Friday, September 28, 2018

A small hiatus

I last went on vacation in the year 2004 so I have begun to feel that I should get out more.  So I have decided to take two or three short breaks in the months ahead.  I will therefore be getting on a train later today for a 7 hour trip to see my gorgeous sister.  To have a great sister but rarely see her is crazy.  And the trip will be on a very modern fast train so the travel alone should be interesting.  I will be away for only a few days and will be unlikely to do any blogging while I am away.  I will however be taking a computer with me so if there is a big drama happening I might put up something.

On my 2004 away I spent a whole morning reading Centesimus annus, a Papal encyclical that had just at that time been issued by John Paul II.  I am not expecting to find anything worth reading on this trip from Pope Francis, however.


Do you have the 'D-factor'? Study finds psychopaths, narcissists, sadists and others all share a 'dark core' of humanity

This is interesting work but it suffers from a sampling shortcut that is all too common these days.  It uses online respondents.  But people who answer online questionnaires do differ quite markedly from the general population. In particular, they tend to give the researcher what he expects. Such people seem to be similar in their thinking to psychology professors!  And in this case you can therefore reasonably expect that the intercorrelations between the various "dark" traits will be high. On re-presenting the same questions to a more representative sample of the general population, much lower correlations would be expected.

And that matters.  As it is, the authors have a reasonable claim to have shown a unitary trait of personality that is similar to IQ -- which is the unitary trait of problem-solving ability.  But the IQ concept becomes useful because the intercorrelations between the various aspects of it are quite high.  Are the correlations within the "D" factor also high?  In the research so far presented they are pretty good and a person's score on it would be broadly informative. But is a similar degree of homogeneity to be found in the general population?  It won't be.  But just how high or low remains to be seen.  I am not terribly optimistic

More information on the research so far is available here

From sadism to psychopathy and even spitefulness, the traits that show the more sinister sides of humanity all share a common ‘dark core.’ And, if you have one of these tendencies, you just might have some of the others, too.

While traits such as egoism might not seem as extreme as something such as psychopathy, a new study has found a link between all of these so-called dark personality traits and the general tendency to put one’s own interests first.

In many cases, these people also seem to take pleasure in causing others pain.

In the new study from the University of Copenhagen, researchers have defined the common denominator of all dark traits. Dubbed the D-factor, the experts say it underlies the darker side of human personality.

This includes psychopathy, narcissism, Machiavellianism, the 'dark triad,’ and a slew of others such as egoism, sadism, and spitefulness.

The ‘D-factor,’ which links all of these tendencies, addresses that person’s propensity to disregard or provoke others’ hardship to meet their own goals or interests. This is typically coupled with beliefs that serve as justification, the researchers note.

The new work follows previous research led roughly 100 years ago by Charles Spearman, which first showed that high levels of one type of intelligence often ties into these traits as well.

‘In the same way, the dark aspects of human personality also have a common denominator, which means that – similar to intelligence – one can say that they are all an expression of the same dispositional tendency,’ says Ingo Zettler, Professor of Psychology at the University of Copenhagen.



Trump chips away at liberal U.S. appeals court majorities

Aided by fellow Republicans in the Senate, President Donald Trump is rapidly filling vacancies on U.S. appeals courts, moving some that had liberal majorities closer to conservative control in an ideological shift that could benefit his administration.

These 13 courts wield considerable power, usually providing the last word on rulings appealed from lower courts on disputes involving federal law.

Their rulings can be challenged before the U.S. Supreme Court, but most such appeals are turned away because the top court typically hears fewer than 100 cases annually. Eleven of the courts handle cases from specific multi-state regions, one handles cases from Washington, D.C., while another specializes in patent cases.

Presidents can reshape the federal judiciary with their appointments and seek to appoint judges they believe share their ideological leanings. Republicans typically strive to pick conservatives while Democrats generally aim to appoint liberals, all subject to Senate confirmation.

Although there are no guarantees a judge will rule the way a president might like, the number of Republican and Democratic appointees is generally an indicator of an appeals court’s conservative-liberal balance.

With the Republican-led Senate rapidly considering and confirming many of his judicial nominees, Trump already has appointed 26 appeals court judges. That is more than any other president in the first two years of a presidency, according to Russell Wheeler, a scholar at the Brookings Institution think tank, although he points out that there are more appellate judges now than in the past.

