Friday, June 12, 2015

Why medical reasons should be the only exemptions from vaccinations

I don't always agree with the AMA but I do on this one -- even though it grinds my gears as a libertarian. The plain fact is that you do harm others by not using important vaccinations.  "Herd immunity" is the only protection newborns have in many instances and for me there is no higher priority than protection of the newborn. To think otherwise is very near to being less than human, as far as I can tell.  We were all newborns once and survived thanks to others so we need to pass that on

As the debate around vaccinations continues to rage in the public, outbreaks of dangerous preventable diseases have continued to increase. For public health experts, the question has become, “Should individuals be given exemptions from required immunizations for non-medical reasons?” Physicians provided some answers with policy passed at the 2015 AMA Annual Meeting.

Immunization programs in the Unites States are credited with having controlled or eliminated the spread of epidemic diseases, including smallpox, measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria and polio. Immunization requirements vary from state to state, but only two states bar non-medical exemptions based on personal beliefs.

“When people are immunized they also help prevent the spread of disease to others," AMA Board of Trustees Member Patrice A. Harris, MD, said in a news release. “As evident from the recent measles outbreak at Disneyland, protecting community health in today’s mobile society requires that policymakers not permit individuals from opting out of immunization solely as a matter of personal preference or convenience.”

Policies adopted at the meeting call for immunization of the population—absent a medical reason for not being vaccinated—because disease exposure, importation, infections and outbreaks can occur without warning in communities, particularly those that do not have high rates of immunization. That begins with health care professionals involved in direct patient care, who have an obligation to accept vaccinations to prevent the spread of infectious disease and ensure the availability of the medical workforce.

Other policies include:

* Supporting the development and evaluation of educational efforts, based on scientific evidence and in collaboration with health care providers, that support parents who want to help educate and encourage their peers who are reluctant to vaccinate their children

* Disseminating materials about the effectiveness of vaccines to states

* Encouraging states to eliminate philosophical and religious exemptions from state immunization requirements

* Recommending that states have an established decision mechanism that involves qualified public health physicians to determine which vaccines will be mandatory for admission to school and other identified public venues

These policies aim to minimize the risk of outbreaks and protect vulnerable individuals from acquiring preventable but serious diseases.



The Left’s Central Delusion

by Thomas Sowell

Its devotion to central planning has endured from the French Revolution to Obamacare

The fundamental problem of the political Left seems to be that the real world does not fit their preconceptions. Therefore they see the real world as what is wrong, and what needs to be changed, since apparently their preconceptions cannot be wrong.

A never-ending source of grievances for the Left is the fact that some groups are “over-represented” in desirable occupations, institutions, and income brackets, while other groups are “under-represented.” From all the indignation and outrage about this expressed on the left, you might think that it was impossible that different groups are simply better at different things.

Yet runners from Kenya continue to win a disproportionate share of marathons in the United States, and children whose parents or grandparents came from India have won most of the American spelling bees in the past 15 years.

And has anyone failed to notice that the leading professional basketball players have for years been black, in a country where most of the population is white? Most of the leading photographic lenses in the world have — for generations — been designed by people who were either Japanese or German.

Most of the leading diamond-cutters in the world have been either India’s Jains or Jews from Israel or elsewhere.

Not only people but things have been grossly unequal. More than two-thirds of all the tornadoes in the entire world occur in the middle of the United States. Asia has more than 70 mountain peaks that are higher than 20,000 feet and Africa has none. Is it news that a disproportionate share of all the oil in the world is in the Middle East?

Whole books could be filled with the unequal behavior or performances of people, or the unequal geographic settings in which whole races, nations, and civilizations have developed. Yet the preconceptions of the political Left march on undaunted, loudly proclaiming sinister reasons why outcomes are not equal within nations or between nations.

All this moral melodrama has served as a background for the political agenda of the Left, which has claimed to be able to lift the poor out of poverty, and in general make the world a better place. This claim has been made for centuries and in countries around the world. And it has failed for centuries in countries around the world.

Some of the most sweeping and spectacular rhetoric of the Left occurred in 18th-century France, where the very concept of the Left originated in the fact that people with certain views sat on the left side of the National Assembly.

The French Revolution was their chance to show what they could do when they got the power they sought. In contrast to what they promised — “liberty, equality, fraternity” — what they actually produced were food shortages, mob violence, and dictatorial powers that included arbitrary executions, extending even to their own leaders, such as Robespierre, who died under the guillotine.

In the 20th century, the most sweeping vision of the Left — Communism — spread over vast regions of the world and encompassed well over a billion human beings. Of these, millions died of starvation in the Soviet Union under Stalin and tens of millions in China under Mao.

Milder versions of socialism, with central planning of national economies, took root in India and in various European democracies. If the preconceptions of the Left were correct, central planning by educated elites who had vast amounts of statistical data at their fingertips and expertise readily available, and were backed by the power of government, should have been more successful than market economies where millions of individuals pursued their own individual interests willy-nilly.

But, by the end of the 20th century, even socialist and communist governments began abandoning central planning and allowing more market competition.

Yet this quiet capitulation to inescapable realities did not end the noisy claims of the Left. In the United States, those claims and policies have reached new heights, epitomized by government takeovers of whole sectors of the economy and unprecedented intrusions into the lives of Americans, of which Obamacare has been only the most obvious example.



The Myth of the Idle Rich

President Obama recently acknowledged what every sane person knows to be true: The best anti-poverty program is a job. Mr. Obama said this at a recent conference on poverty.

But he continues to repeat a falsehood over and over. This is the claim that the poor work just as hard as the rich do. Well, yes, many people in poor households heroically work very hard at low wages to take care of their families. No doubt about that. Yet the average poor family doesn’t work nearly as much as the rich families do. And that’s a key reason why these households are poor.

The most recent Census Bureau data on household incomes document the importance of work. Census sorts the households by income quintile, and we will label those in the highest quintile as “rich,” and those in the lowest quintile as “poor.” The average household in the top 20 percent of income have an average of almost exactly two full-time workers. The average poor family (bottom 20 percent) has just 0.4 workers (see chart). This means on average, roughly for every hour worked by those in a poor household, those in a rich household work five hours. The idea that the rich are idle bondholders who play golf or go to the spa every day while the poor toil isn’t accurate.

The finding that six out 10 poor households have no one working at all is disturbing. Since they have no income from work, is it a surprise they are poor?

As for rich households, 75 percent have two or more workers. For the poor households, that percent is less than 5 percent.

Of course, hours worked doesn’t account for all or even most of the gap between rich and poor. But it does account for some of it. One of the more pernicious concepts is the notion of “dead-end jobs.” No, the surefire economic dead end is no job at all. There’s no climbing the economic ladder if you’re not even on the first rung.

Marriage is also a very good anti-poverty program. Married couples are almost five times more likely to be in the highest income quintile (33 percent) than in the lowest quintile (7 percent).

Without a father in the home, there is usually at most one full-time worker. Married couples are more economically successful for many reasons, not least of which is that they can and often do have two people working and bringing in a paycheck. So divorce and out-of-wedlock births have a lot to do with the income inequality. Budget expert Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institute found that if marriage rates were as high today as they were in 1970, about 20 percent of child poverty would be gone. What is worrisome is that a record 47 percent of Americans aged 25 to 34 have never married.

What is to be learned from all of this income data? First, one of the best ways to reduce poverty is to get people in low-income households working — and hopefully 40 hours a week. By the way, one reason raising the minimum wage won’t help lower poverty much is that it will help far fewer than half of the poor who have no job at all. And if it destroys jobs at the bottom of the skills ladder, it may lead to fewer people working and exacerbate poverty.

This data also reinforce the case for strict work requirements for all welfare benefit programs. When welfare takes the place of work it actually contributes to long-term poverty. It isn’t cold-hearted to be in favor of work programs. It is providing a GPS system to help the poor find a way out of poverty.

Finally, getting married before having kids is a great way to avoid falling into the poverty trap.

Yes, there are way too many working poor in America, and that problem needs to be addressed by programs like the earned income tax credit that supplement low-income wages. But there are way too many non-working poor in America. That’s a problem liberals seem to want to do nothing about.



Main Street Overlooked by Elites

We still are a country of everymen (and women), but disruptive economic change and bipolar politics have shifted us away from doers and toward intellectuals at an alarming clip in the past two decades. That shift escalated to a frenzy in the past eight years.

The "us and them" gap has escalated general mistrust; it has isolated our society's doers and makers from those who hold wealth and power.

This isn't just about politics anymore; it is about values. Our nation is at odds with the intellectual elite in wealthy, urban and academic enclaves, who now control the engines of industry. To the rest of us, those engines are not robust machines; they're like little red tricycles.

The evidence could not have been clearer than when the Labor Department reported Friday that our unemployment rate went up and our hourly wages rose only 0.3 percent in the private sector.

