Friday, October 27, 2017

Another nail in the coffin of statins: They raise the risk of Type 2 diabetes by nearly a third

This dangerous junk was idolized by many medical commentators.  Some wanted to put it in the water supply to dose up everyone on it.  Statins do seem to help people who ALREADY have heart disease but evidence for their use as a preventive is dubious.  A study of nearly 3,000 older adults found that giving them statins did not extend their lifespans nor did they get fewer  heart attacks.  Since old people are the high risk group, we have to ask if they do not benefit from statins, who would?

Taking statins increases the risk of type 2 diabetes by nearly a third, researchers found. A decade-long study of more than 3,200 patients found those who took statins were 30 per cent more likely to develop the condition.

Some six million Britons take statins every day to reduce their cholesterol and ward off heart disease.

The pills are proven lifesavers, slashing the chance of a repeat attack, yet a scientific row over benefits and side effects has dragged on for years.

Experts have long known there was a link between statins and diabetes – but doctors have always stressed that the advantages of the pills far outweigh the small chance of getting diabetes.

Previous research had put the chance of developing type 2 diabetes at no more than 10 to 12 per cent greater than if someone did not take statins. The latest study, however, suggests the medication increases the risk by 30 per cent.

The researchers, from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, think this may be because statins impair insulin production. In the journal BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care, they called for regular blood sugar tests of people taking statins.

‘Glucose status should be monitored and healthy lifestyle behaviours reinforced in high-risk patients who are prescribed statins for cardiovascular disease [prevention],’ they wrote.

The scientists tracked overweight people already considered at risk of diabetes for ten years. At the start, 4 per cent took statins, but by the end roughly a third were taking the pills.

No link was found between the potency of the statins used and diabetes risk.

The researchers stressed that the additional risk of developing diabetes should be balanced against ‘the consistent and highly significant’ reduction in risk of heart attacks, strokes and death. Last night experts said that although the relative risk of diabetes may seem high, in reality the absolute numbers of people it would affect would be small.



Trump congratulates China's President Xi on new powers, saying he could be called the 'king of China' - as he labels the reelected leader a 'good person'

This is excellent diplomacy on behalf of America.  It will  certainly go down well in China.  And good relationships with  China are of huge importance

President Trump touted his relationship with China's Xi Jinping and complemented the Chinese leader for his reelection and the fact that his name and dogma were now written into his party's constitution.

'It's really virtually never happened in China,' Trump told Fox Business Network's Lou Dobbs in an interview that aired Wednesday night. 'Now some people might call him the king of China. But he’s called president,' the president added.

Dobbs, in a friendly interview, had asked the president about his relationship with Xi, noting how the 'so-called intelligentsia of this country’s foreign policy establishment' had indicated to Trump that he was wasting his time trying to court the Chinese leader.

Trump brought up the fact that the two leaders had spoken on the phone just minutes before, something the president had tweeted about earlier.  'Spoke to President Xi of China to congratulate him on his extraordinary elevation. Also discussed NoKo & trade, two very important subjects!' Trump tweeted after the call.

Speaking to Dobbs he continued heaping on praise. 

'He's a powerful man. I happen to think he's a very good person,' Trump said. 'Now with that being said, he represents China, I represent the USA, so, you know, there's going to always be conflict.'

'But we have a very good relationship,' Trump continued. 'People say we have the best relationship of any president-president, because he's called president also.'

Trump's phone conversation with Xi came as the leader was formally handed a second term in power and both his name and his dogma were written into the party constitution – putting him on par with the nation's founder, communist revolutionary Mao Zedong.



Market-oriented policies have reduced poverty worldwide

Although hundreds of millions of people remain trapped in poverty around the globe, at no time in human history have as many people escaped extreme poverty as they have in recent years.

Forty-five years ago, the United Nations declared World Development Information Day to draw attention to development problems and the need for international cooperation to solve them. While problems and impediments to development remain, decentralized international cooperation and exchange have been eradicating poverty at unprecedented levels.

Poverty reduction in China alone is unprecedented in human history. According to the World Bank, in 1990, a mere generation ago, more than 90 percent of China’s people lived on less than $3.20 per day. Two-thirds of its people lived on less than $1.90 per day. The most recent figures are about 12 percent and two percent respectively. The total number of people living in extreme poverty declined by more than one billion, while the population grew by more than 200 million.

While China leads the world in poverty reduction, the story is similar elsewhere. In 1993 more than 80 percent of India’s population lived on less than $3.20 per day and 45 percent lived on less than $1.90. Those numbers have fallen to 60 percent and 21 percent in recent years.

Even countries in sub-Saharan Africa, where poverty rates increased from the early 1990s through the early 2000s, have experienced improvements. The percentage of people living on less than $3.20 per day fell from 75 percent in 2002 to 62 percent recently. More extreme poverty has seen greater declines as the percentage living on less than $1.90 a day has declined from 53 percent to 20 percent.

For decades the United Nations, World Bank, and other governmental and international agencies have tried — with little success — to engineer development from the top down through aid programs. Some economists have criticized these efforts, maintaining that these programs often impede development by creating dependency, distorting market incentives, and entrenching corrupt dictators.

