Friday, October 06, 2017

Congress Could Let All Patients Have the 'Right to Try' Without Going Through the FDA's Complicated Application Process

It is a rare thing to see Congress pass a law that increases personal freedom.

Yet that is exactly what it could do later this fall if the House follows the Senate's lead on a so-called "Right to Try" bill. The law would allow individuals with terminal illnesses, without having to first get permission from the Food and Drug Administration, to try drugs that have not been approved. Since 2012, 37 states have adopted "right to try" laws, giving patients to access experimental treatments that have cleared the first phase of the FDA's trials, with the permission of a doctor.

Passing a law at the federal level would be important for residents of those remaining 13 states, but would also help steer FDA policy, advocates say.

"Right to try is about the terminal patients who don't fit into a control group, who can't afford to travel or move to another country, and who simply want permission to seek the same treatments that other patients—sometimes patients in the same medical facility—are already receiving," says Naomi Lopez Bauman, director of healthcare policy for the Goldwater Institute, an Arizona-based free market think tank that has largely spearheaded the state-level Right to Try movement.

The U.S. Senate in August passed—by unanimous consent—Senate Bill 204, a right to try bill sponsored by Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis. That bill, and a similar proposal sponsored by Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., were the subject of a hearing hosted Tuesday by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. There is no immediate timetable for either bill to receive a vote on the House floor, and Tuesday's hearing made clear that right to try legislation faces more opposition in the lower chamber than it did in the Senate.

"The legislation being proposed could expose critically ill patients to greater harm," worries Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., minority chairman of the committee. Other Democrats expressed similar worries, even while expressing sympathy for patients who are asking little more than for government to get out of the way during the final days of their lives. There are "very legitimate frustrations with the current system," for allowing patients access ot non-FDA-approved drugs, admitted Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas. But those problems are not a good reason to remove the FDA from the process, Green said.

Currently, the FDA runs a so-called "expanded access" program for terminally ill patients who cannot get into drug trials for various reasons. According to a Government Accountability Office report published in July, FDA had approved 99 percent of the 5,800 requests made from 2012 through 2015 by patients seeking access to the program.

Lack of access, then, is not the problem, but time is. Patients with terminal illnesses can wait as little as a few hours to as long as 30 days for the FDA to respond to a request to try a new drug, according to the GAO, and that wait could ending any slim hope of finding a successful treatment. If you think dealing with bureaucrats is awful when you're standing in line at the DMV or applying for a passport, imagine having to go through that same process when your life is on the line.

Under Scott Gottlieb, the newly appointed commissioner of the FDA, the administration has moved to slash the amount of paperwork necessary to get patients enrolled in expanded access programs. Earlier Tuesday, Gottlieb announced further reforms to streamline the experimental treatment review process for patients and doctors. The FDA "believes difficult decisions about individual treatment are best made by patients with the support and guidance of their treating physicians," Gottlieb told the committee Tuesday.

Those welcome changes do not accomplish as much as a federal right to try law, in part because the FDA's statistics are something of an illusion. Gottlieb says the FDA accepts 99 percent of all applicants, ignoring how many patients don't bother going through the process in the first place.

About 500,000 Americans die of cancer each year, but the FDA receives only 1,200 applications from all terminally ill patients for its expanded access programs. The gap suggests a large number of patients who aren't asking for access to experimental drugs because they either don't know about the FDA's programs or don't care to navigate the system.

If nothing else, the recent groundswell of support for state-level right to try laws suggests the status quo isn't working for many patients.

Advocates for right to try also point out that the FDA has only gotten its act together because of pressure applied by the widespread adoption of right to try laws in the states. It wasn't until last year that the FDA announced it was creating a web portal to help guide patients through the expanded access application process. The website is only now being rolled out for public use.

"Shorter forms and hand-holding bureaucrats don't fix the system's fundamental flaw," Christina Sandefur, vice president of the Goldwater Institute, told Reason via email in response to Gottlieb's comments Tuesday. "It requires dying patients who have exhausted all government-approved options to beg the government for permission to obtain treatment to save their lives."



Abusive gerrymandering can be stopped, but not by judges

Jeff Jacoby

Two of the oldest traditions in US political history are at the heart of Gill v. Whitford, a case now before the Supreme Court.

One of those traditions is gerrymandering — the mapping of legislative districts so that they become one-party monopolies. The other tradition is condemning such mapmaking as a cancer on American democracy.

Lawmakers have been manipulating election maps to their political advantage from the Republic's earliest days. When Elbridge Gerry (signer of the Declaration of Independence, delegate to the Constitutional Convention) was governor of Massachusetts in 1812, his allies drew the state's congressional lines to favor their party, the Republican-Democrats, stacking the deck against the opposition Federalists. Infuriated Federalists blasted the map's ungainly new districts, especially one in Essex County that resembled a salamander. A cartoonist drew it with wings and claws, and the "gerry-mander" was born.

Both parties engage in gerrymandering when it suits their interests; both parties denounce gerrymandering when it thwarts those interests. In 1987, President Ronald Reagan inveighed against the partisan cartography of California Democrats, who had "so rigged the electoral process that the will of the people cannot be heard." In the latest election, Reagan complained, Republican candidates had gotten most of the votes, yet Democrats won most of the seats.

The identical complaint, with the parties reversed, is at play in the current case. After the 2010 Census, the GOP majority in Wisconsin's legislature gerrymandered state assembly districts so effectively that, in the 2012 elections, Republicans won 60 percent of the seats despite drawing only 48.6 percent of the votes.

There is agreement across the board that gerrymandering is a bipartisan sin, one that has only grown worse with modern computer-aided algorithms and mapping software. The damage gerrymandering does to democratic accountability — to the people's right to choose their representatives — is widely resented. Polls consistently show that majorities of voters think legislative maps drawn by legislators are unfair.

Partisan gerrymanders are a large part of the reason contemporary politics have grown so toxic. As Senators John McCain and Sheldon Whitehouse argue in a friend-of-the-court brief, the proliferation of ultrasafe legislative seats has led "to a more polarized and dysfunctional political climate. In safe districts, an incumbent's biggest threat is often a primary challenge from a more extreme member of his or her own party. This threat makes legislators reluctant to work across the aisle and support bipartisan legislation."

Thanks to hyperpartisan redistricting, competitive elections for the House of Representatives have largely disappeared. About 90 percent of incumbents are routinely reelected. The average margin of victory is around 65 percent. Gerrymandering has made a sham of most congressional elections. Whatever else the House of Representatives is, it isn't representative.

The malady is easy to diagnose. The remedy is a different matter.

The plaintiffs in Gill are asking the Supreme Court to declare overly partisan redistricting unconstitutional, on the grounds that it deprives voters of the equal protection guaranteed by the 14th Amendment. Heretofore, the court has resisted such pleas, considering it improper for the judiciary to insert itself into partisan skirmishing. In Justice Felix Frankfurter's formulation, "Courts ought not to enter this political thicket." That is still sound advice.

Yes, redistricting is noxious. Yes, it makes American politics worse. But not every problem is one that courts can solve. The Constitution explicitly, and wisely, leaves the details of organizing congressional elections to the political branches: "The Times, Places, and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations."

