Friday, May 20, 2016

Some Sanders fans would rather back Trump than Clinton

Hillary Clinton has tagged Donald Trump as “divisive” and “unpredictable.” But those words could just as easily describe the state of the Democratic race these days.

A Nevada state party convention in Las Vegas Saturday devolved into chair-throwing, shouting, and death threats lobbed at a top party official. The Nevada Democratic Party hit back with accusations that disruptive Bernie Sanders supporters have a penchant for “actual violence” and blamed the Sanders campaign for letting the event get out of hand. On Twitter and other social media sites, vitriol from supporters on both sides ratcheted higher, and many Sanders backers say they will shun Clinton come November.

Every presidential primary creates divisions, but the hostility among Democrats in 2016 sounds like combatants digging in for battle rather than contemplating how to join forces to defeat their common enemy.

Sanders forces are increasingly bitter that the Vermont senator is still winning races but can’t catch up to Clinton, who has an advantage among party leaders and “superdelegates.” Clinton backers, meanwhile, are growing impatient with Sanders’ insistence on staying in the race despite the long odds against him. The conflict has some Democratic insiders worried that their party won’t be able to unite behind Clinton.

Sanders supporters are embracing social media hashtags such as #BernieOrBust and #DropOutHillary. Many say they will write in Sanders on their ballots in November, vote for a third-party candidate, or abstain from voting altogether. Trump gleefully is stoking the anger, repeatedly saying that Sanders is getting a raw deal from a “rigged” Democratic nominating process.

Counting only pledged delegates, Bernie Sanders needs about 105 percent of the remaining delegates for the nomination.

At least some Sanders backers say they’d prefer the former reality TV star to the former secretary of state.

“I definitely will vote for Trump,” said George Massey, a Sanders supporter from New Brunswick, N.J. “I get that Trump is a blowhard, I understand that he just says whatever comes to mind that day, and you can’t believe everything that he says. But Hillary has proven that she can’t be trusted. Trump is a roll of the dice. I would prefer to roll the dice.”

“It saddens me. It really, deeply saddens me,” said Patty Maher of Ypsilanti, Mich., a lifelong Democrat from a family of lifelong Democrats who has always voted for her party’s nominee. But this year, if Clinton is the Democratic nominee, Maher will write in Sanders’ name. “I’m just done with the Clintons completely.”

The conventional wisdom inside the Beltway is that, in the end, the 2016 race will play out like the one in 2008. That contest, too, was a bitter, bruising primary fight, and Clinton stayed in until the very end. So-called “PUMAs” — for “party unity, my ass” — vowed they’d never vote for her rival Barack Obama. But in the end, the New York Democrat encouraged her followers to back Obama – and for the most part, they did.

But there are signs that the rift that’s developed in this topsy-turvy campaign may be deeper than 2008. A March Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll showed one-third of Sanders voters couldn’t see themselves getting behind Clinton. Exit polls from the West Virginia primary earlier this month indicated close to half of Sanders supporters in that state would vote for Trump in a general election matchup with Clinton.

Diehard Sanders supporters are drawing up plans to mobilize in the streets of Philadelphia, where Democrats will hold their nominating convention this summer. Currently, five of the nine groups that have filed for protest permits during the convention are pro-Sanders organizations, according to city records sent to the Globe, carrying titles such as “March on the DNC 2016” and “March for Bernie.”

“The only way that Sanders supporters are going to get in line is with the active encouragement of Senator Sanders and his top staff, and to date I haven’t seen that,” said Jim Manley, a consultant and former spokesman for Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the state’s most powerful politician and Senate minority leader.

Sanders did little Tuesday to comfort party leaders looking for an easy turn toward unity. His response to the Nevada brouhaha carried a defiant tone. He critiqued the Democratic establishment broadly and the Nevada state party’s handling of the convention more specifically. “The Democratic Party has a choice. It can open its doors and welcome into the party people who are prepared to fight for real economic and social change . . . or the party can choose to maintain its status quo structure, remain dependent on big-money campaign contributions, and be a party with limited participation and limited energy,” Sanders said.

Turning to the criticisms directed at his campaign, including claims by the Nevada Democratic Party that Sanders supporters have a penchant for violence, Sanders retorted: “That is nonsense,” adding that “[i]t goes without saying that I condemn any and all forms of violence, including the personal harassment of individuals.”

In interviews, Sanders supporters listed several reasons why they can’t bring themselves to get behind Clinton: her past support of trade deals they feel have decimated the working and middle class, her hawkish foreign policy positions, her use of a private e-mail server while she was secretary of state, and the hundreds of millions in corporate money she has taken as a candidate.

Many Democrats remain hopeful that the healing will begin as soon as Sanders bows out of the race. Sanders has said he will support Clinton if she is the nominee.

”People right now, they’re very intense and passionate about their commitments. Once the dust settles a bit, they’re going to start thinking about Donald Trump as president, and I think that’s going to be a very powerful push toward voting for Hillary,” said Col Owens, a Democratic Party official in Kenton County, Ky., and a Clinton supporter.

These optimistic Democrats also point to Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is widely expected to endorse Clinton as soon as Sanders concedes. She would play a pivotal role shepherding Sanders voters, who share her progressive views, to the Clinton fold.

And the cold hard math of the matter is Clinton has won more states — clocking victories in 23 to the 19 Sanders has won before Tuesday’s votes. Overall, Clinton has earned more than 12.5 million votes versus less than 9.5 million for Sanders, according to a tally by Real Clear Politics. Some polling supports the Democratic talking point that Trump will help unite Democrats as well: A CNN poll earlier this month found that Sanders supporters favored Clinton over Trump 86-to-10.

“I’ve been saying for awhile that Bernie is the first presidential candidate that I actually felt wasn’t the lesser of two evils since I’ve been voting,” said Patrick Flanary of Louisville, Ky., who voted for Sanders in Tuesday’s primary. “Nonetheless, I do feel that if in a general election it’s Trump versus Hillary, I will definitely vote for Hillary because I think Trump doesn’t stand for anything I stand for.”



Trump Takes on Wacky Warren

Liberals everywhere are totally freaked out about Donald Trump's presidential nomination. Since liberals first instinct is to find an authority figure to explain it all to them, they've sought out nutty Senator Elizabeth Warren. who's taken to bashing Donald Trump. Trump, an avid user of social media, is probably as sick and tired of seeing Elizabeth Warren on his Facebook feed as the rest of us, so this week he fired back:

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is not reining in his attacks against Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). When New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd asked Trump if “he had been chided by any Republicans” for his Twitter war with the Democratic senator, the presumptive nominee said, “You mean Pocahontas?” Trump earlier this week fired off insults on Twitter, calling the senator “Goofy Elizabeth Warren.”

In March, Trump attacked Warren for saying she was part Native American while a professor at Harvard.

“You mean the Indian?” Trump said then when asked about Warren.
Trump's response is indicative of a new way of doing things on the right. For better or worse, he's not interested in winning rigged policy fights with people who, for decades, accused Republicans of things like 1) throwing grandparents out in the cold 2) hating the poor, and 3) wanting children to starve. In the past, Republicans offered the sort of tepid, lukewarm responses that lent credibility to those notions. In writing Warren off as "Pocahontas," Trump is treating her ideology with the total lack of respect it deserves.



