Saturday, July 19, 2014

Was pennypinching behind the crash?

Very poor judgment by MAS bosses

The crashed MH17 flight took a route 300 miles to the north of its usual path, an aviation expert has said.

Robert Mark, a commercial pilot who edits Aviation International News Safety magazine, said that most Malaysia Airlines flights from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur normally travelled along a route significantly further south than the plane which crashed.

Malaysia Airlines has insisted its plane travelled on an "approved route" used by many other carriers.

But Mr Mark said: "I can only tell you as a commercial pilot myself that if we had been routed that way, with what's been going on in the Ukraine and the Russian border over the last few weeks and months, I would never have accepted that route.

"I went into the FlightAware system, which we all use these days to see where airplanes started and where they tracked, and I looked back at the last two weeks' worth of MH17 flights, which was this one.

"And the flight today tracked very, very much further north into the Ukraine than the other previous flights did ... there were MH17 versions that were 300 miles south of where this one was."

Records of recent MH17 flights on the FlightAware appear to bear out Mr Mark's claim, with earlier flights significantly further south than the flight that crashed.

Mr Mark’s intervention came amid mounting questions over why passenger jets were flying over the war zone three months after pilots were warned to avoid it.

Aviation safety authorities in America and Europe warned pilots in April about potential risks flying in or near Ukraine airspace.

Experts claimed that operators continued to fly across the zone because it was the quickest and cheapest route for some flights.

Norman Shanks, a former head of group security at the BAA airports group, said: "Malaysia Airlines, like a number of other carriers, has been continuing to use it because it is a shorter route, which means less fuel and therefore less money."

Attacks on aircraft in the area have been rife. In the past week alone two Ukrainian military aircraft were shot down and a third was damaged by a missile.


UPDATE:  More interesting info

It appears that the BUK launcher was captured from the Ukrainians, not supplied by Russia.  And there WAS a Ukrainian transport plane nearby

 Yesterday Dr Igor Sutyagin, research fellow in Russian studies at the Royal United Services Institute, said he believed MH17 was shot down by rebels based in Torez.

He added: ‘These separatists boasted on Twitter about capturing a BUK SA11 missile launcher on June 29, and several hours before the downing of the plane, locals in Torez reported seeing BUK missile launchers and separatist flags around the city.

 Dr Sutyagin also told MailOnline that information had been leaked from a source he was unwilling to name that the pilot of MH17 'felt bad' about his course over Ukranian airspace, so turned south.

Little did he know, according to Dr Sutyagin, that his plane would then be mistaken by rebels for a Ukrainian government resupply flight.

He said: 'There is a Ukrainian mechanised brigade blocked by separatists near the Russian border. It's blocked on three sides by separatists and behind the brigade is the Russian border, so they can't get out. The Ukrainians try to resupply them from the air by transport aircraft.

'Now, the pilot of MH17 said that he "felt bad" and wanted to change course to get out of the danger zone. But several kilometers to the south is a Ukrainian Army heavy transport plane, an IL76, or Candid, which has the same echo as a 777 on a radar screen.

'The two planes came close. They tried to shoot down the transport delivering supplies to the brigade. They believed that they had been firing at a military plane, but they mistakenly shoot down a civilian airliner.'


Some points about the Malaysian aircraft disaster

July 3, 1988: US warship Vincennes shoots down an Iranian passenger plane over the Persian Gulf, mistaking it for a threatening warplane, during the war between Iraq and Iran. All 290 people aboard are killed.  The ship used the sophisticated Aegis air defense system.

So who is saying that the much more poorly equipped Ukrainian rebels could not have mistaken the airliner for a military transport?

But the most interesting question for me is what the plane was doing in a declared no-fly zone

In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG offers some conspiracy  theories about why the jet was shot down -- focusing on the aircraft's big contingent of AIDS  experts

I deplore the attempt to blame Vladimir Putin.  The deed was clearly done by rebels under no-one's control

I am inclined to blame the international community for refusing to recognize the reasonable demands of the Russians of Eastern Ukraine.  They should not have had to resort to war to gain independence.  One might remember that a war was fought to gain American independence way back.  Has nothing been learned?

Friday, July 18, 2014

Another Obama Admin. Hard-Drive “Crash!”

Another day, another Obama administration hard-drive crash!

It seems like it is a daily occurrence in the Obama administration that a high profile, anti-Conservative bureaucrat happens to experience a computer crash right in the middle of a criminal investigation.

First, it was Lois Lerner, the bureaucrat at the heart of the IRS scandal. Her computer “crashed” within days of the IRS learning it was under investigation for targeting Conservative groups.

Then, we learned that computers in the Environmental Protection Agency had also mysteriously “crashed.” When the EPA was under investigation by Congress, the agency was unable to hand over crucial documents because it too experienced a catastrophic computer “crash.”

Now, we have the story of April Sands, a bureaucrat in the Federal Elections Commission who used to work alongside Lois Lerner. She has been accused of illegally promoting Barack Obama and the Democratic Party while she was supposedly on the job.

This woman is pure scum. When Lois Lerner worked at the Federal Elections Commission, April Sands worked as her deputy. She was a lawyer in the FEC but resigned when it became known she was using ‘company time’ to campaign for President Obama and Congressional Democrats. This is a woman who used her government-issue computer to post hateful political posts on Twitter:

I apologize for the poor resolution, but after April Sands realized she was under investigation, she attempted to delete her Tweets.

Do you see what she said? She said that if you still call yourself a Republican, “you are my enemy.” She worked for the FEC with Lois Lerner! It was her job to make sure that elections were fail and neutral!

And now, right as this woman becomes under investigation, the FEC notifies Congress that her computer also mysteriously “crashed” and that all of her emails had been lost.

Tell Congress you have had ENOUGH of these fake computer “crashes.” Arrest Lois Lerner, April Sands, and the rest of these criminals!

There is a law in place that prevents government employees from ‘politicking.’ The Hatch Act prohibits government bureaucrats from engaging in politics. Some government positions have heavier restrictions than others, but the fact remains that if you work for the Federal Government, you are supposed to be neutral, at least as far as the public is concerned.

Federal employees aren’t allowed to campaign for politicians… they aren’t allowed to post on social media that they support a particular candidate… just about the only thing that government employees can do is donate money to a campaign. But, they can’t publicly announce it.

But April Sands didn’t follow the law. On June 18th, 2012, a Monday, April Sands tweeted that she was donating $51 to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. This is ILLEGAL under the Hatch Act!

The only problem? Since this particular social media post happened right around lunch time, investigators were unsure whether this fundraising pitch was posted using a government computer (which would be highly illegal) or a personal device during a lunch break (which is apparently less illegal).

Because April Sands was an employee of the Executive Branch, she was prohibited from soliciting or promoting political donations "while in any room or building occupied in the discharge of official duties." So, the solution is simple: subpoena April Sand’s computer and hard-drive to determine whether she did in fact violate the law.

However, when the Office of Inspector General went to seize April Sands’ computer, they were notified that the FEC had “unfortunately” recycled Ms. Sands’ hard-drive. The FEC had destroyed the evidence before it could be seized. As a result, the Inspector General was unable to prove that Ms. Sands’ solicitations and political activity were posted from an FEC computer.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia thereafter declined to pursue criminal prosecution because the hard-drive was physically recycled and the evidence was lost.

Do you see what is happening? Every time a member of the Obama administration is found to have used the power of the office to target the political opposition, all of a sudden their computers mysteriously “crash.”

And then, instead of trying to recover the hard-drives, the Obama administration recycles them and literally melts them down!

This is as crooked as they come. Pure Al Capone.

If this type of computer “crash” happened during an investigation once, then maybe it could be a coincidence. We have known all along that Lois Lerner’s crash wasn’t a coincidence… but now we have THREE instances where Obama administration departments went under investigation and all of a sudden the computers crash and the hard-drives are recycled!

Enough is enough!



Attacking Israel With the Big Lie: Genocide

“Here’s the difference between us,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explained on “Fox News Sunday.” “We’re using missile defense to protect our civilians, and they’re using their civilians to protect their missiles.”

It’s a classic talking point. It’s also objectively true, and that truth is very frustrating for Israel’s critics.

All one needs to do is delve into the muck of Twitter and read the timelines for such hashtags as #GazaUnderAttack and #GenocideInGaza: “They’re killing the women and children to ensure there won’t be a new generation of Palestine.” “One Holocaust can NEVER justify another.”

And let’s not even talk about the globally trending hashtag #HitlerWasRight.

Of course it’s not just on Twitter. Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the feckless Palestinian Authority, recently condemned Israel for committing “genocide” in Gaza. For decades, political cartoonists and cartoonish politicians have been jaw-jawing about how Israel now wears the SS uniform.

This too is basically a talking point – and a very old one. But this one is plainly a lie.

If the Israelis are, or have ever been, interested in genocide, they are utterly incompetent at it. As slanders go, it’s almost funny, like the old paranoid delusion that George W. Bush was simultaneously an idiot and a criminal mastermind.

On the one hand, the Israeli military is supposed to be ruthlessly competent and determined to wipe out the Palestinians. On the other, the Palestinian population has grown more than 100 percent since 1970. The population in the Gaza Strip has grown nearly threefold since 1990. The Palestinians themselves expect the population to double over the next two decades. “Genocide” is a loaded political term, but under any remotely reasonable definition, shouldn’t those numbers be going the other way?