It was a blunt reminder to Wall Street and the White House that their message of brisk national economic momentum rings hollow to the rest of us.

We've all known for a long time that this economy - built on apps (which might employ three people), "green" jobs (they don't exist, people), social sustainability (still don't know what that does), and trying to build a middle class by forcing companies to pay $15 an hour - is a house of cards.

We used to make stuff in this country, too. But that has been driven overseas by union and corporate greed or by the environmental elites.

There's a reason that, last week, much of America was transfixed by a 60-year-old woman, glammed up to look like a 35-year-old woman, who once was a man and the world's greatest athlete. It's the same reason we are obsessed with loving or hating the entire Kardashian family: We want a distraction from how bad things are - the economic uncertainty in our lives and communities, the terrifying instability seen not only in the Middle East but in many of our own black communities.

Not one person currently running for president is addressing the majority of Americans who want to know just who is going to lead all of us forward, the haves as well as the have-nots.

We don't want another president who divides us even further. We want someone who will take us - together - to a better place in order to tap into our country's greatest resource, which has always been our people.



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, June 11, 2015

Connectedness and drugs

I have written on several occasions (here, here and here) about the importance of connectedness to human health and thriving.  We need other people both psychologically and practically.  Man is a social animal and all that.

It is stronger in some people than others -- with Anglo-Saxons probably the most independent -- if French anthropologist Emmanuel Todd is to be believed.   At the other end of the scale, an Australian Aborigine will do his best to kill himself of you put him into solitary confinement, his distress at being even temporarily disconnected from others of his kind is so great.  The macho cultures of the Mediterranean are somewhere in between.

And I have also previously argued that conservatives have a great advantage in developing feelings of connectedness with others --  while Leftist hatred of the world about them militates against such feelings in them.  No doubt they have some connectedness with friends and family but their anger and hostility must make it difficult for them in general.

"The real objective of Socialism is human brotherhood"

The above quotation from George Orwell is a fairly classic Leftist comment. "All men are brothers" is a cry from Leftists that goes back at least to the 19th century.  And we must not forget that "fraternite" was one of the 3 aims of the French revolution.

And it all fits in very well with the emotional importance of "connectedness" in human beings. Because of their disgruntlement with the world about them, Leftists tend to feel disconnected from their own society but do nonetheless miss that sense of connectedness badly. So they make up a fantasy (and impossible) world in which they have a superabundant amount of connectedness: A world in which all men are brothers.

It is therefore interesting that Johann Hari has  argued that lack of connectedness lies behind drug addiction.

Hari's dishonesty is well-known so I would normally ignore him but, once you get past the smarminess, the facts he recounts are correct and moderately well-known among psychologists.  And his summary of the findings concerned as hinging on connectedness covers the facts well.  And I of course agree with him that feelings of connectedness are hugely important to mental wellbeing and, indeed, mental health.

So is drug addiction more common among Leftists?  I have a subjective impression that it is but only a carefully sampled study would give a real answer.  I cannot in fact imagine a conservative doing drugs but maybe that just shows how little I know.

A major caveat is that the examples Hari relies on concern heroin and that heroin is a social addiction rather than a physical one has long been known.  What is true for heroin may not be true of other drugs -- methamphetamine, for instance.  There is also a view that there is to some extent an addictive personality, probably mediated neurologically.  So different personalities might give different results.

So there is room for a study there.  What are the politics of drug users?  Do heroin users and (say) marijuana users have similar politics?  And how does race and income affect it?  If most users are black and poor, that alone would produce a correlation with Leftist politics.  But a careful study using (say) partial correlation, should be able to disentangle all that.  The very first computer program I ever wrote was to do partial correlation but I don't have the energy to do original survey research any more -- JR.


John Wayne Schooled Liberal Author on American Freedom and Giving Thanks to God

The people who founded and built America did not rely on big government for a hand-out or demand “insurance for their old age,” but were rugged individualists, self-reliant, real “men” who looked up at the sky and said, “thanks God, we’ll take it from here,” said the actor John Wayne in the movie Without Reservations.

Wayne, himself a conservative, portrayed U.S. Marine Capt. “Rusty” Thomas in the highly successful 1946 film. In the movie, while traveling by train to California, liberal author “Kitty Kloch,” played by Claudette Colbert, expresses her optimism about a “new world” where the “advantages of citizenship” are shared by all and the “laissez-faire attitude” is cast aside.

John Wayne, “Rusty,” sets her straight.  As the dialogue rolls out,

Kitty Kloch (Claudette Colbert): “It never fails to surprise me that there are still vast lands in the United States literally uncultivated.

Rusty Thomas (John Wayne): “Well, it won’t be this way long. Come the private airplane, people will start spreading around.”

Kitty Kloch: “Won’t it be wonderful to be part of the new world?”

Rusty Thomas: “Well, I don’t think it will change as much as some people think.”

Kitty Kloch: “Oh, but it must!”

Rusty Thomas: “Why?”

Kitty Kloch: “For too long we’ve had that laissez-faire attitude towards executive operations. We must educate ourselves to share the responsibilities as well as the advantages of citizenship.”

Rusty Thomas: “Oh, I read that book too. It certainly made an impression on you what that writer had to say. But it’s a lot of hooey. Fixing everybody up when they let out their first squawk. Giving them pointers on good government between bottle feedings, and teaching them in school to be good little ladies and gentlemen and not smack each other around.”

Kitty Kloch: “Oh, it’s very easy to make fun of everything.”

Rusty Thomas:  “Listen, Miss Kloch, have you ever heard of some fellows that first came over to this country? You know what they found?  They found a howling wilderness, with summers too hot and winters freezing.”

Rusty Thomas: “Did they have insurance for their old age, for their crops, for their homes? They did not. They looked at the land, and the forests and the rivers, they looked at their wives, their kids and their houses, and then they looked up at the sky and they said, ‘Thanks God, we’ll take it from here.’”

Marine Lt. “Dink” Watson (Don DeFore): “They were rugged fellas!”

Rusty Thomas: “They were men.”

Without Reservations, by RKO Radio Pictures, was made in 1946 with a reported budget of $1,683,000, and it grossed $3,000,000 at the box office.

John Wayne (1907-1979), one of America’s beloved actors, was nominated for three Academy Awards in his career and he won the “Best Actor in a Leading Role” in 1969 for the film True Grit.



The "feelgood" factor is what matters to the Left

By Dennis Prager

A fundamental difference between the left and right concerns how each assesses public policies. The right asks, “Does it do good?” The left asks a different question.  One example is the minimum wage. In 1987, The New York Times editorialized against any minimum wage. The title of the editorial said it all — “The Right Minimum Wage: $0.00.”

“There’s a virtual consensus among economists,” wrote the Times editorial, “that the minimum wage is an idea whose time has passed. Raising the minimum wage by a substantial amount would price working poor people out of the job market . … More important, it would increase unemployment. … The idea of using a minimum wage to overcome poverty is old, honorable — and fundamentally flawed.”

Why did The New York Times editorialize against the minimum wage? Because it asked the conservative question: “Does it do good?”

But 27 years later, The New York Times editorial page wrote the very opposite of what it had written in 1987, and called for a major increase in the minimum wage. In that time, the page had moved further left and was now preoccupied not with what does good — but with income inequality, which feels bad. It lamented the fact that a low hourly minimum wage had not “softened the hearts of its opponents” — Republicans and their supporters.

As second example is affirmative action. Study after study — and, even more important, common sense and facts — have shown the deleterious effects that race-based affirmative action have had on black students. Lowering college admissions standards for black applicants has ensured at least two awful results.

One is that more black students fail to graduate college — because they have too often been admitted to a college that demands more academic rigor than they were prepared for. Rather than attend a school that matches their skills, a school where they might thrive, they fail at a school where they are over-matched.

The other result is that many, if not most, black students feel a dark cloud hanging over them. They suspect that other students wonder whether they, the black students, were admitted into the college on merit or because standards were lowered.

It would seem that the last question supporters of race-based affirmative action ask is, “Does it do good?”

A third example is pacifism and other forms of “peace activism.”

The left has a soft spot for pacifism — the belief that killing another human being is always immoral. Not all leftists are pacifists, but pacifism emanates from the Left, and just about all leftists support “peace activism,” “peace studies” and whatever else contains the word “peace.”

The right, on the other hand, while just as desirous of peace as the left — what conservative parent wants their child to die in battle? — knows that pacifism and most “peace activists” increase the chances of war, not peace.

Nothing guarantees the triumph of evil like refusing to fight it. Great evil is therefore never defeated by peace activists, but by superior military might. The Allied victory in World War II is an obvious example. American military might likewise contained and ultimately ended Soviet Communism.

Supporters of pacifism, peace studies, American nuclear disarmament, American military withdrawal from countries in which it has fought — Iraq is the most recent example — do not ask, “Does it do good?”