Trump's Secret? Religion

The relationship between crowd and leader  tells us a lot about the charisma of the leader, which is reflected in the enthusiasm of the crowd, and the way that enthusiasm is—or isn’t—expressed by the crowd. The dynamic give-and-take between charismatic leader and enthusiastic crowd had its first modern incarnation in the city of Fiume (now Rijeka) on the Adriatic coast after the First World War.  The city was taken over by a ragtag army following Italy’s greatest war hero, the decadent poet-warrior Gabriele D’Annunzio. I wrote a book about the 18 months when Fiume held out against pretty much the rest of the world.  D’Annunzio’s exchanges with the crowd were clearly based on Catholic rituals, reminding us that political ritual owes a lot to religion.  That remains true today.

I think Rush is right when he tells his listeners that Trump’s popularity has little to do with political issues. Yes, immigration is an important theme, but the main thing about Trump is himself.  He excites a lot of people, there’s a sort of magic at work at his rallies, and his followers are wild about him.  He’s the only candidate who is really charismatic; nobody goes to a Hillary or Bernie rally because they expect to be thrilled and inspired.

Which leaves me with two strong convictions about this election.

First, Trump’s incoherence on issue after issue matters less than it would for the others.  His crowd wants him, not necessarily his platform.  They want the anti-pol.  His chances of success depend on his ability to retain the magic he’s shown to date.

Second, although I’m talking about an intensely emotional and in many ways irrational phenomenon, it is driven by real and very rational contempt for the current ruling class.

Yes it’s funny that a man who doesn’t much care about religion is in large part a religious leader, but it’s quite a common historical phenomenon.  And sometimes such leaders are triumphant.



How Wendy's is Handling the Raise in the Minimum Wage

Fast-food workers have engaged in the #FightFor15 for quite a while now, but one chain has a different way of ensuring that labor costs remain low without having to raise the cost of a product. Wendy's plans on installing self-service kiosks at over 6,000 locations to replace cashiers. This is in response to laws mandating higher wages.

Wendy’s (WEN) said that self-service ordering kiosks will be made available across its 6,000-plus restaurants in the second half of the year as minimum wage hikes and a tight labor market push up wages.

It will be up to franchisees whether to deploy the labor-saving technology, but Wendy’s President Todd Penegor did note that some franchise locations have been raising prices to offset wage hikes.

McDonald’s (MCD) has been testing self-service kiosks. But Wendy’s, which has been vocal about embracing labor-saving technology, is launching the biggest potential expansion.

Wendy’s Penegor said company-operated stores, only about 10% of the total, are seeing wage inflation of 5% to 6%, driven both by the minimum wage and some by the need to offer a competitive wage “to access good labor.”

Yikes. Kiosks, of course, do the job of a human at the cost of $0 per hour.


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, May 19, 2016

The poor have more heart attacks

That the poverty is a strong correlate of worse health tends to be ignored in the medical literature so a strong study pointing it out is worth noting. It is more support for the idea that there is a general syndrome of biological fitness

Geographic Variation in Trends and Disparities in Acute Myocardial Infarction Hospitalization and Mortality by Income Levels, 1999-2013

Erica S. Spatz et al.


Importance:  During the past decade, the incidence and mortality associated with acute myocardial infarction (AMI) in the United States have decreased substantially. However, it is unknown whether these improvements were consistent across communities of different economic status and geographic regions since efforts to improve cardiovascular disease prevention and management may have had variable impact.

Objective:  To determine whether trends in US county-level, risk-standardized AMI hospitalization and mortality rates varied by county-based median income level.

Design, Setting, and Participants:  In this observational study, county-level risk-standardized (age, sex, and race) hospitalization and 1-year mortality rates for AMI from January 1, 1999, to December 31, 2013, were measured for Medicare beneficiaries 65 years or older. Data analysis was performed from June 2 through December 1, 2015. Counties were stratified by median income percentile using 1999 US Census Bureau data adjusted for inflation: low- (<25th average-="" high-="" or="" th-75th="">75th) income groups.

Main Outcomes and Measures:  The effect of income on the slope of AMI hospitalizations and mortality, measured as differences in the rate of change in AMI hospitalizations and mortality by county income and by the 4 US geographic regions, and a possible lag effect among low-income counties.

Results:  In the 15-year study period, AMI risk-standardized hospitalization and mortality rates decreased significantly for all 3 county income groups. Mean hospitalization rates were significantly higher among low-income counties compared with high-income counties in 1999 (1353 vs 1123 per 100 000 person-years, respectively) and in 2013 (853 vs 648 per 100 000 person-years, respectively). One-year mortality rates after hospitalization for AMI were similar across county income groups, decreasing from 1999 (31.5%, 31.4%, and 31.1%, for high-, average-, and low-income counties, respectively) to 2013 (26.2%, 26.1%, and 25.4%, respectively). Income was associated with county-level, risk-standardized AMI hospitalization rates but not mortality rates. Increasing 1 interquartile range of median county consumer price index–adjusted income ($12 000) was associated with a decline in 46 and 37 hospitalizations per 100 000 person-years for 1999 and 2013, respectively; interaction between income and time was 0.56. The rate of decline in AMI hospitalizations was similar for all county income groups; however, low-income counties lagged behind high-income counties by 4.3 (95% CI, 3.1-5.9) years. There were no significant differences in trends across geographic regions.

Conclusions and Relevance:  Hospitalization and mortality rates of AMI declined among counties of all income levels, although hospitalization rates among low-income counties lag behind those of the higher income groups. These findings lend support for a more targeted, community-based approach to AMI prevention.

JAMA Cardiol. Published online May 11, 2016. doi:10.1001/jamacardio.2016.0382


Vermont college to close due to ‘crushing’ debt incurred by Bernie Sanders’s wife

If you want a sneak peak into what the U.S. economy would look like under a Bernie Sanders presidency, look no further than Vermont’s Burlington College. Sanders’s wife, Jane O’Meara Sanders, was president of the private liberal arts school from 2004 to 2011. She must’ve not been very good at her job, though, because the college announced Monday that it will close May 27 due to “the crushing weight of the debt” incurred under Ms. Sanders’s presidency:

At the end of 2010, Ms. Sanders took out $10 million in loans on behalf of Burlington College to purchase a 32-acre swathe of land from the Roman Catholic diocese, which put the land up for sale to help cover the costs of a $17 million sexual-abuse settlement.

As Heat Street reported last month, the college almost immediately fell short on its financial obligations as fundraising pledges and commitments Ms. Sanders cited in the loan agreements never materialized.

Less than a year after leading Burlington College into massive debt, Ms. Sanders resigned, taking with her a $200,000 severance package. By 2014, because of its shaky finances and running deficits, Burlington College found itself placed on probation for two years by the regional accreditation agency.

A Burlington College news release issued this morning called these financial hurdles “insurmountable at this time.”

And if displacing hundreds of college students (the very demographic for which Bernie has claimed to be a champion) and shuttering an institution of higher education isn’t enough, Catholics in Vermont want to investigate Ms. Sanders for fraud:

Catholic parishioners in Vermont have called for an investigation into whether Ms. Sanders committed federal bank fraud by deliberately misrepresenting the amount that the college had secured in fundraising pledges as she sought financing for the land purchase.

As Ms. Sanders pursued financing for the land acquisition, she repeatedly said that Burlington College had received more than $2 million in fundraising commitments and pledges, according to numerous records.

But in fiscal year 2011, Burlington College raised only $279,000—though the college had earlier claimed to have secured $1.2 million in confirmed pledges.

Apparently Bernie isn’t the only Sanders who thinks other people’s money grows on trees.