It’s just a hunch, but if the Israelis wanted to wipe out as many Palestinians as possible, never mind commit genocide, they probably wouldn’t issue warnings to Gazans (by phone and leaflet) to get out of harm’s way. Nor would Israel continue to allow hundreds of trucks of food and medical aid to enter Gaza even as hundreds of rockets leave Gaza.

And if Hamas were chiefly concerned with protecting Palestinian lives, it would not implore Gazans to stay in their homes – serving as human shields and inflating the body count as a propaganda prop to increase international pressure on Israel.

One perverse complaint, often subtly echoed in the mainstream media, is that it is somehow unfair that Israelis are not dying, so far, from Gaza rocket strikes. The Israelis have the Iron Dome defense system, which intercepts the rockets aimed at civilians. They also have bomb shelters; the Palestinians do not. They have these things because, as Netanyahu said, Israelis are interested in protecting their citizens.

As Commentary’s Jonathan Tobin notes, no one is asking why the Palestinians don’t have bomb shelters. The assumption seems to be that the Gazans don’t have the wherewithal to build them. This is untrue because they do have bomb shelters – they just reserve them for Hamas' leaders and fighters. Indeed, Hamas has dug thousands of tunnels under Gaza, largely so it can smuggle in, and store, more rockets to fire on Israel. Better that those tunnels were used as shelters for civilians, but that would mean not letting them die for the greater “good.”

Of course, not being as bad as the Nazis is a very low bar. And the fact that Israel clears it like a pole-vaulter leaping over a brick is not the same as saying Israel is without fault. But Israel’s shortcomings stem largely from the fact it is trying to deal with “peace partners” openly uninterested in lasting peace. Solving that problem is hard. So hard that some would rather shout “Nazi!” at Jews.

It’s a moral scandal that it’s even necessary to bring up this inconvenient truth. But it is necessary because even many of the people who would never say “Hitler was right” have nonetheless internalized another lesson from the Nazis. It was Joseph Goebbels who said, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”



Hamas Wants to Die

David P. Goldman adopts a psychoanalytic viewpoint below

It's like the old joke: Why do Jewish men die before their wives? Because they want to. Civilizations for the most part die because they no longer want to live. That is the nub of my 2011 book How Civilizations Die (and Why Islam Is Dying, Too). They cease to believe in their own future and distract themselves from the prospect of extinction as best they can. Hellenistic Greece was the first universal demographic disaster; it gave us prototypes of the steam engine and the computer (via Hero of Alexandria) as well as the modern literary forms. But even wealthy men exposed their daughters and the population imploded. When Aristotle taught that men naturally seek the good, the overwhelming preponderance of evidence had already turned against him. Most men seek nothingness. Soon the last surviving remnants of the classical world will disappear. In another generation, more people will speak Hebrew than Greek.

Hamas wants to die, obviously and visibly. That thought horrifies Westerners. As a number of Israeli commentators observe, Hamas doesn't particularly care about having a Palestinian State. It wants to destroy the Jewish State and is willing to die in the process. It wants to die in such a way that Israel will die, too. There is something utterly surreal to Hamas crowding civilians around military targets, and Israeli pilots declining to attack them. It recalls joke about the sadist and the masochist. The masochist says, "Beat me!," and the sadist says, No…suffer."

Hamas, to be sure, proposes to die in an accelerated time frame and a particularly disgusting fashion, but it should be kept in mind that self-willed extinction is the norm. West of the Indus, Israel is the only survivor among the thousands of little nations that flourished between 10,000 BC and 600 AD. To be sure, there have been plenty of small tribes that wanted to live but were trampled by conquering hordes. The rule, however, is that civilizations die of their own disgust with life. Most of the industrial nations are dying, some very quickly. Most of the Muslim world would rather die than accommodate modernity (although some of it may choose to cease to be Islamic).

I do not mean to sound cruel, but the best thing you can do for victims of a dying culture is: Don't be one of them. Individuals who want to live have the option of changing cultures. I do not mean that Israel (or anyone else) should go about killing off enemies in order to satisfy their death wish. God forbid: life is still sacred to us even if it is repugnant to them. Neither do we have to commit suicide in order to accommodate our crazy neighbor's death-wish. We might try to talk him down from the roof, but we are entitled to step aside when he jumps. It is not in our power to persuade suicidal civilizations to carry on living. Ultimately it is our job to contain the damage to ourselves. We cannot help but accept some civilian deaths while engaging an enemy that seeks the maximum number of civilian casualties.

All of this is anathema to liberals, whose premise is that human agency can fix all problems. Enlightenment materialism posited a natural man who either sought self-preservation (Hobbes) or naturally pursued his own best interests (Locke) or was inherently good before corrupted by civilization (Rousseau). Satanic laughter from around the Levant drowns out the squeaky, thin voices of the Enlightenment. One no longer needs to read about it in books. The Middle East has become "How Civilizations Die: The Reality Show."

Israel is the only developed nation (with a fertility rate of three) that loves life sufficiently to bring more children into the world than are required to replace the existing population. Even the US has fallen below replacement as Hispanics assimilate into Western culture and younger evangelicals behave more like their secular peers. Israel today, as at the time of the prophets, remains a unique and irreplaceable light unto the world, the paragon of a nation, the hope of all humanity. Today it is the proof that modern men and women can embrace life and raise themselves above the tragic fate of the peoples since the dawn of man. Anti-semitism is the vicious grudge that death harbors against life. We are tired of refuting the clumsy calumnies that are thrown at Israel each day in the liberal media. Our response is in the imperative: "Choose life!"



Latest news:  Israel’s military foils large-scale infiltration from Gaza

Israeli forces foiled a large infiltration attempt through a tunnel from Gaza.  It is believed the infiltrators were planning to carry out a major terror attack on an Israeli target, the IDF said in a statement. According to photos taken by the IDF, the infiltrators were carrying weapons including shoulder-mounted RPGs.

The IDF identified the 13 armed men exiting a tunnel inside Israel early Thursday morning, near Kibbutz Sufa close to the Gaza border.  Once the men realized they had been spotted they attempted to dive back into the tunnel, but were thwarted by an airstrike by Israel’s Air Force. The IDF said some of the infiltrators were injured.

Hours after the infiltration attempt, the IDF posted video of the infiltration and the airstrike on the opening of the tunnel.

Hamas later took responsibility for the attempted infiltration, and said that all of its members returned home



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

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


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Research on basic differences between liberals and conservatives

Science popularizer Chris Mooney is back on his old platform with claims that conservatives are born bad.  Leftist psychologists have been endeavouring to prove the evilness of conservatives at at least since 1950 and, despite their failures to convince anyone but themselves, they don't give up lightly.  So Mooney has seized on the latest scraps from their table.  See below.

Mooney has seized in particular on the work of Hibbing, whom I have noted on a few previous occasions (e.g. here), and I don't think much more needs to be added to what I have said before.  Basically, Hibbing labels conservatism as "negativity", despite the fact that there is a long history of conservatism being more informatively labelled as "caution".  And exactly the same behaviour can reasonably be labelled either way.  "Negativity" is the snarl-word for the more neutral "caution".  So Hibbing's main contribution is  a twisted  or at least tendentious use of language.

Read through the article below and you will see that everything Hibbing condemns can reasonably be attributed to caution.  And I don't think anyone is proposing that we give caution up.

Mooney's other point -- that political attitudes have a large inherited component -- is well borne out by the twin studies, however.  The only issue is WHAT is the inherited personality factor behind the political attitudes.  I would argue that Leftists are born miserable and that makes them destruction-prone.  They are so unhappy with the world around them that they want to destroy as much of it as they can.

Statistician Matt Briggs also has some amusing comments on Hibbing.

Mooney does however have below a short flash of insight that largely neutralizes his animus.  I have highlighted it in red

You could be forgiven for not having browsed yet through the latest issue of the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences. If you care about politics, though, you'll find a punchline therein that is pretty extraordinary.

Behavioral and Brain Sciences employs a rather unique practice called "Open Peer Commentary": An article of major significance is published, a large number of fellow scholars comment on it, and then the original author responds to all of them. The approach has many virtues, one of which being that it lets you see where a community of scholars and thinkers stand with respect to a controversial or provocative scientific idea. And in the latest issue of the journal, this process reveals the following conclusion: A large body of political scientists and political psychologists now concur that liberals and conservatives disagree about politics in part because they are different people at the level of personality, psychology, and even traits like physiology and genetics.

That's a big deal. It challenges everything that we thought we knew about politics—upending the idea that we get our beliefs solely from our upbringing, from our friends and families, from our personal economic interests, and calling into question the notion that in politics, we can really change (most of us, anyway).

It is a "virtually inescapable conclusion" that the "cognitive-motivational styles of leftists and rightists are quite different."

The occasion of this revelation is a paper by John Hibbing of the University of Nebraska and his colleagues, arguing that political conservatives have a "negativity bias," meaning that they are physiologically more attuned to negative (threatening, disgusting) stimuli in their environments. (The paper can be read for free here.) In the process, Hibbing et al. marshal a large body of evidence, including their own experiments using eye trackers and other devices to measure the involuntary responses of political partisans to different types of images. One finding? That conservatives respond much more rapidly to threatening and aversive stimuli (for instance, images of "a very large spider on the face of a frightened person, a dazed individual with a bloody face, and an open wound with maggots in it," as one of their papers put it).

