Friday, October 02, 2015

A kinder era of politics? Whom are the British Leftist leader and his hate-filled acolytes trying to kid?

How dangerous is Jeremy Corbyn? Needless to say, his ecstatic supporters think he is practically saintly. But even some Tories believe that, though the new leader of the Labour Party is obviously wrong-headed, on the whole he seems quite a decent bloke.

Even I found myself thinking this during parts of Mr Corbyn’s conference speech on Tuesday afternoon when he repeated again and again that all he wanted in life was ‘kinder politics, and a more caring society’. Don’t we all?

He may be economically illiterate — so I reflected as he roamed his way through a number of his pet subjects — but he doesn’t look as though he could hurt a fly, and despite everything his heart appears to be roughly in the right place.

If I have been lulled, even momentarily, into thinking such things, it shows how fantastically successful Mr Corbyn and his allies have been in re-branding themselves as cuddly, consensual and basically harmless. They have embarked on the mother of all con-tricks, and their intended dupes are the electorate.

The central article of faith of the Corbynistas is that the British people hate extremism, and they must therefore do everything they can to airbrush out — or, if absolutely necessary, repudiate — any examples of fanaticism in their past, and to avoid saying or doing anything in the future that might alarm the voters.

Thus John McDonnell, the silver-haired Shadow Chancellor, warned us on Monday morning to expect a very boring speech from him later that day in which he would come across as an old-fashioned bank manager. He was trying to make himself sound as unthreatening as possible.

But Mr McDonnell is an extremist. In 2003, which is not very long ago, he said that it was ‘about time’ we started ‘honouring’ IRA terrorists. He recently apologised if he gave any offence, but actually one can’t disown such statements. He was a 51-year-old man when he said it, not a wide-eyed teenage radical, and he was plainly expressing deeply held views.

In 2010, he publicly admitted that he would like to ‘go back to the 1980s and assassinate Thatcher’. I very much doubt that this was intended as a joke, but even if it was, it carried with it something nasty and unpleasant and fundamentally undemocratic.

As for Mr Corbyn, however light-hearted and mild-mannered his performance was on Tuesday, he has spent too much time with men of violence for it to be written off as an accident. One of his first acts as an MP was to invite Gerry Adams, then president of the IRA’s political wing, to the House of Commons in 1984, a fortnight after the terrorist organisation had tried to blow up Margaret Thatcher and the rest of the Cabinet, killing five people in the process.

Doesn’t this association (which was continued) with Adams, who had abjured the ballot box, tell us something very important about Mr Corbyn? I would say the same about his hobnobbing with members of Hamas and Hezbollah, terrorist organisations committed to the destruction of the State of Israel.

It is perfectly legitimate to believe passionately in a united Ireland or a Palestinian State. What is so disturbing about Mr Corbyn is his habitual fraternisation with people who have tried to achieve these outcomes through violent means.

Now he has the effrontery to burble on about kindness and caring, and it may be tempting to take this seemingly gentle and self-deprecating man at face value. Tempting — but very stupid.

Incidentally, his contrivance of gentleness was briefly undermined quite early in the leadership campaign when he was forensically questioned by Krishnan Guru-Murthy of Channel Four News about his ‘friends’ at Hamas. For a moment the easy-going schoolmasterly mask dropped, to be replaced first by testiness and then by rather ugly aggression.

Don’t be taken in by this monumental act: that is my message. Just look at some of the minor players with whom Mr Corbyn has surrounded himself.

Andrew Fisher, his new political adviser, boasted on his website about taking part in what sounds like a student tuition-fee riot in 2010. He wrote: ‘Hundreds of people were enjoying the role reversal of the police being penned in and scared. I felt elated.’

And John Ross, an economics adviser to the new leader, once said, admittedly a long time ago: ‘The ruling class must know they will be killed if they do not allow a takeover by the workers. If we aren’t armed there will be a bloodbath.’ That doesn’t sound very kind and caring to me.

Of course, all this is in the past, and largely deniable as the former hard Left activists strive to fill our ears with honeyed words. The trouble is that, try as they might, they cannot entirely keep the lid on present and future eruptions of hatred and unpleasantness.

Just as Mr Corbyn was limbering up to preach his grotesquely insincere Sermon on the Mount, Unite leader Len McCluskey veered off script, and accused the Tories of being like the Nazis in seeking to reform strike laws. He invoked trade union members forced to wear armbands bearing a red triangle at Dachau concentration camp.

Well, Len is cock-a-hoop at the moment on account of Jeremy’s victory, and so got carried away, and quite forgot the new party line that politics is now supposed to be all about being caring and kind to one another.

Even the normally more sensible Tom Watson, the new Deputy Leader, called yesterday for Labour to kick the ‘nasty Tories down the road’, so that it can regain power in 2020.

I’m afraid that many others will also be forgetful about Mr Corbyn’s strictures. Last Saturday night a mob of class warriors carrying flame torches attacked a specialist cereal cafe in Shoreditch, East London, because they hate middle-class ‘gentrification’.

This put John McDonnell in a ticklish situation when he was interviewed on BBC2’s Newsnight on Monday evening. At least three times between 2010 and 2012 the man who is now Shadow Chancellor called for ‘insurrection’ to ‘bring down’ the Government.

In short, those deranged class warriors in Shoreditch were doing pretty well what he had ordered, but he could hardly cheer them on now. Nor could he criticise his own people, though. So he slid out of the question by saying that violence was ‘counter-productive’, without condemning what they did.

We should never be complacent, but I don’t think the Corbynistas will pull off their grand deception. It may be possible to put their highly discreditable pasts behind them. But they won’t be able to silence intemperate union leaders and unruly street warriors who are itching for a non-Parliamentary fight. Their hard Left supporters will almost certainly press for the de-selection of moderate Labour MPs.

Sometimes Corbyn and McDonnell will be forced to rebuke their wilder and more undisciplined followers for going too far too quickly, but they won’t be able to wash their hands of them, and nor will they want to. In the end, they are extremists cut from the same cloth.

During his speech on Tuesday, Jeremy Corbyn criticised spin, and represented himself as Mr Straight-as-a-Die. The truth is that in masquerading as kind and gentle and open to a new sort of inclusive politics, the Corbynistas are guilty of one of the biggest swindles practised on the British people in modern times.



The 'Affordable Housing' Fraud

Nowhere has there been so much hand-wringing over a lack of “affordable housing,” as among politicians and others in coastal California. And nobody has done more to make housing unaffordable than those same politicians and their supporters.

A recent survey showed that the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco was just over $3,500. Some people are paying $1,800 a month just to rent a bunk bed in a San Francisco apartment.

It is not just in San Francisco that putting a roof over your head can take a big chunk out of your pay check. The whole Bay Area is like that. Thirty miles away, Palo Alto home prices are similarly unbelievable.

One house in Palo Alto, built more than 70 years ago, and just over one thousand square feet in size, was offered for sale at $1.5 million. And most asking prices are bid up further in such places.

Another city in the Bay Area with astronomical housing prices, San Mateo, recently held a public meeting and appointed a task force to look into the issue of “affordable housing.”

Public meetings, task forces and political hand-wringing about a need for “affordable housing” occur all up and down the San Francisco peninsula, because this is supposed to be such a “complex” issue.

Someone once told President Ronald Reagan that a solution to some controversial issue was “complex.” President Reagan replied that the issue was in fact simple, “but it is not easy.”

Is the solution to unaffordable housing prices in parts of California simple? Yes. It is as simple as supply and demand. What gets complicated is evading the obvious, because it is politically painful.

One of the first things taught in an introductory economics course is supply and demand. When a growing population creates a growing demand for housing, and the government blocks housing from being built, the price of existing housing goes up.

This is not a breakthrough on the frontiers of knowledge. Economists have understood supply and demand for centuries — and so have many other people who never studied economics.

Housing prices in San Francisco, and in many other communities for miles around, were once no higher than in the rest of the United States. But, beginning in the 1970s, housing prices in these communities skyrocketed to three or four times the national average.

Why? Because local government laws and policies severely restricted, or banned outright, the building of anything on vast areas of land. This is called preserving “open space,” and “open space” has become almost a cult obsession among self-righteous environmental activists, many of whom are sufficiently affluent that they don’t have to worry about housing prices.

Some others have bought the argument that there is just very little land left in coastal California, on which to build homes. But anyone who drives down Highway 280 for thirty miles or so from San Francisco to Palo Alto, will see mile after mile of vast areas of land with not a building or a house in sight.

How “complex” is it to figure out that letting people build homes in some of that vast expanse of “open space” would keep housing from becoming “unaffordable”?

Was it just a big coincidence that housing prices in coastal California began skyrocketing in the 1970s, when building bans spread like wildfire under the banner of “open space,” “saving farmland,” or whatever other slogans would impress the gullible?