Did the withdrawal of America from Iraq do good? Of course not. It only led to the rise of Islamic State with its mass murder and torture.

So, then, if in assessing what public policies to pursue, conservatives ask “Does it do good?” what question do liberals ask?

The answer is, “Does it make people — including myself — feel good?”

Why do liberals support a higher minimum wage if doesn’t do good? Because it makes the recipients of the higher wage feel good (even if other workers lose their jobs when restaurants and other businesses that cannot afford the higher wage close down) and it makes liberals feel good about themselves: We liberals, unlike conservatives, have soft hearts.

Why do liberals support race-based affirmative action? For the same reasons. It makes the recipients feel good when they are admitted to more prestigious colleges. And it makes liberals feel good about themselves for appearing to right the wrongs of historical racism.

The same holds true for left-wing peace activism: Supporting “peace” rather than the military makes liberals feel good about themselves.

Perhaps the best example is the self-esteem movement. It has had an almost wholly negative effect on a generation of Americans raised to have high self-esteem without having earned it. They then suffer from narcissism and an incapacity to deal with life’s inevitable setbacks. But self-esteem feels good.

And feelings — not reason — is what liberalism is largely about. Reason asks: “Does it do good?” Liberalism asks, “Does it feel good?”



Regardless of Court's Decision, ObamaCare Is Falling Apart

In 2013, Jeb Bush made a comment critical of Republican efforts to defund ObamaCare, saying that we should instead let the law fall apart on its own. It was kind of an insensitive approach, given the number of lives that depend on a health care system that actually works, and I believe he was tactically misguided, but he was right about one thing: ObamaCare is falling apart, slowly but surely.

We are only a couple of weeks out from the King v. Burwell decision that many are saying could deal a staggering blow to ObamaCare, by putting an end to illegal subsidies currently propping the law up. Supporters of the law are, therefore, hoping for a ruling to preserve the subsidies, with the administration actively not planning for any other outcome.

But even if the Court rules in favor of the defendants, it will merely be delaying the inevitable, The fact of the matter is that ObamaCare is so badly broken that no amount of subsidies will be able to keep it afloat forever.

My colleagues have repeatedly pointed out how the state insurance exchanges are collapsing under their own weight, and rising premiums and deductibles are keeping these supposedly “affordable” insurance plans out of reach for many Americans. Now, we’re seeing new enrollment numbers that confirm what we’ve always known: the system doesn’t work, and it’s getting worse every year.

When the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, the Congressional Budget Office projected that there would be 21 million enrollees by 2016. Over the last five years, the administration has continually fallen short of its estimates. This month, the Department of Health and Human Services posted current enrollments at just 10.2 million - only half of the target for next year. There’s no way they’re going to reach this target, considering that the people most eager to enroll - the low-hanging fruit - have already done so. This is bad news for pretty much everyone.

It’s bad news for President Obama, because it means that his signature - and practically only significant - accomplishment in two terms in the White House is a failure. It’s bad news for insurance companies, because they are not taking in enough revenue to cover all the people they are being forced to cover by law. And it’s especially bad news for American citizens, because it means that prices will have to skyrocket for insurers to make up the difference. As prices get higher, fewer people will be able to pay them, meaning they will have to drop off the plans, meaning that prices will have to go still higher - a repeating cycle known as the insurance premium death spiral.

King v. Burwell is going to be a significant crossroads for the Affordable Care Act, make no mistake, but in this case, all roads ultimately lead to the same place: collapse. It’s just a matter of how we get there and how many people are hurt along the way be irresponsible policies.



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, June 10, 2015

Spinning like a top over statins

The amazing statin religion sails on.  A recent study found that there are indeed severe loss of memory problems for people who take statins to prevent heart attacks.  So how was the study reported in the popular press?  The headline was "Cholesterol-lowing statins DON'T cause memory loss".  WTF is going on?  Don't blame the journalists.  As usual, it was the doctors who did the study who were spinning like tops.

The academic journal article is Statin Therapy and Risk of Acute Memory Impairment.  The study was a generally good one that used two controls, people not taking drugs, people taking statins and people taking another class of lipid lowering drugs.  High levels of lipids (blood fats) are thought to be behind heart attacks.  So what did they find?  I quote:

"Both statin and nonstatin LLDs were strongly associated with acute memory loss in the first 30 days following exposure in users compared with nonusers but not when compared with each other"

So in normal circumstances we might conclude that the problem is bigger than thought.  Not only statins but another class of lipid lowering drug is a big problem. We might conclude that we need our lipids. Our bodies put them into our blood for a reason and anything that reduces them is bad for our brains.

But the researchers were not happy with that straightforward conclusion.  They theorized that their study was faulty and the patients detected what was going on and gave the result expected!  They were willing to disrespect their own research in order to hang on to their theory that statins are harmless. No wonder I and some others refer to statin use as a religion!  These guys are definite true believers.  But look at the facts, not at the theory.  Statins ARE bad for you!  They mess up your brain.


GOP-controlled Michigan House passes a comprehensive civil asset forfeiture reform package

On Thursday, the Michigan House of Representatives passed a bipartisan package of eight bills that would overhaul the state's civil asset forfeiture laws to offer more protections for innocent property owners. The Wolverine State is just the latest to advance reforms that curtail this pernicious brand of government overreach.

Passage of the reform bills comes a week after the Michigan House Judiciary Committee heard jaw-dropping testimony from Annette Shattuck, a mother of four children, who recounted her family's story of armed raid on her home last year by law enforcement. Shattuck's mother was watching her children while she was out. "After they breached my door, at gunpoint, with masks, they proceeded to take every belonging in my house," she told the committee. "And when I say every belonging, I mean every belonging."

The list of confiscated property provided by the Washington Post includes televisions, a leaf trimmer, a bicycle, a weed whacker, a chainsaw, and a snowblower. "How do you explain to your kids when they come home and everything is gone?" Shattack asked lawmakers.

Shattack was targeted because she is a registered medical marijuana patient, as well as a caregiver. Though strictly regulated, medical marijuana is legal in Michigan. Users and caregivers are allowed to grow a limited number of plants for themselves and patients. Despite medical marijuana’s legal status, law enforcement continues to go after patients and registered practitioners through civil asset forfeiture.

Ginnifer Hency, another registered medical marijuana patient and caregiver, told a similar story. Her home was raided by local law enforcement and her family's property seized. "They have had my stuff for 10 months," Hency said last week. "My ladders, my iPads, my children's iPads, my children's phones, my medicine for my patients." Law enforcement allegedly seized items of a rather personal and intimate nature.

Neither Shattack or Hency were ever convicted of a crime, but Michigan's civil asset forfeiture laws encourage abuse because of the low standard of evidence the government is required to meet, and the perverse profit motive that exists. Law enforcement in the state are allowed to keep 100 percent of the proceeds from forfeitures. This is not a small sum. The Detroit Free Press reports that Michigan law enforcement seized $24.3 million in cash and property in 2013.

Michigan House Republicans, who control the lower chamber, made civil asset forfeiture reform one of their top priorities for the 2015 legislative session. The package includes HB 4505, which raises the evidentiary standard to "clear and convincing evidence," and HB 4508, which offers protections for registered medical marijuana users. Other bills would heighten transparency and improve uniformity in state law.

The eight civil asset forfeiture reform bills passed the Michigan House, according to the Associated Press, with solid bipartisan majorities. Perhaps the most important bill, HB 4505, passed by a vote of 103 to 6, while HB 4508 was approved with a thinner, though still strong, majority, by a vote of 81 to 28.

There is still room for stronger reforms, such as eliminating the profit incentive that often motivates seizures of property without a criminal conviction, but the package passed by the Michigan House on Thursday is certainly a step in the right direction. The bills now head over to the Republican-controlled Senate, where the fate of the reforms in the upper chamber is uncertain.



4 Liberal Myths About Ronald Reagan Debunked

Presidential historian H. W. Brands’ new biography of Ronald Reagan and his conclusion that modern American politics is best seen as “The Age of Reagan” has aroused liberals to circulate once again the hoariest myths about the man and his presidency, including the malicious charge that Reagan was deliberately indifferent to the lot of African-Americans and other minorities.

Liberal Myth No. 1: Reagan’s dangerously belligerent foreign policy had little to do with the disintegration of Soviet Communism. Mikhail Gorbachev was the leader most responsible for bringing the Cold War to a non-nuclear conclusion.

Reality: In the 1970s, as presidential scholar Kiron Skinner has written, Reagan formulated four key ideas about U.S.–Soviet relations and the Cold War. One, discussion of Soviet expansionism around the world had to precede any talk about arms control, not the reverse. Two, America was an “exceptional” nation obligated to match deeds with words in the promotion of freedom around the world. Three, because the Soviet Union was an “abnormal” nation with no popular base of support, it was prepared to foment global crises to maintain its control. Four, the Soviet Union’s inefficient economy and inferior technology “could not survive competition” with America. Once elected president, Reagan began carrying out a multifaceted victory strategy based on these ideas.

