Friday, November 04, 2016

The DOJ's Cracking Façade

The establishment's desperate attempt to cover up for a lawless and lying Hillary is coming apart at last

When news broke Friday that FBI Director James Comey had notified Congress that the FBI was re-opening its investigation into Hillary Clinton due to newly discovered emails, jaws collectively dropped across the nation. This was the same James Comey who for the past couple of months had become the punching bag of conservative pundits for his lawless decision of recommending no charges be brought against Clinton. Conversely, he received high praise from Democrats for being an apolitical straight shooter.

Suddenly, 11 days before one of the most controversial elections in our nation’s history, the tables turned. The “apolitical” director is now completely politicized — at least that’s what Hillary Clinton and the Democrats charge, while Donald Trump crowed, “Justice will finally be done.” By the way, on Sunday, a letter, ostensibly from former DOJ officials, with Eric Holder topping the list, was circulated castigating Comey: “Justice Department officials are instructed to refrain from commenting publicly on the existence, let alone the substance, of pending investigative matters, except in exceptional circumstances and with explicit approval from the Department of Justice officials responsible for ultimate supervision of the matter. Director Comey’s letter is inconsistent with prevailing Department policy, and it breaks with longstanding practices followed by officials of both parties during past elections.” Except, again, by Democrats four days ahead of Bill Clinton’s election in 1992. We know you will be shocked to learn the letter was drafted by Clinton campaign hacks.

Meanwhile, news has leaked of infighting between Loretta Lynch’s “Justice” Department and the FBI over the direction of the Clinton investigation. The DOJ wanted to end investigations while many agents within the Bureau were frustrated with what amounted to a “stand down” order regarding further probes of the Clinton Foundation. The constant stream of WikiLeaks releases coupled with news of agency infighting seemingly motivated by political concerns reveals that the façade of a government committed to serving the interests of everyday Americans has cracked severely.

Gallup recently released a poll showing that currently fewer than three in ten Americans trust government leaders to do the right thing. In fact, the period since 2007 marks “the longest period of low trust in government in more than 50 years.” Is it any wonder that Donald Trump is in serious contention? It’s precisely because he is not a part of the distrusted and often corrupt political establishment.

And to add more fuel to the increasingly contentious relationship between the agencies and the Clinton campaign, just yesterday the FBI released documents relating to its 2001 investigation into Bill Clinton’s pardoning of fugitive billionaire Marc Rich — an investigation that concluded with no charges filed. Hillary and the Democrats were quick to question the FBI’s timing of the release, accusing the FBI of yet more political schemes. The FBI insisted the release was a result of its automatic programmed response designed to comply with Freedom of Information Act requests that are on a “first in, first out” basis. One thing is for certain, this certainly doesn’t help Hillary.



What has she got to hide?

Destroying emails completely and forever normally suggests something illegal

Hillary Clinton's campaign chief suggested in early 2015 that Clinton's team should quickly "dump" all of the emails on her private server, documents published by WikiLeaks revealed Tuesday.

The remark was made by campaign chairman John Podesta during a March 2-3, 2015, exchange that included chief counsel Marc Elias and top Clinton aide Cheryl Mills as they were discussing whether to hire a new campaign consultant.

"On another matter ... and not to sound like Lanny, but we are going to have to dump all those emails so better to do so sooner than later," Podesta wrote.

It's not clear what he meant by "dump," but the email was written on the same day the New York Times broke the story that Clinton used her own private email when she led the State Department. If he was hoping Clinton's emails would be released quickly, those hopes would soon be dashed — her emails would be released in several tranches each month for most of 2015 and into 2016.

The email scandal continues to follow her into late 2016. Last Friday, the FBI said it believes it has found tens of thousands of additional emails on the computer of her top aide, Huma Abedin. The FBI said many of those might be duplicate emails or messages that aren't relevant to the investigation, but it still might take weeks or even months to find out.

It's also not clear who "Lanny" is in Podesta's email, but Lanny Davis, a former special counsel to Bill Clinton, was urging Hillary Clinton's team from the beginning that she should release her emails.

About a week later, on March 10, 2015, Hillary Clinton announced that she gave emails she deemed to be work-related to the State Department, and deleted 33,000 more she said were personal.

The FBI reported in findings from its investigation that Clinton staffers had instructed the tech firm responsible for maintaining the server, Platte River Networks, to scrub the emails using proprietary software known as Bleachbit. Clinton has long contended those decisions were made in a period spanning December 2014 to January 2015, well before the House Select Committee on Benghazi issued a March 4 subpoena demanding the messages.

It was discovered in September that the process of attempting to destroy the emails lasted longer, at least to the end of March 2015. Tech staffers responsible for the operation were mostly exempt from prosecution as a result of immunity agreements granted by the FBI over the course of its investigation.




Hillary Is No Friend of Small Business

She claims to want to invest, but she means to add burdens

“People who create things nowadays can expect to be prosecuted by highly moralistic people who are incapable of creating anything. There is no way to measure the chilling effect on innovation that results from the threats of taxation, regulation and prosecution against anything that succeeds. We’ll never know how many ideas our government has aborted in the name protecting us.” —Joseph Sobran

In an effort to distract from her core anti-free market ideology, Hillary Clinton threw a proverbial bone to American small business owners during the debates. Speaking in the first debate, the Queen of Pay-to-Play said, “I want us to invest in you. I want us to invest in your future. That means jobs in infrastructure, in advanced manufacturing, innovation and technology, clean, renewable energy, and small business, because most of the new jobs will come from small business. We also have to make the economy fairer. That starts with raising the national minimum wage and also guarantee, finally, equal pay for women’s work.”

Clinton, who has spent her entire adult life in government, is so bereft of understanding regarding the fundamental tenets of the free market that she likely didn’t understand the contradictory clauses in her statement. Or she did, which is even worse.

First, government does not “invest.” Investing requires capital, and in a free market, capital is owned by individuals and businesses. Government does not have a single penny that it does not first confiscate from a private individual who earned it. And when Hillary talks about making the economy “fairer,” she means she wants government to pick winners and losers. Of course, there has to be some kind of system by which winners and losers are determined — like maybe, who donates to the Clinton Foundation?

In a true free market, the winners are those that are best able to allocate scarce resources in the most efficient way in order to meet the demands of the market. Those that innovate, who create goods and services that people want, are the ones who succeed. Those who are inefficient, wasteful, or who don’t recognize what the market wants, are the ones who fail.

Unless they have friends in government.

For decades, we have lived not so much in a free market as a quasi-capitalist/corporate socialism hybrid where small businesses and major corporations operate under different rules. Small businesses innovate, risk capital, and work tirelessly to bring new goods and services to the market, all while being forced to navigate through literally tens of thousands of pages of federal regulations, a byzantine tax code, and the heaviest tax burden in the industrialized world.

Big Business, on the other hand, can afford an army of lawyers and lobbyists to manipulate the system for their benefit. They can buy off politicians who in turn write special exemptions into the tax and regulatory code for them, and then the same politicians hypocritically rail against the exemptions they wrote, demanding an end to these “loopholes.” Small businesses, which create nearly two-thirds of all new jobs in America, and which account for nearly half of all private GDP growth, do not have that luxury, and find themselves crushed under the weight of government bureaucracy.

In the second debate, Hillary had the audacity to say, “We’ve got to provide some additional help to small businesses so that they can afford to provide health insurance.” Clinton has been a champion (godmother, even) of ObamaCare, which is a massive regulatory takeover of the U.S. health care system. Rather than “bend the cost curve down” as Barack Obama promised, it has caused premiums and deductibles to skyrocket, and millions of Americans lost their health insurance. Furthermore, it has forced small business owners across the country to freeze or reduce hiring, cut hours, and shift workers to part-time in order to avoid the more onerous, back-breaking provisions of the health care law.

In the third debate, Hillary claimed that she wants “to do more to help small business” but then, literally in the next sentence, said she wants to raise the minimum wage, which is nothing more than an additional tax on businesses, the levying of which raises their labor costs and reduces profitability, and even drives some businesses out of business altogether.