In other words, the conservative ideology, and especially one of its major facets—centered on a strong military, tough law enforcement, resistance to immigration, widespread availability of guns—would seem well tailored for an underlying, threat-oriented biology.

The authors go on to speculate that this ultimately reflects an evolutionary imperative. "One possibility," they write, "is that a strong negativity bias was extremely useful in the Pleistocene," when it would have been super-helpful in preventing you from getting killed. (The Pleistocene epoch lasted from roughly 2.5 million years ago until 12,000 years ago.) We had John Hibbing on the Inquiring Minds podcast earlier this year, and he discussed these ideas in depth; you can listen here:

Hibbing and his colleagues make an intriguing argument in their latest paper, but what's truly fascinating is what happened next. Twenty-six different scholars or groups of scholars then got an opportunity to tee off on the paper, firing off a variety of responses. But as Hibbing and colleagues note in their final reply, out of those responses, "22 or 23 accept the general idea" of a conservative negativity bias, and simply add commentary to aid in the process of "modifying it, expanding on it, specifying where it does and does not work," and so on. Only about three scholars or groups of scholars seem to reject the idea entirely.

That's pretty extraordinary, when you think about it. After all, one of the teams of commenters includes New York University social psychologist John Jost, who drew considerable political ire in 2003 when he and his colleagues published a synthesis of existing psychological studies on ideology, suggesting that conservatives are characterized by traits such as a need for certainty and an intolerance of ambiguity. Now, writing in Behavioral and Brain Sciences in response to Hibbing roughly a decade later, Jost and fellow scholars note that

There is by now evidence from a variety of laboratories around the world using a variety of methodological techniques leading to the virtually inescapable conclusion that the cognitive-motivational styles of leftists and rightists are quite different. This research consistently finds that conservatism is positively associated with heightened epistemic concerns for order, structure, closure, certainty, consistency, simplicity, and familiarity, as well as existential concerns such as perceptions of danger, sensitivity to threat, and death anxiety. [Italics added]

Back in 2003, Jost and his team were blasted by Ann Coulter, George Will, and National Review for saying this; congressional Republicans began probing into their research grants; and they got lots of hate mail. But what's clear is that today, they've more or less triumphed. They won a field of converts to their view and sparked a wave of new research, including the work of Hibbing and his team.

"One possibility," note the authors, "is that a strong negativity bias was extremely useful in the Pleistocene," when it would have been super-helpful in preventing you from getting killed.
Granted, there are still many issues yet to be worked out in the science of ideology. Most of the commentaries on the new Hibbing paper are focused on important but not-paradigm-shifting side issues, such as the question of how conservatives can have a higher negativity bias, and yet not have neurotic personalities. (Actually, if anything, the research suggests that liberals may be the more neurotic bunch.) Indeed, conservatives tend to have a high degree of happiness and life satisfaction. But Hibbing and colleagues find no contradiction here. Instead, they paraphrase two other scholarly commentators (Matt Motyl of the University of Virginia and Ravi Iyer of the University of Southern California), who note that "successfully monitoring and attending negative features of the environment, as conservatives tend to do, may be just the sort of tractable task…that is more likely to lead to a fulfilling and happy life than is a constant search for new experience after new experience."

All of this matters, of course, because we still operate in politics and in media as if minds can be changed by the best honed arguments, the most compelling facts. And yet if our political opponents are simply perceiving the world differently, that idea starts to crumble. Out of the rubble just might arise a better way of acting in politics that leads to less dysfunction and less gridlock…thanks to science.



ZIRP: The Fed’s WMD Against Savers

John Maynard Keynes famously called for “the euthanasia of the rentier,” that is, the destruction of landowners who live on rental income. Does Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen advocate the same treatment for retirees trying to live on interest income? One wonders. The Fed’s policies have devastated seniors and others who have scrimped and saved only to find that inflation has eaten away at the paltry interest they’ve earned from nominally “safe” financial assets, such as bank savings accounts, certificates of deposits, and U.S. Treasury bonds. Independent Institute Senior Fellow Robert Higgs examines the havoc in the summer 2014 issue of The Independent Review.

“The politicians constantly bark about their solicitude for those who are helpless and in difficulty through no fault of their own,” Higgs writes. “Yet scores of millions of people who save money to support themselves in old age now find themselves progressively despoiled by the very officials who purport to be their protectors.”

Since late 2008, the Fed has pursued a zero interest-rate policy (ZIRP) aimed at keeping rates low. This may be good for the federal government, because it holds down the interest costs of the soaring national debt, but it has devastated ordinary savers, Higgs explains. Just compare savings yields and inflation. According to a June press release by Bureau of Labor Statistics, the “all items” Consumer Price Index is rising 2.1 percent per year. This rate exceeded the yields that month for savings accounts (1 percent or less), 5-year CDs (1.37 percent), and 5-year Treasury bonds (1.69 percent).

Here’s another way to view the scope of the problem. In the United States, every age group over 16 years old has seen a decline in labor participation—with one exception: those 55 years and older. ZIRP isn’t the only cause that has sent Grandma and Grandpa back into the workforce, but it has certainly been a powerful “stick” to get them to seek out Help Wanted signs at the local mall.ZIRP: The Fed’s WMD Against Savers
John Maynard Keynes famously called for “the euthanasia of the rentier,” that is, the destruction of landowners who live on rental income. Does Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen advocate the same treatment for retirees trying to live on interest income? One wonders. The Fed’s policies have devastated seniors and others who have scrimped and saved only to find that inflation has eaten away at the paltry interest they’ve earned from nominally “safe” financial assets, such as bank savings accounts, certificates of deposits, and U.S. Treasury bonds. Independent Institute Senior Fellow Robert Higgs examines the havoc in the summer 2014 issue of The Independent Review.

“The politicians constantly bark about their solicitude for those who are helpless and in difficulty through no fault of their own,” Higgs writes. “Yet scores of millions of people who save money to support themselves in old age now find themselves progressively despoiled by the very officials who purport to be their protectors.”

Since late 2008, the Fed has pursued a zero interest-rate policy (ZIRP) aimed at keeping rates low. This may be good for the federal government, because it holds down the interest costs of the soaring national debt, but it has devastated ordinary savers, Higgs explains. Just compare savings yields and inflation. According to a June press release by Bureau of Labor Statistics, the “all items” Consumer Price Index is rising 2.1 percent per year. This rate exceeded the yields that month for savings accounts (1 percent or less), 5-year CDs (1.37 percent), and 5-year Treasury bonds (1.69 percent). Here’s another way to view the scope of the problem. In the United States, every age group over 16 years old has seen a decline in labor participation—with one exception: those 55 years and older. ZIRP isn’t the only cause that has sent Grandma and Grandpa back into the workforce, but it has certainly been a powerful “stick” to get them to seek out Help Wanted signs at the local mall.



Supply-Side Contraceptives

Paul Krugman and others on the left routinely sneer at the idea that you can actually increase government revenues by cutting tax rates. (Turns out most of the time you can’t, but in some cases you can.)

But there is a similar myth on the left. It’s the idea that by spending more money on health you can reduce overall health care costs. According to the New York Times, President Obama is using that idea to support free contraceptives for women:

“The Obama administration says the cost of providing contraceptives will be offset by savings that result from greater use of birth control, “fewer unplanned pregnancies” and improvement in women’s health.”

Here is Matt Yglesias at Slate making the same point:

“While birth control costs more than nothing, it costs less than an abortion and much less than having a baby. From a social point of view, unless we’re not going to subsidize consumption of health care services at all (which would be a really drastic change from the status quo) then it makes a ton of sense to heavily subsidize contraceptives...But just on the dollars and cents subsidizing birth control is a no-brainer.”

The trouble is: there is no evidence for that claim. In fact, there is no evidence that making contraceptives free leads to their greater use. The Obamacare mandate requiring contraceptives to be available without deductibles or copayments is apparently not causing women to use more contraceptives according to a report by the IMS Institute. And if the mandate doesn’t lead to greater use, there can’t be fewer births, etc.

Free contraceptives are only one example of how the Obama administration gets it priorities wrong when it comes to health insurance. For example, the Affordable Care Act requires employers and insurers to provide a long list of preventive services (such as mammograms, blood-pressure screening, cholesterol screening, etc.). And as in the case of contraceptives, Obama administration officials have been claiming that the money spent on these procedures will result in overall savings.

Yet here again the evidence says otherwise. Most preventive procedures cause health care spending to go up not down. And while we are spending scarce premium dollars on low-dollar items of sometimes dubious value we are continuing to leave people exposed for large catastrophic costs.

One of the worst examples of getting the priorities wrong is the way Obamacare changed Medicare. Every senior is now entitled to a free wellness exam (of almost no medical value). At the same time, every senior continues to be at risk for tens of thousands of dollars of costs from a prolonged hospitalization.



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

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


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A day in the life ..

by an Israeli woman

Last night my children lost their air-raid siren virginity - sounds crass, I know, but there is nothing warm and fuzzy and innocent about your children hearing their first air-raid siren. They hurried to the mamad (a reinforced room, equivalent of a bomb shelter in newer homes and apartments, ours doubles as our guest room) - they walked, they did not run, they have been drilled. Mia (7) played with her cousins, Gili (5) immediately recited two chapters of Psalms (he's just that kind of kid) and Elli (2.5) played obliviously on the iPad. There were no booms, no scary sounds, no dramas. The ten mandatory minutes of residing in the mamad from the commencement of the siren passed, everyone returned to the usual bed-time routine. Shortly after - a second round - same routine, once again, there were no booms, no scary sounds, no dramas. Bedtime.