In contrast, decentralized market cooperation has promoted development. This is shown by the most recent update of the Economic Freedom of the World Annual Report (EFW), released last month. The index measures openness to decentralized market cooperation around the globe by looking at the size of government, protection of private property, soundness of money, freedom to trade internationally, and regulatory restrictions. Scores of academic studies have found that economic freedom is associated with economic development.

China, although far from a free-market ideal, has made some of the world’s greatest strides toward economic freedom. While China’s economic liberalization began under Deng Xiaoping in 1978, by 1990 it rated only 4.09 on the EFW’s 10-point scale. Since then, the score has improved 56.5 percent, the largest improvement in all of Asia.

Similarly, India began its economic reforms in 1991. Its economic freedom score has improved 38 percent since then. Even sub-Saharan Africa, with disasters like Zimbabwe, has improved its economic freedom by almost eight percent since 2000.

Liberalization alone is not the only factor contributing to poverty reduction. China’s measured liberalization understates its degree of market reform because it doesn’t account for the additional economic freedom in special enterprise zones. As the recent book China’s Great Migration has argued, the freedom of Chinese citizens to migrate to these enterprise zones has been a major contributor to the reduction in poverty in that country.

If citizens trapped in poverty around the globe had the freedom to migrate to more economically free and productive countries, much the way Chinese citizens can migrate from less-free to more-free areas within their country, even greater poverty reductions could be achieved.



Government No-Fire Zone Abuses Taxpayers

“Tesla fired hundreds of workers this week, including engineers, managers and factory workers,” reported Louis Hansen of the San Jose Mercury News. “Little or no warning preceded the dismissals,” which came after performance reviews, as the company struggles to produce its Model 3 sedan, for which 450,000 customers are waiting. Overall, Tesla showed the door to as many as 700 employees. Taxpayers would be hard pressed to find similar action in government at any level, despite disastrous performance.

In 2015 the federal Environmental Protection Agency spilled three million gallons of toxic wastewater in southern Colorado’s Animas River. EPA boss Gina McCarthy did not lose her job, and few if any EPA managers were fired over the massive spill. As we noted, for years the EPA kept on staff “policy advisor” John Beale, who performed no work for the agency and claimed to be working for the CIA. The EPA even paid Beale retention bonuses, but no EPA bosses lost their jobs over his fakery.

The federal Social Security Administration paid out more than $1.5 million to ex-Nazis, including death-camp guards and SS soldiers. At least 38 of 66 Nazi guards removed from the United States were allowed to keep their Social Security benefits and only 10 were prosecuted for war crimes in Europe. Reports have not emerged about Social Security bureaucrats losing their jobs for keeping the Nazis funded.

In 2013, the Internal Revenue Service handed out between $13.3 an $15.6 billion in improper payments. Even so, taxpayers will be hard pressed to find a report of any IRS employee or manager being fired for this massive waste and fraud. Indeed, the intrusive federal agency also gave $2.8 million in bonuses to employees with disciplinary and tax compliance problems of their own.

If motorists don’t like cars produced by Tesla, they can buy a Ford, Toyota or Kia. Taxpayers, on the other hand, have no choice but to deal with the IRS, EPA, and the whole federal bureaucratic establishment. If President Trump is serious about “draining the swamp,” he needs to take a cue from Tesla and fire those who fail to perform for the people.



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 26, 2017

Deconstructing the equality mania

The Left never cease their pursuit of "equality".  You see it most often in their racist devotion to quotas:  50% of all jobs should go to women; 13% of all jobs should go to blacks; 17% of all jobs should go to Hispanics etc.  They're not quite as rigid as that but "equal representation" or "proportionate representation" is a fiercely pursued aim.

And the current obsession with "white privilege" is another example of the same thing.  Whites are seen as being unequal in various ways and are supposed to be deeply ashamed of that.

Conservatives have of course always resisted such quotas, saying that jobs should be allocated on ability only, not on the colour of the applicant's skin.

But conservatives never seem to go back to basics and ask WHY equality should be pursued.  In most cases it never has existed and never will so why on earth should it be such a holy grail?  What is good about it?  No Leftist I have ever met has been able to answer that question. They just look dumb and say that it is OBVIOUSLY good.  But obvious to whom?  It is certainly not obvious to me. 

The best they can come up with is that pursuing the equality  goal causes people who might normally not have a chance at a particular job to get a chance at it.  It opens up opportunities. But conservatives have never been bothered by equal opportunity.  It's the only sort of equality that they will normally support.  But the opportunity concerned is only the opportunity for the person to show that he/she is capable of better things.  It does not imply that you should get some position REGARDLESS of whether or not you are capable of better things -- which is what quotas tend to do.

So as far as I can see, the breakneck pursuit of equality is simply envy.  If everybody is equal, no-one can be enviable. But that state will never arise so there must be more to it than that. 

And the deeper reason seems fairly clear to me.  The pursuit of equality is destructive. It puts incompetent people in responsible positions.  For instance, a black fireman who can't pass his fireman's exams but who is hired anyway because he is back may well be not very good at putting out fires and thus could allow a house to burn down that might otherwise have been saved.

