Friday, April 03, 2015

An interesting confirmation of a troublesome truth

As far as I can tell, it has always been known that we all get on best with people like ourselves.  The whole history of tribalism, nationalism and xenophobia tells us that. Even Hitler knew it.

Have a look at the 1939 Nazi propaganda placard below (a Wochenspruch for the Gau Weser/Ems). The placard promotes one of Hitler's sayings. The saying is, "Es gibt keinen Sozialismus, der nicht aufgeht im eigenen Volk" -- which I translate as "There is no socialism except what arises within its own people". Hitler spoke a very colloquial German so translating that one was not easy but I think that is about as close to it as you can get.

Hitler saw that people are more willing to share and get involved with others whom they see as like themselves -- leading to the view that socialism will find its strongest support among an ethnically homogeneous population.  He wanted Germany to be racially homogeneous so that socialism could work

With their equality mania, however, modern-day Leftists have been  prone to deny or ignore that old truth.  They are good at denial.  Reality is so pesky for them that they need to be.

Eventually, however, realization of the reality seeped into the social sciences via the work of Robert Putnam.  Putnam was a committed Leftist but what he saw in his research made such a powerful impression on him that he could not deny it.  And it took him some soul-searching before he decided to publish his findings.  But publish them he did and it now seems to be generally accepted in the social sciences that social co-operation and involvement is highest among homogeneous groups of people.

That is awkward for Leftists as they are all for "unity".  They basically agree with Hegel that the ideal society is like an anthill with everyone agreeing with one another and everyone marching together in lockstep towards some utopia.  But the revelation that only the most homogeneous groups can approach anything like that degree of unity undermines the universalism that they also preach.  "All men are brothers" is thoroughly undermined by work such as Putnam's.  But Freud showed us that compartmentalization is a useful psychological defence so I guess that Leftists put Putnam into a mental compartment all by himself.  It must be trying to be a Leftist.  No wonder they get angry when conservatives pop their bubbles.

Anyway it seems that Putnam is now respectable so the recently published confirmation of his finding reproduced below is interesting.  It shows what a bad place the USA is in at present.  Not only racial diversity but also income diversity contributes to alienation between people.  The marked differences between the three major ethnic groups in America are bad enough for social amity and co-operation but when those three groups are also characterized by big average income differences, we have  to say:  "Houston, we have a problem".

So can anything be done about that?  With typical Leftist dullness, the author below thinks we should take more money off those white guys and give to to the black guys -- but that solution has surely been tried and found to do more harm than good.

So that leaves only the traditional human solution:  In order of severity that solution is:  Segregation, Apartheid and Ethnic cleansing.  Such words reek of the Devil in modern-day America however, so the agony of America's hostile race relations will stretch on on well into the future.

Fortunately, the informal segregation provided by white flight and black clustering in areas of high welfare availability will continue to offer some relief.  So legislators who wished to enhance social co-operation in their area could presumably cut welfare to the bone -- quite the opposite of what the unimaginative writer below recommends

Racial income inequality reduces levels of trust and social capital in communities

By studying survey responses on trust from 110 metropolitan areas from 1973 to 2010, the author finds that racial income inequality decreases trust within communities, and that this lack of trust is exacerbated when communities are more racially fragmented and as this inequality increases    

Andrea Tesei

Income inequality

During the last decade, policy-makers and scholars alike have become increasingly concerned about the social and economic effects of income inequality and racial diversity in the United States. One crucial concern is that diversity - both in race and income - seems to be associated with lower levels of social capital in society. Inhabitants of diverse communities, in particular, tend to withdraw from social life, participate less in collective activities, and trust their neighbours less. Since these dimensions of social life are considered key lubricants of the economic activity, the findings have spurred a public debate about the workings of the American melting pot.

Perhaps surprisingly, the debate has focused almost exclusively on the independent effects of income inequality and racial diversity, overlooking the fact that much of the income inequality in the US has a marked racial connotation. Still in 2010, the median Black and Hispanic household earned, respectively, only 58.7 per cent and 69.1 per cent of that of the median White household.

In a recent LSE CEP working paper, I contribute to the debate by emphasising the role of the income inequality between races (racial income inequality). This aspect of community heterogeneity turns out to be important. My results suggest that it is not racial diversity or income inequality per se which ultimately reduces the level of trust and participation of individuals in US metropolitan areas. Instead, what is key to understanding this lower participation in social life is the extent of racial income inequality in their community.


Figure 1 - Similar Characteristics but Different Trust

      Figures 1 and 2 help to illustrate the point. Figure 1 plots the average level of trust reported by citizens of 110 different U.S. metropolitan statistical areas (MSA), against the average level of racial diversity and income inequality in their MSA. The figure clearly corroborates previous studies, by showing that trust is lower in more racially diverse and income unequal communities. However, it also makes clear that racial diversity and income inequality alone cannot fully account for the difference in trust between similar cities, like San Francisco and Houston. In spite of their almost identical levels of racial diversity and total income inequality, citizens in the two cities have very different levels of trust: while 40 per cent of those living in San Francisco say they can trust others, only 31 per cent in Houston do so.

Figure 2 - Are They Really Similar?

      The explicit focus on racial income inequality helps to understand this difference. Figure 2 now shows on the horizontal axis the share of total income inequality due to differences between racial groups. Under this dimension, the two cities turn out to be actually very different. The share of total inequality due to differences between races is twice as large in Houston as in San Francisco. This in turn is related to the level of trust in the two cities. In San Francisco, where the probability of meeting an individual of a different race but similar income level is relatively high, the level of trust is higher than in Houston, where belonging to a different race is also likely to be associated with a difference in income.

This same pattern of apparent similarity, which is in reality masking an additional dimension of heterogeneity, is repeated over different pairs of cities in the US My empirical analysis documents the pattern in a systematic way, exploiting answers from 20,000 respondents to the US General Social Survey (GSS) between 1973 and 2010. The survey contains a variety of indicators on the respondents' political views, social behavior and socioeconomic characteristics. Crucially, it also asks respondents whether they think that most people can be trusted. I match their answers to this question to their socioeconomic and demographic characteristics, and to the level of racial diversity, total income inequality and racial income inequality in the MSA of residence.

Negative effect

I start out by showing that racial diversity and total income inequality have a statistically significant, negative effect on individual measures of trust, a result that is consistent with previous studies. But I then find that these effects become statistically insignificant once I account for the income inequality between racial groups, which instead remains negatively and significantly associated to the level of trust of the respondent.

I then show that the negative impact of racial income inequality on trust is larger in more racially fragmented communities, and that members of minority groups reduce their trust towards others more, when racial income inequality increases. These results are consistent with a simple framework in which individuals can be similar in both race and income, and trust towards others falls at increasing rates as individuals become different in both dimensions.

Overall, my results suggests that racial diversity is more detrimental when associated with income disparities between races and that, similarly, income inequality is more harmful when it has a marked racial connotation. This in turn suggests that policies aimed at reducing income disparities along racial lines might be particularly effective in increasing the level of social participation and trust in US communities.



Higher Minimum Wage Leaves Working Poor Without Childcare

Oakland’s voters who approved the March 1 increase of the minimum wage to $12.25 apparently drank the Kool-aid that it would “help the poor.” Tell that to the working poor parents who will now be scrambling to find good, affordable child care:

Workers who benefit from Oakland’s minimum wage hike might soon lose a service that enables them to work in the first place. It turns out the well-intentioned law is putting a financial squeeze on Oakland’s child care industry, leading some providers to panic.

“Panic” may help sell newspapers, but those who have to keep their doors open deal more in Cold Hard Facts:

Revenues < Expenses = Bankruptcy

So when its main expense (labor) increases by more than 36% overnight (from $9 to $12.25 per hour), Cold Hard Facts say: Increase Revenues or Decrease Expenses.

For a non-profit early childhood development center in Oakland which had recently garnered the highest rating in the county, the only way “out” is decreased costs. Parents of the 63 children cared for there—all working poor—pay little to nothing for the care provided five days a week, every week of the year. Because it is a nourishing environment—providing professional care, guided recreation, stories, socialization and pre-school instruction—it is by definition very labor intensive. And much of that labor is provided by minimum-wage teachers’ aids. The immediate, first-year budget shortfall to meet the mandated wage increase: $146,500

But it’s really more than that: in practice, a rise in the minimum wage puts upward pressure on the pay of those employees who had been earning above minimum wage, but whose relatively higher pay has now disappeared with the mandated minimum-wage increase—so the amount needed to keep everyone equal “relatively” is actually closer to $200,000.

