Friday, March 04, 2016

The Left are amusing: The "authoritarianism" explanation for Trump support

On Feb 25 I put up some comments on the accusation that Trump supporters are "authoritarian".  The article I critiqued was based on some research by a PR man named Matthew MacWilliams.

The claim is that "authoritarians" are fear-motivated and that Trump panders to those fears.  That authoritarians are fear motivated is a claim that goes back a long way.  Erich Fromm asserted it in the '50s and various subsequent authors have made feeble attempts to prove it, e.g. Sales, S. (1973). Careful researchers would use a measure of fear motivation and a measure of authoritarianism and try to show that the two were correlated.  But MacWilliams and his gurus skipped that awkward step as far as I can see.  They just defined authoritarianism in their own way and noted that it showed correlations with some fears.  That their measure of authoritarianism was in fact a measure of anything authority-related was not shown.  As far as I can see it at most measures old-fashioned thinking. But even the academic work that MacWilliams relies on -- work by Feldman & Stenner (1997) -- concedes that there is no direct relationship between authoritarianism and threat/fear.

And the research made elementary mistakes -- indicating a profound ignorance of the precautions that psychometricians normally take when doing survey research.  Recently, however, a new and much expanded article based on the MacWilliams research has emerged -- under the title "The rise of American authoritarianism", written by Amanda Taub.

I think my previous comments were sufficient to show that the work is a lot of hokum but maybe I can add a few more comments.

I might initially expand my comments about the naive nature of the questions they used to assess authoritarianism. They were "forced-choice" questions.  A typical question was

"Please tell me which one you think is more important for a child to have: to be considerate or to be well-behaved?".

The option you chose was supposed to indicate whether you are authoritarian or not.  But what if you thought that BOTH attributes are important?  What if you wanted a kid who was BOTH considerate AND well-behaved?  The form of the question prevents you from saying that.  So the answers given might not well represent what the person actually thinks.

So is that naive form of question construction actually misleading?  It is. If the people don't like the choices they are offered, what is likely to happen is that a "Donkey vote" effect will result: If the choices in a forced-choice scale are labelled "a" and "b", the Donkey voter will, at the extreme, simply tick all the "a"s.  And I showed in my own survey research years ago that forced choice questions can push the results in a direction more or less opposite to what occurs with more straightforward questions

I think that alone invalidates their conclusions but "Wait! There's more"! -- as the steak-knife salesman said.

The "authoritarianism" researchers say that Trump appeals to "authoritarians" as defined by them and that Trump is the ideal candidate for authoritarians. So virtually all authoritarians should support him, it would seem.   So I was amused to read this about their research findings:

"Trump has ...  a full 52 percent support among very high authoritarians."

What a laugh!  Even high authoritarians split roughly 50/50 in support for Trump.  Nearly half of these sad people DON'T support Trump.  Where does that leave Trump as the ideal candidate for authoritarians?  As is common in Leftist researchers, they can't even read their own data.  They conclude what they want to conclude, regardless of their actual findings.  Keeping reality out is an essential skill for Leftists.

So they have a lovely theory but it happens to be wrong.  So they might have to accept that there really is something rotten in the state of American politics, and Donald Trump is bringing that to the fore.  The fault may lie with the political establishment, not with the personal inadequacies of Trump supporters.


Sales, S. (1973) "Threat as a factor in authoritarianism".  J.  Personality & Social Psychology, 28, 44-57.


Forget Trump... what's the U.S. done to deserve Hillary?

By outspoken British columnist Richard Littlejohn

After Super Tuesday, the nightmare scenario has moved a step closer to reality. America is on the brink of electing a polarising president with a long history of dishonesty, scandals and shady finances.

No, not Donald Trump. While the Republican front-runner was once again dominating the media coverage of the primaries, Hillary Clinton effectively sewed up the Democratic nomination.

Her sole challenger, self-proclaimed socialist Bernie Sanders, is still in the race, but Hillary is now unstoppable. She was nailed on for the nomination before a single vote was cast.

Nobody of substance was prepared to stand against her. They were all terrified of the wrath of the Clinton attack machine, which has left a trail of bodies in its wake over three decades.

Nevertheless, her preordained progression towards the White House masks a distinct lack of enthusiasm on the part of the electorate.

Turn-out in the Democratic primaries has been well down, compared with the wave of excitement generated by the Barack Obama bandwagon eight years ago.

His optimistic ‘Yes We Can’ has been replaced by Hillary’s implied ‘It’s My Turn’. In a direct inversion of John F. Kennedy’s dictum, Mrs Clinton asks not what she can do for her country, but what it can do for her.

Hillary’s sense of entitlement dwarfs even that of our own Cherie Blair, who still bristles privately that she had to play a supporting role to her husband.

But while the Wicked Witch has settled for a pot of gold and a vast property empire, Hillary has unfinished political business.

Not that the Clintons are short of a shilling. When Bill left office in 2001, Hillary complained that they were flat broke. Yet 15 years later, they are reported to be worth in the region of $110 million (about £80 million).

Hillary is said to account for more than a third of that money. Which is why it was absurd to hear her condemning the wealthy and powerful at her victory rally on Tuesday night.

Wealth and power are what the Clintons live and breathe. Through their charitable foundation, which allows them to lord it like potentates, they have taken tens of millions of dollars from dubious foreign donors. Meanwhile, only 10 per cent of the foundation’s income has actually gone to charity.

Equally insulting this week was Mrs Clinton claiming to champion those who are struggling to ‘put a little away for their retirement’.

There’s little chance of Hillary having to choose between heating and eating in her old age.

You won’t find the former First Lady spooning cat food out of the tin, in front of one bar of an electric fire, at her home in upstate New York, while Bill wraps himself in a moth-eaten blanket and watches a scratchy video of Debbie Does Dallas.

This is a woman who, while railing against the bankers, has made a fortune from financial institutions. She was paid $675,000 by Goldman Sachs for three speeches.

When asked why she accepted so much money, she replied: ‘That’s what they offered.’

In other words, it would be rude not to. Her answer recalled that of the notorious American bank robber Slick Willie Sutton. When asked why he robbed banks, he replied: ‘That’s where the money is.’

Coincidentally, Hillary’s husband is also known as Slick Willie, not because he robs banks, but because he has made a career out of extricating himself from sticky situations.

Bill has been involved in a series of ‘bimbo eruptions’, most notably the Monica Lewinsky affair, which led to impeachment proceedings being brought against him. He came dangerously close to being kicked out of office for lying.

Throughout, Hillary stood by her man. One of Bill’s many conquests, Gennifer Flowers — who was his mistress for 12 years — recently came out of the woodwork to condemn Hillary for condoning his behaviour and hinted that there was more dirt to come.

Women who cross the Clintons have to endure a torrent of ordure poured from a great height. Lewinsky’s life was blighted for ever.

I recently met a ferociously bright, thirtysomething professor of U.S. politics at Cambridge.

She told me that while young American women would love to see a female president, they couldn’t abide Hillary — whom they accuse of being complicit in her husband’s crimes against the sisterhood.

Twice-divorced Trump is also frequently accused of mistreating women. If he wins the Republican nomination, reports suggest that we will witness the exquisite irony of Bill Clinton leading the attack on Trump’s suitability to be President.

It will be interesting to see how Trump responds to being called a misogynist by Slick Willie, who these days resembles a redneck roué in a Reno casino.

The Clintons have been mired in scandal, as far back as the Whitewater Controversy, which revolved around dodgy land deals in Arkansas, when Bill was governor.