Leftists always pretend to have noble motives but talk is cheap.  Look at what they do to see what they really intend.  And almost always there are adverse "unforeseen" consequences of any policy they get enacted.  The enormous mess made by Obamacare -- the "Affordable Care Act" -- is a good example.  Because of all the mandates and bureaucracy that form part of it, Obamacare has  caused both premiums and deductibles to soar -- thus making effective health insuranc UNaffordable to many.  Because of high deductibles alone many people who were previously insured are now effecively uninsured for most things.

And that Leftists are basically hostile people is being shown time and time again by the way in which those who depart from the politically correct line are hounded both in the colleges and in the workplace these days.  And when Leftists gain untrammelled power -- as we saw in Soviet Russia and Mao's China, we see how truly destructive they are.  So the pursuit of equality is just another tool in the Leftist's toolbox of destruction.

And it is easy to make an argument that INEQUALITY is a good thing. For a start, it is the natural state of affairs and is a symptom of a society in which superior abilities are called into use. Abilities are very unevenly distributed and putting the most able man into a particular job will often mean success at a particular enterprise when failure might otherwise have ensued. Not everyone can be a good manager, not everyone can be a good fitter and turner and not everyone can be a computer programmer. Finding the right man for the job is something of a holy grail to some enterprises.

And because it is rare, the demand for top talent will usually exceed supply. And that is when competition arises. To get rare talent for his enterprise, a boss will usually offer big money for the services of the talented one, an amount which will be very unequal compared to what less talented people get. So inequality emerges from different abilities and is a symptom of a society getting the best out of its people. Inequality is good.


Liberate government workers from forced union fees

by Jeff Jacoby

MARK JANUS IS a government employee. He works for the state of Illinois as a child-welfare specialist in the Department of Healthcare and Family Services. His job is to represent children caught in situations of domestic turmoil — a field he chose because children's well-being is important to him.

Mark Janus, an Illinois state employee, is forced to pay fees to a labor union whether he supports it or not — an egregious violation of his First Amendment freedoms.

"But just because I care about kids doesn't mean I also want to support a government union," Janus wrote last year in the Chicago Tribune. "Unfortunately, I have no choice."

The employees in Janus's workplace are represented by the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), a labor union that, under state law in Illinois and elsewhere, has exclusive authority to engage in collective bargaining over wages, hours, and other terms of employment. Naturally, members of the union pay dues. But even non-members are compelled to pay union levies, known as "agency fees," to cover the benefits of being represented by the union.

Yet coercing workers to pay for representation they don't want isn't a benefit. It's extortion. And it's particularly galling when those extorted payments are used to fund political speech and public-policy activism that employees have no wish to underwrite.

Two years ago, Janus filed a lawsuit challenging the Illinois law that forces him to pay fees to the union. The Supreme Court recently announced that it will take up the case this term. Janus v. AFSCME poses a straightforward question: Can public employees be forced to subsidize union speech or risk losing their jobs? If the court rules in Janus's favor, it will restore to government workers a right most Americans take for granted: the right to decide for themselves which causes and organizations they support.

It should never have come to this. Thomas Jefferson rightly declared long ago that "to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical." Under the First Amendment, it should have been out of the question for government to force public employees to turn over part of their wages to a labor union they don't belong to — or, for that matter, to any other political, ideological, or special-interest organization. But in a 1977 case, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, the Supreme Court ruled that public-sector workers could be required to pay agency fees in the interest of "labor peace" — as long as their fees were used only for the actual costs of collective-bargaining and representing employees, and not for anything political.

That was a blunder. Unlike the private sector, where labor and management are both constrained by market forces, competition, and the need to remain profitable, unions in the public sector face no such limitations. The government agencies that AFSCME and other unions bargain with can't go out of business or relocate to another state. Their revenue depends not on customer loyalty and sales but on politicians' decisions about taxes, spending, and public policy.

Consequently, pretty much everything public-sector unions do is political. In Abood, the court tried to distinguish between core collective-bargaining functions, on which nonmembers' fees could be spent, and overt political advocacy, which could not be charged to unwilling workers. But that distinction is illusory, as Justice Lewis Powell — who rejected the majority's reasoning — pointed out at the time:

"The ultimate objective of a union in the public sector, like that of a political party, is to influence public decision-making," Powell wrote. "The union's objective is to obtain favorable decisions and to place persons in positions of power who will be receptive to the union's viewpoint. In these respects, the public-sector union is indistinguishable from the traditional political party."

If that wasn't clear in 1977, it soon became an inescapable fact of life.

For public-sector unions, politics became all-important. AFSCME, like the National Education Association, the Service Employees International Union, and others, poured vast resources into honing their political clout. On its website, AFSCME boasts that candidates "all across the country, at every level of government" have learned to "pay attention to AFSCME's political muscle." The union is not shy about relying on politics to achieve its goals. "We elect our bosses, so we've got to elect politicians who support us and hold those politicians accountable," AFSCME proclaims. "Our jobs, wages, and working conditions are directly linked to politics."

Former AFSCME president Jerry Wurf put it in a nutshell: "We're political as hell," he told Time magazine.

"To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves," Thomas Jefferson rightly asserted, "is sinful and tyrannical."
And the agency fees forcibly extracted from Mark Janus — and from hundreds of thousands of other public-sector employees who have not joined the union — subsidize all that politics. That is an ongoing affront to the First Amendment.