When more than half the land in San Mateo County is legally off-limits to building, how surprised should we be that housing prices in the city of San Mateo are now so high that politically appointed task forces have to be formed to solve the “complex” question of how things got to be the way they are and what to do about it?

However simple the answer, it will not be easy to go against the organized, self-righteous activists for whom “open space” is a sacred cause, automatically overriding the interests of everybody else.

Was it just a coincidence that some other parts of the country saw skyrocketing housing prices when similar severe restrictions on building went into effect? Or that similar policies in other countries have had the same effect? How “complex” is that?



Trump: Millions Who Pay No Taxes Will Keep Paying No Taxes

Donald Trump offered his tax plan Monday, and it has quite the populist appeal. His plan says, “If you are single and earn less than $25,000, or married and jointly earn less than $50,000, you will not owe any income tax. That removes nearly 75 million households — over 50% — from the income tax rolls. They get a new one page form to send the IRS saying, ‘I win,’ those who would otherwise owe income taxes will save an average of nearly $1,000 each.”

On top of that, he’d lower the top rate from 39.6% to 25%, and reduce corporate taxes from the current highest-in-the-world rate of 35% to 15%. On the other hand, he wants to eliminate deductions that help people like hedge fund managers pay a lower rate than many Americans. We suppose their tax forms will say, “I lose.”

Indeed, “eliminating most deductions and loopholes available to the very rich” is how he proposes to keep the plan “revenue neutral.” Fat chance of that. His proposed four brackets of 0%, 10%, 20% and 25% will “simplify the tax code,” he said. “It’ll grow the American economy at a level that it hasn’t seen for decades.”

It’s worth noting, as Trump does, that there are already millions of Americans who pay no income tax, though they do have to fill out complex tax forms to reach that conclusion. Thus, they have no “skin in the game,” and everyone should bear some of the burden, even if it’s just 1%. But Trump would expand the numbers paying nothing — smart politics.

On the other hand, these same workers pay a disproportionate share of the payroll tax, which supposedly funds the biggest drivers of our debt: Major entitlements.



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, October 01, 2015

Capitalism, Socialism and the Pope

Pope Francis’s visit to Cuba and the United States and his previous efforts to bring about a rapprochement between the two countries brings the world’s attention to three facts.

First, Cuba is one of two remaining communist countries in the world — countries dedicated to the belief that individuals have a duty to live for the state. Second, although the United States does not have the freest economy in the world (Hong Kong and Singapore get that honor and we now rank number 16!), it is the symbolic fountainhead of capitalism — a country whose founding document proclaims the right of everyone to pursue their own happiness. Three, there are still people in the world who contend that communism is better.

One way to see the 20th century is to view it as one long debate over economic systems. What was the best way to lift people out of poverty and put them on the road to economic prosperity? Was it capitalism? Or was it some variant of statism — communism, socialism, fascism or the welfare state?

At the beginning of the century you could at least understand why there was a debate. Intelligent people believed that enlightened government could outperform the marketplace. All over the world they tried to put that belief into practice. The result was carnage on a scale never seen before. An estimated 170 million people were killed by their own governments in the last century! That is six times the number who died in combat, fighting wars.

Here is another stunning fact. The great majority of those deaths were at the hands of true believers – people who were ideologically driven and were at least nominally committed to making the world a better place.

By the time the century ended the debate was over. Clearly, people continued to live in poverty not because of the free market, but because of bad government. And this realization led country after country to turn to privatization, deregulation, liberalized international trade and freer markets. The results have been stunning. As this chart shows, 80 percent of the world’s worst poverty (people living on the income equivalent of less than a dollar a day) was eradicated in the past 40 years. Nothing like that has ever happened before. American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks asks:

    "So what did that? What accounts for that? United Nations? US foreign aid? The International Monetary Fund? Central planning? No.

    It was globalization, free trade, the boom in international entrepreneurship. In short, it was the free enterprise system, American style, which is our gift to the world.

    I will state, assert and defend the statement that if you love the poor, if you are a good Samaritan, you must stand for the free enterprise system, and you must defend it, not just for ourselves but for people around the world.It is the best anti-poverty measure ever invented."

As I wrote previously, the Pope’s published views of all this are disappointing and in stark contrast to the views of John Paul II. In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis states:

    "Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.

    …[S]ome people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system"

More than 200 years ago, Adam Smith made a remarkable discovery: you can’t succeed in the marketplace without meeting the needs of others. Competition in the market is competition in meeting other people’s needs. The most successful competitors are the ones who do the very best at meeting other people’s needs. All the charitable institutions in the world over the course of the last decade have not met as many needs as the market meets in a single hour.

The marketplace uniquely melds altruism and self-interest. Take Bill Gates, the man who pioneered the personal computer revolution. By empowering computer users everywhere, he became the world’s richest man; and now he is giving all his wealth away. Was he motivated by selfishness? Or was he altruistically trying to create the greatest good for the greatest number? The beauty of the marketplace is that Gates' motivation doesn’t matter. You get pretty much the same result either way.

In a voluntary exchange, both parties are made better off. Moreover, new entrants into a real market are opportunities for more mutually beneficial exchanges. But under zero sum rationing, other people are a threat. One person’s gain is invariably another person’s loss. One person’s place in the bread line is a place another cannot have. One person’s state-owned housing unit is an apartment another cannot have.

It is under statism, not capitalism, that the powerful exploit the powerless. And unlike Bill Gates, socialist rulers derive their income by theft, not by trade.

Fidel Castro’s former bodyguard Juan Reinaldo Sánchez says that the communist leader “lived like a king” and “ran country like a cross between medieval overlord and Louis XV.” While ordinary Cubans stood in breadlines and suffered the effects of a declining economy, Castro had his own private yacht and his own private island — a luxury Caribbean getaway, complete with dolphins and a turtle farm. In Havana, he lived in an immense estate with a rooftop bowling alley, a basketball court and fully equipped medical center.

I’m aware that on the Pontiff’s way to Washington, the Vatican let it be known that “the Pope is not a liberal.” I am also aware that the wording in encyclicals is often produced by the jockeying and maneuvering of insiders who want to see their favorite idea or phrase blessed by the holy father in print.

Still, the world would be so much better off if Rome would pay better attention to science — both the science of economics and the science of climate.

Everything that is now being done by governments around the world to affect climate change is creating the biggest burdens for those at the bottom of the income ladder. Encouraging the wrong behavior in this regard will only hurt those the pontiff says we should be helping.

And, as the 20th century so clearly shows, bad ideas about economics not only cause harm. Bad political economy kills.



Healthcare premiums up $4865 since Obama promised to cut them $2500

Remember "if you like your healthcare plan you can keep it?" Yeah, that was a pretty good Obama lie. In fact it was PolitiFact's 2013 "Lie of the Year" and also topped the Washington Post's "Biggest Pinocchios of 2013" - "Pinocchio" being a nice of way of saying "pile of bovine excrement."

Of course, we're quite used to wading through great piles of organic fecal material with regards to this administration (red lines in Syria, degrade and destroy ISIS, al-Qaida is decimated), but it does seem the greatest falsehood perpetrated on the American populace was his signature achievement called Obamacare.

Now, before we get to the statistics, take a little stroll down memory lane with me and listen to Obama promise YOU, the American sucker taxpayer that with the passage of Obamacare, health premiums for a family of four will go down $2500 a year.

Gosh it sure sounded good. But. All. Lies.

According to Investors Business Daily, "since 2008, average family premiums have climbed a total of $4,865."

For those of you mathematically challenged, the difference between going down $2,500 and going up is $4,865 is $7,365. Not what I'd call a "rounding error."

However, you really have to give credit to the White House. They've discovered more ways to spin than carnival ride designers. After this fact was revealed, (according to the annual Kaiser Family Foundation report), the White House said it was actually great news because it meant premium costs were rising more slowly than before.

Ohhhh, riiiight.

Now to be fair (and balanced), at least that part is true. Investors Business Daily says "since 2006, the average annual increase for family plans at work has been 4.9%, down from around 10% a year from 1999-2005."

But President Obama did NOT say, hey guys this is a great plan because your premiums will go up not quite as fast. That's not a particularly compelling promise.

"If what he meant was "we're going to keep the rate of increase in premiums about where it's been for several years now," he was being purposefully misleading." [GASP! Our PRESIDENT being purposefully misleading??]

"Of course, even if he did mean what he didn't say, Obama can't claim credit for the slowdown.
The truth is that the current trend started in 2006, long before Obama took office, and longer still before ObamaCare took effect.

And the continued trend of modest premium increases has been due largely to the shift in the employer market toward health savings account-type plans, which just happened to hit the market in 2005."