Since this all started nearly a week ago, Mia & Gilli have been sleeping in the mamad - two less children to collect in the middle of the night if a siren goes off, the naïve hope that we'll spare them trauma - that if there's a siren, maybe they won't even wake up if we don't have to move them.

I lay in bed, floating between sleep and wake-fullness, terrified that I might sleep through a siren. Exhausted body, restless mind. I toss and turn, my restlessness disturbing Moshi, he heads off to one of the kids empty beds to try and sleep what remains of the night.

5:30am. Awake. Hopes of any sleep long-gone, the night is over. I hear the pitter patter of Gili's feet climbing the stairs - he finds Moshi in his bed and lays down next to him.

5:59am I hear an unfamiliar sound in the distance, almost like a hiss, the sound is foreign, unidentified. A split second later, wailing sirens - I dash to Elli's room, I hear Moshi call my name, I sense his movements, a deafening whistling sound overhead. Sirens wailing. I feel around for Elli's blanky. I can't find her favourite bunny. No time. I hug her close, trying not to wake her. I have no recollection of how I got from her room upstairs to the entry of the mamad. I only remember thinking that I'm watching a woman in a movie running with her sleeping toddler, sirens, the deafening whistle overhead of a missile - this is not me, not my life. Bang. Moshi slams the mamad door behind me. I hold Elli close, her sweet breath on my neck, she cuddles me and continues to sleep. Mia turns in her sleep. Gilli lays there, eyes wide-open, no Psalm recitals this time. Boom. Boom. Boom. BOOM. Windows rattle. Too close. BOOM. Windows rattle. Too close. Silence. We wait. Five more minutes pass. Moshi thinks we can open the room. They say to wait ten minutes. I motion him to sit. Boom. Boom.

I'm not sending my kids to school and kinder today. I'm not. I don't care if the Home-front says I can. I'll stay with them until my babysitter arrives. I picture Mia's school - I cannot picture them gathering the children in 90 seconds to the bomb shelter. And that's if there is 90 seconds. We only had 30 seconds in the morning. The kids are happy to stay home with me, maybe not as happy as they would normally be to have a fun day with Mummy.

Moshi recites to me what Gili said to him just before the siren hit - they lay in bed, and Gili turns and says to him: "Daddy, I can hear a missile coming". Moshi retells that he looked at him in wonder and then the siren hit. He had heard the same distant hiss, the foreign sound that I could not identify, and he named it. My children have not watched even one TV or news report since this crisis started, they know what we have told them and what they have heard from their friends in the playground. Why at 5 years of age could my son identify the sound of something that I could not identify at 38 years of age?

I speak to my neighbor, he was watering his garden when the siren hit. Of course the whistle of the missile was deafening. He saw the iron dome missile pass above us, overhead, between our homes.

I call the hospital, delay my clinic to the afternoon, cancel some meetings.

I wanted to have a normal, fun day. No, they cannot go to the pool. No, they cannot go to the trampoline. We will have a normal, fun day - indoors. Playtime, pancakes, drawing, movies, popcorn, more movies. I'm not counting their screen-time today.

2:00pm. The babysitter arrives, Mia and Elli play, I cuddle and kiss them. Gili has fallen asleep in the mamad. Exhausted. I gaze at him, I don't want to disturb his sleep.

I leave for the hospital - if I drive at a legal speed it'll take me 35 minutes, if I drive faster I can do it in less. I drive faster. I should have kissed Gili. I feel my body tense. Please no air-raid sirens while I'm on the highway. I know what I have to do if it happens. I don't want to do it. Please no sirens. I don't want to stop my car, lay down on the hot asphalt and cover my head with my hands. My hands were not made to protect my head. I pass a truck carrying domestic size gas canisters. Please no siren. Not now. Really bad time for a siren. No siren.

I arrive at the clinic, I apologize to the new patient for delaying the appointment from the morning. We had a siren, my children are young, I didn't want to send them to school/kinder. The patient and her husband smile knowingly, their eyes full of compassion and understanding. I look down at the patient file, she is from Kibbutz Nitsanim. I cringe. Kibbutz Nitsanim borders on Gaza - what I experienced this morning has been their daily reality for the past many years, and since the crisis started last week they have had up to 70 rocket missiles a day shot to their area. I apologize. I shift in my chair. We had one siren today. They reassure me.

I start her intake. She has come to us in order to participate in a clinical trial. She has three children. She wants to live. She will be randomized to a standard treatment or a new biological agent that may further improve her chances for cure. I explain to her what randomization means. It's like the role of a dice. She could explain to me what randomization means, their day-to-day reality is like the role of a dice. Yes, yes, it's true for all of us - but it's not.

The clinic ends. A siren. It's twice as long as usual. It doesn't seem to end. Boom - distant. BOOM - closer. BOOOOM - too close. I should have kissed Gili.

I call home - no sirens there.

I keep working. I work on my laptop. Occasionally my eyes dart to the PC screen on my desk, to the news page - sirens over my home. I call home - everyone is fine, no booms.

11pm. I arrive home. I kiss sleeping Gili.

Bed. Exhausted. Heavy heart. Heavy mind. Please sleep - arrive! I will wake up if there's a siren.

I think of our children. I think of theirs.

I want to sleep.

I want to awake in the morning to the pitter-patter of feet, to long cuddles. To quiet skies.

I want to wake up to mundane routine.  Sleep. Goodnight.



Spending and Morality

Walter E. Williams

During last year's budget negotiation meetings, President Barack Obama told House Speaker John Boehner, "We don't have a spending problem." When Boehner responded with "But, Mr. President, we have a very serious spending problem," Obama replied, "I'm getting tired of hearing you say that." In one sense, the president is right. What's being called a spending problem is really a symptom of an unappreciated deep-seated national moral rot. Let's examine it with a few questions.

Is it moral for Congress to forcibly use one person to serve the purposes of another? I believe that most Americans would pretend that to do so is offensive. Think about it this way. Suppose I saw a homeless, hungry elderly woman huddled on a heating grate in the dead of winter. To help the woman, I ask somebody for a $200 donation to help her out. If the person refuses, I then use intimidation, threats and coercion to take the person's money. I then purchase food and shelter for the needy woman. My question to you: Have I committed a crime? I hope that most people would answer yes. It's theft to take the property of one person to give to another.

Now comes the hard part. Would it be theft if I managed to get three people to agree that I should take the person's money to help the woman? What if I got 100, 1 million or 300 million people to agree to take the person's $200? Would it be theft then? What if instead of personally taking the person's $200, I got together with other Americans and asked Congress to use Internal Revenue Service agents to take the person's $200? The bottom-line question is: Does an act that's clearly immoral when done privately become moral when it is done collectively and under the color of law? Put another way, does legality establish morality?

For most of our history, Congress did a far better job of limiting its activities to what was both moral and constitutional. As a result, federal spending was only 3 to 5 percent of the gross domestic product from our founding until the 1920s, in contrast with today's 25 percent. Close to three-quarters of today's federal spending can be described as Congress taking the earnings of one American to give to another through thousands of handout programs, such as farm subsidies, business bailouts and welfare.

During earlier times, such spending was deemed unconstitutional and immoral. James Madison, the acknowledged father of our Constitution, said, "Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government." In 1794, when Congress appropriated $15,000 to assist some French refugees, Madison stood on the floor of the House of Representatives to object, saying, "I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents." Today's Americans would crucify a politician expressing similar statements.

There may be nitwits out there who'd assert, "That James Madison guy forgot about the Constitution's general welfare clause." Madison had that covered, explaining in a letter, "If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the general welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one." Thomas Jefferson agreed, writing: Members of Congress "are not to do anything they please to provide for the general welfare. ... It would reduce the (Constitution) to a single phrase, that of instituting a Congress with power to do whatever would be for the good of the United States; and, as they would be the sole judges of the good or evil, it would be also a power to do whatever evil they please."

The bottom line is that spending is not our basic problem. We've become an immoral people demanding that Congress forcibly use one American to serve the purposes of another. Deficits and runaway national debt are merely symptoms of that larger problem.



