Friday, May 15, 2015

Understanding Russia

The ghastly Soviet episode is all that most Westerners know about Russia. But Russia is much more than that. And a broader understanding of Russia is surely important now that the appalling  Cold War with Russia has resumed.

To understand Russia,  you need to understand Russians.  You need to understand a people hardy enough to endure the terrible winters that grip most of the country -- and who flourish in that environment.  Such people are never going to be soft. And, more than that, you need to know something about Russian history and geography.

It is very presumptuous of me to address such a large topic in a short blog post, but at some risk of oversimplification, I am going to try to say something useful about all that.

Something that  most people are probably aware of in at least a dim way is the sheer size of the Russian Federation.  We all know  the strict boundaries that enclose most countries but in Russia we  have one country that spans the entire Eurasian continent -- from the Baltic to the Pacific.  And Russians are not dimly aware of it.  They are acutely aware of it. That one country could be so utterly exceptional is a matter of great and justified pride for them.  No other country is both a great European country and a great Asian country.

And Russia did not get there overnight.  It all began with Muscovy. After the curse of the Mongol domination had been thrown off, Muscovy steadily expanded.  It expanded through conquest and annexation from just 20,000 square kilometers in 1300 to 430,000 in 1462, 2.8 million in 1533, and 5.4 million by 1584.  And it didn't stop there.  Successive Muscovite leaders, not least being Ivan the Terrible, expanded and expanded again their realms.  Ivan the Terrible left his domain comprising a BILLION acres.

And they did that largely through good leadership.  As Wikipedia says of Ivan: "He was an able diplomat, a patron of arts and trade, founder of Russia's first Print Yard, a leader highly popular among the common people of Russia, but he is also remembered for his paranoia and arguably harsh treatment of the nobility"

And Russian expansion never really stopped until the end of the Soviet era.  Given Russia's incredible history of expansion, the shrinking that took place after the Soviet collapse HAS to be seen by Russians as a great humiliation.  It feels like the end of their long and glorious history.

And let me not gloss over the details of that expansion.  It was often savage.  Ivan, for instance, really was terrible.  He even had his own son and heir apparent executed in one of his rages.

 And Ivan was not alone. Even into relatively recent times Russian  mercy was often in short supply.  The conquest of the Muslim Circassians in the 19th century has led some to speak of the Circassian genocide.  The Circassians had a rather nice tract of land on the North shore of the Black Sea and Russia wanted it.  They saw all of the Black sea region (including Crimea!) as rightly theirs. So they just drove the Circassians out -- mostly to what we now know as Turkey, on the South shore of the Black sea.

Leftists tend to portray pre-revolution Russia as backward and primitive.  But that is just the sort of reality-defying propaganda that you expect from Leftists.  It is true that Russia was mostly an  agricultural country and it is true that the Duma (parliament) was relatively weak versus the Tsar.

But it is also true that Russia WAS a democracy, or, more precisely, a constitutional monarchy.  The Tsar had approved a fairly modern constitution in 1906. And it was not primitive and backward overall. The lives of the farm-workers undoubtedly were poor and oppressed but Russia was rapidly industrializing and railroads were snaking out across the land.  And, despite the difficult climate and mostly indifferent soils, the farms were very productive.  Russia was a major exporter of grain until the Bolsheviks ruined everything, the farming sector in particular.  Something as basic as feeding their people has always been a problem for Communists.

This image, taken in 1911, shows some of the power generators in the Hindu Kush Hydro Power Plant, in Turkmenistan, the largest hyro-electric plant built during the Russian Empire

So is  Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin just reviving traditional Russian expansionism?  Not really. He is just trying to get back the ethnically Russian lands that were carelessly lopped off from Russia in the chaos of the immediate post-Soviet period.  He is trying to tidy up that re-organization. The implosion of the Soviets and the prosperity of his Western neighbors has made it clear to him that there are large limits on Russian power.

How do I know that? Because he has made all his moves in the East and has limited them to areas where Russians are in the majority. There are substantial Russian minorities both to the West and the East of the Russian Federation but he has shown no interest in them.  And his moves have grown more cautious, if anything.  He sent his tanks into the Russian bits of Georgia only under severe provocation from the Georgians and, even then, he was happy for those regions to remain autonomous rather than absorbing them into Russia.

And in Ukraine he has kept his tanks at home, content to encourage and arm the ethnic Russian Ukrainian rebels. He has boasted, undoubtedly accurately, that he could have his tanks in Kiev in a couple of weeks -- but he has not done so.  He has shown admirable restraint.  He knows that the West could do nothing to stop him but has chosen great caution nonetheless.

So what should the West do at this juncture?  One thing:  Recognize the great and justified pride Russians have in their country and their people.  "We shall overcome" was the song of a self-praising 1960s American clique but it would with much greater justification be seen as the song of the Russians.

They have endured terrible oppression, a terrible climate and two terrible wars with Germany -- and yet have still come out of it with a generally modern and powerful country that STILL stretches from one end of Eurasia to the other.  Britons for long had great pride in their now-lost worldwide empire.  How much more pride should Russians have in their still intact vast empire?

Russians have many reasons for pride -- not only in terms of their phenomenal territorial reach but also in the great contributions that Russians have made to science and technology and their equally great contributions to classical music, literature and art.  In all those respects Russia is among the top few of contributing nations.  Who invented the helicopter as we know it today?  Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky.  Who invented TV as we know it today?  The world's first 625-line television standard was designed in the Soviet Union in 1944, and became a national standard in 1946. And I hardly need to mention Russian achievements in space and the great range of acclaimed Russian composers and performers.  Does the name Tchaikovsy ring a bell?

So Russians tend to feel rather aggrieved that Russia is rarely accorded the respect that they feel it deserves. The Soviet image still looms large in people's thinking about Russia.  What Russia wants is by and large simply the respect that Russians feel is their due. If Western leaders weere to start praising Russia and Russian achievements instead of condemning Russia, it would be a great leap forward for world peace.  Any Western leader who publicly praised "the great Russian people" would almost immediately have the friendship of Russia.  And the friendship of Russia is very much worth having.

So Vladimir Vladimirovich is reasserting Russian power to great acclaim in Russia.  He is doing what any Russian ruler would do.  We must be glad that he is doing it with great caution and restraint.  No Western population would agree to a war with Russia so it is only his innate caution that keeps Europe largely undisturbed.

After two ghastly world wars erupting from their lands, Europeans generally are frantic to avoid any repetition of that. And pendula are very common in human affairs.  So from the furious nationalism of 1914, Europe has swung to the artificial and absurd internationalism of the EU.  And it seems clear that Vladimir Vladimirovich has also learned from that gory lesson, but without resorting to a corrupt internationalism.  No Russian would want a re-run of WWII.

Footnote:  Why do I refer to Mr Putin as Vladimir Vladimirovich?  It's just manners. Remember them?  It's terribly old-fashioned of me even to mention them, I suppose. The polite and friendly way to address or refer to any Russian is by way of his Christan name and patronymic (father's name).  And Russia still does have Christian names.  Russia is a Christian country.  They are a branch of our people.  The gospel was never lost in Russia even in the Soviet era  -- unlike most of the Western Europe of today.


Obama Disapproves: 'Kids Start Going to Private Schools...Private Clubs'

Obama is right that self-segregation by those whites who can afford it is rampant   -- but he ignores the cause of it.  Whites feel a desperaste need to insulate their families from black crime.  Gun deaths inflicted by whites in America approximate the European norm.  It is blacks who jack the rate sky-high.  Anybody in his right mind would want to get away from that. So Obama sees a problem (probably rightly) but ignores the cause  -- in a typically Leftist way.  Leftists are shallow thinkers about anything political.  There are ways black crime could be heavily reduced (e.g. Permanently exiling all convicted black criminals to Africa) but they are all outside the Overton Window at the moment

President Barack Obama told a gathering at Georgetown University on Tuesday that the problem isn't racial segregation, it's wealth segregation, manifested by "elites" who "are able to live together, away from folks who are not as wealthy."

"Kids start going to private schools," he said. (Just as he did and his own kids do.)

Once upon a time, the president noted, a banker lived in "reasonable proximity" to the school janitor; the janitor's daughter may have dated the banker's son; they may have attended the same church, rotary club, and public parks -- "all the things that stitch them together...contributing to social mobility and to a sense of possiblity and opportunity for all kids in that community."

But now "concentrations of wealth" have left some people less committed to investing in programs that benefit the poor:

"And what's happened in our economy is that those who are doing better and better -- more skilled, more educated, luckier, having greater advantages -- are withdrawing from sort of the commons -- kids start going to private schools; kids start working out at private clubs instead of the public parks. An anti-government ideology then disinvests from those common goods and those things that draw us together. And that, in part, contributes to the fact that there's less opportunity for our kids, all of our kids."