Political gerrymandering should be replaced with a fairer system. But it's up to the states and Congress, not judges, to make that happen. Judicial confirmation battles are already bruising and unpleasant. Imagine how much uglier they will become if judges become the arbiters of whether political maps are too, er, political.

The best alternative to gerrymandering is to take redistricting away from politicians and entrust it to an independent commission. It isn't an impossible dream: Three states (California, Arizona, and Iowa) already use such commissions. If voters elsewhere really object to gerrymandering — not just when pollsters ask about it — they have the power to force change. Let the pressure for reform grow sufficiently acute and abusive mapmaking will be curtailed. But that pressure has to come from below. This is a political ill, to be healed by political means.



A Tale of Two Budgets

This week, the House is voting on a Fiscal Year 2018 budget while at the same time the Senate is debating its own version – and there are a number of stark differences. The following is a statement from Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget:

For all the years of GOP lawmakers calling for balanced budgets, at least on paper, the House budget would reach balance, while the Senate budget would not.

The House also expedites an important down payment on deficit reduction by calling for over $200 billion in spending cuts from reconciliation. That’s not enough, but far more than the Senate’s minimum target of $1 billion in savings. Yes, one.

The House budget also expedites tax reform that does not add to the debt – the clearly stated past goal of the President's budget, Republican leaders, and the White House – while the Senate budget allows for $1.5 trillion in additional borrowing. (Just to restate that, the Senate would allow $1.5 trillion in tax cuts and asks for only $1 billion in spending cuts.)

Both budgets rely on vastly overstated economic growth numbers, but the Senate budget includes those assumptions in a way that will actually make the debt worse.

No independent economist or forecaster anywhere is predicting the kind of sustained economic growth that would be necessary for tax cuts to be self-financing, and Congressional leaders should not be banking on it as policy. In fact, tax cuts that add to the debt will suppress economic growth, not unleash it.

If the current Senate GOP budget – or anything close to it – becomes our fiscal roadmap, no person supporting it will be able to claim to be a fiscal conservative or supporter of fiscal responsibility.

The House budget, on the other hand, paves the way for more responsible, revenue-neutral tax reform accompanied by at least some mandatory spending reductions that are a down payment on fiscal responsibility.

If lawmakers are unwilling to pass a budget that would truly put our debt on a downward path and address both tax and major entitlement reform, Members of Congress should at least reject adding trillions to the national debt on massively exaggerated promises of economic growth and take an approach that more closely resembles the House budget.

Media release from Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL 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 THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

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


Thursday, October 05, 2017

Isis savagery horrifies Taliban fighters in Tora Bora

Osama bin Laden’s cave hideout has become the setting for an unlikely alliance

Gunfire still rolls across Tora Bora’s caves, long after peace should have come to this corner of Afghanistan. The conflict continues unabated, but today it is an Islamic State rearguard defending the ridge lines and peaks.

“Bin Laden may have gone but the ideological machinery is still in place,” Brigadier Nasim Sangin, a commander with the Afghan National Army’s (ANA) 201st Corps, said at the site of an al-Qaeda shrine below Tora Bora. He stared up into the peaks as sporadic bursts of machinegun fire echoed back and forth along the valley sides. “Unless you can remove that, and its sanctuary in Pakistan, then there will never be peace here.”

His troops have been fighting Isis in the mountains of Nangarhar province, abutting Pakistan, since the terrorist group arrived here three years ago after defeating the local Taliban fighters in a bloody turf war.

In July Brigadier Sangin’s soldiers succeeded in checking their advance and then driving them back from the lowlands below the Suleiman Khel valley — better known by its Pashto name Tora Bora, meaning “black caves” — and into the valley. Yet the ANA advance ground to a halt, leaving Isis fighters straddling a key supply route over a five-mile stretch of the Tora Bora valley all the way across the mountains into Pakistan.

“I have been stuck here for three months,” Brigadier Sangin growled as dusk fell. “My brigade have been scattered on operations across three different provinces and I haven’t got enough men to take these peaks and caves and drive Isis back over the border.”

Isis has been heavily diminished by US airstrikes, special forces raids and Afghan army operations, as well as by its battles with the Taliban, but it has defied complete defeat in Afghanistan. Its presence has caused a paradigm shift in the allegiances of regional, international and local actors in the war; the latest era of the “Great Game” — the historical confrontation over Afghanistan between Britain and Russia.

The Russians withdrew from the country in 1989 after a failed war, but since Isis’s appearance in Afghanistan they have started financing and equipping the Taliban, allegedly as a check against Isis encroachment into the Muslim population in its own central Asian sphere of interest.

“Russia’s support of the Taliban is materiel and financial,” an American official in Kabul, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Times this week. “They are concerned about the migration of Isis and believe that the Taliban can block that, though we think it’s a false narrative and is really part of a dual-track policy to give the Russians an inroad with whichever power is in place pending a peace one day.”

Iran, another historical enemy of the Taliban, has also increased its support, partly to contain the spread of Islamic State westwards toward its border but also to undermine American influence in the country.

The Taliban fighters on the plain below Tora Bora have agreed an informal local armistice with the Afghan army, allowing it to turn its guns on Isis, their common enemy.

“I fought the Russians, I have fought the communists, I have fought the foreigners but believe me, the Daesh [Isis] are the worst enemy of all,” said Mira Khan, a Taliban commander in the village of Nasir Khel, below Tora Bora. He handed himself and seven of his fighters over to Brigadier Sangin’s troops four weeks ago under the terms of an amnesty conditional to his service against Isis. “At least the Taliban just shoot their enemies. The Daesh chopped some of my men and family into quarters and left them scattered along the valley so we could never retrieve them.”

He claimed to have seen an Isis sniper with two prosthetic legs who had been carried to his position on a mule. “He fought and died using just his hands and eyes, with no thought of escape,” he said. “We have never seen such savagery.”

Afghan officers said that the local armistice with the Taliban did not reflect any broader change in their operations in Nangarhar. “The Taliban didn’t have much choice but to let us through their area,” Brigadier Sangin added. “They had already been beaten by Isis and the locals were begging us for help.”

Nevertheless, it was an uneasy feeling driving through the hardcore Taliban zone on the approaches to Tora Bora with a column of Afghan troops. “When things change here, they change fast,” a soldier told me, pointing to a Taliban flag that flew from a roadside tree.

The ANA’s casualties fighting in the region have been heavy. Earlier in the summer the brigadier lost 16 troops in a single Isis night attack on one of his outposts. “I received a panicked radio call from the company commander shouting ‘they are inside the compound and upon us’, and that was it,” he said. “It was all over in ten minutes. The entire post overrun, my men dead and Isis disappeared back into the night.”

The jihadists’ casualties have been far higher than the army’s. ANA intelligence intercepts from conversations between Isis commanders in Afghanistan and a logistics headquarters in Landi Kotal, a town on the western edge of the Khyber Pass in Pakistan, recorded 1,264 deaths in Nangarhar province last year and 760 in the first six months of this year.

US officers in Afghanistan claim to have killed more than half of all Isis fighters in the area since launching their campaign against them, and to have reduced the jihadists’ area of control by two thirds. The dead include each of the first three Isis leaders in the region. American officials say that the group’s latest nomination for the role of emir in Afghanistan has been sent to Syria for approval, where it is under review by Islamic State’s leadership council.