The State’s “MyPlate” War Is a War on Consumer Choice

Think You Have the Freedom to Eat Whatever You Want? Think Again

The state doesn’t stop short of your kitchen. Its members are determined to decide what, how, and where you can eat; on top of that, they try to assign food portions according to each “type of person.” Armchair bureaucrats, with no insight into the specific needs or desires of individuals, limit what you can buy in restaurants and supermarkets.+

Many of us already know that regulations substantially reduce economic freedom and create artificial monopolies that inflate prices. Fewer people appear to be aware, however, the degree to which state intrusions reduce our food choices. Like the father who does not allow a child sweets before dinner, the state takes on that role and dictates what you can and cannot eat.+

Starting with the production of food, there is government intervention at every stage. In the United States, expansive government agencies are in charge of deciding which grains are suitable for planting, and what their ideal condition during harvest should be.+

Even before production, massive farm subsidies distort the food industry. According to a study published by the Cato Institute, the federal agency in charge of subsidizing agriculture costs US taxpayers between US$10 and US$30 billion every year. The amounts vary depending on crop market prices, natural disasters, and previous payments, among other factors.+

Subsidies lead to an increase in rural land prices, block agricultural innovation, and create incentives for rent-seeking and excess production. They also discourage both cost reduction and diversity of land use, and go hand in hand with artificial prices and food waste.+

Mandated safety procedures, not tailored to consumer wishes, also add to prices. They make producers spend more on various additives to achieve centrally planned quality standards. Moreover, these create a barrier to entry for new producers who do not yet have the experience or are not financially capable of reaching these standards. Someone seeking to make a go of it in the industry, without obeying the food police, will soon find himself in legal hot water — as so many food-truck cases have shown.+

Self-Regulation? Not So Fast

In most US states, small producers of raw milk, even those that have been extremely careful with their methods, must break the law to satisfy consumer demands. This is a particular case that illustrates how the private sector can, in fact, create its own guidelines for safe consumption. The Raw Milk Institute, a nonprofit whose mission is to improve people’s health and immune systems, and they teach production methods to agriculturists, offer education to the wider public, and set guidelines that providers can adhere to for the safety of consumers.+

Of course, the state does not have, nor should it have, an extraordinary capacity to monitor all production processes. Imposing top-down regulations is a fool’s errand, since food can be produced in so many ways, and new methods continue to arrive on the scene.+

There are always players who favor regulations, though — for the people, and with no crony interests at all. The food-truck battle is also illuminating here, since “safety” is merely a codeword for protectionism, keeping potential entrepreneurs out of the market.+

Mobile restaurants offer a desirable option for city workers with a hectic schedule: a win-win situation for everyone, or so it would seem. Municipalities are seeking to legislate operations essentially out of existence. California legislator Bill Monning, for example, has introduced a bill to prohibit food trucks from operating within 1,500 feet from a public school. Children might — perish the thought! — buy from the food trucks instead of from their school cafeterias.+

However, such justifications are wafer thin, since most children are not allowed to leave the school property during lunch. Further, the restrictions do not apply for fast-food restaurants, such as Burger King, and we all know how healthy they are.+

Dare one ask, if not the children, who are they trying to “protect” with this legislation?+

Unintended Consequences, Undermining Personal Responsibility

As the United States has given subsidies to farmers for decades, those in power have made some items cheaper. That sounds great, right?+

However, every law has its unintended consequences, since not all items are treated equally as far as the handouts go. Consider what you would prefer: a Big Mac with french fries and a soft drink, or a smaller salad portion? As you can see from the diagram, subsidies have, unfortunately, worked twisted our incentives contrary to a balanced diet.+

Given that every individual is responsible for his eating habits, lawsuits against firms such as McDonald’s for causing obesity are absurd. They also ignore the elephant in the room: the multi-million-dollar subsidies given for the production of a Big Mac’s ingredients.+

Still, those in office want to appear like they are doing something to avert a purported obesity crisis. Their proposed solution is to create more regulations and a USDA program in charge of nutrition: MyPlate.+

To be clear, I support initiatives, similar to MyPlate, that seek to educate consumers on adequate food portions — of which there are already many working on a private basis. I take exception, however, with subsidies that benefit certain groups of producers and interfering in such ways that work exactly opposite to their rhetoric. The food industry is already extremely innovative; let it breathe free for these innovations to hasten.+



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

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


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

What This World Cup Reminds Us About Right vs. Left Thinking

Every four years, world soccer fans stop to witness their own version of Mt Vesuvius, The World Cup, wherein national pride, soccer passion, and the subjective slant on an objective result erupt for one month, culminating in the sport's pinnacle event and prize, The World Cup Final and Title.  As in many sporting events; there are outstanding and poor performances; a maddening mix of good fortune and bad luck; and healthy doses of injustice, unfairness, and suspicious decisions which impact the results. This year's edition has been no different; with the usually fascinating array of favorites performing as expected and others greatly disappointing, as well as surprise Cinderellas and feel good runs by good teams overcoming setbacks.

As I watched this event, however, it became abundantly clear that we were witnessing something not quite seen in recent editions, spilling before us like a sarcastic reminder of the difference between two very different ways of looking at reality. On one hand, we had teams like Germany, Argentina, Colombia, Belgium, Switzerland, Costa Rica, and the United States, all displaying one consistent trait despite varying levels of skill, luck, and success in this tournament. For the most part, these teams worked hard, demonstrated a humble respect for their opponents, and exhibited a healthy confidence in their ability to succeed through taking responsibility for both success and failure.

On the other hand, we had teams like Uruguay and Brazil who, along with their fans, demonstrated a delusional, almost child-like subjectivity and victim perspective which was both insulting to the sport and to their own integrity. Uruguay reminded us that passionate, irrational, and rampant victimization is the genuine antithesis of calm, logical reality. After Luis Suarez clearly and intentionally bit an opponent for the third time in his career and was suspended, the Uruguayan team and its fans wailed on about international conspiracies and prejudiced decisions, only to be embarrassed as Suarez later admitted to the action, although still pretending that it was accidental. We should not wait for any Uruguayan player, fan, or journalist to apologize for insulting us with the protest that this action was imaginary and the suspension the most unjust decision in soccer history.

If Uruguay's sin was blindly defending a spoiled, twisted star player against righteous indignation and just punishment, Brazil, the host, has provided us with an even more embarrassing combination of a warped entitlement with audacious hypocrisy and selective rage.  Acting like spoiled children expecting their pre-destined trophy, these players and fans clearly believed that all that they had to do to win their sixth championship was throw their uniforms on the grass and bow. Worse still, they bashed opponents, both on and off the field, who dared to get in their pre-determined path to glory on home turf. Taking advantage of favoritism by some referees and good fortune, Brazil reached the semifinals of what was supposed to be yet another coronation only to be soundly humbled 7-1 by a workman-like, efficient, and proactive German squad which, like many teams in this tournament, did not expect success to be handed to them on a gold plate.  As many experts observed, Brazil took advantage of intimidated referees who let them get away with blatant fouls or gave them gift free kicks and even a penalty en route to a game they had no business attending, and from which they were soundly removed.

If we have learned anything, especially recently, it is that blind, mindless, passionate irrationality fueled by irresponsible delusions of entitlement and rampant hallucinations of victimization cannot hide incompetence and foolish futility forever. Sooner or later, the chickens come to roost, and the piper must be paid. The only thing worse than hypocrisy is blatant, insolent hypocrisy, and Brazilian players and fans exhibited those traits in full measure, ranting on when their star player was injured after  a referee allowed them to bash their opponent relentlessly for most of the game without much consequence. Ignoring or downplaying their treatment of opponents while wailing endlessly about the injury of their star player, Neymar, these players and fans demonstrated the lowest form of hypocrisy and selective rage.

The parallel between Brazil's behavior and our political Left's thinking is striking. While the Right generally promotes proactive self-responsibility and personal initiative, the Left worships at the altar of reactive irresponsibility and entitlement, wherein people point fingers at others for their failures and cry wolf at every turn.  Like a Brazilian team which feigned disaster with every trip and depicted normal tackles by opponents as premeditated terrorist actions, the Left turns drama into an art form in its quest to whine, weep, and push its way to its agenda via the route of victimization.  Like a Brazilian team that was ultimately unable to hide its many warts under the guise of emotional entitlement and bullying of opponents who dared to deny that entitlement, the Left is constantly scrambling to hide its twisted logic and irrational claims behind frenzied fantasy and hypocritical intolerance.

Ultimately, Brazil's façade fell beneath the weight of a side which did not expect things to be handed to them. Eventually, the sheer strain of pretending to be competent while whining and feigning victimization proved to be too much for these 23 community organizers who were better at pointing fingers than kicking soccer balls.  Just as adept at diving and feigning harm as the Dutch, but far less competent and skilled as a team, Brazil discovered what the Left should have discovered by now, which is that greatness is mostly achieved by those who humbly work hard, respect others,  and do not manipulate people and situations for their selfish gain. The great Brazilian teams of Pele and Garrincha gave Brazil its legendary reputation as the creators of the Jogo Bonito, the beautiful game.  Thinking that they could live off that legend and gain a title because of their uniform or their home crowd, this Brazilian team reminded us that seeking success through smoke and mirrors never works in the end.



Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi – Mr. and Mrs. Tammany Hall

If illegal aliens and unaccompanied minors from Central and South America voted Republican, the Democrats would surround our country with a force field Darth Vader couldn't penetrate. Yet we need a force field like barrier to protect our nation from an invasion of epic proportion and significant risk to the sovereignty and security of our nation - illegal immigrants, crime and terrorists.

It seems we just never learn from history - ancient, recent past or just yesterday. Tunnel warfare is the new norm. There are a growing number of tunnels leading into the United States from Mexico, not unlike the tunnels that helped defeat us in Vietnam, and the ones from Gaza to Israel or Lebanon to Israel that Hezbollah (Iran-IRGC) utilized in the 34 day war. Fences make for good neighbors. It is an old adage worth repeating. Yet there are those in the US who still claim a fence system won't work, and all point to the news video of people climbing over a section, barbed wire notwithstanding. Of course they breached it....who was there to counter it, and what consequences are there when border security catches them? Lice and scabies and aggravation?!

But if you ask anyone in Israel if the fence system has helped stem the tide of terrorist incursions and the answer will mostly be yes.  Why? There's a big difference between ours and theirs. They actually take it seriously and have the armed manpower dedicated to enforcing it. Under Obama, our military, law enforcement, and homeland security have been dealt withering blows to readiness in the form of reduced funding, and executive edicts changing the rules of engagement to ridiculously anemic policies that are sure to protect our enemies and nearly guaranteed to jeopardize our citizens.