Oh - health savings account-type plans. Isn't that what conservatives have been recommending for like...forever?



Putin goes where Obama fears to go

Will it take Russian troops to destroy ISIS? Unlike U.S. troops, they would not be hampered by idiotic "Rules of Engagement".  Russian toughness squashed the Muslim Chechens

In dueling speeches at Monday’s UN General Assembly meeting, Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin sounded off in the latest round of tense relations between the U.S. and Russia. Unfortunately, because of Obama’s thoughtless foreign policy America is looking weak and clueless on the world stage.

Obama continued to rail against Moscow for its actions in Ukraine. “We cannot stand by when the sovereignty and territorial integrity of a nation is flagrantly violated,” he declared. “If that happens without consequence in Ukraine, it could happen to any nation gathered here today.” Of course, “stand by” is precisely what Obama has done with regard to Ukraine and Crimea.

“Stand by” has also been Obama’s “plan” with regard to Syria. And Putin has used the opportunity to bolster Russia’s presence in the Middle East. In a one-two punch this month, the Kremlin provided military support to bolster longtime Syrian ally Bashar al-Assad, and then — just in time for the UN confab — announced an intelligence sharing agreement with Syria, Iraq and Iran to combat the Islamic State.

The Wall Street Journal explains the significance of that move for Iraq: “It’s hard to fault Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi for the decision. He’s watched for a year while the U.S. coalition has made little progress against Islamic State. His decision risks putting Baghdad further under Tehran’s sway, and pushing more Iraqi Sunnis into Islamic State’s arms. But desperate leaders will act in desperate ways.”

One Iraqi militia leader put it this way: “We believe that Russia and Iran are serious about defeating ISIS while the U.S. doesn’t want to defeat ISIS. We wish that the Iraqi government wouldn’t trust or depend heavily on the U.S. because we’ve had a bad experience with the U.S. in this regard.”

So Obama has not only abandoned Iraq to the Islamic State, but to Iran and Russia.

Russia’s pledge to help Assad catches the U.S. flatfooted after Obama’s own pathetic attempts to combat ISIL in Syria have come to nothing. The haphazard air campaign against the Islamic State in Syria or in Iraq has had little impact on stopping the terror group’s territorial gains. And the embarrassing $500 million training program that led to a half-dozen pro-Western boots on the ground in Syria didn’t do much more to instill confidence in America’s abilities. In fact, the program has been suspended.

On the positive side, Obama in his remarks promoted the Islamic State from “JV team” to “apocalyptic cult.” Baby steps.

Fox News' Brit Hume surmised, “Obama’s speech at the UN [Monday] encapsulated perfectly notions that have long driven his foreign policy. He looks upon the behavior of America’s adversaries as not simply self-interested or even evil but mainly outdated, old-fashioned. … Obama warns America against ‘a notion of strength that is defined by opposition to old enemies, perceived adversaries, a rising China or a resurgent Russia, a revolutionary Iran or Islam that is not compatible with peace.’ While those may sound like the very threats we face, Obama further warns against ‘the idea that the only strength that matters for the United States is bellicose words and shows of military force.’ … Does it even occur to him that the problem is not ‘bellicose words’ but following them up by backing down?”

Putin clearly holds the upper hand right now. He has been resolute, bold and committed — all the qualities that Obama has lacked from the beginning. In the name of political expediency, Obama created a power vacuum in Iraq and Syria, allowing the Islamic State to grow and prosper. Now, Russia, which has alternated between being America’s strategic competitor to outright opponent, is stepping in to fill the void.

This is a dangerous situation that will only give Russia (and Iran) a stronger foothold in a region where Obama has steadily ceded U.S. influence and leadership. Regaining the respect of our allies and enemies alike will only get tougher as time goes by. The fact that Putin felt confident enough to call out America at the UN is a prime example of what lies ahead of the U.S. does not regain the mantle of leadership in world affairs.



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, September 30, 2015

IQ: Brain scans confirm what has long been known from twin studies

Intelligent people's brains are wired differently: Researchers say 'smart minds' are more likely to be happy, well educated and earn more

High achievers have brains that are wired differently from those with fewer intellectual or social abilities, researchers have claimed.

Scientists who analysed brain scan data on 461 volunteers found some had 'connectome' patterns linked to classically positive aspects of life, such as having a good memory and vocabulary, feeling satisfied, and being well educated.

People at the other end of the connectome scale were more likely to display negative traits including anger, rule-breaking, substance use and poor sleep quality.

The findings are among the first to emerge from the Human Connectome Project (HCP), a £20 million collaboration between Oxford University and Washington and Minnesota universities in the US.

As the study unfolds, data from functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans conducted on 1,200 healthy volunteers will be coupled with lifestyle and behaviour tests and questionnaires.

The Oxford team used 461 of the scans to create an averaged map of brain functioning across the participants.

Then, we looked at how much all of those regions communicated with each other, in every participant.'  The result was a 'connectome' for every individual - a detailed description of the extent to which the 200 separate brain regions communicate with each other.

Specific connectome variations were found to correlate with a range of behavioural and demographic measures.

A strong connectivity pattern that included symmetrical peaks on both sides of the brain in five particular regions was seen as 'positive'.

The correlation shows that those with a connectome at one end of scale score highly on measures typically deemed to be positive, such as vocabulary, memory, life satisfaction, income and years of education.

Meanwhile, those at the other end of the scale were found to exhibit high scores for traits typically considered negative, such as anger, rule-breaking, substance use and poor sleep quality.

The findings, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, echo what psychologists refer to as the 'general intelligence g-factor', said the scientists.

First proposed in 1904, the 'g-factor' is supposed to summarise an individual's abilities in different cognitive tasks but has been criticised for failing to reflect the true complexity of what goes on in the brain.

Prof Smith said: 'It may be that with hundreds of different brain circuits, the tests that are used to measure cognitive ability actually make use of different sets of overlapping circuits.

'We hope that by looking at brain imaging data we'll be able to relate connections in the brain to the specific measures, and work out what these kinds of test actually require the brain to do.'



Does This Explain TRUMP?

The new Bloomberg Politics poll conducted by Iowa-based Selzer & Company (9/18-21; 1,001 adults) at least partially explains Donald Trump’s apparent sudden appeal.  Asking pointed questions about how the respondents perceive various issues provides supporting data as to why Trump’s message is striking chords with many prospective voters.

In a previous Update, we discussed the Bloomberg/Selzer Democratic primary ballot test (375 likely Democratic primary voters – a sample too small to adequately draw national conclusions).  This new data reveals that a bare majority would now choose a Dem candidate other than former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  Additionally, their underlying issue questions provide us a relatively sound base from which to analyze potential voting patterns.

The key questions surround America’s greatness, a subject that has become the theme of Trump’s national campaign.  From his slogan “let’s make America great again”, it becomes obvious that Mr. Trump no longer thinks the country is heading toward its apex.  According to the Bloomberg/Selzer data, the majority of respondents share that opinion.  Their question is reproduced below, with response percentages in adjoining parenthesis:

Do you think the United States today is:

Greater than it has ever been  (6%)
Equally great as it has been in the past  (20%)
Falling behind  (47%)
Failing  (25%)
Not sure  (2%)

Adding the categories, we see that almost three-quarters of the respondents, 72%, believe the country is either “falling behind” or “failing”.  This is the sentiment that Trump is channeling.

Their follow-up question provides even more interesting information (asked of those who responded negatively to the previous query):

What do you think are the ONE or TWO biggest threats to American greatness? (Multiple responses accepted, so total may exceed 100%.)

Moral decay   (32%)
Our own lagging work ethic  (27%)
The rise of ISIS, also known as the Islamic State  (26%)
The concentration of the nation’s wealth among very few individuals  (25%)
Competition from China and other countries  (21%)
People living in the country illegally  (12%)
Not sure  (5%)

These responses tell us why Trump is doing so well with the substantial number of people who feel America has declined.  Though their reasons are very evenly spread over a large and diverse issue field, the underlying feeling driving their response is captured in the sentiment that the country isn’t as good as our history dictates.  Trump, seizing upon this sentiment with his theme of “making America great again” harnesses a feeling that virtually all of the people who are negative about politics possess, regardless if their driving issue is moral decay, ISIS, China, wealth re-distribution, or immigration.

Another tenet of this campaign appears, particularly on the Republican side, as a desire to elect a person who has not previously held elective office.  The fact that Trump, Dr. Ben Carson, and businesswoman Carly Fiorina, together, consistently poll a sizable majority of Republican voters underscores this view.