Reagan ordered an across-the-board buildup of the defense establishment, including land-based weapons, new ships, and new medium-range missiles. He launched a psychological offensive, declaring that the Soviets’ “evil empire” was headed for “the ash heap of history.” He made SDI (the Strategic Defensive Initiative) the cornerstone of the Reagan Doctrine and would not surrender it, even at the Reykjavik summit. He strongly supported anti-Communist forces in Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Angola, and Cambodia.

He carried his crusade for freedom into the disintegrating Soviet empire. Standing before Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate in 1987, he directly challenged the Kremlin, saying, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” A little more than two years later, the wall came down and Communism in Eastern and Central Europe collapsed. Lech Walesa, Nobel laureate and founder of the Polish trade union Solidarity that confronted the Communist regime, said of President Reagan, “We in Poland … owe him our liberty.”

Democracy triumphed in the Cold War, Reagan wrote in his autobiography, because it was a battle of ideas—“between one system that gave preeminence to the state and another that gave preeminence to the individual and freedom.” The Cold War ended in triumph for the idea of freedom because of Ronald Reagan, not Mikhail Gorbachev, who as late as 1988 quoted the Communist Manifesto when asked his position on private property.

Liberal Myth No. 2: The ’80s were a decade of greed that benefited only the wealthy and overlooked the middle class.

Reality: Reagan inherited a dangerously weakened economy. High tax rates had severely limited jobs and investment and brought in less than expected government revenue. President Reagan reversed the process by cutting personal tax rates and government regulations, stabilizing the economy and encouraging entrepreneurs.

Following the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981, unemployment in the succeeding years fell an estimated 45 percent. During the ’80s, the consumer price index rose only 17 percent, private domestic investment grew 77 percent, and economic growth averaged 4.6 percent annually. The real income of every stratum of Americans increased, and total tax collections rose from $500 billion in 1980 to $1 trillion in 1990 (in constant dollars).

At the same time, Reagan deregulated oil prices, making energy cheaper, and launched U.S.-Canadian free trade, setting the stage for NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement). Perhaps most important of all, he created IRAs (individual retirement accounts) and 401(k) programs, giving birth to what has been called “the investor class.” New industries arose in computing, software, communications, and the Internet that streamlined and transformed the American economy.

Liberal Myth No. 3: The federal government continued to grow and expand under Reagan, who callously tripled the national debt.

Reality: During the Reagan years, overall domestic spending did increase, as the president battled with a Democratic House of Representatives led by a fiercely partisan Speaker Tip O’Neill. Spending on education, social services, medicine, and food almost doubled. However, federal outlays on regional development, commerce, and housing credit decreased by about 22 percent. And the size of the federal civilian workforce declined by about 5 percent, because of conservative managers such as Donald Devine, described by The Washington Post as “Reagan’s terrible swift sword of the civil service.” The annual federal deficit as a share of GDP fell significantly from 6.3 percent in 1983 to 2.9 percent in 1989. As Reagan left office, the CBO (Congressional Budget Office) projected that “deficits were on a path to fall to about 1 percent of GDP” by 1993.

The near tripling of the national debt was mostly due to Reagan’s defense spending. In President Carter’s last budget, America spent just under $160 billion on national defense. In 1988, the Reagan administration spent $304 billion, including more than twice as much on military hardware. During his years in office, Reagan expended a total of $1.72 trillion on national defense, an unprecedented amount that he stoutly defended.

Challenged in a cabinet meeting that he “couldn’t spend all of this money on the military” and that it would look bad to boost spending on guns while cutting the butter, Reagan replied: “Look, I am the president of the United States, the commander-in-chief. My primary responsibility is the security of the United States. … If we don’t have security, we’ll have no need for social programs.”

The essential question was, “What price peace?” Was it worth $1.72 trillion to build up America’s defenses so that Reagan could end the Cold War at the bargaining table and not on the battlefield? Most Americans would not hesitate to emphatically answer, “Yes!”

If we examine the economic report cards of postwar presidents from Truman through Reagan, according to Harvard economist Robert Barro, Reagan easily finishes first. Using the change each year in inflation, unemployment, interest rates, and growth in gross national product, Reagan ranks first. He engineered the largest reduction in the misery index (inflation plus unemployment) in history—50 percent. The 1980s, says economist Richard B. McKenzie, were, up to then, “the most prosperous decade in American history.”

Liberal Myth No. 4: Reagan was a cynical, calculating politician who used “states’ rights” to win the 1980 election and paid little attention to African-Americans as president.

Reality: The African-American columnist Joseph Perkins has calculated that black unemployment fell from 19.5 percent in 1983 to 11.4 percent in 1989. The income of black-owned businesses rose almost one-third between 1982 and 1987. The black middle class grew from 3.6 million to 4.8 million during the Reagan years, while the cash income of black households (adjusted for inflation) rose by 12 percent. By contrast, the median income of black households fell by 2.2 percent during the Obama years from 2010 to 2013.

Throughout the ’70s, Reagan exhorted fellow Republicans to address the party’s failure to attract black voters. At the 1977 Conservative Political Action Conference, he said, “We [Republicans] believe in treating all Americans as individuals and not as stereotypes or voting blocs.” Speaking to the Urban League in August 1980, after having won the GOP’s presidential nomination, Reagan said, “I am committed to the protection and enforcement of the civil rights of black Americans . . . into every phase of the programs I will propose.”

While marking Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday in 1983, President Reagan drew an arresting parallel between the first Republican president and the man Americans were honoring that day. “Abraham Lincoln freed the black man,” he noted. “In many ways, Dr. King freed the white man. … Where others—white and black—preached hatred, he taught the principles of love and nonviolence.”

Who better than Ronald Reagan to have the last word about which is the myth and which is the reality about his commitment to civil rights?



Real civilization still exists: Bulletin from a quiet small-town life in New Zealand

Report from a happy young mother there -- about her daughter

H's school life is set to begin in just 6 months’ time! I organised a school visit for Playcentre so the kids could get another taste of school and start a comfortable transition from the free play of Playcentre to the idea and structure of school.

The school at L is a real country school, the whole school knew of our visit when we arrived. The teacher allocated buddies to each of the kids and the principal of the school walked in to greet us too. The teacher Mrs H read a story about sea animals and the kids then joined their buddies at a table and made an Octopus with colouring in, cutting and sticking on 8 legs.

When the school bell rang it was time for morning tea and play. It was raining outside so the games came out and it was great to see some older kids come in to say hello from other classes.

The school has a large influx of students starting school in the next 6 months and are having to build a new classroom to cope, I am pleased to hear there will be plenty of kids for H to start school with. H was all upset when we had to leave and wanted to know why those kids got to stay and she had to leave. She was happy with the sandpit that they played in as we left and decided she would be happy at this school.


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, June 09, 2015

Keep Hillary-Slayer Carly in this Thing

Roger Simon

I had been hearing for weeks that Carly Fiorina was the hottest speaker on the nascent Republican campaign circuit - except perhaps for Marco Rubio, but the senator’s formidable communications skills have been known for years .  Even the New York Times was trumpeting Fiorina’s appeal in a column describing the long lines to hear the former Hewlett-Packard CEO speak under the typically equivocal NYT headline “Carly Talks, Iowa Swoons and the Polls Shrug,” just to make sure nobody gets ahead of themselves.

Well, maybe they won’t shrug at some point, but whatever the case, it was with some interest that I accepted an invitation to attend a luncheon at which Fiorina was speaking.  And I’m here to affirm what others have been saying.  This lady can communicate.  In fact, she’s exceptionally good at it.  Even more, she actually has something to say. And can answer questions.  Intelligently and without evading the subject even once.

But before I go further, I have to acknowledge what many of you may already suspect.  When Fiorina speaks there is another woman in the room.  A ghost.  And her name is Hillary Rodham Clinton.  You can’t get the former secretary of state out of your mind as Carly is talking, because two versions of a modern woman are automatically being presented to you — one genuinely progressive in the true English-language sense of that simple word and one a metaphorical “progressive” in the Orwellian Democratic Party usage with which we are continually assaulted.  One answers questions about practically everything while the other avoids answering anything and on those rare occasions when she does, lies.

Now I am aware the rap against Carly is that she lost to Barbara Boxer in the California Senate race. (She jokes about this, referring to how her husband of 30 years always says to her “I can’t believe you lost to Barbara Boxer!”) And I’m also aware she was fired from her job as CEO of Hewlett-Packard.  Having been a CEO of a tiny company (this one) for seven years, I’m not altogether sure what we learn from that and I might point out the most famous CEO of our era, Steve Jobs, was also fired from his post at that obscure company he started.  Whatever.