Trump’s Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, appointed 55 in eight years as president.

Only four of the 13 federal appeals courts currently have more Republican-appointed judges than Democratic selections.

The two appellate courts closest to shifting to Republican-appointed majorities are the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Trump already has made three appointments to the 11th Circuit, leaving it with a 6-6 split between Democratic and Republican appointees. The 3rd Circuit, to which Trump has made one appointment, now has a 7-5 Democratic-appointee majority, with two vacancies for Trump to fill.

Should further vacancies open up on those courts, Trump’s appointees would tip the ideological balance.

The ideological “flipping” of a judicial circuit, where cases typically are decided by panels of three judges, can have a direct impact on how cases are decided and new legal precedents established. Cases before circuit courts span a wide range of issues, from hot-button topics such as abortion, gay rights and the death penalty to voting rights, regulatory and business disputes, employment law and the environment.

Trump pledged as a candidate in 2016 to appoint conservatives to the bench. So far, he has largely kept his promise.

Many of Trump’s judicial nominees have close ties to the Federalist Society conservative legal group, which organizes networking events and conferences for lawyers and law students.

Trump inherited a large number of vacancies, in part because the Senate - controlled by Republicans since 2015 - refused to act on some of Obama’s nominees.

There are currently 13 appeals court vacancies, six of them with pending nominees picked by Trump, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

Both the 11th Circuit and 3rd Circuit have major cases pending in which Trump appointees could make their mark.

An 11th Circuit three-judge panel on July 25 revived a civil rights lawsuit challenging the state of Alabama’s move to prevent the city of Birmingham from increasing the minimum wage. Alabama has asked for a rehearing, which would be heard by the entire 12-judge 11th Circuit if the request is granted.

In the 3rd Circuit, the Trump administration has appealed a lower court decision blocking the Justice Department from cutting off grants to Philadelphia over so-called sanctuary city policies limiting local cooperation with federal authorities on immigration enforcement.

When Obama took office in 2009 after Republican President George W. Bush’s eight years in office, the courts were tilted heavily toward Republican appointees, with only one having a majority of Democratic appointees. When Obama left office in 2017 after his own two four-year terms, nine of the 13 regional courts had majority Democratic-appointees.

Leonard Leo, who took leave from his role as executive vice president of the Federalist Society to advise the White House on judicial nominations, said there is “tremendous desirability to flipping circuits that are majority liberal activists.” But Leo said that “every White House is subject to the vagaries of when a judge decides to retire.”

Flipping courts that have solid Democratic-appointee majorities will be difficult for Trump. The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has seven vacancies and Trump has already filled one. Even if Trump fills all of them, Democratic-appointees would still hold a 16-13 majority.

Trump and conservative allies have criticized the 9th Circuit for high-profile rulings against his administration including over the legality of the president’s ban on people entering the United States from certain Muslim-majority countries. The Supreme Court, with its conservative majority restored by Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch last year, in June upheld the travel ban policy.

A circuit court vacancy is created when a judge takes a form of semi-retirement known as “senior status.”

“You have to have a wave of Democratic-appointed judges taking senior status for Trump to have any hope of flipping the 9th Circuit,” University of Pittsburgh School of Law professor Arthur Hellman said.



U.S. weekly jobless claims drop to near 49-year low

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment aid fell to near a 49-year low last week and private payrolls rose steadily in August, pointing to sustained labor market strength that should continue to underpin economic growth.

The economy so far appears to be weathering an escalating trade war between the United States and China as well as tensions with other trade partners, including Canada, the European Union and Mexico, which have rattled financial markets.



Despite Obamacare, healthcare spending is spiraling out of control

Former President Barack Obama promised the Affordable Care Act would bend "the cost curve and [start] to reduce costs for families, businesses, and government." But his pledge has gone unfulfilled – patients and taxpayers are spending record amounts on healthcare.

This year, total healthcare spending will increase 5.3 percent, according to a recent estimate from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. That's after spending rose by 4.6 percent last year to total $3.5 trillion.

Obamacare's expansion of Medicaid deserves part of the blame for this inflated tab.

Starting in 2014, Obamacare enabled states to expand Medicaid to able-bodied, childless adults with incomes below 133 percent of the federal poverty level. The federal government offered to pay 100 percent of the initial expansion costs and 90 percent of the costs in 2020 and beyond. Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia have chosen to expand the program. Nationally, Medicaid rolls have grown from 56.5 million people in 2013 to 73.3 million in 2018.