The Bloomberg/Selzer survey provides us information to better gauge the electorate’s position, and the reasoning driving their decisions may be different than first surmised:

All other things being equal, which of the following is a more attractive candidate for president at this time:

A government outsider who has been a leader in the field, handling complex issues and managing teams to get things done  (37%)

A governor who has been a government executive, has worked with a legislature, and who is responsible for balancing a budget  (27%)

A U.S. senator who has involvement with national security and international relations and diplomatic issues   (27%)

Not sure  (9%)

Comparing the recent Republican polling results, one would have expected the outsider response to poll much stronger on the Bloomberg Politics survey.  Surprisingly, combining the Governor and Senator question actually gives the insiders a clear majority.  This tells us that the heavy pull against the particular candidates with elective experience may actually be directed against them individually as opposed to the political position(s) they hold or once held.



Redistribution: The Unconquerable Delusion

“A pope that mentions Dorothy Day is a pope that rocks,” tweeted Neera Tanden of the left-leaning Center for American Progress. Tanden might have wished to reel back that praise if she had known that Day, though a prominent pacifist and socialist, was also a fervent opponent of abortion, birth control, Social Security and the sexual revolution.

It’s fitting that Pope Francis should have invoked Dorothy Day among his pantheon of great Americans — she’s a symbol of where leftists always go wrong. This pope is going wrong in the same way. The left’s delusions of “social justice” seem indomitable — impervious to evidence.

The pope lauded Day for “her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed, (which) were inspired by the Gospel, her faith, and the example of the saints.”

Let’s assume that Day’s motives were as pure as Pope Francis described: Does having the right motives excuse everything?

Day’s interpretation of the Gospel led her to oppose the U.S. entry into World War II, which arguably would have led to a world dominated by Nazi Germany, fascist Italy and Imperial Japan. How would that have worked out for the poor and the oppressed?

Though her social views were heterodox for a leftist, Day was a supporter of Fidel Castro and found very kind things to say about North Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh. She visited Leonid Brezhnev in the Kremlin and leant her moral support to other communist regimes despite their persecution of Catholics and others.

Of Castro, Day said, “I am most of all interested in the religious life of the people and so must not be on the side of a regime that favors the extirpation of religion. On the other hand, when that regime is bending all its efforts to make a good life for the people … one cannot help but be in favor of the measures taken.”

According to “The Black Book of Communism,” between 1959 and the late 1990s, more than 100,000 (out of about 10 million) Cubans spent time in the island’s gulag. Between 15,000 and 19,000 were shot. One of the first was a young boy in Che Guevara’s unit who had stolen a little food. As for quality of life, it has declined compared with its neighbors. In 1958, Cuba had one of the highest per capita incomes in the world. Today, as the liberal New Republic describes it:

“The buildings in Havana are literally crumbling, many of them held upright by two-by-fours. Even the cleanest bathrooms are fetid, as if the country’s infrastructural bowels might collectively evacuate at any minute.

"Poverty in Cuba is severe in terms of access to physical commodities, especially in rural areas. Farmers struggle, and many women depend on prostitution to make a living. Citizens have few material possessions and lead simpler lives with few luxuries and far more limited political freedom.”

This left-leaning pope (who failed to stand up for the Cuban dissidents who were arrested when attempting to attend a mass he was conducting) and our left-leaning president have attributed Cuba’s total failure to the U.S.

It’s critically important to care about the poor — but if those who claim to care for the poor and the oppressed stand with the oppressors, what are we to conclude?

Much is made of Pope Francis' Argentine origins — the fact that the only kind of capitalism he’s experienced is of the crony variety. Maybe. But Pope Francis is a man of the world, and the whole world still struggles to shake off a delusion — namely, that leftists who preach redistribution can help the poor.

Has this pope or Obama taken a moment to see what Hugo Chavez’s socialist/populist Venezuela has become? Chavez and his successor (like Castro, like Lenin, like Mao) promised huge redistribution from the rich to the poor. There have indeed been new programs for the poor, but the economy has been destroyed. The leader of the opposition was just thrown in jail. Meanwhile, the shops have run out of flour, oil, toilet paper and other basics.

If you want moral credit for caring about the poor, when, oh when, do you ever have to take responsibility for what happens to the poor when leftists take over?

We know what actually lifts people out of poverty: property rights, the rule of law, free markets. Not only do those things deliver the fundamentals that people need to keep body and soul together, but they accomplish this feat without a single arrest, persecution or show trial.



Fast food doesn't make you fat

The CDC says so.  See the summary of their research report below.  The final sentence is the kicker

In 2011–2012, children and adolescents aged 2–19 consumed an average 12.4% of their daily calories from fast food. Adolescents aged 12–19 consumed twice the average daily percentage of calories from fast food than did younger children. The percentage of calories from fast food differed by age and race and Hispanic origin. Overall, non-Hispanic Asian children and adolescents consumed a lower percentage of calories from fast food compared with the other race and Hispanic groups. Previous studies have reported that acculturation to the U.S. lifestyle plays an important role in the adoption of unhealthy behaviors, such as fast food consumption, in Asian-American and other immigrant groups (4,5). In 2011–2012, a greater percentage of non-Hispanic Asian children and adolescents were foreign-born (27.4%), compared with Hispanic (19.7%), non-Hispanic white (2.5%), and non-Hispanic black (1.9%) children and adolescents (data not shown). This analysis found no significant differences in fast food consumption by poverty status or weight status among children and adolescents.



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, September 29, 2015

Why the West wants to lose (?)

Sociologist John Carroll writes below from Australia but his perspective is an international one.  He considers at the outset that the negativity he discusses is Leftist but dismisses that.  He argues that it is simply human.  He justifies that by saying that the Nazis were a bad lot and they were "Right-wing".  But they were not.  They were socialists and Carroll should know that.  And antisemitism is once again very Leftist, though usually under the shallow pretence of "anti-Zionism".  Even Karl Marx despised Jews so claiming that antisemitism is "Rightist" is a joke.

I think Carroll's claims are a crazy overgeneralization.  Conservatives are the people who are happily getting on with their lives and just want the government off their backs.  It is the Left who are congenital miseries, who hate just about everything about them.  So I read Carroll's interesting analysis below as an analysis of the Left.  They truly are a dismal bunch.  It is the Western Left who want their countries and societies to lose and lose big -- JR

George Orwell wrote in England in 1944, in an essay for Partisan ­Review, that he had come to judge the entire Left intelligentsia as hating their country, to the extreme of being dismayed whenever Britain won a victory in the war against Hitler.

Orwell still identified himself as a socialist when he wrote this. Orwell was, without doubt, exaggerating, in his blanket condemnation of the entire Left intelligentsia. And his observation needs the further qualification: he was writing at the close of a period in which the extreme Right in Europe, via messianic fascist nationalism, had been cataclysmically destructive.

I have been puzzled myself by the phenomenon Orwell observed, very common in humanities faculties at the universities at which I have worked. It might be termed cultural masochism, and has manifested in many forms. Whenever before in human history have significant groups within a nation — often privileged, elite groups — wanted their own to fail or to be defeated?


The broad cultural condition of unbelief established the preconditions. They arose in the wake of the death of God: the near total collapse of institutional religion, and, in generalised accompaniment, confident belief in a higher power that directs the human world. In relation to the possibility of a metaphysical beyond, most people today, at best, believe there is “something there”. That something is vague.

The prototype of the paralysing anxiety aroused in someone sensitive to the fact he believes in nothing was Dostoevsky’s character Stavrogin, from The Possessed (1872). Stavrogin is a handsome, brilliant and confident young aristocrat whom almost everyone of his generation — male and female — falls in love with. He has studied widely, travelled, visited the holy sites, fought duels and engaged in many love affairs. He fears no one. A few years earlier he was the charismatic teacher to a circle of young men, engaging them in questions of ultimate meaning. His name derives from the Greek word for cross; Dostoevsky is experimenting with him as the messiah for a secular age.

Stavrogin has taken on life and lived it to the full. If anyone has discovered the answer of how to live in a secular time, and make sense of one’s own life, it is he. When we meet him, however, he is listless and nihilistic, indifferent to the offer to lead a revolutionary group. Stavrogin’s passions are so flat the most he can manage is a few adolescent pranks. His face looks like a beautiful mask, a death mask. He admits to past times of wild debauchery — not for pleasure but to try to find a limit, something to believe in that would stop him. He finds no limits; for him, everything is permitted.

A feature of the cultural turbulence of the early 20th century was the number of commanding philosophical and literary figures who were driven by despair at cultural decadence. The conclusion they had reached — that my culture has no authority, and provides me with no convincing explanations to justify my existence — left them in an intolerable position. To choose two of the exemplars: Georg Lukacs and TS Eliot both took a deliberate leap of faith out of their respective wastelands. When Lukacs joined the Communist Party in 1918, arguably the most sophisticated and well-read intellectual of his generation had turned into an apologist for Stalin. From soon after Eliot became a “little England” Anglican Christian in 1927, the pungency of his earlier poetry evaporated into fey abstraction.