After he became President, Hillary was accused of lying to an official inquiry into the sacking of several White House staff who were replaced by Clinton cronies.

Now Mrs Clinton is being investigated by the FBI for illegally using her own private email server to send and receive classified correspondence in connection with her position as Secretary of State, the American equivalent of Foreign Secretary, and deleting 30,000 messages she described as ‘personal’.

U.S. government officials have been sacked and prosecuted for less.

Mrs Clinton makes great play of her ‘experience’, but her record in office is dismal.

She was Secretary of State for four years until 2013. On her watch, the world became a more dangerous place.

Having once said she’d nuke Iran to protect Israel, she then supported the deal to bring the mad mullahs back into the fold, by lifting sanctions and allowing them to develop a ‘peaceful’ nuclear programme.

She lied about coming under sniper fire while on a visit to Bosnia.

Worst of all, she refused a request to send military reinforcements to protect the American embassy in Benghazi, Libya.

The result was an attack by jihadists on September 11, 2012, in which the U.S. ambassador was murdered.

Clinton has never accepted responsibility.

No wonder between 50 and 65 per cent of voters regularly say she is ‘dishonest and untrustworthy’.

While her husband has a roguish charm and a fierce intellect, Hillary is just plain weird.

She looks like a Botoxed beaver and has a voice like a blowtorch. She’s a grown-up version of Labour’s Yvette Cooper.

She claims to speak for the common people, but has been part of the self-serving elite for the past quarter of a century, a fully paid-off member of the insidious alliance between Washington and big business.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both 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, March 03, 2016

It's Trump

A lot of Trump's positions clash with orthodox GOP policies but most GOP politicans are overlooking that Trump is obviously offering the public what they want.  It may therefore  be the orthodox positions that have to change.  Since most of those positions are designed to fit within the straitjacket of Leftist political correctness, that could be a really good thing.

Trump seems likely to break the grip that Leftist  thinking has on American politics.  The GOP establishment have certainly shown no willingness or ability to break out from the Leftist mental straitjacket  -- which is why Trump has appeal.

Some of Trump's policies seem economically destructive to informed people but they are overlooking that his degree is in  economics.  Whatever he does is therefore likely to be tokenism rather than anything seriously destructive economically. Those of us who have qualifications in economics understand its instructive power.

The Gipper was derided as a fool too and his degree was in economics also.  And he broke out of the straitjacket of conventional thinking in his time.  Rather than appease the Soviets he said:  "I've got another idea:  We win, they lose".  And that was greeted with gasps of incredulity too.  But it came about

Donald Trump, leading a seismic transformation of the modern Republican Party, leapt closer to securing its presidential nomination with a near sweep of Super Tuesday states, scoring strong wins across the conservative Deep South, in liberal parts of New England, and almost everywhere in between.

With states that hold a quarter of the US population voting, Trump won among almost every demographic, robbing his rivals of room to claim victory and putting him into a commanding position that has flabbergasted the party establishment.

Just after the polls closed, Trump was declared the winner in Massachusetts, winning support from working-class voters around the state. He also won Vermont.

“We have expanded the Republican Party,” Trump said from Palm Beach, Fla. “I’m a unifier. I know people are going to find that hard to believe. But I am a unifier.”

Senator Ted Cruz claimed his home state of Texas as well as Oklahoma, allowing Cruz to argue that he is the GOP’s best alternative to Trump. Senator Marco Rubio, despite a flood of establishment endorsements and cash, notched his lone victory in the Minnesota caucus, helping Cruz prevent Trump from making a clean sweep of all 11 states that voted Tuesday.

Anger at Washington and a yearning for a leader to shake things up continued to fuel Trump’s extraordinary popularity. Exit polls showed that Southern Republicans were more likely to say they were “angry” with the government. Voters in nearly all states said they wanted an outsider in the Oval Office.

The Republican Party establishment has been flummoxed by Trump for months — with increasing alarm about his anti-immigrant and divisive rhetoric — but only recently has mobilized against him.

Top Republican congressional leaders Tuesday took a dramatic step to distance themselves from Trump, denouncing some of his comments when he declined over the weekend to immediately denounce the endorsement of David Duke, the former leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

“If a person wants to be the nominee of the Republican Party, there can be no evasion and no games,” House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters on Capitol Hill. “They must reject any group or cause that is built on bigotry. This party does not prey on people’s prejudices. We appeal to their highest ideals. This is the party of Lincoln.”

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell was equally forceful, saying, “Senate Republicans condemn David Duke, the KKK, and his racism.”

“There has been a lot of talk in the last 24 hours about one of our presidential candidates and his seeming ambivalence about David Duke and the KKK, so let me make it perfectly clear,” he said. “That is not the view of Republicans who have been elected to the United States Senate, and I condemn his views in the most forceful way.”

The Republican leader found himself straddling a difficult line between trying to avoid lasting damage from his party but also not dismiss the candidate who is winning overwhelmingly in state after state.

“If I’m going to win all these states tonight,” Trump said, “it’s awfully hard to say this is not the person we want to lead the party.”

Trump said he didn’t know Ryan very well. “I’m sure I’ll get along with him,” he said. “And if I don’t? He’ll have to pay a big price.”

With 595 delegates at stake across 11 states — and record turnouts in many of them — Trump was in a position to take a dominant role in the nomination contest. Although the delegates Tuesday will be awarded proportionally, Trump is likely to win a large share of them.

“Maybe the establishment needs to get out, too,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News Tuesday morning. “When you see what’s going on. They’ve lost two elections in a row. Big ones. The last one with Mitt Romney should have been easy.”

Trump also said Rubio should drop out of the race.

“I think he has to get out,” Trump said. “He hasn’t won anything, and Ted Cruz very rightly points out Marco has not won.”

According to CNN exit polls, voters who described themselves as “angry” turned out in Georgia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Texas, whereas Republicans in Northern states reported being “dissatisfied” with the government but not angry. Voters in nearly all states — with the exception of Texas and Vermont — said they were looking for an outsider candidate.



Inspector General: 4 of 11 Forward Bases at Border ‘Not Operational’

A new report from the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (IG) shows that 4 of 11 Forward Operating Bases of the Customs & Border Patrol (CBP) along the southwest border are "not operational"; at several other bases the security cameras do not work, the security gates do not meet standards, and providing safe drinking water for the officers is a recurring problem.

The report, Conditions at CBP's Forward Operating Bases Along the Southwest Border, also found other problems, including an access road that is "treacherous" and a "safety concern"; air-conditioning that does not work properly; expired fire extinguishers; irregular inspections; and in nearly all these instances, despite numerous work orders, repairs that have not been made over the course of many years.

The inspector general review states that the IG's office visited the Forward Operating Bases in 2015, and its report was prepared for the commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection and released on Feb. 8, 2016.

A Forward Operating Base, or FOB, is a permanent station "established in forward or remote locations to sustain Border Patrol operations," reads the report, primarily in areas where there is a high degree of illegal alien crossings and drug running. A FOB is indispensable to Border Patrol intelligence, deterrence, and rapid response.

There are 4 FOBs on the U.S.-Canadian border and 11 FOBs at the U.S. Mexico border. The IG's office looked at the FOBs on the U.S.-Mexico border.

At the time of the IG's review,  3 of the 11 FOBs "on the southwest border were not operational." So the IG visited 7 FOBs in the El Paso, Rio Grande Valley, and Tucson Sectors. Six of the FOBs -- 3 in El Paso Sector, 3 in Tucson sector -- were operational; 1 FOB in the Rio Grande Valley was not operational.

