Saturday, February 06, 2016


Today is the birthday of a man who is probably history's most beloved conservative:  Ronald Wilson Reagan

I am pleased to say that I was around during his presidency and remember him well.  I normally live in Australia but was in America for a short time during his second campaign for president and did my very small bit for him while I was there.  I wore a large "Reagan/Bush" campaign button wherever I went.  I was in NYC at the time so I did get some funny looks over it.

Reagan was such an electrifying political figure that  many of his speeches were broadcast worldwide so I saw them even while I was in Australia.  And I noted how he always referred to himself as "your president".  He rightly cast himself as a servant of the people.  And partly because of that I felt he was my president too even though I lived in Australia.

The speech I particularly remember of course was the solemn speech he gave when the space shuttle crashed.  America was lucky at that time to have a man who could give exactly the right  speech to mark its heroic loss.

I remember waking up on that morning in the company of wife and  children in my big and comfortable  home and amid smells of breakfast pancakes cooking -- to turn on the TV to hear that awful news and feel distressed but comforted that the man bringing me that awful message about our reach for the stars did it in a way that I felt.

But most of his other speeches were marked by humor.  There are many collections of the jokes he told but this is my favorite:

You have to know of the prior Dan Quayle/Lloyd Bentsen matchup to get it, of course, but Bentsen's remark has been widely repeated so I think that most reading here would know of it

Saturday is my Sabbath so I would not normally post anything today but Reagan is the man I most admire so I felt that I needed to say something on this day. We will never see his like again.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Some new/old findings about IQ

A paper titled "Top 10 Replicated Findings From Behavioral Genetics" has just come out with Robert Plomin as lead author.  The finding of the paper is an embarrassment to most psychologists.  We now know that most findings from psychological research are NOT replicable.  They are a flash in the pan with no generalizability.  They tell us nothing. So the fact that findings about the influence of genetics on behavior ARE replicable makes them stand out from other research.  It is putting it a little to strongly to say that it is the only sort of psychological research that it worth bothering with, but it gets close to that. I say here why I gave up on survey research after 20 years of doing it.

I have always noted that the heritability of IQ is by far the best replicated finding in psychology but Plomin shows that other effects of genetics on behaviour are highy replicable too.  Leftists hate all mention of genetics so on that issue, as on many others, they are on the wrong side of history.  And how ironic that is precisely the most well substantiated findings in psychology that are too politically incorrect for general mention.

So why are studies in the genetics of behaviour so robust?  Plomin suggests five sensible reasons but let me give a more impressionist reason:  It is because genetic effects on  behaviour are REAL.  There really is something going on there.  And, as Plomin's other findings show, what is going on is that genetics have a strong and pervasive effect on ALL behaviour.  As Plomin points out, even family environment is not an influence in its own right.  It too is affected by genetics.  I am reminded of something Hans Eysenck said to me around a quarter of a century ago:  "It's ALL genetics".  Already in his time, he had seen how pervasive genetic influences were.

My days as an active psychological researcher are long gone and I read very little in the psychological research literature these days.  I have however kept a watching brief on research on IQ.  So I was well aware of one of Plomin's more surprising findings:  The influence of IQ GROWS as the person grows up.  IQ is only a small influence of behaviour in early childhood but a large influence on the same person's behaviour in adulthood.  The genetic infuence in fact seems to keep growing until about age 30.  That can be seen as rather counterintuitive.  One would think that a small child had ONLY genetic influences to guide his behaviours but as he grew up he would come under all sorts of additional influences on his behaviour.

Plomin explores some possible reasons behind that finding but I think he misses the obvious:  A child is very heavily regulated whilst growing up.  He is pushed in all sorts of directions by parents, teachers and others.  It is only in adulthood that he is reasonably free to "be himself".  And that is exactly what happens.  He throws off most of his environmental influences and behaves in a way that feels good or right to himself.


21st century California dreaming

Where unaccountable bureacracy leads

The stylish new eastern span of the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge cost $6.4 billion, about $5 billion more than the original estimate, and came in ten years late. As we noted two years ago, all that time and money could not prevent hundreds of leaks during the first winter storm. A supposedly watertight steel chamber supporting the roadbed was leaking, and water also entering through guardrail holes for lights and service panels. Caltrans bosses were stumped and said that any solution would be “high maintenance.” About this time last year, the bridge continued to leak water inside the structure and efforts to caulk about 900 bolt holes had only been partly successful. Independent experts warned about corrosion and rust on strands of the main cable and anchor rods. Caltrans bosses didn’t want to talk about it, but in early 2016 they think they’ve got the problem whipped.

“After spending more than $1.4 million trying to plug leaks that put the cable of the Bay Bridge’s new eastern span at risk of corrosion,” writes Jaxon Van Derbeken in the San Francisco Chronicle, “Caltrans says it has finally hit on a fix that costs less than $100,000—and has all but eliminated a problem that plagued the project for years.” Caltrans maintenance engineer Ken Brown explained that water was coming in through gaps on the roadway side of the guardrails and the application of industrial-grade caulking plugged up 90 percent of the leaks. Brown, however, still sought a longer-term fix and Berkeley corrosion expert Lisa Fulton said “we will have to wait and see,” whether Caltrans “got something right this time.” Taxpayers, meanwhile, have good reason to remain skeptical.

Since the leaks were not supposed to happen, the bridge’s design wasn’t exactly right. The new span was supposed to cost some $1.5 billion, not more than $6 billion, so costs were out of control. The new span was supposed to be safe but the problems persist. Congressman Mark DeSaulnier, who as a state senator held hearings on the bridge problems, is on record that “there’s never been anyone in the management of the bridge who has been held accountable.” The congressman has that right, so despite the industrial-grade caulking the stylish new span is still the bridge to no accountability.



Trump Like Reagan? This GOP Leader Thinks So

Donald Trump has compared his potentially transformative, magnetic candidacy to Ronald Reagan. At least one man who remembers Reagan fondly agrees: former New York Senator Al D'Amato:

Former Sen. Alphonse D’Amato (R-N.Y.) says he sees similarities between Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump and former President Ronald Reagan.

“You know, 30 years ago there was a movement started by someone who establishment Republicans were opposed to,” D’Amato said of Reagan in a radio interview with John Catsimatidis on "The Cats Roundtable" on New York's AM-970.

“Well let me tell you, I think Trump has got a movement that’s picking up steam, and once a movement picks up that kind of steam, pretty hard to stop.”
The former New York senator praised Trump’s decision to hold a fundraiser for veterans instead of attending Thursday's GOP presidential debate on Fox News.

“He demonstrated that he’s not going to be pushed around,” D’Amato said.

He added that Trump’s decision to include the last two Republican winners of the Iowa caucuses — Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum — was politically “brilliant.”

Trump decided to skip last week’s Fox News debate after a harsh statement released by the network mocked him for not wanting to participate in a debate that anchor Megyn Kelly would be hosting.



America’s Economic Freedom Has Rapidly Declined Under Obama

America’s declining score in the index is closely related to rapidly rising government spending, subsidies, and bailouts

Millions of people around the world are emerging from poverty thanks to rising economic freedom. But by sharp contrast, America’s economic freedom has been on a declining path over the past decade.

According to the 2016 Index of Economic Freedom, an annual publication by The Heritage Foundation, America’s economic freedom has tumbled. With losses of economic freedom in eight of the past nine years, the U.S. has tied its worst score ever, wiping out a decade of progress.

