Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The EQ dream

The whole idea of IQ is poison to the "all men are equal" crowd because it demonstrates that they are not. So the game is on to show that IQ differences may exist but those differences are unimportant. And the prime way of doing that has been to promote the idea of Emotional Intelligence (EQ), which can be trained.  In any activity taking part among a group EQ is said to be very important.  It's an attractive dream but it is at variance with reality.  Because it is so attractive it has been much researched and the Wikipedia entry on it summarizes the findings pretty well.

Chief among the problems with EQ, is that there are a variety of things which are called Emotional Intelligence but they correlate poorly with one another  So which is the "true" emotional intelligence?  The concept is fine but going out there among the population and assessing it is very difficult.  One could argue that if it can be measured, nobody so far has achieved that.  Different tests will pick out different groups of people as emotionally intelligent.  Does it exist at all in reality?

The second problem is predictive power.  No matter which version of EQ that you use does it predict success (however defined) any better than IQ?  And it does not in general.  All the enthusiasm for it is misplaced.  It is a unicorn concept.  It sounds attractive but it does not exist out there in the world.

So why on earth is Ezekiel Emanuel pushing that old barrow of rubbish below?  Easy. He is a far Leftist and the chief architect of Obamacare. His brother is Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.  His ideology makes him WANT to believe in EQ.  The editors of JAMA were very incautious to let his blatherings into the pages of their journal.  Obviously, they knew nothing about the psychological research into EQ

Does Medicine Overemphasize IQ?

Ezekiel J. Emanuel, MD, PhD; Emily Gudbranson, BA

Everyone wants the best physician. Patients want their physician to know medical information by heart, to possess diagnostic acumen, and to be well-versed in the latest tests and treatments. Finding the best physicians often involves looking for resumes with stellar attributes, such as having graduated at the top of a collegiate class, attended the best medical schools, completed internships and residency training at the nation’s most prestigious hospitals, and been awarded the most competitive fellowships. Many medical schools, likewise, want only the smartest students, as assessed by the highest grade point averages and MCAT scores.

This selection process has persisted for decades. But is it misguided? Do the smartest students, as measured by science grades and standardized test results, truly make the best physicians?

Overemphasizing IQ

By prioritizing academic pedigree, the medical profession has traditionally overemphasized general intelligence and underemphasized—if not totally ignored—emotional intelligence. With “objective” assessments and little grade inflation, performance in hard science courses and on the MCAT have been the primary determinants of medical school admissions.1,2 Although good test scores and grades in calculus, physics, or organic chemistry may signal one kind of intelligence, reliance solely on those metrics results in an incomplete and inaccurate assessment of a student’s potential to be an excellent, caring physician.

Medical schools often conflate high MCAT scores and grades in the hard sciences with actual intelligence. For instance, good test takers can score extremely high on multiple-choice examinations but may lack real analytic ability, problem-solving skills, and common sense. Scoring well on these metrics reveals nothing about other types of intelligences, especially emotional intelligence, that are critical to being an excellent physician. Knowing how to calculate the speed of a ball rolling down an inclined plane or recalling the Bamford-Stevens reaction are totally irrelevant to being an astute diagnostician, much less an oncologist sensitively discussing end-of-life care preferences with a patient who has developed metastatic cancer.

The prioritization of student grades and test scores in the US News & World Report rankings of medical schools fuels a vicious cycle. Medical schools have placed more emphasis on these criteria, ultimately striving to select students with higher scores to maintain their ranking. From 2000 to 2016, the grade point averages of students admitted to US medical schools have actually increased from 3.60 to 3.70,3 and MCAT scores in both biological and physical sciences have also increased by 5% to 10%.4 European universities may emphasize IQ even more in medical student selection, because they rely on standardized tests at the end of high school, such as A-level examinations in England.

Providing high-quality care certainly requires intelligence. A high IQ may help a physician diagnose congestive heart failure and select the right medications and interventions, but it is still no guarantee that the physician can lead a multidisciplinary team or effectively help patients change their behaviors in ways that tangibly improve their health outcomes.

The Ubiquitous Importance of Emotional Intelligence
A certain threshold of intelligence is absolutely necessary to succeed in any field. In medicine, IQ is necessary to master and critically assess the volume and complexity of information integral to contemporary medical education. But past this threshold, success in medicine is ultimately more about emotional intelligence.

Psychologists have identified 9 distinct kinds of intelligence, ranging from mathematical and linguistic to musical and the capacity to observe and understand the natural world.5 Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to manage emotions and interact effectively with others. People with high EQs are sensitive to the moods and temperaments of others, display empathy, and appreciate multiple perspectives when approaching situations.

Is EQ really necessary for success? A major part of what distinguishes human brain functions from those of primates is a larger prefrontal cortex and extensive intrabrain connections, which endow humans with significantly greater ability to navigate social interactions and collaborate. It makes sense, then, that humans should use this unique ability to its greatest extent.

Consider a simple negotiation session. Participants—executives, physicians, and others—are grouped into teams and given the exact same starting scenario and facts. When told to come to the best possible deal, as measured in a hard outcome such as the most money, results vary 4-fold or more. The best deals are reached by teams that exhibit mutual trust, an understanding of the interests of the other side, and the ability to reach a mutually beneficial arrangement. These variations are not the result of differences in brain power but rather differences in EQ. According to Diamond, “[In negotiations] emotions and perceptions are far more important than power and logic in dealing with others. [EQ] produces four times as much value as conventional tools like leverage and ‘win-win’ because (a) you have a better starting point for persuasion, (b) people are more willing to do things for you when you value them, no matter who they are, and (c) the world is mostly about emotions, not the logic of ‘win-win.’”6

EQ in Medicine

Vitally important to the success of 21st-century clinicians are 3 capabilities: to (1) effectively lead teams, (2) coordinate care, and (3) engender behavior change in patients and colleagues. (Both 1 and 3 require negotiating skills.) Thus, effective physicians need both an adequate IQ and a high EQ.

For the 10% of chronically ill patients who consume nearly two-thirds of all health care spending,7 the primary challenge is not solving diagnostic conundrums, unraveling complex genetic mutations, or administering specially designed therapeutic regimens. Rather, physicians caring for chronically ill patients with several comorbidities must lead multidisciplinary teams that emphasize educating patients, ensuring medication adherence, diagnosing and treating concomitant mental health issues, anticipating potential illness exacerbations, and explicitly discussing treatment preferences.

These activities depend on listening, building trust, empathy, and delineating mutual goals. Chronic care management, in addition to sufficient intelligence, therefore primarily requires a high EQ. As Goleman suggested, “Analytics and technical skills do matter, but mainly as ‘threshold capabilities’—that is, they are the entry-level requirements for executive positions… [But] emotional intelligence is the sine qua non of leadership. Without it a person can have the best training in the world; an incisive analytical mind; and an endless supply of smart ideas; but he still won’t make a great leader.”8

Minimizing or ignoring EQ when selecting and training medical students may partially explain why US medical professionals fare so poorly in assembling well-functioning teams to care for chronically and terminally ill patients.


A Report on Terrorism That Falls Short on Useful Details

A new government report on terrorism uses data selectively to produce skewed conclusions on the percentage of acts of terrorism committed in the U.S. by those born in another country.

In a quick read, the Jan. 16 report from the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department appears to demonstrate that foreign-born individuals committed approximately 73 percent of terror crimes from Sept. 11, 2001, through Dec. 31, 2016.

The joint report says its goal was to provide statistics that would help to develop policies that would be effective in “protecting [American] citizens from terrorist attacks.”

To achieve this goal, it makes sense that the report should analyze all data on terrorism committed in the U.S. However, the report selectively uses data in three ways, resulting in the slanted conclusions.

First, the report considers only instances of international terrorism, defined as “investigations of terrorist acts planned or committed outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States over which federal criminal jurisdiction exists and those within the United States involving international terrorists and terrorist groups.”

What the report fails to include are cases of domestic terrorism—attacks on U.S. soil committed by individuals not connected to international terror groups. So for example, the report excludes eco-terrorism or neo-Nazi terrorist activities.

It certainly can be of value to analyze specific types of terrorism; but the focus on international terrorism reveals why the report concludes that foreign-born individuals are more likely to be involved in acts of terror.