It is long past time the Supreme Court repaired its 1977 mistake. Abood should be overturned, and the court should affirm that Powell was right: In the public sector, collective bargaining amounts to political advocacy. And under the Constitution, nobody can be compelled by government to subsidize political advocacy involuntarily.

If unions are to be tolerated in government workplaces, their support and funding must be wholly unforced. Government workers who choose to join and pay dues to AFSCME or some other union are free to exercise their First Amendment rights of speech and association. Equally free should be those who want nothing to do with the union. Free not to join, and free not to pay.



Down with the Czars!

Rep. Tom Marino, Pennsylvania Republican, has withdrawn his name for consideration as President Trump’s drug czar. By some accounts, Marino backed legislation that restricted enforcement of opioid laws. Sen. Joe Manchin, West Virginia Democrat, who called for Marino’s withdrawal, said “we need a drug czar who has seen the devastating effects of the problem.” Actually, we don’t, and President Trump should consider whether we need a drug czar at all.

The federal government already deploys the Drug Enforcement Administration, with an annual budget of nearly $3 billion. So in effect, the DEA boss renders a drug czar redundant. Don’t forget the Food and Drug Administration, whose budget has ballooned to $5 billion. Plenty of drug czars in that massive bureaucracy, and in recent years czars have been surging all over the federal government.

President Obama appointed 45 czars, and as Judicial Watch noted, “Many of these ‘czars’ are unconfirmed by the Senate and are largely unaccountable to Congress. Further, their activities are often outside the reach of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), creating a veil of secrecy about their precise role in the administration.” As we noted, a day after Washington state allowed the sale of medical marijuana in the style of Colorado and California, drug czar Michael Botticelli sought to spend $25 billion in the war on drugs.

President George W. Bush deployed some 33 czars, including one for bird flu. Franklin Roosevelt appointed at least 11 czars, including one to deal with rubber. These actions imply that unelected appointees with the title of Russian kings can solve all problems. They can’t, but they do waste taxpayers’ money. President Trump, who wants to drain the swamp, should not appoint any drug czar and would be wise to eliminate all czars in government.

Meanwhile, a historical note. A century ago the Bolshevik Revolution was going on, but the Bolsheviks did not overthrow Czar Nicholas. He abdicated the throne and the Bolsheviks toppled the provisional government of Alexander Kerensky, the closest Russia ever came to liberal democracy.



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 25, 2017

Herrnstein & Murray are still right  -- and very relevant to the healthcare debate

The poor die young.  That is the simplest summary of the latest study looking at the association between wealth and health.  Whenever it is examined, a correlation between social class and health seems to emerge.  The findings surveyed  by Hernstein and Murray are the best known evidence of that but Herrnstein & Murray wrote over two decades ago so it is interesting to see that nothing has changed. Herrnstein died about the time the book was released so was spared the torrent of abuse that was poured out on the scholarly head of Charles Murray when his findings became known.  He survived the onslsaught however and is still making waves.  The attack on him at Middlebury college got a lot of press recently.

There is however a certain vagueness about what you call social class and there are distinct differences between Britain and America in that regard.  And although its importance to social class is generally accepted, wealth is rarely examined in medical research. It is usually considered to be "too sensitive"  for questions about it to be included in surveys.  So the findings below are valuable in filling a gap. The article is titled: "Wealth-Associated Disparities in Death and Disability in the United States and England" and it appeared in JAMA, a leading medical journal.

It will be interesting to see what, if any, reaction the article gets.  It is unlikely that the authors will receive the abuse that was heaped on Charles Murray.  After the first decade or so of huffing and puffing, the Left seem to have bowed to reality.  Mention of class effects on health are these days normally addressed, if at all, as just another example of injustice.  What was once seen as a politically incorrect attack on the poor is now usually seen as an argument for helping the poor in various ways.  The Left ended up assimilating the effect into their "social justice" narrative.

And what cure do the Left advocate for this injustice?  Easy! Single payer health-insurance.  It was one of the arguments behind the agony of Obamacare.  And that makes the study below of exceptional interest -- because it compared American health results with results from a country that has had single-payer healthcare for a very long time: England.  So the poor should do much better in England?  Right?  Wrong!  The wealth effect was similar in both countries.  So this study is exceptionally relevant to one of the most important issues in American politics today.

Academic prose is normally too dense for non-academics to make much out of it but the place where you are most likely to find plain speaking is the set of "Conclusions" at the end of the article.  So let me reproduce in full the "Conclusions" of the present article:

"We found that lower wealth was associated with higher mortality and disability in older adults in both the United States and England. This relationship was apparent from age 54 years and continued into later life. This study found no evidence that providing state-sponsored health insurance from birth (England), or providing state-sponsored health insurance later in life (United States), eliminated wealth-associated health disparities. Our study suggests that policy makers interested in decreasing mortality and function disparities in older adults should take a broad view and consider interventions beyond providing access to health care."

So there was effectively no difference between America and England in health outcomes, including death.  The poor get sicker and die younger in both countries at roughly the same rate.  So the authors are in fact shooting down one of the important talking points of the Left. What they mean by "interventions beyond providing access to health care" is to make the poor richer.  They wisely don't go in to how you achieve that, though. So this is an article of unusual political importance.