But I will say this, being a CEO of a company the size of HP is a damn sight harder and more complex job than being the governor of a state or a senator — and I say that with all due respect to governors and senators. There’s a reason CEOs make the skadillion dollars they do — sometimes anyway. They’re responsible to their stock holders and the board on a daily basis, not just every four or six years at election time when voters may or may not remember who they are or what they did.

Listening to Fiorina, I suspect she did a lot, since her overall knowledge of global situations was high. She had quite a balanced view of China, not regarding them as an enemy, but an “adversary” to be watched. She had personally been toe-to-toe with Putin, but offered him no reset button.  Instead, she would like to arm the Ukrainians. When it comes to the Middle East, I would call her a measured hawk.  He first phone call, she said,  after inauguration would be to Benjamin Netanyahu, reaffirming (or I should say reconstructing) our alliance with Israel.  All of our supposed allies would be listening in on that one, she noted, because how you deal with one of your closest allies would be replicated with all.  I think , by now, we all know how right she is about that.

On the domestic front, she had numerous practical proposals for drawing down the debt, including one not to hire new government employees for the positions of retiring baby boomers. Just let them expire.  She’d also like to have weekly televised sessions with the public to try to bypass the media and put pressure on legislators by having Americans vote for things on their cellphones, the way they do for The Voice.  For example, she said, is it okay to pay government employees for watching porn on their computers all day while others actually do their work?  Press one if… well, you get the idea.

But most important, I think, is that Carly stay in this thing, not be cut out by some arbitrary debate limit.  She is the anti-Hillary and by far the best positioned to put paid to the Witch of Chappaqua.  And not just because she is a woman, but because she is, as she says, “fearless.”

ONE MORE THING:  Speaking of Rubio, how about a Rubio-Fiorina ticket — or the other way around?  An Hispanic and a woman.  That would shake up the preconceptions of the liberal bourgeoisie.  And in my fantasy, if they won, they could make a joint inaugural address explaining to America that this was the end of  ”identity politics.” It’s reactionary, anti-democratic and against everything this country should stand for.  We’re all just Americans.  No more hyphens.



Junk Journalism

What the MSM calls “reporting” is often just activism, careerism, and narcissism to advance the Democrat agenda

by Victor Davis Hanson

Once upon a time, Dan Rather — the fallen CBS celebrity anchorman from the evening news and at 60 Minutes – was the master of “gotcha” journalism. Rather would play up his populist credentials, do ambush interviews with supposedly self-important grandees, and then pull out an unknown memo, an embarrassing quote from one’s past, or some sort of previously unexamined hypocrisy. And, presto, down went the high and mighty, as Rather grinned that he had taken down another enemy of his middle-class viewers without power and influence.

Rather became a multimillionaire celebrity himself, and forgot the very rules of ethical journalism that he so often preached to his victims. Nemesis finally — she is often a slowcoach goddess — caught up with him at 73, in the heat of the 2004 campaign and furor at the Texan-twanged, evangelical, Iraq War promoter George W. Bush. Rather’s producers got hold of faked memos purportedly proving that the commander-in-chief had once gone AWOL while serving as a twenty-something pilot with the Texas National Guard.

Rather’s story of Bush, the privileged hypocrite, made a big splash, especially in the age of Cindy Sheehan and Michael Moore. When the truth came out that the memos were not only not true but could not be true, given their computerized format from the pre-Microsoft age, a red-faced CBS hierarchy fired a few of its marquee producers and eventually eased Rather out.

Rather sued. He denied. He blustered. He pleaded. He cajoled. He would not go away. When he was all through, he had become the sort of hapless prey caught in a web of contradictions that he once had enjoyed teasing before stinging on air. Rather’s defense was finally reduced to “the means justify the ends” argument that the memos could have been fake but his charges were still accurate.

NBC anchor Brian Williams was a less abrasive persona, but no less smug and privileged a celebrity tele-journalist. He too imploded when his Rather-like ego convinced him that Rule One of journalism — to demand the truth from others, first one must always tell the truth — no longer applied, given Williams’ omnipresence, big money, and colossal sense of self.

So Williams began making stuff up live in front of millions of listeners, as if he were the story and as if the audience were the amazed bystanders. Given his progressive faith, his celebrity status, and his nice-guy image, Williams apparently mythologized for quite some time without audit. His yarns were pathetic, in the sense that they characteristically placed Williams, as a self-inflated version of Forrest Gump, in a danger zone perhaps at risk of his life, but always cool, forever professional in conveying inside drama to Americans on their couches. A sort of journalist version of Hillary Clinton flying into the Balkans braving gunfire.

Like Rather, Brian Williams is now gone, at least for a while. He may be back, given that he made his network far more money than did Rather in his waning years. But who could ever believe his personal-voice psychodramas again?

George Stephanopoulos was a Clinton-era flack who effectively bullied would-be investigative reporters, did negative research, and massaged liberal journalists to convince America that Bill Clinton was not a philanderer and slave to his appetites who habitually lied to escape the serial messes he got himself — and his family and friends — into. And Stephanopoulos was good at spin apparently, in that Clinton won his election and the country ignored the various females whom he had bullied, groped, cajoled, and sometimes smeared.

Stephanopoulos wrote a memoir that served as a kind of mea culpa, as he transitioned into the limelight of New York-D.C. corridor journalism. Yet Stephanopoulos never severed his valuable Clinton connections, even as he went from partisan political analyst to supposedly disinterested anchor. Like Rather and Williams, his hubris got the best of him and he too ended up calling down Nemesis.

Stephanopoulos could not just question Peter Schweizer, author of an exposé on the Clinton Foundation. He had to go for the jugular, in ironic tu quoque fashion, suggesting that Schweitzer was a partisan hack and his book political mudslinging because the author had worked as a speechwriter for George W. Bush for four months.

That paradox was a bridge too far — given that Stephanopoulos had been no mere speechwriter or a four-month employee, but a recent donor to his old employer’s pay-for-play family foundation. The closer that Hillary Clinton got to announcing her bid for the presidency, the more, it seems, Stephanopoulos started giving money to the Clintons’ foundation and participating in their “charity.” He said he wanted to promote AIDS relief and save the trees, but there were plenty of foundations that did both without raking off 90% of their income for administration and travel or paying Chelsea over a half-million dollars to hang around.

The Clintons and Stephanopoulos were birds of a liberal feather. Hillary and Bill raked in $30 million in speaking fees in just the last 16 months (about $62,500 per day). Their left-wing politics supposedly gave them immunity from the obvious conclusion that they were con artists who had created a huge family racket (Chelsea gets $600,000 a year to help run it; Sidney Blumenthal got $10,000 a month in consulting fees) to shake down corporate grandees and foreign governments.

The motive seems unapologetic greed: the savvy dealmakers could donate to a former president’s and likely future president’s shell organization that hired their former, out-of-work flacks, provided the Clintons with free jet travel, and still funneled 10% of the cash to charities as progressive cover — as they looked for insider concessions like cell phone contracts or uranium acquisitions. To the extent one added to the pot through half-million-dollar fees directly to Bill for a few minutes of lecturing, there might be even more grants of most favorable-person status.

Stephanopoulos donated with time and money to all that, again only when it seemed wise to reinvest in Hillary as she hit the 2016 campaign circuit — when blue-chip access makes or breaks celebrity journalists. Like the Clintons, Stephanopoulos is a man of the left who likes to be paid in supposed right-wing fashion for his journalistic caring: $105 million for seven years at ABC, or $41,000 a day — for the next 2,555 days.

Unlike Williams and Rather, Stephanopoulos still works. But how could he ever interview a presidential contender given the doubts about his motives, whether corrupt or reformed? When he interviews Hillary, what will he ask: “Did my $75,000 get through OK?”

Add up all junk journalism — the Rolling Stone’s serial lies about false rape stories from Sabrina Erdely, the Jayson Blair myths, the New Republic stable of fabricators, the Fareed Zakaria plagiarism — and one can see why the public distrusts the news in general and those who provide in particular.

The problem with current reporting is not the bogeymen of the free-for-all internet, where there are no laws in the arena, but the blue-chip grandees who suffer the additional wage of hypocrisy.

Titles and associations, not character or talent, created a sense of entitlement that so often leads to overreach. Not all, but most of our junk journalists are progressives, given the creed that sometimes a memo, a story, an angle might have to be stretched a bit too far for the noble aim of helping the people, or for assuaging one’s own guilt of becoming well-off and celebrity-conscious from muckraking journalism.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

On a minor endnote, not long ago journalist Kate Linthicum from the L.A. Times called me for “comment” on the California drought and “immigration.”