The U.S. has fallen from the 6th freest economy in the world, when President Barack Obama took office, to 11th place in 2016. America’s declining score in the index is closely related to rapidly rising government spending, subsidies, and bailouts.

Since early 2009:

Government spending has exploded, amounting to $29,867 per household in 2015.

The national debt has risen to $125,000 for every tax-filing household in America—a total over $18 trillion.

The government takeover of health care is raising prices and disrupting markets.

Bailouts and new government regulations have increased uncertainty, stifling investment and job creation.

This is not something to take lightly. Economic freedom is the foundation of U.S. economic strength, and economic strength is the foundation of America’s high living standards, military power, and status as a world leader. The perils of losing economic freedom are not fictional.

It is painfully clear that our economy has been performing far below its potential, with individuals, families, and entrepreneurs being squeezed by the proliferation of big-government bureaucracy and regulations.

As documented by the index, and by other scholars, America’s economic freedom has been declining at an alarming pace.

Indeed, as The Wall Street Journal recently summed it up succinctly, Obama is “a champion when it comes to limiting economic freedom, and American workers have the slow growth in jobs and wages to prove it.”

Not surprisingly, our economic dynamism and innovative capacity have been measurably reduced.

Not surprisingly, our economic dynamism and innovative capacity have been measurably reduced. Self-inflicted wounds include:

The U.S. has the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world. This has driven new jobs to other, more competitive nations and has meant fewer jobs and lower wages for Americans.
The overall annual cost of meeting regulatory requirements has increased by over $80 billion since 2009, with more than 180 new regulations in place. In terms of ease of starting a new business, analyzed by a recently published World Bank report, the U.S. is ranked shockingly low at 49th, trailing countries such as Canada, Georgia, Ireland, Lithuania, and Malaysia.
No wonder the labor force participation rate has remained at near record lows after more than five years of steady decline.

Worse, vibrant entrepreneurial growth has been stymied by greater policy uncertainty and mounting debt. And a disturbing trend toward cronyism has gravely eroded the rule of law and distorted our free-market system.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, keynote speaker of the official release of the 2016 Index, recently stated:

It’s been almost seven years since the Obama “recovery” began, and our economy is barely out of neutral. Why does America have to settle for this?

Restoring economic freedom is prerequisite to revitalizing and brightening America’s future. 2016 is the year to reaffirm the principles of limited government, free enterprise, and rule of law so that we can reconstitute an America where freedom, opportunity, and prosperity flourish.

The time to act is now.



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, February 04, 2016

Is sugar good for you after all?

Now that the accumulation of evidence has forced even myopic medical researchers and bureaucrats to abandon their demonization of salt and fat in the diet, the solons have reached back to an old scare popularized obsessively by Dr. Robert Lustig. Lustig claims that sugar is bad for you.  The health establishment ridiculed Lustig's "evidence" for many years but they were desperate when salt and fat were taken away from them so Lustig and his theories are suddenly now in good odor.  They particularly demonize a very simple sugar -- fructose -- because it is widely used in American fizzy drinks.  

But the evidence for the demonization of sugar is mostly just epidemiological speculation and it is an easy bet that sugar will one day be comprehensively exonerated too.

More importantly, however, fat was eventually found actually to be GOOD for you.  Will the same be found for sugar?  A straw in the wind below.  The article concerns fucose, not fructose but both are sugars.   Science has just recently figured out that fucose is one of the essential sugars that the body needs to function properly.  Below is one of several recent reports which find that fucose helps fight cancer!

Dietary Fucose Helps Attenuate Metastatic Melanoma in Mice

Tracy Hampton, PhD

Investigators have identified a mechanism that’s blocked during melanoma metastasis but can be restored in mice by adding the sugar fucose to the diet (Lau E et al. Sci Signal. 2015;8[406]:ra124).

Led by researchers at the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute in La Jolla, California, the team found that activating transcription factor 2 (ATF2), which is abundant in advanced stages of melanoma, blunts expression of the gene encoding fucokinase (FUK), an enzyme that attaches fucose to target molecules. The findings suggest FUK repression promotes melanoma motility and invasiveness in vitro.

JAMA. 2016;315(5):455. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.19343


Obamacare’s Cost per Beneficiary Explodes with Shrinking Enrollment

The Congressional Budget Office’s latest budget estimate shows Obamacare’s costs per beneficiary have exploded, as enrolment in Obamacare’s broken exchanges collapses. January’s update estimates 2016 exchange enrolment at 13 million people (p. 69). Although the president’s administration had previously downgraded its estimate of Obamacare enrolment, this is the first significant change by the non-partisan CBO.

As recently as March 2015, CBO was still assuming 21 million enrollees in Obamacare’s exchanges this year (Table 2). In the January update, it has changed its estimate only for 2016 enrollment, not for future years. Next March’s update will include a more thorough analysis including future years, and we can expect those estimates to be similarly downgraded.

What is shocking, however, is that the January update still estimates that tax credits, which subsidize insurers participating in exchanges, will cost taxpayers $56 billion this year (p. 182). That amounts to about $4,308 per enrollee (although not all are subsidized). Back in March 2010, CBO estimated that 21 million people would be covered in exchanges in 2016, for a total cost of $59 billion in tax credits (pp. 20-23). That would amount to about $2,810 per enrollee.

This leads to the conclusion that Obamacare exchanges are, in fact, high-risk pools for sick individuals who cannot get coverage elsewhere. They are not a properly functioning, broad-based market for health insurance.

And, by the way, CBO confirms that Obamacare kills jobs:

CBO anticipates that several developments in federal fiscal policy under current law will affect the economy through their impact on the labor market. The most sizable effects stem from provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA’s largest effect on the labor market—especially as overall employment conditions improve—will come from provisions of the act that raise effective marginal tax rates on earnings, thereby reducing how much some people choose to work. The health insurance subsidies that the act provides through the expansion of Medicaid and the exchanges are phased out for people with higher income, creating an implicit tax on some people’s additional earnings. The act also directly imposes higher taxes on some people’s labor income. Because both effects on labor supply will grow over the next few years, CBO projects, they will subtract from economic growth over that period.



Socialism Gets a Second Life

Why do the young love Bernie Sanders? Because their experience of capitalism is different.

I was watching Bernie Sanders speak last week at a town hall in Bedford when an early intuition became a conviction: Take Mr. Sanders seriously. He is not just another antic presence in Crazy Year 2016. His rise signifies a major shift within the Democratic Party.

The big room was full, 700 to 800 people, good for 5 p.m. on a Friday. The audience wasn’t raucous or full of cheers as at his big rallies, but thinking and nodding. They were young and middle-aged, with not many white-haired heads. There was a working-class feel to them, though Bedford is relatively affluent.

“Let me disabuse you,” Mr. Sanders says to those who think he cannot win. He quotes New Hampshire polls, where he’s way ahead. He can defeat Donald Trump, he says.

Then the meat. He described America as a place of broad suffering — “student debt,” “two-job families” with strained marriages and insufficient child care, “the old on fixed incomes.”

We can turn it around if we make clear to “the billionaire class” that income inequality “is not moral.” The economy is “rigged.” Real unemployment is not 5% but twice that. “Youth unemployment is off the charts.” He wants job-training programs for the young. The minimum wage is “a starvation wage.” Raise it to “a living wage — 15 bucks an hour.”

The audience is attentive, supportive. “Yeah!” some shout.

He speaks of Goldman Sachs, of “banksters” and of a Republican Party owned by “the oil industry, coal industry.”