According to the 2016 Small Business and Priorities Survey, “unreasonable government regulations” is the second biggest worry of small business owners in America. The first? Rising health care costs.

Both of these are a direct result of the very kind of government interference in (or a takeover of) the free market that Clinton advocates. ObamaCare has crippled the health care market, driving up costs and increasing complexity. Likewise, the Obama administration has implemented, since Obama took the oath of office, a staggering 229 new “major” rules (rules expected to cost businesses and individuals at least $100 million in direct compliance costs), for a total of $107.7 billion in new regulatory costs.

That doesn’t even include the massive amount of new indirect costs, in the form of millions of man-hours to fill out federal compliance reports and forms, or the hiring of lawyers and accountants to make sure they don’t end up in jail for accidentally violating some arcane rule. There is also the hidden cost of the distortion this does to business planning, forcing companies to make decisions not based on what is best for the shareholders or employees, or what will sell best, but rather, what will keep them out of the crosshairs of government bureaucrats who often act arbitrarily and vindictively.

Frederick Douglass, the famous freed-slave, abolitionist and orator, once declared, “Everybody has asked the question… ‘What shall be done with the Negro?’ I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us!”

The same, we dare say, should be applied to the free market. End burdensome taxation and slash regulations to only those absolutely necessary to protect the public from harm, a course which has shown immediate benefits. And then keep government out of it, and let businesses thrive or crumble according to their entrepreneurialism and market demands. Government meddling has caused almost nothing but mischief.


There is a  new  lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- mainly about Hillary and immigrants


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.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Thursday, November 03, 2016

Some very good news below. Effective vaccine for Zika found

Rapid development of a DNA vaccine for Zika virus

Kimberly A. Dowd et al.


Zika virus (ZIKV) was identified as a cause of congenital disease during an explosive outbreak in the Americas and Caribbean in 2015. Because of the ongoing fetal risk from endemic disease and travel-related exposures, a vaccine to prevent viremia in women of child-bearing age and their partners is imperative. Vaccination with DNA expressing the prM and E proteins of ZIKV was immunogenic in mice and nonhuman primates, and protection against viremia after ZIKV challenge correlated with serum neutralizing activity. These data not only indicate DNA vaccination could be a successful approach to protect against ZIKV infection, but also suggest a protective threshold of vaccine-induced neutralizing activity that will prevent viremia following acute infection.

Science 22 Sep 2016: DOI: 10.1126/science.aai9137


Raising ‘good’ cholesterol doesn’t protect against heart disease after all, study finds

“Good” cholesterol might be in for a name change. Raising HDL, widely known as good cholesterol, for years has been thought to protect against heart attack and stroke. But a big new study published Monday found little evidence it does.

The finding upends the advice doctors have been giving millions of patients — and helps explain why the drug industry has failed time and again, despite billions in investment, to develop a drug that cuts deaths from heart disease by boosting HDL levels.

“When you explain [cholesterol levels] to patients, it’s very easy to say one number’s bad and the other number’s good,” said Dr. Dennis Ko, a cardiologist at Canada’s Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and lead author of the study. But it turns out that HDL is associated with poor health generally and does not seem to affect cardiovascular risk.

In the study, Ko and his colleagues looked at years of data from about 630,000 people in Ontario, sorting their HDL scores from low to high. Those with basement-level HDL were more likely to die of cardiovascular complications, but the risk did not drop steadily as good cholesterol levels rose.

Instead, it dipped, then hit a plateau; people with HDL of about 40mg/dL had roughly the same risk as those with about 80 mg/dL. And death risks actually increased for those with extremely high levels of good cholesterol.

Further muddying the picture, people in the low-HDL group were also more likely to die of diseases unrelated to the heart. And they had lower incomes, higher body weights, and poorer diets than others in the study, all of which correlate with increased mortality on their own.

HDL has been thought to lower cardiovascular risk by cleansing the bloodstream of “bad” cholesterol and scrubbing the inner walls of blood vessels, so your levels of HDL were thought to predict your risk of heart attack or stroke. But this new data suggests HDL may just be a fatty substance along for the ride.

“It may be therefore that it’s reflecting other health habits that lead to greater risk, rather than actually being a risk factor itself,” said Dr. Steven Nissen, a Cleveland Clinic cardiologist not involved in the study.



Illegals Migrate Door-to-Door for Hillary

It’s no secret Donald Trump is viewed incredulously by most women and minority voters. But one thing that certainly benefits the Clinton campaign is the presence of non-citizens who are enticing swing voters by undermining the Republican Party. A group called CASA in Action “is knocking on doors in Northern Virginia in support of Hillary Clinton and other Democratic candidates,” The Washington Post reports. “The vote-seekers are some of the 750,000 recipients of temporary legal status under the Obama administration’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.”

Wasn’t it Clinton who recently sounded the alarm on the “credible reports about Russia interfering in our election”? The Kremlin evidently isn’t the only one. The headline of the Post article says it all: “They crossed the border illegally, and can’t vote. But they can knock on doors.” Sure, they’re not naturalized Americans, but Clinton is recruiting them as lobbyists anyway. And she wants to lecture about interference?

Speaking of interference, you can add child sex trafficking to the list of threats posed by illegal immigrants. Some alarming statistics were compiled in a Washington Times column by William C. Triplett II, who quotes an anonymous government official on Texas' southern border: “All these stories about unaccompanied minors crossing the border, nearly all of them are boys. Where are the girls? The girls are already gone. The cartels spot them and haul them off the buses coming to the Mexican side of the border. They target the 13- to 15-year-olds.”

As Triplett put it, “Some proponents of the current open borders policy also claim to be defenders of women’s rights. It is, therefore, supremely ironic that one unintended consequence of open borders is a substantial spike in sex trafficking of young girls.” In fact, just this week Clinton said, “If you believe women and girls should be treated with dignity and respect, and that women should be able to make our own health care decisions and that marriage equality should be protected, then you have to vote.” Yet it’s obvious that her policies don’t comport with her supposed beliefs, like in May 2013 when Clinton expressed a supportive view of open borders: “My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders.”

What’s more important — expanding the constituency of illegal immigrant voters or addressing the crimes of a small but not-inconsequential number of them commit? Perhaps women need to re-examine their preferred candidate’s campaign slogan, “I’m with her.”



Obamacare’s implosion

It exposes the administration’s web of lies and deceit

By now everyone knows that Obamacare is officially the public policy flop of this generation. With the latest news of premium increases of 22 percent, insurance companies dropping out, dwindling competition, and rising costs to taxpayers, this is truly the Hindenburg of health plans.

But there is another part of the story that needs to be told. This wasn’t just a liberal screw up, it was a financial swindle of taxpayers. President Obama’s team and the liberal echo chamber lied about Obamacare from the start and covered up the financial time bomb that would soon detonate in Americans’ laps. These were like Enron officials cooking the books to cover up financial fraud — except in the case of Obamacare, no one ends up in jail.

Anyone remember how the White House said Obamacare would pay for itself by using 10 years of revenue to pay for eight years of spending? Where is Elizabeth Warren when you need her?

The only thing that has caught the left by surprise is that Obamacare has burst into flames so much faster than even severe critics — like myself — ever thought possible. The left was praying the bad news wouldn’t be exposed until after the election. Now at least Americans will go to the polls with the ugly facts right in front of them.

One technique the left used to try to shut up critics was to engage in name-calling and accusing skeptics of exaggerating the costs with false and misleading numbers. In these pages two years ago I wrote a column which started with what now looks pretty prescient:

“If there were a contest for the biggest lie in Washington over the past 30 years, it would be hard to compete with President Obama’s boast that he would put 30 million more Americans on Obamacare subsidies and Medicaid, and this would reduce the deficit … Is there a single promise that Mr. Obama made about Obamacare that has proven truthful?”

Well, it hasn’t bent the cost curve down, it has been a major driver of higher budget costs for health care (as the Congressional Budget Office acknowledged last month), it hasn’t given consumers more choices, and it certainly has not saved the average family $2,500 a year.