Clueless Republicans Don't Realize It's the Democrats Who Have the Problem


I'm a bit perplexed with the continued resistance of so many of my right-wing brothers and sisters to Donald Trump. If it's just his brash style and vulgar taste, his preference for glittery gold over brushed nickel or flat black for his bathroom fixtures, I could understand it. I'm a flat black guy myself. But it's so much more than that.

The latest "betrayal" is that Trump admitted his tax plan was negotiable  Imagine that—a tax plan being negotiated between the administration and Congress! Never heard of that before.... oh, wait.

Never mind that the Trump plan, even negotiated, would be considerably lower than just about any on offer and well within the parameters of conventional GOP proposals.  (Now be honest—who would you rather have negotiating for you, Donald Trump or Paul Ryan? Who do you think would get a better result?) Nevertheless The Donald, in the opinion of the cognoscenti, once more has shown himself to be a feckless character not worthy of support—and the Republican gulf widens.

Or so we're supposed to believe, even though he has the nomination completely nailed down, signed, sealed and delivered, everything but set in bronze.

Meanwhile,  to almost everyone's surprise, the Democrats are still fighting, their internal enmity growing as Comrade Bernie wins primary after primary, sometimes by large majorities, and Lady Hillary clings to her super delegates like a three-year-old to a blanket. What happens if she loses California? According to West Virginia exit polls, a full third of Democratic primary voters are ready to defect to Trump. In the latest poll of swing states, Donald is already ahead of Clinton in Ohio and neck-and-neck in Florida and Pennsylvania. And the big show is just getting started.

It is the Democrats, not the Republicans, that have the problem, but you wouldn't know it if you watched, say, The Kelly File or had your Internet perpetually wired to National Review or The Weekly Standard, where the writing is as elegant as the thinking, these days, is often fuzzy. The Democrats are fighting a real war of ideas, disreputable though those ideas may be, while the Republicans fight a status war among themselves, a battle over control, not, except in the margins, over ideology.

Am I wrong? Remind me again where Trump, at least currently, is not a conservative? Taxes, check. Deficit, check. Immigration, check. Sanctuary cities, check. Strong defense, check.  Supreme Court, check. Veterans, check. Common core, check. Iran deal, check. Israel, check. Healthcare, check. Pro-life, check.... Oh, yes, Planned Parenthood.  He thinks the part of that operation that treats cervical cancer is okay. What a sin.

But...but...but... he has those whacky ideas on NATO and nuclear weapons and trade.

Are they so whacky? Other nations maybe should pay the part of NATO they contracted to. And the Japanese and South Koreans themselves have been talking about building nukes.  Wouldn't you after eight years of Obama? And then trade, who would doubt it could have been negotiated better, considering how our foreign policy deals have been negotiated?

And of course there's the matter of Muslim immigration. He wants that restricted for now. So do most Americans, according to polls. Again, this is the opening point of a negotiation. Who knows where it will end? But no one, other than the extreme left, would like to see the Syrian refugees pouring in. Trump will have the public on his side in preventing it.

As I said, the real problem is with the Democrats.  They are the ones in true disarray and are likely to remain so through their convention. This is a huge gift to the Republicans if they can only suck it up, shelve their egos, get together and take advantage of it. It doesn't matter whether you are a neocon, a social con, a libertarian, a financial con or just a plain con. Ideology is so last year. (Well not completely, but it doesn't have to be on the front burner all the time, does it?) Just do it.



More Leftist authoritarianism

Smokers in California from 18 to 20 years old have only three and a half weeks until the state’s new tobacco restrictions kick in. Come June 9—two days after the California primary election—tobacco consumption for the under 21 crowd will be verboten.

Young adults will still be able to make many life-or-death decisions, but they won’t be able to light up legally unless they are in the military. But that doesn’t necessarily mean all will abstain from indulging in tobacco: Many will have access to smokes and chew via the underground market that is sure to emerge. For evidence, observe how black markets arose in New York in response to the Empire State’s tax on cigarettes.

“New York’s experience is instructive,” write Independent Institute Senior Fellow William F. Shughart II and Strata Policy Analyst Josh T. Smith. “Largely because of the titanic tax that it places on cigarettes, almost 60 percent of the cigarettes sold in New York are smuggled into the state, according to the Tax Foundation.”

While experience with other prohibitions (and exorbitant tax hikes) offers strong reasons to oppose California’s new tobacco law, the moral case against it is even stronger. “It is absurd to claim that 18-year-olds are too young to buy a pack of cigarettes, but are mature enough to consent to sex, marry, or vote,” Shughart and Smith write. “It is a double standard that threatens the protection of all personal choices, even the ones still considered sacrosanct.... Lawmakers should let adults be adults and allow them to make their own decisions because they are worthy of our respect as equal, autonomous human beings.”



America's slide downhill?

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, May 18, 2016

China and the East China Sea

There has been much heartburn lately over China's island building in the East China Sea.  Just about everyone disapproves.  I do not.  I realize that in saying so I am rather like the editor of the Skibbereen Eagle, when he warned the Tsar, but what I think will happen generally does happen so what I have to say on the matter may be a harbinger of things to come nonetheless.

For a start, I think island building is a good thing in general.  The climate of the area is a pleasant one and recovering land from the sea expands the human habitat.  The Dutch would of course agree with that, though Greenies would automatically talk of endangered marine creatures. And China has an enormous population so needs all the living space it can find.  So I hope that in due course there the facilities there will be greater  than the merely military.  Could there even be a tourist industry there one day?  Stranger things have happened

Living space is of course not the motive of the island building concerned.  The motive is a combination of military considerations and resource hunger.  China has a huge need for resources, energy sources in particular, so the prospect of oil reserves in the general area is hugely motivating. And it could  be argued that China deserves those resources in the light of its huge poplulation and that less populous nations have a lesser claim on them.  That is of course a socialist argument but China is officially a socialist country and we live in a socialist world.

And the military argument is orthodox. Many nations have sought and supported buffer states and the worldwide network of military bases maintained by the USA puts it in no position  to claim that China should not maintain bases at a distance from the homeland.

But in the end, the argument is over. China has clearly lost patience with the dithering and debate about ownership of the places concerned and has decided to settle the argument in its own favour in the traditional way, by conquest. And it has stated that it will defend its new bases so the message is basically "Up yours".  The world would do well to accept the new status quo.  It's not going to change. You don't argue with China


How Trump Could Destroy Hillary Clinton In The Debates

Every once in a while, someone out there says something that a fellow writer has been mulling on for months, but couldn’t find a way to express. This is both frustrating (it was my idea!) and reassuring (it confirms what you’ve been thinking).

This happened to me recently when I was listening to The Tom Woods Show, and Michael Malice described what might happen when Donald Trump debates Hillary Clinton.

Despite demographic trends, I have sensed that Trump had a shot to defeat her. But I have struggled to find a way to explain how “magic” can beat “math.” Well, one way this could happen would be for there to be a big moment. This could come in the form of some sort of disaster (like a terrorist attack, God forbid), or it could simply come in the form of a knockout punch. (Trump is unlikely to win if the fight goes the distance and relies on the judges’ scorecard, but I could imagine Hillary choking, and Trump triumphing.)

Michael Malice provides us with one hypothetical example of how this might occur during one of the presidential debates.

This is a partial transcript of his conversation with Tom Woods:

"[Hillary’s] going to come in with her little smarmy smirk and have some kind of joke about Trump, and he’s going to improv some devastating one-liner… As soon as Trump hits her back, she’s not going to have a comeback on her feet. And she’s going to look weak and pathetic.