President Obama's two daughters attend an elite private school in Washington where tuition runs $37,750 ("includes hot lunch," the school's website notes). His wife and children ski at Aspen, an elite resort in Colorado. President Obama frequently golfs at exclusive private clubs. And the entire family takes summer vacations in a borrowed mansion in ritzy Martha's Vineyard or Hawaii.

But the president wasn't talking about himself or his family at Tuesday's Catholic-Evangelical Leadership Summit on Overcoming Poverty.

He was talking about hedge fund managers and corporate CEOS who now earn "thousands" of times more than the people who work for them. "Now, that's not because they're bad people," Obama said. "It's just that they have been freed from a certain set of social constraints."

White House spokesman Josh Earnest, asked on Wednesday morning about Obama's remark, said the president wasn't criticizing people for sending their children to private schools. "He's suggesting that all Americans need to keep in mind that it's in our collective best interests as a country and as individual citizens for us to invest in the common good -- for us to invest and make sure that we have good, quality public schools that are available for everybody."

'Who are you mad at?'

According to the president, "What used to be racial segregation now mirrors itself in class segregation and this great sorting that's taking place. Now, that creates its own politics. Right? I mean, there's some communities where...not only do I not know poor people, I don't even know people who have trouble paying the bills at the end of the month. I just don't know those people. And so there's a less sense of investment in those children. So that's part of what's happened.

"But part of it has also been -- there's always been a strain in American politics where you've got the middle class, and the question has been, who are you mad at, if you're struggling -- if you're working, but you don't seem to be getting ahead.

"And over the last 40 years, sadly, I think there's been an effort to either make folks mad at folks at the top (Obama himself has done this), or to be mad at folks at the bottom. And I think the effort to suggest that the poor are sponges, leaches, don't want to work, are lazy, are undeserving, got traction.

"And, look, it's still being propagated," Obama continued. "I mean, I have to say that if you watch Fox News on a regular basis, it is a constant menu -- they will find folks who make me mad. I don't know where they find them. (Laughter.) They're like, 'I don't want to work, I just want a free Obama phone' (laughter) -- or whatever. And that becomes an entire narrative -- right? -- that gets worked up. And very rarely do you hear an interview of a waitress -- which is much more typical -- who's raising a couple of kids and is doing everything right but still can't pay the bills."

"And so if we're going to change how (Republicans) John Boehner and Mitch McConnell think, we're going to have to change how our body politic thinks, which means we're going to have to change how the media reports on these issues and how people's impressions of what it's like to struggle in this economy looks like, and how budgets connect to that. And that's a hard process because that requires a much broader conversation than typically we have on the nightly news."

Even before he was elected president, Obama campaigned on the promise of wealth redistribution. Throughout his presidency Obama has been a champion of the middle class and an adversary of the wealthy. When he called for tax hikes on the wealthy in September 2011, he insisted it was "not class warfare," but "fairness."

In an August 2013 speech, he railed against "entrenched interests, those who benefit from an unjust status quo, (who) resisted any government efforts to give working families a fair deal."

And since 2013, he's talked repeatedly about income inequality, calling it an "issue that we have to tackle head on" by raising the minimum wage.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

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


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Obamacare:  A game of chicken coming up?

By Larry Levitt, writing for the AMA

 The game of chicken, which was popularized in the 1950s movie Rebel Without a Cause, has many variants, but the basic design goes like this: players involved in a conflict of some sort try not to yield in the hope that the other player will yield first. But the worst and potentially catastrophic outcome is when no one yields.

After hearing oral arguments on March 4, the US Supreme Court (aka SCOTUS) is deliberating in King v Burwell, a case that has the potential to unleash a massive game of chicken around the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

 The case centers ( on circumstances related to premium subsidies under the ACA, which are now available to people with low and moderate incomes in all states. King v Burwell challenges the legality of subsidies in states where the federal government set up an exchange because the state declined to set up its own health insurance marketplace.

 The consequences ( a decision in favor of the challengers would be swift and severe:

Subsidies would end—likely within a month of a decision, which is expected in late June—for about 7.5 million people who now qualify for them in the 34 states not running their own marketplaces (in the 17 state-based marketplaces, nothing would change and subsidies would continue).

The premiums these 7.5 million people pay for insurance, would rise from an average of $105 (after taking the subsidies into account) to $374 per month, an increase of 256%.

People who are sick and know they need insurance would likely work hard to find a way to keep it, but those who are healthy would likely drop it. The ACA’s individual mandate—which is the stick to get healthy people to enroll, working hand-in-hand with the carrot of the subsidies—would be largely ineffective. That’s because 83% of uninsured individuals who are currently eligible for subsidies would be exempt from the requirement to have coverage because it would be unaffordable without the subsidies.

The result in affected states would be a classic “death spiral.” Premiums would rise, more healthy people would drop their coverage, and that in turn would cause premiums to rise even more. This would destabilize the whole individual market in these states because insurers are required to set premiums within a state based on their entire individual market business, not just people buying through the marketplace.

No one will want to yield in this scenario. But the consequences of no one yielding are indeed dire.

The important thing to understand about the King v Burwell case is that it does not (at least as it’s been argued before the Court) involve the constitutionality of the ACA. Rather, it’s a matter of statutory interpretation: did the Internal Revenue Service have the authority under the law to provide subsidies in all states?

That means with just a few strokes on the keyboard, Congress could clarify that subsidies should be provided to people in state-based and federal marketplaces alike. Such a swerve would avoid a catastrophe quickly and easily. But with many Republicans in Congress adamantly opposed to Obamacare, no one expects such a yield.

Enter the 34 governors and state legislatures that have not set up their own marketplaces under the ACA. If they were to yield and create state-based marketplaces, they would render moot a possible Supreme Court ruling against subsidies in states without their own exchange. To be sure, there would be strong pressure on states to take this route. Many of their residents would lose insurance if they don’t, and they would be turning their backs on about $2 billion in federal aid ( each month. And they would avert a destabilization of their individual insurance market.

Some states have indicated they are considering this route ( However, others have said they will not participate ( in the implementation of Obamacare, which remains a controversial law.

There are also substantial logistical challenges involved in creating a marketplace quickly, even for those states that want to do so. The current state-based marketplaces took years to set up, and they benefited from federal start-up grants that no longer exist. The federal government would likely make it as easy as possible within legal constraints for states to qualify, including making available as an enrollment and eligibility system, much as they have done for Oregon, Nevada, and New Mexico ( But state-based marketplaces still couldn’t spring up in time, unless the Court issued a stay—which legal experts consider unlikely (—or Congress temporarily extended the subsidies (

A temporary extension of the subsidies would also give Congress time to consider tweaks to the ACA that it might enact in exchange for continuing subsidies permanently, or more far-reaching replacement plans (as have been floated recently by Republican leaders in the Senate ( and House []).

If Congress musters the votes for one of these alternative strategies, it will be up to President Obama to decide whether to allow potentially significant changes to his signature domestic achievement or keep driving straight ahead in the hopes that Congress or the states yield.

The justices will be deliberating over the next several months, with a decision expected the end of June. In the meantime, outside the courthouse, all the interested parties undoubtedly will be working to frame what a court ruling would mean and who is to blame for the consequences, trying to get someone else to swerve away first. Given the unpredictability of how this might play out, we probably won’t know who (if anyone) is going to yield until they do it.



Are State ACA Exchanges Breaking the Law Just to Keep Afloat?

The 16 states with ObamaCare exchanges have each had access to hundreds of millions of dollars in grant money from the federal government to help establish a successful marketplace. And yet, many are finding themselves struggling with high deficits and low enrollment.

This has led the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to issue a warning that states may be using the federal grant money illegally. Section 1311 of the Affordable Care Act not only requires state exchanges to be financially self-sustaining this year, but it also prohibits states from covering any operational expenses with the federal grant money. But since states are facing such dismal financial conditions, the Inspector General suspects that some states have no other alternatives to keep their exchanges afloat.

California, for example, received a whopping $1 billion in “Exchange Establishment Grants,” but still faces a huge deficit and low enrollment. In total, states with an exchange received $3.9 billion in these grants for the sole purpose of achieving self-sufficiency, but at least half of them are facing severe financial conditions.

In other words, it’s clear that some states will violate the law by failing to become self-sufficient this year. It’s also likely that many of them are currently violating the law by using federal grant money in order to keep their operations funded.

Given these facts, none of the 34 states currently using a federal marketplace should even consider setting up their own. After all, the law prohibits federal grants from being made available to states after January 1, 2015. So, whereas the other states had access to $3.9 billion in federal establishment grants just to get their flimsy marketplaces off the ground, these new states would have to do so with virtually nothing from Washington DC.

And yet, there are already people urging states to set up an exchange if King v. Burwell strikes down federal subsidies to enrollees in federal exchanges. They argue that these subsidies are essential for individuals and that the only way to keep them is for states to have their own exchange.