Today, the youth that takes with idealistic enthusiasm to the Green political movement may be located in this same mental domain, although without the self-consciousness or the intensity of anguish. The content seems almost arbitrary, with the attachment rather to the enthusiasm itself — Stavrogin was as desperate to find a passion in himself, irrespective of its end, as to find a limit. Naive Green idealism is possible only in an affluent world under no threat of war; and little threat of hardship, for the young Greens, by and large, live in the prosperous inner cities.

Freud’s pregnant concept of negation is useful. What appears in surface behaviour is the opposite of its unconscious motivation, the act deliberately inverting its true nature. In Freud’s own examples, negation is provoked by feelings of guilt — as with the forced smile in someone whose ideal of themselves is that they are a nice person, who smiles on the surface to cover up unconscious aggression, “to smile and smile and be a villain”.

More interestingly in the context of this essay, negation may also be triggered by a longing for authority. Marlow, the narrator in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, reaches the conclusion, at the end of his adventures, that humans need something outside themselves to bow down before. Otherwise they go mad.

In the narrow political sphere, power, if it is to gain legitimacy, needs the authority of an established order: say, the ensemble of a hereditary monarch, age-old institutions, a venerable legal tradition, and a people’s cherished customs. Every dynamic community — from the nuclear family, to the sporting club, school, trade union, or church — lives off a powerful collective conscience, giving it authority over the actions of its members. Today, nostalgia for cosy, close-knit community, which it is feared is disappearing, pervades television soap opera. It reflects a longing for one type of lost authority.

Failing belief may trigger hatred of the dying god. Lapsing ­Catholics turn against the Pope. The residue of some love or need generates the hatred. The longing for authority, in negation, leads to hostility to the weakness of existing authorities — for university students in the 1960s it was parents, political leaders, and university lecturers and vice-chancellors. This was understandable, and more than pure negation: the curiosity of a youth generation eager to take on the adult world seeks leadership, not an ineffectual older generation limp in its own lack of direction. Stavrogin was brought up by weak father figures and an hysterical mother.

More pathological in the 1960s was the lurch into idealising mega-powerful, brutal dictators like Mao Zedong. Here was a vivid symbol of the hurt felt by the loss of the old gods — the old authorities. More simple negation was exhibited when self-proclaimed peace-loving, flower-waving students demonstrated violently against the Vietnam war.

The ordeal of unbelief provides the modern context for the eruption of drives universal to the human condition, notably power envy and moral paranoia. They have provided the energy source for a new form of social pathology, one peculiar to the modern West — cultural masochism. The sado-masochistic pleasure gained by some individuals in suffering pain at the hands of another is projected outwards on to the person’s own culture and society. Damaging it, attacking it, seeing it suffer and being diminished, brings pleasure. This is extraordinary.

These same drives may be projected in any political direction, depending on the historical moment. In Germany in the 1930s, students were, in the main, inclined to the Nazi Right, and to a messianic nationalism with sadistic rather than masochistic tropes. Hitler cleverly exploited, in his writings and speeches, the need for something to believe in, which he offered to provide. Since the 1940s, it happens that political pathology in the West has been predominantly of the Left. This may, of course, change — for instance, xenophobic right-wing parties may rise again in Europe to be of more than marginal significance. And the emergence of Muslim youth in Western countries attracted by Islamic State fanaticism illustrates the broad effect of the ordeal of unbelief.


Three great psychologists have cast their powerful interpretative gaze across the modern world — Dostoevsky, Nietzsche and Freud. Of them, the master interpreter of culture and its contemporary travails was Nietzsche. Nietzsche argued that a will-to-power is at the core of human motivation. It leads inevitably to the weak envying the strong, and individual behaviour manifesting sublimations of this envy across all fronts. Nietzsche was following 17th-century French moralist the Duc de La Rochefoucauld, who identified self-esteem (and with it vanity and insecurity) as the key to all human motivation. Humans are insecure egotists, which explains the pride and the fear that governs almost all of what they do. Nietzsche extends the analysis to those discontented with their lives, ill at ease in themselves, which means, sick of themselves. Such individuals are inwardly driven to seek a cause for their suffering: someone or something must be to blame. The hurt becomes externalised.

Let me switch back to the contemporary world. Patriotism feeds off, and generates, an undercurrent of confidence, wanting the nation to be successful, which means powerful. It is the same with football fans supporting their team. Where the identification fails, or the authority of the parent society is too weak, resentment may surface in that hatred of nation Orwell found abhorrent. In Western countries, power envy is often expressed in reflex anti-Americanism, the target chosen simply because it is the leading power in the West — the leader on our side, so to speak. The morning after the destruction of the twin towers in New York in 2001, Mon­ash University students were celebrating in public.

David Hicks became a hero for a broad section of those who are left-oriented, on the surface grounds that he might have been tortured by the Americans while he was imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay. The subtext was that he had trained with al-Qa’ida in Afghanistan before and after September 11, 2001, including direct contact with Osama bin Laden; and he had fought against Coalition forces that included the Australian Army. The actions of this “hero” bordered on treason. The Hicks example suggests the subject was not chosen simply as a device for thinking evil of America — although that was the case. Negation was at work, the candidate chosen because he had been actively engaged, siding with the enemy.

The ideological Left has generally had an irrationally wrought hostility to strong and intelligent leaders on the Right, such as Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Malcolm Fraser (while prime minister), Jeff Kennett and John Howard. Some were mocked as boof-headed (Kennett) or senile (Reagan). Strong leaders of the Left — for example, Franklin Roosevelt and Bob Hawke — have not attracted similar ­antipathy.

Nietzsche argued that the clerisy — which includes the clergy and the intelligentsia — is of its nature impotent, compared with people who live active lives, who direct and make things, who are decisive, and who enjoy themselves. The clerisy, in its tortured inwardness, becomes rancorous — and above all moralistic. Out of disgust at itself, and irritation with its life, it launches into bad-tempered projections. While Nietzsche oversimplified — given that we humans are often composed of diverse personae blended into one complex form — strains of his central theme may be noted today. The clergy in mainstream churches hardly ever talk of faith, redemption or God. They seem embarrassed by their core mission, which is to provide convincing answers to the big-meaning questions of why we are here and what happens when we die. They rather don the ethical robes of empathy for the disadvantaged and rail against government callousness, appearing more like politicised social workers than apostles of the faith. Religion and politics do not belong together — as Jesus himself taught.

Much of the intelligentsia has turned against the long Western high-cultural tradition that since Homer and Plato has sought the true, the beautiful, and the good. It has rather set to criticising its society: customs, traditions and institutions. The current lead manifestation is refugee studies, whereby a dozen areas in the humanities have taken up the politically fashionable “oppressed” of the moment, victims of a cruel, hard-hearted Australian government — there must be hundreds of PhD theses being written around the country on this blight on the national character. Now I don’t question that the practical politics of how to deal with a flow of people voyaging on barely seaworthy boats to try to land in Australia raises difficult human challenges with no morally clear-cut solutions. What I do question is the exploitation of the issue to attack the civic order.


The paranoid disposition splits the world into good and evil (no grey). It does so in just the same way that fundamentalist religions do. Indeed, all fundamentalism exhibits the same psycho-pathology.

Paranoid extremism is manifest in grandiose delusions of self-importance, or in delusions of persecution. The cosmos is riven by the warring forces of good and evil. Evil is satanic, and therefore potent enough to spread superhuman contagion. Modern secular crusades are driven by ideological fundamentalism, imputing quasi-religious metaphysical forces that justify the venom against what is hated. These crusades have been predominantly but not exclusively of the Left — on the Right, the free-market camp has included some zealotry.

Let two examples suffice. In the 1970s, Australian and American soldiers returning from fighting for their country in Vietnam were confronted by screaming contempt by tens of thousands of their fellow citizens. It was as if they had been fighting for the devil. Second, the nation and its people are spat on today as racist, with particular examples (which can be found in any country) blown up and generalised. This is singularly unconvincing in the case of Australia, which has successfully welcomed and settled millions of immigrants.

Moral paranoia may be a sub-category of power envy. The powerful, or the imagined powerful (Jewish bankers or more recently Israel, capitalists, the CIA, right-wing media moguls), are inflated to embody monolithic evil. Examples from the Right include Pauline Hanson’s fears that Asians were taking over Australia. Rupert Murdoch has made the perfect bogeyman with his global media empire, given that the rampaging paranoid imagination is inclined to see the invisible tentacles of media influence reaching into every home and controlling the minds of the simple souls who live there. These contemporary Big Brothers flood the world in a fog of pollution — with the very use of contamination imagery illustrating the high moralist cast of mind, and the quasi-religious associations with sin and damnation.