While many of these individuals could be linked to Islamist terrorism, the data is not transparent. It likely includes terror groups from the Irish Republican Army to the Cambodian Freedom Fighters. The report would have been more helpful if it had at least laid out the types of terror groups involved and their sizes.

Second, the report says its data includes offenses such as “fraud, immigration, firearms, drugs, false statements, perjury, and obstruction of justice” in counting cases of international terrorism. Adding these events into the mix is not transparent at best, but deceptive at worst.

While the report claims that such crimes are related to international terrorism, it is impossible for readers to confirm the validity of these classifications without access to detailed accounts of the individual events. If the government can’t provide this data, it would better serve the public by providing an accounting of cases of explicit terrorism crimes.

Third, and as noted in a Lawfare article, an earlier version of the dataset “included almost 100 foreign-born defendants who were extradited into the United States and therefore never would have been affected by U.S. immigration policy.”

Extradition is completely different from voluntary migration and refugee flows. So these convictions numbering in the hundreds—if indeed included in the report—should be addressed separately if the Trump administration wants to make an argument about the connection between immigration and terrorism.

The government should provide data that is transparent, clear, and properly gathered and analyzed. This report falls short and officials ought to improve it to provide policymakers and the American people with the best information with which to make decisions.

The Heritage Foundation has tracked all Islamist terror plots and attacks on U.S. soil that have occurred since 9/11.

The information recorded in the Heritage timeline provides an accurate and transparent display of the individuals behind acts of terror against the U.S.

We must identify and understand the nature of the threat if we are to develop public policy that effectively addresses it. To do this, we need better, accurate data from the Trump administration.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both 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 THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Polls, polls, polls

We learnt in 2016 that polls tell you nothing about Trump.  They didn't even give him a chance in the primaries and Hillary had her victory speech ready to go on election night.  So do the polls below tell us anything?  Probably not

Talk show host Oprah Winfrey would easily beat President Trump in a 2020 match-up, a new poll indicates, but Democratic and liberal household names Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders would best the Republican by more.

The new survey, conducted by SSRS and commissioned by CNN, found that Winfrey would best Trump among registered voters by nine points, with the talk show queen receiving 51 per cent and the sitting president getting 42 per cent.

Former Vice President Joe Biden would take 57 per cent of registered voters surveyed, to Trump's 40 per cent – winning by the biggest margin of the three – while former Democratic candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, would beat Trump 55 per cent to 42 per cent.

President Trump trounced 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton with the white vote, 57 per cent to 37 per cent, according to CNN's exit polls.

That margin evaporates in the newest poll, with Biden getting the most support among white registered voters, beating Trump 50 per cent to 48 per cent.

Sanders and Winfrey perform better too, with Sander attracting 48 per cent to Trump's 49 per cent, and Winfrey receiving 45 per cent to Trump's 50 per cent of white registered voters.

The poll also shows white women voting for the Democratic candidates instead of the Republican, like they did in 2016. 

Biden wins white women by 23 points, while Sanders has a 17-point edge and Winfrey wins the group by 14 points.

Former Vice President Biden has said he's purposely not making a decision about 2020 yet, while Sanders – an independent who ran for the nomination the last time around – hasn't laid out his plans yet.



Minimum Wage Hikes Cause Hundreds of Bus Boys to Lose Jobs at Red Robin

Red Robin, a popular burger chain, will cut jobs at all 570 of its locations because, chief financial officer Guy Constant said, “We need ... to address the labor [cost] increases we’ve seen.”

To put it differently, Red Robin is cutting these jobs because of bad government policy: namely, hikes in the minimum wage. On January 1, some 18 states—from Maine to Hawaii—increased their minimum wage.

Founded in Seattle but headquartered in Colorado, Red Robin hopes to save some $8 million this year by eliminating bussers from their restaurants. (Bussers, or busboys, clear dirty dishes from tables, set tables, and otherwise assist the wait staff.) According to the New York Post, the company saved some $10 million last year after eliminating “expediters,” who plate food in the kitchen.

Despite what many people, including policymakers, would argue, this is an altogether painfully predictable response to increased labor costs. It’s basic economics. The “first law of demand” teaches us that when the price of a good or service increases, people will tend to buy fewer units. Conversely, when the price of a good or service decreases, people will tend to buy more. This idea is usually presented no later than chapter 3 in any econ 101 textbook.

Labor is no exception to this rule. If the cost of employing workers increases, we’d expect companies to hire fewer workers and even to let some go.

Some might say, “Well, why can’t Red Robin just make a smaller profit and stop being greedy?” Consider, however, that pretax profit margins for the restaurant industry typically range between 2 and 6 percent. This means there’s not a lot of room for error or cost increases before realizing a loss.

Now suppose that a restaurant like Red Robin is operating normally when minimum-wage hikes are imposed. Let’s take Colorado as an example. On January 1, Colorado’s minimum wage increased by about 10 percent—from $9.30 to $10.20 an hour.

Have the workers at the restaurant—the cooks, the servers, or the bussers—acquired any new skills? No! Will they magically become more productive and begin to generate more revenue for their employer as a result of this policy? No! The workers simply become more expensive to employ. So what is a company like Red Robin to do?

One option would be to add a surcharge to customers’ bills to recoup some of the losses from the higher labor costs. This is precisely what happened in San Diego following a minimum-wage increase—much to the chagrin of policymakers and customers alike. Another option would be to increase menu prices—a particularly unpopular move when it comes to luring in customers.

A third alternative would be to fire some staff and make due with a smaller workforce. Restaurants like Chili’s have taken to installing ordering kiosks at its tables, allowing customers to order and pay their tabs without ever having to speak to a waiter. Other restaurants, like McDonald’s and Wendy’s, have also begun to substitute technology for human beings in the form of automated ordering kiosks.

Note that three groups could lose here. First, Red Robin loses. No company likes firing employees, incurring higher costs, or trying to provide the same quality service with fewer workers.

Second, customers may lose through poorer service or higher prices.

And third, workers lose if they find themselves without jobs.

While we may not like the idea of someone trying to live on $5 or even $7 an hour, we can likely all agree that earning a small wage is better than earning nothing at all due to unemployment. It’s easy to vilify restaurants and other companies when they respond to higher costs with layoffs. But it’s important to place the blame where it belongs. In this case, it’s bad policy—not incompetence, not corporate greed—that’s causing people to lose their jobs.



The Supreme Court was not the only area where Trump has had wins in appointing conservative judges

The past year was probably the most consequential in modern history for the appointment of conservative judges to the federal courts, with a successor to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia who shares his judicial philosophy, and a historic number of appeals court judges who will shape the law for two generations. What led to this transformative moment was a unique presidential election, the first in American history during which the composition of the federal judiciary, particularly the Supreme Court, was cited as a major factor for a large swath of voters. The issue might well have been decisive to the outcome of that contest.

Since the 2016 election, President Donald Trump has nominated judges who have a demonstrated commitment to, as the president puts it, interpreting the Constitution “the way it was meant to be.” In so doing, Trump is ensuring that his legacy will last far beyond his term in office. Tax and health care reform can quickly evaporate with future changes in congressional majorities, but federal judges serve for life, often making decisions about our Constitution and laws that affect one or two generations. History shows, just as well, that federal judges can block a president’s agenda, preventing the executive branch from accomplishing its goals when it comes to deregulation, national security and other aspects of domestic and social policy reform.

The year of “extraordinary accomplishment,” as Majority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell described it, began with the nomination and confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the seat left vacant by Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court. He will likely serve for decades, and may well be the deciding vote in enormously important cases touching on free speech, religious liberty, gun rights and the scope of authority of the administrative state.

Less noticed, but almost as important, are the many federal appeals court vacancies the president had an opportunity to fill last year. The Senate confirmed 12 nominees to fill those vacancies on the appeals courts, which was an all-time record for a presidential administration in its first year. The record was previously shared by Presidents John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon, with 11 in their respective first years. Only three were confirmed during President Barack Obama’s first year.