These arguments totally overlook the fact that state exchanges are likely resorting to illegal methods (knowingly or not) just to fund their exchange’s everyday operations. In other words, setting up an exchange hasn’t exactly been the stroll in the park that these proponents like to convey. For instance, Oregon's exchange was so terrible that they passed legislation to get rid of it, and several other states appear to be on the same exact path.

The best way to fix ObamaCare is to repeal it outright. If King v. Burwell results in more states establishing an exchange, then outright repeal will become virtually impossible.



Liberal Gun Control Ruins Another Life

I want to introduce you to Steffon Lamont Josey. He is a 24-year old New Jersey resident who aspires to become a police officer. He has excellent test scores that would easily qualify him to become a police officer and he is man of excellent character.

But on one fateful day two years ago, his future completely changed.

Steffon is owns a legal handgun. On September 30, 2013, he was checking his handgun in the garage when his younger sister surprised him. He instinctively put the pistol in his glove compartment so she wouldn’t see it. He always tried to keep the gun out of sight and locked away from his younger sister.

Later that day, he was driving to meet his fiancée and was pulled over by a police officer. When Josey reached to get his insurance and registration cards, he remembered: The handgun was still in the glove compartment.

In most states in the country, this wouldn’t be a huge problem. Yes, it is overall a bad idea to have a gun in the glove compartment and some states do have laws forbidding it. The last thing you want is for a police officer to see you reaching for a gun.

But in most states, it is completely legal for trained and qualified people to carry a loaded gun in the car.

At first, the police officer simply confiscated the weapon and issued Josey a summons. But when the young man went to the police station to pick up his gun, he had handcuffs slapped on his wrists. He was able to plead the charges down but Steffon Lamont Josey is still a felon and still barred from becoming a police officer. His life is ruined unless Chris Christie pardons him.

The Second Amendment is a crime in New Jersey, just like it is a crime in other liberal states.

This young man had a bright future ahead of him and because of one mistake, he is going to be a felon for the rest of his life. It’s time to put a stop to this madness. The Founders wrote that the right to “keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” and yet we continue to allow these liberal state legislatures to infringe on this fundamental right!

It may have taken 223 years, but in 2010, the Supreme Court ruled in McDonald v. Chicago that the Second Amendment applies to local and state governments just as much as the Federal government.

Yet today, more than 26.15% of all Americans live under a state regime that prohibits them from bearing arms for self-defense.

Imagine if we were talking about another Constitutional right. What do you think the reaction would be if 26% of Americans weren’t allowed to freely worship or were denied a trial by jury?

We would be up in arms. Yet when it comes to the Second Amendment, we have sat by and allowed liberal state legislators to pick away at it little by little until there’s nothing left.

New Jersey’s gun control laws resemble Nazi Germany more than they resemble Free America.



A predatory Federal bureaucracy in YOUR America

Federal agents stole $16,000 from a kid on his way to Los Angeles to make a music video

Joseph Rivers is a 22-year-old who has a dream of making a music video. With help from his supportive family, he persevered and saved, raising $16,000 in cash to leave his hometown in Michigan for Los Angeles to see his dream become reality.

Rivers' dream came crashing down on April 15 when federal agents seized the $16,000 based on the mere suspicion that it was connected to drug activity. Agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) boarded the Amtrak train in Albuquerque, New Mexico and began quizzing passengers about their travel. Believing he had nothing to hide, Rivers, an African-American, answered their questions and consented to a search. Agents found the cash and seized it. Rivers tried to tell the agents his story, but his words fell on deaf ears.

"I even allowed him to call my mother, a military veteran and [hospital] coordinator, to corroborate my story," Rivers told the Albuquerque Journal. "Even with all of this, the officers decided to take my money because he stated that he believed that the money was involved in some type of narcotic activity."

Not only was his dream of making a music video destroyed by these overzealous DEA agents, the seizure of the cash left Rivers without any money to survive once he reached Los Angeles. "I told [the DEA agents] I had no money and no means to survive in Los Angeles if they took my money," said Rivers. "They informed me that it was my responsibility to figure out how I was going to do that."

Rivers was not arrested, he was never even charged with a crime. But in the eyes of the DEA agents, his money was connected to illicit activity. Although New Mexico recently banned civil asset forfeiture, requiring a criminal conviction before property can be subject to forfeiture proceedings, the law applies only to state and local law enforcement. The DEA is a federal agency, and it operates under federal civil asset forfeiture laws, a form of government overreach that often deprives innocent people of their property or cash.

The "presumption of innocence" is a bedrock principle of the American legal system. The government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that an individual is guilty of a crime before meting out a punishment. This principle is reversed in civil asset forfeiture proceedings, property and cash accused of connection to a crime are presumed guilty. federal government need only meet a low standard of evidence, preponderance of the evidence. The property owner, however, must prove that the seized items are innocent to get them back. This involves a lengthy and costly legal fight from which most walk away, often allowing the government to keep a large portion of the cash as long as they can get a portion back.

Although he was defending seizures without a criminal conviction, an Albuquerque-based DEA official confirmed this perversion of the justice system. "We don’t have to prove that the person is guilty," he told the Albuquerque Journal in defense of the seizure. "It’s that the money is presumed to be guilty."

The Fifth Amendment guarantees that "[n]o deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law," but civil asset forfeiture violates this basic constitutional principle.

Rivers' lawyer, Michael Pancer, believes the actions of these overzealous law enforcement agents are predatory. "They have made a practice of doing searches without probable cause, convincing innocent people to give them consent [to search their bags],” Pancer told the ABQ Free Press. "If there is a fair amount of cash they seize it and wait to see what the person who lost it does. Some individuals they’ve taken money from are not acquainted with the legal system and they don’t know that they can try to get the money back."

Rivers' situation may not be an isolated incident for the DEA in Albuquerque. The ABQ Free Press reports that the DEA has seized nearly $1 million from Amtrak passengers over two years.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

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


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Leftism and the causal arrow

A group of psychologists have recently done some new research on an old topic -- status striving.  They see the desire to be thought well of by others as a basic and important human motive.  I don't argue with that as I have long argued that such a motive is what drives a lot of Leftism.  I have argued that such a need is so strong among Leftists that it borders on clinical narcissism.

So I was disappointed to see that they had correlated that need with all sorts of things EXCEPT politics.  I can't help wondering if that was deliberate -- but asking people their politics can be tricky so maybe not.

Their research rediscovered along the way something that pops up  in the medical literature almost every time it is examined: Being of lower socio-economic status goes with poorer health.  I will follow the journal abstract below with some comments about that:
Is the desire for status a fundamental human motive? A review of the empirical literature.

By Anderson, Cameron et al.


The current review evaluates the status hypothesis, which states that that the desire for status is a fundamental motive. Status is defined as the respect, admiration, and voluntary deference individuals are afforded by others. It is distinct from related constructs such as power, financial success, and social belongingness. A review of diverse literatures lent support to the status hypothesis: People’s subjective well-being, self-esteem, and mental and physical health appear to depend on the level of status they are accorded by others.

People engage in a wide range of goal-directed activities to manage their status, aided by myriad cognitive, behavioral, and affective processes; for example, they vigilantly monitor the status dynamics in their social environment, strive to appear socially valuable, prefer and select social environments that offer them higher status, and react strongly when their status is threatened.

The desire for status also does not appear to be a mere derivative of the need to belong, as some theorists have speculated.

Finally, the importance of status was observed across individuals who differed in culture, gender, age, and personality, supporting the universality of the status motive. Therefore, taken as a whole, the relevant evidence suggests that the desire for status is indeed fundamental.

Psychological Bulletin.  2015  Volume 141, Issue 3 (May). Pages 574-601
Something I have difficulty with are the following statements from the body of their article:
Perhaps the strongest test of the status hypothesis is whether the possession of low status impacts health. If so, this would suggest that failing to satisfy the desire for status produces consequences that extend beyond decreased levels of happiness and dampened feelings of self-worth. It would suggest that status motive is powerful enough that when it is thwarted, individuals begin to suffer from psychological and physical pathology......

Evidence from multiple research literatures suggests that low status contributes to poor health. People with low status in their community exhibit higher rates of psychological disturbances, such as depression and anxiety, and experience physical health problems, such as higher blood pressure and a greater susceptibility to infectious disease. Proxies of low status, such as lower organizational rank and the tendency to behave in deferential ways, were also linked to mental and physical illness. Taken together, the reviewed evidence suggests that being accorded low status by others not only damages subjective well-being and self-esteem, it also promotes psychological and physical pathology.
I think they have got it ass-backwards. I think the causal arrow is pointing the other way.  They propose that low status --> poor health, while I would argue that poor health --> low status (where the arrow is read as "causes").  I think it is poor health that holds you back in life and thus leads to a realistic perception in others that you are not a person of high status.  And being perceived as a person of low status will usually lead to the person concerned recognizing that he is perceived in that way.