Free-floating resentment may be projected on to the political stage without any personal repercussions, or face-to-face confrontations, where irresponsible opinions do not need to be defended or tested.


The ultimate challenge of Nietzsche is to prove that he is exaggerating. If we humans are no more than monomaniacal egotists, simply motivated by power, and the anxieties that flow from fear of powerlessness, this reality is a more severe blow to our self-­esteem than Darwin’s linking our parentage to the monkey.

What is the evidence in support of Nietzsche? Who has any friends whom they don’t suspect will gain some pleasure if they come to harm? Gore Vidal quipped that whenever one of his friends had a success, a part of him died. Strip away the civilised veneer and raw competitiveness rules. Children are unabashedly transparent in their me-me-me self-promotions. Are they not simply more open and honest than adults?

Competitiveness rules as much in the defences against fear of failure as in open battles for power and influence. The compulsion to do better than others, have more influence, and more power to attract may be direct, as in elaborate female rituals of make-up and dressing. It may be indirect, as in sublimated identification with a celebrity or a football team. Fear of failure generates a plethora of rationalisations, from the openly hypocritical “I am a caring person”, and “competition is selfish”; to the self-deception of “I am a better person for the experience”; and to the more subtle putdowns of “he is too good to be true” and “she is just a pretty bird-brain”.

On the other side of the ledger, contra Nietzsche, there is some genuine compassion, a spontaneous and sympathetic warmth to another’s suffering. Nietzsche was right to judge pity as a mask for superiority, usually — its condescension an aspect of the will-to-power. But it is not always so. Orwell was an example.

Summing up, the obvious conclusion to draw is that the psychological reality of the human condition is mainly dispiriting. Writ large is Macbeth’s “poor player who struts and frets his hour upon the stage”. Which takes us back to the threat of unbelief in a secular age. With the axis of ­belief/unbelief tipping towards the latter, it becomes more difficult to find metaphysical inspiration. In other words, when unbelief doesn’t slide into cultural pathology it may be interpreted as a rational and honest response to a disenchanted reality. But that is Stavrogin.

Nietzsche’s will-to-power is the theory for a disenchanted age. When the world is disenchanted, power stands alone and rules. It is in service of the last limit, the No of No’s: death. Stavrogin is cursed by his failure to find anything with the authority to check him, to shame him, and any passion strong enough to engage him, so the one thing left to stop him is death, which he chooses. Australian politics today is jammed with wretched illustration, in the phalanxes of diminutives who choose to enter its halls without the slightest commitment to any cause except their own ­careers.

But no era is disenchanted in any absolute sense. That is not the nature of the human condition. Today, as always, the sense of a transcendent is what lifts the individual above the rapaciously selfish psychological plane. Those who find deep fulfilment in their work are likely to give it selfless devotion, and with it whomever they serve. Many find in family life a rich fulfilment that is inextricably tied to them giving themselves to something bigger than their individual selves. The sportsman or woman who finds scintillating form may be humbled by the experience. Then there is the awesome power of nature. And genuine compassion depends on some kind of faith in the human essence, which is another vein of the transcendent.

Here are intimations of “something there”, ones to which Stavrogin remained deaf.



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, September 28, 2015

Obama as Nero

The burdens Obama has placed on America are great so the question is how lasting they are.  After Obama is gone, will America's freedom and prosperity continue to deteriorate or will they bounce back?  Much will depend on the resolve of the president who replaces Obama.  A timid Republican would not attempt to wind back the clock and even the banishment of crybaby Boehner has not banished Republican timidity. Leftist expectations still rule America in many ways.

Only Trump would appear to have the independence and resolve needed to put the destructive policies into reverse.  Otherwise the great weight of regulations (from the EPA and elsewhere) that now exist will continue to exercise their destructive force and will slowly smother America.  But Trump so far has only an outside chance so what if Hillary or some milksop Republican is elected next year?  Will that be the final nail in the coffin?

Perhaps not.  For a long time, many people, including America's revolutionaries, looked to ancient Rome for lessons.  Many of the ancient empires of the Far-East were big, powerful and long-lasting but only Rome seemed to be "like us".  So does Rome have lessons that could encourage us today?  I believe it does.

When Caesar's conquests expanded the Roman republic into the Roman empire, he inherited a great legacy of balanced and substantially democratic government from his predecessors.  The Senate was democratically elected by the upper class and there was also a "tribunis plebis" to represent the ordinary people of Rome.  And government functions were split up so that much power could not be concentrated in one man's hands.  By disobeying the Senate and crossing the Rubicon river with his army, Caesar offended against that division of power.  So they killed him.

But Humpty Dumpty could not be put back together again. Armies had become too powerful. Caesar had replaced democratic government with military rule and military rule would continue.  At that juncture, however, Rome was extraordinarily fortunate.  The victor in the military struggles to replace Caesar was the man we now  call Augustus.  That August in our calendar follows July celebrates the memory that Augustus followed Julius Caesar in ruling Rome.

And Augustus was wise enough to draw from the Roman past many lessons about government.  Although the Senators had murdered Caesar, Augustus did not abolish the Senate but converted it into a sounding board for his policies.  They had no power during his reign but still had influence.

He expanded the borders of the empire but through strong and wise rule gave the core of the empire a long period of peace and prosperity.  He adapted the wisdom of old, Republican Rome to form a strong new system of governance for the Roman empire.  And he ruled Rome for 45 years until his death at age 75 in the year 14 AD.

And that long rule set the precedent for how Rome was to be governed thenceforth.  Rome was again ruled not only by men but also by a system of government, a system that had deep roots in the Republic but had been successfully and convincingly made the new normal by Augustus.

Romans now expected their governments to be of a certain type  -- an Augustan type. The reign of Augustus was immensely influential in the minds of Romans -- and later emperors were judged by that criterion.  Rulers who did not provide government along roughly Augustan lines did not last.  A powerful SYSTEM now ruled Rome and Rome prospered greatly under it, even undergoing further expansion of the empire.  So even rather bad emperors such as Nero still kept the system going to some extent and Rome survived him well.  The empire kept expanding and reached its greatest extent under emperor Trajan some decades later.

So I think we can now see the parallels.  Like Nero, Obama has been destructive but American political forms and expectations have been preserved.  The system that is America still exists much as it always has done.  There is a strength in America in the form of the customary systems of law and government that continue to exist. And those systems rest on nothing so fragile as laws.  They exists in the expectations that Americans hold about how things should be done.  Those expectations have given prosperity and substantial freedom to Americans in the past and will continue to do so.  America can withstand its traitor president -- JR.

Note:  I refer to Nero above only because he is well known -- but there were of course other bad emperors


Another recovering Leftist from Britain

As Labour elects Jeremy Corbyn, the most left wing leader in the party's recent history, Tony Parsons writes on the rise of the reluctant Conservatives

Like millions of others, I joined the ranks of reluctant Conservatives at the last election. To the haters on the left, I have sold my soul and turned to the dark side. And I'll do it again, because the left has nothing to offer. Here comes the abuse...

I first realised that I was Tory scum on the weekend after the general election. The losing side was throwing a terrible tantrum. "F*** TORY SCUM", they sprayed on a Whitehall memorial dedicated to the women who fought in the Second World War. Well, that's me, I thought. They are definitely talking about me. Because whatever these people believe, I know that I will always be on the other side.

Like 11 million of my countrymen, I had voted Conservative because the alternative felt indistinguishable from national suicide.

This is what the pollsters got so terribly wrong - the general election was decided not by shy Tories but by us reluctant Conservatives. The millions like me who saw nothing but catastrophe in Labour's addiction to high taxes and big spending, their loathing of success, the way they could use a word like "mansion" with a straight face and, above all, that endless pious prattle about the NHS - as though the British have no other identity but as a sickly, enfeebled, diseased people in need of having our bottoms wiped by the state from dawn till dusk.

Red Ed, Fat Ed and all their unreconstructed comrades appalled me. But it was only when I saw that ugly graffiti sprayed on a memorial to women who gave their life for our freedom that I knew I would vote Conservative for the rest of my life. I looked at that graffiti - those three hateful little words - and felt an implacable opposition that will remain with me to my grave, something very like what they must have felt in Paris after mass murder had come to the offices of Charlie Hebdo. I knew, as the old Bowie song has it, that the shame was on the other side. And I thought, "Je suis Tory scum."

I like Ed Miliband. Whenever I have met him, I have found him to be an engaging and intelligent man. I don't think he's stupid. I don't think he's weird. I believe Miliband to be a well-intentioned man of principle who would have done to the British economy exactly what his socialist hero François Hollande has done to France.