He’s going to dare her to say ‘I dare you to say Islamic Fundamentalist Terrorism,’ and she’ll either obey him and look weak, or refuse and look cowardly.

And — this is the one — I’m predicting this one right now: If she has one of her coughing fits on stage, he is going to attack her rapid fire. And she’s literally going to be unable to speak. And he’s going to say things like, ‘Look, she’s dying in front of us.’ ‘Look, I like grammas, but they should be in a home, not the president.’ ‘She’s weak. She’s pathetic.’ … And he’s like: ‘Let’s take a break, cause she needs a breather. This woman is not well.’

That will be the moment that destroys her campaign. He’s going to eat her alive in those debates. And, as you know, most people in the middle don’t care about ideology. They just respond like dogs to a visceral way towards strength…and in those debates, he is going to have her in the palm of his hand. There’s nothing she will be able to do"

Sadly, I buy Malice’s theory that most voters are lemmings who will follow the Alpha dog. Hell, some of Trump’s supporters have taken to calling him “daddy.” What is more, Trump is a dangerous fighter, partly because he’s willing to say and do things that most of us would never think of.

Few of us would pounce on a woman while she’s coughing, and there are really two reasons for this. First, it’s unkind and unchivalrous. But second, we also think it would be bad politics — that it would backfire and make us look “mean.”

Trump is unencumbered by the former concerns — and, in terms of the latter — seems to have proven that chivalry went out with the knights.

Based on observation (the way he dispatched of opponents ranging from Jeb Bush to Marco Rubio to Ted Cruz  — not to mention the way he has attacked women ranging from Megyn Kelly to Carly Fiorina), Trump is ready, willing, and able to do this.

Let’s see if he gets his shot at a knockout punch.



Obama’s Gift of Immunity to Trump


It is now old wisdom that Barack Obama created Trump—as in the idea of a national pushback to Obama’s out-of-the-mainstream agendas and the unconstitutional way in which he pursued them. Forgotten is the insulation that Obama has also provided for the excesses of Trump as a candidate and, especially, if he were to be president.

Last week, in sober and judicious tones Obama all but warned Americans that they cannot seriously support Trump, who, he implied, is little more than a reality-TV conman. But such admonitions come from a president whose chief foreign policy advisor, a failed fiction writer and D.C. insider, just bragged how he deceived the media and Washington’s insider world by feeding amateurish journalists misleading talking points. Is it serious or in the spirit of reality TV for a president to invite to the White House a rapper whose court-ordered ankle monitor goes off in a presidential ceremony, or to give an exclusive interview with YouTube personality GloZell, noted for her selfies of eating breakfast cereal floating about her in a bathtub? Obama has lectured the media that they have to vent Trump, this from a candidate who never released his medical or college records, whose speech in praise of Rashid Khalidi was suppressed by the media, and whose entire memoir was only belatedly found out to be impressionistic fiction. Obama lowered the bar and Trump skipped over it.

Can Trump mislead much more than did Obama, who assured Americans that they would never lose their doctor or health plan but rather save money and have better care, and that pulling peacekeepers from Iraq would ensure a stable and self-reliant country? Obama, remember, also bragged abroad that he had all but closed Guantanamo within a year and would stop the Bush habit of piling up more debt? After Ben Rhodes and Jonathan Gruber, what exactly are the presidential standards on veracity that we must hold Trump to?

Can Trump act any less constitutionally than has Obama? Will he scan existing law, and order his attorney general to enforce some statutes but ignore others? Will he boast that “I won” and thus has a pen and a phone to sign treaties with foreign countries without Senate ratification?  Will Trump, in Obama fashion, threaten to cut off federal funds to cities that believe in biologically identified male/female restrooms, while encouraging other cities to defy federal immigration law? Sanctuary cities in California, but not in North Carolina? Are we back to 1860 and state nullification of federal law if and when the president wishes it?

How can the media fault Trump as uniquely dense for lacking even basic familiarity with geography or foreign affairs, when they shrugged after the current president of the United States variously believed there are 57 states, there is an Austrian-speaking Austria, and the Maldives islands are the Falklands? When a president declares that Hawaii is in Asia, certainly the media cannot be surprised that Trump is not embarrassed about being clueless about the nuclear triad.

Trump is certainly vicious, but after 2009 viciousness is no longer a mortal sin in presidential politics. If it were, Obama would have been through for his thuggish language, after advising supporters to “get in their faces,” take “a gun to a knife fight” and “punish our enemies.” Trump often ridicules the helpless. But he if stoops to make fun of the Special Olympics or jokes about vaporizing people with Predator drones, what will the New York Times or NPR do? Obama ridiculed the wealthy, who did not build their own businesses, or did not know when to stop profiting, or were clueless about the point at which they had made enough money or needed their money spread around. But then again, Obama made fun of the lower middle classes as well, who clung to their religion and guns and were stereotyped as xenophobes and nativists.

Trump can be polarizing on matters of race, but here again by what standard—when the president and his team have established new lows of racial discourse? Does Trump comment on ongoing criminal cases by suggesting one of the involved might look like one of his possible white offspring? Did Trump smear illegal aliens further by suggesting that they were “typical Mexican persons”? Would he appoint an attorney general who might refer to whites as “my people” and accuse the country of being a “nation of cowards”? Would Trump stoop to wink and nod about shared white racial solidarity with a redneck comedian who shouted out to a President Trump, “Yo, Donny, you did it, my cracker, you did it”? After Obama, there are no rules about racial discourse—and no media sensitivity to racially coarse and offensive language.

Trump, as the media has shown, is certainly a crude narcissist. But will he learn to boast as a smooth egoist that he can lower the seas and cool the planet? Does he insist that he is a better political handler and speechwriter than his handlers and speechwriters? Does he claim that he will be the fourth best president in U.S. history—albeit in an outer-borough accent rather than in an Ivy League mellifluous patois?  “I,”“me” “mine” and “my” are now the normal baggage of a presidential speech.

As for the supposed fanatical Trumpsters, have they gone berserk with wild praise of Trump in near divine terms? Has a Laura Ingraham or Charles Hurt, or any other columnist, historian, talk show host, or journalist said that Trump’s neat pant crease presages that he will be a great president or that Trump makes his leg tingle, or confessed that Trump is a god, or assured that Trump would be the smartest president in the history of the office? So far, I have not read any such embarrassment in the Washington Times or American Conservative. After Obama, biased deification of a presidential candidate is old hat.

Trump certainly has wacky ideas. But will he promise to ensure that the coal industry goes out of business, or electric rates will skyrocket, or will his energy czar hope that our gas prices reach European levels? Does he plan to double the national debt in eight years or dismantle the existing health care system? Will Trump praise and subsidize a failing coal company as iconic of the country’s future in the manner that Obama coronated the soon-to-be-bankrupt Solyndra? Will he brag that setting and then ignoring red lines for Syria were among his greatest foreign policy moments?

The point is not to whitewash Trump’s crudity and outlandishness, but to explain why it so far has not eliminated him as a candidate.  Obama’s outright destruction of presidential protocols created candidate Trump. The media, which in Faustian fashion mortgaged its soul to empower Obama, has now lost all credibility as a legitimate critic and arbiter of the dangers of narcissism, half-educated pop knowledge, polarizing politics, and demonization of one’s critics.

Sadly, nearly every gross thing Trump says or does has had an antecedent in the Obama administration. "Hope and Change" begat "Make America Great," in a tit-for-tat way that Trump’s likely garish convention props will mimic Obama’s Styrofoam Greek columns. After Obama dismissed ISIS as jayvees by invoking Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, we should not be too outraged that Trump cited an endorsement from Mike Tyson.