It also has important implications for medical research generally. Probably because of political correctness, epidemiological research in particular simply ignores social class.  If it is mentioned at all, the only index of it used is education.  But my research showed long ago that education misses a lot. You can have highly educated poor people (e.g. the iconic Ph.Ds doing burger flipping in McDonalds) to dropouts making billions (e.g. Bill Gates).  You really do need to examine wealth directly.

But medical researchers just don't do that most of the time. And that very often makes the significance of their findings moot.  If, for instance, you find that big drinkers of pop die young, a medical researcher would normally conclude that pop kills you. They are that stupid. If you happen to know that the poor drink more pop, however, you can say (and I have often said it) that the conclusion is nonsense. If wealth had been included in the analysis, you will probably find that the "effect" of pop on health was in fact the effect of wealth discrepancies.

So I suppose it is a lot to ask for but one hopes that future medical researchers might use the article below to make some mention of what their research was not able to examine.

The authors below do not venture into much consideration of WHY the poor die young but do mention various environmental stressors.  I would add however that genetic influences are at work too. IQ is a much neglected index of social class.  The rich are smarter. The old challenge, "if you are smart, how come you are not rich?, has much justice to it. We can probably all think of exceptions but higher IQ does help you to figure out ways of making money.

Wealth-Associated Disparities in Death and Disability in the United States and England

Lena K. Makaroun et al.


Importance:  Low income has been associated with poor health outcomes. Owing to retirement, wealth may be a better marker of financial resources among older adults.

Objective:  To determine the association of wealth with mortality and disability among older adults in the United States and England.

Design, Setting, and Participants:  The US Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and English Longitudinal Study of Aging (ELSA) are nationally representative cohorts of community-dwelling older adults. We examined 12 173 participants enrolled in HRS and 7599 enrolled in ELSA in 2002. Analyses were stratified by age (54-64 years vs 66-76 years) because many safety-net programs commence around age 65 years. Participants were followed until 2012 for mortality and disability.

Exposures:  Wealth quintile, based on total net worth in 2002.

Main Outcomes and Measures:  Mortality and disability, defined as difficulty performing an activity of daily living.

Results:  A total of 6233 US respondents and 4325 English respondents aged 54 to 64 years (younger cohort) and 5940 US respondents and 3274 English respondents aged 66 to 76 years (older cohort) were analyzed for the mortality outcome. Slightly over half of respondents were women (HRS: 6570, 54%; ELSA: 3974, 52%). A higher proportion of respondents from HRS were nonwhite compared with ELSA in both the younger (14% vs 3%) and the older (13% vs 3%) age cohorts. We found increased risk of death and disability as wealth decreased.

In the United States, participants aged 54 to 64 years in the lowest wealth quintile (Q1) (≤$39 000) had a 17% mortality risk and 48% disability risk over 10 years, whereas in the highest wealth quintile (Q5) (>$560 000) participants had a 5% mortality risk and 15% disability risk (mortality hazard ratio [HR], 3.3; 95% CI, 2.0-5.6; P < .001; disability subhazard ratio [sHR], 4.0; 95% CI, 2.9-5.6; P < .001).

In England, participants aged 54 to 64 years in Q1 (≤£34,000) had a 16% mortality risk and 42% disability risk over 10 years, whereas Q5 participants (>£310,550) had a 4% mortality risk and 17% disability risk (mortality HR, 4.4; 95% CI, 2.7-7.0; P < .001; disability sHR, 3.0; 95% CI, 2.1-4.2; P < .001). In 66- to 76-year-old participants, the absolute risks of mortality and disability were higher, but risk gradients across wealth quintiles were similar. When adjusted for sex, age, race, income, and education, HR for mortality and sHR for disability were attenuated but remained statistically significant.

Conclusions and Relevance:  Low wealth was associated with death and disability in both the United States and England. This relationship was apparent from age 54 years and continued into later life. Access to health care may not attenuate wealth-associated disparities in older adults.



If FDA can't speed up drug testing, then give patients the right to try

Mikaela Knapp was in the prime of her life. After completing her studies at Stanford University and Berkeley College, Mikaela married her high school sweetheart, whom she had known since fifth grade. At age 25, she had her entire life before her. Then in an instant, it all changed. Mikaela was diagnosed with a rare form of kidney cancer and her world turned upside down. Unfortunately, this story doesn’t have a happy ending. After a long and hard fought battle, Mikaela passed away in 2014.

What makes her tragedy particularly difficult to accept is that it’s entirely possible to imagine a scenario in which Mikaela would still be alive today. Had Mikaela been able to take advantage of potentially lifesaving treatment, perhaps she would have beaten the odds. Unfortunately for Mikaela and so many others, we’ll never know because prohibitive rules and regulations block terminally ill patients from accessing treatment.

The numbers tell the story. In the last 20 years, the Food and Drug Administration has approved only three new treatments for childhood cancers. It takes this long because any medical treatment must undergo rigorous testing to demonstrate that they are safe and effective. The FDA has eased some restrictions in recent years, but less than 3 percent of all cancer patients can enroll in clinical trials. What’s more, eligibility is tricky and tough to navigate. As the Goldwater Institute, a think tank supportive of easing the FDA’s requirements for new treatments, describes it, “patients must be just sick enough, but not too sick.”