A well designed series of layered, aggressive security measures can protect our Southern border - but it will take commitment, new presidential leadership, and hiring actual security professionals, not the academics on Team Obama, few of whom have ever been in the trenches, and know war, terrorism, and threats from a book not from a battle.

As a physician it is repulsive to think our President has tacitly encouraged the diaspora of children - some sick, many poorly educated, a few victims of violence, most encouraged to do so by adults for a variety of ulterior motives - tens of thousands of children, greatly imperiled as they travel through a variety of dangers on a journey landed them at the gates of the promised land - the United States.

That we - the nation nicknamed "America" are a beacon of hope, and that proverbial ‘shining city on the hill,' in spite of our languid, dare I suggest lousy leadership, is nothing short of amazing. And we should be a lighthouse in the darkness of a dangerous world. But that our leaders have done nothing to discourage such a death march, have done nothing to reign in Mexico which is nothing more than a large ‘toll booth" where anyone wishing to traverse its borders may do so, for the right amount of money, and that POTUS et al has done nothing to discourage our putative allies in Central America from dropping off their children as if we were some international day care center or adoption agency, is reprehensible.

There blood on the hands of the Obama, Pelosi, the DNC and the home countries that encourage these children to make the dangerous trek northwards - Honduras, El Salvador, and other similarly corrupt enterprises with a national flag, which claim they are too poor to care for their peoples, but certainly act affluent enough to send a first lady to ensure ‘her people' were properly cared for in our nation (speak about chutzpah). There is also blood on the hands of our leaders for doing nothing over the last several years to discourage illegal immigration; all they have done under the presidents' watch is convey to the peoples' of Central America that a form of "dream act" will occur under the democrats, from various methods - not enforcing immigration law, prohibiting citizenship verification when police detain someone, the use of anchor babies, and now amnesty children, or being in the US long enough that we won't send you home (which under Obama seems to be a New York minute).

Is it any wonder people will take the risk? And is it any wonder their home countries encourage it? Money will flow home to family members who remained in Central America. New tunnels and transit routes will open up, allowing other forms of criminal behavior to flourish - guns, cartels, human trafficking, drugs, kidnapping for ransom. Nothing good comes from an open border, and these children are a visible sign of the magnitude of Obama's failure to his nation, and devotion to his party as well as fervent allegiance to ideology.

During Obama's watch the illegal alien problem in our nation has grown exponentially. Millions of illegals or unlawfuls reside in the US. Obama has done nothing to or with Mexico to curb this problem. Soon the US will become a banana republic like Mexico and other Central American countries. Our border is porous - a sieve. Our nation is hosting too many who cost more than they contribute. Crime has risen. Hospitals are overcrowded. English in many areas is the rarely spoken word. The cost to Americans includes a drain on community infrastructure, increased crime - and approximately $14,000 per person, per year; according to Heritage Foundation studies based upon government data, comparing the costs (welfare for example) balanced against what each illegal contributes. It is a net loss to our community. And the myth that none of us would have fresh fruit without illegals or the unconstrained immigration of Latinos is just that - a liberal myth. Do migrant workers aid in our farming - of course. But the notion that democrats and liberals pedal suggesting illegal immigrants contribute more than they take from communities is just not based upon fact. The public health costs alone are staggering. But that is a critical protection for communities.

Many also send money back to their ‘home' countries - which serves as a revenue stream of sorts. What money you might ask? WIC - the welfare industrial complex - you and me.



Get Bosses Out of Health Insurance Altogether

By Michael D. Tanner

This article appeared on National Review (Online) on July 9, 2014.
The Supreme Court’s decision last week in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby has pushed all the buttons that could be expected when sex and religion intersect. Many on the right are celebrating because they value religious expression and feel rather less excited about sex, especially of the non-procreative variety. And much of the Left is outraged because religion is generally considered of far less import while sexual freedom has a high priority. But both sides are missing the point.

It is true that your boss shouldn’t be deciding whether or not your insurance plan includes contraceptives. It is also true that your boss shouldn’t have to pay for your contraceptives if it violates his or her religious beliefs. But why is this debate limited to employers with certain clearly defined religious beliefs, or for that matter to contraception?

The bigger question should be: Why is some woman arguing with her boss about what benefits are included in her insurance plan in the first place?

There’s no good answer. The entire concept that our boss should provide our insurance is an anomaly that grew out of unique historical circumstances during World War II. At the time of a significant labor shortage, President Roosevelt imposed wage (and price) controls, preventing employers from competing for available workers by raising salaries. In an effort to circumvent the regulations and attract workers, employers began to offer non-wage benefits, among them health insurance.

In 1953, the IRS compounded the problem by holding that employer-provided health insurance was not part of wage compensation for tax purposes. This means that if a worker is paid $40,000 and their employer also provides an insurance policy worth $16,000, the worker pays taxes on just the $40,000 in wages. If, however, instead of providing insurance, the employer gave the worker a $16,000 raise — allowing the worker to purchase his or her own insurance — the worker would have to pay taxes on $66,000 in income, a tax hike of as much as $2,400. This puts workers who buy their own insurance at a significant disadvantage compared to those who receive insurance through work.

As a result, Americans were driven to get health insurance through their job: In 1960, just a third of non-elderly Americans received health insurance at work, roughly. Today, 58.4 percent do. (That’s actually down from the peak of 71.4 percent in 1980).

Employer-provided insurance is problematic for several reasons. Most significantly, it hides much of the true cost of health care from consumers, encouraging over consumption. Basing insurance on employment also means that if you lose your job, you are likely to end up uninsured. And once you’ve lost insurance, it can be hard to get new coverage, especially if you have a pre-existing condition.

But, in the context of Hobby Lobby, employer-provided insurance is even more insidious: It gives your boss the power to determine what is and is not included in your insurance plan. The government’s answer, of course, is simply to mandate that certain benefits, in this case contraceptives, be included. But that merely substitutes the government’s judgment for your boss’s. Thus we infringe on your employer’s desires and your own, leaving both of you at the mercy of politicians.

Instead of fighting over religious liberty vs. contraceptive coverage, both sides should agree to start transitioning away from employer-provided insurance and into a system where each of us owns personal and portable insurance, independent of our job.

Getting there requires changing the tax treatment of health insurance so that employer-provided insurance is treated the same as other compensation for tax purposes: that is, as taxable income. At the same time, to offset the increased tax, workers should receive a standard deduction, a tax credit, or expanded Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), regardless of whether they receive insurance through their job or purchase it on their own.

As a result of this shift in tax policy, employers would gradually substitute higher wages for insurance, allowing workers to shop for the insurance policy that most closely match their needs. That insurance would be more likely to be true insurance — protecting the worker against catastrophic risk, while requiring out-of-pocket payment for routine, low-dollar costs. And it would belong to the worker, not the employer, meaning that workers would be able to take it from job to job and would not lose it if they became unemployed.

But it would also mean that workers, not their bosses, would decide what benefits they want to pay for. People could have contraceptive coverage or any other kind of coverage if we wanted it and were willing to pay for it.

In a less politically polarized world, that would be a reform that both left and right could embrace. In this one, I wouldn’t hold my breath.


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


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

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


Monday, July 14, 2014

Meet the medical student who wants to bring down a popular quack

Benjamin Mazer is a third-year medical student at the University of Rochester. Last year, after becoming increasingly concerned with the public-health impact of Dr. Mehmet Oz's sometimes pseudoscience health advice, he decided to ask state and national medical associations to do something about it.

"Dr. Oz has something like 4-million viewers a day," Mazer told Vox. "The average physician doesn't see a million patients in their lifetime. That's why organized medicine should be taking action."

Last year, Mazer brought a policy before the Medical Society of the State of New York—where Dr. Oz is licensed—requesting that they consider regulating the advice of famous physicians in the media. His idea: Treat health advice on TV in the same vein as expert testimony, which already has established guidelines for truthfulness. I asked Mazer about what inspired the policy, and what became of his efforts.

Julia Belluz: So you're the medical student who wants to bring down Dr. Oz?

Benjamin Mazer: I'm definitely not the only one. This issue was brought up by a number of physicians I worked with during my family medicine clerkship. We had all of this first-hand experience with patients who really liked his show and trusted him quite a bit. [Dr. Oz] would give advice that was really not great or it had no medical basis. It might sound harmless when you talk about things like herbal bills or supplements. But when the physicians' advice conflicted with Oz, the patients would believe Oz.

JB: Tell me about the policy you proposed. How did doctors react?

BM: I wrote policy for the Medical Society of the State of New York [where Dr. Oz is licensed] and the American Medical Association asking them to more actively address medical quackery on TV and in the media—specifically Dr. Oz.

The New York policy was passed in modified form. Organized medicine in New York is aware of what Dr. Oz is saying and how he is able to fall through the gaps of regulation. Many New York physicians testified at their annual meeting about the harm they are seeing happen day-to-day with their own patients. Patients stop taking proven medications in favor of "natural" medications that Dr. Oz promotes. Many patients trusted Dr. Oz more than their own family doctors and this conflict hurt the doctor-patient relationship.

When we brought the policy to the American Medical Association, they reaffirmed existing policy instead of our resolution asking them to take action against inappropriate medical testimonials on TV. The AMA basically thought they were doing enough with existing policy.