Unfortunately, as a non-profit, it can’t raise “prices” and it doesn’t have an angel it can tap to write a check, so cuts are the reality to keep the doors open.

Infant care, which demands a higher teacher:child ratio, will be discontinued, and staff let go accordingly.

Bottom line: the elimination of care for 11 infants of the working poor, and the jobs of three teacher aids.

This means working poor parents of infants in Oakland now have fewer sources for their care, with higher costs. And three formerly minimum-wage workers are now unemployed.

And that’s just one childcare center. The story is similar across the sector, as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle. Will parents be able to re-juggle their household budgets and work schedules to ensure their children are well cared for while they work?

San Francisco also raised its minimum wage, and on both sides of the bay the immediate effect has been the close of a popular science fiction bookstore, restaurants—from highest rated to humble Chinatown establishments—and worsened job prospects for youth.

In any case, it’s time to wake up and face reality: raising the minimum wage is a lousy way to “help the poor.” As noted here:

…minimum-wage workers are typically not in low-income families; instead they are dispersed evenly among families rich, middle-class and poor.

Virtually as much of the additional earnings of minimum-wage workers went to the highest-income families as to the lowest. Moreover, only about $1 in $5 of the addition went to families with children supported by low-wage earnings. As many economists already have noted, raising the minimum wage is at best a scattershot approach to raising the income of poor families.

Just another tragic tale of those for whom “Sorry, Your Minimum Wage Law Is a Nightmare.”



Harry Reid -- Another Master of the BIG Lie

In 2012, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took to the Senate floor and made a serious and unsubstantiated allegation about Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney: "Let him prove that he has paid taxes, because he hasn't." Reid knew this was a BIG Lie, which would gain traction for the Left's class warfare game.

Asked this week for his thoughts on that episode -- specifically that his remarks had been called "McCarthyite" -- Reid shrugged and replied, "Well, they can call it whatever they want. Romney didn't win, did he?" Reid's smug gloating is beyond unmitigated arrogance, and speaks volumes about the Left's approach to politics. The ends always justify their means.



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. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

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, April 02, 2015

The deplorable Daren Acemoglu

The gradual Leftist takeover of American education has now become extreme.  Many American universities and colleges are very reminiscent of Mao's China during the "Cultural Revolution".  The tiniest departure from Leftist orthodoxy is heavily condemned and often punished.  If you doubt it scroll through some of the episodes I have collected on  EDUCATION WATCH.

One area that has to a degree resisted the takeover, however, is economics.  Almost any study of economics uncovers the sheer ignorance of the Left.  Economics makes obvious lots of things that Leftists don't want to know about -- such as the efficiency of markets.  And central to what Leftists hate about economics are the lessons it gives about what it takes for countries and populations to get rich.

Which is where Daren Acemoglu comes in.  He dismisses all the usual explanations such as reliance on markets and the rule of law and provides his own explanation.

And it is a testament to how desperate Leftists are that they find his explanation attractive.  He essentially says that what you need is more democracy. Given their Fascist tendencies, that would not normally be a congenial idea to the Left.  But given their hatred of market economics, Acemoglu is apparently the lesser of two evils.  So he has become something of a rockstar among Leftist economists.

Sadly, however, much as we would ALL like Acemoglu to be right, he is not.  There have been many examples of rapid economic growith under authoritarian regimes:  Meiji Japan, postwar South Korea, present-day China, the Crown Colony of Hong Kong, Kuomintang Taiwan, Pinochet's Chile, Singapore under Lee Kuan Yew etc.  In all of those, democratic influence was very limited if it existed at all.

And that is without going into micro-examples such as the great economic success of South African Indians during the Apartheid era. Facing it fairly, one would have to say that RAPID economic growth requires some degree of authoritarianism in government.

So Acemoglu is clearly wrong.  And both I and Steve Sailer have pointed that out in some detail some time ago (here, here, here and here).  So I was a little surprised to see that Steve Sailer returned to the fray rather recently, with an article  late last year.  I think I now however  might know what motivated Steve.  A correspondent has suggested to me that Acemoglu is in line for a Nobel.  That is such a horrible thought that I feel that I too should return to the fray.  I am not however going to say much more personally.  Instead I am putting up below a brief essay by one of the world's brightest and most knowledgeable men:  Bill Gates.  Gates is reviewing Acemoglu's book Why Nations Fail

Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty

By Bill Gates

Why have some countries prospered and created great living conditions for their citizens, while others have not? This is a topic I care a lot about, so I was eager to pick up a book recently on exactly this topic.

Why Nations Fail is easy to read, with lots of interesting historical stories about different countries. It makes an argument that is appealingly simple: countries with “inclusive” (rather than “extractive”) political and economic institutions are the ones that succeed and survive over the long term.

Ultimately, though, the book is a major disappointment. I found the authors’ analysis vague and simplistic. Beyond their “inclusive vs. extractive” view of political and economic institutions, they largely dismiss all other factors—history and logic notwithstanding. Important terms aren’t really defined, and they never explain how a country can move to have more “inclusive” institutions.

For example, the book goes back in history to talk about economic growth during Roman times. The problem with this is that before 800AD, the economy everywhere was based on sustenance farming. So the fact that various Roman government structures were more or less inclusive did not affect growth.

The authors demonstrate an oddly simplistic world view when they attribute the decline of Venice to a reduction in the inclusiveness of its institutions. The fact is, Venice declined because competition came along. The change in the inclusiveness of its institutions was more a response to that than the source of the problem. Even if Venice had managed to preserve the inclusiveness of their institutions, it would not have made up for their loss of the spice trade. When a book tries to use one theory to explain everything, you get illogical examples like this.

Another surprise was the authors’ view of the decline of the Mayan civilization. They suggest that infighting—which showed a lack of inclusiveness—explains the decline. But that overlooks the primary reason: the weather and water availability reduced the productivity of their agricultural system, which undermined Mayan leaders’ claims to be able to bring good weather.

The authors believe that political “inclusiveness” must come first, before growth is achievable. Yet, most examples of economic growth in the last 50 years–the Asian miracles of Hong Kong, Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore–took place when their political tended more toward exclusiveness.

When faced with so many examples where this is not the case, they suggest that growth is not sustainable where “inclusiveness” does not exist. However, even under the best conditions, growth doesn’t sustain itself. I don’t think even these authors would suggest that the Great Depression, Japan’s current malaise, or the global financial crisis of the last few years came about because of a decline in inclusiveness.

The authors ridicule “modernization theory”–which observes that sometimes a strong leader can make the right choices to help a country grow, and then there is a good chance the country will evolve to have more “inclusive” politics. Korea and Taiwan are examples of where this has occurred.

The book also overlooks the incredible period of growth and innovation in China between 800 and 1400. During this 600-year period, China had the most dynamic economy in the world and drove a huge amount of innovation, such as advanced iron smelting and ship building. As several well-regarded authors have pointed out, this had nothing to do with how “inclusive” China was, and everything to do with geography, timing, and competition among empires.

The authors have a problem with Modern China because the transition from Mao Zedong to Deng Xiaoping didn’t involve a change to make political institutions more inclusive. Yet, China, by most measures, has been a miracle of sustained economic growth. I think almost everyone agrees that China needs to change its politics to be more inclusive. But there are hundreds of millions of Chinese whose lifestyle has been radically improved in recent years, who would probably disagree that their growth was “extractive.” I am far more optimistic than the authors that continued gradual change, without instability, will continue to move China in the right direction.

The incredible economic transition in China over the last three-plus decades occurred because the leadership embraced capitalistic economics, including private property, markets, and investing in infrastructure and education.

This points to the most obvious theory about growth, which is that it is strongly correlated with embracing capitalistic economics—independent of the political system. When a country focuses on getting infrastructure built and education improved, and it uses market pricing to determine how resources should be allocated, then it moves towards growth. This test has a lot more clarity than the one proposed by the authors, and seems to me fits the facts of what has happened over time far better.

The authors end with a huge attack on foreign aid, saying that most of the time, less than 10% gets to the intended recipients. They cite Afghanistan as an example, which is misleading since Afghanistan is a war zone and aid was ramped up very quickly with war-related goals. There is little doubt this is the least effective foreign aid, but it is hardly a fair example.

As an endnote, I should mention that the book refers to me in a positive light, comparing how I made money to how Carlos Slim made his fortune in Mexico. Although I appreciate the nice thoughts, I think the book is quite unfair to Slim. Almost certainly, the competition laws in Mexico need strengthening, but I am sure that Mexico is much better off with Slim’s contribution in running businesses well than it would be without him.