“There is an existing line of communication between Isis in Afghanistan and Isis main in Syria,” a US official involved with the operation against Isis said. “The response time gets longer and longer, reflecting the degradation of Isis in Syria and Iraq.”

US officials and Afghan intelligence officers share concerns that, despite the many casualties and setbacks on the battlefield, Isis has reverted to a new campaign of covert recruitment across Afghanistan and Pakistan, where Osama bin Laden was killed in Abbottabad in 2011.

“We believe the Daesh still has nearly 1,900 men in Nangarhar, though the Americans estimate only 1,000,” an Afghan military intelligence officer said. “Their funding lines appear to remain intact, so they recruit heavily in Pakistan’s tribal areas and send them over here to replace their casualties.”

Standing by a shrine to four of Bin Laden’s fighters — remarkable among the scree-strewn slopes for the tall rock headstones and totem poles adorned by local women with brightly coloured cloths and trinkets — Brigadier Sangin cocked his head to the sound of a new burst of shooting from the shadows of Tora Bora.

“If I just get my scattered battalions back from their other operations,” he murmured ruefully. “If I could just get enough men, then I could get up the valley and annihilate the Daesh all the way to the Pakistan border before the snow comes in six weeks and I can’t move.”



When Life Gives You Paul Ryan, Make Lemonade


It is now clear that Republicans are incapable of giving us a free market in health insurance, so it continues to be illegal in America to buy health plans that don’t cover shrinks, domestic violence counseling and HIV screening, and perhaps always shall be.

But there are still other good things Republicans can do!

First, for fun, Republicans ought to request a Congressional Budget Office score of Obamacare. The GOP’s various replacement bills have been pilloried over their CBO scorings, showing, for example, that if given a choice, up to 20 million Americans would voluntarily choose not to buy health insurance in the year 2026. The horror.

Hey, does anybody remember how the Democrats “scored” Obamacare?

I do! Democrats gamed the numbers given to the CBO by asking it to score the first 10 years of a bill that collected taxes for 10 years, but only started paying out benefits in the last six years.

On the basis of that accounting trick, the Democrats spent months hectoring Republicans who refused to vote for the bill, saying they were against SAVING THE TAXPAYERS MONEY. Yes — we’d be SAVING MONEY by providing health care for all, especially transgenders and illegals.

Now that both parts of Obamacare are in place — the money coming in and the money going out — how about asking the CBO to score the real Obamacare?

Second, where are the hearings? The usual complaint with Republicans is that they’re all talk, no action. But when it comes to Obamacare, it’s the reverse: The GOP is all action, no talk.

I pay attention to politics. Have there been hearings I’ve missed? Republicans seem to think the Tea Party did all their work for them, so why bother losing friends by holding hearings to demonstrate what a catastrophe Obamacare is?

No, that’s not how it works. The public needs to be educated on the destruction Obamacare has wrought. Apparently, so do members of Congress, having exempted themselves from experiencing Obamacare the way the rest of us do.

Millions of Americans have been thrown off their insurance plans. Or they’re getting the exact same plan they had in 2009 — at 10 times the price. Or their so-called health insurance isn’t accepted by any English-speaking doctors.

Republicans need to put faces to Americans being whipsawed by astronomical premiums along with enormous deductibles, all to pay for useless health insurance.

We want to hear from anguished doctors whose patients are only allowed to buy plans that no longer cover anything they actually need, and can’t pay the bill when emergencies force them to seek medical care anyway.

Third and finally, if Trump wants a win, how about medical malpractice reform? That’s a fix that will instantly cut at least 20 percent off the cost of everyone’s health care.

Republicans can say, With zero support from the Democrats, we can’t pass any decent replacement for Obamacare, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to stop trying to improve health care for all Americans.

The whole country has been screaming for malpractice reform for decades. Democrats know how repelled the public is by lawyers making millions of dollars from obscene jury awards, but, unfortunately, their party is joined at the hip to trial lawyers.

Shyster lawyers taking 50 percent “contingency fees” off their lottery-style winnings have made health care not only a lot more expensive, but also unbelievably annoying. Patients are forced to take medicine that’s bad for them and sit in doctors’ offices waiting for pointless tests — all because the doctor doesn’t want to get sued.

The GOP should have a gigantic photo of John Edwards on display throughout the hearings. The former North Carolina senator made more than $30 million pushing a theory that we now know was bogus science. It’s as if all Edwards’ legal victories depended on the Earth being flat.

As a result of his since-disproven claim that cerebral palsy was caused by a doctor’s failure to perform a C-section, getting pregnant now is more dangerous, as doctors are forced to perform more of these riskier surgeries or stop delivering babies altogether.

“She speaks to you through me, and I have to tell you right now … I feel her. I feel her presence. She’s inside me, and she’s talking to you.” — Actual quote from attorney John Edwards to a jury of illiterates in 1985.

Let doctors testify about having to go out of business, drop practices and perform needless surgeries and tests — for the sole purpose of avoiding lawsuits.

Lawyers’ PACs will spend gobs of money fighting any limits whatsoever on malpractice suits, but so what? They’ll have a lot less money to spend against Republicans in the future. (And it might distract them from trying to bring terrorists into the country!) Even if Republicans lose, the price of Democrats going to bat for these hilarious ambulance chasers would be worth it.

If decent health insurance is off the table, we should at least demand that Republicans entertain us.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL 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 THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

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


Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Envy of success

A nice looking couple from a wealthy background get married but they reveal too much of their privileged background in the wedding announcement.  In an envious world I suppose that was crass but they were just doing what was normal for them.  And why should they hide their background? Their announcement has however attracted much criticism

Envious people could perhaps reflect on John F. Kennedy Jr., a very privileged person  who married a privileged lady, Carolyn Bessette.  They became the focus of society attention, including being invited to the White House by Bill Clinton. So they surpassed the couple below in social success.  But, like many of his class, Kennedy owned a light plane that he liked to fly. On  July 16, 1999, Kennedy crashed it, killing both of them.  Carolyn was only 33 at the time.  Light planes are always dangerous and Kennedy was probably coked up when he crashed it so "privilege" is not always what it seems, is it?

Imagine the distress of Carolyn's parents -- to have seen their beautiful daughter taken to the heights of social eminence, only to die young without even leaving the consolation of a child

THERE’S a specific type of upper class New Yorker who gets their wedding announced in the New York Times. They’re usually white, blonde, Ivy League educated and very, very rich.

Grace Hays Holcomb du Pont and Conor Jackson Sutherland — yep, those are their real names — fit those criteria perfectly. She’s a teacher and he’s an investment banker.

They were married on Saturday and their hilariously obnoxious and out of touch wedding announcement in the Times went viral on the weekend.

“Nothing at all elitist about them. Just your average Americans, offspring of ordinary hardworking billionaires, falling in love and deciding to walk through life hand-in-hand together,” wrote one Facebook commenter.

Another declared it, “The greatest white person wedding announcement of all time.”