JB: Why don't you think the policy was picked up at the national level?

BM: Organized medicine is a slow beast. Also, some people might be underestimating the harms he's doing. Many physicians and certainly much of the public often ask, "What's the harm in an herbal pill or new diet?" The indirect harms can be great.

Organized medicine has an interest in protecting physicians as a profession. They want to maintain the prestige, trust, and income that physicians have historically received in the US. In order to protect the profession as a whole, organized medicine sometimes has to protect individual doctors, even if they are not acting in the best interest of patients. The AMA may fear that undermining Dr. Oz could undermine overall trust in doctors.

JB: Was there a particular patient who inspired this crusade against TV quackery?

BM: The patient who inspired the policy I wrote was an older woman in her 60s who had a lot of the classic, chronic health problems we deal with in America. She was overweight, she had diabetes, heart disease. And so the physician I was working with was recommending these oral diabetes medications that are pretty standard fair. She had watched the Dr. Oz Show featuring green coffee-bean supplements—and how it was great to lose weight—and she was convinced this was going to be a huge impact on her weight.

We tried to politely express concerns that this probably wasn't going to be effective because there's no evidence for it. She refused the diabetes medications. The hope she had placed in the green coffee-bean extract was part of that.

JB: What do you think is the impact of Dr. Oz's sometimes dubious health advice?

BM: I think these things impede the doctor-patient relationship. These doctors are actually doing a great job. But the trust people are placing with Dr. Oz—when their family physicians even nicely try to contradict him—disrupts their relationship.

JB: As a physician, what are you thinking when you hear Dr. Oz say he believes in magic?

BM: The movement in medicine has been toward evidence-based medicine because physicians had done things by their gut and belief for hundreds of years. Most physicians would agree it's only through the scientific process and evidence that we were able to make huge differences in medical care. It's insulting to talk about important medical issues and drugs as if it they were a matter of belief. It degrades all that work that has been done.

JB: If you could talk to Dr. Oz, what would you say to him?

BM: I would probably say that he does have the health interest of his viewers in mind. But in the long term, undermining good science and the relationship patients have with their current physicians is probably doing much more harm than good. If they're not going to listen to advice from physicians—who are providing good, evidence-based advice—if they're going to listen to other doctors on the show, it's going to do more harm than good.



Federal judge orders IRS to explain lost Lerner emails ‘under oath’

A federal judge has ordered the IRS to explain "under oath" how the agency lost a trove of emails from the official at the heart of the Tea Party targeting scandal.

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan gave the tax agency 30 days to file a declaration by an "appropriate official" to address the computer issues with ex-official Lois Lerner.

The decision came Thursday as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch, which along with GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill has questioned how the IRS lost the emails and, in some cases, had no apparent way to retrieve them.

The IRS first acknowledged it lost the emails in a letter to senators last month.

"In our view, there has been a cover-up that has been going on," Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said. "The Department of Justice, the IRS, had an obligation, an absolute obligation ... to alert the court and alert Judicial Watch as soon as they knew when these records were supposedly lost."

The IRS says it lost the emails in 2011 when Lerner's computer crashed. At the time, Lerner headed the IRS division that processes applications for tax-exempt status. She has since retired.

During the court hearing, Sullivan indicated he wanted the portion of the declaration on the computer issues to be wide-ranging, saying "that's about as broad as I can make it."

It also emerged at the status hearing that a Treasury Department inspector general probe into the matter is underway.

The lawyer representing the IRS, Geoffrey Klimas, argued that any further discovery in this case might impede the IG's investigation.

Sullivan seemed leery of that argument and also asked that the IRS official speak to that subject in the explanation the agency submits.

Further, Sullivan ordered that the IRS official explain how Lerner's files may be recovered through "other sources."



Hamas Co-opts Leftmedia

Hamas Orders Civilians to Die in Israeli Airstrikes: Order comes down to ignore warnings from Israel, stay inside

Hamas’ Interior Ministry has ordered residents of the Gaza Strip to remain in their houses if they are about to be bombed by the Israelis, a move that effectively turns citizens into human shields and is intentionally meant to boost the casualty rate, according to a copy of the order published by Hamas.

Israel warns Gaza residents of air strikes before they take place so innocent civilians have time to flee and seek shelter.

The latest Hamas order that citizens ignore Israel’s warnings and stay put is a clear effort by the terror group to increase the death count and apply pressure on Israel to cease its military campaign meant to end Hamas’s attacks.

“The interior ministry warned citizens about Israel sending messages telling them to leave their houses,” according to translations of the official Arabic statement provided by Oren Adaki, an Arabic language specialist at Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD).

“The goal of these actions is to create confusion among the citizens,” the Interior Ministry said, instructing “all citizens to not heed these messages from Israel.”

“The goal of these messages is terrorizing citizens and to cause panic among them,” read the statement, which instructs Palestinians to “not do what the messages instruct them to do,” Adaki explained.

“The ministry [is] calling all our people not to deal or pay attention to the psychological warfare carried out by the occupation through rumors that broadcast across his media and delivering publications and communications on the phones of citizens, and the lack of response for each of these means, which aims to weaken the domestic front in light of great steadfastness of our people to face the aggression,” the Hamas Interior Ministry for National Security stated on Thursday in an order published in English and Arabic.

The Israeli military attempts to communicate with Palestinians and warn them of upcoming attacks via paper leaflets, text messages, and phone calls, among other means.

Hamas is notorious for intentionally putting citizens in harms way in order to maximize body counts and portray Israel as an aggressor.

The terror group often fires rockets from heavily populated civilian areas and uses schools, mosques, and hospitals as bases for their military operations.

The Interior Ministry also demanded that Egypt fully open its border crossing with the Gaza Strip and allow the free flow of people and goods.

“The Interior Ministry [is] demanding Egyptian authorities to urgent [sic] open of the Rafah crossing to deal with humanitarian cases and to alleviate the difficult conditions in the strip,” the statement reads.

Israeli Ambassador to U.S. Ron Dermer criticized Hamas’ disregard for innocent life during a speech on Capitol Hill Wednesday.

“We are dealing with an enemy that not only has no respect for our civilians,” Dermer said, explaining that the terror group is “hoping to kill as many Israeli civilians as possible.”

“They also have no respect for their own civilians,” Dermer added, criticizing the group for putting its people in harms way.



Sending pink slips to a war zone

By Jonathan Hendershott

In a stunning display of callousness, the Defense Department has announced that thousands of soldiers — many serving as commanding officers in Afghanistan — will be notified in the coming weeks that their service to the country is no longer needed.

Last week, more than 1,100 Army captains — the men and women who know best how to fight this enemy because they have experienced multiple deployments — were told they’ll be retired from the Army.

The overall news is not unexpected. The Army has ended its major operations in Iraq and is winding down in Afghanistan. Budget cuts are projected to shrink the Army from its current 520,000 troops to 440,000, the smallest size since before World War II.

What is astonishing is that the Defense Department thought it would be appropriate to notify deployed soldiers — men and women risking their lives daily in combat zones — that they’ll be laid off after their current deployment.

As one Army wife posted on, “On some level I knew the drawdowns were inevitable, but I guess I never expected to be simultaneously worried about a deployment to Afghanistan and a pink slip because my husband’s service is no longer needed.”

Yet the issues go far beyond thanklessness. The nation should worry about the increased national-security risk of separating such a large pool of combat-experienced leaders. The separated soldiers are those who carry the deepest knowledge base of counterinsurgency operations.

A senior Defense Department official warned: “If the force is smaller, there’s less margin for error. Let’s face it — things are pretty uncertain out there.”

Commenting on the extraordinarily large number of captains being retired, Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. John Campbell said: “In other times, they’d probably continue to stay in the Army. But these are not normal times.”

Indeed not. While mass layoffs in the private sector generate front-page headlines, the media have largely ignored the reduction of our military. But who can blame them?

The war-weary public doesn’t want to hear that the cuts put the country at risk.

After more than a decade of fighting, even the most faithful — who used to rally behind the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan by sending CARE packages filled with cookies, candies and reminders of home — have moved on with their lives, with few thoughts of the soldiers still serving there.

And for far too many, a soldier is an uncomfortable reminder of what we have failed to do in the Middle East.



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

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


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Breathtaking lawlessness

The Supreme Court has restrained the executive branch—for now

America’s federal executive branch has met some setbacks as of late. Two recent Supreme Court rulings have constrained the administration’s impulse to act as it wishes. Yet, the mere fact that the administration has overreached as it has—and would have continued to do so had the court not stopped it—should send us a clear warning: The instincts of executive power are always toward accumulating more power. In both cases, the court found, the administration clearly ignored the express instructions of the Constitution in favor of its own convenience.

The first decision concerned an attempt by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to restrict the emission of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act. But the Clean Air Act’s emissions strictures posed a problem, because they would require the agency to restrict emissions above a certain threshold from stationary sources. Carbon dioxide is emitted in large amounts from even small sources, so applying the Clean Air Act would mean subjecting schools, hospitals, and apartment buildings to the same standards as industrial power plants.

The EPA, realizing how unpopular this would be, took it upon itself to rewrite the law, issuing what it called a “tailoring rule,” a scheme my colleague Marlo Lewis described as an act of “breathtaking lawlessness.” The attempt to amend, in the absence of congressional intent, clear, numerical, statutory provisions was a stark usurpation by the executive branch. Remember, the Constitution vests all legislative power in Congress.