There is no doubt that poor health DOES hold you back in various ways so Occams Razor would tell us that that is a sufficient explanation for the observed correlations.  The onus is on the researchers to show that there is some effect in the other direction.  I cannot see where they have shown that. And since they see the correlation with health as the key test of their theory we are entitled to give the old Scottish verdict of "not proven" to their overall claims.  They are probably right but have not shown it well.  They should be more careful about jumping to conclusions.  Assuming the direction of the causal  arrow is however a besetting sin in the research literature. They are far from alone in seeing only what they expect to see.

So in any future research into status striving, it would be unwise to use state of health as an index of it.

Their conclusion about health is of course classic Leftist crocodile tears: It is a variation on "Poverty hurts the poor", or, "being poor is bad for you".  Their variation is "being of low status is bad for you".  I think I have shown that such a conclusion is not warranted by their findings


Another stupid Leftist assumption about the causal arrow

The crocodile tears never stop.  Once again we are being told that being poor is bad for you.  I will follow the article below with some comments

Stress can leave damaging and lasting imprints on the genes of the urban poor.  This is according to a new study that claims poor people's DNA is declining in quality as a result of difficult upbringings.

The results are based on the finding that people in disadvantaged environments have shorter telomeres — DNA sequences that generally shrink with age — than their advantaged peers.

Previous research has found telomere length can reliably predict life expectancy in humans.

The study found that low-income residents of Detroit, no matter their race, have shorter telomeres than the national average.

'There are effects of living in high-poverty, racially segregated neighbourhoods,' Dr Arline Geronimus, a visiting scholar at the Stanford Center for Advanced Study said in an interview with The Huffington Post.

Within this group, how race-ethnicity and income were associated with telomere length varied dramatically.


There are reasons for being poor -- being dumb, being lazy, having poor social skills, being in bad health etc.  So assuming that being poor makes you dumb or unhealthy (etc.) gets it ass-backwards.  The researchers above mistake the direction of the causal arrow.  They claim poverty --> poor health, while I would argue that poor health --> poverty.

The researchers simply failed to ask WHY people are poor. They failed to look at the circumstances antecedent to their research -- a politically incorrect enquiry, I guess. Had they done that they would have seen that their conclusion is the unlikely one.

Their data show only that in poor people there is a lot of ill health -- which is in fact probably the most reliable finding in medical research.  Whatever ailment medical researchers look at, it is generally found to be most frequent among people of low socio-economic status.  But correlation is not causation so that repeated finding permits NO causal conclusions whatever.  Only looking at the big picture behind the findings can suggest causal explanations.  And that poor health is in general a considerable barrier to getting rich can hardly be disputed --- JR

Being tall has many advantages

It has been known for over 50 years that high IQ people are taller and have better health.  So I have long argued that this is evidence of a general syndrome of greater evolutionary fitness -- of which IQ is just one marker.  The findings below are rather strong evidence in support of that.  All men are NOT equal.  Nature is in fact rather unfair.  Wise people live with that

Being tall may come with practical problems, such as the lack of legroom on aeroplanes, but there are some perks, too. Last month, researchers at Ohio State University reported that tall people are, on average, cleverer and have better social skills.

They said this could explain why studies in the past have found that tall people tend to earn more — as much as an extra £100,000 over a 30-year career.

That study followed research showing tall people are less likely to develop heart disease than short people. In fact height is now attracting a great deal of attention as a predictor of future health, affecting your risk of a range of diseases, from dementia to stroke.

A number of studies suggest that height is linked to the risk of developing dementia. Perhaps the strongest evidence for this came from a study published last November in the British Journal of Psychiatry, which analysed data from 18 studies.

The team found that men under 5ft 6in (167cm) had a 36 per cent higher risk of dementia than men over 5ft 10in (177cm).

That doesn’t mean being short causes dementia. Shorter height can be associated with certain pressures in early life, such as stress, illness or poor nutrition, which may predispose someone to dementia, says lead author Dr Tom Russ, lecturer in old age psychiatry at the University of Edinburgh.

He says early life stresses may affect a person’s cognitive reserve — the brain’s resistance to age-related damage. ‘People think of dementia as a disease of old age, but this suggests you are accumulating risk factors throughout the course of your life.’

When it comes to heart health, the news for shorter people may not be great, either. It seems they may also be more prone to heart disease, according to research published last month by the University of Leicester.

The researchers found a 5ft (153cm) tall person had a 32 per cent higher risk of heart disease than someone who is 5ft 6in (167cm).

This association isn’t new. Analysis of data from more than a million people, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology in 2012, found clear links between shortness and higher risk of dying from heart disease, stroke and heart failure.

The latest research suggests the link is down to genes, rather than environmental factors such as diet. The team looked at 180 genetic variants that are known to control height, and found that those variants linked with shorter stature also had an effect on cholesterol, fat levels and overall heart disease risk.



Virginia: African refugee from Togo in US for nine days before attempted rape

Tchalim Koboya Lidawo, your friendly refugee next door?  He gets only ten years for attempted rape?  If a passerby hadn’t come along it wouldn’t have only been “attempted.”

By the way, I wondered if he was a legitimate ‘refugee.’ or here through some other legal program.  So, I checked the State Department stats and was surprised to find that we do take refugees from Togo.  Why?

So much for that security screening the US State Department and its contractors are always bragging about!
Leesburg, Va. – A West African man who attempted to rape a woman just nine days after arriving in the United States has been sentenced to ten years in prison.  Tchalim Koboya Lidawo pleaded no contest to two counts of attempted rape and one count of abduction with force in connection to an incident that occurred on December 4th, 2014, the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office said.

The incident occurred at an Ashburn apartment complex, according to officials. The victim told law enforcement that she was taking out her trash when Lidawo approached her near the dumpster. He grabbed the victim and dragged her into some nearby woods, officials said.  A struggle ensued, the victim fell down, and Lidawo climbed on top of her, according to the attorney’s office said.

A passerby heard the victim’s screams and approached, causing Lidawo to get up and run into the woods. The victim provided police with a description of Lidawo, leading to his arrest.

Lidawo was sentenced to ten years with additional five years of suspended time according to officials. He must also pay a $5,000 fine.

As a native of Togo, Lidawo may be removed from the United States when he is released.  [He won’t be!]  So now we get to pay for his prison stay!

I think there should be a requirement that the US State Department and its contractors pay for the legal costs of criminal trials and imprisonment for every refugee who commits a crime.  Of course, that would still come out of our pockets (the taxpayers), but it would send a very important message to the public.



Mediterranean Diet and Age-Related Cognitive Decline: A Randomized Clinical Trial

Ancel Keys' mistaken claims (from the 1950s!) about the wonders of the Mediterranean diet seem to have everlasting life so it always provokes me when they pop up anew.  But I can't justify reproducing or saying much about this study.  They found that elderly Spaniards -- who had presumably been on a Mediterranean diet anyhow -- were slightly less likely to go demented if they were given extra olive oil and nuts.  So it is not at all clear that it is a study of the Mediterranean diet. It seems to be a study of oil and nuts.

They used a large range of tests to assess mental function but the effect of the intervention on test scores was in all cases only marginally significant statistically, despite the large sample size.  Composites of the tests got much better statistical significance but the effects remained very small.  Suffice it to say that it would be incautious to draw any general conclusions from this rather idiosyncratic study.

It's all HERE

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


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

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


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The natural state of affairs

The political Left is widely and reasonably identified as people opposed to the status quo.  They sure are.  There is virtually nothing at present existing in the world that they would not like to overturn if they could.  Such a big overturn can only be attained via a revolution but, ever since the French revolution,  Leftists have managed quite a few of those.  And the French revolutionaries even wanted to change the calendar.

But the awkward fact is that conservatives don't like the status quo either.  In fact nobody does.  I have yet to meet anyone who is completely happy with the world about him.  I suspect such a person would have to be a hebephrenic or some other sort of mental case.

So how come Leftists are so identified with opposition to the status quo?  The easy answer is that they are more passionate about it and more involved over it.  They are driven by anger about things that others feel they can live with.  The emotional importance of change differentiates and drives them.  They are hell-bent (sometimes literally) on change.

While that is all undoubtedly true it doesn't provide a really sharp differentiation of the Left from others.  And I think we can improve on it.  And to do that I think we have to refer to the natural state of affairs.  "The natural state of affairs"?  What is that?  It is a concept sometimes used in both law and economics but I want to broaden its applicability.  I think it is actually quite easy to define in a generally applicable way.  It means whatever people would do in the absence of external constraints.

And Leftists are big on external constraints.  They are continually trying to make laws and regulations that will move people away from doing what they otherwise would do.  There is general agreement that some basic laws are needed -- prohibition against assault, murder, theft etc. but Leftists go far beyond that.  In a celebrated case one of them even wanted to forbid you from buying fizzy drinks in a container that was bigger than a certain size.  Leftist would regulate EVERYTHING if they could.  And in the Soviet Union they went close to achieving it.  Leftists are the ultimate authoritarians.  They want to STOP people doing what they would do in a natural state of affairs.