Statistics, however, tell only part of the story. What makes this judicial sweep so significant is the extraordinary backgrounds of Trump’s nominees. Gorsuch and the president’s appeals court nominees have among the most distinguished credentials possible and demonstrated records of applying the Constitution and laws as they are written. Many have explicitly rejected, in word and deed, making decisions based on their own political preferences, or any partisan agenda, and they have demonstrated and promised independence, invoking the separation of powers, federalism and checks and balances that are the hallmarks of limited government under our Constitution. Many have records of refusing to take issues unaddressed by the Constitution away from the people and those they elect to represent them.

Though relatively young as judicial appointees, they almost uniformly have some of the most extraordinary professional resumes in the legal system, with service on state supreme courts or other very distinguished posts in government or on leading law school faculties or at the best law firms in the country. Several, such as Joan Larsen of Michigan, Allison Eid of Colorado, David Stras of Minnesota and Don Willett of Texas, have been leading conservative  intellectuals on their state supreme courts. Others, such as Amy Barrett of Norte Dame and Stephanos Bibas of the University of Pennsylvania, are leading constitutional law scholars committed to the original meaning of the Constitution. And, several, including Gregory Katsas and Kyle Duncan have argued important limited government cases before the Supreme Court. People with such talent and philosophical commitment are very likely to prove transformational for the future of our legal culture. That is particularly meaningful given the widespread skepticism held by so many Americans toward government institutions.

In a year when legislative victories were hard to come by, the “judicial wave” of 2017 was a very important benchmark of political success. And, looking ahead to the rest of 2018, it is likely to become the GOP leadership’s case-in-chief for redoubling unified and intense action on the many federal judicial nominees the president still has to nominate and get confirmed.



Dow Grows 31% in Trump's First Year, Highest Gain Since FDR in 1933

First-year stockmasrket and job figures tend to reflect business expectations but will not be continued if promises are not kept. Trump has however delivered on his promises

Although most of the liberal media are not reporting this, it is now a fact that the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the Dow, experienced growth of 31% in Donald Trump's first year as president, the greatest growth for a president's first year since Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1933, some 84 years ago, reported

The Dow is a stock market index of 30 major publicly traded companies. It measures how the 30 companies traded on the stock market in a standard trading session. The Dow was first calculated in 1896 and is considered one of the more reliable ways to measure economic growth. Some of the 30 companies in the Dow today include Apple, Boeing, Coca-Cola, ExxonMobil, Microsoft, Nike, Visa and Walmart.

In its story, CNBC reported that the 30-stock index "had surged more than 31 percent since Trump's inauguration," which "marks the index's best performance during the first year of a president since Franklin Roosevelt."

In FDR's first presidential year, 1933, the Dow soared 96.5%, according to FactSet and CNBC. In Trump's first year it rose 31.3%.

In Harry Truman's first year, the Dow grew 30.9% and under Barack Obama, first year, it rose 28%.

Baird investment strategist Bruce Bittles told CNBC, "This is all about policy. You've got lower taxes, less regulation and confidence in the economy is high. Things are firing on all cylinders."



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both 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 THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Monday, January 29, 2018

Smart people are less likely to go mad

That's an easy to understand heading, is it not?  It's my summary of an article titled: "Association of Heritable Cognitive Ability and Psychopathology With White Matter Properties in Children and Adolescents".  It appeared in JAMA Psychiatry. Published online January 24, 2018

By a Norwegian, a German and a Vietnamese (Dag Aln├Žs, Tobias Kaufmann and Nhat Trung Doan), all of whom work at Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway


Importance:  Many mental disorders emerge during adolescence, which may reflect a cost of the potential for brain plasticity offered during this period. Brain dysconnectivity has been proposed as a common factor across diagnostic categories.

Objective:  To investigate the hypothesis that brain dysconnectivity is a transdiagnostic phenotype in adolescence with increased susceptibility and symptoms of psychiatric disease.

Design, Setting, and Participants:  We investigated clinical symptoms as well as cognitive function in 6487 individuals aged 8 to 21 years from November 1, 2009, to November 30, 2011, in the Philadelphia Neurodevelopmental Cohort and analyzed diffusion magnetic resonance imaging brain scans for 748 of the participants.

Main Outcomes and Measures:  Independent component analysis was used to derive dimensional psychopathology scores, and genome-wide complex trait analysis was used to estimate its heritability. Multimodal fusion simultaneously modeled contributions of the diffusion magnetic resonance imaging metrics fractional anisotropy, mean diffusivity, radial diffusivity, L1 (the principal diffusion tensor imaging eigen value), mode of anisotropy, as well as dominant and secondary fiber orientations, and structural connectivity density, and their association with general psychopathology and cognition.

Results: Machine learning with 10-fold cross-validation and permutation testing in 729 individuals (aged 8 to 22 years; mean [SD] age, 15.1 [3.3] years; 343 females [46%]) revealed significant association with general psychopathology levels (r = 0.24, P < .001) and cognition (r = 0.39, P < .001). A brain white matter pattern reflecting frontotemporal connectivity and crossing fibers in the uncinate fasciculus was the most associated feature for both traits. Univariate analysis across a range of clinical domains and cognitive test scores confirmed its transdiagnostic importance. Both the general psychopathology (16%; SE, 0.095; P = .05) and cognitive (18%; SE, 0.09; P = .01) factor were heritable and showed a negative genetic correlation.

Conclusion and relevance:  Dimensional and heritable general cognitive and psychopathology factors are associated with specific patterns of white matter properties, suggesting that dysconnectivity is a transdiagnostic brain-based phenotype in individuals with increased susceptibility and symptoms of psychiatric disorders.


Comment:  Aren't you glad I summarized that for you?  To be fair, they had to tell you all that stuff to make their point.  And what they say goes well beyond my simple summary. They found that a particular brain feature was associated with (and probably caused) both low IQ and a variety of mental disorders.  And it was all genetically inherited.

So to make it simple again: Some people are born with defective brains.  That's not terribly new news, of course.  What is interesting is that a particular brain feature,  "dysconnectivity", underlies both personality and IQ.  You can be both dumb and off your head at the same time!

And that relates well to something I have been saying for a long time:  That a high IQ tends to be just one symptom of general biological fitness.  "To him that hath, more will be given him", as Jesus said several times (Matthew 13:12 & 25:29; Mark 4:25). There is no equality in nature.  We knew that already but it is nice to see it in a particular brain feature. 


European CEOs Go One By One To Tell Trump They Are Investing Billions Back In The US

The Left were all confident that Trump would be ignored and denounced at Davos.  Roughly the opposite happened

President Donald J. Trump hosted a dinner with European business leaders and CEOs at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland Thursday evening. Trump has been making the rounds in Davos, holding bilateral meetings with other world leaders and conducting business roundtables. Trump met with various business leaders in shadow of the recent economic boom in America.

In a stunning moment, one by one, European titans of industry from companies like Adidas, Siemens and Bayer went around the table to thank Trump for the passage of tax cuts and the easing of corporate tax burdens. Almost every CEO had a new US-based investment or strategic business to announce.

The president of Seimens, Joe Kaeser, said, “since you have been so successful in tax reform we have decided to develop the next generation gas turbines in the United States.”

Trump responded “That’s great!”

Exchanges like this continued all around the table.



Objections to Trump

The Left say he is anti-democratic but it is they who want to overturn a duly elected President.  The Left just can't help their authoritarianism. It is intrinsic to them

One year after his inauguration, the idea that Donald Trump is a tyrant continues to be a strong current in political discussion. Of course this charge has been a mainstay of his critics, from Democrats to those who imagine themselves to be ‘the resistance’. But we also hear it from Republican politicians and conservatives as well. Recently, outgoing Republican Jeff Flake compared Trump to Joseph Stalin, for referring to the media as ‘the enemy of the people’. And David Frum, former speechwriter for George W Bush, has a new book out, Trumpocracy, in which he argues that Trump is a corrupt authoritarian.

These claims that Trump is a despot are over the top, and don’t correspond with the reality of his actions in office. In fact, it is hard to say Trump stands for any principle, as his views seem to change by the day, or tweet. If he is an autocrat, he is far from a consistent one. Yes, he does make authoritarian outbursts, but he has not followed through on them. He has threatened to change the libel laws, introduce a Muslim travel ban, investigate voter fraud (and potentially suppress certain voters), remove those disloyal to him in the Department of Justice, and dismiss Robert Mueller as the special investigator. But none of these things has materialised.