But when I wrote this piece, New York Magazine published an article about me titled: “Right Wing Scholar Who Gets Paid to Say Obamacare Doesn’t Work Can’t Find Single true Fact to Support His case.”

Then for several pages the author Jonathan Chait argues that I’m “oblivious to the law’s demonstrable success,” and that I am deliberately deceiving people by “treating the law as a costly and obvious failure.” He says I was “demonstrably wrong” in claiming the law was not saving families $2,500 a year. Well is there anyone who has saved that kind of money?

If anything, I understated the case against Obamacare. The Obamacare insurance companies now want a taxpayer bailout in the billions of dollars because the exchanges are in a cost death spiral. Healthy people aren’t signing up and sick people are enrolling at a record pace. This will add billions more to the program’s cost. So much for Mr. Obama’s claim this wasn’t going to cost taxpayers a penny.

In 2017 about one in five Obamacare enrollees will have only one insurance plan to choose from. One third of counties have only one insurer. That’s a lot of choice and competition. It’s like what Henry Ford said about the ModelT, you can have it in any color as long as it’s black. This contraction of the market is going to get worse in a hurry, which is why Hillary Clinton wants a “public option,” which will soon be your only option.

The few remaining Obamacare defenders meekly say that most people are not facing 22 percent premium hikes because most Americans are in employer plans. But those employer plans are starting to see the same rising price pressures.

Mike Tanner, Cato’s health care expert reports that “not only are Americans going to pay more, they’re going to get less. Deductibles have risen steadily since the ACA began. The average deductible for a family with a Silver plan now exceeds $6,400. Total out-of-pocket costs can exceed $12,000.”

Even the one goal of Obamacare that should have been easy to achieve given the massive cost of the program, is way underperforming. Instead of 24 million covered as promised, the number is half that, or 11.4 million. The vast majority of Americans who have gotten health insurance under the new law were dumped into Medicaid. This is a welfare program for people with very low incomes. Shouldn’t we define success in America when fewer, not more people are receiving welfare?

By the way, Medicaid is such a bad insurance program — with many doctors and treatment centers refusing to take Medicaid enrollees — that the health results of those in the program are barely better than for those with no insurance at all.

So I will ask the same question I asked two years ago, except the evidence is even more persuasive now: is there any sane person today who doesn’t recognize the law “as a costly and obvious failure?”

Also, I’m waiting for an apology from New York magazine or Jonathan Chait for their libel, but that’s about as likely as Obamacare ever saving money.



Obamacare hits restaurant industry

The restaurant industry saw a 2.8% decline in business this past fiscal year, and turned in its weakest performance since 2009. Economic analyst Paul Westra sees the downturn as a looming "restaurant recession." The Wall Street Journal reports that "in the last 10 months, eight major restaurant companies ... have filed for bankruptcy." So what's to blame for the decline? The usual culprit is an increase in the price of gasoline leading to increased food prices. However, gas prices have declined significantly for over a year now. Instead, it appears that the number one reason is ObamaCare. According to a Civic Science survey of Americans, of those who ate fast food regularly, there was a cutback of 47% due to rising health insurance costs. In other words, Americans are really beginning to feel ObamaCare's pinch on their pocketbooks. (That's not to mention restaurant owners themselves.) An April survey conducted by the National Restaurant Association found that nearly 45% of Americans are eating out less than they prefer.

Even some Democrats acknowledge the mounting costs of ObamaCare. Minnesota Democrat Governor Mark Dayton recently stated, "The Affordable Care Act is no longer affordable to increasing numbers of people." Bill Clinton called it "the craziest thing in the world" where Americans "wind up with their premiums doubled and their coverage cut in half." The truth is, it never was affordable — by design, as its architect, Jonathan Gruber, recently remarked. Unfortunately for the nation, the ObamaCare-created "restaurant recession" is the proverbial "canary in the coal mine" for the rest of U.S. economy. Many economists now fear another recession on the horizon as ObamaCare's impact is felt across the broader economy. The number of Americans who hate this law will only continue to grow.



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.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Democrat Corruption is Much Worse Than Trump

In a hilarious 1996 episode of The Simpsons, evil reptilian aliens Kang and Kodos dress up as Bob Dole and Bill Clinton and run for president by way of taking over Earth. Homer arrives in the nick of time to reveal that the candidates are really horrifying monsters. As the crowd screams, one of the aliens cries triumphantly: "It's true! We are aliens! But what are you going to do about it? It's a two-party system! You have to vote for one of us!" The crowd murmurs disconsolately: "He's right! It is a two-party system!"

Many of us feel the show was an uncanny prediction of the election we're in right now. So I have nothing but compassion and understanding for #NeverTrumpers like Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens, who wrote a column this week entitled "My Former Republican Party":

I grew up with parents who liked the old line that they didn’t leave the Democratic Party—the Democratic Party left them.... Now it’s my turn to watch the Republican Party drift away.
Stephens expresses his wholly understandable disappointment in the Trumpian GOP's abandonment of free trade, generosity toward immigrants, a muscular foreign policy and an insistence on decency and character.

Yet if Trump is Kang, I can't help but feel that Kodos is still much worse.

This week the Journal revealed that Clinton crony Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe— no stranger to suspicious fund-raising irregularities — funneled more than half a million dollars to the unsuccessful state senate campaign of the wife of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. McCabe, whom the Journal describes as FBI Director James Comey's "right-hand man," was deeply involved in the investigation into Hillary Clinton's email server — an investigation that found Mrs. Clinton in clear violation of the law but unindictable because... well, just because. Fortunately, Mr. McCabe has investigated himself and found himself completely innocent of any wrongdoing!

What makes this even more disgusting is the FBI and the Justice Department's decision to convict retired four star Marine Corps General James Cartwright, a hero with a storied career, who lied about sharing some classified information with reporters in an attempt to protect other information he deemed more important. Cartwright is facing up to five years in the slammer. As U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein said: “People who gain access to classified information after promising not to disclose it must be held accountable when they willfully violate that promise.”


Only Trump Has a Chance to Bring the Country Together - and It's Slight

Add to this, a top story in the New York Times, a former newspaper, saying our blandly sinister Attorney General Loretta Lynch is unhappy with her department's failure to bring charges against the police who arrested Eric Garner. Garner, you'll remember, was busted for selling illegal cigarettes, and died after an arresting officer put a chokehold on him. Thus:

The Justice Department has replaced the New York team of agents and lawyers investigating the death of Eric Garner, officials said, a highly unusual shake-up that could jump-start the long-stalled case and put the government back on track to seek criminal charges.

Federal authorities have been investigating whether officers violated Mr. Garner’s civil rights in his fatal encounter with the police. But the case had been slowed by a dispute because federal prosecutors and Federal Bureau of Investigation officials in New York opposed bringing charges, while prosecutors with the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department in Washington argued there was clear evidence to do so.

In other words, if you don't get the politically correct decision you want, fire the investigators. It stinks — almost as badly as the Clinton investigation and the Cartwright conviction. But then what do you expect of the administration — and the party — that gave us the first attorney general ever to be held in contempt of Congress for his stubborn cover-ups of obvious incompetence and wrongdoing?

Where once the Democrat Party called for jail time for men like Donald Segretti, a Nixon political operative who did four months for some silly dirty campaign tricks, today they shrug off verified reports that Clinton operatives incited violence at Trump rallies and pulled off nasty stunts at the instigation of the candidate herself. Why should such nonsense even make the news, when journalists have given a pass to a corrupt IRS, a corrupted FBI, and a Justice Department with no commitment to justice?

If, as Stephens writes, the Trumpian GOP has lost track of its principles, the Democratic Party has no principles left to lose. It is filthy to its core — and at that core is Hillary Clinton. In the end, she's the one they're protecting. She's the one it's all about. And she's the one this dirty bureaucracy will gladly serve if she wins the White House.

Donald Trump may be no prize as a candidate or a human being, but at least he is not sitting at the heart of the party that has corrupted even our highest instruments of law and justice. Better the devil who does not know the devils we know.



What Have Democrats Done for Blacks?