So I think we can now make a pretty sharp distinction between the changes Leftists want and the changes that conservatives want. Leftists want change AWAY from the natural state of affairs while conservatives want changes TOWARDS the natural state of affairs -- or at least changes that respect the natural state of affairs.

For instance, in a natural state of affairs people would tend to discriminate in various ways.  They would and do tend to give various sorts of preference to people like themselves.  And conservatives generally understand that.  But to Leftists discrimination is an offence deserving of severe punishment.  They want to stop people doing what they are normally and naturally inclined to do.  Their need for change and the dreams of utopia that drive them make them the enemy of the natural state of affairs.


Baltimore: The Intersection of the Grievance Culture and the Welfare State

After the mysterious death of suspect Freddie Gray, the Maryland state’s attorney for Baltimore charged all six Baltimore police officers involved with his arrest and transport. The crimes ranging from “second-degree depraved-heart murder” to involuntary manslaughter, assault, misconduct in office and false imprisonment. Locals cheered her decision to charge all six. The charges followed three days of riots triggered by Gray’s funeral and came almost immediately after the medical examiner filed his report calling Gray’s death a “homicide.”

Now for the hard part.

Not only will the charges be difficult to prove but three of those charged are black. The claim of illegal “racial profiling” argues that white racist officers possess an unwarranted fear of young black men. But what happens to that analysis when the accused officers are black? If black cops are just as likely to engage in race-based misconduct, why did Ferguson demonstrators demand a “diverse” police force?

If the Ferguson outrage and riots were about “lack of representation” or “lack of voice,” this cannot be said about Baltimore. The city council is majority black, the police department is approximately 40 percent black, the top two officials running the department are black men, the city has a black mayor, the state’s attorney for Baltimore City — who charged the six officers — is black, the new U.S. attorney general is a black female, and of course the President of the United States is black.

The left has created a culture of anger and entitlement based upon government dependency and the false assertion that racism remains a major problem. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., for example, said that the recent police killings mean “open season on black men in America.” The Baltimore mayor’s shameful embrace of the Rev. Al Sharpton, the race-hustling incendiary who demanded an arrest of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, did not help matters. Some actually believe this tripe about “institutional racism.” Of those, how many rioted over Freddie Gray’s “murder,” no matter the race of the mayor?

Police shootings over the last several decades are down. Cop shootings of blacks are down more than 75 percent over the last 45 years, while the death-by-cop rate for whites has increased slightly. According to the CDC — which tracks all causes of death, including shootings by law enforcement — over twice as many whites are killed by police as are blacks.

Police “profile” because out of a relatively small percentage of the population come more than 50 percent of homicides and 40 percent of the people behind bars. Blacks are 13 percent of the population, but young blacks — the category that disproportionately commits crime — are 3 percent of the population.

Speaking of “root causes,” Baltimore has not had a Republican mayor since 1967. So why haven’t the Democrats addressed the “root causes”? In 1992, then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton blamed the “Rodney King riots” in Los Angeles on “12 years of denial and neglect” under the Reagan/Bush presidencies. Can we similarly attribute Baltimore’s riots to six years of Obama’s “progressive” policies?

Baltimore, Democrats say, needs a “new Marshall plan.” But, according to The Heritage Foundation, we have spent over $22 trillion on anti-poverty programs. On education in Baltimore, in 2012 (the latest year available), they spent $15,287 per student. Yet almost half of urban Baltimoreans fail to graduate high school, and of those who do, many cannot read write and compute at grade level. Spend more?

In 1965, 25 percent of black kids were born out of wedlock. Today that number is up to 72 percent. Obama said that a kid without a father is 20 times more likely to go to jail. Blame the welfare state that incentivizes women into marrying the government.

Last year 189 blacks were killed in Baltimore. Where were CNN and President Barack Obama and then-Attorney General Eric Holder and Sharpton? Chicago averages 35 to 40 murders per month, the majority by and against blacks — and most remain unsolved. Where are CNN/Obama/Holder/Sharpton?

Obama has now misfired in at least four “racial” matters: the Cambridge police/Harvard professor incident; Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman; Michael Brown/Darren Wilson; and now Baltimore.

Obama’s claimed the “Cambridge police acted stupidly” in arresting black Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., who falsely and belligerently accused a white officer of racial profiling.

In the case of Trayvon Martin, Obama said, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” But the jury found Zimmerman not only not guilty, but jurors later said that during their deliberations race never came up.

In the case of Ferguson, the Department of Justice found that Michael Brown very likely did not have his hands up and that the cop acted appropriately when he killed Brown, a charging suspect who posed a risk of death or serious injury.

Who would’ve thought that after the election and reelection of the nation’s first black president, we’d see race riots in our nation’s cities? Baltimore is what happens at the intersection of the grievance culture and the welfare state.



Americans need their lost 4th Amendment protections

The GOP Senate Majority Leader is pushing to reauthorize the Patriot Act without any changes or alterations.

It’s absolute madness. He says he is a defender of the Constitution however he has introduced legislation that absolutely guts the Fourth Amendment.

The Patriot Act is the law that allows law enforcement to spy on you and tap your phones without a warrant. This is the law that allows the police to hold you in prison indefinitely as long as they claim you’re connected with terrorism. This is the law that gave the NSA the power to record everything that Americans do on the internet.

The law expires in only a couple of weeks. Yet, instead of allowing this horrible law to die, Mitch McConnell is pushing to have it reauthorized!

A lot of you will probably ask what the big fuss is. You might even say there’s nothing to worry about if I have nothing to hide.

These aren’t the British Colonies anymore. Our forefathers fought a war of independence so that Americans wouldn’t have to worry about this sort of government intrusion.  For goodness sake, they fleshed it out in the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution!

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…”

This is supposed to protect us against warrantless wiretaps, NSA surveillance, and other illegal searches. But under the Patriot Act, it’s all fair game as long as some bureaucrat or agent claims you’re a terrorist.

There’s a reason that both the right and the left are united in opposition against this horrible law. It doesn’t happen often, but this is one of those instances.

The most horrendous parts of the Patriot Act are set to expire on June 1st of this year. These are three of those provisions:

* Section 215: This part of the law is what grants the NSA the power to spy on Americans and collect cell phone and internet records. If this provision expires, the NSA loses the authority to spy on innocent Americans. This is the best chance we have of reining in the NSA!

* Lone Wolf Provision: This is what allows law enforcement to bend the rules and violate the Constitution. Claiming that an individual is a “lone wolf terrorist” gives law enforcement unprecedented powers to surveil and apprehend individuals.

* Roving Wiretap Provision: This part of the law is what is known as Section 206. Imagine if the FBI had the authority to, with a single search warrant, raid every house or business you have been to or associated with in the past year. Well, stop imagining because this is exactly what Section 206 does. It’s completely unconstitutional.

Anyone who supports renewing the Patriot Act is against the Constitution. Period. And they need to be reminded that their actions speak louder than words.

For months, we have heard politicians on both side of the aisle give their stump speeches claiming that the NSA and other intelligence agencies need to be reined in. This is our chance.

Tell your Congressman and Senators to honor their oaths and STOP Democrat and Republican leadership from renewing the Patriot Act!



How occupational licensure hurts small business

On this year’s Small Business Week, it behooves us all to examine some of the policies that keep entrepreneurs from achieving their potential. While support of small business is a favorite talking point of both political parties, there in fact remain many government-created barriers designed to protect big businesses from smaller competitors. One such barrier is occupational license requirements.

Nearly 30 percent of workers in the United States now require a license to perform their job. If you ask a politician why this is so, they will likely justify licensing with appeals to safety and consumer protection. When it comes to practicing medicine or operating heavy machinery, this explanation makes some amount of intuitive sense, but there are plenty of other occupations for which the rationale is less clear.

Here is a partial list of occupations that require licenses in at least one state: florist, hair braider, interior decorator, hypnotist, personal trainer, landscape architect, auctioneer, dietitian, barber, librarian, makeup artist, funeral attendant, travel agent, shampooer, home entertainment installer, and so on, and so on. Some of these appear to make sense, but it’s pretty hard to see how consumers place themselves in danger by patronizing an unlicensed florist.

But what’s the big deal, right? Why shouldn’t these people prove their competence before being allowed to serve the public? The answer is that these policies are not really about protecting consumers, but about protecting existing businesses from competition. License requirements vary heavily across the country, but compliance costs are often very high both in terms of time and money– high enough to deter would-be entrepreneurs from entering the business unless they have a lot of startup capital.

For example, a license to cut hair in Washington, DC requires 1500 hours of training costing tens of thousands of dollars. That’s in addition to all the regular startup costs, such as rent, utilities, and equipment. This is a pretty considerable hurdle for a talented and self-trained barber to overcome to enter the business.