CODA regarding one of the world's most authoritarian regimes:

I don't want to make this a major part of my argument but I think it can reasonably be said that, depending what you compare it with, even Soviet economic progress was not all that bad.  In the post-1945 era, when African countries mostly went backwards economically and India stagnated, the Soviet performance in science and technology was world-class.  The Sputnik was the first unambigiuous evidence of that but Soviet military machines (tanks, submarines, aircraft) were also a severe challenge to American efforts in that field.  Could any African country produce a T-34 tank, let alone design one?

Is it unfair to compare Russia with African countries?  If so why? It would be difficult to suggest a politically correct reason why, I think.  The plain fact is that the people are different and that matters. When the British left Africa, they left behind them nations organized in ways that Acemoglu would applaud.  It didn't help.


Another authoritarian idea from the Left Backfires

In the latest, if not the best, example of why liberals should not be in charge of health care, national security, retirement, foreign policy, or anything else, a Rand Corporation study concluded that Los Angeles' seven year ban on new fast food restaurants did nothing to reduce obesity in the predominately African-American community of South L.A.

Last week, NBC nightly news, hosted by Savannah Guthrie, teased an upcoming segment about the Rand study in which she said: "One city takes an aggressive stand against obesity by banning new fast food restaurants, but what happened next might come as a shock."

Come as a shock to whom? It should have been obvious that a 2008 Los Angeles City ordinance banning, not limiting, but the outright banning of new fast food restaurants in Baldwin Hills, Leimert Park, and portions of South and Southeast Los Angeles would accomplish nothing. What's really shocking is the number of jobs and the amount of tax revenue lost by the city as a result of this nanny, feel-good ordinance.

African Americans suffer the highest rate of unemployment of any group. Instead of promoting economic activity where they live, the City Council chose to depress the economy on the guise of promoting weight loss to improve health, just as the "Great Recession" was taking hold.

Let's assume the ordinance had never been enacted, and just one of each of the following ten fast food chains established new restaurants in the four areas of the city targeted by the ordinance: McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, Carl's Jr., KFC, Panda Express, In-N-Out Burgers, Taco Bell, Pollo Loco, and Jack-in-the-Box. That would create 40 additional businesses.

According to an August, 2014 Forbes Magazine article by Carol Tice titled, "7 Fast-Food Restaurant Chains That Rake In $2M+ Per Store," some of the companies I selected were mentioned. For simplicity, if each of the 40 new stores took in an average of $2 million dollars per year, that would equal $80,000,000 in sales per year. At L.A.'s nine percent sales tax rate, these restaurants would generate $7,200,000 in yearly tax revenue. In the seven years this ordinance has been in existence the city has lost $50,400,000 so far!

In addition, think of the impact these restaurants would have made on local unemployment.  At an average of 40 employees per restaurant, that would be 1,600 people off the unemployment rolls who would now have money to spend, generating additional tax revenue and economic activity.

The increased property values of each of these restaurants would generate higher property tax revenues for Los Angeles County.

Now, consider all the jobs created to build each of these 40 restaurants: carpenters, brick masons, concrete pourers, landscapers, electricians, surveyors, tile setters, etc. Also consider the manufacturing and production of the materials needed for these 40 restaurants: glass, tile, insulation, drywall, roofing, lightbulbs, wiring, cable, speakers, microphones, ovens, stoves, grills, fans, heaters, toilets, sinks, railing, stainless steel counters, advertising, plastic utensils, napkins, plastic trays, trash receptacles, tables, chairs, soap, brooms, and mops. To prepare meals they need, hamburger meat, chicken, beef, rice, tortillas, lettuce, onions, tomatoes, soft drinks, coffee, ice cream, condiments, all of which need to be farmed, processed and then sold, generating more jobs and tax revenue.

As an added bonus, new overweight employees working in fast pace restaurants would help with their weight loss, instead of standing in unemployment lines all day.

When liberals don't like something, they want it banned. Banning new fast food restaurants in one part of the city makes no sense if they can be found elsewhere.

But, that's what liberals do, and everyone suffers for it



This Doc Fix Is an Outrage

Over the 2015–2025 period, CBO estimates, enacting H.R. 2 would increase both direct spending (by about $145 billion) and revenues (by about $4 billion), resulting in a $141 billion increase in federal budget deficits (see table on page 2). Although the legislation would affect direct spending and revenues, it would waive the pay-as-you-go procedures that otherwise apply.

That is, less than three percent of this spending binge is paid for. Over 97 percent is deficit financed. This is how Republicans are showing how they can govern, especially on health reform?

What is the big deal, anyway? Currently, Congress has a certain amount of money every year to pay doctors. This amount of money increases according to a formula called the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR), which was established in 1997. The SGR is comprised of four factors that (by the standards of federal health policy) are fairly easy to understand. Most importantly, the SGR depends on the change in real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita.

The Medicare Part B program, which pays for physicians, is an explicit “pay as you go” system. Seniors pay one-quarter of the costs through premiums, and taxpayers (and their children and grandchildren) pay the rest through the U.S. Treasury. Therefore, it is appropriate that taxpayers’ ability to pay (as measured by real GDP per capita) be an input into the amount.

The problem is, the amount is not enough. If growth in Medicare’s payments to doctors were limited by the SGR, the payments would drop by about one-fifth, and they would stop seeing Medicare patients. So, at least once a year, Congress increases the payments for a few months. The latest patch was passed in March 2014 and runs through March 31, 2015. It costs $15.8 billion.

This has happened 17 times since 1997. Congress has never allowed Medicare’s physician fees to drop.



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. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

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, April 01, 2015

More scientific brains fried by political correctness

One hopes that the authors below knew what was really going on in their data but they show no sign of it.  Their basic finding is that kids from rich families have bigger brains -- and they claim that wealth somehow has a direct effect on brain size.  Researcher Dr Kimberley Noble is quoted as saying:

"The brain is the product of both genetics and experience and experience is particularly powerful in moulding brain development in childhood.  This suggests that interventions to improve socioeconomic circumstance, family life and/or educational opportunity can make a vast difference."

It does nothing of the sort.  What is being ignored is that naughty IQ again.  The findings were entirely predictable from what we have long known about IQ.  IQ is both hereditary, tends to be higher among successful people and is associated with larger brain size.  All that the stupid woman has discovered is the old old fact that IQ is hereditary.  And no "interventions" will change that

Family income, parental education and brain structure in children and adolescents

By Kimberly G Noble et al.


Socioeconomic disparities are associated with differences in cognitive development. The extent to which this translates to disparities in brain structure is unclear. We investigated relationships between socioeconomic factors and brain morphometry, independently of genetic ancestry, among a cohort of 1,099 typically developing individuals between 3 and 20 years of age. Income was logarithmically associated with brain surface area.

Among children from lower income families, small differences in income were associated with relatively large differences in surface area, whereas, among children from higher income families, similar income increments were associated with smaller differences in surface area.

These relationships were most prominent in regions supporting language, reading, executive functions and spatial skills; surface area mediated socioeconomic differences in certain neurocognitive abilities. These data imply that income relates most strongly to brain structure among the most disadvantaged children.

Nature Neuroscience, 2015


Two More States Enact ‘Right to Try’ Laws For Terminally Ill Patients

By delaying new treatments for years, the FDA has probably killed more Americans than road accidents have

Utah and Indiana became the eighth and ninth states to enact “right to try” laws that allow terminally ill patients access to experimental drugs that have not yet been approved for general use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence both signed bills on Wednesday that allow physicians to prescribe “investigational” medication that has made it through the first part of the FDA’s three-phase clinical trials process to terminally ill patients who have exhausted other options.

Joining Pence at the signing ceremony in Indianapolis was five-year-old Jordan McLinn, who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), a fatal degenerative disease that has no FDA-approved therapies. However, Laura McLinn, the boy’s mother, said that there were promising new drugs being developed that might help her son.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, similar bills have been filed in 32 states and the District of Columbia so far this year.

On March 13, Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed the Arkansas Right to Try Act (SB4), which states that “patients who have a terminal disease do not have the luxury of waiting until an investigational drug, biological product, or device receives final approval” from the FDA.

The law grants immunity to pharmaceutical companies, doctors and hospitals who administer experimental drugs except in cases of “gross negligence or willful misconduct.”

On March 9, Gov. Matt Mead signed the Wyoming Right to Try Act (SF3), which passed both chambers of the state legislature with just two dissenting votes.

The law, which goes into effect July 1, also allows terminally ill patients who have “considered all other treatment options currently approved” by the FDA to be treated with “investigational” drugs or devices that have cleared the first phase of clinical trials. Insurance companies are allowed, but not required, to provide coverage for such treatment.