The court agreed. Writing for the court, Justice Antonin Scalia said that it was “patently unreasonable—not to say outrageous—for EPA to insist on seizing expansive power that it admits the statute is not designed to grant.” The court said the EPA was “laying claim to extravagant statutory power over the national economy,” and that if the court agreed with it, it “would deal a severe blow to the Constitution’s separation of powers.” Yet this shot of good sense came with a bitter chaser (more on that later).

In the second decision, just last week, the court found unconstitutional President Obama’s recess appointments of some members of the National Labor Relations Board whose nominations had been blocked in the Senate, because the Senate had not declared itself to be in recess. The administration argued that it was entitled to use the power whenever “the Senate is not open for business.”

The court rejected that view unanimously. As Case Western University law professor Jonathan Adler observed, “None of the justices were willing to accept the position of the Obama Administration, which was unnecessarily extreme. In choosing to make the recess appointments in the way it did, such as by not following precedents set by prior administrations (including Teddy Roosevelt) and filling some Board spots that the Senate never had time to fill, the Administration adopted a stance that was very hard to defend, so it could not attract a single vote.” (My organization, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, filed an amicus brief in the case before it reached the Supreme Court.)

The administration’s expansive view of its own enumerated powers is disturbing. But it should not be surprising. It is in the nature of executive power to seek to accrue more power. Throughout history, executives have claimed more power for themselves, whether by imperial decree or the new variant of “pen and phone.” And they’re not just raiding the legislature. Executives have a tendency to usurp judicial power too, whether by Star Chamber or administrative court.

This is why free societies must always be on guard against executive “mission creep.” As James Madison said, “There are more instances of the abridgment of freedoms of the people by gradual and silent encroachment of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”

Now, about that chaser. In its decision on the EPA rule (where the court only slightly limited the agency’s ability to regulate emissions from stationary sources), four of the nine justices agreed that the EPA should have the power to rewrite the law. When the English Parliament gave Henry VIII such a power in 1539, the philosopher David Hume later said that it “made by one act a total subversion of the English constitution.” In other words, basic freedom from executive law-making survived by just one vote last week.

So, while the idea of liberty is extremely resilient, its practical restraint on government by such means as constitutions is always fragile. The question therefore must be whether we can develop “antifragile” institutions of liberty.

Perhaps. The developing “sharing economy” might be seen as a “sharing constitution” in its early stages. Uber’s righteously defiant reaction to the Commonwealth of Virginia’s “cease and desist” orders may be an indicator of a way forward. Yes, the road from Virginia traffic court to constitutional convention is a long one, but could we be seeing an “application revolution” in action that increases citizens’ power over runaway executive magistrates?



Yes, the left hates America

By Tom Toth

The left hates America.  That’s why they want to fundamentally transform it.

When Barack Obama first ventured to occupy the Oval Office, the purpose of his presidency would be to “fundamentally transform of United States.” An ear-pleasing term for far-left activists excited to move on from the George W. Bush administration with the progressive freshman Senator for Illinois, and a term that was spoken with absolute truth and intention.

Fundamental transformation is a change to the core, the very fiber of what makes up the subject of the transformation.

In this case, it’s the United States. The desire for fundamental transformation of America begins with Obama’s base. A recent poll conducted by Pew Research found that only 40 percent identifying as “solid liberals” feel proud to be an American—a strikingly low number especially when considering that the poll was taken after a half decade of a “solid liberal’s” second term in the White House. What exactly needs to happen for the other 60 percent of liberals to be proud of the United States?

The Affordable Care Act has passed, transforming the entire United States healthcare system into a bureaucratic monstrosity that’s somehow managed to work even less efficiently than the rest of Washington’s sluggish government programs.

The IRS was used to successfully target Conservative groups and their donors over the course of two campaign cycles, financially stifling limited government non-profits organizations from receiving legal non-profit status and disproportionately auditing those who financially supported their operations.

The EPA made regulations that have killed the future development of coal plants and new regulations arbitrarily cutting 30 percent of carbon dioxide “pollutants” threaten the stability of the entire energy development industry.

NASA’s highest operational priority is “to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science.”

The United States completely pulled out of Iraq, opening the door for Islamic radicals to pillage and plunder the cities American servicemen and women died to control. Any doubts about these Caliphate-seeking crazies were wiped away by images this week of the tomb of the Biblical Prophet Jonah in Mosel, Iraq being sledgehammered.  In Afghanistan, Obama’s given an  arbitrary American exit date to Islamic militants so that they can prepare to do the same.

The United States Department of Justice is no longer enforcing immigration laws and hundreds of thousands are crossing across the United States’ sovereign borders without fear of deportation.

The demands from the far left base that voted Barack Obama into office have been dually fulfilled—but the pride is still not there. The nation has still not been fundamentally transformed.

The Tea Party represents the America that the left wants fundamentally transformed. Barack Obama and the 60 percent of liberals who are not proud to be Americans resent what America is, where it came from, what its values are, and the citizens who tirelessly advocate for that America.

Barack Obama sees his time in office screaming toward an abrupt end with his primary mission yet to be fulfilled. Before that inevitable day, he’s doing everything in his power to see America, as everyday Americans know it, brought to its knees (see: IRS targeting, refusal to enforce federal law).

“The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened that any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.” If America is still indeed great, then Americans are capable of achieving what Alexis de Tocqueville observed two hundred years ago about our ability to fix the mess our representatives in government are bound to create.

Until that happens however, the fight for fundamental transformation rages on.



Chimpanzee intelligence is determined by their genes not their environment, researchers say

A chimpanzee’s intelligence is largely determined by the genes they inherit from their parents, reveals a new study.

It found Chimpanzees raised by humans turn out to be no cleverer than those given an ape upbringing.

Research into chimp intelligence could help scientists get a better handle on human IQ, say scientists.

The study involved 99 chimpanzees, ranging in age from nine to 54, who completed 13 cognitive tasks designed to test a variety of abilities.

The scientists then analysed the genetics of the chimps and compared their ability to complete the tasks in relation to their genetic similarities.

Genes were found to play a role in overall cognitive abilities, as well as the performance on tasks in several categories, the scientists discovered.

This is because while genes also play a major role in human intelligence, factors such as schooling, home life, economic status, and the culture a person is born in complicate the picture.

Previous studies have suggested that genetics account for around a quarter to a half of variations in human intelligence.

The new research involving 99 chimpanzees from a wide range of ages showed that genes explained about 50% of the differences seen in their intelligence test scores.

Chimps raised by human caretakers did no better in the tasks than individuals brought up by their chimpanzee mothers.

'Intelligence runs in families,' Dr. William Hopkins from the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta, who ran the study, said.

'The suggestion here is that genes play a really important role in their performance on tasks while non-genetic factors didn’t seem to explain a lot. So that’s new.'

He believes the experiment could shed new light on human intelligence.  'Chimps offer a really simple way of thinking about how genes might influence intelligence without, in essence, the baggage of these other mechanisms that are confounded with genes in research on human intelligence.

'What specific genes underlie the observed individual differences in cognition is not clear, but pursuing this question may lead to candidate genes that changed in human evolution and allowed for the emergence of some human-specific specialisations in cognition.



Why Countries Must Pay Their Debts

Many countries have, over the past few decades, sought debt restructuring from the IMF and other international institutions, and others have sought outright cancellation of their debts, such as Mexico in 1982 and 1994, Russia in 1996, Argentina in 2001, and Hungary in 2010.

Debt cancellation for the world’s poorest countries in the wake of the 2005 Gleneagles Summit has made such cancellations seem acceptable in the course of international affairs. As a result of this, as well as a result of rapid economic growth in the developing world, debt as a percent of gross national income has fallen significantly

Yet debt remains a persistent problem in many countries. Headlines have been grabbed in recent weeks by Argentina’s most recent rumbling about debt repayment. A recent U.S. federal court ruling, which was then upheld by the Supreme Court, instructs Argentina to repay its American creditors. Argentina’s president, Christina Fernandez de Kirchner, has accused the U.S. government of being unfair, and even extortionate.

The case of Argentina reveals the problem with debt forgiveness: it gives the perverse incentive to governments to run up debts they know they will not have to pay. America should stick by its guns and ensure the repayment of its loans.

People are more irresponsible when they do not face the consequences of their actions. The same is true of states. When a state is not liable for the risks it takes, it has an incentive to increase its risk. This is the case in debt cancellation. When the developing country does not have to pay off its debt, it has no reason to concern itself with spending loans effectively; if things get bad they can simply have their debt forgiven.

The moral hazard problem causes the further perverse incentive for elites within countries to allow their people to suffer as a means of expediting acknowledgment by the creditor countries that they cannot possibly pay off their debts. It is pure folly to allow countries to renege on their lawfully accrued debts.

When one state, or group of states, is awarded a debt cancellation, fear of similar provisions being made for other states may be aroused in investors. This will lead to panic and movement of investment funds from developing world economies, which are already considered relatively more risky, to safer investments in the developed world.

By paying off their debts, however painful such payments may be in the present, not having to kowtow to creditors ensures their independence and engenders respect, rather than pity or contempt in a country’s neighbors. Default breeds contempt.

Developing countries must resolve their internal corruption and organizational problems that prevent them from effective development. In the case of Argentina, Ms. Kirchner must accept responsibility for her government’s profligacy and quit acting like a petulant child.



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

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