For a FOB, several Border Patrol agents are assigned to work and live there, usually in 7-day stints, an 8-hour shift each day. The FOB is required to have bedrooms, showers and restrooms, a kitchen, a common area with TV, and a fitness room.

At one FOB, the IG found the facility had "experienced recurring issues with the air conditioning," in a region where the temperature sometime measured in the 100s. At least 10 work orders had been submitted between 2012 and 2014 to fix the A/C problems.The IG report discovered "security issues" at all 6 FOBs, as well as inadequate documentation of maintenance and repairs at the stations.

Another FOB did "not have a functioning closed circuit television (CCTV) security camera system," even though it is mandated under CBP rules as defined in the Office of Internal Affairs (IA) handbook.

As the handbook states, "all facilities are to have a functioning CCTV system of cameras, recorders, switches, keyboards, and monitors that record security videos and allow agents on guard duty to monitor the grounds and perimeter of the facility," reads the IG report.

"If agents cannot perform this task," states the report, "the FOB is more vulnerable to a security breach."

The Tucson Sector requested in January 13 that the security camera system be repaired.  Another work order was submitted 19 months later, in August 2014, because the cameras "were still inoperable," said the IG.

The repair was than marked closed in October 2014, but as the IG found, as of its April 2015 visit, "the security cameras had not been fixed."

At a FOB [name redacted], the security cameras stored recordings "on a network video recorder rather than digital video recorder," which is not in compliance CBP standards.For the six FOBs visited by the IG, "four had one or more" security cameras "that were inoperable." All but two of the cameras at one FOB have been "inoperable since August 2014, when they were struck by lightning," said the report.

The IG report noted, "Because of their proximity to the U.S.-Mexico border, it is essential that FOBs are equipped with proper, functioning surveillance equipment to maintain awareness and monitor the FOB grounds and perimeter."

The CBP IA handbook requires the FOBs to have an 8-foot high, chain link perimeter fence and an electronic gate. For the FOBs at the southwest border, they have the fences. But only 4 bases have electronic gates, the other 2 are manual gates. During the IG's visit, one of the manual gates was unlocked and open, as was one of the electronic gates.

At one of the FOB's [name redacted] with a manual gate, 10 CBP employees told the IG that "the manual gate is repeatedly left open."

"The practice of leaving the gate open increases the likelihood of someone gaining unauthorized access to the FOB," said the IG. "In 2011, Tucson Sector requested funds from CBP to upgrade the manual gate. To date, the gate had not been upgraded to an electronic access gate."

At another base, the access road is "unsafe and deteriorating," said the IG. "Large portions of the road have washed away completely; other parts are impassable because of craters in the road."

The DHS's Office of Inspector General conducted its inspection of the FOBs in 2015. The IG also visited and conducted interviews at three Border Patrol sector headquarters and six Border Patrol stations.



Moral Hazard in Flint, Michigan

If we bail out Flint, we'll have to bail out everyone else

The city of Flint, Michigan is, in short, a mess. The city is broke, and because of corrosive water from the Flint River, the water supply has become tainted with lead and other toxins. In response to the crisis, Democrats in the Senate are proposing an $850 million rider to an energy bill that would provide aid to Flint and other cities in cleaning up their water supplies.

Let’s be honest, this is a hard thing for a lawmaker to vote against. The optics of voting against cleaning up polluted water can be deadly, especially in an election year. But good optics and good policy are often different, and what the Democrats are proposing is terrible policy for a number of reasons.

There’s a term economists use called “moral hazard.” It describes a situation in which failure is made less costly, with the result that people are more willing to fail. By signaling that the federal government is willing to intervene in local crises to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, mayors, governors, and state legislators have less incentive to make sure their policies are good ones. If something goes wrong, the federal net will be there to catch them. The result of this will be a lot more cities like Flint in the future.

Such a move in Flint would set a poor precedent. If the Senate bails out a single ailing city, they will soon have to beat back an army of cities insisting that their own situations merit a similar bailout. There will be no end to the flood of money that will have to flow from Congress to the states, because failure to comply will be seen as uncompassionate, or worse in the case of cities with high minority populations, racist.

As the national debt continues to soar past $19 trillion with no end in sight, the last thing we need is to start shelling out for every mismanaged city in the country. Problems like the ones experienced in Flint were created at local level, and they ultimately have to be solved at the local level or state level. Otherwise, we might as well abandon all pretense of federalism.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both 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, March 02, 2016

How The Good Guys Win

History is filled with pitfalls and terrible occurrences. For most of human history, the early world consisted of nothing but war, theft, slavery, and obedience to a state which ruled through fear. While those of us living in the US live so comfortably, that not even kings from a different era could compare to even our lowest standard of living, there are many people throughout the world that still live in an environment where something is absent- liberty.

Since WWI, the United States has rocked back and forth between waves of socialism followed by waves of freedom, continually fighting a war of ideas waged before our eyes without some even noticing. With the amount of negativity seen on the mainstream media and throughout the internet, it's easy for people to become boxed in a frame of mind clouded in doubt, depression, and an absence of faith. I'm not going to tell you to look for silver linings, the upside to things, or say that storms bring better weather afterwards. What I want to tell you is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

In the end of all things, the good guys always win.

Philosopher and writer Ayn Rand once wrote, "Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists.. it is real.. it is possible.. it's yours.” While Rand pushed individuals to continually fight against the challenges and obstacles they faced, it's understandable that each and every one of us can be beaten down.

It's easy to be beaten down in your private life, but to encounter personal struggle and then to see the world around you spiral out of control can be heartbreaking. The current trends we see in our government are haunting, as we witness men and women swearing to uphold the US Constitution as they place their hand on a Bible, and then go draft legislation that encumbers the most important tenant of a civil society- the individual. It seems everyday the principles of liberty are being treaded upon by a government that sees itself as the caretaker of your wellbeing, instead of being the caretaker of your ability to have opportunities.

Consider a caged bird- if it has lived it's entire life in a cage given the promise that without the cage it would be harmed, how is the bird to ever fly if for an instance the cage is opened? Simple sayings carry larger answers though. Sometimes, as much as we feel bogged down pushing for ideas and solutions that fall on deaf ears, the most vital decision we can make is to wait to take action when the opportunity shows itself.

During a speech on behalf of 1964 Republican Barry Goldwater, a young Ronald Reagan once said the following :

    "You and I are increasingly told we have to choose between left or right. Well I'd like to suggest there is no such thing as left or right. There's only up or down: Up old man's dream--old-aged dream, the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order, or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. And regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would trade our freedom for security have embarked on this downward course... You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We'll preserve for our children this, the last hope of man on Earth, or we'll sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness... He has the faith that you and I have the ability and the dignity and the right to make our own decisions and determine our own destiny."

The ways you can effect change in your community can be small, but still carry a large impact. The hard part is determining whether or not you want to continue hearing convenient lies or an inconvenient truth.

Part of the inconvenient truth many don't want to hear is that you weren't born to simply work, pay taxes, and die. There is nothing wrong with passing through this world a quiet, normal life, but what is important is the decisions you made and how you carved the world around you.

This election cycle is not another chance to play two parties against each other, or see which individual candidate you'd rather have a beer with; what is important is whether or not in your heart of hearts you made choices that advanced the message of free markets, individual freedom, peace, and prosperity. No one ever died wishing they had done less in life.