Nothing good, and it's time more voters realized it

While politics is about policies and the role and scope of government, politicians' appeal to voters is the critical aspect of those proposals in winning elections. This reality created the class-driven politics of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt era and the 1960s-identity politics that we still see today.

In this presidential cycle, identity politics continue with emphasis on the women’s vote, the Hispanic vote and the black vote as opportunities to tickle the ears of these voting blocs with specific messages and promises. Without question, Democrats have excelled in controlling these demographics for decades due to skillful manipulation of issues that create victims of whichever group needs rescuing while painting Republicans as misogynists, racists and bigots. Democrats always present their solutions through the lens of government control, even to the point of becoming a ward of the state, in contrast to Republicans who offer personal achievement and responsibility yielding individual freedoms and prosperity. Yeah, who’d want that, right?

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has approached the black vote just like he’s approached every other aspect of his campaign — vacant of nuance or poll-tested phrases. Instead, Trump directly challenged black voters: What do you have to lose?

He made a speech last week offering his plan for black Americans based on “three promises: safe communities, great education and high-paying jobs.” True to less-than-articulate form, The Donald told a Toledo, Ohio, rally, “And we’re going to work on our — ghettos…” He continued to note these areas to have “so many horrible, horrible problems — the violence, the death, the lack of education, no jobs.”

Naturally, Hillary Clinton’s Leftmedia apparatus latched onto the politically incorrect word “ghetto” so as to charge Trump with racism.

Not even a year ago, calling attention to “too many communities, from Baltimore to St. Louis to Oakland to Memphis to Chicago” a Dec. 10, 2015, CNN article noted the “need for reconstruction in impoverished urban areas” citing the dismal situation in Chicago where “a quarter of black adults and half of black youth are unemployed, about 50 public schools have closed in recent years, along with more than 70 grocery stores and dozens of businesses.” Continuing in the piece written by Wayne Drash and Bill Kirkos, “There are more jobs to be had in the ghetto than there are people.”

Oh, wait! That was Jesse Jackson admonishing Barack Obama and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel — both Democrats — for failing to address key issues in the black community, while using the same term “ghetto.”

Funny, isn’t it? Two men use the term “ghetto,” which Merriam-Webster defines as “a part of a city in which members of a particular group or race live usually in poor conditions.” One is mocked and framed as an out-of-touch man of white privilege and the other makes his living keeping black voters on the take. Actually, that’s not funny. It’s pathetic and outrageous.

What have Americans whose skin at birth has more melanin gained from the Democrats? Even though history documents the true home of racial violence, such as the Ku Klux Klan, is the Democrat Party, while the earliest elected blacks were in the Republican Party, let’s just focus on the years of the first black president and the hard data.

Per the U.S. Census, the poverty rate of black children in 2015 was 32.9%, an improvement from 35.7% when Barack Obama took office in January 2009. During that same window of time, the number of white children born into poverty has fallen from 17.7% to 17.2%. Looking at seniors, Caucasian 65-year-olds have lived in poverty at a rate that fluctuated at 7.5%. For black seniors, 19.5% were in poverty when Obama was sworn in with a reduction to 18.4% last year.

For unemployment, the black unemployment rate was at 12.7% in January 2009 and peaked at 16.8% in March 2010, adjusted to remove those who had given up looking or were underemployed. In September 2016, black unemployment was recorded at 8.3%. For white adults, however, the unemployment rate has consistently been about half that of blacks.

Relative to more subjective characteristics, the turmoil within the urban communities in the grips of gang activity and the economy of illicit drug sales is raging. As Jesse Jackson declared in December of last year, Democrats have failed “to address blighted inner cities and renew hope for black America.”

The greatest hope the inner-city family should cling to in the candidacy of Donald Trump is his support of school choice that frees children trapped by a zip code in failing schools instead of the protected mediocrity enforced by educrats and their school union cartel — a cartel endorsed by the NAACP. Trump promises choice where money follows the child to the school of their choosing. What a concept!

Trump has been blunt. Specifically, he has declared to black voters, “My vision rests on a principle that has defined this campaign: America First…”

Citing the role of black Americans in defending our great nation in battle and beliefs, Trump strides headlong into the fact that all citizens of this nation are his priority — Americans, not illegal immigrants who are sought by corporatists to drive down their cost of labor and compete for entry-level and lower-skilled jobs. That disproportionately harms blacks. “I promise that under a Trump administration the law will be applied fairly, equally and without prejudice,” the GOP nominee offers.

Wow. Think of that. “There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America.” Those were once the lofty campaign words of Barack Obama. As Sun Tzu described an impotent king, his words paint the likes of Obama and many in black leadership, “The King is only fond of words, and cannot translate them into deeds.



Soda Tax Nonsense

Soda-tax advocates in San Francisco and Oakland are making a final push for ballot measures—Proposition V and Measure HH, respectively—that would impose a one-cent-per-ounce tax on soda and other sugar-sweetened drinks. For anyone who passed Econ 101, the advocates’ propaganda is sure to leave a bad aftertaste.

Independent Institute Senior Fellow Lawrence J. McQuillan has noted the economic ignorance on display when they claim the tax would burden only distributors, not consumers. Now Independent Institute Research Director William F. Shughart II and Strata Policy Analyst Josh T. Smith are calling them out for touting a fatally flawed study of beverage consumption after Berkeley enacted a similar soda tax. Ironically, the study itself cautions against applying its findings to other cities.

“The fundamental scientific problem with the study,” Shughart and Smith write, “is that it required people in a nonrandom, street intercept survey to recall and compare their pretax and post-tax drinking habits.” Such informal surveys, the two economists note, are highly vulnerable to their respondents’ hazy memories and tendency to placate their interviewers. Moreover, Shughart and Smith write, “it simply is inconceivable that the tax will have perceptible effects on obesity, tooth decay, or any other health problem.”



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.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Tuesday, November 01, 2016

The American Election through English Eyes

Sean Gabb

I think it in general a bad idea to write about elections in a foreign country. I do not live there and do not understand the particular circumstances of the country. Foreigners who write about England always make silly mistakes. Why should I be better informed about their countries? More than that, what happens outside England is none of my business.

I break the rule for the American election because I regret that it is my business. I regret – indeed, I am outraged – that our relationship with America reverses the normal standing of mother country to former colony. Whatever happens in America has a direct and profound impact on what happens in England. This gives me the moral right to an opinion. If the right does not extend to telling Americans how to vote in their own interests, it does extend to considering how the way that Americans may vote will affect the interests of my own people.

Therefore, I begin.

I hope, though do not believe, that Donald Trump will win the election next month. I do not suppose that he would keep many of his promises. Some of them do not seem capable of being kept. But the fact alone of his victory would be a blow against a New World Order that is underwritten by American military power and cultural influence. In the speech he gave on the 13th October, he said:

Our great civilization, here in America and across the civilized world has come upon a moment of reckoning. We’ve seen it in the United Kingdom, where they voted to liberate themselves from global government and global trade deal, and global immigration deals that have destroyed their sovereignty and have destroyed many of those nations. But, the central base of world political power is right here in America, and it is our corrupt political establishment that is the greatest power behind the efforts at radical globalization and the disenfranchisement of working people. Their financial resources are virtually unlimited, their political resources are unlimited, their media resources are unmatched, and most importantly, the depths of their immorality is absolutely unlimited.

For the man who said this to become President would legitimise an entire critique of the New World Order and the political correctness that it enforces. He might not close down the relevant agencies, or unfund the relevant universities. He might not do much at all. But he is giving voice to a rising tide of protest in America that will not go away, and that is already crossing the Atlantic, to breathe a semblance of life into our own dreary politics. A Trump Presidency would be in itself a political earthquake on both sides of the Atlantic. As such, it would be in English interests for him to win.