Last November, 78 percent of Arizona voters also approved Proposition 303, a “right to try” ballot initiative. Colorado was the first state to pass similar legislation in 2014.

“When someone is on their deathbed, the fact that FDA regulations would let them die rather than try has got to be one of the most inhumane policies of the federal government. Every state should nullify the FDA like this,” said Mike Maharrey, communications director of the Tenth Amendment Center, which supports “right to try” laws.

However, critics of “right to try” laws say that untested drugs could do more harm than good.

“They’re far more likely to harm patients than to help them,” Michigan oncology surgeon Dr. David Gorski blogged in November, accusing advocates of “shamelessly…play[ing] on people’s fears of Ebola to promote these bad laws.”

“Having passed phase 1 does not mean a drug is safe…If there’s one thing worse than dying of a terminal illness, it’s suffering unnecessary complications from a drug that is incredibly unlikely to save or significantly prolong your life and bankrupting yourself and family in the process,” Gorski added.

Other critics say the FDA’s job is to protect patients from potentially dangerous or ineffective drugs, and that it already has a mechanism in place that allows individuals who do not qualify for clinical trials access to experimental treatments.

The FDA began its first formal “expanded access” program in 1987 after receiving numerous complaints that only a few hundred out of the thousands of patients diagnosed with AIDS were allowed to participate in clinical trials.

A decade later, the FDA allowed terminally-ill patients to apply for its “compassionate use” program, which received 5,849 single-patient applications between 2010 and 2014, and denied only 33.

The FDA pointed out that it approved more requests for expanded access in 2014 than during any year since 2010, when the agency first began publishing statistics on the program. Last year, 1,843 requests for expanded access were received, the highest number since 2010.

But “right to try” advocates say the application process is so time-consuming and cumbersome that it discourages sick people and their doctors from applying, and many patients die before their applications are approved.

The Arizona-based Goldwater Institute, which developed model “right to try” legislation, published a 2014 policy report stating that “over a half million cancer patients and thousands of patients with other terminal illnesses die each year as the bureaucratic wheels at the FDA slowly turn.”

The criticism prompted the FDA to create a working group last December to “develop policies that would improve access to investigational therapies.”

And FDA Associate Commissioner Peter Lurie also announced in February that the agency would “provide a streamlined alternative” application for individual patients that would take only 45 minutes to complete, “compared to the 100 hours listed on the previous form.”

But Goldwater Institute president Darcy Olsen called the FDA process “an inhumane system that prevents the vast majority of Americans with terminal illnesses from accessing promising investigational treatments.

“Compassionate use should be the rule for everyone, not the exception,” Olsen said.



The Washington Post's Obama Deniers

It's as if they were waiting, breathlessly. The moment Ted Cruz announced his presidential campaign, the national media proclaimed their horror. He was "brash," a "hardliner," an "uncompromising conservative," they warned. ABC anchor David Muir announced his agenda was the usual No list: "Promising no abortion, no gay marriage, no gun control, no IRS."

Apparently, there's no room for hope and change — if you're a conservative.

Barack Obama owned the most left-wing voting record during his short tenure in the Senate. But when he announced his presidential campaign in Springfield, Illinois, on Feb. 10, 2007 — arrogantly comparing himself to Abe Lincoln — the networks warmly repeated that he pledged to be a "uniter" that was "promising a more hopeful America." They said he declared it was "time for his generation to end the cynical partisan politics of the baby boomers."

How does that look in 2015? National Review's Jim Geraghty points out that Obama "the Uniter" nudged Vice President Biden and 58 congressional Democrats into boycotting an address from the Israeli prime minister, and now insists on secret deals with Iran with no congressional intervention. His team just announced plans to withhold federal emergency funds from governors who are "climate deniers." They put up barricades around open-air monuments during government shutdowns. Obama mocked his opponents as "tea baggers." The examples of class, gender and race warfare are endless.

But Ted Cruz is unacceptable because he won't compromise.

An unsigned staff editorial in The Washington Post is steeped in denial, if not intellectual obfuscation, ignoring the governing reality of Obama, the uncompromising wacko bird. They acknowledged some similarities — short tenure in the Senate, cute daughters, charisma and alleged constitutional expertise. And then they launched into Cruz by projecting untruths about Obama.

"Here's one way to tell Mr. Cruz from the winning constitutional scholar of 2008: Sen. Barack Obama promised to unite the country. Mr. Cruz — not so much. In fact, the most notable characteristic of Mr. Cruz's brief time in elected politics has been his aversion to values that are essential to democracy's functioning: practicality, modesty and compromise."

That's the President Obama of 2015: Compromise? Modesty? Pragmatism? Or consider candidate Obama, who dropped his pal Reverend Wright from praying at his campaign kickoff at the last minute. He dropped wearing a flag pin for a while in 2007. In 2008, Obama mocked the "bitter clingers" who revere gun rights and religion.

The Post writers plowed ahead shamelessly. Check out this flagrant display of denial about Obama's betrayal of his promises to be uniter in chief.

"It has been more than a decade since Mr. Obama derided 'the pundits' who 'like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue states.' If those divisions have proven less mutable than he predicted, the answer is not to give up on progress," the Post proclaimed. We need "leaders who understand that progress and principle can go hand in hand, and who have the pragmatic skills to make that happen."

But the Post wasn't done insulting the senator from Texas. "Mr. Cruz's unique contribution — if one can call it that — has been his confrontational, ideology-driven style and tactics, marked by a refusal to compromise even when that leads to national dysfunction and embarrassment."

The Posties actually choked on Cruz saying, "We demand our liberty." They insisted the country "needs to take its political disagreements down a notch."

This is where the Post agenda becomes clear. Liberals (including journalists) don't want compromise. They want conservative surrender. They certainly don't want embarrassing "extremists" demanding "liberty," as if that was some sort of antiquated notion rejected by the enlightened.

It was The Washington Post that years ago gave us the "poor, uneducated and easy to command types" descriptor for conservatives. Years later, nothing's changed.



Lessons for the U.S. from Great Britain

Since his inauguration as Great Britain’s prime minister in 2010, David Cameron has pursued a radically different fiscal policy for coping with the aftermath of the Great Recession compared to that of his American counterparts. He has tightened government expenditures, cutting defense spending by 4.3 percent, and the British economy responded with a robust 3 percent growth rate in national output last year. The United States would do well to emulate Britain, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland.

Cameron has even defied NATO, by reducing defense spending to below the minimum threshold the alliance requires member nations to spend—2 percent of GDP. And despite an upcoming national election, and the temptation this creates to increase government spending, he has pledged to double down on austerity. If the next U.S. president possessed such vision and courage, the United States would reap considerable benefits in terms of economic progress and national security, according to Eland. To promote that end, one project the 45th president of the United States should initiate is the closure of numerous overseas military bases established during the Cold War.

“The next president, whether Republican or Democrat, should plan to substantially reduce such foreign overstretch over a period of four years, so that it could be completed in one presidential term and thus not be reversed,” Eland writes. “Unfortunately, with the hawkish Hillary Clinton the probable Democratic nominee for 2016 and a big-government Republican Party (Tea Party veneer aside) that has already forgotten the lessons of Afghanistan and Iraq and has become more bellicose by the day, a Cameron-style austerity program for defense (and everything else) is extremely unlikely.”



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. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

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, March 31, 2015

Obamacare blocks patients paying for treatment

Care can be denied 'even if patient is willing,' able to cover costs

A new report by the Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics at National Right to Life warns that one of the Obamacare provisions that ex-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Americans would discover if Congress passed the bill is that some seniors will not be allowed to spend as much as they wish on their health care.

The extreme position was revealed in a special report by the NRLC titled “The Affordable Care Act and Health Care Access in the United States,” which analyzes four fundamental policy areas of Obamacare.

It finds several ways that the federal health care law “will drastically limit access to life-saving medical treatment under the law.”

“These four areas include: the ‘excess benefit’ tax coming into effect in 2018, the current exclusion of adequate health insurance plans from the exchanges, present limits on senior citizens’ ability to use their own money for health insurance, and federal limits on the care doctors give their patients to be implemented as soon as 2016.”

Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life, said that “for pro-life Americans concerned about the impact on innocent life – both born and unborn – the policies of Obamacare couldn’t be worse.”

“Americans are just as concerned with the law’s impact on our ability to access life-saving medical treatment for ourselves, our family members, and our loved ones as with Obamacare’s funding of abortions. Obamacare is bad medicine for America,” she said.