Yikes: Trump Plans to Run America Like He Ran His Casinos
There may be reasons to vote against Trump, but at least spare us the outrage that he is somehow uniquely demagogic, crude, or ill-informed in a manner that we have not seen over the last eight years from Trump’s greatest enabler.


There is a  new  lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- mainly about immigration


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, May 17, 2016

Statin side-effects at last being taken seriously

The methodology seems very weak but at least an awareness of the issue is evident

Researchers have launched a new £1million trial to assess whether controversial heart drug statins cause severe muscle pain.

The Government is set to fund the trial which comes after doctors have been overestimating the risk of heart attacks and strokes for some patients.

Research uncovered by the Sunday Express also found doctors had been prescribing the drugs to patients who do not need them.

Those eligible to take the drugs - which are the most commonly prescribed treatment in the UK - has increased to around one in four adults, which equates to 12 million people.

The groundbreaking study, which received a grant from the National Institute of Health Research, will assess the risk of muscle pain and has been backed by health experts.

Professor Jane Armitage, an expert in public health medicine at the University of Oxford, is a key researcher for the trial.  Professor Armitage told the Sunday Express: 'The evidence suggests statins are safe and undoubtedly reduce the risk of heart attacks and stroke.'  The British Heart Foundation also believes statins are safe.

But cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra said: 'I have no doubt millions of people taking statins in the UK will not benefit but are being put at risk of unnecessary harm.'

The new trial will involve 200 patients who have stopped or want to stop using statins due to muscle pain or fatigue.

It will investigate whether muscle issues are more common in those using the statins than those taking a dummy drug.

Concerns about statins were raised earlier this year by the Queen's former doctor, Sir Richard Thompson, who called for an independent inquiry.



Out of the spotlight, some say there is a softer side of Trump

Andrea Lake, who appeared on Season Five of “The Apprentice,” had every reason not to like Donald Trump. He was a bully, she thought. Too brash. His bankruptcies bothered her, and the way he lied about them bothered her more.

But then she met him. Over the course of a lunch in Manhattan, with other contestants on the show, she came to a shuddering realization: She liked the guy. “He was super charming,” she said. “He was legitimately funny and quick-witted.”

The man who would scream “You’re fired!” in front of the TV cameras would later call some of those same losing contestants on their cellphones to follow up. After firing one contestant on his reality show in Season Six, he even offered her a job in real life.

Interviews with former business colleagues, campaign rivals, and others who have known Trump up close say there is a jarring juxtaposition between the Trump they know and the Trump they see these days on TV.

Trump the presidential candidate is omnipresent, constantly invading TV screens or appearing on stage at big rallies, and it’s hard to see how that arena-sized personality can possibly fit into a meeting room or make small talk with regular folks. It raises the question about who the real Trump is — and how much of his stage persona is a schtick. Also to wonder at is how he manages to condense that outsized personality into someone that many people who’ve met with him describe almost universally as charming — though not the slightest self-effacing. Even in private, he remains his own greatest fan.

While Trump is now the star of a political reality show that has Americans transfixed — or, in some cases, horrified — behind the curtain, he can seem quite a different man. At times, surely, and especially in the company of women, his behavior and remarks can discomfit or offend. He is well known for his blunt comments about women’s bodies, their beauty or the want of it, and was, during his playboy years in the 1990s, no stranger to allegations of unwanted advances.

Still, as Trump begins trying to unite a fractious Republican Party, he is performing some head-spinning shifts, employing the powerful charm many describe to win over today those he insulted yesterday.

Trump — who has called Senator Lindsey Graham a “nut job,” “disgrace,” and “one of the dumbest human beings I’ve ever seen” — was suddenly on the other end of the line last week, in a private conversation with the South Carolina Republican.

“He told a few jokes,” said Graham, who has tossed some choice verbal bombs of his own Trump’s way. “Of all the people running, he’s the guy you’d want to go to dinner with.”

Representative Chris Collins of New York, the first member of Congress to endorse Trump, predicted some of his skeptical colleagues would rally to the real estate mogul once they had the opportunity to meet him one on one. “People will see the Donald Trump I know, not necessarily the one you see in the rallies,” Collins said.  “One on one, Mr. Trump is a listener, not a talker. When he’s got a group of people, he wants to know what’s going on in other people’s districts. . . . He’s a very thoughtful listener, one on one.”

Trump is a man whose public persona can seem like a caricature of himself, and at times it seems like the entire country is privy to his internal monologue — a stream of half thoughts, boasts, unabashed contradiction, and smartly targeted promises. His life has been lived in the tabloids, and he has played up aspects of his life that most people try to downplay, from his antics in the bedroom to the mountain of money in his bank account.

But in private gatherings, he usually doesn’t come on in all caps; he massages the conversation. “He’s methodical. Not extraordinarily aggressive,” said Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, who has gotten to know Trump over the years. “He’s good at understanding that getting close to people personally is always good first before you go in for the chess move.”

Trump, as he is for those who approach him after rallies, can be intimidating to people meeting him for the first time. He’s the guy that most know as a celebrity. He’s the one who, if TV ratings are to be believed, we can’t seem to stop looking at.

Trump seems aware of his oversized public persona and works to make sure people aren’t intimidated by the version of him they see on television. Conversations with him don’t feel rushed. When he is approached for photos, he’ll pose for several, asking, “Do you have what you need?”

“He has a commanding presence. When he enters the room, you know Donald has entered the room. He’s magnetic,” said Chelsea Cooley, who won the Miss USA pageant in 2005 and later went to Trump for advice for her business.  “He can walk into the room and not say anything, but it’s palpable,” she added. “That is true confidence. His sheer presence is absolutely powerful.”

But quickly, she and others said, he attempts to put those around him at ease. He’s not one for small talk, but he’ll ask about family members. He repeatedly uses the names of the people he’s speaking with and makes his guests feel as if they are close friends, even when meeting him for the first time. It is, surprisingly to some Trump watchers, typically an insult-free space.

“You can’t become a multibillionaire by giving heads of other corporations unfavorable monikers,” said Hogan Gidley, a longtime Republican consultant. “You’ve got to have some savvy, some charm, some ability to be that successful.”

Gidley has met Trump several times. In their first encounter, Trump complimented him profusely, saying “Hogan! That’s a good name, a strong name. I like that very much.”  “He didn’t look past me, he didn’t look around the room,” he said. “He looked directly at me.”

A key element of Trump’s charm appears to be his ability to adapt to his audience.

When he ran into former presidential contender Mike Huckabee at a hotel in Iowa, he blew him an air kiss and said, “I love you, Mike!” When talking with beauty queens, he would speak in softer tones spliced with “sweetie” (an old-fashioned sort of endearment that is sometimes seen as sexist). When talking with contractors and officials in Atlantic City, he was far more coarse, dropping expletives with natural gusto.

“We called him our Teamster Friend,” said Edward Kline, a former state legislator who represented Atlantic City and is now backing Trump’s campaign. “Because he’d talk like a Teamster. He’s a little tough, and the language he would use, it was like you were talking with a Teamster. But you were dealing with Donald Trump.”

Throughout the Republican presidential campaign, he has tapped into an angry, fed-up slice of the electorate. Violent outbursts have occurred at some of his rallies. He is best known for proposing a wall along the border with Mexico, and insulting essentially all Latinos and Muslims, which makes it hard to imagine him building any bridges.