The announcement:

Grace du Pont, Conor Sutherland

Grace Hays Holcomb du Pont was married Sept. 30 to Conor Jackson Sutherland in Manhattan. The Rev. J. Donald Waring performed the ceremony at Grace Episcopal Church. The bride and groom both graduated from Princeton, she cum laude and he magna cum laude.

Mrs. Sutherland, 26, was until Thursday at Achievement First Apollo Middle School, a charter school in Brooklyn, where she worked on special projects as a member of the operations team. From 2012 to 2014, she taught sixth-grade science with Teach for America at Ranson Middle School in Charlotte, N.C. She also received a master’s degree in teaching from the University of North Carolina, Charlotte.

She is a daughter of Jean Young du Pont and Pierre S. du Pont V of Tarrytown, N.Y. The bride’s father is a partner, in Manhattan, at HPM Partners, an investment and wealth management firm. Her mother was until 2016 the president and chief executive of the Garden Conservancy, an organization in Garrison, N.Y., and is now a legal, strategic and development consultant. The bride is a descendant of Éleuthère Irénée du Pont, the founder of what is now known as the DuPont Company. She is also a granddaughter of Pierre S. du Pont IV of Rockland, Del., who was the governor of Delaware from 1977 to 1985, and is a great-great-granddaughter of Llewellyn Powers, who was the governor of Maine from 1897 to 1901.

Mr. Sutherland, 30, helps buy, manage and sell companies in the portfolio at Apollo Global Management, an investment firm in Manhattan.

He is the son of Denise Jackson Sutherland of Glen Cove, N.Y., and the late Donald J. Sutherland. His mother was a principal dancer with the Joffrey Ballet in Manhattan from 1969 to 1986, and served from 1987 to 2014 as a trustee of the Professional Children’s School in New York. His father was the founder and chief executive of Quincy Partners, a leveraged buyout firm that was in Glen Head, N.Y.

The couple dated at Princeton, but had met a few years earlier, in 2007, in North Haven, Me., when Ms. du Pont offered a ride to Mr. Sutherland and a friend, whom Ms. du Pont knew. The two men had just moored their sailboat and were preparing for a long row back to the dock, whereas she was piloting her family’s motorized tender. They took the ride.


Some wisdom from ancient times summarizes the matter: "Envy not the glory and riches of a sinner: for thou knowest not what his ruin shall be". (Sirach 9:16, Douay)


Trump and the Pax Americana

Tom Switzer

After July's G20 summit in Hamburg, the ABC's Chris Uhlmann remarked that President Trump cast an "uneasy, lonely, awkward figure" who had "pressed fast forward on the decline of the United States as the global leader." The television clip went viral online. But was Uhlmann right?

It is certainly true Donald Trump has unnerved many people around the world. His strident 'America First' campaign rhetoric, taken together with his decisions to withdraw the U.S. from both the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Paris climate accords, raised doubts about the Pax Americana. The U.S. is also bogged down in a crisis of confidence, exacerbated by its toxic polarisation and hyper-partisan political culture.

But it is also true Trump has reaffirmed the security alliances with Japan, South Korea and Australia in Asia, Israel and the Saudi-led Sunni Gulf states in the Middle East and -- albeit grudgingly -- NATO in Europe. So much for withdrawing the U.S. from the world. Nor has he imposed the 45% tariffs on China or 30% tariffs on Mexico that would have pushed the global economy into recession.

Although the U.S. will not command the kind of strategic and economic pre-eminence it has held since the 1940s -- a trend  Richard Nixon recognised as early as the early 1970s -- America will remain the most powerful state in the world for the foreseeable future.

America has the largest and the most technologically superior military in the world. It has the most diverse and technologically advanced economy. Global tech platforms, such as Google, Microsoft and Facebook, are used by more than a billion people. All dominate their respective markets; all are American.

America is demographically vibrant: its fertility rates surpass those of its competitors Japan, Europe and China. It has transformed itself into an energy superpower: the shale gas 'fracking' revolution means energy self-sufficiency and independence.

To be sure, a clash is taking place between Trump (who is apparently attacking the liberal international order) and U.S. foreign-policy elites (who champion American global leadership). In the meantime, as the University of Chicago's John Mearsheimer has argued, this produces an American foreign policy that is discombobulated and hard to understand. That unnerves allies.

If the U.S. is committed to keeping in check a rising China -- the only true rising hegemon capable of destabilising regional order and American primacy -- it needs a president who is thinking strategically and working closely with regional allies. But that is not happening, because Trump is widely perceived as a loose cannon and strikingly ignorant of the world -- a potentially deadly combination.



The Leftmedia Love Affair With Totalitarianism

The New York Times is praising Mao Zedong for his "progress" with feminism, while ignoring his genocide.

One of the greatest benefits of living in the U.S. is the constitutional protections of individual rights and freedoms that all Americans enjoy. But it is precisely those individual rights and freedoms that place limits on officials within government. The Left views such limits to government as socially problematic rather than beneficial. Witness the growing sentiment among college and university students who are actively questioning the value of freedom of speech — not only questioning it, but even calling for it to be prevented, with violence if necessary. For these social “justice” crusaders, individual freedom should always be subservient to collectivist “progressive” values.

It is in such a climate as this that one of the primary Demo/MSM propaganda fronts, The New York Times, is promoting communism (overtly this time), in a series of praise articles including, “When Communism Inspired Americans,” “Why Women Had Better Sex Under Socialism” and “The Little Red Book for Children.” This series, highlighting the “glory days” of communism, omits references to the countless millions of civilian men, women and children who were murdered or starved under these regimes.

The latest entry in this series purports to portray how women fared under Red China’s communist regime, asserting, “The communist revolution taught Chinese women to dream big.” When it was not slaughtering them and their children, that is. It praises China’s former totalitarian strongman Mao Zedong for his efforts in promoting feminism. The author, Helen Gao, is an American of Chinese descent, and she writes glowingly of her grandmother’s opportunity to work as a journalist during the early days of the “People’s” Republic. A brief side note here. To have been a journalist at that time in China, Gao’s grandmother would have been obligated to spout Communist Party propaganda without freedom of the press protections Gao herself enjoys here in the good old U.S.A. But we digress.

Seeking to somehow dispel the obvious objections readers might raise regarding her willingness to praise the vision and efforts of a murderous tyrant responsible for the deaths of 45 million of his own people, Gao quotes her grandmother’s saying, “The communists did many terrible things, but they made women’s lives much better.” There — problem solved. Noting the absurdity, one humorist responded, “NYT next week: For all its flaws, Hitler’s Nazi movement brought healthy vegetarian meal planning to the Reich.” Except, of course, the NYT doesn’t like to highlight that the Nazis were also socialists.

Notably, this latest example of the NYT’s communist dezinformatsiya campaign comes in the midst of nuclear threats from Red China’s nuclear puppet — NoKo’s communist nut Kim Jong-un. Move on, nothing to see here!



DOJ files suit against company for allegedly not hiring Americans

The Department of Justice announced Thursday it has filed a lawsuit against a Colorado corporation for allegedly discriminating against U.S. workers.

The complaint alleges that in 2016, Crop Production discriminated against at least three United States citizens by refusing to employ them as seasonal technicians in El Campo, Texas, because Crop Production preferred to hire temporary foreign workers under the H-2A visa program.