I avoid the L.A. Times. In 2006 their former San Joaquin Valley reporter, Mark Arax, called me to “comment” on a “civil war” in the San Joaquin Valley between an alliance of Jewish neocons and Christian zealots who were supposedly pushing the Iraq War down the throats of the proverbial people, who did the dying.

His Jewish angle was borderline anti-Semitism. I told him there were few Jews in the Valley to begin with, and most Christians were apolitical, albeit the Valley was a far more conservative place than elsewhere in California and anti-war protests were rare. From that, Arax wrote that I had told him “great nations needed to wage war to remain great,” and that I wanted “a call for war against Islam.”

He offered no citations for those quotes, and never returned my calls. I offered the correction to his fabrications here.

Linthicum had seen a column in which I mentioned a number of causes of the drought dilemma: (1) lack of rain and snow; (2) failure to finish the envisioned California Water Project; (3) unwise release of reservoir water to the ocean for various green causes; (4) much greater California population today than during the last major drought, in part due to immigration (one in four current Californian residents was born in a foreign country). After five minutes of conversation, it was clear that she was interested only in point four, or rather a likely suggestion that I was scapegoating immigrants for water shortages.

I went through the four causes again. I added that I was not scapegoating immigrants, but noted the irony of policies that encouraged open borders yet no commensurate investments in infrastructure needed for population growth. For example, the paradoxes of welcoming immigrants to California while not improving highways, building more reservoirs, canals, and dams, or promoting more job-creating manufacturing, agricultural, oil, and mineral industries to handle them.

I reminded her that I knew what her preconceived narrative was, and I wanted no part of it. I referred her to quotes from the National Review article she was drawing from. (“A record one in four current Californians was not born in the United States, according to the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California. Whatever one’s view on immigration, it is ironic to encourage millions of newcomers to settle in the state without first making commensurately liberal investments for them in water supplies and infrastructure. Sharp rises in population still would not have mattered much had state authorities just followed their forbearers’ advice to continually increase water storage.”)

She denied an agenda, and to ensure her fides, promised to email the quotes she would use to run it by me for approval.

When she hung up, I concluded four things: 1) She knew nothing about California climate, weather, water policy, the California Water Project, agriculture, immigration, or even demographic statistics; 2) she saw a muddled story line in a sort of nativist scapegoating of poor immigrants; 3) she was not telling the truth when she promised to email me her use or non-use of quotes before publication.

The story came out with the quote:

In an article in the National Review, Stanford academic Victor Davis Hanson argued that while California’s current dry spell is not novel, “What is new is that the state has never had 40 million residents during a drought — well over 10 million more than during the last dry spell in the early 1990s.”

That bit supposedly summed up my long essay and Linthicum’s over 30 minutes of interviewing.

Turn on Brian Williams, read the L.A. Times’ lead stories, catch NPR on the radio, and it is often just liberal activism, careerism, and narcissism on the part of an elite who believes that their own activism exempts them from the contradictions of their own lives, as if privilege is not privilege if you crusade 9 to 5 on behalf of the unprivileged.



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, June 08, 2015

A new denial that Hitler was a socialist

Tim Stanley is an historian so his denial that Hitler was a socialist is not the sheer ignorance that one usually encounters.  The clue to his skepticism lies however early in his article.  He says of Hitler:  "He may well have been anticapitalist, but that does not necessarily mean that his concept of socialism sits within the Marxist tradition".

That sentence is very curious indeed.  How could Hitler be anticapitalist and NOT be socialist? "Anticapitalist" and "socialist" are pretty near synonyms.  (Yes. I know about Bismarck.  That's another story and a fascinating one but I have written on that elsewhere -- e.g. here).  But by the time we get to the end of the sentence we see what is going on.  Stanley's Leftist background is showing.  Like many academic Leftists, socialism is to Stanley synonymous with Marxism.

So Leftist leaders like Tony Blair are not socialists?  Blair is certainly no Marxist but he was one of the most electorally successful leaders the British Labour party has had. So Stanley is saying only that Hitler is not a Marxist.  But who would disagree with that?  Hitler hated Bolshevism.

But some of the great hates in life stem from sibling rivalry and anybody who has spent much time talking to Leftists will know how much sibling rivalry there is among them. It is very common on the Left -- witness the icepick in the head that Trotsky got courtesy of Stalin. Very few of the old Bolsheviks lived for long after the revolution, in fact.

And Lenin was just as bad as Stalin. In a 1920 pamphlet you find a contempt for some of his fellow Leftists that is probably greater than anything he ever wrote about the Tsar. It is in describing his fellow revolutionaries (Kautsky and others) that Lenin spoke swingeingly of "the full depth of their stupidity, pedantry, baseness and betrayal of working-class interests". But Leftism is founded on hate so such hate for fellow Leftists is no surprise.

So Stanley starts out on a very false footing.

Stanley's other objections to the view of Hitler as a socialist boil down to saying that Hitler was hypocritical.  He said one thing to intimates and different things in public.  But surely that just makes him a politician?  He was one.  He fought many elections.  To judge any political figure by what they do in private is rather hilarious in fact.  Fidel Castro surely has earned his stripes as a socialist but he lives the privileged and luxurious of the Hispanic grandee that he is. Tito was similar.  Remember him?

I myself make no judgment about what Hitler really believed.  As  far as one can tell, it was a bit of a hodge-podge, though his antisemitism was probably heartfelt.  Even his antisemitism was Leftist in his days, however.  The founder of Germany's mainstream Leftist party, August Bebel, famously noted that "Antisemitismus ist der Sozialismus des blöden Mannes" -- generally translated as "Antisemitism is the socialism of fools".  Antisemitism was in other words very common among pre-war socialists.  And Lenin himself alluded to the same phenomenon in saying that "it is not the Jews who are the enemies of the working people" but "the capitalists of all countries."  He wanted class-war and saw antisemitism among his fellow Leftists as a distraction from that.

So what is of interest is surely not what Hitler believed in his heart of hearts but rather what he preached to the German public.  What was his appeal?  How did he campaign?  What did he promise in his rise to power?

And there is no doubt about that. Perhaps the most amazing parallel between Hitler and the postwar Left is that for much of the 30s Hitler was actually something of a peacenik. I am putting up below a picture of a Nazi propaganda poster of the 1930s that you won't believe unless you are aware of how readily all Leftists preach one thing and do another. It reads "Mit Hitler gegen den Ruestungswahnsinn der Welt".

And what does that mean? It means "With Hitler against the armaments madness of the world". "Ruestung" could more precisely be translated as "military preparations" but "armaments" is a bit more idiomatic in English.

And how about the poster below? It would be from the March 5, 1933 election when Hitler had become Chancellor but Marshall Hindenburg was still President:

Translated, the poster reads: "The Marshall and the corporal fight alongside us for peace and equal rights"

Can you get a more Leftist slogan than that? "Peace and equal rights"? Modern-day Leftists sometimes try to dismiss Hitler's socialism as something from his early days that he later outgrew. But when this poster was promulgated he was already Reichskanzler (Prime Minister) so it was far from early days.

We can all have our own views about what Hitler actually believed but he campaigned and gained power as a democratic Leftist. The March 5, 1933 election was the last really democratic election prewar Germany had and, in it, Hitler's appeal was Leftist.

There are more such election posters here

Stanley also makes the undoubtedly correct point that Hitler was a nationalist.  Since "Nazi" is a German abbreviation of "National Socialist" that is no news.  But can you be both a nationalist and a socialist?  Hitler showed that you can be.  But he was not original in that.  Napoleon was too.  And who was it who said, "Ask not what your country can do for you.  Ask what you can do for your country"?  It was Pericles actually, but Democrat hero JFK recycled it -- JR


Little Yazidi children murdered by ISIS

Note that the Yazidis are not Arabs.  They are an ancient Indo-European race, akin to modern-day Europeans



Retired US Lieutenant General David Deptula said recently, “The ultimate guidance (regarding air strikes in Iraq) rests with the black guy with his feet on the desk. Over three quarters of pilots leaving Gulf carriers are returning without dropping anything due to delays in decision-making up the chain of command in Obama's War council.”

Sources involved in the air war against ISIS said that, “Strike missions take on average just under an hour from a pilot requesting permission to strike an ISIS target to a weapon leaving the wing so by that time the insurgents have either vanished or we are out of fuel”.

After Obama had changed the rules of engagement (ROE) in Afghanistan in 2011, immediately US combat troop deaths tripled.

Marines complained that they needed to watch through their night-vision goggles as shadowy green figures dug holes in the roadway. “On several occasions we opened fire but at some point, the order came down to ‘Stop shooting at night unless you can positively identify an insurgent’. We knew what they were doing ... burying IEDs for sure, but command instructed us that, ‘You can't be positive. They might be farmers.' It’s ridiculous”, they said.