“Health care is a right of all people, not a privilege.” He asks if any in the audience have high-insurance deductibles. They start to call out: “$4,000,” “5,000,” “6,000!” Someone yells: “Nothing’s covered!”

No one mentions ObamaCare, but it seems clear it hasn’t worked here.

Mr. Sanders says people don’t go to the doctor when they’re sick because of the deductibles. “Same with mental-health care!” a woman calls out. “Mental-health care must be considered part of health care,” he responds, to applause. He is for “a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system.”

How to pay for it all? “Impose a tax on Wall Street speculation,” he says, briefly. He does not elaborate and is not pressed to.

Mr. Sanders’s essential message was somber, grim, even dark. It’s all stark — good guys and bad guys, angels and devils. But it’s also clear and easy to understand: We are in terrible trouble because our entire system is rigged, the billionaires did it, they are the beneficiaries of the biggest income transfer from the poor to the rich in the history of man, and we are going to stop it. How? Through “a political revolution.” But a soft one that will take place in voting booths. We will vote to go left.

As the audience left they seemed not pumped or excited, but satisfied.

I listen to Mr. Sanders a lot, and what he says marks a departure from the ways the Democratic Party has been operating for at least a generation now.

Formally, since 1992, the Democratic Party has been Clintonian in its economics — moderate, showing the influence of the Democratic Leadership Council. Free-market capitalism is something you live with and accept; the wealth it produces can be directed toward public programs and endeavors. The Clinton administration didn’t hate Wall Street, it hired Wall Street. Big government, big Wall Street — it all worked. It was the Great Accommodation, and it was a break with more-socialist approaches of the past.

All this began to shatter in the crash of 2008, not that anyone noticed — it got lost in the Obama hoopla. In March 2009, when Mr. Obama told Wall Street bankers at the White House that his administration was the only thing standing between them and “the pitchforks,” he was wittingly or unwittingly acknowledging the Great Accommodation.

The rise of Bernie Sanders means that accommodation is ending, and something new will take its place.

Surely it means something that Mr. Obama spent eight years insisting he was not a socialist, and Bernie Sanders is rising while saying he is one.

It has left Hillary Clinton scrambling, unsteady. She thought she and her husband had cracked the code and made peace with big wealth. But her party is undoing it — without her permission and without her leading the way. She is meekly following.

It is my guess that Mr. Sanders will win in Iowa and New Hampshire. But the tendency he represents — whether it succeeds this time or simply settles in and grows — is, I suspect, here to stay.

A conservative of a certain age might say: “No, he’s a fad. Socialism is yesterday! Marx is dead, the American economic behemoth rolled over and flattened him. Socialism is an antique idea that rocks with age. America is about the future, not the past.”

I disagree. It’s back because it’s new again.

For so many, 2008 shattered faith in the system — in its fairness, usefulness and efficacy, even in its ability to endure.

As for the young, let’s say you’re 20 or 30, meaning you’ll be voting for a long time. What in your formative years would have taught you about the excellence of free markets, low taxes, “a friendly business climate”? A teacher in public high school? Maybe one — the faculty-lounge eccentric who boycotted the union meetings. And who in our colleges teaches the virtues of capitalism?

If you are 20 or 30 you probably see capitalism in terms of two dramatic themes. The first was the crash of ‘08, in which heedless, irresponsible operators in business and government kited the system and scrammed. The second is income inequality. Why are some people richer than the richest kings and so many poor as serfs? Is that what capitalism gives you? Then maybe we should rethink this!

And Mr. Sanders makes it sound so easy. We’re rich, he says; we can do this with a few taxes. It is soft Marxism. And it’s not socialism now, it’s “democratic socialism” like they have in Europe. You’ve been to Europe. Aside from its refugee crisis and some EU problems, it’s a great place — a big welfare state that’s wealthy! The French take three-hour lunches.

Socialism is an old idea to you if you’re over 50 but a nice new idea if you’re 25.

Do you know what’s old if you’re 25? The free-market capitalist system that drove us into a ditch.

Polls show the generation gap. Mr. Sanders does poorly among the old. They remember socialism. He does well among the young, who’ve just discovered it and have little to no knowledge of its effects. A nationwide Marist poll in November showed Mr. Sanders already leading Mrs. Clinton, 58% to 35%, among voters under 30. She led him among all other age groups, and 69% to 21% among those 60 and older. By this month a CBS/New York Times poll had Mr. Sanders up 60% to 31% among voters under 45.

Bernie Sanders is an indicator of the Democratic future. He is telling you where that party’s going. In time some Democrats will leave over it, and look for other homes.

It’s all part of the great scrambling that is happening this political year — the most dramatic, and perhaps most consequential, of our lifetimes.



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, February 03, 2016

Inequality in wealth and income is much less than it first seems if you take the full picture into account

Inequality was the single most popular topic when economists gathered at their annual convention in San Francisco last month. But here is what everyone should know. Most of the studies you read about in newspapers are flawed. A new study exposes those flaws and presents a much rosier picture of the American economy.

A typical study of the distribution of income compares people on the top and bottom rungs of the income ladder. The problem: the entire population is on the ladder. That means these studies are comparing retirees with people who are working. They are comparing people who are at the peak of their career earnings with people who are just starting out.

Studies of the distribution of wealth typically have an even bigger problem. They count private savings (such as an IRA or 401(k) account) and private pensions as part of an individual’s wealth. But they ignore Social Security and other entitlement benefits, even though people pay taxes to these programs at the same time they are contributing to their private retirement accounts.

A 60 year old couple, each having earned the maximum FICA wage over their work lives, is entitled to Social Security benefits worth $1.2 million. If they delay the collection of benefits until age 70, their Social Security wealth is about $1.6 million. Does anyone think this hidden asset should be ignored in comparisons of the distribution of wealth?

The new study is by Alan J. Auerbach (Berkeley), Laurence J. Kotlikoff (Boston University) and Darryl Koehler (Fiscal analysis Center).  It departs from previous studies in three important ways: (1) it recognizes that the only meaningful way to compare income and wealth is to do it for people of approximately the same age, (2) it chooses people’s after-tax consumption (standard of living) as the best measure of wellbeing – not just at a point in time, but over the remainder of individuals’ entire lives and (3) it includes such government benefits as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in calculating people’s expected consumption.

To appreciate what difference this approach makes, take people in their 40s. Those in the top fifth of the distribution can expect to enjoy 55.3 percent of this age group’s lifetime resources over the remainder of their lives. People in the bottom fifth can expect only 4 percent. That’s a wealth difference of almost 14 to 1. But after government transfer programs do their redistribution, the wealth difference is cut in half: the difference in lifetime consumption drops to 7 to 1.

It is well known that inequality increases with age, with the greatest inequality existing among the elderly. Other studies have concluded that the main reason for this is differences in saving behavior, not some mysterious Wall Street malfeasance imagined by Paul Krugman or Bernie Sanders. Those who save more when they are young accumulate more and have more when they retire. Those who save very little, will have a lot less in the retirement years.

This study finds that among 20 year olds, the wealth difference between the highest and lowest fifths is 7 to 1. But among 70 year olds the difference in wealth is more than 70 to 1. That change over the lifecycle of a group of cohorts is rather astonishing. Even so, after government redistribution takes its toll, the difference in remaining lifetime consumption falls all the way down to 8.6 to 1 for this age group.