“In the spirit of President Trump’s Executive Order on Buy American and Hire American, the Department of Justice will not tolerate employers who discriminate against U.S. workers because of a desire to hire temporary foreign visa holders,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. “…

Where there is a job available, U.S. workers should have a chance at it before we bring in workers from abroad.”

This is the first complaint filed stemming from the “Protecting U.S. Workers Initiative,” which was launched on March 1.

A Civil Rights Division official told Fox News that since the initiative’s launch, the division has opened 29 investigations of “potential discrimination against U.S. workers based on a hiring preference for foreign visa workers.”

DOJ officials also told Fox News the department has reached at least one settlement with a company discriminating against U.S. workers in favor of foreign visa workers, and distributed over $100,000.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL 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 THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

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


Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Stupid Spanish machismo bad for their future

The face of modern Spain

Machismo is a personality disorder common in peri-Mediterranean lands.  It arises from the fact that most societies there are  mother-dominated or grandmother dominated.  The women concerned propagandize their sons about how much the sons owe them and insist that the sons act as "Mamma" requires.  Israel is of course a Mediterranean country and Yiddisher Mammas are well known for acting that way.  The Sheldons and Irvings of the world, however, seem to have better ways of establishing their independence and self-esteem rather than going macho.

Machismo is exaggerated displays of masculinity, toughness and  strength.  It is designed to deny that you are a "Momma's boy"  and assert your masculinity. So macho men are quick to take offence at any perceived slight.

And the Madrid government is lamentably and foolishly macho -- presumably reflecting what Spaniards tend to vote for. The folly of their approach is most easily seen in the case of Gibraltar.  It seems to be perceived by them as a wound in the body of the nation, a slight to their manliness.  So they never cease demanding that Britain cede it to them.

But they unintentionally make it easy for Britain to deny that.  The first step in "recovering" Gibraltar should surely be to get Gibraltarians on side.  Spain should make nice to Gibraltarians in every possible way, including substantial special concessions such as reduced taxes.  So does Madrid do that?  No way! They go out of their way to make life difficult on Gibraltar.  So, when given a vote on the matter, something like 98% of Gibraltarians voted to remain part of Britain.

And the shocking treatment of Catalans during their independence referendum described below is another example of stupidity inspired by machismo.

There were once some less emotional Catalans who saw advantage in remaining part of Spain.  And given a proper opportunity for discussion, they might have been in the majority.

Consider how Britain treated the call for Scottish independence.  Instead of trying to suppress a referendum they called one and enabled a proper and peaceful democratic discussion of the matter in Scotland. And despite the long-standing and vociferous calls for independence in Scotland, how did the vote turn out?  The majority of Scots voted to stay in the UK! Had Spain treated the Catalans as resctfully as the Scots were treated, the Catalan question might by now have been resolved in Spain's favour.  But brute force rather than respectful discussion is the macho way

So what will happen now?  Anti-Spanish attitudes in Catalonia will have become rock-solid and virtually universal.  And perceiving themselves as oppressed by Spain, Catalans will go down the well-trodden way to express that feeling:  Terrorism. Spain will soon have a fresh lot of domestic terrorists to deal with.  Clever!

Catalan officials claimed 90% of 2.2million voters had called for independence in an 'illegal' referendum blighted by violent scenes which left at least 888 people injured.

World leaders condemned the brutal scenes after officials revealed that hundreds of protesters have been injured so far.

Officers were seen stamping and kicking protesters as they stormed buildings and seized ballot boxes.

Footage captured in the village of Sarria de Ter in the province of Girona showed authorities using an axe to smash down the doors of a polling station where Catalan president Carles Puigdemont was due to cast his vote.

He said the region had won the right to become an independent state with the referendum results due in a few days.

And in Barcelona, the region's capital, officers fired rubber bullets at thousands of protesters demonstrating against their votes being denied.

Boris Johnson condemned the violent clashes but said that the UK saw the vote as unconstitutional.

The Foreign Secretary said: 'We are obviously worried by any violence but clearly the referendum, as I understand it, is not constitutional so a balance needs to be struck. We hope very much that things will calm down.'

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn earlier called on Theresa May to intervene with the Spanish government over the police crackdown.

Mr Corbyn condemned the 'shocking police violence' being used as he tweeted: 'I urge Theresa May to appeal directly to Rajoy to end police violence in Catalonia & find political solution to this constitutional crisis.'

Pope Francis also urged Europeans not to fear unity and to put aside nationalistic and other self-interests during a speech in Bologna in Italy.

He did not mention the police violence during Catalonia's independence referendum - but in a speech to university students, he recalled that the European Union was borne out of the ashes of war to guarantee peace.

He warned that conflicts and other interests were now threatening those founding ideals.

Francis said: 'Don't be afraid of unity! May special interests and nationalism not render the courageous dreams of the founders of the European Union in vain.'

Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon – who has campaigned for independence for Scotland – tweeted: 'Some of the scenes in Catalonia are quite shocking and surely unnecessary. Just let people vote.'

European leaders also voiced their disquiet over the degree of violence used, and called for dialogue between regional and national leaders.

Belgian prime minister Charles Michel tweeted: 'Violence can never be the answer. We condemn all forms of violence and reaffirm our call for political dialogue.'

Spain's Prime Minister claimed the Catalonian referendum had been prevented amid the scenes of violent chaos across the country.

And tens of thousands of fans were banned from attending FC Barcelona's football match with Las Palmas in a protest against the violence.

Spain's Constitutional Court has suspended the referendum and the central government says it is illegal.

But regional separatist leaders pledged to hold it anyway and called on the area's 5.3million eligible voters to show up to cast their ballots. They later said 90-% of 2.2million voters had opted for an independent Catalonia.

Mr Puidgemont condemned the Spanish government's crackdown. He said: 'Police brutality will shame forever the Spanish state.'

But the Spanish deputy prime minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría said officers in Catalonia are acting 'in a proportionate manner'. She added that the Catalan government 'has behaved with absolute irresponsibility' by going ahead with the referendum.

Shocking footage from Barcelona shows police officers throwing voters down a flight of stairs and stamping on people as they raid a polling station.

FC Barcelona condemned the violence on the streets as it announced that its game today would be 'played behind closed doors'.

The club has long supported Catalonia's right for a vote on independence, without throwing its weight behind the yes or no camp.

It said in a statement: 'FC Barcelona condemns the events which have taken part in many parts of Catalonia today in order to prevent its citizens exercising their democratic right to free expression.

'Given the exceptional nature of events the Board of Directors have decided that the FC Barcelona first team game against Las Palmas will be played behind closed doors following the Professional Football League's refusal to postpone the game.'

The club's president Josep Maria Bartomeu said: 'It wasn't done for security, the security was guaranteed.  'We have done it behind closed doors so that everyone can see our opposition at what is happening.'

This morning in Barcelona, police forcefully removed a few hundred would-be voters from a polling station at a school.

Daniel Riano was inside when the police busted in the building's front door.

The 54-year-old said: 'We were waiting inside to vote when the National Police used force to enter, they used a mace to break in the glass door and they took everything.