To terminally ill patients and their grieving families, these policies are callous and devoid of the urgency needed when a life is on the line. We should not have to ask the government for permission to try to save our own lives. Terminally ill patients should have the right to try. After they’ve exhausted all available treatments, they should be able to work with their doctors and take part in clinical trials, without interference from government bureaucrats.

For some, this could mean accessing promising treatment already being used elsewhere. For instance, there are 22 breast cancer treatments awaiting FDA approval, some of which are currently saving lives in Europe. Knowing that there is a potentially lifesaving treatment outside the United States is what compelled the family of 10 year old Diego Morris of Arizona to travel to England to access Mifamurtide, a drug being administered to treat bone cancer which is not available in the United States. The treatment worked. Today, Diego is back in Arizona doing the things he loves.

Unfortunately, stories like Diego’s are the exception, but perhaps someday, they’ll be more common. Momentum for right to try laws is growing. In all, 37 states have enacted right to try laws and 12 more states have introduced legislation. In most cases, right to try has been approved by huge margins with overwhelming bipartisan support.

This is encouraging, but more is needed at the federal level so that the FDA cannot interfere with the implementation of state right to try laws. Even with the consent of their state government, many doctors and medical practitioners won’t administer experimental medical treatment to terminally ill patients because they rightfully fear that the FDA will come after them.

Federal right to try legislation has support in Congress, most notably from U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), whose bill to prevent this bureaucratic injustice recently passed the chamber unanimously. There are also encouraging signs that President Trump would sign right to try legislation if it got to his desk, but until then, terminally ill patients have little choice but to wait.

Right to try opponents worry that it would circumvent the FDA’s approval process and make it difficult for the government to keep track of the effectiveness of experimental medical treatment. But these worries are misplaced. Federal right to try legislation would not keep data and critical information from the FDA, but instead work with the government agency’s safety and testing approval process.

Also, the risk of inaction is far greater. As Matthew Bellina, a Navy Veteran suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease, eloquently puts it, “What is the downside of creating new pathways for the terminally ill to access promising treatments? Maybe the law won’t help millions of people, or even many, but for those that it does help, it’s a game changer.”

It’s a question that Mikaela Knapp’s family must ask every day.



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 24, 2017

What has President Trump done that is good for America?

Answer by Ethan Young, a historian.  He does not like Trump personally but is impressed by how much he has accomplished or enabled already

I suppose I should preface this answer by saying that I was a “Never Trumper” Republican and didn’t vote for him. Now that that’s out of the way…

First, Trump has increased American oil and energy exports. This was already trending before he was elected, but now it’s really gaining steam. Only a decade ago, Americans were concerned about relying too much on the Saudis or other Middle Eastern nations for their energy supply. But today, the US is the third-largest oil producer in the world, it is less dependent on oil imports than at any point in the last 40 years, and it is stealing customers from Russia and Saudi Arabia even with prices as low as $50 per barrel. Even a few years ago, US shale producers would have found it hard to make a profit at that price, but they are succeeding at it now.

President Trump is using this as a powerful card in the game of geopolitics. For example, we have begun shipping liquid natural gas to Eastern Europe with the goal of undercutting Russia’s monopoly and influence there, and the Eastern Europeans are only too happy to diversify their energy portfolio. I certainly wouldn’t feel comfortable about relying on someone like Putin for my energy needs.

Second, President Trump is rolling back excessive regulations that hurt American businesses and hamper our economic growth. The Clean Power Plan is a good example of this, because it was government by the administrative state on a scale that has never been attempted before. The EPA took a dubious reading of a portion of the Clean Air Act (Section 111, which arguably prevented the EPA from taking this action rather than empowered it to do so) and used it to mandate that the states adopt far-reaching plans to reduce carbon emissions, under threat of the loss of federal highway funds. And the legal foundation of the Clean Power Plan was so rickety that the Supreme Court took the extraordinary step of blocking its implementation pending all the lawsuits against it. This and other Obama-regulations were examples of gross overreach by the federal government and did more harm in the long run than good.

Third, President Trump pulled the US out of the Paris Climate Accord, which was a toothless, un-enforceable exercise in virtue-signaling that would have made little impact on carbon emissions even if it had fully implemented.

Indeed, there is one genuinely strong argument for remaining a signatory to the Paris Accord on climate change, but it’s one that the accord’s advocates cannot make: The agreement simply doesn’t do anything. It was doomed before negotiators ever assembled for photographs in December 2015. They were not there to commit each country to meaningful greenhouse-gas reductions; rather, everyone submitted their voluntary pledges in advance, and all were accepted without scrutiny. Pledges did not have to mention emissions levels, nor were there penalties for falling short.

When the Paris Accord was first signed, then-Secretary of State John Kerry claimed that 186 nations in the world came together to submit a plan, all of them reducing their emissions. That was not true. In fact, most of the major developing countries, whose emissions will drive climate change this century, pledged only to continue with business as usual. China, for example, committed to begin reducing emissions by 2030, roughly when its economic development would have caused this to happen regardless. India made no emissions commitment, pledging only to make progress on efficiency at half the rate it had progressed in recent years. Pakistan outdid the rest, submitting a single page that offered to reduce its emissions after reaching peak levels to the extent possible. This is a definition of the word peak, not a commitment.