Some real life examples illustrate how license requirements hurt real people, customers and businessmen alike. In New York, there has been a continuing effort to shut down African hair braiders for operating without a license. Hair braiding is not dangerous to consumers, and most of practitioners are female African immigrants who lack other skills or even a strong command of the English language. For them, jumping through the hoops of obtaining a license is simply not an option, especially since most cosmetology schools don’t even teach the kind of hair braiding they do. But instead of encouraging their talent, the legal prohibition preventing them from earning a living drives them onto public assistance. Licensed hairdressers simply don’t want to put up with the competition.

In 2011, a man diagnosed with diabetes started a free blog to share what he had learned about his condition with others and offer dietary advice. The State Board shut him down because he was not a licensed dietitian, even though he was not charging for his services. The local nutritionist lobby didn’t want to compete with free tips. In this case, it was the consumers who lost out, being denied free advice that they would now be forced to pay a premium for.

Part of the problem is that state-level legislators who enact these requirements know virtually nothing about the affected industries. When they are confronted with a group of lobbyists from, say, the auctioneers’ union, they have to listen to a lot of long-winded speeches about how licenses are necessary to protect the public. Being at a knowledge disadvantage, few politicians have the instincts to second guess these sophisticated and well-crafted arguments. The unemployed, would-be entrepreneurs have no such powerful lobbying shop to stand up for their interests.

Occupational licenses began as a well-intentioned consumer protection measure, but in recent years they have transformed into a tool for incumbents to hinder their competition, imposing costly regulations they can afford, but their competition cannot. If states are serious about helping small business, they should start from scratch and reevaluate all occupational licenses to determine which are truly necessary, and which are merely tools of protectionism.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

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


Monday, May 11, 2015

More embarrassing facts for the shallow thinkers of the Left!  One sometimes wonders if they think at all

We read:

"A study of survival rates in trauma patients following health insurance reform in Massachusetts found a passing increase in adjusted mortality rates, an unexpected finding suggesting that simply providing insurance incentives and subsidies may not improve survival for trauma patients, according to a report published online by JAMA Surgery.

Massachusetts introduced health care reform in 2006 to expand health insurance coverage and improve outcomes. Some previous research has suggested improved survival rates following injury in patients with insurance. But the relationship of insurance to survival after injury may not be well understood. Some might expect that survival after traumatic injury may be unrelated to a person's insurance status because all injured persons have access to emergency care, according to the study background.

Turner Osler, M.D., M.Sc., of the University of Vermont, Colchester, and coauthors conducted a study of more than 1.5 million patients hospitalized following traumatic injury in Massachusetts or New York, a neighboring state that did not institute health care reform like Massachusetts. The study examined the 10 years (2002-2011) surrounding reform in Massachusetts.

The rates of uninsured trauma patients in Massachusetts decreased steadily from 14.9 percent in 2002 to 5 percent in 2011. The authors also found health care reform was associated with a passing increase in the adjusted mortality rate that accounted for as many as 604 excess deaths during four years.

"Fortunately, the increase in mortality among trauma patients following Massachusetts HCR [health care reform] resolved within a few years. It may not be possible to retrospectively reconstruct the causal pathway responsible for the increased excess deaths following HCR and its subsequent resolution. ... There are compelling arguments for providing health insurance to all citizens of the United States but our analysis suggests that simply providing health insurance incentives and subsidies does not improve survival for trauma patients. ... Ours is thus a cautionary tale for health care reformers: successful HCR for trauma patients will likely require more complex interventions than simply promoting health insurance coverage legislatively."

Comment: Taxachusetts was way ahead of Obamacare in giving people that wonderful publicly subsidized health insurance.  So people there don't die for want of insurance any more -- Right?  As we read above, some pesky medical researchers have just reported the evidence on that.  And???  More people DIED under the Massachusetts system.  The outcome was the exact opposite of what Leftists were so sure they could deliver.  Their meddling was harmful, not helpful.  Where have we seen that before? And will we see it from Obamacare?

The researchers describe the change they observed as "transient", meaning that the effect was seen only in the first few years of the new system. But have the Obamacare architects learned from that?  Not that I can see.  They seem in fact to have made the same mistakes. So this report probably means that Obamacare will kill tens of thousands of Americans.

Their report that earlier studies had shown better outcomes for insured people is naive.  People who took out private health insurance in the past would in general have been smarter and richer.  And both smart and rich people are known to have better  health generally than others.  It's one of the most consistent findings in medical research.  And healthier people are more survivable after misadventure.

And I don't have to be as coy as the researchers above in addressing the cause behind the findings:  The increase in the number of insured patients led to an increase in demand for medical services.  It was meant to. What would be the point of the legislation otherwise?  But that increase was not matched by a similar increase in available medical personnel.  So the healthcare system became overstretched, meaning that EVERYONE got worse care, including, sadly, emergency cases.  And Obamacare was similarly implemented.  It has, if anything, REDUCED the availability of medical personnel. If that is not turned around somehow (How?), the avoidable deaths will continue too.

So in their typically short-sighted Leftist way, the Massachusetts and Obamacare legislators did not consider the probable downstream effects of their new healthcare legislation.  But they did get what they wanted out of it -- the warm inner glow of being SEEN to be helping the poor. That they actually harmed everyone was of no concern to them.

Or, as T.S. Eliot rather generously put it over 50 years ago: "Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm -- but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves."

I do still occasionally report my amazement at the follies I see as a result of my frequent readings in the medical journals and this finding certainly justifies that odd hobby of mine.  And it is particularly enjoyable to have a "big dig" at Taxachusetts.  Puncturing hubris is always amusing.  Journal abstract below

Survival Rates in Trauma Patients Following Health Care Reform in Massachusetts

By Turner Osler et al.


IMPORTANCE: Massachusetts introduced health care reform (HCR) in 2006, expecting to expand health insurance coverage and improve outcomes. Because traumatic injury is a common acute condition with important health, disability, and economic consequences, examination of the effect of HCR on patients hospitalized following injury may help inform the national HCR debate.

OBJECTIVE: To examine the effect of Massachusetts HCR on survival rates of injured patients.

DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS Retrospective cohort study of 1,520,599 patients hospitalized following traumatic injury in Massachusetts or New York during the 10 years (2002-2011) surrounding Massachusetts HCR using data from the State Inpatient Databases.

We assessed the effect of HCR on mortality rates using a difference-in-differences approach to control for temporal trends in mortality.

INTERVENTION Health care reform in Massachusetts in 2006.

MAIN OUTCOME AND MEASURE Survival until hospital discharge.

RESULTS During the 10-year study period, the rates of uninsured trauma patients in Massachusetts decreased steadily from 14.9%in 2002 to 5.0.%in 2011. In New York, the rates of uninsured trauma patients fell from 14.9%in 2002 to 10.5%in 2011.

The risk-adjusted difference-in-difference assessment revealed a transient increase of 604 excess deaths (95% CI, 419-790) in Massachusetts in the 3 years following implementation of HCR.

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE Health care reform did not affect health insurance coverage for patients hospitalized following injury but was associated with a transient increase in adjusted mortality rates. Reducing mortality rates for acutely injured patientsmay require more comprehensive interventions than simply promoting health insurance coverage through legislation.

JAMA Surg. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2014.2464 Published onlineMay 6, 2015


U.S. Emergency-Room Visits Keep Climbing

People on Medicaid turn to hospital care when doctor access is limited, new survey suggests

Emergency-room visits continued to climb in the second year of the Affordable Care Act, contradicting the law’s supporters who had predicted a decline in traffic as more people gained access to doctors and other health-care providers.

A survey of 2,098 emergency-room doctors conducted in March showed about three-quarters said visits had risen since January 2014. That was a significant uptick from a year earlier, when less than half of doctors surveyed reported an increase. The survey by the American College of Emergency Physicians is scheduled to be published Monday.

Medicaid recipients newly insured under the health law are struggling to get appointments or find doctors who will accept their coverage, and consequently wind up in the ER, ACEP said. Volume might also be increasing due to hospital and emergency-department closures—a long-standing trend.

Emergency-room visits are climbing, despite predictions that the Affordable Care Act would lead to less traffic. WSJ’s Stephanie Armour joins the News Hub. Photo: Getty
“There was a grand theory the law would reduce ER visits,” said Dr. Howard Mell, a spokesman for ACEP. “Well, guess what, it hasn’t happened. Visits are going up despite the ACA, and in a lot of cases because of it.”

The health law’s impact on emergency departments has been closely watched because it has significant implications for the public. ER crowding has been linked to longer wait times and higher mortality rates.

“As people gain access to affordable, high-quality coverage, they are more likely to get the right care when they need it,” said Aaron Albright, a spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “For people who have utilized emergency rooms for nonemergency care in the past, we are continuing to work to reach out and provide information on how to best use their new coverage.”