'One policeman put me in a headlock to drag me out, while I was holding my wife's hand. It was incredible. They didn't give any warning.'

Ferran Miralles said a crowd scuffled with police outside as they formed a tight perimeter around the door. Miralles said: 'They were very aggressive. They pushed me out of the way.'

Elsewhere in the city, police arrested several people outside the Treball voting centre amid scuffles on the street. Officers dragged some of the protesters away and detained them.



Trump's consistency over time

AN 18-YEAR-OLD newspaper clipping featuring Donald Trump, Bill and Hillary Clinton and even Al Gore has been unearthed by an internet sleuth — and much of it could have been written today.

North Korean nuclear weapons, dodgy Clinton donations and Mr Trump’s hands-on negotiation style all get a mention in the clipping from the 1 November 1999 edition of Wisconsin newspaper The Oshkosh Northwestern, which was discovered by Reddit user PresidentJohnMiller.

“It’s amazing how nothing has changed in the last 18 years,” they wrote.

The full-page “News Makers” section features a brief on Mr Trump, who at the time was considering a run for president as the Reform Party nominee, titled “Trump would be US trade rep”.

“Donald Trump said Sunday that as president, he personally would handle US trade talks and would restore respect from countries doing business with America,” it reads, adding that Mr Trump “took aim at North Korea and China for ignoring US overtures and building nuclear weapons” and “branded Cuba’s Fidel Castro as ‘absolutely a killer and should be treated as such’”.

If nothing else, the clipping highlights Mr Trump’s consistency.

As president, the billionaire has taken a hands-on approach to what he describes as “bad deals” including the Paris Climate Accord, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the North American Free Trade Agreement.

In November, the president-elect was one of the first world leaders to respond to the death of the Cuban dictator, tweeting simply “Fidel Castro is dead!”, before describing him in a statement as a “brutal dictator” whose legacy was one of “firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights”.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL 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 THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

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


Monday, October 02, 2017

Russian Collusion?

We keep being told that President Trump is not normal. This much has been blindingly obvious. He had never run for office or otherwise served in a public capacity. He has been accused, not without reason, of breaking all manner of political norms. America’s most nontraditional president was never going to conduct business as usual from the West Wing. Less than a year into his first term, he has already caused much anguish in Washington. This should be no surprise—while running for office Trump repeatedly promised to “drain the swamp” and shake things up. Americans knew who they were voting for, and history will judge the results.

That said, Trump’s nascent presidency has coincided with perhaps the greatest violation of political norms this country has ever seen—a violation that has nothing to do with Trump’s behavior. Since the election last November, there has been a sustained, coordinated attack on Trump’s legitimacy as president following his victory in a free and fair election. This has the potential to cause far more lasting damage to America than Trump’s controversial style.

Democratic operatives and their media allies attempted to explain Trump’s victory with a claim they had failed to make stick during the general election: Trump had nefarious ties to Russia. This was a fertile area for allegations, if for no other reason than that Trump had been reluctant to express criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin. By contrast, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton repeatedly condemned Russia’s 2011 elections, saying they were “neither free nor fair” and expressing “serious concerns” about them. She publicly called for a full investigation while meeting with top Russian officials. This made Putin livid. “Mr. Putin said that hundreds of millions of dollars in ‘foreign money’ was being used to influence Russian politics, and that Mrs. Clinton had personally spurred protesters to action,” The New York Times reported.

Trump’s relationship with Putin was decidedly different. In December 2015, Putin called Trump “a really brilliant and talented person.” Trump replied: “It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.” He added, “I have always felt that Russia and the United States should be able to work well with each other towards defeating terrorism and restoring world peace, not to mention trade and all of the other benefits derived from mutual respect.”

Then rumors surfaced in the summer of 2016 that Russia probably had something to do with the alleged hack of the Democratic National Committee email system, as well as the successful “phishing” of Democratic insider John Podesta’s inbox. Russia was also alleged to have tried to hack the Republican National Committee, but without success. It remained an open question whether the Russians were trying to help Trump or were simply trying to create chaos in the election. Regardless, these Democratic Party emails were published by WikiLeaks, and they confirmed what many critics had said about Clinton and the DNC—the DNC had engineered the primary to ensure a Clinton victory; the Clinton campaign had cozy, borderline unethical relations with members of the mainstream media; Clinton expressed private positions to Wall Street banks that were at odds with her public positions; and various other embarrassing details indicating her campaign was in disarray.

According to Shattered, a well-sourced book about the Clinton campaign written by sympathetic reporters, Clinton settled on a Russia excuse within twenty-four hours of her concession speech. [Campaign manager Robby] Mook and Podesta assembled her communications team at the Brooklyn headquarters to engineer the case that the election wasn’t entirely on the up-and-up. For a couple of hours, with Shake Shack containers littering the room, they went over the script they would pitch to the press and the public. Already, Russian hacking was the centerpiece of the argument.

The Russian collusion story involves a lot of details, but there are two basic tactics that Trump’s enemies have used to push the narrative: they have put seemingly innocuous contacts with Russians under a microscope, and they have selectively touted details supplied by a politicized intelligence apparatus. And this has all been amplified by a media that has lost perspective and refuses to be impartial, much less accurate.

Meetings with Russians
If most of us can now agree that Putin’s Russia is a potential threat to the United States, we shouldn’t forget that the Washington establishment regarded this as a radical opinion not so long ago. Shortly after President Obama was elected in 2008, Time magazine ran a cover with him asking a Russian bear, “Can we be friends?” The media generally celebrated Secretary of State Clinton’s attempt at a Russian “reset” in 2009. Obama was later caught on a hot mic promising Putin more “flexibility” once he was reelected. And during Obama’s reelection campaign in 2012, when his opponent Mitt Romney characterized Russia as our greatest geopolitical foe, Obama mocked him by saying, “The 1980s called. They want their foreign policy back.” The New York Times editorial page said of Romney’s Russia comments that they “display either a shocking lack of knowledge about international affairs or just craven politics. Either way, they are reckless and unworthy of a major presidential contender.”

Trump’s election changed all that. Not since the heyday of McCarthyism in the 1950s have so many in Washington been accused of consorting with Russians who wish to undermine American democracy.

More HERE 


Challenging the Racist Cops Myth

The real controversy should not be over those protesting the national anthem but the perpetuation of the racism myth.

NFL players kneeling in protest during the national anthem was a movement steadily gaining momentum. It suddenly exploded last weekend after Donald Trump called out the protesting players for disrespecting the American flag. Now the Leftmedia elite are blaming Trump for causing “division.” But the truth is Trump hit upon an issue that has become deeply offensive to many Americans: Multi-millionaires are protesting supposed injustice and racism in America that is simply not backed up by the facts. Those protesting are demanding that Americans concede to accepting a reality that amounts to a lie. And what is that lie? That police across the nation are systemically racist against blacks. It’s the Democrat war on cops.