Wreck it for a generation.

But none of that makes Ed a bad person. None of that makes him scum. So why are those of us who believe in a different economic model - one where aspiration is encouraged, where the state gets out of your way and doesn't spend money it doesn't have - morally reprehensible? Exactly why are we scum? History suggests that, when presented with the chance to vote for socialism the British people always run as fast as we can in the opposite direction. It doesn't make us bad people. But the left have lost the argument and are reduced to shrieking abuse.

Twitter - the frat house of left-wing piety - was incandescent in the aftermath of the general election. One popular image, widely shared, was of a deliveryman waiting outside 11 Downing Street with a trolley loaded with champagne. Oh, those wicked Tories! Swilling champagne while Martin Freeman rummages through a food bank! Tory scum! But the image was misleading because it dated from 9 September 2004, when Labour were in power and Gordon Brown, chancellor of the exchequer, had his big fat backside firmly planted in 11 Downing Street. "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it," proclaimed Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. And the big lie of our time is that the liberal left is morally pure and the Tories are filth.

But I will vote Tory for the rest of my life because there will be nobody else to vote for. I grew up in a working-class Labour household, had the traditional loud left leanings in my young manhood, but that Labour party is receding into the mists of history, as relevant to our own time as the Whigs or the Monster Raving Loony Party. There is no Old Labour or New Labour any more; there is only Dead Labour - a 20th-century party who find themselves as pertinent as banana rationing.

For Labour, this was the Red Wedding of general elections. Labour were obliterated by the SNP north of the border, run ragged by Ukip in the north of England and washed away by the Tories in the south. Labour will never come back from this defeat. I would bet my last euro that Labour will become little more than a debating society, endlessly preaching their pious certainties to each other. It will suit them. They will be much happier. They will keep their virtue intact and never have to make hard decisions in the real world.

Who cares who leads the Labour party next? Who cares what sound bites some mealy-mouthed "moderniser" is coached to make about "aspiration"? They will never again reach out to anyone but their dwindling core support. Dead Labour will get a warm glow when they remind each other how righteous they are, how morally superior to the wicked Tories. But the sanctimonious "progressives" who hate the Tories the most are always the party's greatest recruiting agents. Their shrill pieties make a much better case for Conservative government than [Conservative PM] David Cameron ever did.

Although the SNP may have annihilated Labour in Scotland, they drove England - where we have a sentimental attachment to democracy - into the arms of the Tory scum for generations. Every time the SNP's Nicola Sturgeon vowed, "We will lock David Cameron out of Number 10," she showed him where the key to the door was hidden.

It wasn't just the pollsters who got it wrong. It was the celebrity circus of ageing love gods and socially concerned luvvies who told us the Tories were Satan's spawn. Billy Bragg. Bilbo Baggins. All the shrill keyboard comrades on Twitter. It was the Guardian, sagely supporting Labour. And it was the BBC where, shortly before the general election, Andrew Marr wrongly accused David Cameron of "loving" fox hunting - TORY SCUM! - and later made a grovelling apology. "It turns out he never said it," choked Marr. The BBC today is about as representative of the British people as the men's toilets at the Guardian. Fifteen million people voted for the Tories or Ukip - but how many of them work in Broadcasting House? My guess would be: none. But none of it mattered.

The heartland of our country turns out to be staunchly conservative with a very small "c", and more than ten million of us remained remarkably unmoved by a political party broadcast by Bilbo Baggins and earnest leaders in the Guardian. We didn't care what they thought. Eddie Izzard stood by Ed Miliband's side in Scotland and we did not care. In fact, they made Tory scum of us all.

How certain they were that Labour would get to play the SNP's bitch. How little they know of the people of this country. More than ten million of us elected an Old Etonian prime minister and a Conservative government because there truly seemed to be no viable alternative.

We are often judged to be beyond the age of great political loyalties, when voters supported one party for a lifetime, as though it was a football team. And perhaps it is true. For among the nearly 11 million who voted Conservative were millions of Tories who came in from the cold - those of us who voted for Ukip at the European elections, but backed the Tories on 7 May. This was hard on Ukip - who got twice as many votes as the SNP, but returned only one MP - but so much was at stake that nobody had the luxury of a protest vote. We became Tory scum for the sake of the nation.

Because if you wanted economic stability, if you desired the freedom to discuss immigration without being thought of as racist, xenophobic and not very nice, then there was no alternative. If you want dignity for your parents, a better life for your children and a country that is not cowed by the politics of spite and envy, then there was no other way. If the Jurassic socialism of the Eds sickened you, all that palpable loathing of success dressed up as moral superiority, then there was only one place to go.

And it is no bad thing to vote for a party without any great expectations that they will lead you to some bright, shining new dawn. Because they never do. That is why politicians who are swept to power on a wave of wild hope - from Tony Blair to Nick Clegg - always end up as despised figures who disappoint those who loved them the most. Clegg will never be forgiven by all the dippy Lib Dems for the betrayal on tuition fees. And Blair - easily the most successful Labour Party leader in history - will always be loathed for his dirty little war in Iraq. Cameron will not break our hearts, because the millions who voted for him do not expect him to change our world. We just want him to do no harm. We see our country slowly emerging from the worst recession of our lifetimes and we don't want anyone to cock it up.

In his resignation speech, Ed Miliband declared that Labour may have lost the election but they "did not lose the argument". But of course Labour lost the argument - emphatically, comprehensively, totally. Presented with Miliband's vision of a socialist paradise, the British people reacted in exactly the same way they did when it was offered to them by Neil Kinnock and Michael Foot. They rejected it against all predictions. The left lost the argument and now they howl in the wilderness.

"You rarely hear people saying they 'hate' the Labour party," wrote Dominic Sandbrook in the Daily Mail. "You certainly hear it about the Conservatives - or, as left-wing activists like to call them, 'Tory scum'."

Who are these people screaming "Tory scum"? Most seem to hail from academia or the creative arts and have a column or blog in the Guardian. They are certainly not the working class. Rod Liddle wrote in the Spectator, "According to the pollster Peter Kellner, Ukip's support base is 61 per cent working class - way more than Labour, the party set up to represent the working class... Labour will be left as a party of the affluent, secular, achingly liberal London middle classes - plus all those minorities who have not yet decided to vote Green."

A total of 11,334,576 people voted Conservative not because the Tories are cruel, stupid or evil. Those softly spoken millions were not brainwashed by the right-wing press. They know what they want and it is certainly not Fat Ed talking about "mansions". Get beyond the watering holes of the metropolitan elite and the heartland's deeply held values - my family, my work, my country - are the new mainstream.

The loud left are as pertinent to modern Britain as blacksmiths. No wonder their protests are increasingly ugly. They react with furious disbelief at the result of a democratic election. They rave about balancing the nation's books as if it was like drowning kittens in a sack. They scream in our faces about their own compassion while bandying around epithets like "scum" and "filth" with the vicious abandon of Nazis talking about Jews.

So how are the Tories morally inferior to this shower? ["shower" is a polite but derogatory British expression.  The original form of the expression was "A shower of sh*t"]

The Conservatives now look like the natural party of government because only they seem to understand what our people believe. Hard work, a quiet patriotism, an instinctive self-reliance. And a future aspiring to more than having your bedpan changed by some saintly NHS nurse.

And every time I see another anti-austerity placard, or a Labour-loving hobbit, or defaced war memorial, I find myself warming to the pejorative the mob love to chuck around. I feel like wearing it as a badge of honour.


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)


Sunday, September 27, 2015

Trump the Presbyterian

Donald Trump has undoubtedly been a sinner in his life but forgiveness of sin is central to Christianity so I cannot see any true Christian shunning him for that.  What his heart holds is what matters. John 3:16

I make no judgment on what doctrines he believes but even if he is basically an atheist, which seems possible, he is still very  clearly a cultural Christian -- as I am. I value the lessons of my Christian youth and still believe that the Bible is the best guide to a good life and is the bedrock of Western civilization.  Although I have been an atheist for all of my adult life,  I regularly defend Christianity -- and Trump does too.

In a Left-dominated age, Christians need all the friends they can get and, whatever he believes, it is clear that Trump would be a powerful and unabashed supporter of Christians. Trump for President! -- JR

Donald Trump recently showed up at a gathering of Iowa conservative Christian voters with a copy of the Bible in hand.

As the Republican presidential front-runner and billionaire businessman tries to maintain his lead in early polls with rivals quickly gaining ground, Trump is increasingly courting a wing of the Republican Party that might seem antithetical to his brand: evangelical Christians.

“I love them. They love me,” Trump, a Presbyterian, said of evangelicals last month in Greenville, South Carolina. “I love the Evangelicals, and it’s really shown in the polls.”