Also under orders from the Obama Administration, a new military handbook was published for all U.S. troops deployed to the Middle East which contained a list of “taboo conversation topics”. It included:

 *  “Making derogatory comments about the Taliban.”
 *  “Advocating women’s rights.”
 *  “Any criticism of paedophilia.”
 *  “Mentioning homosexuality and homosexual conduct,” or
 *  “Anything related to Islam itself.”

Furthermore, Obama had noted in his handbook that, “The tripling in deadly attacks by Afghan soldiers against US forces was due to Western ignorance of Afghan culture”. Hmmm.

Obama’s revised ROE in Iraq has meant airstrike missions have dropped from a planned 800 per day to 14, through pilots’ inability to engage targets.

The pilot must first determine that no more than 10 per cent of any target would involve civilians and in no case no more than 30 civilians must be at risk at any time. If in any doubt, permission must be sought from higher up the line of command.

Only women can search women, even when a male is suspected of wearing a burkah. No night or surprise searches are allowed. Households have to be warned prior to searches. U.S. soldiers may not fire at the enemy unless the enemy is preparing to fire first.

U.S. forces cannot engage the enemy if civilians are present.
If Iraqi soldiers are present US troops can fire at an insurgent if they see him planting an IED during the day, but not at night and not if insurgents are merely, “walking away from the area where the explosives have been laid”.

The recent fall of Ramadi was anticipated 12 months ago when US intelligence first detected a slow build-up of ISIS forces on the western perimeter, yet targeting of those forces using air strikes was not given clearance by US command.

The ISIS can peruse the revised Obama ROEs on the internet at any time, courtesy of Wikileaks, yet no changes appear to have been made to the rules. So mosques have become weapons caches, male suicide bombers dress in burkahs, ISIS militia will not open fire on US troops unless surrounded by civilians and, as long as they are not shooting at things, convoys of ISIS artillery can move freely on open roadways without fear of being shot at.

Can America sustain 18 more months of the Obama/Kerry twins, with the corrupt Clintons in the wings?



The Founders’ Model of Welfare Actually Reduced Poverty

Which approach to welfare policy is better for the poor: that of the Founders or that of today’s welfare state?

The more we spend on the poor, the harder it seems for them to attain decent, productive lives in loving families. The federal government has spent $22 trillion on anti-poverty programs since the beginning of the War on Poverty in 1965, but the poverty rate is nearly the same today as in 1969, fluctuating between roughly 11 and 15 percent over that time period.

As I argue in a new essay on “Poverty and Welfare in the American Founding,” these results are bound to continue unless we rethink welfare policy from the perspective of our Founders. Neither the contemporary left nor right in America properly understands their approach.

The left often claims the Founders were indifferent to the poor—suggesting that New Deal America ended callousness and indifference. Indeed, high school and college textbooks frequently espouse this narrative. Many on the right think the Founders advocated only for charitable donations as the means of poverty relief.

Neither is correct. America always has had laws providing for the poor. The real difference between the Founders’ welfare policies and today’s is over how, not whether, government should help those in need.

The Founders

Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin believed government has an obligation to help the poor. Both thought welfare policies should support children, the disabled, widows and others who could not work. But any aid policy, they insisted, would include work-requirements for the able-bodied.

Rather than making welfare a generational inheritance, Franklin thought it should assist the poor in overcoming poverty as expediently as possible: “I am for doing good to the poor.…I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it.”

Moreover, local, rather than federal, officials administered this welfare, since they were more likely to know the particular needs of recipients and could distinguish between the deserving poor (the disabled and involuntarily unemployed) and the undeserving poor (those capable of work but preferring not to).

The Founders sought to provide aid in a way that would help the deserving poor but minimize incentives for recipients to act irresponsibly. They wanted to protect the rights of taxpayers by preventing corruption and abuses in welfare aid.

Above all, the Founders saw the family and life-long marriage as the primary means of support for everyone, rich and poor alike.

Modern Welfare

By the mid-20th century, intellectual opinion began to peel away the stigma attached to the behavioral aspects of poverty, and progressive politicians increased the benefits and number of welfare recipients.

During the New Deal, despite major expansions of welfare programs, the Founders’ approach remained intact at least to this extent: These programs still distinguished between the deserving and undeserving poor—a distinction based on moral conduct.

Until the mid-1960s, free markets, secure property rights, strong family policy and minimal taxation and regulation supported a culture of work and entrepreneurship. But through the rise of modern liberalism’s redefinition of rights and justice, welfare was officially reconceived as a right that could be demanded by anyone in need, regardless of conduct or circumstances.

Among the most destructive features of the post-1965 welfare regime has been its unintentional dismantling of the family. By making welfare wages higher than working wages, the government essentially replaced fathers with a government check. The state became many families’ primary provider.

Even more perverse, for many single mothers, marrying a working man may actually be a financial burden rather than a support because the marriage can diminish government benefits.

Though modern welfare programs grant more benefits to a greater number of individuals than the Founders ever fathomed, the Founders’ approach to welfare policy was effective in providing for the minimal needs of the poor and dramatically reducing poverty over time. Based on today’s living standards, the poverty rate fell from something like 90 percent in the Founding era to 12 percent by 1969.

If the goal of welfare is to provide for those in need while respecting the rights of all, Americans would do well to ponder the Founders’ outlook on welfare as a limited system, concerned with helping the poor who truly are in need and encouraging those who are able to work to leave their poverty behind as soon as possible.



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, June 07, 2015

Hiding Something? Mosby Blocks Gray Autopsy

“Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby plans to seek a protective order that would block the release of Freddie Gray’s autopsy report and other ‘sensitive’ documents as she prosecutes the six police officers involved in his arrest,” reports The Baltimore Sun. The rationale Mosby gave the paper is understandable enough: That prosecutors “have a duty to ensure a fair and impartial process for all parties involved” and “will not be baited into litigating this case through the media.”

Except that Mosby herself litigated the case in repeated press conferences as events were unfolding, leading to riots in the city. The truth about hiding the autopsy is probably better explained by what an attorney for one of the police officers said: “[T]here is something in that autopsy report that they are trying to hide.”

Given how the autopsy of Michael Brown largely if not completely vindicated Officer Darren Wilson, it wouldn’t be surprising if Mosby was trying to retain some justification for pursuing the six Baltimore officers so harshly — one has been charged with second-degree murder. It wouldn’t be fun for her to lose her case in the media.



Freedom for Iran's hostages should trump any nuclear deal

by Jeff Jacoby

IN HIS remarks to the White House Correspondents' Dinner in April, President Obama pledged that his administration would work tirelessly for the freedom of Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post reporter who has been held hostage by Iran since last summer on spurious espionage charges.

"Jason has been in prison for nothing more than writing about the hopes and fears of the Iranian people," Obama said. "We will not rest until we bring him home to his family, safe and sound."

Yet just four days later, the president warned Congress that he would veto any bill making approval of a nuclear deal with Iran contingent on the release of Americans in Iranian captivity. Obama may want the mullahs to set their US hostages free. But he wants that nuclear deal more.

On Monday, Obama boasted to a gathering of young Southeast Asian leaders that as a result of his policies, "today, once again, the United States is the most respected country on earth." Could anyone swallow such a risible claim without, as Hillary Clinton might put it, the willing suspension of disbelief? It's hard to think of any nation on the planet that holds America in higher esteem because of the Obama presidency. Iran surely doesn't. Time and again, the White House has bent over backward to "engage" the Islamist regime in Tehran. At every step its overtures have been greeted with scorn.

The seizure of innocent Americans like Rezaian — whose trial, in a closed courtroom, began last week — fits a pattern of hostility that seven years of outreach and indulgence by the Obama administration has failed to soften. "We will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist," entreated the president in his first inaugural address. But Iran's theocratic leaders have not unclenched their fists, not even when it would appear to be in their interest to do so.

The nuclear accord being pushed so fervently by Obama and John Kerry would be a dream come true for the Islamic Republic's rulers — generating tens of billions of dollars in sanctions relief, legitimizing their eventual path to the bomb, and entrenching Iran's malignant regional hegemony. Yet hungry as they are for this deal, they know that Obama is hungrier still. No provocation, no act of aggression, no insult by Iran has been enough to make the White House walk away from the negotiations.

Rezaian isn't the only US hostage in Iranian hands. Saeed Abedini, 35, is a Christian pastor from Idaho who was arrested in 2012 while on a humanitarian trip to Iran to help establish an orphanage. He was convicted in 2013 "undermining the national security of Iran" and sentenced to eight years in prison. Amir Hekmati, a decorated US Marine, was born in Arizona and raised in Michigan. He was seized in 2011 while visiting his grandmother in Iran, accused of spying, and sentenced to death (a sentence later commuted pending a retrial). Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent, vanished during a trip to Iran in 2007. Iran's state-run media reported at the time that he was in the hands of the security services, making him one of the longest-held US hostages ever.