One reason for these results is our highly progressive fiscal system. Consider again, those people in their 40s.  For those in the top 1 percent of this age group, the expected net tax rate going forward (taxes minus entitlement benefits) is 45 percent.  For those in the top fifth of the distribution, the average net tax rate is 32.5 percent.  But for those in the bottom fifth, the net taxes are negative: every dollar of private sector income is matched by a 34 cent government subsidy.

Among those in their 70s, the redistribution is much greater. The top 1 percent in this age group faces a remaining lifetime net tax rate of 26.8 percent.  In contrast, those in the lowest fifth face a negative net tax rate of nearly 700 percent! For every $1 of private income, they get $7 from the government.

Interestingly, one important contributor to inequality of lifetime consumption is inequality in life expectancy. The gap in expected years of life for those in the top and bottom fifths of the income distribution has been growing for some 30 years and it has a big effect on lifetime consumption. Take people in their 20s. The authors estimate that if those in the bottom fifth lived as long as those in the top fifth, they would get one-third more benefits from government over their lifetimes.

Overall, our fiscal system is highly progressive. There is a price to be paid for this progressivity, however. The more redistribution that takes place, the smaller the rewards for working, saving and investing and the larger the rewards for not working, not saving and not investing. That has to be bad for economic growth.



The downsides of popunomics

Economic historian MARTIN HUTCHINSON supplies an economist's perspective on the Presidential races.  He sees much irrationality on all sides

Donald Trump currently looks likely to win the Republican Presidential nomination and it appears Bernie Sanders has a decent shot at the Democrat one. The two candidates have unexpectedly strong support from voters who normally do not participate in elections and, although they are nominally from opposite political poles, their economic nostrums have a lot in common. While one can democratically rejoice that these new voices are being heard, there is just one problem. The populist economics — “popunomics” — that both candidates are selling may appeal to the masses, but is highly economically counterproductive.

There is a reason economics is called the “dismal science.” Most of its tenets are very unappealing to the mass of people, who can only with great difficulty be convinced of their validity. Many tried and tested tenets of economics, validated by centuries of experience, appear both unattractive and unlikely to the man in the street assessing them by “common sense.”

One man one vote electoral systems make no distinction between voters educated in the relevant disciplines and those who are not. This does not matter for most areas of knowledge; few elections are decided on the arcana of differential equations or cosmology (though the age of the universe may become an issue if the Republicans nominate a creationist!)

Sometimes “common sense” is more correct than received wisdom that has been polluted by ideology or careerist considerations. The “scientific consensus” on global warming, for example, is mostly a consensus of those scientists paid or ideologically motivated to be alarmist about it; the truck driver’s healthy skepticism is much close to what appears to be the truth. Similarly on immigration; the economic studies purporting to show from experience after the 1980 Mariel influx of uneducated Cubans to Miami that low-skill immigration does not affect wages turn out to have been hopelessly flawed in their methodology, and driven mostly by the ideological blinkers of the researchers and/or the economic interests of those paying them. In this case, truck driver prejudice again turned out to be correct – but so would an argument from economic first principles, as set out in this column as far back as 2004.

Nevertheless, William F. Buckley’s famous claim that he would rather be governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than by the Harvard faculty is misguided. (For one thing, a bunch of people called Lemuel P. Aardvark and AAA1 Auto Repair might have biases of their own! – AAA1 Auto Repair is a salt-of-the-earth type with great foreign policy expertise from his early years in Nicaragua, but Aardvark is a Beacon Hill-dwelling Brahmin, even snootier and more left-wing than the Harvard faculty!) As Lord Liverpool knew very well 200 years ago, it was not a good idea to extend the franchise to so many ignorant people that knowledge and understanding among the electorate are swamped by prejudice.

Popunomics has a number of core beliefs, held without any possibility of change by argument, and some peripheral ideas that can sometimes be modified or dropped. Perhaps its most important core belief is that free trade is a crony capitalist rip-off designed to export American jobs to the Third World and giving unfair advantages to China, which does not “play fair.” Both Trump and Sanders appear to believe this, and share their belief with voters, who regard it as painfully obvious, subject to doubt only by those with a financial axe to grind.

As economically knowledgeable readers will know, the falsity of this belief was demonstrated 200 years ago next summer, by David Ricardo. By his principle of comparative advantage, if the U.S. makes those things at which it is best, and China specializes in those things at which its costs are relatively lower, both countries’ economies benefit.

The last 20 years have been difficult for free traders. The Internet and modern telecoms, which cannot be un-invented, have greatly reduced the cost of running a truly global supply chain. This has thereby increased the economic possibilities for low-wage workers located far from the major centers of consumption in the West, and conversely lowered the equilibrium wage for low-skill U.S. and Western European workers whose main advantage was their proximity to rich consumers.

This has made life very difficult for potential Trump/Sanders voters. It is also an inevitable phenomenon, finite in duration and probably nearing its end, which would not have been solved by a rise in protectionism. Had such a rise occurred the West’s economy would have been hollowed out, with more and more of its production becoming completely uneconomic while China and other emerging markets acquired the capability to produce more and more of the world’s GDP at lower and lower costs. We have essentially seen this movie before; it was the fate of the Soviet Union and its allied Comecon bloc, and we know how it ended.

However the populists do have a point in one respect: Establishment foolishness has also contributed to their decline in living standards and the insecurity of their employment. Ultra-low interest rates, pursued with ever greater enthusiasm by Fed chairmen since Alan Greenspan in 1995, have artificially narrowed the differential between U.S. borrowing costs and emerging markets’ borrowing costs. This has enhanced the cost differential between Western and emerging market production, force-feeding globalization and worsening its impoverishing effect in the West. The other effects of funny money have also been pernicious for Trump/Sanders voters, raising asset prices, enriching the 1% and diverting manufacturing investment into unproductive real estate and tech startup speculation. The Trump/Sanders’ voters instincts are not wrong, they have indeed been ripped off by elite policies; they have simply misidentified the policies that are to blame.

A second area where popunomics is damaging is that of social programs. Those programs that mostly genuinely help the very poor have no particular populist salience, even being mildly unpopular, but Social Security and Medicare, universal programs targeted at old age, are politically untouchable. Their actuarial deficits and distortion of the healthcare market are problems that it appears impossible to address. Indeed, budget deficits as a whole, which used to be a salient issue with the electorate, have now fallen victim to popunomics and have barely been addressed in the current Presidential campaign.

The same process appears to have occurred in Japan, where prime minister Junichiro Koizumi’s attempt to get Japanese public spending under control proved short-lived and the current Abe government, although nominally from the conservative side in politics, is committed to continual budget deficits and “stimulus” programs, financed by central bank money printing. Schemes that appear to give the populace something for nothing and push costs off into the future are a popunomics elixir.

Taxing the rich, far beyond the level that yields additional revenue, is also a popunomics staple. The 98% marginal tax rates of investment income in 1970s Britain and the 75% tax on income plus an additional tax on wealth in France were vote-winners, and such schemes are abandoned only very reluctantly by a mass electorate. As Lord Salisbury wrote in 1859: “The classes that represent civilization, the holders of accumulated capital and accumulated thought, have a right to require securities to protect them from being overwhelmed by hordes who have neither knowledge to guide them nor stake in the Commonwealth to control them.”

James Madison intended the Constitution to erect such barriers, but popunomics has always opposed them, and since the crash of 2008 popunomics has increasingly tended to prevail. In former days, Swiss bank accounts provided a key civil liberty by giving the rich some protection against populist looting, but the advent of universal data and intrusive Revenue agents has eliminated even this protection.