But when he wants to, it seems he can. The Trump who yells at protesters, requesting that police officers remove them from the room, is not the same Trump that those who have been in more intimate settings with him know. There is a diplomatic side to him that rarely comes across at the podium.

“I cringe sometimes,” says Tyana Alvarado, a former contestant from “The Apprentice” who, as a Hispanic and a woman, fits two of the groups that Trump has often insulted.

“I just feel like I know a different side of him and I need to protect him,” she said. “Sometimes the things he says it’s like, ‘God, you’re making it hard for me to protect you.’ But that’s not the Trump that I know.”

Trump makes a remarkable shift as soon as he gets in front of a camera, say those who’ve seen him both on and off screen.

“It’s almost like multiple personalities,” said Liza Wisner, a former contestant on “The Apprentice.” “I think he actually is genuine. But then he gets before the camera, and he puts on this act.”

Shortly after she was fired, coming in third place on Season 10, Trump invited Wisner to an 18-hole outing at one of his golf courses. He drove the golf cart around for several hours, munching on a sandwich and grabbing drinks from an ice chest.

“I think he knows what he’s doing. I truly believe this is part of his whole scheme to getting elected,” Wisner, who is turned off by his campaign but isn’t yet sure if she’ll vote for him. “There are moments I don’t believe we are where we are right now, considering a USA with Donald Trump as president. But anybody who ever meets him in person cannot say they didn’t enjoy meeting him.”

During the Republican primary campaign, most voters saw Trump only from a distance.  Juliana Bergeron, a Republican national committeewoman from New Hampshire, met Trump with a small group a few months back, in Keene, N.H.

In front of a group of more than a dozen locals, he came across as warm. He was likable. And funny. Nothing like how he would present himself later that day at a rally with 4,000 supporters. And some people left with a feeling they didn’t imagine they’d have: They planned to vote for him.

“He was very pleasant. Not as loud. He took time with each person individually,” Bergeron said. “I just would suspect if you and I were privy to his business meetings, they are not at all like what we see of him on CNN.”

Lake, “The Apprentice” contestant who was prepared to dislike Trump when she first met him, says she despises his politics and thinks he would be a terrible president.  She cannot imagine why anyone would vote for him. But she would be happy, thrilled even, to have him over to her house.

“If you met him, even if you think you don’t like him, you would invite him into your home for dinner,” she said. “He’s charming, one on one. He would win you over. He just would.”




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, May 16, 2016

How different are Jehovah's Witness beliefs?

To start at the end:  Not very different at all.

Charles Taze Russell, the founder of Jehovah's Witnesses, was originally a Presbyterian and quite a lot of JW doctrines are held in common with traditional Presbyterians.  Like a lot of strict Presbyterians, particularly in Scotland, the JWs don't like drinking or smoking and are dubious about dancing.  Both denominations believe that the Bible is the word of God and that salvation is needed to get God's reward in the afterlife.  And the hymns that JWs sing are just slightly re-worded versions of generally popular hymns.

Perhaps the best known doctrine of the JWs is that we live in the "end times":  That Armageddon, the end of the secular world, is around the corner.  And that is actually a common belief among a variety of Protestant groups, though usually a belief by a particular congregation rather than by the whole of a denomination.  Matthew 24 makes it pretty clear that Jesus too believed that the end was nigh, and the apostle Paul clearly did (1 Corinthians 15:51), so it is hardly surprising that some Christians still do.

And their pacifism is also shared by a variety of other Christians -- such as the Quakers.  After reading Matthew 5:39 I was once a pacifist myself.

Their rejection of blood transfusions is a little peculiar but it should be noted that both Jews and Muslims are superstitious about blood and take great care not to eat any.  JWs think likewise but add that it is inconsistent to avoid taking blood into your body via your mouth and then take it in by other means.  So their sensitivity there is just a refinement of a prohibition followed by over a billion people.

And here's the kicker about that:  There was a study of survival after heart surgery that took a particular interest in survival by JWs.  Apparently transfusions are common during  heart surgery so they expected a greater mortality among JWs after they had refused transfusions.  The study found that about a third of non-JWs died but NO JWs did.  Tranfusions cause stresses of their own.  Use of transfusions has declined markedly since then.  So JWs did have the last laugh.  God's wisdom?  They think so.

JWs also reject the messy doctrine of the Holy Trinity but they are not entirely alone in that.  As the name implies, Unitarians do too -- if there are any of those left.  Christadelphians also reject the Trinity doctrine.  But it is a major break from Chistianity generally.  Even Seventh day Adventists accept the Trinity.  It should be noted that the doctrine of the Trinity was introduced by Athanasius in the fourth century as a theological compromise. Even the word "Trinity" is not mentioned in the Bible.

JWs also reject Christmas and Easter as being pagan celebrations but that is widely acknowledged among more scholarly Christians.

But the biggest break from other denominations is the JW belief that the soul is not immortal.  Since there are quite a lot of places in the Bible where the soul is said to die, it is not a surprising belief but the doctrine of the immortal soul is apparently too ego-pleasing for anyone else to give up.  Since  the favorite scripture of most Protestants -- John 3:16 -- says you don't automatically get immortality -- you can perish -- it is a real wonder that the belief in an immortal soul is so widespread.  Ego trumps scripture.

It should be noted, however, that the original Jewish teaching was that eternal life for the righteous was attained by resurrection at the second coming of the Messiah. Popping off to heaven when you die was ignored as a pagan teaching.  Jews believe all sorts of things these days but most would, I think, be comfortable enough with JW teaching on the prospect of an afterlife. As the Jewish Encyclopedia says:

"The belief that the soul continues its existence after the dissolution of the body is a matter of philosophical or theological speculation rather than of simple faith, and is accordingly nowhere expressly taught in Holy Scripture"

So JW's have at least some Jews on their side in the matter.  Their view of the afterlife could be said to be Jewish.

On church government JWs departed early on from Presbyterian practice.  Pastor Russell was originally elected but that seems to have just faded out. JWs are governed by a central government, a theocracy, unlike the democratic Presbyterian practice.  JWs are governed much as Roman Catholics are -- but their "pope" (Don Alden Adams) keeps a low profile these days.

The best-known difference of JWs is their practice of doorstep preaching but the Mormons do that too.

The overall zeal of JWs  is striking.  Hitler gassed a lot of them for refusing to bow the knee to him. But such zeal has much precedent among other Christians.  Can you believe that at one stage even the Church of England had bishops being burnt at the stake for their faith?

So there is no major point of JW doctrine that is not held in common with some other Christians or Jews.  Like all other denominations, JW beliefs are a particular pick-and-mix of common beliefs.  It is probably true, however, that the particular pick-and-mix chosen by JWs is closer to first century Christianity than is the doctrine-set of any other denomination.


Mega Mogul Backs Trump

Big time GOP donor Sheldon Adelson has announced that he will be backing Donald Trump in the general election, in what will be a huge fundraising boom for the New York billionaire:

"Like the Derby, the race for the Republican nomination started from a wide gate — some entries with better post positions, others with more backing. We had candidates with such perceived advantages as wide name identification, large campaign war chests, supposed geographic benefits and other assets they hoped would tip the race in their direction.

Ultimately, each candidate had to convince the party’s primary voters across the country that he or she deserved to be the nominee.

One candidate has won that race, and now Republicans must join together to make sure he wins the next one.

While the primary cycle still has some important elections ahead, it is clear that Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee for president.