Pelosi famously said Congress should pass the law so Americans could find out what was in it, and its unpleasant surprises have been shocking citizens ever since.

The study finds, for example, that the “Independent Payment Advisory Board,” which starting next January is supposed to make “recommendations to slow the growth in national health expenditures,” will set “quality and efficiency” standards for hospitals and demand that doctors meet government minimums in order to contract with any qualified health insurance plan.

“Essentially, doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers can be told by Washington just what diagnostic tests and medical care are considered to meet ‘quality and efficiency’ standards. These standards will be enforced not just for health care paid for by federally funded programs like Medicare, but also for health care paid for by private citizens and by the health insurance they or their employers purchase,” the study explains.

“These standards are specifically designed to limit the funds that Americans may choose to spend on health care so that they cannot keep up with the rate of medical inflation. Treatment that a doctor and patient deem needed or advisable to save the patient’s life or preserve or improve the patient’s health, but which runs afoul of the imposed standards, can be denied, even if the patient is willing and able to pay for it,” the study warns.

The study says that means that Washington “bureaucrats” will set a national standard for care “that is designed to limit what private citizens are allowed to spend to save their own lives.”

“On its face, the law maintains that this limitation does not amount to ‘rationing.’ Indeed, the [law] states, ‘The proposal [by the IPAB] shall not include any recommendations to ration health care.’ … However, the law never actually defines what it means by the word ‘ration.’

“Obamacare authorizes federal bureaucrats to impose limits on what life-saving medical treatments Americans are allowed to get. It may not call this ‘rationing.’ But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t,” the report says.

The report addresses several other limits on life-saving care in Obamacare, including the 40 percent excise tax on some employer-paid premiums.

“Consequently, insurance companies will be forced to impose increasingly severe restraints on policy-holders’ access to medical diagnosis and treatment – limits that will make it hard to get often-expensive treatments essential to combating life-threatening illnesses.”

Third, “Under Obamacare, consumers using the exchanges may only choose plans offered by insurers who do not allow their customers to spend what government bureaucrats deem an ‘excessive or unjustified’ amount for their health insurance – regardless of whether the insurers offer such plans.”

And fourth, there are provisions “allowing Washington bureaucrats to prevent [senior citizens] from making up the Medicare shortfall with their own funds by limiting their right to spend their own money to obtain insurance less likely to limit treatments that could save their lives.”

Burke Balch, director of the Powell Center, said Obamacare “authorizes Washington bureaucrats to create one uniform, national standard of care that is designed to limit what private citizens are allowed to spend to save their own lives.”

“We are convinced most Americans do not believe that the government should limit the right of Americans to use their own money for health care necessary to save their lives. Yet, that is exactly what Obamacare does,” he said.

In the study, Dr. Marc Siegel warns that Obamacare is threatening the future of health care and, consequently, the lives of Americans.

“The kind of insurance that is growing under Obamacare’s fertilizer is the exact kind that was jeopardizing the quality of health care in the first place: the kind that pays for seeing a doctor when you are well, but where guidelines and regulations predominate and choice is restricted when you are seriously ill,” he said.

“How can quality of care not be affected if the antibiotic or statin drug or MRI scan I feel you need isn’t covered under your plan?”

Obamacare’s limits on Americans’ health care often is done through trickery, the report says.

The law says Health and Human Services can “negotiate” premiums to be charged by private Medicare plans, but the government had no power to impose a premium price control on private fee-for-service plans.

“Thus, under the law before Obamacare, senior citizens could choose, if they wished, to add extra money of their own on top of the government payment in order to get health insurance less likely to ration, and Washington bureaucrats could not limit their right to do this,” the report says.

But that’s changed. Obamacare has a new provision that says: “Nothing in this section shall be construed as requiring the secretary to accept any or every bid submitted by an MA organization under this subsection.”

“This means,” says the report, “that the pre-existing law that effectively forbade the secretary to exclude a private fee-for-service plan on the basis that CMS considers its premiums to be too high has been trumped by the new ability of the secretary to reject ‘any or every’ premium bid submitted by a private fee-for-service plan.

“Thus, under Obamacare, Washington bureaucrats are given the authority to limit – or even eliminate – senior citizens’ ability, if they choose, to spend their own money on health insurance less likely to ration.”



Government medicine


The NAACP's Fomenters of Fear

They just can't help themselves — and their agenda-driven media enablers never, ever learn

This week, the NAACP made national front-page headlines with a local press release demanding that the feds investigate the hanging death of a local man in Port Gibson, Miss. Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP Mississippi State Conference, immediately invoked the specter of a "hate crime." In response, the Obama Justice Department flooded the zone with a whopping 30 federal agents.

News outlets grabbed the bait. USA Today asked ominously: "Was it a lynching?" The discovery of ex-con Otis Byrd's body swinging from a tree by a bed sheet "brought back unpleasant memories of America's violent, racially charged past," the paper's video reporter asserted. Voice of America similarly intoned: "Mississippi hanging death raises lynching specter." The Los Angeles Times leaped into the fray with: "Why this story haunts the nation."

Whoa there, teeth-gnashing Nellies. Didn't we just recently witness the implosion of an NAACP-incited non-hate crime with the same exact narrative? Why, yes. Yes, we did.

As I reported in January, the group was here in my adopted hometown of Colorado Springs hyping a so-called "bombing" at the city's chapter office. Local, state and federal NAACP leaders, amplified by political and media sympathizers, claimed the alleged hate crime "remind(ed) me of another period" (Georgia Democratic Rep. John Lewis); "undermines years of progress" (Texas Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee); "harkens to bad old days" (MSNBC); and "evokes memories of civil rights strife" (Time magazine).

But the allegedly racist perpetrator of the "NAACP bombing" turned out to be a disgruntled client of a now-deceased tax accountant who once worked in the same office complex. The financially troubled suspect had unsuccessfully tried to contact the tax preparer for years to obtain past tax returns. But unbeknownst to the "bomber," who set off a pathetic improvised explosive device on the opposite side of the NAACP office, the accountant had been sent to prison for bilking other clients — and had passed away several years ago.

Confirming what only a few of us in the media dared to theorize out loud, race had absolutely nothing to do with the wildly inflated and cynically exploited incident in Colorado Springs. Zip, zero, nada.

None of this appears to have chastened the journalists who reflexively empower the NAACP agitators who reflexively cry racism. Just weeks after the not-NAACP bombing, here they are stoking fears of a probably-not-racist-not-lynching. Despite law enforcement reports that Byrd's hands were unbound, despite warnings from the local sheriff (who happens to be black) not to jump to conclusions, and despite the very real possibility that Byrd committed suicide, the papers and airwaves disseminated Blame Whitey and Blame Righty talking points without thinking twice.

The incident indeed "brought back memories" for me — memories of the embarrassing 1996 media malpractice of former USA Today reporter Gary Fields, who manufactured a purported epidemic of racist church-burnings in the South with 61 hysterical stories. A typical and familiar headline: "Arson at Black Church Echoes Bigotry of the Past." The NAACP jumped onboard and demanded that then-Attorney General Janet Reno investigate. President Clinton fanned the flames; panels were formed; federal spending programs were passed. But a year later, Fields' own paper was forced to admit that "analysis of the 64 fires since 1995 shows only four can be conclusively shown to be racially motivated."

Several of the crimes had been committed by black suspects; a significant number of the black churches were in fact white churches; and the Chicken Littles had obscured numerous complex motives including mental illness, vandalism and concealment of theft.

Same old, same old. Then, as now, for publicity and profit, the race hustlers stoke the very societal divisiveness they claim to abhor — and knee-jerk journalists suffering institutional amnesia aid and abet them.



There are crooks everywhere

With a critical vote on a tax-incentive package looming, Indianapolis-based Angie's List has been hit with another class-action lawsuit, the company's third in four years.  And unlike past allegations, this complaint cuts to the heart of the company's chief selling point: the trustworthiness of its consumer reviews.

Filed March 11 in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, the lawsuit alleges that Angie's, an online consumer review service, manipulates company ratings that are sold to its subscribers as impartial user reviews.

It does so, the lawsuit claims, by giving paid advertisers preferential treatment, such as boosting their visibility on the site and suppressing negative reviews.

"Angie's List does not help members find the 'best' service provider, but rather the one who paid the most money to Angie's List," the complaint says. "This certainly is not 'always placing the interests of the consumer first,' " as the company says in its public filings.

Debra DeCourcy, an Angie's spokeswoman, said it is company policy not to comment on pending litigation. The company's lawyers have not yet filed a response in court.