But I do not believe he will win. So what might we expect from a Clinton Presidency? Looked at from England, I still see benefits. Mrs Clinton will not start a big war. There may be ten or twenty million Americans who believe that a nuclear war in the Middle East will bring on the Second Coming. None of these, however, has any influence in the Democratic Party. Mrs Clinton and her staff do not wish to spend the rest of their lives stuck with each other in a fallout shelter, arguing over a dwindling stock of tinned pineapple. All they really want is to push Russia and China into a defensive alliance, and then to start a new Cold War against a new “threat.” This is grossly undesirable. But, given that, as in the first Cold War, both sides would continue talking behind the curtain, it is not unaffordable for America or its satellites. Its main cost, apart from the usual hill of non-white corpses, would be a stream of blank cheques to the usual suspects in the military-industrial complex.

I am told that she will open the gates to unlimited immigration. If true, this is a mostly American problem in which I take no interest. Where it is not a purely American problem, I see benefits to England. Every immigrant who turns up in America does not, by definition, turn up here. More importantly, immigration weakens the New World Order.

Put on an American accent, half mournful and half eager, and say with me: “These people are mostly Catholics and other people of faith. They are natural conservatives. We must persuade them to vote Republican.” This is, on the face of it, an absurd statement. The Republican Party is seen – and, below its normal leadership, is – the political voice of white America. It is, in principal at least, opposed to affirmative action and indiscriminate welfare. Why should immigrants from Honduras or Mexico or Somalia vote Republican? Doubtless, some do, because they believe in the American Dream. Good luck to them. But most do not, and will not.

There is, even so, an element of truth in the statement. The sorts of immigrant I have in mind are not leftists in the American sense. They have no interest in “saving the planet.” Most of them smoke. They are not visibly in favour of invading Timbuctoo for its failure to let transsexuals use the ladies’ toilet. The more important they grow as a voting group, the less trouble America will make in the world – and this is in the interest of my own people.

But the most solid benefit of a Clinton win would be its destabilising effect on politics in America. If I think he will lose, I suspect that Mr Trump will pick up more votes than the losing Republicans did in the previous two elections. These voters will not be pleased that their man lost because of a wall of corporate money, and an openly biased media, and voting groups whose roots in the country may go no further back than 1965. There will, as an old friend of mine used to say, be blood on the moon. Whether or not he accepts defeat, the support Mr Trump has identified will be ripe for the picking by anyone else who takes up his standard. The cries of rancour will echo round the world. They will be particularly heard in England.

If I were an American who cared about the nation into which he had been born, my vote would be for Mr Trump. There might be concerns about his personal behaviour and his honesty. He would get my vote all the same. But I am not an American, and, for all manner of reasons, I am glad of that. Speaking as an Englishman, I would prefer Mr Trump to win. I can see many advantages for my country in his victory. But a win by Mrs Clinton would also bring advantages, though fewer.

I will not sit up all night, to watch various Americans based in London talk about the latest results from Hicksville. But I will read the BBC website next morning with more than usual interest



A slippery Leftist law firm

Jon Tester didn’t come all the way from Montana for the scrambled eggs and bacon. The US senator, virtually unknown in Boston, was in a conference room at the Thornton Law Firm that June morning to cash in at one of the most reliable stops on the Democratic fund-raising circuit, a law firm that pours millions into the coffers of the party and its politicians.

Tester, a massive, jovial man who raises livestock on his family farm, was more compelling than many of the other breakfast guests, all of them political candidates the firm hoped would defend the interests of trial attorneys. But the drill was basically the same. The personal injury lawyers listened politely for a few minutes, then returned to their offices. And Tester walked away with $26,400 in checks.

But a striking thing happened the day Tester visited in 2010. Partner David C. Strouss received a payment from the firm labeled as a “bonus” that exactly equaled his $2,400 contribution to Tester’s campaign, the maximum allowed. A few days later, partner Garrett Bradley — until recently the House assistant majority leader on Beacon Hill — got a bonus, too, exactly matching his $2,400 gift to Tester.

This pattern of payments — contributions offset by bonus payments — was commonplace at Thornton, according to a review of law firm records by the Spotlight Team and the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based nonprofit that tracks campaign finance data.

From 2010 through 2014, Strouss and Bradley, along with founding partner Michael Thornton and his wife, donated nearly $1.6 million to Democratic Party fund-raising committees and a parade of politicians — from Senate minority leader Harry Reid of Nevada to Hawaii gubernatorial candidate David Ige to Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Over the same span, the lawyers received $1.4 million listed as “bonuses” in Thornton Law Firm records; more than 280 of the contributions precisely matched bonuses that were paid within 10 days.

That payback system, which involved other partners as well, helped make Thornton the 11th-ranked law firm nationally for political contributions in 2014, according to data analyzed by the center, even though it is not among the 100 largest in Massachusetts.

Thornton, through a spokesman, said its donation reimbursement program was reviewed by outside lawyers and complied with applicable laws. Campaign finance experts said that without reviewing the firm’s records, they cannot say the payback system breaks the law, but that it raises numerous red flags.

That’s because reimbursing people for their political donations is generally illegal, several experts said. When political donors are repaid for their donations, it can conceal the real source of contributions, and enable the unnamed source of the funds to exceed state and federal contribution limits. And in some states — Massachusetts among them — political donations to state candidates from corporations and partnerships such as Thornton Law Firm are flatly illegal.

Reimbursing donors is “among the most serious campaign violations, in the view of both the Federal Election Commission and the Department of Justice,” said Daniel Petalas, an attorney who served as acting general counsel of the FEC until September.

“Using straw donors to make contributions is illegal,” said Larry Noble, general counsel of the Washington-based Campaign Legal Center and a former general counsel of the FEC. “People can go and have gone to prison for this.”

Thornton officials declined to comment, instead hiring a former federal prosecutor to respond to the Globe’s questions.

The ex-prosecutor, Brian Kelly, said the bonuses should not have been called bonuses at all because they were paid from the lawyers’ own money. He said an accountant deducted the payments from their equity, or ownership, in the firm. When lawyers leave Thornton Law and cash in their equity, he said, their financial settlement with Thornton would be reduced by the amount of the bonuses.

Kelly provided a written statement from Michael Thornton saying that “an error made internally” led to the payments being called bonuses. Thornton said he changed the way they were labeled in 2015, several years into the program, when he discovered the mistake.

“It’s obviously not a crime to make lots of donations to politicians, and they certainly did that,” said Kelly. “But their donation program was vetted by prior counsel and an outside accountant, and the firm made every effort to comply with all applicable laws and regulations.”

However, campaign finance experts were skeptical about the system Kelly describes, saying it could allow partners to go years before repaying the firm for the bonuses. Regulators could view the bonuses as open-ended loans, they said, making them hidden, illegal donations from the firm.

“I think they need to be very careful,” said James Kahl, former deputy general counsel of the FEC. “The big red flag is monies being advanced, and the truing up doesn’t happen for many years.”

Kelly, who has given varying explanations of the reimbursement policy since first being asked about it in July, declined to provide a copy of a legal opinion that he said justified the repayment program. He also declined to say whether lawyers who left the firm were required to pay when the bonuses they received exceeded their equity in the firm.

But one thing is certain: The policy was so complicated that some lawyers at the firm didn’t understand it, said former employees. They were just happy to get their money back.



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.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Monday, October 31, 2016

Do cranberries prevent burny pees?

There has been popular support for cranberries helping with urinary tract infections for a very long time.  But the research findings have been uneven. There has therefore been a wish for studies which would settle the question for once and for all. The abstract of the latest study is below.  

It is undoubtedly a well-conducted study and a contemporaneous review has used it as something of a final nail in the coffin of clinical use of cranberry juice.

I wish to prise that nail out of the coffin, in part because I have personally found cranberry juice to be very efficacious. It doesn't happen often but, if I get a twinge of UTI, I rapidly belt a couple of mouthfuls of supermarket cranberry juice into me and the problem disappears.

So why is my experience different from what we read in the report below?  Several reasons.  For a start, I am not a sick and elderly woman living in a Connecticut nursing home.  More importantly, however, I take the juice as a cure, not as a preventive.  Its effects could wear off if you take it all the time.  Cranberries may not be able to prevent UTI but they could cure it.