I am endorsing Trump’s bid for president and strongly encourage my fellow Republicans — especially our Republican elected officials, party loyalists and operatives, and those who provide important financial backing — to do the same.

The alternative to Trump being sworn in as the nation’s 45th president is frightening"

This is a major boost for Trump, who, despite being a billionaire, likely faces a major fundraising deficit against Hillary Clinton.



Jeffrey D. Sachs  is disturbed by how much the elite get away with:

He's right.  He is one of the saner Greenies and has been a leading economic reformer -- advising backward nations on how to transition to capitalism

THE PANAMA PAPERS opened yet another window on the global system of financial corruption, showing how political leaders and businesses use shell companies in secrecy havens like the British Virgin Islands and many US states to evade taxes and hide corruption and other crimes. Yet the system of corruption depends on another factor beyond secrecy, one that is perhaps even more important: impunity. Impunity means that the rich and powerful escape from punishment even when their malfeasance is in full view.

Impunity is epidemic in America. The rich and powerful get away with their heists in broad daylight. When a politician like Bernie Sanders calls out the corruption, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal double down with their mockery over such a foolish “dreamer.” The Journal recently opposed the corruption sentence of former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell for taking large gifts and bestowing official favors — because everybody does it. And one of its columnists praised Panama for facilitating the ability of wealthy individuals to hide their income from “predatory governments” trying to collect taxes. No kidding.

Our major institutions, the ones that should know better, are often gross enablers of impunity. Consider my alma mater, Harvard University, and its recent nuptial with hedge-fund manager John Paulson. Paulson was the coconspirator with Goldman Sachs of one of the most notorious scams of the recent financial bubble.

Paulson and Goldman constructed and marketed a portfolio of toxic assets to sell to unwitting investors so that Paulson could bet against the portfolio. Goldman and Paulson thereby turned the sucker investors’ quick $1 billion loss into an equivalent $1 billion gain for Paulson, with Goldman collecting on fees. The SEC fined Goldman but left Paulson untouched. As one disillusioned SEC investigator put it: The SEC is “an agency that polices the broken windows on the street level and rarely goes to the penthouse floors.” Yet Harvard was delighted last year to take $400 million of Paulson’s ill-gotten gains, leave Paulson with the rest, name its engineering school after Paulson, and declare Paulson to be “the epitome of a visionary leader.”

Impunity. Paulson remains a much-celebrated figure on Wall Street. He has many kindred spirits, such as his partner in crime, Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein, who has described himself as just a banker “doing God’s work.” Or consider JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon, whose bank has paid well over $30 billion in fines while Dimon remains CEO with a $27 million salary for 2015. The hedge-fund industry itself is a case study of impunity. With few exceptions, it is domiciled in tax and secrecy havens, enjoys crass tax breaks brokered by cronies in Congress (such as Wall Street Senator Chuck Schumer), and pays itself billion-dollar-plus paychecks even while leaving investors with below-market returns or outright losses over the years.

The recourse to cheating within the financial industry now seems to be deeply ingrained, part of the corporate culture, and enabled by the prevailing impunity. An ingenious scientific study published in December 2014 showed the rot. Employees of a major international bank were divided into a control group and a treatment group. All subjects were asked to flip a coin 10 times and report truthfully on the number of heads, with more heads resulting in a bigger monetary prize. The treatment group was subtlety reminded they were bankers, while the control group was not. Simply reminding them that they were professional bankers was enough to induce the employees to cheat by exaggerating the number of heads they flipped.

Impunity is of course not limited to banking. Consider the poster-child of impunity in Big Pharma, Gilead Sciences. Gilead brazenly bought the patents on a life-saving cure for Hepatitis C and then gouged patients and taxpayers by charging $1,000 per pill — for a drug that costs $1 per pill to manufacture. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are unable to afford treatment, and many are dying, while Gilead earns far more in profits each year than it paid for the patents. Gilead adds to this deadly effrontery by booking its profits in an offshore tax haven.

Or consider another tech company in the health sector, Theranos, led by Elizabeth Holmes, until recently much lionized on Wall Street. Holmes, it now seems, may have been lying about Theranos’s supposed high-tech blood-testing technology and reporting faulty blood test results to boot. Yet when confronted with these serious concerns, Theranos board member and famed lawyer David Boies expressed his view that the board has “complete confidence in Elizabeth Holmes as a founder of the company, as a scientist, and as an administrator.” It seems not to have dawned on Boies and the board to call for an urgent, impartial, and complete investigation of the serious allegations swirling around the company.

Impunity is not an accidental or incidental defect of American society. It is a system foisted on us by the rich and powerful, and it continues to work its magic. It has enabled Hillary Clinton to come within reach of the presidential nomination without releasing the transcripts of her highly paid speeches to Wall Street banks. The Clintons long ago perfected the art of impunity, becoming rich and powerful by blurring the lines between their campaign fund-raising, public policies in office, Clinton Foundation work, big-money speeches, and off-the-record favors for foreign governments.

This week British Prime Minister David Cameron hosted an Anti-Corruption Summit in London in the wake of the Panama Papers. He was speaking accurately when he was caught on an open microphone telling the Queen that leaders of two “fantastically corrupt countries,” Nigeria and Afghanistan, would be at the summit. Nigeria’s new president, Muhammadu Buhari, himself a corruption-fighter, concurred with Cameron’s assessment, but called on the UK to return the money stolen by Nigeria’s former leaders and deposited in British and other Western banks. He might well have added the historic role, for more than a half century, of Royal Dutch Shell in Nigeria’s oil-sector corruption.

Buhari is, in fact, making a much larger point. While there is enough top-level political corruption to go around — from Afghanistan and Nigeria to Malaysia, Brazil, South African, FIFA, and many more places — the channels of corruption and secrecy havens are largely owned and operated by the big boys — the United States and the UK — and depend absolutely on the gross impunity that prevails at the highest reaches of power and finance in the United States.



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)


Sunday, May 15, 2016

Bernie's secret weapon


Trump placates Ryan

The Republican Party lurched back toward unity Thursday after Donald Trump, the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee, and House Speaker Paul Ryan, the party’s top leader on Capitol Hill, concluded a closely watched summit with soothing statements that the GOP can, after all, get along.

Well, eventually.

“I was very encouraged with what I heard from Donald Trump today,” Ryan said after the meeting. “We are now planting the seeds to get ourselves united. . . . This is a process. It takes a little time. You don’t pull it together in 45 minutes.”

The Trump-Ryan confab was convened after Ryan took the extraordinary step last week of announcing that he wasn’t yet ready to support Trump as his party’s nominee. The pair met early Thursday along with Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, followed immediately afterward by a larger meeting with Ryan and other members of House GOP leadership. Trump then met with Senate Republican leaders.

In the wake of these meetings — covered breathlessly all day, with cameras focused on Trump’s car, or his idling airplane — the sounds of harmony rippled across Capitol Hill.

“He was terrific. I was really quite impressed,” said Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah. “I totally endorse him.”

“He’s actually a pretty affable guy in a small group setting. Obviously much different than the public demeanor,” said Senate majority whip John Cornyn.

“The meeting was great,” Priebus tweeted. “It was a very positive step toward party unity.”

But the sunny sentiments belie a continued tension at the heart of the GOP. Even the feel-good statements that emerged from Trump’s series of meetings couldn’t ignore the real differences on policy and tone that persist after a bruising primary fight that produced a very unconventional candidate at the top of the GOP ticket.