Moreover, an aspiring would-be dictator would need to subordinate the institutions around him – after all, in the US federal system there are many levels of government and the president’s powers are limited. In Trump’s first year, he simply hasn’t done that. His cabinet often disagrees with him: congressional Republicans have pursued their longstanding agenda, which conflicts with Trump’s electoral promises (and to which Trump has willingly acquiesced, desperate to have any sign of success); Democrats in Congress have successfully opposed his policies, including his proposed reforms to Obamacare and immigration, which triggered the latest government shutdown. Trump clearly hates the media, and his threats are wrong and should be opposed, but he is unsuccessful in silencing them – the mainstream media are obsessed with denouncing Trump’s every move.

Among the most consistent talking points of Trump’s first year is that he is a ‘danger to democracy’. And yet nothing he has proposed is as anti-democratic as the goal of his antagonists: to remove him from office. Their arguments for ousting Trump keep changing: he’s Hitler, he’s colluding with the Russians, and, more recently, he’s mentally unfit and a racist. As do their suggested methods of removal: Electoral College coup, obscure interpretation of the 25th Amendment, impeachment. Such an overturning of the vote, which they so desperately want, would directly undermine democracy.

Time and again, it appears that Trump’s bark is worse than his bite. Does that mean that everything is okay with his presidency? That we should ignore his outbursts, or laugh them off as ‘just words’ or ‘just tweets’? No. Trump’s bigoted comments, his lies and name-calling, his illiberal intimidations – these are all serious problems and cannot just be waved away, as his apologists often try to do.

For Trump’s defenders, these are superficial issues of personality. For instance, Reverend Jerry Falwell Jr recently tweeted: ‘Complaining about the temperament of the @POTUS or saying his behaviour is not presidential is no longer relevant. @realDonaldTrump has single-handedly changed the definition of what behaviour is “presidential” from phony, failed & rehearsed to authentic, successful & down to Earth.’

Likewise, the conservative Victor Davis Hanson says the negative reaction to Trump’s behaviour can be explained by elitist prejudices: ‘To many progressives and indeed elites of all persuasions, Trump is also the Prince of Anti-Culture: mindlessly naive American boosterism; conspicuous, 1950s-style unapologetic consumption; repetitive and limited vocabulary; fast-food culinary tastes; Queens accent; herky-jerky mannerisms; ostentatious dress; bulging appearance; poorly disguised facial expressions; embracing rather than sneering at middle-class appetites; a lack of subtlety, nuance, and ambiguity.’

There’s no doubt that a good portion of the visceral opposition to Trump is down to a snobbish reaction to what he represents culturally, and reflects the cultural elite’s horror at not having complete dominance, as they did when Obama was in office. But that doesn’t mean there is nothing wrong with Trump’s conduct. Trump gives his opponents much that is objectionable to work with. Take the recent ‘shithole’ comment about immigrants from Africa and Haiti. The response may have been hysterical (as if prior presidents had not said worse). But Trump’s comment was clearly racist and should be roundly denounced.



Poll: Voters Overwhelmingly Support Medicaid Work Requirements

Two-thirds of Pennsylvania voters support Medicaid work requirements. In other states, thousands of Americans previously dependent on government programs have transformed their lives and achieved independence thanks to work requirements. But Pennsylvania’s human services system still traps people in poverty by discouraging work—and voters want that to change.

Two-thirds of Pennsylvania voters support requiring healthy adult Medicaid recipients to pursue work in order to continue receiving government benefits, according to polling released today by the Commonwealth Foundation. The poll of 400 likely Pennsylvania voters, conducted by McLaughlin & Associates, found majority support for work requirements across party lines and among all demographics.

“Voters recognize that promoting work can transform lives and expand resources for those who need them most,” commented Elizabeth Stelle, director of policy analysis for the Commonwealth Foundation. “States like Kansas and Maine have proven work requirements in food stamps boost incomes and help individuals transition to productive careers. The success of work requirements in other programs led the federal Department of Health and Human Services to approve a landmark Medicaid work requirement for healthy Kentuckians last week.”

“Pennsylvania lawmakers already recognize the popularity of this reform,” Stelle continued. “HB 59, vetoed by the governor last fall, directed state officials to pursue a work search requirement for healthy adults with Medicaid coverage. Likewise, state House members recently promoted HB 1659 to restore work requirements in food stamps.”

Work requirements spurred half of those leaving the SNAP (food stamps) programs in Kansas and Maine to more than double their incomes, according to a recent study by the Commonwealth Foundation. If Pennsylvania adopted similar reforms in its food stamps program, the results would be transformative: as many as 100,000 people would rejoin the workforce and wages would grow by $175 to $210 million, according to estimates.

“We must not let people languish in a broken system because we lack the political will to fix it,” Stelle said. “Lawmakers and the governor must recognize that promoting work is key to ending generational poverty and preserving resources for those who need them most.”



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both 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 THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Sunday, January 28, 2018

Charles Murray on Culture vs. Economics:  An interview

Tamar Jacoby:

It's an age-old debate between the left and the right. The left says poverty—inner-city poverty and working-class poverty—is mostly about economics. The right says culture has at least as much to do with it. You're a longtime proponent of the cultural explanation. Can you spell that out for us?

Charles Murray:

I believe—I've believed for 40 years—that the reforms of the 1960s and the sexual revolution combined to create a perfect storm. And that storm changed the rules of the game for poor people—especially young poor people. In 1960, if you were male, working age, and not physically disabled, you were in the labor force. You were either working or you were looking for work. If you were a woman in your 20s, you were probably already married and had children.

Now let's be clear—this is not the natural state of affairs. Your late teens are not the time you want to get up every day and go to work at the same time even if you don't feel like it. If you're a guy, it's certainly not the time when you naturally say, "I think I want to get married."

And yet, into the '60s, there were norms. And those norms held, almost universally.

But then, at some point in the '60s, the rules changed.

By 1970, it had become much easier if you were a guy to commit a crime, get caught for it, and still not go to jail. It was much easier to slide through school, even if you were a troublemaker, and end up with a diploma without having learned anything or having faced any pressure to learn something.If you were a young woman at the end of the 1960s, if you had a baby, you were not the only girl in your high school class who had one. There were probably half a dozen others. The stigma was pretty much gone. You could afford to take care of the child without a husband. And you could live with a boyfriend, which you couldn't have done before.

Meanwhile—the other element of the perfect storm—there was the sexual revolution. The pill was first put on sale in 1960. For the first time in human history, women had a safe, convenient way to have sexual intercourse even if the guy did nothing to protect against pregnancy. Naturally, this had a huge effect on family formation.


So let me play devil's advocate. I say it's not an either/or. Okay, culture plays a huge role. But doesn't economics have at least as much to do with it?

The US lost 5.6 million manufacturing jobs between 2000 and 2010—30 percent of manufacturing employment. The guy who used to make $25 an hour in a fabricating plant now has to work at Wendy's for minimum wage. And this in turn drives other changes—cultural changes.

When you can't find a job that pays what you're used to, you drop out of the labor force. And then the women in your community are much less interested in marrying you. And pretty soon, those women are raising kids on their own, etc., etc.

In this theory, economics and culture intertwine and drive each other. Is there anything to that?


I'm not denying that these things have occurred. I'm not denying that they have interacted. But I wish people would take a closer look at the timing.

The problems we're talking about start in the last half of the '60s. That's when labor force participation started to decline, when out-of-wedlock births started to rise, when crime rose. But in the last half of the '60s, the jobs hadn't left.

The economy was red hot.

And as we've seen in the years since, things don't get much better when the economy improves. We had a natural experiment in the late 1990s. There were "help wanted" signs everywhere. You could work as many hours a week as you wanted, even if you had low skills and little education. Even then, employers were begging for welders and electricians and cabinetmakers—and they were willing to pay $25 to $30 an hour.

What happened? White male labor force participation stopped declining for a couple years. But it did not go back up. People did not flock back into the labor force. There was no turnaround.


It's very hard to put Humpty Dumpty back together again?


Exactly. Some of the most depressing research has to do with chronic unemployment. Once you've been out of the labor force for a while, getting back in is really hard.