Popunomics has further elements, equally damaging economically, which from time to time become prominent. Minimum wages are in general a popunomics idea; in difficult times they are set far above the level at which they suppress job opportunities for the modestly skilled. Heavy union protections against job losses are a popunomics idea which became fashionable in the 1930s and remained salient during the decades of U.S. economic supremacy; they have been partly driven out by globalization, but will return should protectionism come into vogue. Draconian financial regulation, with taxes on short-term trading profits also have considerable popunomics appeal; like most other forms of regulation (by no means all of which are popunomic) they do huge economic damage, almost all of it hidden.

Finally, low mortgage rates and subsidies or – God help us – government guarantees for home ownership have huge appeal to a populace for whom an overpriced house, preventing them from distant job searches and tying up their assets, is the only form of saving they truly understand. In this respect Germany benefits hugely from its undeveloped mortgage market where at least until recently down-payments of 30-40% were normal. As we learned in 2007-08, the costs of this policy, to the economy as a whole and homeowners in particular, greatly exceed its benefits.

There are reasonable disagreements to be had about the size of government, and popular pressure is useful in battling the evils of elite domination, such as cronyism and subservience to fashionable but damaging economic fads. Nevertheless the economic ideas of a mass electorate – what they think they know – are mostly damaging to the general welfare and should be resisted.



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, February 02, 2016

Poorly-based official wisdom once again

More evidence that statins are bad for you.  The official enthusiasm for statins was so great that it was even proposed that they put statins into the water supply. Sadly, official health advice  is often so wrong that it should never be accepted without scrutiny.  It is as likely to do you harm as good.  The bureaucracy is not wise. It is invariably captive to the intellectual fashions of its day 

So the power of the State should never be used to enforce any form of health compliance.  In addition to the example below, consider the case of Jehovah's Witnesses and their refusal to accept blood transfusions.  In some cases laws have been passed to force transfusions on them.  But a study of survival after heart surgery showed that no Jehovah's Witness died of it but many others did.  They have certainly had the last laugh -- and in consequence blood transfusions are now much more sparingly prescribed than they once were

That Jehovah is clearly one heck of a clever guy. Maybe more people should heed his advice

Healthy patients taking the heart drug statins have a significantly higher risk of new diabetes and a very high risk of serious diabetic complications, a study has found.

The research, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine in May 2015, tracked individuals in a database for almost ten years. It discovered statin users had a higher incidence of diabetes and also weight gain.

Patients using the drugs were also more likely than the others to develop diabetes with complications including eye, nerve and kidney damage.

Professor Ishak Mansi, a heart specialist at the University of Texas who led the study, said the association between statin use and diabetes complications 'was never shown before.

Users of statins were more than twice as likely to develop diabetes and were 250 percent more likely than their non-statin-using counterparts to develop diabetes with complications.

Patients included in the study were identified as healthy adults and researchers assessed of 3982 statin users and 21,988 non users over the decade.

'The risk of diabetes with statins has been known, but until now it was thought that this might be due to the fact that people who were prescribed statins had greater medical risks to begin with,' said Dr Mansi in a statement.

Mansi told the Express that those results are 'alarming'.

He added that drugs may be doing more harm than good for people at low risk of heart disease: 'I am sceptical about the prescribing guidelines for people at lower risk (of heart disease). I am concerned about the long term effects on the huge population of healthy people on these drugs who continue for many years.'



The 2nd Amendment as an antidote to Muslim terrorism

The Islamic State’s call for “lone wolf” attacks on Western infidels might have met its match in the Second Amendment, as an armed man saves lives by shooting a jihadist wannabe bent on heeding that call.

Vaughan Foods employee Traci Johnson is alive today because the business she works for is not a gun-free zone at a time when the Islamic State is encouraging attacks on infidels in the West like the one in Moore, Okla., where co-worker Colleen Hufford was stabbed and beheaded.

The alleged attacker, 30-year-old Alton Nolen, was stopped as he was stabbing and preparing to behead Johnson by Mark Vaughan, the food distributor’s chief operating officer. Vaughn, who is also a reserve county deputy, drew the gun he was carrying and stopped Nolen, police say, before he could claim more victims.

“This was not going to stop if he (Vaughan) did not stop it,” Moore Police Sgt. Jeremy Lewis told the media.

Some will claim this is more “workplace violence” — a phrase used by the Obama administration to describe the carnage left by Maj. Nidal Hassan at Ft. Hood — the work of a disgruntled ex-employee with no significance beyond that.

But the similarities are eerie and may indicate the shape of a new threat we face.

Nolen was a recent convert to Islam and while still an employee at Vaughan tried to convert his co-workers, they said. He was convicted in 2011 of multiple felony drug offenses, assault and battery on a police officer and escaping from detention.

He was released from prison in March 2013. It is suspected that much of his Islamic conversion occurred while he was in prison, an increasingly common phenomenon among African-American inmates.

Nolen’s Facebook page contains such items as a burning lower Manhattan after the 9/11 attacks and a photo of the pope with the caption “Sharia Law is coming!”

In March, Nolen posted a gruesome photo of a beheading with the explanation that “Islamic terrorists behead their victims” because of a precedent bestowed by their prophet, a reference to the Prophet Mohammed’s frequent beheadings of those he considered infidels.

Nolen might be a lone wolf, but he’s just the type the Islamic State is looking for: individuals angry at a society and culture they see as victimizing and oppressing them.

They don’t need to sneak across the border — they’re already here. They don’t even need passports, which many have, such as the Minneapolis airport worker who fought and died for IS in Syria.

No direct connection has been established. But Nolen is what IS spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani said the group is looking for in a videotaped statement released shortly before the attack in Moore.

“If you can kill a disbelieving American or European — especially the spiteful and filthy French — or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that just joined a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way, however that might be.”

That was the possible motivation of 18-year-old Abdul Numan Haider, who was shot dead after he stabbed two Australian counterterrorism officers on Sept. 23, police said. Haider had been asked to come to a police station after he’d been seen with an Islamic State flag at a shopping center.

The incident happened mere days after Australian authorities conducted raids nabbing 15 suspected of IS ties.

The Islamic State has issued a global call to lone wolves. One could be standing behind you on the bus, walking next you at the mall or sitting in the next cubicle. In the age of the Islamic State and solo terrorism, gun-free zones are simply an invitation for a terrorist attack.

In Moore, Okla., the life-saving value of the Second Amendment was proved once again. It may be our secret weapon in the ongoing war against terrorism.



The Absurdity of Regulation

While the constitution grants Congress the power to legislate, recent administrations have chosen to circumvent this authority, using regulatory agencies instead to advance their agenda and create de facto laws. Regulations are especially dangerous to liberty, because those craft them are not elected and therefore not accountable to the people. For this reason, rules are often arbitrary, capricious, and selectively enforced. Sometimes, they are downright absurd.

We've all heard stories of children's lemonade stands being shut down for lacking the proper permits. Now, a similarly ridiculous example is the kerfuffle over a neighborhood tree house that critics say intrude into public space. Of course, the location of this nonsense is Washington, DC, the regulatory capital of the country. A family's tree house is under legal scrutiny because it protrudes into an alley by about 20 inches. There have been orders to stop work, and the city has said the family should have obtained the proper permits before building.

Far from being a case of negligence, however, it appears that the family did everything in their power to ensure the building was legal, including filling out paperwork, seeking tree house guidelines (which don't exist), and even hiring a specialist to ensure they weren't harming the tree. They also distributed fliers to neighbors prior to building, so no one can claim they weren't consulted. It was apparently not enough.