The Affordable Care Act is also making critical investments to train more doctors and nurses, especially in communities that have lacked access to quality, affordable care in the past, he said.

More than half of providers listed in Medicaid managed-care plans couldn’t schedule appointments for enrollees, according to a December report by the Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General. Among providers who could offer appointments, the median wait time was two weeks, but more than a quarter of doctors had wait times of more than a month for an appointment.

Many doctors don’t accept Medicaid patients because the state-federal coverage provides lower reimbursement rates than many private health-insurance plans. The waits for primary and specialty care by participating doctors appear to be leaving some Medicaid patients with the ER as the only option, according to ACEP.

“We’re seeing a huge backlog in the ER because the volume has increased,” said Ryan Stanton, an emergency-room doctor at Baptist Health Lexington in Kentucky. “This year we already have had to board people in the ER because of the sheer volumes,” he said, referring to a practice of keeping patients in the ER until a hospital room becomes available.

Dr. Stanton said ER volume rose about 10% in 2014 from 2013, and was up almost 20% in the first few months of this year.

The ACEP survey also found that ERs are seeing sicker patients: About 90% of the doctors polled said the severity of illness has stayed the same or gotten worse. That might be explained in part by an aging population, newly insured people with multiple maladies, and people delaying care because they have high-deductible insurance plans.

Nicholas Vasquez, a medical director for an emergency department in Mesa, Ariz., said volume rose 5% in a year, representing about 10 more patients a day. The stress from bigger caseloads prompted some nurses to resign, he said. “Physicians are working more shifts—that pushes them a lot,” Dr. Vasquez said. “If they work too much, they get burnt out. For patients, it means longer waits.”

Some states have been trying to curb ER use by Medicaid recipients by requiring higher copayments for visits deemed nonurgent. Critics have denounced that practice as punitive, and warn that it will dissuade low-income patients from seeking care that may be necessary.

A 2013 study by Truven Health Analytics that examined insurance claims for more than 6.5 million ER visits by commercially insured people under age 65 found just 29% of patients required immediate attention. Twenty-four percent didn’t require immediate attention, 41% received care that could have been provided in a primary-care setting, and 6% got care that would have been preventable or avoidable with proper primary care.

More than 40% of emergency physicians said they expect emergency-room visits to increase if the Supreme Court rules that subsidies provided to people who obtain insurance on the federal exchange are invalid. The court is expected to rule by late June.



Sharpton’s Progressivism is Authoritarian Nationalism

In his call for the nationalization of police forces, Al Sharpton perfectly encapsulates the mainstream left — frequently dead on target in the diagnosis, yet prescribing a remedy that would only exacerbate the infection. The problems Sharpton identifies, persistent police abuse, unaccountability, and distance between the police and the policed, are the results of a forced monopoly system, one in which arbitrary power is concentrated in the hands of a small group of law enforcement and court officials.

Nationalization would compound these problems by even further centralizing power, increasing the distance (both literally and figuratively) between policing decision-makers and policed communities, and eliminating the checks and balances generated by allowing people to “vote with their feet.” Instead of municipal monopolies providing defense services, which have proven themselves dangerous enough, Sharpton would subject Americans to a single federal police force, echoing Barack Obama’s ominous call for a “civilian national security” force back in 2008.

Sharpton’s proposed remedy shows the mainstream left’s true colors, rooted in the nationalistic, essentially fascist politics of the Progressive Era. The invocation of “fascism,” in this context, should not be taken as mere name-calling. Rather, the ideas of the Progressive Era were self-consciously, even proudly fascist, a deliberate reaction against classical liberalism, calling for increased state management of the economy through bureaucratic expert oversight and collusion between political and economic power that blurred the supposedly hard-and-fast lines between the public and private sectors.

Professional police were very much a central feature of Progressive politics. Experts in government believed that professionalizing police, creating a science of policing and separating officers from particular communities, would position officers above the vagaries of politics and place, thereby leading to safer, more effective policing. But reliance on ostensibly impartial expertise, allowing committees in remote seats of government to dictate rules to everyone, is just how we get the culture of impunity we see in police departments today. Held above competition and empowered by the militarization and over-criminalization of the war on drugs, municipal police departments have free rein to abuse the communities that they are meant to serve and protect.

Confronted with systemic problems created by the state’s coercive interferences with and obstructions of human beings’ natural patterns of life, Progressives like Al Sharpton call for more and stronger government. If Sharpton would look just a bit more closely, question establishment reasoning just a bit more critically, he would see that the American government has been the single greatest enemy of the poor and oppressed, especially black Americans.

The problem is not too little government power and centralized control — it’s too much. The authoritarian reflex and its quick fixes are powerful, but they’re neither genuinely progressive nor liberal.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

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


Sunday, May 10, 2015

The innate good sense and moderation of the vast majority of the English people

A comment on the recent outright victory of the Conservatives in the British general election below.  The Conservatives won despite the deck being stacked against them -- including a gerrymandered electoral system, the BBC and most of the entertainment industry

The outcome of the General Election was a Victory for England. Chesterton’s ‘secret people’ have spoken.

As I predicted on Tuesday, voters simply couldn’t countenance the terrifying prospect of an extreme Left-wing Labour government propped up by a gang of marauding Scottish Stalinists.

The result was an emphatic reminder of the innate good sense and moderation of the vast majority of the English people.

And with all due respect to our fellow citizens in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland who also rejected the Life On Mars retro-socialism of Labour and the SNP, this was an English victory.

Call Me Dave is a lucky bunny. This result owed nothing to the lacklustre Tory campaign and everything to the small-c conservatism of the English electorate.

Tony Blair understood that, which is why he won three elections. Ed Miliband didn’t, which is the reason he suffered such a humiliating and thoroughly deserved drubbing.

Cameron is also fortunate still to have a fearless free Press, willing and able to alert their readers to the impending calamity. That’s why Labour and its self-serving celebrity supporters were so keen to bring Fleet Street under State control.

As I predicted on Tuesday, voters simply couldn’t countenance the terrifying prospect of an extreme Left-wing Labour government propped up by a gang of marauding Scottish Stalinists.

The Left already dominate the airwaves, especially the BBC. Without an unshackled, vibrant newspaper industry, voters would be subjected to an unchallenged, constant bombardment of anti-Tory propaganda.

Cameron’s victory hasn’t gone down at all well in New Broadcasting House. As the Conservative majority mounted yesterday morning, the BBC’s Huw Edwards adopted the demeanour of a man who had just learned that his dog has been run over.

We were told that this was the first election which would be fought and decided on social media. But governments aren’t chosen by the shrill self-publicists who shout at each other on Twitter.

They are chosen by well-informed voters putting a cross on a ballot paper with a stubby pencil in the privacy of a polling booth. The spectre of a Miliband-Sturgeon tyranny concentrated minds and ushered the undecided into the Conservative column.

That’s why I was pretty confident that despite the opinion polls, sanity would prevail and the Tories would be returned as the largest party.

Even so, no one anticipated that the victory would produce a working majority. As a result, Cameron no longer has to deal with the duplicitous Lib Dems [Liberals], who found themselves on the receiving end of a richly warranted wrecking ball.

They have nobody to blame but themselves. They could have been rewarded for their contribution to five years of fairly stable Coalition which delivered Britain’s remarkable economic recovery.

But instead they reverted to type, bickering and back-biting and boasting about how they prevented the evil Tories from ruining the country, slashing public spending and selling off the NHS.

There were so few of them left standing yesterday that when Cameron was making his way to the Palace, ITV was reduced to interviewing the disgraced former Lib Dem MP Mark Oaten, whose political career spectacularly hit the fan when he was discovered consorting with rent boys and indulging in ‘an act too disgusting to be described in a family newspaper’.

Nick Clegg [Liberal leader] seemed to think he was entitled to remain in government whoever won the election. Others, such as Vince Cable, were openly flirting with Labour.

Oh, what joy it was to watch Saint Vinny suffer his Portillo moment. His eviction by the people of Twickenham was right up there with the defenestration of the appalling Ed Balls.

Gordon Brown’s former bagman [Ed Balls) was bounced by the voters of Morley and Outwood, in Yorkshire. It means we will be spared his infuriating bombast and juvenile hand gestures, not to mention the nightmare of him being handed the keys to Number 11 Downing Street [the treasury].

If the result of the General Election had gone the other way, Balls would have become Chancellor of the Exchequer, spending and taxing like there was no tomorrow.

Labour thought that peddling the politics of resentment and division would be enough to get them over the line. Fortunately, that theory seems to have been tested to destruction.

Much now depends on how Cameron uses his slim majority and whether his backbenchers behave themselves.

The last thing we need is a re-run of the early Nineties, which was marred by running battles over Europe between John Major and some of his own MPs.

And while we’re on the subject of Europe, spare a thought for Nigel Farage, who deserved but failed to get elected in Thanet.

His 15-year crusade to secure a vote on Europe has been heroic, in the face of concerted and often violent intimidation.