After initially declining the invitation, Trump will be speaking Friday in front of an expected 2,000 social conservative leaders at the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit in Washington. He joins a speaking program that includes Republican rivals with long records of dedication to religious causes — among them, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Baptist pastor, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

In many ways, Trump’s brand as the bombastic, thrice-married billionaire showman would seem an ill-fit among religious conservatives. He once held a reputation as a womanizing playboy, previously supported abortion rights, and appears to spend more time calling into Sunday morning talk shows than attending church.

Russell Moore, the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, said Trump’s candidacy is fundamentally opposed to Christian values.

“When one looks at the very serious moral character questions, from Trump’s involvement in the casino gambling industry all the way through to his attitude toward women, Donald Trump is the embodiment of everything that evangelical Christians have been standing against in American culture,” he said.

Social conservatives are eager to have “a conversation” with Trump about his previous support for abortion rights, among other positions most conservatives strongly oppose, said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, which is hosting the Value Voters Summit.

On Monday he’s set to host a group of evangelical pastors and bishops from across the country for a private meeting and prayer session at Trump Tower in New York.

Several attendees, including Pastor Lionel Traylor of Jackson, Mississippi, said evangelical voters are particularly drawn to Trump’s direct style and his strong defense of Christians at a time “when Christianity is under attack.” Trump has frequently made reference to attacks on Christians abroad and said that he will be a champion for religious liberty, including defending Christmas.

Trump’s relationship with evangelical leaders goes back far longer than he’s been running for president.

According to previously reported tax documents, the Donald J. Trump Foundation has given to numerous Christian causes in recent years, including $100,000 to the Billy Graham Evangelist Association in 2012, as well as ministries as far away as Debra George Ministries in Texas and the Ramp Church in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Monday’s gathering is expected to open with a prayer service and include discussion of issues affecting the preachers’ communities, said Trump Organization attorney Michael Cohen, who struck up a friendship with Scott.



Liberal Reasoning: Idiotic or Dishonest?

By Walter E. Williams

Many people argue that liberals, socialists and progressives do not understand basic economics. I am not totally convinced about that.

Take the law of demand, for example, one of the fundamental principles of economics. It holds that the lower the cost of something the more people will take or do of it. Conversely, the higher the cost the less people will take or do something. By their actions, liberals fully understand the law of demand. Let’s look at some proof.

The Seattle City Council voted unanimously to establish a tax on gun and ammunition sales. Hillary Clinton has called for a 25 percent tax on gun sales. In Chicago, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle proposed “violence taxes” on bullets to discourage criminals from buying guns. Let’s ignore the merit of these measures. They do show that gun grabbers acknowledge the law of demand. They want fewer gun sales and thus propose raising the cost of guns.

NBCBLK contributor Danielle Moodie-Mills said, “We need to stop misgendering people in the media, and there needs to be some type of fine that’s put into place for … media outlets … that decide that they’re just not going to call people by their name.” What Moodie-Mills wants is for us to be obliged, if a man says he’s a woman, to address him as her and, if a woman says she’s a man, to address her as him. The basic point here is that Moodie-Mills acknowledges the fundamental law of demand when she calls for FCC fines for media people who “misgender” folks. By the way, if I claimed to be the king of Siam, I wonder whether she would support my demand that I be addressed as “your majesty.”

In the Ohio Legislature, Rep. Bill Patmon, a Democrat from Cleveland, introduced a bill to make it illegal to manufacture, sell or display toy guns. The ban would apply to any toy gun that a “reasonable person” could confuse with a real one. A $1,000 fine and up to 180 days in jail would be imposed for failure to obey the law. That’s more evidence that liberals understand the law of demand. You want less of something? Just raise its cost.

Even San Francisco liberals and environmentalists understand the law of demand. They’ve proposed a ban that over the next four years would phase out the sale of plastic water bottles that hold 21 ounces or less in public places. Violators could face fines of up to $1,000.

Former U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu once said, “We have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe” in order to make Americans give up their “love affair with the automobile.” If gas prices rise high enough, Chu knows that Americans will drive less.

There you have it — abundant evidence that liberals, socialists and progressives understand the law of demand. But wait a minute. What about raising the cost of hiring workers through increases in the minimum wage?

Aaron Pacitti, Siena College professor of economics, wrote that raising the minimum wage “would reduce income inequality and poverty while boosting growth, without increasing unemployment.” The leftist Center for Economic and Policy Research has written a paper whose title tells it all: “Why Does the Minimum Wage Have No Discernible Effect on Employment?” The U.S. Department of Labor has a page on its website titled “Minimum Wage Mythbusters,” which relays a message from liberal economists: “Increases in the minimum wage have had little or no negative effect on the employment of minimum-wage workers.”

What the liberals believe — and want us to believe — is that though an increase in the cost of anything will cause people to use less of it, labor is exempt from the law of demand. That’s like accepting the idea that the law of gravity influences the falling behavior of everything except nice people. One would have to be a lunatic to believe either proposition.



British government medicine

Dr. Max Pemberton, an NHS doctor, gives us a vision of where Obamacare is likely to lead

Until recently, Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge was considered one of the best in the country and, indeed, one of the best centres in the world for cancer treatment and organ transplants. It was a jewel in the NHS crown.

All that changed this week when it was branded ‘inadequate’ by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the hospital inspectors, and taken over by an ‘improvement director’.

For a hospital to be branded inadequate, you’d expect some seriously dreadful stories to have been uncovered: abuse, neglect, deaths.

But, in fact, the rating came down to staffing levels and failures in paperwork. Not enough staff isn’t an issue unique to Addenbrooke’s, of course, as NHS budgets are increasingly cut and frontline staff culled to make ends meet.

So how is an ‘improvement director’ going to solve this problem in a hospital that already has to overspend by £1.2 million a week just to keep going? This is the problem with the CQC — what they test for is utterly meaningless to anyone who actually uses the NHS.

To give you an idea of what an inspection is like — and how warped and unhelpful the criteria used — my hospital is currently in the throes of preparing for one.

My hospital is by no means perfect, but the staff work incredibly hard and everyone really cares about trying to get the best for their patients.

Yet rather than using actual real-life clinical encounters to assess the care, the inspectors use ‘proxies’ — substitute tests that can be easily measured. So they will ask me questions such as: Do I know the physical location of the infection control policy on my ward?

Regardless of the fact that I know what the infection control policy is — and, indeed, have been on training for this — I need to know where the folder with the actual piece of paper is. If I don’t, that’s a black mark.

At a meeting last week, someone realised the carpet between two rooms that are occasionally used is the wrong type. Apparently, it needs to be a special variety that doesn’t attract dust.

The current one is regularly vacuumed by the cleaners, but it seems that doesn’t matter. So now we’re running around frantically changing carpets so that we don’t get marked down. Do the people behind these inspections live in the real world?

If you’re having a heart attack in A&E, I don’t believe there’s a soul on this planet who’d care if the nurse providing pain relief could locate the staff uniform policy. It’s so ridiculous you could laugh. Almost.

Clearly, the people who have come up with these sorts of criteria have absolutely no awareness of what’s important to patients.

If they did, they’d go round seeing whether nurses brought you water when you were thirsty or held your hand when you were scared, or if a doctor stayed late to explain something to your daughter because she was worried — or any other of the million things that actually affect people’s experiences of the NHS.

Instead, the inspectors are going to quiz me on whether I’ve been on diversity training.



Pope's encounter with daughter of illegal immigrants, 5, was a stunt

Sophie Cruz's brief encounter with Pope Francis during his parade in Washington this week appeared to be the kind of spontaneous moment that is so endearing about this pope: an initially hesitant young child wrapping an arm around his neck as he offers a kiss and a blessing.

But for 5-year-old Sophie, the moment unfolded as perfectly as it was scripted by members of a coalition of Los Angeles-based immigration rights groups. They had been preparing for nearly a year for the young girl from suburban Los Angeles to make a dash for the pope-mobile to deliver a message about the plight of immigrant parents living in the country illegally.

They had even pulled off a similar public-relations coup a year ago in Rome using a 10-year-old girl with the pope.

'We planned to do this from the moment we learned he was coming to the States,' Juan Jose Gutierrez of the Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition.

'We have been working for a while now trying to sensitize the American public that dealing with immigration is not just dealing with the people who came in without proper documents but that we also have ... countless children whose parents are undocumented.'

Gutierrez said the group decided to use the children of immigrants to represent their push for immigration reforms to the pope, a staunch supporter of immigrants.

Gutierrez said Sophie's success came from a 'combination of factors, one being in the right spot at the right time.' He added that he thinks Francis may also have remembered Jersey.

'When he saw this little girl,' Gutierrez said, 'he had to have known in his heart that this was another important message in the form of a little girl.'



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)