Bureaucratic Bloat Endures

California Senate boss Kevin De Leon was recently asked to approve a new chief for the state’s Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation. The startled senator replied that he “never heard of this department in my entire life until Rules Committee.” He may since have learned that this bureau, apparently a licensing body, has an eleven-member advisory council. The Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation is part of the state Department of Consumer Affairs, and there has plenty of company. CDE director Awet Kidane, “oversees the nearly 40 regulatory entities and other divisions within the Department.” These include the Acupuncture Board, the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology, the Board of Guide Dogs for the Blind, the Structural Pest Control Board, the Telephone Medical Advice Services Bureau, and many others.

Boards and commissions also abound outside of the state Department of Consumer Affairs. Consider, for example, the state’s Sea Urchin Commission. Besides its five commissioners, this bureaucratic body includes members “representing government entities which are significant to the sea urchin fishery.” Consider also the California Cut Flower Commission, which boasts a board of eight commissioners.

Taxpayers might recall that Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger promised to “blow up the boxes,” the maze of boards and commissions that often serve as soft landing spots for washed-up politicians. The boards and commissions managed to survive. Like Senator De Leon, taxpayers may not have heard of these bodies and may harbor doubts about their utility. On the other hand, taxpayers may be certain that they are paying the bills.



NY Democrats like Trump?

Republicans have not been competitive in New York for quite some time. In 2004, only three years after 9/11, eventual loser John Kerry beat George W. Bush by 18 points. In his two terms, Barack Obama easily eclipsed 60 percent of the vote, notably pounding Mitt Romney in the Empire State by over 30 points. In any election, New York represents a reliable 29 electoral votes for Democrats.

Well, in any other election. Enter Trump:

    "Confidential polling data shows Hillary Clinton could lose the presidential election in heavily Democratic New York to Donald Trump as the GOP front-runner’s support grows to the point of being “surprisingly strong,” The Post has learned.

    The poll results, from Democratic and Republican legislative races, have surprised many leading Dems, virtually all of whom have endorsed Clinton, while confounding and energizing GOP leaders, many of whom until recently have been opposed to Trump.

    “There are some Democrats who think that Hillary can be taken if Trump mounts a strong campaign,’’ one of the state’s most prominent Democrats said.

    Most of the polling didn’t address the possibility that former Mayor Michael Bloomberg would run as an independent, but some of it did — and found the former mayor took “significant’’ votes away from Clinton in heavily Democratic New York City and the surrounding suburbs, a source familiar with the data said.

    The new polls, a second source said, showed Trump’s support, even without Bloomberg in the race, was “surprisingly strong’’ in Westchester and on Long Island, the key suburbs often viewed as crucial swing bellwethers on how statewide elections will turn out."

This is absolutely critical. If Hillary loses New York, it's a sure sign that Trump is resonating with Democrats to such a degree that this election might be a landslide.



Who Speaks for the American mainstream?

If there’s one thing the current election cycle has made clear, it’s the reality that millions of Americans feel utterly disenfranchised. Their anger and frustration are driven by the daunting realization that neither political party represents their interests. This despicable status quo begs the simplest question, one every candidate running for elective office in 2016 should be forced to answer: Who speaks for us?

We want to live in a nation where there is a clear understanding of right and wrong, not one dominated by the “anything goes” cultural sewage churned out on a regular basis by Hollywood and the mainstream media. Who speaks for us?

We want to live in a nation that puts Americans first — one with definable, enforceable borders and one where Rule of Law is paramount — not one that gratifies the desires of millions of illegals and their cadre of elitist supporters aiming to fundamentally transform our national character, using cheap votes and cheap labor to do so. Who speaks for us?

We want to live in a nation where we no longer cater to the lowest common denominator of human behavior to accommodate “root causes,” the “soft bigotry of low expectations,” or a multiculturalist mishmash that excuses misogyny, anti-Semitism, and racism under the rubric of “celebrating our differences.” Who speaks for us?

We want to live a nation with an educational system that teaches children how to think, not what to think. A system where ideological indoctrination social promotion, grade inflation, worthless diplomas, “creative” math, and the generalized dumbing-down of vulnerable children is tossed on the ash heap of history. Who speaks for us?

We want to live in a nation where merit and excellence matter, not one where millions of “snowflakes” have been cushioned by trigger warnings, micro-aggressions, speech codes and helicopter parents who believe everyone should get a trophy just for showing up. A nation where the content of one’s character is far more important than the color of one’s skin, one’s gender, one’s sexual orientation, or one’s membership in a particular grievance group. Who speaks for us?

We want to live in a nation where the Constitution is defended for what it actually says, not what some people would like it to mean because a “living” interpretation of the document accommodates their agenda, political correctness or the latest trend. Who speaks for us?

We want to live in a nation where we don’t burden our children and grandchildren with unconscionable levels of debt that will destroy their standard of living, one where able-bodied people are expected to work for a living, and one where the free-market capitalism that rewards ambition, risk-taking and talent isn’t subsumed by a government-controlled crony-capitalist oligarchy that stifles competition and picks winners and losers. Who speaks for us?

We want to live in a nation with the strongest military in the world, not one debased by social engineering. A military that only sends men and women into harm’s way when our national security is threatened, and one that utterly rejects such nonsense as “winning hearts and minds,” restrictive and dangerous Rules of Engagement, and politically correct warfare that elevates concerns for collateral damage above the lives of American soldiers. A military with only one objective in mind when it becomes necessary to put the nation’s blood and treasure at risk: unambiguous victory. Who speaks for us?

We want to live in a nation where states' rights are once again paramount, where 50 separate constituencies would be given maximum freedom to innovate, to compete, and do anything else to improve the lives of their citizens without the interfering heavy hand of the District of Columbia. A nation where people intuitively understand government operates best from the local level outwards, not the federal level inward. Who speaks for us?

We want to live in a nation where we treat our allies like the friends they are, and our enemies with the suspicion they have earned. A nation where foreign policy is grounded in reality, not faculty-lounge-inspired wishful thinking. A nation that will no longer send foreign aid to people who hate us, based on the dubious assertion we can buy their loyalty and admiration. Who speaks for us?

We want to live in a nation where we celebrate our exceptionalism, not identify only by our shortcomings. Those who insist otherwise should be asked to explain why people all over the world are beating a path to our shores. Who speaks for us?

As the opening of the Constitution states, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…”

“We the people” is us, not a bunch of self-interested politicians and their well connected benefactors. A “more perfect” union is an aspiration. We must not allow our pursuit of that perfection to be the enemy of our goodness. Same goes for establishing justice and insuring domestic tranquility.

As for the next two items, it’s important to note the critical distinction between providing for the common defense and promoting the general welfare. It is the government’s constitutionally mandated duty to provide protection for the nation. It is not the government’s duty to provide for the peoples' welfare, but rather to promote the conditions that allow a free people to provide for their own welfare, that of their families and those Americans who are truly in need.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both 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, March 01, 2016

Stop saying Donald Trump can’t win. He can, and he may

It’s been a media mantra since Donald Trump began campaigning last summer: He can’t possibly become president.  It’s time that everyone realized that yes, he can.

Surveys show the billionaire New York businessman and TV personality has extremely high negatives — but so does likely Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. And unlike Clinton, Trump can run as an anti-establishment candidate at a time when anti-establishment feeling is intense, gaining strength and bringing new voters to the polls.

We are mortified at what might happen if Trump rides this anger into the White House. Why? His casual cruelty, dishonesty and belligerence, his awful remarks about Mexicans and women, his ignorance about military and foreign policy issues, his open admiration for Russian dictator Vladimir Putin — all this and more make him unfit for a position of immense power and consequence.