Incidents like this may seem trivial, but they highlight the dangers of a legal and regulatory system blind to common sense and individual circumstances. Whereas the system of Common Law once valued reasonable solutions based on tradition and reason, the more modern system of statute law leave no room for the application of judgment, even when the outcome is plainly unjust. It's a triumph of mechanical bureaucracy over humanity.

When we allow black and white regulations to cover every aspect of life, whether or not an individual is subject to punishment or left alone becomes merely a matter of authorities' discretion, having very little to do with the individual's behavior or whether anyone has actually been harmed. This is why it's so important to hold regulatory agencies accountable and roll back some of the overcriminalization that is in danger of making us all guilty in the eyes of the law.



Senator Jeff Sessions Stands Against Executive Power

Jeff Sessions support is coveted by both Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, with many suggesting he may endorse the latter. This week, he warned Americans to choose their next leader wisely:

    Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, a leading voice on trade, immigration and executive powers, is urging Americans to choose their next president carefully because 2016 "is the last chance for the American people to take back control of their government."

    In a sober interview with Secrets, the Republican warned that liberal special interests, Wall Street moguls, and international media conglomerates are fast turning the United States into just another member of the European Union and that the effort is being led by a Democratic president eager to go his own way with executive orders.

    "This election is different because we have pell mell erosion of law, the constitutional order, where President Obama has pushed an agenda that eviscerates the immigration legal system, and pushed this trade agreement that will commence decades of transferring American economic power to an ever-expanding international commission. It's just not going to stop" unless voters take action, he warned.


There is a  new  lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- mostly Muslim "refugees" and such things


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, February 01, 2016

Trump's past is not the issue

It has been fashionable the last two weeks to pen articles attacking Donald Trump, the front-runner in the race for the Republican Party nomination for President.  "He’s not a true conservative." "He’s not Ronald Reagan," they said.  The jury’s still out on whether or not he’s a true conservative, but we can agree that he is not Ronald Reagan.

I would say he is more like Abraham Lincoln.  Lincoln had been elected to Congress as a member of the Whig Party, but he parted company with the Whigs and joined the Republicans, when the Whig leaders wouldn’t take a stand on the biggest issue of the day—slavery.  The country’s whole future hung on the issue of slavery.  Lincoln was against it, but the Whigs didn’t want to ruffle the feathers of pro-slavery voters.  Lincoln became President, won the Civil War, and ended that barbaric practice.  The Whig Party disappeared from the national stage and became a paragraph in history books.  You can almost hear the Whig poobahs saying about Lincoln, "He’s not a true conservative.  He flip-flopped on the tariff issue."  Small minds, small issues.

Similarly, Donald Trump took a stand on the big issue of our day—immigration—coming out strongly in favor of securing the border and deporting illegal aliens, while the Republican leadership and the other candidates in the race for President (with maybe only one exception) talked about "immigration reform."  They don’t want to ruffle the feathers of "Latino voters;" while Trump wants to save America.   Immediately, Trump jolted into the lead in the race and has stayed there ever since, in spite of being rude, bombastic, and obnoxious.

By contrast, Marco Rubio, arguably the most likable guy in the pack, will never rise much above 15% in the polls because he is on the wrong side of this issue.  Unless Rubio comes out and says, "to hell with the so-called Latino vote,  I’m gonna deport every last one of the illegal aliens,"  he will stay in the pack fighting for second or third place twenty points behind Trump.

The media pundits don’t get it, though.  They offer up all kinds of explanations for Trump’s success that have nothing to do with the issue of immigration:  It’s his simple sentences.  It’s his rudeness and bruskness.  It’s his hair.  He’s an outsider. The people who support him are stupid (40% of Republicans!).

Some critics argue that Trump was a liberal Democrat until recently and we cannot trust him to keep any of his promises on immigration, or anything else.  The answer to that is that lots of Republicans were elected as Tea Party candidates a few years ago, yet they ended up supporting the big-government-open-borders policies of the Obama administration once they got into office.  Why should we trust anyone?  Maybe all of the candidates are lying.  In which case, Trump is no better or worse than the others.  But, if he is telling the truth and he ends up keeping his promises, since he is the only one with a plan to reverse the illegal immigration problem, shouldn’t we put our support behind him?

Going back to the Ronald Reagan comparison, Mark Steyn noted rightly that Reagan could not get elected governor of California today.  The demographics have changed so much that the state is now solidly left.  America is going in the same direction.  With more and more people coming into the country with different ideas about work, liberty, the rule of law, morality—it will be hard to elect anyone who is not pandering to them, promising more subsidies, more government, more corruption.

With this election the country stands at a crossroads—do we keep going in the same direction —the one leading over the cliff— or do we change direction?  Many people believe Trump will lead the country in the right direction.  Maybe he will, maybe he won’t.  But it is certain that most of the other candidates will not.



How Are Republicans and Democrats Different?

When Democrats accuse Republicans of being selfish, it's just the usual Leftist projection of their own faults onto others

John C. Goodman

Have you ever wondered why Republicans and Democrats differ in the way they think about government? I’m not talking about the difference between conservatives and liberals. Those differences are pretty apparent. But most Democrats are not all that liberal and ideology is not what drives them to the voting booth.

A Kaiser Family Foundation poll finds that

"61% of registered Democrats say candidates’ detailed policy plans – on health care or other topics – matter to their vote, and 35% say a candidate’s general values and approach to government matters more. For Republicans it’s the reverse: 51% care most about a candidate’s general values and approach to government, and 45% prioritize their policy plans"

Let’s drill down a bit on what that really means. Ezra Klein describes an interesting journalistic experiment. MSNBC asked Benjy Sarlin, its reporter on the Republican race, and Alex Seitz-Wald, its reporter on the Democratic race, to flip jobs for a week and write up what they learned. I‘ll skip the full conversation and zero in on what Klein found most revealing -- a statement by Sarlin:

"I was caught off guard by how specific and personal Democratic voters’ issues tended to be. One woman told me she had lost a job because she had to take care of a sick relative and wanted paid family leave. Another woman told me her insurance stopped covering a certain medication that had grown too expensive and she liked how Clinton and Sanders talked about lowering drug prices. One man told me his wages were stagnant at his hotel job and he was looking for policies to increase them"

"We’re talking about bread-and-butter issues," Phyllis Thede, an Iowa state representative backing Clinton, told me when I asked about her constituents’ top concerns.

By contrast, Republican voters tend to be excited by more abstract issues: One of the most common answers I get from Cruz voters when I ask about their leading concern is "the Constitution." There are fewer "I have a specific problem in my own life, and I’d like the government to do x about it" responses.

These findings are consistent with my own anecdotal experience. For many years I was an attentive viewer of C-Span’s morning show – where callers could call in on a "Democratic" or "Republican" line. What I found striking was how rarely anyone on the Democratic line talked the way Bernie Sanders talks. I don’t recall a single caller saying we should all (including the caller) pay higher taxes so that we can have paid family leave or free college tuition or universal pre-school or universal long term care.

Instead I heard teachers arguing for more pay for teachers, seniors wanting more out of Social Security and Medicare, union members wanting trade protection, etc. In other words, what I heard a lot of was selfishness. The Democratic line attracted a lot of people who want government to intervene for their benefit at everyone else’s expense.