“While I may disagree with the rhetoric Mr. Trump uses and some policy positions, he is the better option than Hillary Clinton in the White House,” Representative Greg Walden, the Oregon Republican who is chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in a statement. “That’s why all along I’ve said I intend to support the GOP nominee.”

Representative Charlie Dent, a moderate from Pennsylvania, said many members of his caucus — including those supporting Trump — still harbor concerns about their presumptive nominee. Trump “has to convince many Americans, including myself, that he’s ready to lead this great nation,” said Dent, who does not yet support Trump.



America is transitioning to an amoral State where Might is Right

America is witnessing the transition from a Judeo-Christian based culture and government where rights are conferred by God and just government is instituted to secure those rights, to a government and society which rejects this notion, preferring to merely have privileges allowed by government — which can be transferred or rescinded on a whim.

We now have become a society that wishes to be kept safe from alternative points of view, which wants to remove religious symbols from non-believer’s eyesight, and where chalked letters T-R-U-M-P cause entire college campuses to go into therapy.

The post-modern governance is best summed up by two separate incidents involving Harvard Law School.

The first revolves around a Harvard Professor, Mark Tushnet, who is advocating that Christians, traditionalists and constitutionalists, the presumed losers in the culture war be treated like the Nazis in post-World War II Germany, writing, “The culture wars are over; they lost, we won… My own judgment is that taking a hard line (‘You lost, live with it’) is better than trying to accommodate the losers, who — remember — defended, and are defending, positions that liberals regard as having no normative pull at all… [T]aking a hard line seemed to work reasonably well in Germany and Japan after 1945.”

In short, might makes right. This astounding piece effectively eviscerates any notion of minority rights in our culture in this new post-modern America, even though it is this very constitutional protection that allowed the atheist, non-traditionalist movement to grow unshackled.

Of course the First Amendment freedom of religious expression is not even a relevant point when it comes to imposing the will of the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender community on the church and other Bible believers. It’s not enough to agree to disagree. In Tushnet’s view, those who follow Biblical teachings should actually be compelled to abandon God in order to be part of the public place, no longer free to express or even conduct themselves according to their religious beliefs — just as the Nazi party was banned in Germany after 1945.

It is this imposition of the left’s cultural values on the entire nation that threatens the very heart of constitutional protections of rights. We’re no longer allowed to disagree.

Anyone familiar with various cases around the nation where Christian businesses have been forced by state governments to either go out of business or cater to gay marriage mandates can see where this leads.  Might makes right in the brave new world that Thrasymachus argued for, and little things like the Bill of Rights are not even speed bumps in the way of the new governing class.

Either join their revolution willingly, or the state will ensure compliance as mandatory.  Even though the Bill of Rights was constructed to stop those who would impose their will via government upon others. So much for the Enlightenment.

The second involves the Harvard Law School crest which has come under attack because it is the crest of the family that founded the law school in 1817 – a family of wealthy Massachusetts slave holders.  After some Harvard law students protested the shield of the school they chose to attend, Harvard Law School has decided to wipe it away along with the history – good and bad – that it represents.

The irony is the former crest of Harvard Law School contains a single word – veritas – the Latin word for truth.  A tidy metaphor for the new age in America where truth must be erased at all costs to avoid hurting feelings.  But also truth is the exact word that Jesus used to describe himself in front of Pontius Pilate and that Pilate scoffed at saying, “Que es veritas” or what is truth?

Thrasymachus was right. That is, once the restraints on government are let loose, the powerful will seek to impose their will on the rest of us. And America’s Ivy League philosopher kings know it, which is why they are hell-bent on imposing their new morality that doesn’t have room for dissent or discussion.  And it is why we need a Constitution, Bill of Rights, and the primacy of the rule of law — to stop them.



Obama to Successful Blacks: 'You Didn't Build That'

Out of the myriad lectures commencement speeches Barack Obama has given, perhaps none was as disheartening as the one he gave Saturday at Howard University. The message was twofold: Obama’s presidency failed to bring racial healing, and when it comes to blacks who are living successful lives, it’s not really because of hard work so much as it is luck (i.e., they didn’t build that).

We begin with racial discord, of which Obama is washing his hands. “No, my election did not create a post-racial society,” he said. “I don’t know who was propagating that notion. That was not mine.” Uh, yeah it was.

Radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh responds, “There are … white people who voted for Obama hoping to end [racial discord]. They think it’s tearing the country apart. … Nobody thought that meant more welfare or more benefits or more dependence, but that actual, quality standard of living improvements would take place. And there haven’t been any, at large.”

Next, recall Obama’s assertion four years ago: “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” Now see if you if you can find a resemblance to Saturday’s second damning remark:

“[W]e have to not only question the world as it is, and stand up for those African-Americans who haven’t been so lucky — because, yes, you’ve worked hard, but you’ve also been lucky. That’s a pet peeve of mine: People who have been successful and don’t realize they’ve been lucky.”

Hot Air’s Larry O'Conner says, “No, it’s more than a pet peeve of his, it’s an ideology.” Furthermore, Limbaugh opines: “That’s a hell of an inspirational message. I’d be really motivated. Okay, so I’ve spent four years or however many years here in this university trying to equip myself for success, and now I’m told that’s not a factor. I gotta go out and learn luck. Where do I go to study luck? Where do I go to get my degree in luck? And the unspoken message is: If you’re black, you aren’t gonna have it, ‘cause the people in charge of luck aren’t gonna pass it out to you.”

Besides, what does all that talk about luck say about Obama’s ascendance to the White House?

There’s a meme traversing social media depicting George W. Bush with a caption, “Miss me yet?” When it comes to Barack Obama, many blacks will still be answering: No.



ObamaCare's Retreat From Affordability

Insurance providers UnitedHealth and Humana are admitting what most conservatives have realized for over a half-decade: The ObamaCare system is too bloated and regulation-heavy. Eventually, it will fail. United announced it was leaving most of the ObamaCare exchanges, and Humana said it will consider leaving too, for the two companies have been losing money. But the fact that health insurance companies don’t want to play in a system where consumers are forced to buy their product is a good sign to the Washington Post editorial board. “United’s selective exit from ACA marketplaces appears to reflect two positive features of the law,” the board opined. “First, Obamacare was meant to spur competition among insurance companies, thus constraining premiums … Second, the law has curtailed many of the ways that insurers used to contain their costs, such as refusing to cover certain people or certain treatments, or jacking up premiums for older customers.”

This is hardly free market competition we’re talking about here. But as market forces demand: Insurers must contain their costs. The next grand exodus by the insurance companies from the ObamaCare exchanges might be the bronze-level plans. A Virginian subsidiary of CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield is considering upgrading all its bronze plans to silver plans next year. Apparently the entry-level plans that cost-concerned Americans who are young and healthy take are eating away at health companies' bottom line. What happens to the exchanges when those young ‘n’ healthy — the folks that were supposed to keep this whole health system afloat — decide to pay extra in taxes than buy into a rigged system with ever-increasing premiums? It’s just one more step toward the tipping point of failure.



How This Gun Free City Celebrated Mother's Day

Chicago’s gang violence is usually quite bloody during summer weekends, but this year’s Mother’s Day weekend was particularly bloody with 43 wounded and nine killed between Friday afternoon and Sunday night.

In fact, the Mother’s Day holiday brought five fatalities, the last of which came at 12:30 a.m. Monday morning. Eleven others were wounded on Sunday.

Saturday was also a dangerous day to live in Chicago, as three were killed and 21 more wounded by the gunfire traded between the city’s constantly warring gangs.

Friday was no light day, either. While one died, eleven more were shot.



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