So this brings us to policy. What can we do about this? I guess that's one reason I cling to economic causality along with cultural causality. Culture is so hard to change.


We've been trying 20, 30, 40 years—policy intervention after policy intervention. And most of what we've tried hasn't worked or worked only around the edges.


What about reasserting the norms? Moral suasion—by government or civil society—could that work?


I think there should be a lot more of it. As we know, the educated middle class has been doing better and better in recent years—economically and maintaining the old norms. But that new upper class has been AWOL in the culture wars.

They get married. They work long hours. They're engaged in their communities. But they don't say, "This would be a good idea for other people as well." They're nonjudgmental. They don't preach what they practice.

I don't mean people should get bullhorns and go down to working-class neighborhoods and yell. That's not how it worked in the 1950s.

But the norms were in the air. Values were promulgated by people at the top of society as a matter of course.

It's about policymakers and people who write TV shows and people who make movies. They need to start saying, "You know, it's really a good thing for kids if their parents are married. It's really important that guys get into the labor force and stay there."


We do sometimes change cultural norms. In our lifetimes, society succeeded in creating a new norm around smoking—and a lot of people stopped smoking.


That's right. I'm not sure it would be that simple. But I won't argue with you.

I know you'd like to hear something more optimistic, and I wish I could help you. But the one thing I'll say is that American history does seem to go in cycles.

We have a history of revivals—of what used to be called "reawakenings." In the past, they were religious. We had three or four of them. And each one had huge effects across the culture. The civil rights movement was also a kind of great awakening—an about-face in our values over just 10 years.


And you think that kind of thing could happen again?


Well, let's just say there's a lot less resistance today to some of the things we've been talking about—reasserting norms about marriage and family and work—than there was 20 or 30 years ago. Back then, I could not have said many of the things I've said today without getting hissed by the audience. So I think there is some potential for a cultural revival.

What are the odds? I don't know. But they're greater than zero. And given how little we know about how to effect change programmatically, with government interventions, I say we'd better go with the only game in town. I think that's culture.



States Look to Rein in Occupational Licensing Laws, Reduce Burden on Workers

The inability of the federal government to organize its affairs should not distract from progress at the state level. Even though an increasing number of Americans work in occupations subject to licensing requirements, from 5 percent of the workforce in 1950 to about 30 percent today, some states are fighting back.

A bill introduced in Florida would scale back licensing requirements for some professions and remove them completely for others. South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard recently proposed creating an interstate compact to facilitate people to continue working when they move to another participating state. Such reforms could improve the lives of many Americans by reducing barriers to work and mobility.

Overly-burdensome licensing requirements can limit the number of people that are able to work in licensed occupations. As I’ve written previously, a recent paper from the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty estimated that if licensing requirements for the ten occupations were equivalent to requirements in the least burdensome states, employment in some professions would increase by over four percent.

For some professions, such as hair braiders, policymakers may determine that the occupation can be removed from the licensing framework altogether. For others where such a move is not practical or the arguments in favor of a move are less clear cut, they can consider reducing the requirements to levels already in place in other states, whether by reducing the number of required hours, the number of tests, or scaling back other measures.

Policymakers in Florida are taking this approach. This is welcome news, because the most recent report from the Institute for Justice found the state had the 5th most burdensome licensing laws. On Friday, the Florida House passed a licensing reform bill 74-28. If it were to become law the bill would remove seven professions, including hair braiders, nail polishers, and my personal favorite, timekeepers and announcers, from the state’s occupational licensure framework.

For other occupations the bill would significantly reduce the number of hours of training required to get a license. Barbers would require 600 hours of training, down from 1,200. Restricted barbers, with a narrower scope of practice clarified in the bill, would require 325 hours.

By shrinking the number of occupations subject to licensing regulations, and lowering the burden for some other occupations, the bill would reduce barriers to entry and increase the number of opportunities available to Floridians. A similar reform effort passed the House last year, but did not ultimately become law. However, it is a positive sign that this bill was one of the first to be taken up in 2018, and makes enactment more likely.

South Dakota Governor Daugaard recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal about the introduction of legislation to establish a multistate “Compact for the Temporary Licensure of Professionals.” Under the compact, individuals living in one state who have been licensed in an occupation in another participating state can receive an in-state temporary license within 30 days of requesting one. The ability to obtain a temporary license quickly would allow people in these occupations to avoid disruptions in their ability to work if they move from one participating state to another. They could continue to work while they work on fulfilling the requirements for a permanent license.

Previous research concluded that the interstate migration rate for workers in state-specific licensed occupations was 36 percent lower than for people in unaffected professions. Occupational licensing can increase the costs related to moving, as people who move miss out on earnings and have their career trajectories derailed. The authors of that study found that the increase in occupational licensing since 1980 can explain 6 percent of the decline in interstate migration since then. The higher costs deter some people from moving, and make it harder for those that do end up doing so.

The compact would not go as far as a full reciprocity agreement, in which participating states would accept licenses issued in other participating states. However, the compact would go some way towards reducing the cost and disruption introduced by occupational licensing on interstate migration.

Florida and South Dakota offer an example to other states with their occupational licensing reforms. These efforts are a step forward in terms of reviewing the occupational licensing framework in place, and seeking to find practical, actionable ways to reduce the related burdens.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both 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 THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Friday, January 26, 2018

Foundlings:  A pre-modern social welfare system

I actually knew a foundling once so it's really quite recent history. It reflected a time when food was much less abundant than it is now in a modern capitalist society.  Lots of people had to battle to feed their families.  There was even some real starvation. 

Under those circumstances, a father wanted to be sure that the kids he was feeding were all his.  And the only way he could achieve that was by forging all sorts of bonds which would ensure that his wife slept only with him.  Marriage was a public agreement that she would do that and he would provide for the resultant kids.  And the society generally co-operated with that.  There were all sorts of norms for female behaviour that made it punitively difficult for her to stray.

But the sex drive being what it is, women did sometimes stray. The woman and her lover of course did the utmost to hide her lack of virtue but that became difficult when a baby popped out.  The social disgrace was enormous and even the woman's family would not support her lest they to fell into disgrace.

So how was she to support herself and the babe?  She could hardly go to work with a new baby and the poorhouse would close its doors to her.  The poorhouse was the Victorian social support net for those who could not support themselves.  So on many occasions the baby had to be disposed of in some way.  A common way was for the mother to wrap the baby up warmly and leave it on the doorstep of one of the great houses.

When one of the servants opened the door of the house next morning, the babe was found.  And there was generally some sympathy for it among the servants.  The cook (who had access to food) or some other kindly person would informally "adopt" the babe and see to its needs. It became a foundling. 

The master of the house would not always be told imediately but, when he was, he would generally accept it as a fait accompli and wash his hands of the matter.  As long as his dinners were not interrupted and the cleaning was done, he could allow the servants the occasional folly. But he would not acknowledge the baby in any way.

But babies grow up eventually and the legitimate children in the house would sometimes notice another child in their environment and might even get to play with it. So if the child had some virtue -- a clever brain or a pleasant manner, say -- this would become generally known to all -- eventually even to the master.  And for the inculcation of virtue, the foundling would quite often be included in the children's lessons. 

Children of a great house were not sent to a school.  They were taught at home by a tutor or a governess.  A tutor mainly taught Latin and a governess generally taught French but there was some general education included.  So foundlings often got a better education than children brought up in a poor household.  And there were occasions, when the foundling displayed some talent or other, that the master of the house would give some acknowledgement to the foundling -- taking personal credit for having taken in the foundling.

So it was a very hit-and-miss social safety net but its results for the child would fall within the range of what many legitimate children experienced at the time.  That it didn't starve was a significant achievement.

Having a great house nearby was not always available so an embarrassing babe would be left on the doorstep of what was apparently a prosperous couple -- with uneven but not too terrible results.  The foundling I knew was actually unaware for most of her life that she was a foundling.  She was brought up no differently from the other children of the family.  It is normal for babies to be treasured.

There are of course still foundlings of a sort in the Western world today.  A babe is left at a hospital by a distressed mother and modern social welfare measures grind into gear.

In history and in literature there are many stories about foundlings, starting with Moses.