The lawsuit was brought by Pennsylvania resident Janell Moore, an Angie's member since 2012, according to court documents. Moore says she relied on Angie's reviews in 2014 to hire a remodeling contractor who didn't finish the work and refused to refund her $4,000.

According to the lawsuit, when she tried to file a negative review, she learned from an Angie's employee that other subscribers had given the contractor bad reviews as well — only they didn't show up on the site. The suit claims that's because Angie's suppresses bad reviews of paid advertisers by hiding them or not counting them toward the companies' A-F rating.

Advertising has become a substantial source of revenue for the company, dwarfing that of subscriptions, according to its annual reports. The company made $241.9 million from service providers in 2014 vs. $73.1 million from members.


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. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

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, March 30, 2015

Are people who distrust troublesome minorities wrong in the head?

I would have thought it obvious that people who TRUST troublesome minorities are wrong in the head -- but I am just  a cautious old conservative so I guess my views don't count in the fairytale world of Left-dominated academe.

The New York Times does push the view that  people who distrust troublesome minorities are wrong in the head.  But they do so amid such a flood of words that is difficult to pin down any clear claims.  I am referring to the article "The Brain’s Empathy Gap" of March 19, 2015.  It was so difficult to pin down any clear assertions in it that I initially gave up any attempt to write some sort of critique of it.  Answering it seemed like doing battle with a giant marshmallow.  So, initially, I simply referred readers to what the excellent Steve Sailer had to say about it.  I do think however that I have a few things to add to Steve's comments so I am going to tackle the challenge after all.

The article moves from stories about gypsies in Romania to a disquisition on brain scanning and then back to stories about gypsies in Romania. Romania is a poor country and Romanian gypsies are apparently the poorest of the poor.  And it's all caused by "discrimination", of course.  The jump between brain scans and  Romanian gypsies is rather startling -- but whatever floats your boat, I guess.

What the brain scans showed were some clear patterns but the article itself admits that interpreting such patterns is still speculative.  Here is a typical sentence from the article:

"And in both groups, a small region of the brain, the medial precuneus, which may be associated with the theory-of-mind network, responded more strongly"

And it also may be associated with airborne pork, I guess.  I have been writing about such scans for some time and, at least among Leftist writers, they seem to be little more that a Rorschach Ink Blot test:  What you see in the thing before you tells us more about you than it tells about the display before you.  The NYT writer, Jeneen Interlandi, who is said to be a frequent contributor to the NYT magazine, soldiers on anyhow and proceeds to interpret the brain scans. She relies on some work by Emile Bruneau  of MIT.  It was he who found the enigmatic patterns in brain scans.

It was however an anomaly in the brain scans that caused the excitement. Three Israeli peace activists showed scans similar to Arabs.  I can't imagine any Israeli being surprised by that but surprise it apparently did.  The article goes on quite rightly to concede that the non-random and tiny sample precludes any generalizations from the findings but then goes on to make some mushy generalizations anyhow

When we get back to the gypsies  there is a reasonably fair account of how the gypsies are in part the authors of their own problems.  Their high level of petty crime and their unsavoury lifestyle are repellent to other Romanians.  And the article admits that government programs designed to uplift the Gypsies have failed.  We also read however that "racial prejudice was thwarting efforts to assimilate the Roma" -- where "Roma" is the politically correct word for Gypsy.

And, despite all its admissions, the article ends with a claim that by studying people's brain scans we might somehow be able to see where all that nasty prejudice is coming from and stop it -- presumanbly by sending the people with "bad" brain scans to Siberia or some such.  That the main problem with gypsies is their known very low IQ is not of course mentioned.  Leftists often give me cause to point out pachyderms in rooms.

And a final point I would like to make is that in elite thinking both inside and outside traditional gypsy lands, gypsies have long been appreciated. Despite their general intellectual limitations, many gypsies are brilliant musicians and their music is a substantial source of income for them.  It is undoubtedly a rather eerie talent.  There have been accounts of gypsies graduating from high-level music schools without being able to read a note of staff notation.  They just memorize everything.

And in classical music circles, there have been many expressions of admiration for gypsies by reason of their musical talent.  In the most famous opera of all time -- "Carmen" -- the leading lady is a gypsy, and she is certainly portrayed with overall admiration.  And the gypsy lifestyle is also portrayed as admirable.  And another well-known opera is "La Boheme", where "Boheme" is a French term for a gypsy. And the "Bohemian" lady is treated sympathetically there too.  And in Lehar's operetta Zigeunerliebe, the gypsy lifestyle is again admired. And Kalman's operetta Graefin Maritza is one extended hymn of praise for gypsy music. And Kalman was a Hungarian -- and Hungary has a substantial population of Gypsies -- so it is unlikely that he had any illusions about them.

You can see the Moerbisch performance of Graefin Maritza online here. It's infinitely more entertaining than the NYT and the expressive Dagmar Schellenberger in the title role is a pleasure to watch and hear.  She is both a most accomplished soprano and a superb actress.

So I would argue that in elite European opinion at least there has been much favourable disposition towards gypsies.  That gypsies have been unable to parlay the favourable disposition towards them into any general uplift at all suggests that their own limitations are the problem  -- rather than something bad in the heads of others.


Are there at the moment worse enemies than Iran?

By Patrick J. Buchanan

The forces that do not want a U.S. nuclear deal with Iran, nor any U.S. detente with Iran, are impressive.

Among them are the Israelis and their powerful lobby AIPAC, the Saudis and their Sunni allies on the Persian Gulf, a near unanimity of Republicans and a plurality of Democrats in Congress.

Is there a case to be made for a truce in the venomous conflict that has gone on between us since the taking of U.S. hostages in 1979? Is there any common ground?

To both questions, President Obama and John Kerry believe the answer is yes. And they are not without an argument.

First, the alternative to a truce — breaking off of negotiations, doubling down on demands Iran dismantle all nuclear facilities, tougher sanctions — inevitably leads to war. And we all know it.

Yet Americans do not want another war in the Middle East, with a nation three times the size of Iraq, and its allies across the region.

Nor can Iran want such a war. Had the ayatollahs and mullahs wanted it, they could have had a war with the United States at any time in the third of a century since they seized power.

Yet as Ronald Reagan was taking the oath in 1981, our hostages were suddenly on their way home. With the accidental shoot-down of an Iranian Airbus by the cruiser Vincennes in 1988, the Ayatollah ended his war with Saddam Hussein, fearful the Americans were about to intervene on the side of Iraq.

Why Iran wants to avoid war is obvious. Given U.S. air, missile and naval power, and cyberwarfare capabilities, a war with the United States would do to Iran what we did to Iraq, smash it up, set it back decades, perhaps break up the country.

Some mullahs may be fanatics, but Iran is not run by fools.

Yet even if we have a mutual interest in avoiding a war, where is the common ground between us?

Let us begin with the Sunni terrorists of al-Qaida who brought down the twin towers, and the Islamic State that is beheading Christians, apostates, and nonbelievers, and intends to establish a Middle East caliphate where there are no Americans, no Christians, and no Shiites.

Americans and Iranians have a common goal of degrading and defeating them.

In the Syrian civil war, Iran and its Shiite allies in Hezbollah have prevented the fall of the Alawite regime of Bashar Assad.

For years, Iran has helped to keep the al-Nusra Front and ISIL out of Damascus.

When the Islamic State seized Mosul and most of Anbar, the Iranians helped to rally Shiite resistance to defend Baghdad, and are now assisting the Iraqi army in its effort to recapture Tikrit.

Until this week, the U.S. stayed out, as Shiite militias were mauled by fewer than 1,000 jihadis. Wednesday, however, we intervened with air power, thus exposing Iraq's reliance on us.

This does not contradict but rather reinforces the point. In the war to expel the Islamic State from Iraq, we and Iran are on the same side.

Does Iran wish to displace American influence in Baghdad?

Undeniably. But when we destroyed the Sunni Baathist regime of Saddam, disbanded his army and held elections, we greased the skids for a pro-Iranian Shiite regime. We can't walk that cat back.

Consider Yemen.

This week, the Saudis sent their air force against the Houthi rebels who had seized the capital of Sanaa, driven out the president, and have now driven south to Aden to take over half of the country.

Why is the Saudi air force attacking the Houthis?

The Houthis belong to a sect close to the Shiite and are supported by Iran. Yet the Houthis, who bear no love for us, began this war to expel al-Qaida from Yemen. And their hatred for ISIS is surely greater than it is for us or Israel, as, last week, 137 of their co-religionists were massacred in two mosque bombings in Sanaa. ISIS claimed credit.