The brazen detention of American citizens is an outrage. The refusal of the White House to call a halt to negotiations until the men are released is a humiliation. Iran has an odious history of abducting guiltless Americans, then using them as bargaining chips to trade for some concession from Washington. You'd think Washington would have learned by now that ransoming hostages only reinforces the incentive to seize more hostages in the future.

It is mind-boggling that the president would threaten to veto a measure making the freedom of the four US citizens the price of any more nuclear talks. Can Obama truly believe that this is the way to make America "the most respected country on earth"?



The Obama Administration’s Transparency Crisis

By Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch

The federal government is bigger than ever, and also the most secretive in recent memory. President Obama famously promised his would be the most transparent administration in history, but federal agencies under his leadership are often black holes in terms of disclosure. I’ll be testifying to the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee today, chaired by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) on the Obama transparency crisis.

The secrecy at the federal level is pervasive. Judicial Watch has filed nearly 3,000 FOIA requests with the Obama administration and nearly 225 FOIA lawsuits in federal court. Most of these lawsuits are filed just to get a “yes or no” answer from the administration. Agencies have built administrative hurdles and stonewalled even the most basic FOIA requests. The Obama administration’s casual law-breaking when it comes to FOIA is a national disgrace and shows contempt for the American people’s right to know what their government is doing.

Transparency is about self-government. If we don’t know what the government is doing, how can we govern ourselves?

There is a way out. Judicial Watch shows that one citizen group, using the Freedom of Information Act and independent oversight, can help the American people bring their government under control, having obtained numerous, shocking documents that had been denied to Congress.

It was Judicial Watch that uncovered a declassified email showing it was the Obama White House that put out the lie that the Benghazi attack was “rooted in an Internet video, and not a failure of policy,” leading Speaker Boehner to appoint the Select Committee on Benghazi. Judicial Watch has since obtained numerous other Benghazi records which highlight the administration’s extensive cover-up.

It was Judicial Watch which forced out key info about lost and then “unlost” Lois Lerner emails and how President Obama was lying when he suggested his IRS scandal was the result of boneheaded decisions by low level bureaucrats in Ohio. The documents show the IRS hit on the Tea Party was run out of D.C. and included the Justice Department and FBI.

Of course, these revelations have been surpassed in the media by the Clinton email and financial scandals. Judicial Watch has at least 18 lawsuits, 10 of which are active in federal court, and about 160 Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, that could be affected by Mrs. Clinton and her staff’s use of secret email accounts to conduct official government business.

Most recently, Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State John Kerry to compel him, as an executive agency head, to fulfill his obligation under the Federal Records Act to obtain and provide Clinton’s emails to the American people.

FOIA is a straightforward tool that gives Judicial Watch, the media, and citizens access to the federal courts in order to ensure compliance with lawful records requests.  This is why we get documents that Congress can’t. Liberals running the media won’t do the hard work that our lawyers and investigators do — not because they don’t know how or don’t have the resources – but because independent investigative reporting has been subsumed by the politics of protecting Obama and his “progressivism.”

Truth fears no inquiry. Crafty, corrupt politicians realize that transparency and accountability go hand-in-hand. If the Obama administration truly had nothing to hide, it would not go to such extraordinary lengths to keep vital information from the public.

Renewed congressional interest in reforming FOIA is a positive sign. Reforms must be significant and provide more access to information to the American people. Additionally, Congress should apply the freedom of information concept to itself and the courts, which are both exempt from executive transparency laws.

Our Founders were keenly aware of the need for accountability and transparency in our government. James Madison wrote, “A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy, or perhaps both.”

We can only hope that members of Congress today take Madison’s warning to heart. Today’s hearing is a start.



Obamacare’s Muse: The UK’s NHS

As I previously discussed in Townhall Finance, real and sustainable private investment is being held back in large part due to the regime uncertainty caused by such regulations as Dodd-Frank, Obamacare and climate change. In fact, I first pointed this out publicly as one of the guest speakers at a large Tea Party rally on Tax Day 2010 in Appleton WI.

Given the large and rising costs of healthcare in the US (eg 17.9% of GDP in 2014, up 5% from 1999), it is understandable that many Americans voted for reform. But Obamacare will only make the already government-centric American system even worse in terms of costs, prices, quality, innovation and care (including more bureaucratic rationing).

If Obamacare is not repealed and replaced by a more free market style system, then it will over time become more and more like its inspiration or muse of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) … where each regulatory failure calls forthmore regulation ad infinitum. As a late great economist once pointed out in the context of Hillarycare:

“On the free market, the consumer is ‘king or queen’ and the providers are always trying to make profits and gain customers by serving them well. But when government operates a service, the consumer is transmuted into a ‘pain-in-the-neck’, a ‘wasteful’ user-up of scarce social resources.” – Murray N. Rothbard

It thus seems appropriate to revisit the NHS. In doing this, I not only can offer my perspective as an economist but also as a patient of the NHS in the late 2000s. I have also been a patient of the US health care system in the 2010s, and of the Australian system for many years from the late 1980s. Although all three systems are far from perfect, the UK’s is a distant third place in my experience, including (no doubt surprisingly to most American liberals) the pervasiveness of ‘cold and uncaring’ NHS staff that I encountered from almost day one in the UK.

The NHS has for many years been referred to glowingly by the US liberal elite. One of these admirers of the NHS is former Obama ‘technocrat’ at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Dr Donald Berwick.

Dr Berwick has described the NHS as: “universal, accessible, excellent, and free at the point of care – a health system that is, at its core, like the world we wish we had: generous, hopeful, confident, joyous, and just.” And he added: “I am romantic about the NHS; I love it.” Perhaps this ‘love affair’ with the NHS is driven by his belief that: “Any health care funding plan that is just, equitable, civilized and humane must redistribute wealth from the richer among us to the poorer and the less fortunate. Excellent health care is by definition, redistributional.”

The NHS has its origins in the rise of western Progressivism (such as UK Fabian Socialism) and Imperial Germany’s mandated health insurance from the 1880s onwards. Again we can see the ‘Bootleggers and Baptists” phenomenon in action, with the ‘Progressives’ and ‘Fabians’ playing the role of the ‘Baptists’ and with the ‘Iron Chancellor of Germany’ and his cronies as the ‘Bootleggers’.

The NHS came into being in the late 1940s, with the express goal of providing the best and most up-to-date health care services available to anyone who wanted it free-of-charge. It was to do this by essentially nationalizing the entire health care sector in the UK. The NHS has since then grown to be the largest employer in Europe, employing more than one million people.

As demand is not constrained by market prices, the NHS has mainly resorted to rationing of services in the face of excess demand, which has resulted in the NHS’ infamous queuing. As Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute has previously highlighted, as many as 750,000 Britons were awaiting admission to NHS hospitals in 2007. Cancer patients, for example, can wait as long as 8 months for treatment resulting in nearly 20% of colon cancer patients, considered treatable when first diagnosed, being incurable by the time treatment is finally offered. The waiting times for many other less urgent procedures have usually been measured in months, with one in eight patients still waiting more than a year.

Less obvious than the quantity of services provided, is the non-stop rising costs to the British taxpayer. Dr Helen Evans of the UK’s Nurses for Reform pointed out that, even in between the 1944 ‘White Paper’ and the 1948 start of the NHS, the budget was already being revised upwards by nearly 75%. In its first year of operation, the NHS actually costed over 230% more than originally estimated. The main driver behind these cost overruns was the assumption that demand would remain roughly constant despite services being delivered ‘free’ at the point-of-use. Nominal charges have been introduced over the years, with negligible impact.

Capital investment in new, expanded and renovated hospitals was minimal until the great ‘Hospital Plan’ of the early 1960s. In fact, a significant proportion of the inherited NHS hospitals predated the First World War and, despite this, not a single new hospital was built during the first decade of the NHS. The ‘Plan’ aimed, over the course of a decade or more, to build 90 new hospitals, drastically remodel 134 more and provide 356 further improvement schemes. Even by the 1990s the ‘Plan’ remained unfulfilled, with only a third of the projects completed and a third not yet started.

Of course, the news headlines are more dominated by quality of service issues. As of 2008 in many NHS hospitals, more than 10% of patients were picking up infections and illnesses they did not have prior to being admitted. And up to 60% of NHS hospital patients could be undernourished during inpatient stays.

All of these worrying themes have continued unabated through to the present. Despite all of this, the NHS is still a ‘sacred cow’ in the UK, and the prospects for even minor free market friendly reforms in the foreseeable future are still very slim indeed.

Given the benchmark of the NHS, the future of Obamacare is perhaps best encapsulated by two former HHS ‘apparatchiks’ who purportedly said:

“National Health Insurance means combining the efficiency of the Postal Service with the compassion of the IRS … and the cost accounting of the Pentagon.” – Dr Louis Sullivan & Constance Horner



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)