Don Lemon really is a lemon

After news broke that a Michigan man threatened to carry-out a mass shooting at CNN’s headquarters, Don Lemon placed the blame for the domestic terrorist threat on President Donald Trump’s rhetoric against the press.

The man in question, reported Hitler-fan Brandon Griesemer, allegedly called CNN 22 times this month before his arrest claiming he was “coming to gun you all down” and referring the network as “fake news.”

In response to this incident, Lemon said the following:

“There’s nothing random about this. Nothing. This is what happens when the president of the United States, Donald Trump, repeatedly attacks members of the press simply for reporting facts he does not like. I’ve heard from a number of very credible sources from within the White House that you watch this show. So, Mr. President, I’m going to speak directly to you: The caller who threatened to kill CNN employees made his threat using these words: ‘Fake news.’ … I wonder where he got those words.”

Of course, the term “fake news” has been Trump’s go to slam against the press for the past two years — particularly CNN. He used the attack against them as recently as yesterday morning, calling them “Fake News CNN,” and famously shouted, “You are fake news” at the network’s White House reporter during a presser.


So by this logic, is Don saying that he and his party are responsible for the Democrat Bernie supporter who shot at a bunch of congressmen on a ball field nearly killing Scalise? This was after their rhetoric of GOP killing everyone.


Trump was right -- again

Donald Trump recently got in trouble with liberals for referring to one of the most impoverished third world countries, Haiti, as a s*******. Port-Au-Prince, the biggest city in Haiti, doesn’t have a sewer system and crime is out of control but apparently, that’s not enough for liberals to classify it as a bad place to live.

Now, some videos have emerged that prove Trump was absolutely correct. Narrative shattered. From Conservative Tribune:

Despite all the grief President Donald Trump recently received for allegedly referring to Haiti as a “s***hole” nation, the fact remains the island does suffer from some serious sanitation problems — primarily because it lacks a conventional trash disposal system.

As a result, Haiti is teeming with trash everywhere — on the streets, in rivers and even along the coast. According to Deutsche Welle, it’s so bad there that sadly many Haitians literally live “in (and around) garbage.”

And according to environmental activist Rosaly Byrd, there’s so much trash that it’s virtually impossible to go swimming anywhere in Haiti without encountering some.

All Trump did was ask a question that not enough politicians have asked. Why are we importing a lot more unskilled and impoverished workers from places like Haiti than we are people from places like Norway? A normal person can think about that question rationally. Liberals aren’t capable of seeing beyond race.  It’s really pathetic. They can’t accept reality.

It has really been remarkable watching how badly liberals were triggered over Trump’s comment.



Why evangelicals stand by Trump: Those calling out the hypocrisy of Christian conservatives ignore the scars of recent history

Evangelicals don't see Trump as the embodiment of Christian values but as a protector of their right to live by them

By S.E. Cupp

It was one of President Trump’s most supportive voting blocs in 2016: 80% of white evangelicals voted for him, according to exit polls. Just 16% voted for Hillary Clinton.

Many on the left and in the media were shocked then by Trump’s evangelical support, and they are shocked now, after some faith leaders have brushed off credible new allegations that the President had an extramarital affair with a porn star years ago, then paid her to stay silent.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins told Politico, “We kind of gave him — ‘All right, you get a mulligan. You get a do-over here.’ ” Franklin Graham, son of the Rev. Billy Graham, told CNN that Trump is a “changed person.” He rationalized, “These alleged affairs, they’re alleged with Trump, didn’t happen while he was in office.”

There are two ways to view this: Either evangelicals like Perkins are rank hypocrites or, in the spirit of their faith, are simply very, very forgiving.

Many lean toward the former interpretation, and I get the temptation.

But it willfully leaves out a lot of recent history. As the left and liberal media try to “figure out” Christian America during this latest, complicated moment, it’s instructive to understand where they’ve recently been.

Two years into Barack Obama’s first term, I wrote a book on the liberal war on Christianity. When “Losing Our Religion” came out, folks on the right got it immediately. “Of course the left is attacking Christians,” was the general refrain.

Many on the left, however, were incredulous. One far-left radio host had me on to tell me he had no plans to read the book, but that my premise was absurd on its face. Christianity’s the biggest religion in the country; it can’t possibly be an oppressed class, they insisted.

OK, ask one — just one — evangelical Christian why they voted for Trump.

Perkins spelled it out. Evangelical Christians, he says, “were tired of being kicked around by Barack Obama and his leftists. And I think they are finally glad that there’s somebody on the playground that is willing to punch the bully.”

It wasn’t just Obama’s condescension toward the faithful, who he famously said “cling to guns and religion” when angry or scared. It was eight years of policies that trampled on their religious values, from expanded abortion rights and decreased regulation, even in the face of horrific cases like Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s, to continued efforts to chip away at religious employers’ rights.

It was a smugness from the liberal media, which talked about Christian America as if it were a vestigial organ of some extinct, diseased dinosaur.

Liberal television hosts mocked Sarah Palin for banal things like praying, and reporters wrote that her faith — Pentecostalism — was fanatical, kooky and bigoted. Liberal networks and newsrooms were windowless cocoons of secularism that only deigned to cover Christianity to dismiss its relevance or spotlight its perceived backwardness.

And it was decades of concerted cultural elitism that marginalized Christians as not cool enough to cater to. Movies like “The Passion of the Christ” and “The Chronicles of Narnia” were blockbuster hits in spite of dismissive Hollywood film critics who refused to believe there were enough Christians to go see them. Celebrities called them fanatics; comedians made fun of them.

Many evangelicals I talk to say they grew tired of turning the other cheek. In Trump, they finally found someone who was willing to voice the anger and resentment they had been holding in.

They could overlook his personal foibles — after all, let he who is without sin cast the first stone — and his evangelical illiteracy, in exchange for getting someone who would tell off all their past tormentors.

It’s worth noting, there’s also Trump’s record. From tapping Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court to acknowledging Jerusalem is the capital of Israel to following through on his pro-life rhetoric, the President has delivered on a number of promises he made to evangelicals. But that’s not why they voted for him.

So while the willingness to forgive and even defend Trump’s alleged sins seems anathema to many, the fact is evangelicals, like many Trump voters, had good reason to pull the lever for him — and now to stand by him.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both 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 THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Thursday, January 25, 2018

Politics as unusual: why America's 'forgotten citizens' stick by their champion

During the dizzying first year of Donald Trump's presidency, Americans and the world at large witnessed a political personality in a state of perpetual war. To the delight of his core supporters, but to the dismay of many others, this pugnacious approach defined Trump's image. But what can we expect from the persistent battler in the future?

To win the White House, Trump attacked opponent after opponent, first during the nominating process against 16 other foes and then in the general election against Hillary Clinton. Radioactive nicknames, including the relentless repetition of 'Crooked Hillary,' became part of his arsenal of insults, and he turned Twitter into a verbal grenade launcher to assault enemies and to defend himself.

What worked for a candidate who'd never sought elective office carried over to Trump's governing. At every turn, when a challenge to his stature or power arose, he punched back with as much force as he could muster.

No matter whether it was his perception of 'fake news' (a phrase he didn't start using until after his election), the investigation of Russian involvement in the campaign (in his opinion "the single greatest witch-hunt in American history") or North Korean missile tests authorised by the country's leader Kim Jong-un (dismissed as 'Little Rocket Man'), Trump didn't turn the other cheek. No direct shot or apparent slight went unanswered.

Trump's combativeness appeals to his base of political support - generally between 38 and 40pc of US voters who approve his leadership. Though on average 55 to 57pc disapprove, the fluctuation in his core following is relatively small, given the enormous attention - both negative and positive - he's received the past year.

Winner of 45.9pc of the popular vote in 2016, his current support largely comes from a coalition of conservative Republicans and independents or former Democrats whom Trump frequently calls the "forgotten men and women" of America.

A two-pronged support base

Interestingly, the reasons of the two main groups for backing him differ. Traditional party members - and Trump's approval among just Republicans stands at over 80pc - applaud the strength of the economy, the soaring stock market, the recently enacted tax-cut legislation, the reversal of government regulations and a multitude of conservative (and lifetime) judicial appointments.