Since then, the farce proceeded as farces do. Secretary Kerry claimed the Accord would unleash clean-energy investment, but instead, global investment plummeted by 20 percent in 2016 compared to 2015, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The first quarter of 2017 saw another 17 percent decline versus 2016. The volunteer pledges have commanded precisely the respect they deserve. An April report by Transport Environment found only three European countries pursuing policies in line with their Paris commitments and one of those, Germany, has now seen two straight years of emissions increases. The Philippines has outright renounced its commitment. A study published by the American Geophysical Union warns that India’s planned coal-plant construction is incompatible with its own targets. All this behavior is socially acceptable amongst the climate crowd. Only Trump’s presumption that the agreement means something, and that countries should be forthright about their commitments, is beyond the pale.

Somewhat incredibly, Todd Stern, the Obama administration’s lead climate negotiator, took to the Washington Post to explain that the U.S. could even revise downward its own commitment to eliminate any potential burden. “I know,” he seemingly bragged, “because I helped negotiate that flexibility.” Compare this to his defense of the agreement when signed, in which he repeatedly used the word “ratchet” to describe a process where countries would only strengthen their commitments. But rather than see the cocktail hour interrupted, even that last vestige of substance was flung overboard.

So should the U.S. have stayed or gone? To quote another of President Obama’s secretaries of state: “What difference, at this point, does it make?” For the climate, not much of one. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s assessment of the agreement found that even full compliance would only have reduced global temperatures in 2100 by only 0.2 degrees Celsius. Instead, the debate devolved into the kind one otherwise hears about the UN Human Rights Council, a forum no one mistakes for a serious effort to advance human rights. If other countries are going to sit around discussing the climate, shouldn’t we at least attend? This is what some might call the FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) defense.

Further, as Stern argued, “withdrawing from the Paris agreement would be a stain on the legacies of both the president and Secretary of State. Other countries would see withdrawal as a slap in the face.” But on which president’s legacy is Paris a stain? The Constitution requires the Senate to ratify treaties by a two-thirds supermajority in part to ensure that the United States speaks with a single, consistent voice on the international stage. It was President Obama who offered the world an unwise commitment for which he got nothing in return. It was Obama who refused to submit that commitment for Senate approval because he knew he did not have it.

Then there is the war against ISIS. When it comes to Trump’s boasts, many Americans—including myself—roll their eyes. But when it comes his boasting about ISIS, it’s hard for even his sternest detractors to gainsay him. ISIS was still largely undefeated and in control of much of the territory of Iraq and Syria when Trump was sworn in before a non-record setting crowd. But only nine months into his administration, the Islamic State’s hold on these countries has dwindled, and after the liberation this week of Raqqa, Syria—the capital of the Islamists’ supposed caliphate—it’s fair to say that the group is being routed after years in which it held its own against coalition forces. In January, ISIS controlled 23,300 square miles. Today it is holding on to about 9,300 square miles.

This has happened because Trump loosened the rules of engagement to allow commanders in the field more authority in day-to-day decisions about fighting the enemy. Under Obama, the White House micromanaged the conflict in a manner that calls to mind the way President Lyndon Johnson and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara fought the Vietnam War with similarly dismal results. Whether you like Trump or hate him doesn’t change the fact that ISIS fighters are surrendering in droves because of a change in strategy that Trump personally spearheaded.

In fact, if you prune away the rumors of cabinet shake-ups, “adult in the room” melodramas, tweets, fake-news accounts, and inter-cabinet spats, Trump’s foreign policy consists of the following:

A once-ascendant ISIS now shattered and in full retreat; a new honesty about NATO and its funding; an unsustainable Iran deal now on hold and sent to the Senate where as a treaty it belonged; honesty in describing the threat of both radical Islamic terrorism and Iranian hegemony; greater security on the southern border; a restored relationship with Israel and the Gulf States, and an improving one with Jordan and Egypt as well; a workable and constitutional immigration scrutiny of would-be entrants from war-torn Middle East countries; a growing deterrent stance toward Russia and China rather than the rhetoric of “reset” and the “Asian pivot”; an active and growing allied response to the North Korean threat; the beginnings of an all-out effort on missile defense (rather than the prior open-mic presidential promises of a “flexible” post-reelection efforts to curb it in Eastern Europe); a determination to rebuild the military (slowly, given the still far too large annual deficits); some recent incremental progress in Afghanistan due to new rules of engagement; the real red line that Assad cannot use WMD against civilians; a far more adult stance toward U.N. hypocrisies; improved autonomy abroad through increasing energy independence and trading in natural gas; an out from a Paris climate accord whose goals the U.S. meets anyway through free-market solutions; and the emerging outlines of a comprehensive doctrine of “principled realism” that restores deterrence.

The Trump presidency has also achieved a massive reduction in illegal immigration, arresting nearly 100,000 criminal illegal aliens and deporting over 52,000, a 30 percent increase over the same period last year. Illegal border crossings are down over 41 percent. The unemployment rate has ticked down to its lowest level in more than forty years, the stock market is surging, and the Senate just passed a critical piece of legislation that paves the way for tax reform that could potentially turbo-charge the U.S. economy if it’s done correctly.