I am also concerned that most of the studies administer the stuff in capsule form rather than as a drink. As a much-published academic researcher myself, I know exactly why they do that.  It enables standardization and replicability.  But what if the scientific precautions damage the effect?  What if capsules are not a good way of delivering the power of the cranberry?  To put it in academic terms, what if the finding is an artifact of the experimental method? What if capsules have processed all the goodness out of the cranberries? Health researchers are loud and frequent in condemning processed food generally, so how come cranberry capsules get a pass?

So it is my conclusion that most of the studies, including the one below, have been incautious despite themselves and have not examined the question adequately.  Drink up your cranberry juice!

Effect of Cranberry Capsules on Bacteriuria Plus Pyuria Among Older Women in Nursing Homes: A Randomized Clinical Trial

Manisha Juthani-Mehta et al.


Importance:  Bacteriuria plus pyuria is highly prevalent among older women living in nursing homes. Cranberry capsules are an understudied, nonantimicrobial prevention strategy used in this population.

Objective:  To test the effect of 2 oral cranberry capsules once a day on presence of bacteriuria plus pyuria among women residing in nursing homes.

Design, Setting, and Participants:  Double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled efficacy trial with stratification by nursing home and involving 185 English-speaking women aged 65 years or older, with or without bacteriuria plus pyuria at baseline, residing in 21 nursing homes located within 50 miles (80 km) of New Haven, Connecticut (August 24, 2012-October 26, 2015).

Interventions:  Two oral cranberry capsules, each capsule containing 36 mg of the active ingredient proanthocyanidin (ie, 72 mg total, equivalent to 20 ounces of cranberry juice) vs placebo administered once a day in 92 treatment and 93 control group participants.

Main Outcomes and Measures:  Presence of bacteriuria (ie, at least 105 colony-forming units [CFUs] per milliliter of 1 or 2 microorganisms in urine culture) plus pyuria (ie, any number of white blood cells on urinalysis) assessed every 2 months over the 1-year study surveillance; any positive finding was considered to meet the primary outcome. Secondary outcomes were symptomatic urinary tract infection (UTI), all-cause death, all-cause hospitalization, all multidrug antibiotic–resistant organisms, antibiotics administered for suspected UTI, and total antimicrobial administration.

Results  Of the 185 randomized study participants (mean age, 86.4 years [SD, 8.2], 90.3% white, 31.4% with bacteriuria plus pyuria at baseline), 147 completed the study. Overall adherence was 80.1%. Unadjusted results showed the presence of bacteriuria plus pyuria in 25.5% (95% CI, 18.6%-33.9%) of the treatment group and in 29.5% (95% CI, 22.2%-37.9%) of the control group. The adjusted generalized estimating equations model that accounted for missing data and covariates showed no significant difference in the presence of bacteriuria plus pyuria between the treatment group vs the control group (29.1% vs 29.0%; OR, 1.01; 95% CI, 0.61-1.66; P = .98). There were no significant differences in number of symptomatic UTIs (10 episodes in the treatment group vs 12 in the control group), rates of death (17 vs 16 deaths; 20.4 vs 19.1 deaths/100 person-years; rate ratio [RR], 1.07; 95% CI, 0.54-2.12), hospitalization (33 vs 50 admissions; 39.7 vs 59.6 hospitalizations/100 person-years; RR, 0.67; 95% CI, 0.32-1.40), bacteriuria associated with multidrug-resistant gram-negative bacilli (9 vs 24 episodes; 10.8 vs 28.6 episodes/100 person-years; RR, 0.38; 95% CI, 0.10-1.46), antibiotics administered for suspected UTIs (692 vs 909 antibiotic days; 8.3 vs 10.8 antibiotic days/person-year; RR, 0.77; 95% CI, 0.44-1.33), or total antimicrobial utilization (1415 vs 1883 antimicrobial days; 17.0 vs 22.4 antimicrobial days/person-year; RR, 0.76; 95% CI, 0.46-1.25).

Conclusions and Relevance:  Among older women residing in nursing homes, administration of cranberry capsules vs placebo resulted in no significant difference in presence of bacteriuria plus pyuria over 1 year.

JAMA. Published online October 27, 2016. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.16141


Health law tax penalty? I’ll take it, millions say

The architects of the Affordable Care Act thought they had a blunt instrument to force people — even young and healthy ones — to buy insurance through the law’s online marketplaces: a tax penalty for those who remain uninsured.

It has not worked all that well, and that is at least partly to blame for soaring premiums next year on some of the health law’s insurance exchanges.

The full weight of the penalty will not be felt until April, when those who have avoided buying insurance will face penalties of around $700 a person or more. But even then that might not be enough: For the young and healthy who are badly needed to make the exchanges work, it is sometimes cheaper to pay the Internal Revenue Service than an insurance company charging large premiums, with huge deductibles.

“In my experience, the penalty has not been large enough to motivate people to sign up for insurance,” said Christine Speidel, a tax lawyer at Vermont Legal Aid.

Some people do sign up, especially those with low incomes who receive the most generous subsidies, Speidel said. But others, she said, find that they cannot afford insurance, even with subsidies, so “they grudgingly take the penalty.”

The IRS says that 8.1 million returns included penalty payments for people who went without insurance in 2014, the first year in which most people were required to have coverage. A preliminary report on the latest tax-filing season, tabulating data through April of this year, said that 5.6 million returns included penalties averaging $442 per return for people uninsured in 2015.

With the health law’s fourth open-enrollment season beginning Tuesday, consumers are anxiously weighing their options.

William H. Weber, 51, a business consultant in Atlanta, said he paid $1,400 a month this year for a Humana health plan that covered him and his wife and two children. Premiums will increase 60 percent next year, Weber said, and he does not see alternative policies that would be less expensive. So he said he was seriously considering dropping insurance and paying the penalty.

“We may roll the dice next year, go without insurance and hope we have no major medical emergencies,” Weber said. “The penalty would be less than two months of premiums.” (He said that he did not qualify for a subsidy because his income was too high, but that his son, a barista in New York City, had a great plan with a subsidy.)

Iris I. Burnell, the manager of a Jackson Hewitt Tax Service office on Capitol Hill, said she met this week with a client in his late 50s who has several part-time jobs and wants to buy insurance on the exchanges. But, she said, “he’s finding that the costs are prohibitive on a monthly basis, so he has resigned himself to the fact that he will have to suffer the penalty.”

When Congress was writing the Affordable Care Act in 2009 and 2010, lawmakers tried to balance carrots and sticks: subsidies to induce people to buy insurance and tax penalties “to ensure compliance,” in the words of the Senate Finance Committee.

But the requirement for people to carry insurance is one of the most unpopular provisions of the law, and the Obama administration has been cautious in enforcing it. The IRS portrays the decision to go without insurance as a permissible option, not as a violation of federal law.

The law “requires you and each member of your family to have qualifying health care coverage (called minimum essential coverage), qualify for a coverage exemption, or make an individual shared responsibility payment when you file your federal income tax return,” the tax agency says on its website.

Some consumers who buy insurance on the exchanges still feel vulnerable. Deductibles are so high, they say, that the insurance seems useless. So some feel that whether they send hundreds of dollars to the IRS or thousands to an insurance company, they are essentially paying something for nothing.

Obama administration officials say that perception is wrong. Even people with high deductibles have protection against catastrophic costs, they say, and many insurance plans cover common health care services before consumers meet their deductibles. In addition, even when consumers pay most or all of a hospital bill, they often get the benefit of discounts negotiated by their insurers.

The health law authorized certain exemptions from the coverage requirement, and the Obama administration has expanded that list through rules and policy directives. More than 12 million taxpayers claimed one or more coverage exemptions last year because, for instance, they were homeless, had received a shut-off notice from a utility company, or were experiencing other hardships.

“The penalty for violating the individual mandate has not been very effective,” said Joseph J. Thorndike, director of the tax history project at Tax Analysts, a nonprofit publisher of tax information. “If it were effective, we would have higher enrollment, and the population buying policies in the insurance exchange would be healthier and younger.”