The "forgotten" citizens, mostly members of the working class and instrumental in delivering Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin to Trump's Electoral College triumph, take note of what's happening economically and governmentally, but they also enthusiastically endorse the president's social and cultural stands.

They admire that he's willing to keep attacking the traditional news media, to defend retaining controversial Civil War monuments and to denounce professional athletes who refuse to stand for the National Anthem to protest racial inequality. In their opinion, Trump is fighting for causes they embrace. He's a word warrior (if you will), and his outbursts of full-throated criticism cheer them.

That Trump took 57pc of the white vote (to Clinton's 37pc) - including a whopping 62pc of whites between the ages of 45 and 64 and the same percentage of white men - helps explain why the president targets so many messages to working-class whites. These men and women are nostalgic for an earlier time in the US.

You might even say that many committed to "Make America Great Again" - Trump's signature slogan - long for a national past markedly different from the present.

In general terms, they tend to be less multicultural, less secular, less globalised and less environmentally sensitive. Most of them, frankly, weren't offended the other day when the president referred to "shithole countries" - like Haiti, El Salvador and African nations - for sending immigrants to the US. These newcomers often compete with white working-class men and women for jobs.

To be sure, there's undeniable irony of a billionaire business mogul serving as the tribune of the struggling blue-collar class, but Trump methodically sought their votes. Other candidates, including Clinton, didn't.

"I have visited the laid-off factory workers and the communities crushed by our horrible and unfair trade deals," Trump told the Republican National Convention in the summer of 2016. "These are the forgotten men and women of our country. People who work hard but no longer have a voice. I am your voice."

The Twitter factor

During recent months, Trump's voice has been heard at campaign-style rallies in key states, but it's most often expressed via his thumbs through Twitter, where he currently boasts about nearly 50 million followers.

His tweets report on his activities and travels, with many trumpeting economic trends for which he - as with every other president - takes credit. But the messages that take on a perceived ­opponent or a potential danger to his standing become news stories on their own, receiving enormous amplification in the media's global echo chamber.

Last month, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat, called on Trump to resign on the basis of what she said were "very credible allegations of misconduct" by more than a dozen women before he entered the Oval Office. Trump lost no time reacting.

"Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Chuck Schumer and someone who would come to my office 'begging' for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump," he tweeted.

The sexually suggestive phrasing ("would do anything") raised eyebrows, while the boxing reference reinforced his self-identity as someone ready to do battle whenever confronted by man - or woman.

A new 'diplomacy'

What's simultaneously fascinating and worrying about Trump's use of Twitter is his consistency in formulating messages with haymaker impact. Potentially sensitive international matters are rarely couched in diplomatic language.

He's harshly taken on UK prime minister Theresa May for her objections to him retweeting anti-Muslim videos from the far-right organisation Britain First, and even the prospect of launching nuclear weapons can provoke a scary response.

As 2018 began, Trump tweeted: "North Korean leader Kim Jong-un just stated that the 'Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times'. Will someone from his depleted and food-starved regime please inform him that I too have a nuclear button, but it is a much bigger and more powerful one than his, and my button works!"

Weaponising Twitter, which disturbs many Americans and others as being unpresidential, is a deliberate strategy to provide continuous, direct communication with core supporters. For no cost, and without much effort, Trump can go around the traditional media and deliver his message exactly as he wants.

Twitter, in effect, becomes a stream-of-consciousness script tapped out by the narrator-protagonist occupying the most significant government office in the US, if not the world. The most fervent Trump followers - who hate politics as usual and enjoy punch-in-the-nose outbursts aimed at adversaries - take delight in the social media fisticuffs.

Riding a rollercoaster

As Trump's first year in the White House ends, drama and combat have been pre-eminent hallmarks of this president. But most impartial observers wonder whether the citizenry, beyond the core voters, can stay tuned day-after-day without wanting to turn the channel? How long can any nation ride a rollercoaster?

The recent publication of Michael Wolff's tell-all-and-more portrait, Fire and Fury, lays bare an administration in disarray and an easily distracted president unwilling to tackle complex details of the office.

A flawed book, littered throughout with factual mistakes, Fire and Fury nonetheless raises serious questions about Trump's process for making judgments and decisions.

Whether from genuine grievance or gnawing insecurity, Trump took particular umbrage that his mental fitness deserved anyone's scrutiny. Twitter became his medium of self-assessment, and he pronounced himself "a very stable genius."

Personal testimonials of intellectual acuity might seem out of place in high electoral office, but the past year has brought a succession of jaw-dropping statements and actions, which produced a large question mark that hangs over the White House.

Back in May, Trump admitted to NBC News that the investigation of possible Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign served as a principal reason for firing FBI director James Comey because "this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story."

Trump's own Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, and the Justice Department proposed the removal of Comey for other causes, but the president publicly pointed elsewhere.

After the violent demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia, pitting white supremacists against groups opposed to the Neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan, the president told a news conference that "you had some very bad people in that group [the supremacists], but you also had people that were fine people on both sides."

Interestingly, Trump's approval from core supporters stayed almost exactly where it was for several days after Comey's firing and "the very fine people" comment, according to the Gallup organisation's tracking surveys of opinion. He paid no price with his backers.

Thus far the impact of the Wolff book - with a remarkable 1.4 million copies in print - has also been negligible among Trump's base. To be safe, however, the president on Twitter and in talking with reporters keeps defending himself in no uncertain terms.

The Fake News defence

Back in October, Trump remarked during an interview, "one of the greatest of all terms I've come up with is 'fake'." He's certainly liberal invoking it - nearly 200 times on Twitter alone attacking 'fake news' this past 12 months - and hatred of the mainstream media is so high among his followers that repeatedly making the charge guarantees applause.

What's baffling to some White House watchers, however, is Trump's duality, if not duplicity, in his handling of the communications outlets he attacks with such abandon.

Late last March, when he decided not to put a healthcare bill up for a vote in Congress, he personally called reporters at both The New York Times and Washington Post to explain the decision. Other interviews with so-called 'fake news' sources have followed since then, including one with The New York Times this past December 28.

Down in Florida for the holidays, Trump assured reporter Michael Schmidt that "no collusion" occurred between his election campaign and the Russians. Indeed, the president repeated his two-word denial of any complicity 16 separate times in the half-hour session.

Reiterating the same phrase over and over is revealing in itself, but, then, Trump's last recorded statement in the exchange made readers wonder what he really thinks about traditional news institutions.

"We're going to win another four years for a lot of reasons, most importantly because our country is starting to do well again and we're being respected again. But another reason that I'm going to win another four years is because newspapers, television, all forms of media will tank if I'm not there because without me, their ratings are going down the tubes. Without me, The New York Times will indeed be not the failing New York Times, but the failed New York Times. So they basically have to let me win. And eventually, probably six months before the election, they'll be loving me because they're saying, 'Please, please, don't lose Donald Trump'."

Trump's ability to joke about himself is one of his least conspicuous traits. His assurance of re-election and the media's role in it might be an attempt at humour, but even if it is, the speaker's self-regard tends to overshadow everything else.

Does he persistently assail the news media to curry favour with his core followers, or are his attacks the volleys of someone with very thin skin who wants attention and the last word? It's difficult to tell.

What's definitely known is that Trump will seek a second term in 2020. He officially filed formal papers with the Federal Election Commission on the day he was inaugurated last year, even going so far as to trademark a new slogan for his re-election bid.

Instead of "Make America Great Again," the emphasis will shift to continuity by looking ahead: "Keep America Great!" Note the exclamation mark, Trump's own flourish. Before then, though, the mid-term Congressional elections loom this November. If the Democrats win control of the House of Representatives or the Senate - or both chambers - investigations of the administration will proliferate, including almost certain consideration of presidential impeachment.

But the actions and distractions, the ups and the downs, of Trump's first year have kept his core followers together in nearly unwavering fashion. His constant war against the mainstream media, the Washington establishment and globalist elites caters to his base - but doesn't expand his universe of potential voters to a coalition with broader appeal.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both 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 THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

IQ: Matzo with sauce get it nearly right

The journal abstract:

The paradox of intelligence: Heritability and malleability coexist in hidden gene-environment interplay.

Sauce, Bruno; Matzel, Louis D.