In summary, though the Houthi rebels in Yemen, Shiite militia in Iraq, Iran, Hezbollah, and the Alawite regime of Assad may not love us, they look on al-Qaida and ISIS as mortal enemies. And, thus far, they alone have seemed willing to send troops to defeat them.

Where are the Turkish, Saudi, Kuwaiti or Qatari troops?

During World War II, the U.S. Navy and Merchant Marine shipped tanks, guns and munitions to a Soviet Union that was doing most of the fighting and suffering most of the casualties in the war against Hitler.

No matter all the "Uncle Joe" drivel at Tehran and Yalta, we were never true friends or allies, and shared nothing in common with the monster Stalin, save Hitler's defeat.

If President Nixon could toast Mao Zedong, can we not deal with Ayatollah Khamenei?



Congress Asserts Itself in Iran Dealings

As Barack Obama races headlong toward whatever nuclear deal he can get with Iran, Congress has repeatedly reminded the former college lecturer and “constitutional scholar” that the Constitution does not grant him divine powers – that he is not an emperor, but merely the head of the executive branch of government. That same Constitution charges the Senate to approve or reject foreign treaties through its advice and consent role. And the Congress as a whole is the sole authority for passing legislation, including the legislation that put U.S. sanctions in place against Iran in recent years. Obama’s disdain for our system of checks and balances is well documented, and his “trust me” approach to the Iran negotiations is simply more proof of it.

Finally, it appears that both congressional chambers and both parties have had enough. Three recent events demonstrate the legislative branch’s distrust of the executive when it comes to a deal with Iran.

First, it was 47 Republican senators and their open letter to Iran, making clear that any non-binding deal could be negated at a moment’s notice by a future president. Because of the letter’s 100% Republican backing, it was easy for Obama and his fellow travelers to dismiss its authors as partisans and even “traitors.” As we said at the time, the letter would have been better addressed to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue than to Iran, but it was a significant and perfectly legal warning shot all the same.

Then, earlier this week, 367 members of the House, from both sides of the aisle, signed a letter to Barack Obama reminding His Eminence that Congress enacted sanctions on Iran and any relief of those sanctions as part of a deal would require new legislation – not just a wave of his hand. With a veto-proof majority of House members signing this letter, it will be impossible to spin as partisan politics, although we fully expect Obama and his sycophants to try.

Finally, on Thursday, the Senate unanimously endorsed an amendment to its budget that would make it easier to restore sanctions if Iran is caught cheating again. We repeat, a unanimous, 100-0, un-spinnable, no wiggle-room vote of the entire Senate.

California’s Barbara Boxer, not generally known as a foreign policy hawk, endorsed the amendment, saying, “I hope we can all vote for this because it doesn’t do anything to cause disarray in the negotiations. What it says is if there is a deal and there’s a break-out by Iran, we’d have a very quick way to restore sanctions.” The vote was held by roll call at the insistence of Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and thus puts all 100 senators on record in favor of the amendment.

It’s unfortunate that the White House and Congress are having this food fight during such a critical moment in U.S. foreign policy, but Obama has only himself to blame. His treatment of Congress, his record of lies and his “we have to get a deal before we share the details” approach have finally exceeded the limits of congressional goodwill. It remains to be seen if Obama will press ahead anyway, but Congress has now drawn its own line in the sand. Let’s hope they stick to it.



Saudis Clean Up Obama's 'Success' in Yemen

Remember when Yemen was a model of success for Barack Obama’s foreign policy? That’s what he called it last September before the Yemeni government fell to Iranian backed rebels. Among other things, U.S. intelligence in the region is seriously compromised after having had to pull its personnel from the country. Undeterred by this dramatic change in events, however, Obama still insists Yemen is a great example of a “successful counterterrorism strategy.”

After learning earlier this month about Saudi Arabia’s efforts to counter Iran’s nuclear ambitions through a deal with South Korea, we now know the Saudis are countering Tehran on another front: They’re leading a counterattack against Iran’s Houthi proxies in Yemen.

On Wednesday, the kingdom made it official, leading a coalition of at least 10 allied nations with airstrikes against its southern neighbor, reserving ground troops as needed. The U.S. is playing a small role, with a Joint Planning Cell to provide military and intelligence support.



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. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

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, March 29, 2015

Christian identification with Israel

I went to a hymn-singing service at Wynnum Presbyterian church yesterday.  I am deeply moved by music and hymns are meant to be moving so I love to hear and sing the great old Protestant hymns.

A famous hymn that I enjoyed was "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah", sung to the marvellous "Cwm Rhondda" tune.  It's been sung on many great occasions in England. Here it is being sung on a very great British occasion indeed. The last verse of it is below.  At the link you can hear that verse sung by everybody who is anybody in Britain:

When I tread the verge of Jordan,
Bid my anxious fears subside;
Death of death and hell’s Destruction,
Land me safe on Canaan’s side.
Songs of praises, songs of praises,
I will ever give to Thee;
I will ever give to Thee.

So the identification with the Children of Israel is deep into Christian culture.  God's gift of the land of Irael to the Jews is equated with salvation.  For Christians not to love Israel makes them very dubious Christians indeed

Secular people sometimes say that the Jews of today are totally different from the people who came up out of Egypt -- but to say that is to disbelieve all the promises that the Lord made to the Children of Israel.  Only pseudo-Christians or unbelievers could say that.  There are however a lot of pseuds around.



No matter what you do, modern liberals will tell you you’re wrong.

For decades, liberals complained that American society is segregated because rich, white people don’t want to live in ethnically mixed neighborhoods. Sometimes, liberals had a point.

From the 1930s to 1960s, as rich white people moved into New York City, urban planner Robert Moses got city bureaucrats to condemn and destroy busy black neighborhoods. The city called the neighborhoods “blighted” and moved many of the poor into rent-subsidized apartment complexes called “projects.” Many quickly became slums.

Now times have changed. Some rich, white people want to move into poorer, non-white neighborhoods because they like diversity (and cheaper real estate). So today the newcomers are attacked by liberals because they cause “gentrification.”

Movie director Spike Lee, who lives in Brooklyn, said gentrifiers behave almost like “Columbus and kill off the Native Americans.” Of course, the new gentrifiers don’t actually kill anyone, but because their arrival often leads to rising real estate values, critics complain that they drive poor people out of the neighborhood.

Two women in Brooklyn got so angry about it, they pulled out a gun, forced two white people out of an apartment and moved in (they were later arrested).

Columbia urban planning professor Stacey Sutton calls gentrification a “manifestation of inequality” that may “fundamentally alter the culture and character of the neighborhood” in ways that hurt the poor.

Yet her own school did something worse. Columbia colluded with politicians to use eminent domain law to take pieces of the Harlem neighborhood that surrounds Columbia. In court, the school argued that it had the right to take neighbors' land because it would “benefit West Harlem.”

Who owns the land is something that ought to be decided not by government but by free people making their own decisions about where they wish to live. When gentrification happens that way, spontaneously, price rises are often accompanied by drops in crime, new job opportunities and better connections to the rest of the culture. What the left calls “gentrification” is often called “improvement” by people who live there.

Another Columbia urban planning professor, Lance Freeman, found to his surprise that gentrification didn’t even mean significant displacement of the previous population. In his book “There Goes the ‘Hood,” Freeman writes, “poor residents and those without a college education were actually less likely to move if they resided in gentrifying neighborhoods.”

That’s because gentrification often means the neighborhood gets safer and more interesting. That’s something the old residents enjoy as much as new ones.

The Economist reports that a 2008 study of census data found “no evidence of displacement of low-income non-white households in gentrifying neighborhoods” and found that black incomes “soared” in gentrifying neighborhoods.

That doesn’t stop some people – often rich, white liberals – from complaining that gentrification destroys the quaintness of the neighborhood. They sound almost like the people who think that the developing world should never be sullied by modern technology. Actually, sometimes the same people make both arguments.

In San Francisco, some longtime residents got so angry about Google employees moving in that they surrounded Google employee shuttle buses, waving protest signs.

It’s a fight between hippies and tech geeks, with the hippies calling for regulations to prevent change. Such regulations have perverse effects, however. They lead to long waits for building permits and subsidies for housing that end up getting used by the well-connected and rich.

When regulation makes it harder to build or to alter old buildings, the effect is higher costs and reduced choices, which only makes things harder for the poor. Regulation saves some old things people like, but those people will never even know what new things they missed out on.

If nothing like gentrification ever happened in the world, we all still would be living in the same caves our ancestors lived in thousands of years ago. I say, let free people keep transforming the neighborhood.