Obamacare's architects hoped that expanding Medicaid would curb healthcare spending. They reasoned that newly insured people would no longer visit the emergency room to obtain treatment for minor ailments. Instead, they'd visit cost-effective providers such as family doctors.

But doling out "free" health insurance hasn't reduced patients' reliance on emergency rooms. In California, the total number of ER visits increased 10 percent in the two years following the expansion.

In fact, Medicaid has been shown to increase people's use of emergency services. In 2008, Oregon expanded Medicaid via a random lottery. Researchers concluded that the partial expansion "increased hospitalizations, emergency-department visits, outpatient visits, prescription-drug use, and preventive-care use" among the new enrollees. However, it "had no statistically significant effect on physical health outcomes."

Medicaid is notorious for delivering poor value to patients at a high cost to taxpayers. It's not at all surprising that expanding the program to millions more people has caused healthcare spending to soar.

Despite Obamacare's failure, numerous Democrats, including Obama, are endorsing a "Medicare for all" plan that would put the federal government entirely in charge of healthcare. Luckily, President Trump has announced his opposition to the proposal. The failure of Medicaid expansion should be enough for any sensible person to realize it's a terrible idea.



The Dangerous Consequences of Calling Sovereignty and Patriotism ‘Dog Whistles’

“Patriotism” and “sovereignty” are now dirty words. That’s what one Washington Post editor said in response to President Donald Trump’s United Nations speech on Tuesday.

“America is governed by Americans. We reject the ideology of globalism, and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism,” Trump said during the speech.

Trump also said: “We will never surrender America’s sovereignty to an unelected, unaccountable, global bureaucracy.”

Karen Attiah, The Washington Post’s global opinions editor, responded angrily. "Chilling to hear Trump use “sovereignty” and “patriotism” as dogwhistles in his #UNGA speech. Gives rhetorical ammunition for the nationalistic parties around the world who want to keep immigrants and refugees out."

It’s incredible to see these once unchallenged concepts, embraced by Americans across the political spectrum, now turned into something ugly and worthy of condemnation.

In many ways, the protection of our liberty stems from national sovereignty, a fact boldly stated in the Declaration of Independence. The just powers of government derive from the “consent of the governed,” not a vague global system.

“We the people of the United States” is more than a slogan. It defines the American way of life, declaring that the people are sovereign as a national unit, under a federal system.

In America, the people rule. If not, then who? Kings? Limitless international bodies? To denounce the idea of sovereignty is to attack America as she has always understood herself—certainly, the constitutional government that has provided the basis for our liberty for over two centuries.

The very fact that concepts like sovereignty and patriotism are no longer universally accepted shows the current challenge placed before Americans and other peoples in 2018. As our national identity and attachment breaks down, what is left in its wake?

Being a “citizen of the world” will never suffice. Placing power in the hands of an international elite is hardly conducive to upholding the interests and the rights of the people, no matter what nation they live in.

As President Theodore Roosevelt noted in his famous “Man in the Arena” speech, citizens of the world hardly make good citizens and neighbors. “The man who says that he does not care to be a citizen of any one country, because he is the citizen of the world, is in fact usually an exceedingly undesirable citizen of whatever corner of the world he happens at the moment to be in,” Roosevelt said.

The loss of patriotism and national sovereignty hardly leads to a free and peaceful brotherhood of man. Instead it leaves a void, a lack of attachment that leads to unseemly or tyrannical ends.

Identity politics emerges from this void. People rally to their ethnic tribe rather than their country or their unique political and historical traditions. It’s no wonder we’ve seen the rise of the hard left and the alt-right, who both feed off of the breakdown of genuine patriotism.

If we want to make sure that America remains a great and united country in the future, we must do a better job of defending our way of life, as Trump did in his U.N. speech.

This starts by doing a better job of educating young people about what our country is about and defending the foundational ideas that made America great to begin with.

Informed patriotism is what we want, as President Ronald Reagan said in his farewell address to the nation.



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.

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1 comment:

C. S. P. Schofield said...

"Do you have the 'D-factor'? Study finds psychopaths, narcissists, sadists and others all share a 'dark core' of humanity"

Does the study say anything about what percentage of them are Progressive Democrats? THERE'S a 'D factor' for you!