In column after column, New York Times writer Paul Krugman repeats the canard that the Republican Party is the party of selfishness and greed and the Democratic Party is the party of altruism and charity. This, by the way, is how most of the intellectual elite thinks. Yet if we look at the personal behavior of Republicans and Democrats, the reverse seems to be true.

The modern Democratic Party descended from the Roosevelt coalition. And that coalition was solidly based on economic self-interest. At Franklin Roosevelt’s behest, Congress passed the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA), which attempted to regulate the entire economy, based on the Italian fascist model. In each industry, management and labor were allowed to collude to set prices, wages, output, etc. Every industry or trade was allowed to conspire to pursue its own interests at the expense of the public. The Supreme Court put an end to the NIRA, but it didn’t put an end to the ideas behind it.

The regulatory agencies that survived judicial scrutiny continued the Roosevelt pattern. The CAB served as a cartel agent for the airlines. The ICC served as a cartel agent for the trucking and railroad industries. The FCC was a cartel agent for the broadcast industry. The AAA was the vehicle that allowed farmers to seek monopoly rents.

The Democratic Party attracts rent seekers. The Republican Party attracts them as well. But the Democratic Party’s essence seems to be rent seeking. Democratic candidates campaign on the idea of taking from Peter to give to Paul and brag about it once they have done it. Republicans do it too, but afterward they are more likely to apologize for what they have done.



Veterans, Trump and the Hypocrisy of the Democratic National Committee

Reading the reactions from some veterans to Donald Trump’s "support the troops" rally last night, you would think that the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan was trying to give money to veteran’s charities.

It’s worth noting right out of the gate that I don’t particularly care for Trump’s brand of "scream louder than the other guy" politics. But it should come as no surprise that hypocrisy abounds in some of the negative reactions to the Donald’s event.

One of the more notable critics of Trump, and the rest of the GOP field, is Marine Corps veteran Sean Sorbie.

In a piece posted to, he rhetorically brutalizes Trump, Cruz and Fiorina for using veterans as pawns in their political chess match.

"My brothers and sisters in arms deserve so much more than the pandering and cheap political stunts being pulled by today’s Republican presidential candidates. It is insulting that America’s veterans are being used as a bargaining chip by candidates who want to get air time next to Donald Trump."

Sorbie then goes on to claim that Republicans in general would hurt veterans because of their opposition to raising the minimum wage and Obamacare, among other Democratic Party platform talking points. The last half of the article is some kind of odd victory lap touting the supposed success of the Democratic Party in improving the quality of benefits and access to veterans.

By now, you are probably having the same thought I had after reading the article: "What is this guy’s deal?" The truth about Sorbie, however, is where the egregious hypocrisy begins to reveal itself.

Sorbie works for the Democratic National Committee, a fact he conveniently omits from the article.

While Democrats are tripping over themselves to knock Trump for "politicizing veterans," the DNC is carting out their own veteran to push their politics.

I can only presume that Sorbie is an educated and intelligent person. This leads me to believe that he knew he was using his status as a veteran on behalf of the DNC to bolster the credibility of his argument and shield it from criticism. Who’s going to knock a veteran?

There’s certainly nothing wrong with appealing to your time in the service as part of building an argument. There is, and should be, an added level of credibility when a veteran puts forth a case on veteran’s issues. However, Sorbie wasn’t just making a case for veteran's issues, he was criticizing Republicans for doing the exact same thing he and the DNC are doing–which is politicizing veterans to score points against the other side.

It’s certainly no coincidence that Sorbie penned the hit piece for the DNC against Trump and the Republicans. He knew it would be virtually impossible for anyone in politics or the media to openly criticize the actions and words of a veteran, unless of course that person was also a veteran.

I too served in the United States Marine Corps. I was on active duty from 2010 to 2014 and completed two deployments to Afghanistan.

I don’t disagree with most of what Sorbie says in his article about the actions of some GOP candidates. Trump has insulted veterans. It is ridiculous that candidates are using donations to veteran’s charity as bargaining chips in a political race. We do deserve much better than cheap political stunts.

None of that, however, changes the fact that he is hammering Trump for using veterans as political pawns, while himself being used as a political pawn by the DNC.

The last paragraph of the article is painful to read once you are aware that Sorbie is a paid employee of the DNC.

(Emphasis added)

"Once again, it’s insulting that Republican presidential candidates are using veterans like myself to get media attention. Instead, they should look to Democrats who have delivered on their promises to veterans and will never exploit our service and honor to this country."

Whether or not Sorbie was directed to write the piece by the DNC, or took it upon himself, doesn't really matter. I'm sure he'll argue that he found some spare time to draft and copy edit a lengthy column for his employer all out of the kindness of his heart. Regardless, The DNC benefits from the use of a veteran's service to push their political agenda.


This is just standard Leftism: Rules are for other people, not us


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, January 31, 2016

Nuclear neglect

One of the ultimate underwriters of U.S. global power and national security is the capability of its nuclear arsenal. Rogue states, nations that sponsor terrorism as a matter of policy, and openly belligerent countries are all held in check by the threat of America’s nuclear power, which holds the definitive answer to such nations' use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). As most international arms experts concur, without this worldwide deterrent against states large enough to back large-scale terrorist organizations, these organizations' use of WMD would be substantially more likely and considerably less restrained. Given this, we’d like to think our federal government would be first in line to safeguard and maintain this arsenal. But we would be wrong.

We recently learned from a top Obama administration official that U.S. nuclear deterrent capability is rapidly waning, with no remedy in sight. In a letter not released to the public, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz asked White House budget director Shaun Donovan to revise the fiscal 2017 budget proposal, effectively implying that the nation’s nuclear capabilities were at stake as a result of a projected $5.2 billion shortfall, which as yet has not properly been addressed in the budget. Even Moniz, normally a reliable shill for the administration, has recognized the critical importance of the shortfall.

In the arcane language of government financial programming, this problem is known as “broken glass”: a program that is “unexecutable” — i.e., dead — without additional funding. In this case, that’s a lot of glass. Some of the critical infrastructure Moniz references in his missive includes the roughly half of all nuclear facilities that are approaching half-century-old milestones, as well as the geriatric strategic computer systems that bear directly on the efficacy and reliability of America’s nuclear arsenal.

Of course, there’s also the fact of the aging ballistic sub fleet; the more-than-half-century-old B-52 fleet; the halting of new warhead design, construction and testing by the administration’s peace-at-all-costs arms-control wonks; and a host of other “minor” issues associated with U.S. nuclear surety, but we don’t want to haggle over a few billion dollars' worth of restoration to critical national defense. We’ll simply note in passing that all of them have been ignored for the better part of a decade, and we’ll leave it at that.

Apart from the criminally negligent abandonment associated with the commander in chief’s most important job — namely, protecting the nation — are the outright lies. Recall in the 2010 “New” Start Treaty with Russia, His Worldpeacedness secured Senate ratification to a 30% cut in warheads only after the Senate made him promise to modernize existing warheads and facilities. Setting aside the foolhardiness of relying on an unsecured future promise from anyone in the Obama administration — let alone from the head of the rotting fish itself — not only did Obama break his word to the Senate, but he has also accelerated the decline of the very warheads and facilities he promised to modernize.

As evidence, witness the testimony of Obama’s former secretary of defense, Bob Gates, who last fall told Congress that Obama’s “political aspiration” is “to get rid of nuclear weapons.” Obama hasn’t changed much since he was a dope-smoking young peacenik. As a result, then-Secretary Gates was unable even to “[try] to make the ones that we already have more reliable and safer.”