But these extreme shortcomings are ignored by millions of Americans who believe that Trump grasps their problems and fears in ways the nation’s leaders do not. These Americans see an economy and a tax system that increasingly seem to help only the wealthiest acquire more wealth. They see decades of middle-class wage stagnation as something Washington blithely accepts. They look at the immigration chaos in Europe and the Middle East and wonder why the elites of both parties are so intent on bringing more people to a country that doesn’t have enough good jobs or money to help those already here. They consider our foreign policy under both Republican and Democratic presidents and doubt it’s made us safer.

Americans with some or all of these views are attracted to both Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont socialist who has done far better against Clinton in the Democratic nomination race than anyone expected. They see Trump and Sanders attacked by the media and the conventional politicians of both parties — and that makes them even more attractive.

But of the two, Trump is not going away. Given how popular he is even in the home states of GOP rivals Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and John Kasich, it is hard to believe he will not win the Republican nomination. And the old conventional wisdom about this leading to a Clinton general election landslide seems shakier all the time. The former secretary of state, New York senator and first lady is a symbol of the political establishment at a time when many voters will see that as a negative.

Trump knows this, as reflected by his gleeful assaults on Jeb Bush, the embodiment of the GOP establishment. He’s crude and vulgar, but he’s not stupid. If he tones down his act just a bit; if he picks a reassuring running mate; if there are other terrorist attacks like those in late 2015 in Paris and San Bernardino — Trump just might be the favorite to win in November. There are signs mainstream Republicans are figuring this out. On Thursday, Rep. Duncan Hunter of Alpine became among the first members of Congress to endorse him.

We hope that Trump self-destructs. But even if that happens, the Trump phenomenon and the Sanders near-phenomenon should make it clear to prominent politicians, their patrons and their parties that they need to respond to America’s mass alienation and disaffection with specific policies, not patronizing rhetoric. A populist fire is burning. Without the right response, it could become a political and cultural inferno.



Weimar America

By Victor Davis Hanson

2016 is a pivotal year in which accustomed referents of a stable West are now disappearing. We seem to be living in a chaotic age, akin to the mid-1930s, of cynicism and skepticism. Government, religion, and popular culture are corrupt and irrelevant—and the world order of the last 70 years has all but collapsed.

Neither the president nor his would-be successors talk much about the fact that we are now nearing $20 trillion in debt—in an ossified economy of near-zero interest rates, little if any GDP growth, and record numbers of able-bodied but non-working adults. (The most frequent complaint I hear in my hometown is that the government lags behind in their cost-of-living raises in Social Security disability payments.)

No one can figure out how and why America’s youth have borrowed a collective $1 trillion for college tuition, and yet received so little education and skills in the bargain. Today’s campuses have become as foreign to American traditions of tolerance and free expression as what followed the Weimar Republic. To appreciate cry-bully censorship, visit a campus “free-speech” area. To witness segregation, walk into a college “safe space.” To hear unapologetic anti-Semitism, attend a university lecture. To learn of the absence of due process, read of a campus hearing on alleged sexual assault. To see a brown shirt in action, watch faculty call for muscle at a campus demonstration. To relearn the mentality of a Chamberlain or Daladier, listen to the contextualizations of a college president. And to talk to an uneducated person, approach a recent college graduate.

If all that is confusing, factor in the Trimalchio banquet of campus rock-climbing walls, students glued to their iPhone 6s, $200 sneakers, latte bars, late-model foreign cars in the parking lot, and yoga classes. Affluence, arrogance, and ignorance are quite a trifecta.

Bernie Sanders—a proud Eugene Debs-like socialist whose campaign in normal times would have been the stuff of caricature—is now running neck and neck with Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party nomination. He rails like an Old Testament prophet at Wall Street, often oblivious that Wall Street’s totem stands a mere three feet away on the debating stage.

Obama may have wrecked his party by losing the Congress and most of the state legislatures, but he certainly has moved it to the hard community-organizing left. Sanders has little appreciation that he is an artifact of free-market capitalism, which alone has created enough bounty for such a demagogue to call for massive redistribution—in a way impossible for socialists any longer in exhausted Cuba, Greece, Venezuela, or any other command-economy paradise. Where does Sanders think his statism has worked—China, North Korea, Bolivia, Cuba, or the ossified European Union?

Bill Clinton on the stump has reminded us that there need not be any dignity to the post-presidency He offers a blueprint to becoming fabulously wealthy by monetizing a mere eight years in office with lifetime quid pro quos and Putin-like leverage. He has managed to make the sanctimonious scold Jimmy Carter seem reverential in comparison. The mystery of Hillary Clinton is not that she should be indicted on charges that are routinely filed against lesser miscreant bureaucrats, but that her entire corrupt career has always somehow been exempt, from cattle speculation to withholding subpoenaed evidence.

Mrs. Clinton is now like a tottering third-world caudillo—she can’t really continue on in politics and she can’t quit trying if she wants to stay out of jail. Her possible indictment depends entirely on her political viability and utility. She and the once disbarred Bill Clinton might appear like tired, tragic dinosaurs, bewildered that politics have left them behind in their late sixties—were it not for these aging egoists’ routine petulance and sense of entitlement.

Donald Trump is probably not a serious student of the European 1930s, but in brilliant fashion he has sized up the public’s worries over a Potemkin economy, exhaustion with wars, and namby-pamby leadership. His own remedy is 1930s to the core: nationalism, crude bombast, mytho-history, and sloganeering without much detail. Trump’s trajectory is predicated on the premise that a jaded public cares more about emotion than logic, and how a leader speaks rather than what he says.

In European 1930s street-brawling fashion, no one knows quite whether Trump is a 1990s Clinton Democrat, a 1980s Reagan Republican, or a Perotist misfit. He has thrown a ball and chain through the pretentious glass of American campaigning. Trump excites voters because he can profane, smear, interrupt, and fabricate—on the premise that as a performance artist he reifies what they think but don’t dare say about a corrupt political class and its warped, politically correct values. Trump reminds Americans what deterrence is: the supposedly courageous media, the so-called truth-to-power leftists, and the sober and judicious careerist politicians are all terrified how he might reply or react to their criticism. None of them want to spend 2-3 days trading smears with Donald Trump.

The president has a strange tic: the more he lectures about either the peaceful tendencies or impotence of an Iran or ISIS, or the more he explains how an aggressive Russia or China is stupidly not acting in their own interests, the more we know that the world is becoming ever more dangerous to the United States. He peddles mythologies about Cuba’s Castro, Iran’s aspirations, non-Islamic jihadism, and hands-up, don’t-shoot racializing, on the premise that even as all else has failed him, he wins exemption from reasoned cross-examination due to his “transformative” and iconic status.

Israel is now a neutral at best—a sort of forgotten Byzantine outpost in a dangerous neighborhood, forsaken by the medieval West. China brazenly has established the principle that a superpower can create territory ex nihilo—along with territorial jurisdiction anywhere it wishes. The only brake on Putin’s Russia is his own energy level and whether he believes that routinely taking advantage of Obama’s United States is getting boring. ISIS did not wait for its full-fledged caliphate to start slaughtering its ideological and religious enemies, given that it assumes a corrupt world has no worries about its genocide and religious cleansing. It is baffled only because after raping, beheading, dismembering, strangling, smashing, drowning, and incinerating, it still cannot win the attention of the West—and is running out of methods to torture and slay the innocent.