The good news is that with no Lib Dems to stop them, the Tories can take a chainsaw to our unsustainable levels of public spending. And soon.  Fortunately, the SNP isn’t in any position to prevent the Government balancing the books.

For all her noisy posturing about building a ‘progressive’ alliance with Labour and the other fringe headbangers, a Conservative Government in Westminster suits Nicola Sturgeon down to the ground.

So what’s in all this for the English voters who have given Cameron his majority?

Not only will we get the EU vote the other parties would have denied us; the Human Rights Act will be scrapped; the low-paid will be taken out of tax altogether, millions of hard-pressed middle-income earners will be taken out of the 40p band and the top rate won’t rise to an enterprise-sapping 50 per cent.

We’ve also been spared the mansion tax and the bullying bureaucracy and attack on civil liberties and free speech which would have come with a recovery-wrecking Labour/SNP set-up.

For that we can thank the sensible voters of Middle England, however reluctant many of us may have felt when voting Tory.



The history and sociology behind the recent British Conservative victory

Tony Blair, of all people, saw it coming. As long ago as January, he told The Economist magazine that the 2015 election campaign would be one ‘in which a traditional Left-wing party competes with a traditional Right-wing party, with the traditional result’.

‘A Tory win?’ asked his interviewer.  ‘Yes,’ Mr Blair replied. ‘That is what happens.’

Whatever you might think of Mr Blair, he proved a much better soothsayer than the vast majority of pollsters and pundits.

For Thursday’s election was not merely a disappointment for Ed Miliband and the Labour Party. It was a disaster, a catastrophe, an utter debacle to rank with the very worst defeats of the Eighties.

The seeds of Labour’s defeat were, I think, sown at the very moment when, on September 25, 2010, Ed Miliband was announced as the party’s new leader. As I wrote at the time, the problem was not so much his goofy manner and geeky personality, but the fact he had so comprehensively refused to learn from those previous defeats.

Mr Miliband’s appeal to Labour activists, and especially to his patrons and paymasters in the giant trades unions, can be put very simply.

He stood for the leadership on the basis that he was not Tony Blair, that New Labour was dead and that he would rekindle the Left-wing spirit of the Seventies and Eighties.

Moments after Mr Miliband’s shock victory over his more moderate brother David, the former Labour leader Neil Kinnock, who led his party to crushing defeats in 1987 and 1992, was heard to exult: ‘We’ve got our party back.’

Well, Mr Kinnock certainly got his party back on Thursday night — an unashamedly Left-wing party, suspicious of business, hostile to the free market economy and dedicated to the principle of state intervention in business and the biggest utility companies.

And the reaction from the British people was exactly the same as it was in the Eighties: crushing rejection.

To an outside observer, it simply beggars belief that Mr Miliband failed to learn the lessons of history. Indeed, right from the moment he became Labour leader and proclaimed his fealty to the old-time Left-wing faith, Blairities were queueing up to warn that he was leading his party back to the dark ages of defeat.

‘Economic competence counts, leadership matters and you cannot win from the Left,’ Tony Blair’s old speechwriter Philip Collins remarked yesterday. ‘These things are rules in politics, carved in stone.’

Almost incredibly, however, Mr Miliband believed that he could rip up the rulebook. For reasons that seem to me utterly unfathomable, he believed — and still believes — that Britain is crying out for old-fashioned Left-wing policies, and that fate had chosen him to lead us into a socialist, redistributive future.

Yet even a cursory glance at the history books would have told him that no Labour government has won a majority on an overtly Left-wing platform for decades. Indeed, the last Labour leader to do so was Harold Wilson in October 1974 — and his majority was just three seats.

In fact, even that Wilson victory was a pretty poor model for Mr Miliband to follow. It is true that Labour at the time espoused some hair-raisingly socialist policies, from 83 per cent income tax to the nationalisation of land.

In reality, Wilson did not believe in his party’s Left-wing wheezes and many were quietly abandoned over the next five years. Indeed, by the time Labour faced the electorate in 1979, his admirably pragmatic successor, the more conservative Jim Callaghan, had started dragging the party back to the centre ground.

Yet such was public exhaustion with the endless strikes, inflation and economic chaos that the British people turned instead to Margaret Thatcher’s gospel of individual aspiration, hard work and self-improvement.

It is a mystery to me why, for so long, so many Labour politicians stubbornly refused to learn appropriate lessons. Instead, in Opposition after 1979, the party lurched crazily to the Left.

By 1983, when Ed Miliband was a politics-obsessed teenager, the Labour Party had lost its mind. Led by the veteran Left-wing activist Michael Foot — a highly intelligent, principled and decent man, but a preposterous candidate to be prime minister — it had become a national laughing stock.

Mocked by one of Foot’s own frontbenchers as ‘the longest suicide note in history’, the Labour manifesto promised to scrap nuclear weapons, pull out of the European Union, re-nationalise British Telecom and British Aerospace, reverse council house sales and even create hundreds of Labour peers — ironically enough, to vote through the abolition of the House of Lords.

The result was a total disaster. Across England in particular, voters recoiled from the prospect of full-blown state Socialism. Even with unemployment running at more than three million, Mrs Thatcher coasted to re-election while Labour slumped to a pitiful 209 seats — only 23 fewer than Mr Miliband’s dismal total on Thursday.

Then as now, ordinary people were not interested in Miliband-style classroom tirades about inequality and injustice. They just wanted a decent job, a steady wage and reliable public services.

Inside the Labour Party, a few bright young MPs, elected despite the Tory landslide, started to draw the obvious conclusions. Two young men in particular, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, began to see that what ordinary voters wanted was not socialist rhetoric and state ownership, but a government that understood their everyday anxieties and shared their aspirations.

It took an awfully long time, though, for the rest of the Labour Party to catch up. When Foot stepped down, his replacement, Neil Kinnock, was another Left-winger, an outspoken Welsh firebrand who never managed to appeal to Middle England.

Even so, Mr Kinnock was, in my view, a far more effective Labour leader than Ed Miliband. Starting from a very low base, he managed to improve Labour’s tally to 229 seats in 1987, then dragged them to 271 in 1992, a far better showing than Mr Miliband managed this week.

And though he made no secret of his socialist principles, Mr Kinnock nevertheless recognised that his party had to change. Not only did he ditch some of his more extravagant commitments, such as the abolition of nuclear weapons, but he refused to back Arthur Scargill’s miners’ strike in 1984-85, to the horror of some of his union allies.

Indeed, it is telling that some of Mr Kinnock’s most notable rhetorical triumphs came when he was lecturing his own party on the need to face the modern world — such as when, in 1985, he issued a blazing denunciation of the Militant Tendency councillors whose crazy Marxist policies had reduced the proud city of Liverpool to the level of a banana republic.

It is true, of course, that Mr Kinnock never evolved enough to win over many middle-class voters, and history records that he lost two elections in a row. Even so, he had at least begun to coax his party away from Left-wing lunacies and back towards the centre ground.

That task was, of course, completed by Tony Blair, who won over business, seduced the City and loudly proclaimed his enthusiasm for the free market economy — and was promptly rewarded with three victories in a row from 1997 to 2005.

What Mr Blair recognised is that people are simply not interested in academic lectures about moral and political philosophy. They are naturally offended when high-minded intellectuals descend from Planet Hampstead to harangue them about how empty and miserable their lives are.

Far from being obsessed with inequality, most people respect hard work and often admire those who have done well for themselves. And far from being attracted by demagogic weirdos such as Mr Miliband’s court jester Russell Brand, most people regard them with total contempt.

Mr Miliband, encouraged by his paymasters in the trades unions, never grasped this basic lesson.

Instead, he committed himself to a platform made up in equal parts of old-fashioned state intervention, naked populist bribery and seminar room jargon, for which he has rightly paid the ultimate political price.

Indeed, I was struck that even in his resignation speech, the Labour leader fell back on the old empty waffle about the inevitability of ‘progress and social justice’ and ‘the issue of our unequal country’.

This is the sort of stuff Labour leaders came out with in the Eighties. It is the sort of stuff their Left-wing activists love to hear — and, of course, the sort of stuff the British electorate contemptuously rejected on Thursday.

The fact that Mr Miliband does not appear to have understood why he lost so heavily is enormously telling.

He remains today what he has always been — the dutiful son of a Marxist intellectual, hostile to the market, indifferent to wealth creation and utterly out of touch with the basic instincts of most British people.

If Labour are serious about challenging in 2020, they will need to find a very different kind of leader, who understands the anxieties and aspirations of ordinary voters. But if they turn to yet another union-backed intellectual preaching the hackneyed gospel of student union socialism, then the nightmares of 1983 and 2015 will simply be repeated.

You might think it shouldn’t be so difficult to learn the lessons of history. But as Ed Miliband has proved, when it comes to politics, even supposedly clever people can be astonishingly stupid.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

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