Notwithstanding the current crisis, the bigger question is, who, if anyone, will fix it? With “The Donald” not even knowing what the “nuclear triad” is — forgivable for a layman, but a presidential candidate? — and Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders unwilling to preserve the remainder of that triad, we have little reason for optimism. And what if, in the dead of some otherwise calm night, an “unscheduled sunrise” suddenly appears over an American city in the not-too-distant future? Then all bets are off. What will we respond with then?



Hillary Clinton, analyzed

Perhaps we should pity Hillary Clinton. Yes, one hand, she’s a power hungry politician who never let an ethics rule stop her quest for the White House. But perhaps she never let go of her childhood motivations. Perhaps she’s still trying to rectify the abusive home life of her childhood. Blogger Ann Althouse caught an insightful essay by Camille Paglia delving into the origins of Clinton’s feminism. Paglia, who is a feminist thinker and a bundle of contradictions such as her Left-leaning Libertarianism, disdains Clinton for how she handled the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Paglia argues that Clinton never got broad appeal from men because her brand of feminism disdains men:

    “Childhood photos of Bill Clinton show his gregarious, fun-loving charm already fully formed. The young Hillary Rodham, in contrast, looks armored, with a sharp gaze and a tense, over-bright smile. Like many first-born daughters, she became her father’s favorite son, marginalizing her less self-assured and accomplished brothers.

    "The ‘enabling’ with which Hillary has been charged in her conflicted marriage may actually have been the pitying indulgence and half-scornful toleration that she first directed toward her brothers. She demoted her husband to a fraternal role — the shiftless ‘bad boy’ in chronic need of scolding and spanking.”

And that isn’t the only clue. The Washington Free Beacon’s David Rutz points out that Clinton employs cliché after cliché in her speaking. Can she articulate an original thought, hold an original opinion? This is her last shot at the presidency. The desperation is almost palpable.



Government admits the economy stinks — now what?

The U.S. economy has just suffered through the worse ten-year period in terms of economic growth since the Great Depression. This lost decade of despair and hopelessness has led to more than 6 million more Americans aged 16-64 dropping out of the workforce than would normally be expected.

With the near-disastrous Gross Domestic Product for the fourth quarter of 2015 being announced at 0.7 percent annualized by the Bureau of Economic Analysis and just 2.4 percent for the year, America cannot be allowed to continue down this pathway to the poorhouse.

Yet, rather than help the economy, President Barack Obama’s pen and phone have energized an alphabet soup of federal agencies to enact expensive, job strangling regulations that are turning towns in Kentucky into ghost towns and replacing store clerks with self-help check out stands.

While denying the transport of oil through the efficient and safe Keystone XL pipeline, they are also making it significantly expensive to ship oil by rail at the exact time oil producers are struggling for every cent due to falling prices.

Non-union manufacturers are being harassed as OSHA is now allowing union representatives to participate in safety inspections of their shops.

Potential copper mines are being stymied, farmers are being threatened with EPA inspections of their land, and coal leases on federal lands have been stopped.

Even those who need a wood burning stove to keep them warm in the winter are now forced to buy top of the line models costing five figures or go cold.

High tech companies like Disney and others continue to use the lack of effective enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws to turn away and replace skilled Americans in favor of less expensive foreign imports, and with all the talk of job creation, there are actually fewer people aged 16-64 working in America in 2015 than in 2007.

What can Congress do in the face of a thirty front war where it seems a constitutionally unhinged Chief Executive can run rampant disrupting private sector growth?

Simple answer, assert their Article One authority when Obama is pushing for a must-pass bill, like the upcoming Puerto Rico bailout.

If Speaker Ryan is serious about reasserting Article One, and this author has no reason to believe otherwise, he needs to look to his right to create a GOP bill where the compromise to Obama is that Puerto Rico gets bailed out.  What Obama has to give is the inclusion of legislation like Representative Ken Buck’s comprehensive bill, The Article I Consolidated Appropriations Amendments of 2016, of already vetted riders designed to rein in the President and reinvigorate the economy.

As knowing Washington insiders are always quick to tell conservatives, you need compromise to make anything happen, on the Puerto Rico bill it is Obama that is asking for action, and GOP leadership holds the cards.

The just released GDP numbers confirm what most Americans know from their own economic circumstances and choices, the economy stinks, and now many economists are coming to the conclusion that it is only going to get worse.  Now is the time for the GOP leadership in Congress to assert themselves and forcibly cut the regulatory binds that the Lilliputian left has used to tie down our Gulliver like economy.

Our leaders can no longer pretend that we can afford to wait for the long, eight-year national nightmare to end before the government boot gets taken off the throat of the job creators.  Any time Obama wants anything, I repeat anything, from Congress a price has to be extracted that helps make America great again.  For the American people failure is not an option, and failure to try is the ultimate surrender.

The GOP Congress just needs to read their own campaign material and fundraising letters to know what to do.  Now they need to regain the trust of the voters by going Nike, and just doing it.



Rand Paul: 'If You Want to Defend the Country, It Begins With Border Security'

Closing down mosques to prevent radicalization, as Sen. Marco Rubio once suggested, is a "huge mistake," Sen. Rand Paul said Thursday at the Republican debate in Des Moines.

"But I would say that if you want to defend the country, it begins with border security. And this is where I've had my disagreement with Senator Rubio."

"When he brought forward the 'Gang of Eight' bill to give citizenship to those who came here illegally, I put forward an amendment that says we should have more scrutiny on those who are coming as students, those who are coming as immigrants, those who are coming as refugees, because we had two refugees come to my town in Bowling Green and try to attack us.

"Marco opposed this because...he made a deal with Chuck Schumer that he would oppose any conservative amendments. And I think that's a mistake, and I just don't think Marco can have it both ways. You can't be in favor of, defend us against Islam -- radical Islam -- if you're not for border security."

Rubio jumped in with a response:

"The first thing -- I don't know of anyone who's not in favor of fully vetting people that are trying to come into this country, other than perhaps Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. I think we all support that. Rand's amendment was not the right way to do it.

"I do believe that people who are trying to come to the United States -- this country has a right to know who they are and why they are coming.

"And that's why I've been clear, when I am the president of the United States of America, we don't know who you are, and we don't know why you're trying to come to the United States, you are not going to get in, because the radical threat that we now face from ISIS is extraordinary and unprecedented, and when I'm president, we are keeping ISIS out of America."

Elsewhere in the debate, Rubio insisted that he does not support "blanket amnesty."

"What I've always said is that this issue does need to be solved. They've been talking about this issue for 30 years, and nothing ever happens. And, I'm going to tell you exactly how we're going to deal with it when I am president.

"Number one, we're going to keep ISIS out of America. If we don't know who you are, or why you're coming, you will not get into the United States.

"Number two, we're going to enforce our immigration laws. I am the son and grandson of immigrants. And I know that securing our borders is not anti-immigrant and we will do it.

"We'll hire 20,000 new border agents instead of 20,000 new IRS agents. We will finish the 700 miles of fencing and walls our nation needs. We'll have mandatory E-verify, a mandatory entry/exit tracking system and until all of that is in place and all of that is working and we can prove to the people of this country that illegal immigration is under control, nothing else is going to happen.

"We are not going to round up and deport 12 million people, but we're not going to hand out citizenship cards, either. There will be a process. We will see what the American people are willing to support. But it will not be unconstitutional executive orders like the ones Barack Obama has forced on us."



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