Any time an issue like racism is raised, it evokes high degrees of emotion and passion, because it hits at two fundamental truths. First, an individual has absolutely no control over their ethnicity; quite literally they are “born that way.” Second, people naturally gravitate toward and relate to those with whom they share the most in common. And neither of these truths are inherently wrong or evil. When these realities are raised as ultimate delimiters and primary identifiers between people, that’s when the ugly problem of racism emerges. In other words, friction happens when people are taught to attribute everything about themselves and others primarily to the lowest common denominator of race. For example, the reason you got in trouble was because you’re black, or the reason you got into a good school is because you are Asian, etc.

It is precisely this flawed race-based mindset that has been behind the current NFL anthem protests. When objectively looking at the actual data, an honest individual can easily see the flaw in these protesters’ objections. The truth is that police are not a bunch of racists running around seeking black men to kill or imprison.

In 2015, the number of individuals killed by police was 995. That’s out of a total population of 318 million people. Obviously, the bare fact that an individual was killed doesn’t tell the whole story, but of those killed only 90 were determined to be unarmed. Of those unarmed individuals killed only 4% were black men killed by white cops. In the vast majority of all police killings (three-quarters), law enforcement officers were confronted by individuals who were armed. One statistic often left out of the conversation is the number of police killed. In 2015, 124 out of an estimated 900,000 full-time federal, state and local officers lost their lives in the line of duty.

The objective data simply does not support the protesters’ message of a pandemic of racist cops. It is merely a popular myth perpetuated by those who ply their trade by convincing people that they are helpless victims and targets of some massively unjust society, especially the police.

Why is it that none of these NFL players or owners has the courage to actually stand up and challenge the lie that is being perpetuated? The greater problem is not players kneeling during the national anthem, it’s that no one is willing to step up and challenge the lie of systemic racism.



3 Proofs That the Conservative Movement Is Alive and Well

For those who think the conservative movement is in disarray and may be even close to cracking up, I call attention to three anniversaries being celebrated this week.

These three anniversaries reflect organizations that have made a significant difference in our politics and our culture for half a century: the Media Research Center, The American Spectator, and the Fund for American Studies.

Led by the irrepressible Brent Bozell, the Media Research Center is marking its 30th anniversary of exposing the left-wing bias of the mass media by the simplest of methods—using their own words to hoist them high.

At its annual Dishonors Awards dinner, the Media Research Center presented the hysterical reactions of the networks’ finest to Donald Trump’s presidential victory. In their apocalyptic analysis, anchors and reporters alike did everything but urge their viewers to renounce their citizenship and move to Canada or the Cayman Islands without delay.

Rush Limbaugh, the King of Talk Radio with a weekly listening audience of 20 million, revealed that he first heard of Bozell while reading him in National Review, which was all the accreditation he needed. About the mainstream media, Limbaugh was to the point: “They’re dead wrong. They’re dead stupid.”

Radio talk show host Mark Levin summed up the evening by describing MRC and Brent Bozell as “national treasures.”

For half a century, The American Spectator under the editorship of R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. has been slicing and dicing liberals and progressives like Bill and Hillary Clinton at the hands of accomplished polemicists like P. J. O’Rourke, Ben Stein, Patrick Buchanan, and Malcolm Muggeridge.

When others on the right hesitated, the Spectator welcomed neoconservatives like Irving Kristol to its pages. When the conservative movement waxed lackadaisical and split into factions following the Reagan years, Bob Tyrrell delivered a kick to its pants with his book, “The Conservative Crack-Up.”

A special favorite of the Spectator was The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page editor Robert Bartley, an adviser to the magazine at the time of his death in 2003. At this year’s anniversary gala, the Spectator honored Bartley and featured remarks by Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., chairman of the House Freedom Caucus; Stein; and humorist Greg Gutfeld, host of “The Greg Gutfeld Show” on Fox News.

The American Spectator has weathered financial storms and revolutionary changes in journalism, but is still publishing its Menckenesque insights into American politics—although now in digital rather than print form.

The academic empire of the 50-year-old Fund for American Studies, with its 11 institutes that span the globe from Washington, D.C., to Hong Kong, attest to the old saw that a good idea can have exceedingly good consequences.

In 1967, former New Jersey Gov. Charles Edison—the son of the famed inventor Thomas Alva Edison—recruited Dr. Walter H. Judd, youth leader David R. Jones, political consultant Marvin Liebman, and editor/author William F. Buckley Jr. to build a program that would educate college students in American government, politics, and economics.

The group approached Georgetown University professor Lev E. Dobriansky about sponsoring a summer institute on comparative and political and economic systems at his university. In 1970, 57 students attended the first institute.

Today, more than 1,000 students annually attend course credit programs at George Mason University in Washington, D.C., the Czech Republic, Hong Kong, and Chile. The programs cover economics and politics, political journalism, business and government affairs, philanthropy, and legal studies.

In addition, the fund sponsors other educational programs and conferences for students and professors throughout the year, including a 15-week academic and internship program each fall and spring in Washington, D.C., as well as the Walter H. Judd Freedom Award, presented annually to individuals who have advanced the cause of freedom in the United States and abroad.

Russian dissident and chess grand master Garry Kasparov will receive the 2017 Judd Award. The fund will also honor at its 50th anniversary banquet this year former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and Stephen Hayes, editor-in-chief of The Weekly Standard.

When we consider the manifold contributions of the Fund for American Studies, The American Spectator, and the Media Research Center over the years and reflect that they are but a part of the conservative movement, we can rest assured that the movement is alive and well and resolute in its goal to preserve ordered liberty in America, both for this generation and generations to come.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL 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 THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

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


Sunday, October 01, 2017

An earthquake in the Senate Tuesday night with Roy Moore win

The 2018 election map looks marvelous for Republicans. The Republicans only have to play defense in Nevada, and can put the Democrats on defense across the map. Out of the 25 Democrat-held Senate seats up for re-election, President Trump won ten of the states and lost two more by razor-thin margins. Surely the Republican Party is gearing up for a monumental election season. Surely the Republican elites are preparing to challenge Democrats in all twelve of those states. Surely the establishment is saving its money and wisely spending it to target Democrats. Lest we forget, these are D.C. Republicans?

On Tuesday, the Alabama electorate sent shockwaves through the Republican establishment elites of the nation. The underfunded challenger, Judge Roy Moore, soundly defeated the cash-rich incumbent, Sen. Luther Strange, in the Republican primary by over nine points. Strange didn’t just raise more money, he had the entire establishment behind him, including a few very powerful PACs.

The Senate Leadership Fund is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) personal PAC. For this race, it doled out over $7.9 million for Strange according to Issue One, a nonprofit that analyzes money spent on elections. In total, over $30 million was spent by outside groups and the RNC to re-elect the establishment incumbent. This begs the question, why would Republican-leaning groups spend millions in a Republican primary?

For some unknown reason, it was believed that Moore would have a tough time in the general election. This is the same man that was twice elected to the Alabama Supreme Court. This is also in a state that hasn’t elected a Democrat state-wide since 2008 and hasn’t elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1992.

Now that the primary is over, surely we can all get along?

The McConnell fund issued the following statement, “We are proud to have fought alongside President Trump and the NRA in support of a dedicated conservative who has loyally supported this President and his agenda. Senator Strange can hold his head high knowing that he played a critical role in cleaning up the corruption in Montgomery, confirming President Trump’s choice for the Supreme Court, and strongly supporting the President’s priorities on border security and repealing Obamacare. While we were honored to have fought hard for Big Luther, Judge Roy Moore won this nomination fair and square and he has our support, as it is vital that we keep this seat in Republican hands.”