Washington, DC, Comics: Dr. Ignoro vs. Bibi

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough recently spoke to J Street, a left-wing organization that fancies itself the headquarters of the tough-love-for-Israel crowd. J Street’s critics would phrase it a bit differently. In a charitable mood, they’d say J Street is all about loving Israel to death.

Regardless, J Street is the perfect think tank for the Obama administration to get its message out. Which is why McDonough was there to deliver harsh criticism of Israel and to signal that the U.S., under President Obama at least, will not be as reliable an ally to Israel as it once was, particularly at the United Nations.

The ostensible reason for the breakdown in relations is that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won re-election by saying things the White House didn’t like. Specifically, Netanyahu said that there would not be a two-state solution on his watch if he were re-elected. Netanyahu’s point was merely that given the current circumstances in the Middle East and the disastrous experience of handing Gaza to Hamas, it’s unlikely we’d see a two state solution anytime soon. But even if you were inclined to read something more nefarious into his remarks, Netanyahu has since modified – or “walked back,” as they say in diplomatic circles – his statement.

Too bad, says the White House. Bibi said what he said. “We cannot simply pretend that those comments were never made,” McDonough told the crowd at J Street.

There’s nothing in the news accounts about whether the J Street audience burst into laughter or even if McDonough intended this as a laugh line. But intentional or not, it is hilarious.

For if there is one thing we know about Obama, it is this: He is very good at ignoring things he wants to ignore. If he were a superhero, he might be The Ignorator or perhaps Dr. Ignoro, complete with a cape, a giant “I” on his chest and his signature blinders blocking out all the inconvenient bits of life.

While the White House claims that it cannot pretend Netanyahu didn’t make those remarks, it has no problem playing make-believe with comments from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (currently serving out the 10th year of his four-year term), who has repeatedly said the Palestinians will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Abbas, who literally has a Ph.D. in Holocaust denial, is what counts as a Palestinian moderate. Nonetheless, he formed a unity government with Hamas, the terrorist group openly determined to slaughter the Israelis.

But such facts are no match for Obama’s limitless powers to pretend away annoying details. Why, just last week, Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, responded to chants of “Death to America” by saying, “Of course, yes, death to America.” The White House is pretending he didn’t make such comments. And when the administration gets a deal with the Iranians on their nuclear program, the president will take it to the U.N., not the Senate, because ignoring Congress – and the Constitution – is simply what he does on days that end with “y.”

Barely six months ago, Obama cited Yemen as a great example of how successful his counterterrorism approach is. This week, as Yemen spiraled toward civil war and American military forces fled, Obama went golfing, ignoring the whole mess. (For Dr. Ignoro, the golf course is like his Batcave or Fortress of Solitude).

When his own advisers, military and civilian, warned Obama that fully bugging out of Iraq would be calamitous, leaving a vacuum for terrorists and Iranian meddling, the president ignored the advice and pretended everything was fine.

When a reporter for The New Yorker asked him about the Islamic State gobbling up Iraq, Obama explained why they should be ignored: They’re just a “jayvee team,” he said.

Obama is at his best when ignoring his own comments. His “red lines” are drawn in disappearing ink as far as he’s concerned. Twenty-two times Obama said he didn’t have the authority to unilaterally legalize immigrants. He did it anyway. You can keep your doctor and your insurance, he said – before he stopped saying it.

So the notion this White House can’t pretend Netanyahu didn’t say what he said is simply hilarious, particularly given that what Netanyahu has said isn’t what the White House is pretending to hear.

Of course, no informed person believes the White House is angry about how Netanyahu won re-election. It’s angry that he was re-elected at all (unsurprising, given that Obama’s political allies worked to oust him). Obama detests Netanyahu and is letting that animosity poison a strategic alliance. He is making that choice while pretending he isn’t. That’s what he does



Israel’s Leftist Losers

For thousands of years the Jews dreamed of reclaiming their country. The left had another dream.

It dreamed of a country run by bureaucrats that worked only three days a week. It dreamed of unions running monopolies that worked whenever they liked and charged whatever they wanted. It dreamed of children raised on collective farms without parents and of government as a Socialist café debate.

Most of all it dreamed of a country without conservatives. It still hasn't gotten that wish.

Netanyahu's victory hit hardest in Tel Aviv where, as Haaretz, the paper of the left, reports, "Leftist, secular Tel Aviv went to sleep last night cautiously optimistic only to wake up this morning in a state of utter and absolute devastation."

Tel Aviv is ground zero for any Iranian nuclear attack. Its population density makes it an obvious target and Iran threatened it just last month. A nuclear strike on Tel Aviv would not only kill a lot of Israelis, it would also wipe out the country's left.

Haifa and Tel Aviv are the only major cities in Israel that the left won in this election. And it was a close thing in traditionally "Red Haifa" whose union dockworkers these days are Middle Eastern Jews who vote right. The left took a quarter of the vote in Haifa to a fifth for Netanyahu's conservative Likud party.

In Tel Aviv however, the Labor coalition and Meretz, the two major leftist parties, took nearly half of the vote. Amos Oz's daughter told Haaretz that everyone in the left had been upbeat because everyone they knew was voting for the left. Now the leftist elite is once again forced to come to terms with the tragedy that much of the country doesn't want to hand over land to terrorists, live on a communal farm or turn over the country to Marc Rich's lawyer and his American backers who make Slim-Fast and KIND bars.

There are however days when they think Israel might be better off without certain parts of Tel Aviv.

The left doesn't want a country. It wants a Berkeley food co-op. It wants a city with some ugly modernist architecture. It wants a campus with courses on media studies and gender in geography. It wants an arcade where unwashed lefties can tunelessly strum John Lennon songs on their vintage guitars. It wants cafes with Russian Futurist prints on the walls. It wants to be about excited about political change. Its only use for Israel was as a utopian theme park.

Its allegiance was not to Jewish history or democracy, but to its crackpot leftist fantasies. Now its fantasies are dead and it wants to kill Israel.

The left spitefully alienated every immigrant group from Holocaust survivors to Middle Eastern Jews to Russian Jews. It also had slurs for each of them. The Holocaust survivors were ‘Sabon' (soap) and the Middle Eastern Jewish refugees were ‘Chakhchakhim'. That particular slur at an election rally cost Peres and Labor the 1981 election. Another slur at an election rally now hurt the left and boosted Netanyahu. But if you ask the left why it lost, it will blame Israeli racism.

The Israeli left slurred Middle Eastern Jews as "primitives" and used them as cheap labor to maintain the Kibbutz collectivist lifestyle until they stood up for themselves and the experiment in ‘equality' ended. It slurred Russian immigrants as "prostitutes", Settlers in '67 Israel as "bloodsuckers" and Ultra-Orthodox as "parasites".

Netanyahu's likely coalition will lean heavily on parties that draw their support from Middle Eastern Jews, Settlers, Russian Jews and the Ultra-Orthodox.  These groups are also known as the majority of the country. That's why the left lost. Again.

The left wants its clubhouse back and it can't get it back. Demographics and immigration turned the ideal Israeli leftist, a wealthy secular Ashkenazi urbanite from an important family, into a minority. The only reason the left still exists is because its phantom Apartheid State of media outlets, courts and academics still maintains a death grip on the system.

The other reason that the Israeli left exists is that its malicious oppression of new immigrants splintered them into warring groups, much as the Democratic Party's Tammany Hall did in the United States. The left couldn't own them, but it did set them against each other in order to maintain a dysfunctional political system in which the strongest form of central authority comes from an unelected judiciary.

The left hasn't managed to conquer Israel, but it has succeeded in dividing it. Every new group of immigrants has been indoctrinated, not with allegiance to the left (that was a lost cause early on) but with resentment of each other. The Russian Jews are told that they live badly because of the Ultra-Orthodox Jews. The Middle Eastern Jews are told that they live badly because of the Russian Jews. The Ultra-Orthodox are told that they live badly because of the Settlers. There's plenty of overlap between these groups, but the tactic still works well enough for the left to stay in the game.

The real Apartheid State in Israel is this Deep State of the left. It's the one you see on display when former heads of the Mossad and Shabak denounce Israel and Netanyahu. It's in the phony media polls and exit polls that were skewed in favor of the left. It's in the candidacy of a cretin like Herzog with his high voice and his old guard last name promising to do whatever Obama and the left tell him to do. The left tried to sell Herzog, the errand boy for international leftist criminals like Marc Rich and Octav Botnar, as the future of Israel. The public never bought it.

The left has no leadership. It has nothing to offer. It has no reason to exist except malice and spite.



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