies.

No matter what Gruber or Obama or Pelosi say now, the fact is the American people were conned and lied to. Obama and his people knew that was the only way ObamaCare would happen.

The future of ObamaCare is in serious doubt, not just legally but politically.

Take for example Ron Fournier, senior political columnist for National Journal and longtime champion of ObamaCare. “Gruber’s remarks may not be dispositive, but they certainly are evidence,” Fournier wrote this week. “And so even I have to admit, as a supporter, that Obamacare was built and sold on a foundation of lies.”

Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina may have said it best when asked about the motivations of Gruber and the Obama bureaucrats who supposedly knew better than the American people: “I would say this to the professor: Put down the cognac and the lost writings of J.D. Salinger, if you want to see how stupid our fellow citizens are, take a look at last Tuesday night because they rejected you, this bill and this administration.”

And let’s not forget that period in time following Obama’s election in 2008. No one was clamoring for health care reform. What the citizenry really wanted was a solution to the economic crisis. Yet the Obama administration saw an opportunity to exploit a crisis to its own advantage – to increase access to abortion, give the IRS unprecedented power to meddle in peoples' lives and increase regulatory reach over the health care sector.

ObamaCare was a vehicle not to solve the nation’s health care issues but to expand federal control over the populace. The final product was never, and still is not, popular with the public. It was one of the prime movers of the 2014 midterm elections. And if it was such a good bill, why was it necessary to lie to the American people to get it passed? The answer is now obvious.



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

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