Intelligence can have an extremely high heritability, but also be malleable; a paradox that has been the source of continuous controversy. Here we attempt to clarify the issue, and advance a frequently overlooked solution to the paradox: Intelligence is a trait with unusual properties that create a large reservoir of hidden gene–environment (GE) networks, allowing for the contribution of high genetic and environmental influences on individual differences in IQ. GE interplay is difficult to specify with current methods, and is underestimated in standard metrics of heritability (thus inflating estimates of “genetic” effects). We describe empirical evidence for GE interplay in intelligence, with malleability existing on top of heritability. The evidence covers cognitive gains consequent to adoption/immigration, changes in IQ’s heritability across life span and socioeconomic status, gains in IQ over time consequent to societal development (the Flynn effect), the slowdown of age-related cognitive decline, and the gains in intelligence from early education. The GE solution has novel implications for enduring problems, including our inability to identify intelligence-related genes (also known as IQ’s “missing heritability”), and the loss of initial benefits from early intervention programs (such as “Head Start”). The GE solution can be a powerful guide to future research, and may also aid policies to overcome barriers to the development of intelligence, particularly in impoverished and underprivileged populations.



The above article is in the Psych. Bulletin, a top journal in psychology which is devoted to surveying the research literature on a particular subject and attempting a theoretical integration of it.  Sauce & Matzel, however, don't come up with much. Their concept of gene–environment (GE) networks is really just a rehash of the well-known finding that to maximize your  final IQ you need good environmental influences on top of your genetic given. 

Considering that the article is a research summary, it is however interesting how high the genetic given is rated.  They say that measured IQ is 80% genetic. Around 70% is the figure that has mostly been quoted in the past and people who hate the idea of IQ have on occasions put the figure as low as 50%.

The authors are aware that an enriched (stimulating) environment from early childhood on can bump up IQ but they are also aware that the gain is not permanent once the enrichment fades out. Headstart kids, for instance, test as brighter while in the program but revert to an IQ similar to their peers when they get into normal schooling.

But what the authors conclude from that is, I think, too optimistic.  They seem to think that the environmental enrichment should be kept up into much later life.  What they overlook is that all environmental influences tend to fade out  as maturation goes on and by about age 30 environmental influences seem to zero out entirely.  Identical twins reared apart will have very similar IQs at whatever age that is measured but the greatest similarity occurs when it is measured around age 30.

So growing up is a process of your genetics coming to the fore and the advantages/disadvantages of your environment fading out.  So enriching the environment throughout childhood is pissing into the wind.  What you are trying to manipulate will have less and less influence as maturation goes on and it will have NO final influence.


Trump’s enemies blunder

Schumer chose illegal aliens over the American people, and it BACKFIRED

IN THE staring match that gripped Washington DC over the weekend, it was the Democrats who blinked first.

Senate Democrats chose to push the US government into a shutdown — smack bang on the anniversary of Donald Trump assuming the presidency. The hope was that the move would embarrass the commander-in-chief, and strongarm Republicans into protecting the Dreamers, more than 700,000 illegal immigrants who came to the country when they were children.

Forcing a shutdown is a risky political move. Last time it happened in 2013 over Obamacare, the Republicans copped the blame. This time around, it’s not yet clear who voters will punish.

Regardless, the Democrats have given in just three days after taking the nuclear option — and they’ve got next to nothing to show for it.

They wanted a deal on the Dreamers. All Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has pledged is that it is his “intention” to deal with immigration issues in the Senate over the next three weeks. They received no commitment on whether House Republicans would get on board

The Republicans would have been forced to deal with the Dreamers soon enough, because Mr Trump gave the Congress a March 5 deadline to resolve their status once and for all.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the Democrats’ position was “indefensible” and that, in the end, they agreed to everything that was in the original continuing resolution.

Mr Trump said he was “pleased” the Democrats had “come to their senses” but added that “we will make a long-term deal on immigration if, and only if, it is good for our country”. He tweeted at the weekend that the shutdown was a “nice present” on his one-year anniversary.



The most unpopular president on record - but here's why Trump could win again in 2020

Donald Trump ends his first year as the most unpopular president on record.

He is the only US president since Harry Truman to have a negative net approval rating after 12 months in the White House - some 24 points below Barack Obama at the same time in his presidency.

The year since Mr Trump's inauguration has been packed with controversy and intrigue - during which there have been persistent allegations over Russian connections. He has fired the head of the FBI, launched tirades against the media, failed to push through healthcare reform and has escalated his rhetoric surrounding North Korea.

All of this led to a slump in approval ratings, with Mr Trump achieving a majority disapproval rating in a record of just eight days since his inauguration.

In the run-up to this year's US mid-term elections, this might be enough to worry him - particularly after Trump-backed Roy Moore faced a shock defeat in Republican-leaning Alabama last year.

But this overall unpopularity may not matter that much - after all, Mr Trump was unpopular when he was elected America's 45th president.

When we dig into the figures, few people seem to have really changed their minds about him - and this is how the president still stands a chance in 2020.

While there has been an overall drop in public opinion, the president's approval ratings have remained relatively stable since July, even experiencing a small uptick following his handling of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, and Hurricane Irma. The polarisation of America's politics is so extreme that his popularity among Democrats can't really drop any further, while Republicans seemingly refuse to desert him, no matter what he does.

Mr Trump's approval rating hasn't dropped much among those who voted for him

Back in January 2016, Mr Trump claimed that he could shoot somebody and not lose any votes. He seems to have largely been correct in this estimation, with his approval rating among those who voted for him last November standing at 90pc.

Among those who self-identify as being conservatives - although not necessarily Republicans - his approval rating is actually marginally higher than it was at the start of the year while, importantly, he is liked better by people who are registered to vote. His approval rating among registered voters hasn't dropped below 40pc all year.


This doesn't mean that there isn't cause for concern for Mr Trump among these ratings. Although his electoral college victory was significant, he lost the overall popular vote, and his election was secured by around 100,000 voters in key swing states.

It is therefore potentially significant that the demographic that has gone off Mr Trump most since the start of the year is of those who self-identify as being moderates.

Among these middle-ground voters - who make up 29pc of the population - Mr Trump's approval score slipped from a three-poll average of 40.5pc in January 2017 to 30.7pc this January.

Could he in again? Given that Mr Trump managed to win last year despite being unpopular among swathes of America, the impact of his waning popularity on his chances of a second term are not clear-cut.

Additionally, a US presidential election isn't conducted on a national level, so national polling is only of limited use when assessing his chances.

In a race for electoral college votes, a presidential election is essentially divided into 50 separate votes in each of America's states - a lesson Hillary Clinton bitterly learned as last year's results trickled out.

Consequently, we must look at state-level data to gain a full picture of how he is performing compared to this time last year, especially in the states that turned red in 2016.

Mr Trump had a positive net approval rating in 17 states during 2017, all of which he won in the 2016 presidential election.

Some 33 states had a negative net approval rating. This includes all six states that swung to him in the 2016 election. He had an average negative approval rating in each of these states in 2017. A negative net approval rate in these states may not bode too well for a potential 2020 run for the Republican president.



Feds planning massive Northern California immigration sweep to strike against sanctuary laws

U.S. immigration officials have begun preparing for a major sweep in San Francisco and other Northern California cities in which federal officers would look to arrest more than 1,500 undocumented people while sending a message that immigration policy will be enforced in the sanctuary state, according to a source familiar with the operation.

Officials at Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, declined to comment Tuesday on plans for the operation.

The campaign, centered in the Bay Area, could happen within weeks, and is expected to become the biggest enforcement action of its kind under President Trump, said the source, who requested anonymity because the plans have not been made public.

Trump has expressed frustration that sanctuary laws — which seek to protect immigrants and persuade them not to live in the shadows by restricting cooperation between local and federal authorities — get in the way of his goal of tightening immigration.

The operation would go after people who have been identified as targets for deportation, including those who have been served with final deportation orders and those with criminal histories, the source said. The number could tick up if officers come across other undocumented immigrants in the course of their actions and make what are known as collateral arrests.

Under the Trump administration, ICE has repeatedly warned that if the agency can’t detain people from local jails, it will be forced to arrest them in the communities that hold such policies.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both 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 THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)