Americans have decades of experience with tax deductions and other tax breaks aimed at encouraging various types of behavior, as well as “sin taxes” intended to discourage other kinds of behavior, Thorndike said. But, he said: “It is highly unusual for the federal government to use tax penalties to encourage affirmative behavior. That’s a hard sell.”



Jury acquits Bundy family

The Bundy brothers have been acquitted of federal conspiracy charges after leading a 41-day standoff at a rural Oregon wildlife refuge that grabbed national attention.

Ammon and Ryan Bundy, as well as five additional defendants, were found not guilty  of conspiracy to impede federal officers and possession of firearms in a federal facility.

David Fry, Jeff Banta, Shawna Cox, Kenneth Medenback and Neil Wampler were also exonerated.  

The decision, unveiled in federal court in Portland on Thursday, is a blow to the US government, which had aggressively prosecuted the right-wing activists who led an armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in January and February.

The courtroom erupted into chaos on Thursday as Ammon Bundy's attorney Marcus Mumford demanded that his client be immediately released from prison.

US Marshals tackled Mumford to the ground, used a stun gun on him several times and arrested him.

Both Bundy brothers will remain behind bars due to charges they face in Nevada stemming from an armed standoff at their father Cliven's ranch in 2014, US District Judge Anna Brown told the courtroom.

The group took over the bird sanctuary in remote southeastern Oregon on January 2. following a protest to the prison sentences handed down to Dwight and Steven Hammond, two local ranchers convicted of setting fires.

The Bundy brothers and their supporters demanded the government free the father and son and relinquish control of public lands to local officials.

Ammon Bundy gave frequent news conferences and the group used social media in a mostly unsuccessful effort to get others to join them.

He used the protest to shine national attention on the Bundy's family long fight against federal land ownership and restrictions on ranching meant to help protect the environment.

The government, which controls much of the land in the West, says it tries to balance industry, recreation and wildlife concerns to benefit all.

Armed occupiers were allowed to come and go for the first several weeks of the protest as authorities tried to avoid bloodshed seen in past standoffs.

But it all came to a head on January 26, when the Bundy brothers and other key figures in the protest were arrested in a traffic stop outside the refuge, where police fatally shot occupation spokesman Robert 'LaVoy' Finicum.


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


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.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Sunday, October 30, 2016

An analysis of the Trump message

It seems possible that the past record of Trump with regard to women will lose him enough of the female vote for him to lose the election.  But, regardless of that, he has identified a huge section of the population that previously had no voice.  And they are not going to go away. There will be an ongoing desire to get the allegiance of such a huge voter bloc.  Both the GOP and the Donks will feel under huge pressure to move in a Trumpian direction.

So what is the Trump message?  It would not be a bad analysis to say that Trump simply speaks common sense but since common sense is not all that common these days, we need to dig deeper.

Everyone who has heard Trump has a view on what Trump's message is and there have already been many attempts to summarize it in writing.  There has however been a recent very extensive attempt to analyse the phenomenon by a respected conservative intellectual, Dr. William Voegeli.  I reproduce part of it below. But even the excerpt below is lengthy so let me assist time-poor people by attempting a summary:

He says that Trump speaks for many in believing that governments so far have been doing more harm that good and have in particular endangered the safety and security of ordinary Americans.  Many see rightly that they could be the next victim of a Jihadi attack and blame the government for not preventing the many such attacks that have occurred recently.  If the government cannot safeguard its citizens, what is it for?

He accepts that Trump is calling on tribal instincts:  Those who feel that they are Americans first of all rather than being primarily some other sub-group or intellectual clique. And, much as the Left deplore it, that feeling among a very large part of the electorate is not going to go away. The Left call it racism, which just antagonizes the people concerned.

He also says that the refusal by the political establishment to see Muslims as a threat is borderline insane and perceived as that by most of the electorate.  Trump is the only major figure who speaks any kind of sanity on the matter.

On political correctness he agrees with Trump that it has gone too far but to some extent excuses it as being well intentioned.  He has drunk the Kool-aid about Leftists being idealists.  Idealists who practiced mass slaughter in revolutionary France, in Soviet Russia and in Mao's China?  My submission is that hatred of the society around them is the only consistent explanation of what Leftists do.

But the point remains that Americans are being extensively dictated to in the name of assumptions that they do not entirely share and any criticism of that is vastly refreshing to many Americans - who do not like being dictated to.  So a bonfire of political correctness would be widely welcomed.

“We are screwing things up.” This is the subtext of the entire Trump campaign. Or, as the Atlantic’s David Frum describes its core message, “We are governed by idiots.” Moreover, the Trump movement is propelled by the fear that the idiots aren’t just screwing up the usual things, such as solvency, but the people’s security and the nation’s sovereignty.

The test of whether a government merits the people’s support, according to the Declaration of Independence, is whether it is “likely to effect their safety and happiness.” People are increasingly skeptical about government’s increasingly expansive promises to help make us happier, however, as shown by the consistently low approval ratings for Obamacare. Nor is there much to show for all the politicians’ talk about bringing back good jobs at good wages. Rendering our increasingly divided society a gorgeous mosaic hasn’t been a raging success, either.

But at least, people have a right to feel, government could do its most basic job and enhance our safety. Surely, in exchange for all the taxes we pay and forms we fill out, government can make life decidedly more peaceful than the state of nature. Elections analyst Henry Olsen reports that Trump’s support “skyrocketed” to “a position of dominance” against his Republican rivals after he responded to last year’s terrorist attacks in France and California by calling for, as his campaign put it, “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” Olsen writes:

Trump voters believe they are threatened by Islamic terrorism. If Muslims come to America, they think, Americans will be more likely to die. Trump’s proposed ban seems to them to be common sense: The first duty of a national government is to protect its citizens from foreign threats. One must not underestimate how important the proposed ban is to Trump’s voters and to his appeal.

In the 15 years since 9/11, the United States government has done many things intended to thwart terrorism. Yet whether the security enhancements, if any, are commensurate with the high price the nation has paid is doubtful. In Afghanistan, America embarked on what has proven to be its longest war. No one can state with confidence how or when it will end, or explain the basis on which we could say we have accomplished our objectives. The war and subsequent occupation in Iraq—badly conceived, justified, managed, and terminated—poisoned American politics and destabilized rather than democratized the Middle East. The Arab Spring, likewise, raised hopes for a turn to liberal democracy, but resulted only in compounding the region’s tragic dilemma: only through authoritarianism can it stave off fanaticism. Al-Qaeda gave rise to ISIS, a group even more lunatic and lethal, which has engaged in pornographic brutality in the Middle East while directing or inspiring mass murder in Paris, Brussels, San Bernardino, Orlando, and Nice.

Donald Trump, by contrast, has campaigned from the outset against the job both parties have done in protecting Americans from terrorists. He secured the Republican nomination against a field of 16 candidates described last summer by George F. Will as “the most impressive since 1980, and perhaps the most talent-rich since the party first had a presidential nominee, in 1856.”

Trump has described his axial foreign policy precept as “America First.” Detractors fastened on the formulation as either obtuse about the term’s provenance, or a signal that he, like Charles Lindbergh 80 years ago, would fuse isolationism with nonchalance towards dictators who abused populations other than ours. But take away its historical echoes, which are probably inaudible to both Trump and his voters, and putting America first strikes many people as an entirely sensible commitment to expect from an American president.

The P.C. Shuffle

Several writers, including this journal’s editor, have explained Trump’s ascent as a reaction to political correctness. The idea is that Trump’s apparent incapacity to say anything other than what’s on his mind at any given moment appeals to voters fed up with proliferating rules about how to avoid giving offense.

But it is important to consider the question in relation to the dangers posed by terrorism. The salient feature of political correctness is hostility to free speech and, more generally, the idea of inalienable rights. Its most prominent manifestations include campus speech codes, hypersensitive reactions to “microaggressions,” and the vindictive denial of due process to faculty and students accused of sexual harassment or assault.