Despite the statement of support, McConnell’s fund still has negative stories about Judge Moore on its website, so it’s kind of hard to take them seriously.

If McConnell does wish to be taken seriously, we can expect millions to be poured into the state for Moore. After all, according to leadership, it’s going to be a tight race.

Aside from wasting millions, Republican leadership now has another problem. Because McConnell went negative against fellow Republicans, the damage must now be undone. McConnell constantly pushed negative stories about Moore and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) from uber-liberal progressive news sources, in effect doing the work of the Democrats. McConnell attempted to poison the electorate to get the win. Now other PACs must come in behind leadership and spend money to rehab the image destroyed by the Republican elites.

At this point, donors have to be asking themselves, “Is my money being well spent?”

Aside from the race being a fiscal disaster for the Republican elites, the defeat has changed the landscape for the remaining incumbent Republican Senators.

In a statement, Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning blasted the development, saying, “Republican primary voters are sick of the do-nothing status quo which is leaving Obamacare intact, and sitting Republican Senators will face the brunt of this intraparty anger as we’ve already seen.”

Chris McDaniel is looking at Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Kelli Ward is looking at Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), and Danny Tarkanian is looking at Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.). Are Republican leaders willing to spend more money defending incumbent Senators from primaries in safe Republican seats than winning new seats?

The 2018 election map does look great for Republicans unless you are an incumbent. If an incumbent Senator is supported by McConnell and Republican leadership, that Senator is seen as part of the problem by the grassroots. The millions being doled out by leadership funds are seen as a signal to the base, that person is part of leadership. Republican leadership should recognize how their base feels about them and spend their money wisely. Concentrate on winning new seats, and let the primary process play itself out, otherwise, your one-million-dollar donation to an incumbent will do more harm than good.


Briefly: The GOP's tax framework

President Trump and congressional Republicans rolled out a sweeping tax overhaul proposal on Wednesday that won immediate praise from conservatives, uniting a party that had been divided over how to repeal ObamaCare.

Business groups and the far-right House Freedom Caucus both backed the GOP blueprint to slash business taxes and trim the number of individual tax rates as Republicans looked to quickly move on from another failure to repeal the health care law.

Trump and his congressional allies are salivating for a major legislative win after a year filled with losses and disappointments, most of them related to a failed effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare. Their new hope is tax reform, which on the surface at least offers plenty for Republicans to agree upon.

Trump, seeming more at ease discussing tax compared to health care, said the framework “represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reduce taxes, rebuild our economy and restore America’s competitive edge.”

The president stressed that the benefits would go to the middle class, not the wealthy, though Democrats disputed that assertion.

“I’m doing the right thing, and it’s not good for me, believe me,” Trump said at an event in Indiana to sell the plan.

“This is the right tax cut and this is the right time. Democrats and Republicans in Congress should come together finally to deliver this giant win for the American people and begin [a] middle-class miracle.”

The president traveled to Indiana with Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly, who is facing a tough reelection race in a red state. He pressured the senator to back his efforts, threatening to campaign against him if he declined.

The nine-page plan calls for three individual tax rates of 12 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent, while expressing openness to an additional rate that’s higher than 35 percent. The top rate is currently 39.6 percent.

The framework also would lower the corporate rate from 35 percent to 20 percent and would cut the rate for “pass-through” businesses whose income is taxed through the individual code, to 25 percent. It would also nearly double the standard deduction and would repeal the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax.

The blueprint gives Republicans a chance to turn their attention away from their failed efforts to repeal ObamaCare, a defeat in the skirmish over the debt ceiling, where Democratic leaders struck a deal with President Trump, and lack of action on Trump’s border wall.

The document was widely praised by GOP lawmakers, including the leaders of the conservative Republican Study Committee and Freedom Caucus, two groups that can act as thorns in leadership’s side.

“They’ve made a much better start than health care,” said Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the Freedom Caucus.

Freedom Caucus members had wanted to see more tax details before voting on a budget resolution that will allow Republicans to pass a tax bill with only a simple majority in the Senate.

“President Trump has delivered a forward looking tax reform framework that will let hard working Americans keep more of their money, simplify our system, end carve outs for special interests, and will help make our businesses competitive abroad,” the group said.

The plan also won the backing of many outside conservative groups, some of which did not get fully on board with lawmakers’ ObamaCare repeal bills, as well as business groups.

“It’s definitely progress in the right direction,” said Brad Close, senior vice president of advocacy at the National Federation of Independent Business.

To be sure, the plan left many details — particularly about which tax breaks to eliminate — up to the congressional tax-writing committees.

“Yes, we have a lot of work ahead, but today marks a major step forward in that process,” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said.

Lobbying is sure to increase as more details are made known, but the business community is supportive of the main parameters of the plan.

“There’s going to be a bananas amount of advocacy once legislative language is released, but [Republicans are] doing a good job of getting people to buy into the goal,” said Rohit Kumar, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) who now leads the tax policy practice at PwC.

Still, some trade groups have started pushing back against parts of the framework.

A coalition that includes state and local government groups and labor unions came out against the proposal’s likely repeal of the state and local tax deduction (SALT).

“This plan is a Washington money grab that takes away the most popular tax deduction from 44 million taxpayers in all 50 states, most of them middle class,” the coalition, Americans Against Double Taxation, said in a statement.

Repeal of the state and local deduction is also a problem for GOP lawmakers who represent high-tax states, such as New York and California.

“Any tax reform legislation must retain the state and local tax deductions,” Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) tweeted. “Hard working New Yorkers must not be taxed twice.”

Some business groups also expressed concerns about the framework’s plan to partially limit the deduction for corporations’ interest expenses.

“Interest deductibility is an essential component of businesses which rely on debt financing — companies of all sizes and across all sectors,” said Mike Sommers, president of the American Investment Council, which represents the private-equity industry.

To counter criticism that the plan will largely benefit the rich, the framework leaves the door open for a top individual rate above 35 percent “to ensure that the reformed tax code is at least as progressive as the existing tax code and does not shift the tax burden from high-income to lower- and middle-income taxpayers.” 

Still, top Democrats blasted the effort, arguing that it would provide a windfall to the wealthy and increase the deficit. In particular, they focused on the plan’s repeal of the estate tax, the increase in the bottom tax rate and the lower rate for pass-through businesses.

“This is wealth fare. Wealth fare, helping those of great wealth with more tax breaks,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Democrats also complained that they were not a part of the process of creating the tax framework. House Republicans met at a retreat at the National Defense University on Wednesday to discuss the plan, and Democrats had sought to be invited.

“This has been a partisan process from the start with virtually no Democratic input, as Republicans have put politics above policy and the economic security of hardworking Americans,” said House Ways and Means Committee ranking member Richard Neal (D-Mass.).



An answer to Puerto Rico whining about Trump

The mayor of San Juan lashed out at Trump administration on Friday, decrying its relief effort in the wake of hurricanes Jose and Maria and saying if it doesn’t solve the logistics “what we we are going to see is something close to a genocide”.


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