Not since Pius XII has a pope proved as mysterious and exasperating as Francis. He seems not to have transcended the parochial time and space of Peronist Argentina. The well-meaning and kindly pope acts as if he is unworried about the historical wages of leftwing authoritarianism and government-mandated redistribution. Why would a pontiff, protected by medieval walls and Vatican territorial security, blast U.S. immigration policy toward Mexican illegal immigrants?

Since Obama’s reelection, the southern border has been wide open, in naked efforts to recalibrate American electoral demography. The U.S. has taken in more immigrants, legal and illegal, than has any other country—the only impediment for entry is being educated, skilled, with resources, and insisting on legality. The U.S. last year allowed nearly $80 billion to be sent in annual remittances to Mexico and Latin America, mostly from those here illegally. Certainly, Mexico, in a most un-Christian fashion, has built walls on its own southern border to prevent unlawful entry, published comic-book manuals to instruct its emigrants how to violate U.S. immigration law, and written into its own constitution repulsive racial prerequisites for emigrating to Mexico—all to the apparent ignorance of the otherwise intrusively editorializing pope. Mexico’s own obsession with exporting its indigenous people to the U.S. is predicated on historic Mexican racism, always emanating from grandees in Mexico City.

Popular culture has become a 1930s collective Berlin cabaret. Apple—whose iPhones cause more fatal distractions than driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs—refuses to help the FBI to open one phone of a dead Islamic terrorist. It protects the last calls of a mass murderer as if the logs were records of Apple’s $180 billion stashed in offshore investment schemes.

To walk on an upscale bike path today is to see more pets than toddlers in baby carriages (I counted yesterday). Swerving semis on the freeway used to mean high blood alcohol levels, now they reflect text messaging. Is there some rule that demands that only movie stars, investment bankers, and tech moguls, who live in houses of more than 5,000 square feet or fly on private jets, have earned the right to lecture hoi polloi on their bad habits that lead to global warming? Is barbecuing a steak worse than burning up 5 gallons of aviation fuel a minute?

Segregation, not integration and assimilation, is the new trajectory of racial relations. “White privilege” is said to be such an insidious aid to career success that careerist whites like Elizabeth Warren, Ward Churchill, Shaun King, and Rachel Dolezal will do almost anything to insist that they are really non-white. The president of the United States invited a rapper for a White House visit. The rapper's latest album cover shows a dead white judge lying at the feet of celebratory African-American men, with fists of money and champagne held in triumph—in front of the White House. Reality imitates art. Could the president give another Cairo speech about such symbolism?

The half-time Super Bowl spectacle was Petronian to the core. BeyoncĂ©, in apparent reaction to heightened racial tensions over the absence of a black Oscar nominee, performed an incoherent tribute to the Black Panthers, with an non-integrated retinue, damning the police and canonizing a fallen felon with a long history of violent criminal offenses. In the age where “cultural appropriation” is damned, a multimillionaire, decked out in dyed blond hair and bullet-stuffed bandoleers, is messaging to an apparently new segregated racial universe—perhaps in tune with the periodic racialist outbursts of the multimillionaire Kanye West. If in the past, jazz, soul and Motown offered a positive corrective to crude, heavy metal white American music, today rappers vie to trump the raunchiness of Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, and Madonna. Certainly to watch the Super Bowl, Oscar, or Grammy festivities is to receive a pop sermon from mansion-residing multimillionaires about just how unfair are the race, class, and gender biases of the world in which they somehow made fortunes. In Weimar America, that Will Smith has a 25,000 square-foot mansion, but not a 2016 Oscar nomination, is proof of endemic racism and deprivation.

I wish all this could end well. But history’s corrective to 1930s chaos was a different—and deadlier—sort of chaos. And so ours may well be too.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both 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 29, 2016

Ho Hum! More Leftist nonsense about IQ

As with Leftists in general you have to look past what the author below says to what he doesn't say.  It is true that tracking down a particular gene for any given type of behavior is in its infancy, though some progress has been made with IQ. But we don't need to know that.   We can assess inheritance by twin studies.  And for many years now we have found that identical twins reared apart are amazingly similar whereas non-identical twins reared apart can be quite different.  And that shows how much we owe to our genes.  In the case of IQ the twin studies indicate that about two thirds of it is inherited.

The author  below, Oliver James, refers to Prof. Robert Plomin, a leading behaviour geneticist, but he totallly misrepresents what Plomin says.  Plomin is a very active researcher and I read his papers frequently.  He is the last person to deny genetic influences on behaviour.  He studies them all the time. There is no point in listing his academic articles here but you can find here an article in which he discusses his research and conclusions.  Believe Plomin on Plomin, not some Leftist nutter.

See also my recent comment on Plomin's work here.  It gives the link to Plomin's own comprehensive study.

You would not guess it from Mr James's deceptions but there is in fact a steady stream of findings coming out all the time about IQ and its genetic base.  I have collected my various posts over the last couple of years on the subject into a single blog, an IQ blog.  I have done that mainly for my personal ease of reference but I think anybody browsing through the entries there will  be amazed at the wide-ranging influence of IQ.

Mr James is just a liar.  He says he had a difficult childhood.  I believe it

When I was ten, my parents were informed by my headmaster that I was born stupid, and would have to move to a school for the congenitally defective.

To be fair, I was a badly behaved slacker who was always at or near the bottom of every class (the weekly beatings did not help). But the interesting thing is that it was not my genes that made me a thicko.

Although hardly anyone outside the world of science is aware of it, research in the past decade has proved for the first time that no one is made dim or bright by their genes, or for that matter, mad or sane.

It’s finally being established that your character and mentality is not in your genes. The age-old nature-nurture debate is over, and nurture has won.

Don’t take my word for it: Professor Robert Plomin, a behavioural geneticist at King’s College, London, one of the world’s leading experts in this field, said last year: ‘I’ve been looking for these genes for 15 years and I don’t have any.’

Or look at the huge 2013 study of the genes of twins, whose title told you all you need to know: ‘No genetic influence for childhood behaviour problems from DNA analysis’. Many other studies have had similar findings.

Yes, significant genes for differences in physical traits, like height or eye colour, have been identified by the international quest for genes known as the Human Genome Project.

But no genes that matter have been found for psychological traits.



Economic Literacy 101

Do millennials really want the Big Government socialist policies Bernie and Hillary advocate?

Paul Driessen        

America’s 18- to 34-year-old “millennials” have been tutored in group-think schools that extol socialism. Now they lionize liberal politicians whose class-warfare prescriptions include taxing away all but maybe 1% of the nation’s 0.0001% billionaires’ wealth, then going after Wall Street, Big Business, millionaires and upper middle classes – and giving the “revenue” to those who “need” or “deserve” it more.

 The entire process revolves around three central questions. Which ruling class elites get to determine who loses, who wins, by how much? Who grants them the power to do so, and holds them accountable? And what happens when the inevitable discontent over their autocratic decisions boils over?

Interestingly, many of the same generation have flocked to see films that glorify individual liberty and defiance of centralized government control. In The Hunger Games, a few small gestures of disobedience grew into a revolution against Capital elites who lived well and ruled imperiously, while subjugated masses in the Districts starved in poverty and sent their children to die in televised “hunting games.”

In Divergent, a Faction system preserves a society that primarily benefits the ruling Erudites by stifling individuality. The heroes and heroines refuse to confine their lives and ambitions to only one of the other four factions in which they were placed at age sixteen. Again, the ruling class lives far better than the ruled masses. (Ponder the politicians, bureaucrats and lobbyists in counties around Washington, DC.)