This zeal to restrict civil liberties is not free-floating, however, but serves the political goal of repudiating appalling injustices of the past by securing a very different future, one immeasurably more equitable and admirable. This project is, in the main, defined by identity politics, the belief that groups that have been abused and humiliated must assert themselves and be accorded abundant compensatory respect. The companion belief is that those sharing the demographic profile of the perpetrators of abuse and humiliation—above all, straight white males—must atone and defer. Merely refraining from abusing and humiliating members of groups previously victimized isn’t enough: they still enjoy privileges derived from “the system of murder and exploitation that benefits some of us at the expense of others,” in the words of one penitent, Emily Pothast, a Seattle-based writer and musician.

“The current politically correct response cripples our ability to talk and to think and act clearly,” Trump said after the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando. “If we don’t get tough, and if we don’t get smart and fast, we’re not going to have our country anymore. There will be nothing, absolutely nothing, left.”

Legions of commentators and political opponents dismissed that speech as still more hyperbole from The Donald. But Trump’s startling success in the GOP race has much to do with the feeling that identity politics has indeed left Americans less safe from terrorism than we need and deserve to be. Consider the term “Islamophobia,” defined by the Council on American-Islamic Relations as the “closed-minded prejudice against or hatred of Islam and Muslims.” The Center for Race and Gender at the University of California, Berkeley, gives this account, more expansive, tendentious, and explicitly P.C.:

Islamophobia is a contrived fear or prejudice fomented by the existing Eurocentric and Orientalist global power structure. It is directed at a perceived or real Muslim threat through the maintenance and extension of existing disparities in economic, political, social and cultural relations, while rationalizing the necessity to deploy violence as a tool to achieve “civilizational rehab” of the target communities (Muslim or otherwise). Islamophobia reintroduces and reaffirms a global racial structure through which resource distribution disparities are maintained and extended.

Note that Islamophobia is contrived regardless of whether the Muslim threat is real or merely perceived, which means that a vigorous response to any such threat is, by definition, prejudiced and irrational. “This is why,” the late Christopher Hitchens wrote, “the fake term Islamophobia is so dangerous: It insinuates that any reservations about Islam must ipso facto be ‘phobic.’” The reality, he insisted, is that in the purported “gorgeous mosaic of religious pluralism, it’s easy enough to find mosque Web sites and DVDs that peddle the most disgusting attacks on Jews, Hindus, Christians, unbelievers, and other Muslims—to say nothing of insane diatribes about women and homosexuals.”

Taking Sides

When Trump says political correctness cripples our ability to think, talk, and act against terrorism, he’s signaling that our response to terrorism is severely compromised by Islamophobia-phobia—the closed-minded, contrived, overwrought, unwarranted, misdirected, counterproductive fear that accurate threat assessments and adequate self-defense might hurt a Muslim’s feelings. “Public sentiment is everything,” said Lincoln of a republic’s political life, which means that those who mold public sentiment are more powerful than legislators and judges, because they make “statutes and decisions possible or impossible to be executed.” Our molders of public sentiment have made citizens more worried about accusations of bigotry than they are determined to report possible terrorism. A man working near the San Bernardino shooter’s home, according to one news account, “said he noticed a half-dozen Middle Eastern men in the area” before the attack, “but decided not to report anything since he did not wish to racially profile those people.”

By word and example, a diffident government encourages a diffident citizenry. Days after the San Bernardino killings, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch told a meeting of the group Muslim Advocates that her “greatest fear as a prosecutor” is that terrorist attacks will inflame anti-Muslim sentiment, leading to rhetoric that “will be accompanied by acts of violence.” Strange that a law-enforcement official’s greatest fear would correspond to something other than the greatest threat. Fifteen years after 9/11, the violent anti-Muslim backlash is an outrage permanently on the verge of taking place, while bombings and shootings by Islamic zealots remain mere realities.

Equally strange is the Department of Homeland Security’s policy that prohibited immigration officials from reviewing visa applicants’ social media postings. The possibility of finding information that indicates terrorist intentions was, apparently, outweighed by fear of “a civil liberties backlash and ‘bad public relations’ for the Obama administration,” according to ABC News. In the absence of such reviews, the government took three weeks to approve a fiancée visa application for Tashfeen Malik, who became one of the San Bernardino shooters, “despite what the FBI said were extensive social media messages about jihad and martyrdom.”

Us and Them

The oldest, most fundamental political question is Us and Them. Many people want to write a new chapter in human history, where nationality figures trivially in that distinction. On the right, economics—trade, specialization, growth, prosperity—should render Us and Them obsolete and irrelevant. “America should be a destination for hard-working immigrants from all over the world,” according to a 2015 press release from “top national Republican donors.” Libertarian economist Bryan Caplan contends that we discard cant in favor of wisdom when we come to understand that our “so-called ‘fellow Americans’ are mere strangers with no special claim on [our] time or affection.” On the left, social justice—tolerance, empathy, diversity, inclusion, renouncing and dismantling the Eurocentric structures of power and privilege—will promote comity, respect, and fairness among the earth’s 7 billion inhabitants, erasing tensions and distinctions among people of different colors, creeds, regions, and lifestyles.

The older sensibility about Us and Them, however, refuses to admit its own obsolescence. America is a nation dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. We must honor the proposition, since the republic rests on the conviction that no one is good enough to govern another without that other’s consent. But it is equally important to defend and cherish the nation, the vessel that bears and sustains the experiment in self-government. The Declaration of Independence begins with the assertion that it has become necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands that have connected them with another. Americans are a people, not just people, and not just any or all people who embrace the idea of human equality and its political implications. The preamble of the Constitution offers six reasons for establishing the new frame of government, the concluding one being “to secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity.” This aspiration does not require indifference or antipathy to any or all others, nor to their posterity. But it does make clear, again, that We are not Them, and we may justifiably prefer our safety and happiness to theirs when conflicts between the two arise.

Consigning patriotic attachment to the dustbin of history ignores stubborn moral and anthropological realities, as recently described by columnist Megan McArdle:

Somehow, over the last half-century, Western elites managed to convince themselves that nationalism was not real. Perhaps it had been real in the past, like cholera and telegraph machines, but now that we were smarter and more modern, it would be forgotten in the due course of time as better ideas supplanted it.

That now seems hopelessly naïve. People do care more about people who are like them—who speak their language, eat their food, share their customs and values. And when elites try to ignore those sentiments—or banish them by declaring that they are simply racist—this doesn’t make the sentiments go away. It makes the non-elites suspect the elites of disloyalty. For though elites may find something vaguely horrifying about saying that you care more about people who are like you than you do about people who are culturally or geographically further away, the rest of the population is outraged by the never-stated corollary: that the elites running things feel no greater moral obligation to their fellow countrymen than they do to some random stranger in another country.

Our political leaders’ vigilance and competence must encompass not just their organizational skills, but their capacity to grasp the malevolence of those who want to kill our citizens and shatter our way of life. Officials who, instead, traffic in sentimental blather about how we’re all brothers under the skin, awaiting the call of freedom that comes to every human mind and soul, are busy rejecting the understanding it is most important for them to possess. Our dangers will increase by an order of magnitude if Islamic terrorists succeed in their long quest to acquire weapons of mass destruction. The murder of tens of thousands of civilians in a single attack will make admonitions like Loretta Lynch’s after the Paris massacres—“we cannot be ruled by fear”—seem even more blithe, obtuse, and stupid.

Given his manifest, widely discussed defects as a prospective president and as a human, the rise of Donald Trump cannot be read as anything other than a vote of no confidence in the political class that has guided our anti-terrorism policies over the past 15 years. Those who believe that problem to be America’s most pressing are right to fear that Trump’s flair for the sensational, his inaccuracies and distortions, will do more harm than good to the cause of anti-terrorism, just as Joseph McCarthy did to the cause of anti-Communism. This danger makes it all the more important to satisfy the people’s urgent demand: leaders and policies that don’t squander, for the sake of secondary considerations, the moral and practical resources we need to thwart terrorists. In opposing Islamic terrorism, as in any other critical endeavor, the main thing is to make sure the main thing is always the main thing. Trump’s voters feel that he, like them, is unequivocally committed to this imperative. About his political opponents, they feel no such confidence.



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.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)