Are so many millennials really willing to let ruling classes confiscate wealth, impose penalties, determine appropriate welfare payments, and dole out favors? Has their “education” made them incapable of understanding the blessings of liberty, free enterprise capitalism, reliable and affordable fossil fuel energy, and entrepreneurial opportunities? Have instructors so brilliantly presented socialism through rose-colored glasses that young voters are blissfully unaware of its abject failures and horrid excesses?

Are millennials perhaps a little schizophrenic – loving liberty in theory and celluloid, but content to live reality in the Districts, among the Amity and Abnegation Factions, enjoying the bread and circuses (welfare payments and show trials for humbled banker and corporate bigwigs) bestowed upon them? Or perhaps they assume they will be among the Capital’s Erudite and Candor classes, governing the rest of America, in the name of justice, fairness, diversity and equality?

They seem to view free or low-cost college tuition, child care, healthcare, food and housing – along with $15-per-hour “living wages” for entry-level jobs … six-figure incomes after college … and “safe zones” – as “basic constitutional rights.” But when they “feel the Bern,” have they pondered how this system must necessarily work in the Real World, where they will feel the actual burn?

As the late Southern Baptist pastor and author Adrian Pierce Rogers succinctly explained, the hard reality is that “government cannot give anything to anybody that it doesn’t first take from somebody else. What one person receives without working for another person must work for without receiving.”

That is precisely what Senator Sanders’ wealth taxation and redistribution scheme proposes to do. The problem, as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher astutely observed, “is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.” Even in the wealthy United States, “eventually” would come quickly, because socialism destroys the incentive to work, innovate, invest, take risks and create new wealth.

Ultimately, nations are left with a large and growing population of have-nots who demand more – when there is no “more” to be had. That is what Italy, Greece, Portugal, Spain, Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Venezuela and other socialist, populist, egalitarian paradises have been discovering.

They used to provide all kinds of free stuff. Today they are basket cases – struggling with anemic growth, recession, bankruptcy and government “junk” bonds that no sane investor wants.

Today, 59% of young Greeks are unemployed. Youth unemployment is 56% in Spain, 42% in Italy, 38% in Portugal. In Brazil, electricity rates soared 51% last year, food prices rose 15% and overall inflation stood at 11% – a vast improvement over its 5000% annual inflation rate (!) in the early 1990s but still awful. In all of Latin America, only Argentina at 27% and Venezuela at 200% had worse inflation.

American students are immersed in “sustainability” studies and projects, mostly based on still persistent notions that we are running out of essential resources and destroying Planet Earth. Those ideas are the foundation of policies and regulations that perpetuate what really is unsustainable: unemployment, government spending, anti-growth policies, and the anger and unrest they cause.

It may be, as Winston Churchill once observed, that “the inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of its blessings.” However, he continued, “the inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery and scarcity.” Unfortunately, simple, basic truths like this are rarely taught in our schools.

Students today want equality of outcomes, rather than of opportunities that yield positive outcomes and potentially rich rewards by dint of hard work. If millennials applied their socialist principle to grades – with all scores on exams and projects averaged out among the smart and less talented, the hard-working and deadbeat – shiftless classmates would be happy to coast along, once ambitious scholars would exert far less effort, and all would soon flounder in a sea of F’s.

Similarly, socialist policies stifle the innovation, economic growth and job creation that young people need if they are to get beyond minimum-wage service jobs, and out of their parents’ basements.

Free tuition? City University of New York had that for awhile, until 1976, when it ran out of money and the city nearly went bankrupt. Even Sanders admits his plan would cost yet another $750 billion over ten years. But perhaps it would work if half of the administrative positions were eliminated, faculty salaries got a 25 or 35% trimming, and sabbaticals came just once a decade.

Surely the “progressives” who rule our campuses – and try to ban and silence contrarian speakers like Ben Shapiro – would support this to ensure “free stuff.” Surely, the next Erudite and Candor egalitarians in The Capital would be content with salaries that are no higher than those of the masses they govern.

Bottom line, the bills must eventually be paid. Millennials may get free stuff today. But they and their children and grandchildren will pay for their freebies many times over, through higher taxes, increasing control over their lives, higher inflation, fewer jobs at reduced salaries, and lower living standards.

As to accountability, government excels at fining and jailing citizens and businessmen for violating any of the thousands of regulations that carry criminal sanctions, even if the “perpetrator” did not intend to violate the rule or had no clue that such a rule could possibly exist. But the ruling elites apply very different standards when the incompetent or criminal actions of their own agents are involved.

Thus a rancher is prosecuted for “terrorism” for accidentally burning 139 acres of national forests, but government officials get off scot-free when they torch 160,000 acres mere miles away. Citizens go to prison for inadvertently “impacting” wetlands, but EPA bureaucrats receive get a pass cards when they deliberately open an abandoned mine and unleash 3,000,000 gallons of toxic sludge. IRS directors simply “take the Fifth” after targeting conservatives and destroying records, and an OPM director resigns rather than testify about how her screw-ups let hackers get personnel records – while private citizens are hounded and threatened until they cave in or run out of money to defend themselves.

The more government control and socialist wealth redistribution we get, the worse these abuses become. Will the socialist voters demand accountability? Or do they simply not care when ruling elites and their cronies violate laws and abuse their public trust, to advance agendas or enrich and protect themselves?

All these questions would generate very interesting discussions with socialist candidates and voters.

Via email


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and a an IQ compendium. (Both 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, February 28, 2016

You are not as rational as you think

The article below is unusually fair, considering that it comes from a psychologist at UCI (Peter Ditto) and there is much to applaud in it.  Its central idea, that reason is the servant of the emotions, goes all the way back to David Hume, one of the great British empiricist philosophers of the 18th century.

Ditto extends that thinking to say that political attitudes are not rational either and that they are essentially emotionally based.  As I have often pointed out that there is a large hereditary component in political attitudes, I of course agree with that and have often argued that political attitudes can only be explained at the psychological level.

What is conservative or Leftist in political party programs varies from time to time and place to place so searching for any consistency over time in either can seem a complete failure.  At the psychological level, however, I argue, there is plenty of consistency and order in what people believe.  At its simplest, conservatives are cautious and Leftists are angry.

Where I part company with Ditto is his claim that Left and Right are equally emotional and that their beliefs are therefore equally irrational. I would claim that the Left are much more emotional and therefore much more irrational.  We see that in the way Leftists fly into a rage and want to shut you up if ever you present facts that upset their beliefs. Just try to discuss the research on African IQ and you will rapidly find that out. What you find is that Leftists substitute abuse for rational argument.  Conservatives can get abusive too but normally only after they have presented fact-based arguments.  Leftists skip the fact-based argument part and go straight to rage.

Any conservative blogger can tell you that comments and emails they get from Leftists are almost invariably of that sort. Any sort of reasoned submission from Leftists is so uncommon in  comments on my blog that the sole reasoned  comment I did once receive elicited a whole investigation of it and subsequent post on it from me.  Even then, however, the comment was mostly abusive.  It was just that I could see a reasonable point amid  the abuse.  See here for that episode.

Ditto has done quite a lot of research on his claims and I have read some of it.  You can find links to it here.  The framework for it the one put forward by Jonathan Haidt -- in which Leftists are said to be guided by only two moral principles while conservatives are guided by five.

As I have pointed out on previous occasions, the big problem with Haidt's research -- and the research of those who bob along in his wake -- is that it relies on questionnaires and therefore relies on people describing their thinking honestly.  And the human propensity to lie is so great that that is a rather heroic  assumption.   I did 20 years of questionnaire research from 1970 to 1990 that resulted in over 200 published academic journal articles. And I used all the tricks that psychologists know to catch and correct for dishonest responding.  And I concluded in the end that the whole effort was mostly a waste of time.

The thing that most convinced me that questionnaires are mostly useless came from the fact that my principal research interest was in authoritarianism and attitude to authority.  There can be few things more authoritarian than Communism or wanting to "fundamentally transform" America (Obama's promise), so one would expect Leftists to agree heartily with statements approving of authority and its exercise.  But they do not.  They deny having in their motivations anything like what they actually do in politics.  Their rage-filled motivations are just too dismal for them to admit -- even to themselves, probably.

So in studying the psychology of politics, I now look at what Leftists do and what policies they promote in actual electoral politics.  And I find that all the great tyrannies and political mass murders of the last century have been the work of people who preached some flavour of socialism -- from Lenin to Stalin to Hitler to Mao to Fidel Castro. And to this day American  Leftists speak kindly of the brutal Castro, with Obama's recent visit to Cuba  illustrating that for all to see.  So if that consistency of behavior among Leftists is not evidence of underlying rage and hate among them, I would like to see what would constitute better evidence.  That Leftists claim benevolent intentions is clearly just camouflage.  They want to destroy, not lift up.

The death penalty: does it deter crime? Climate change: are humans responsible? Guns: do their risks outweigh their benefits? You might think your understanding of political issues is based on solid, unbiased facts. You might be wrong.

“People think that they think like scientists,” said Professor Peter Ditto, who studies human judgment and decision making at UC Irvine. “But really they think like lawyers.”

“Scientists don't care what the answer is: they look at the data and draw a conclusion,” said Ditto. “Lawyers know the conclusion they want to reach, then they harness a bunch of facts to support that conclusion.”

And this, said Ditto, is how we construct our political facts, whether we realize we’re doing it or not.
America the polarized

Ditto’s research wasn’t always focused on politics – he started with a more general interest in denial and why people refuse to believe certain things even when presented with strong evidence. That led him to ask questions about health psychology.

“Why is it that when people get confronted with an illness, they sometimes say, ‘No, no, maybe that test is wrong’?” said Ditto. “What we want to believe changes how we think about the information that comes in.”

Then the hyperpolarized, hyperpartisan political environment of the U.S. caught his attention: It's an arena in which people’s emotions so clearly affect their judgements about what is true.

People expect political opinions to be biased, but facts are supposed to be facts: verifiable, unbiased.

“What's so striking is that the two sides have different sets of facts,” said Ditto. “Liberals and conservatives look at the same thing and see something very different. This is exactly the kind of motivated reasoning that I've always been interested in.”
Pot, meet kettle

Anyone who watches politics knows that biases are rampant on both sides of the political spectrum; pure objectivity and politics rarely mingle. But are either conservatives or liberals more biased than the other?

“What we find is both sides are equally biased in their own direction,” Ditto said.

People are savvy at spotting bias in other people’s arguments, but they consistently fail to recognize bias in themselves.

“Everybody is calling each other out for their own sins,” said Ditto. “In psychology we call it the ‘bias blind spot.’” [Freud called it "projection"]

For example, both liberals and conservatives claim freedom as one of their core values, and both sides have similar blind spots when it comes to freedom.

“We're happy to give freedom to people for the things that we think are morally right, and not for things we think are morally wrong,” said Ditto.

Conservatives push for economic freedom, but not freedom around things that they think are morally wrong, like gay marriage or abortions.

“Liberals show exactly the opposite pattern,” said Ditto. “They're comfortable with freedom when it comes to sexual behavior, and less so in economic behavior.”

How morals define your politics

Much of Ditto and his colleagues’ work centers on Moral Foundations Theory, a framework used by psychologists to conceptualize the core values that factor into human morality worldwide: harm, fairness, loyalty, authority/tradition, and purity.

“You see these in all sorts of different cultures. These are the five major things that morality tends to deal with, but different groups differ in how much they weight each of those different kinds of factors,” explained Ditto.

To dig into the details of how morals affect human behavior and political ideologies, Ditto and his collaborators at UC Irvine, New York University, the University of Virginia and the University of Southern California created the website, where anyone online can fill out a series of psychological surveys related to morality. To date, over 600,000 have taken surveys on the site.

From the surveys, it’s relatively easy to pin where people lie on the political spectrum.

“Liberals essentially care about two things, when it comes to morality: harm and fairness. If it doesn't harm somebody or if it isn't unfair then it's morally okay to do,” said Ditto.

Conservatives, on the other hand, aren’t the polar opposite of liberals; they find all five factors to be important.

“Conservatives care about harm and fairness, just like liberals do, but they care more than liberals about group loyalty, authority and tradition, and about purity,” said Ditto.

When Ditto and his team looked through the results from the online surveys, the participants were predominantly liberal, but a third unexpected group participated in high numbers: libertarians.

“If you look at libertarians, they’re low on everything. Their worldview isn’t a deeply moral worldview, it’s more of a pragmatic, utilitarian worldview,” said Ditto.

Morals and practicality

Why don’t we seem to learn from past political mistakes? Because our morals determine the facts, not the other way around.

“What we find is that people's moral visions almost always cohere or are consistent with their practical beliefs. So the things they think are morally wrong, they think are practically ineffective,” said Ditto.

As an example, Ditto brings up waterboarding and controversial enhanced interrogation techniques.

“Almost everybody who thinks that torture is morally wrong also thinks it's practically ineffective. People who have less of a moral problem with it, very often think that it is effective,” said Ditto.

The same pattern is found when people are asked about the death penalty.

“People who think that the death penalty is wrong, also think it's practically ineffective, that it doesn't deter crime,” said Ditto.

Are conservatives anti-science?

Conservatives, particularly in the U.S., are often painted as being generally anti-science for their stances on issues like climate change. Science, ironically, says otherwise.

“It's wrong to say that one group devalues science more than the other,” says Ditto. “Both groups will accept scientific information if it supports what they want to believe, and they'll denigrate it if it doesn't.”

Ditto points to a classic study from researchers at Stanford published in 1979, in which they presented subjects with scientific information that either suggested capital punishment deterred crime or that it did not. The study was the same, only the conclusions were changed.

When asked if the study was a good study, the answers depended on the participants’ beliefs when they went in.

“You saw this wonderful pattern where everybody thought that the study was much better when it supported their side, and they thought it was a less good study when it supported the other side,” said Ditto.

Is there any common ground?

If liberals and conservatives can’t even agree on the basic facts, is there any hope for finding common ground and ending the current political gridlock?

“The two sides are kind of mirror images of each other. Both sides seem to think that the other one is evil. But really if you look, everybody behaves in very similar ways,” said Ditto.

Conservatives and liberals share certain core values: helping disadvantaged people and establishing a basic sense of fairness.

Events can galvanize both sides around a common cause. The Charleston shootings in 2015 led to less support for flying the Confederate flag, regardless of political stripe. The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks led to widespread support for military action and security measures that would have been politically impossible before.

Ditto sees room for improvement in how political debates are waged.

“I'm particularly interested in how to make politics more civil. How to get the two sides to understand each other better, and lower the temperature on the political conflict.”

“The real issue in politics is a massive lack of self-awareness,” said Ditto. “If you can get people to realize a little bit of humility, a little bit of recognizing that they're doing the same things that the other side is doing, maybe that will help.”



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.

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