For conservatives like myself, there are additional things to like about the Trump presidency. The appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and many other fine conservative judges to lower circuits is a definitely something to feel good about. Nikki Haley is kicking tail at the United Nations, and the Department of Veterans of Affairs has received a much-needed overhaul so it can take better care of those who’ve served our country.

More, Trump has taken a much-needed wrecking ball to political correctness, which has become twisted and weaponized far beyond the purpose for which it was originally intended, to the point where free speech itself is being stifled. Here’s an example: A lot of people think there are only two genders, boy and girl. Now, many other people think they're wrong, or that they should change that opinion. Some might argue that holding such a viewpoint is insensitive to the trans community. You could even argue that it flies in the face of modern social psychology. Fair enough.

But many people still think that there are two genders. And political correctness is the social force that holds them in contempt for that, or punishes them outright for saying so aloud.

Overturning political correctness is probably one of the most valuable and most-overlooked positive aspects of Donald Trump’s presidency, and even I can’t help but admit a certain admiration for his complete irreverence and disregard for its absurdity. In a “you can’t say that!” culture, where certain words and thoughts are no longer allowed, Trump says them, over and over—and then, when challenged, refuses to back down. In a society that has come to accept human frailty and accepts low horizons, Trump called for making the US “great again” and suggested that people can succeed like he has. And in a world where masculinity is now described as toxic, Trump relishes the opportunity to present himself as the tough guy. He simply does not care about political correctness, and more importantly, he’s shown that it’s okay not to care, that you can say what you think and not be afraid to say it. That is a powerful message, and a much-needed one.



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 23, 2017

The neutrality of music

I pointed out some time ago that music was very important to the Nazis.  They had inspiring songs that kept the troops marching.  I even translated some of them.  But I want to make what I hope is the obvious point that music is independent of politics.  One could appreciate the Nazi songs without at all endorsing Nazi politics. 

I thought that some good evidence of how music can mean anything politically comes from an excellent American pro-military song of the '60s.  The song was widely appreciated so the tune was re-used in a German popular song that expressed anti-war sentiments.  The same tune was used for opposite purposes!

Below is the American song, sung by its author, Staff Sadler, a very manly man

Below is the German song sung by a popular German singer:

The German song is a little curious because Germany was at that time not involved in any wars. So it presumably refers to German troops in the French Foreign Legion -- operating in North Africa, which was giving France troubles at the time. The term "vogelfrei" (outlawed) in the third line supports the connection to the Foreign Legion and the terrain description fits North Africa. Rather ironically, the majority of troops in the French Foreign Legion are German-speaking, though a lot of Russians have joined in recent times.  Some Germans still relish war, obviously. 

Below are the words of the German song, with translation:

Hundert Mann und ein Befehl

Irgendwo im fremden Land
Ziehen sie durch Stein und Sand,
Fern von zu Haus und vogelfrei,
100 Mann, und er ist dabei.

100 Mann und ein Befehl
Und ein Weg, den keiner will.
Tagein tagaus, wer weiß wohin,
Verbranntes Land, und was ist der Sinn?

Ganz allein in dunkler Nacht
Hast du oft daran gedacht,
Dass weit von hier der Vollmond scheint,
Und weit von hier ein Mädchen weint.

Und die Welt ist doch so schön.
Könnt' ich dich noch einmal seh'n!
Nun trennt uns schon ein langes Jahr,
Weil ein Befehl unser Schicksal war.

Wahllos schlägt das Schicksal zu,
Heute er und morgen du.
Ich hör' von fern die Krähen schrei'n
Im Morgenrot, warum muss das sein?

Irgendwo im fremden Land
Ziehen sie durch Stein und Sand,
Fern von zu Haus und vogelfrei,
100 Mann, und er ist dabei.

In English

A hundred men under one command

Somewhere in a foreign land,
they wander through stone and sand,
far from home and outlawed,
100 men and he’s there as well

100 men and one command
and a path that no one wants,
day in, day out, to who knows where,
burned countryside and what’s the use?

All alone in the dark night,
you have often thought about it,
that far from here the full moon shines
and far from here a young girl weeps.

And the world is still so beautiful.
Could I only see you once more.
We have already been apart one long year
because a command was our fate.

At random fate slams us down.
Today him and tomorrow you.
I hear from afar the crows cawing
in the dawn, why must that be?


The IRS Stole $59,000 From an Innocent Veteran; Years Later, They Still Won't Return It

Oh Suk Kwon, an immigrant from South Korea who spent four decades serving in the U.S. military, had his life and business destroyed by the Internal Revenue Service in 2011—on nothing more than a hunch.

After getting out of the Army in 2007, Kwon and his wife purchased a gas station in Ellicott City, Maryland. Four years later, the IRS targeted Kwon's station as part of a now-discredited effort at catching money launderers making large cash deposits. The investigators seized more than $59,000 from Kwon, forcing him to shutter his business. His wife died soon after.

"But after the investigation ended, after the gas station went under, and Kwon's wife died amid the stress of it all, after he moved from his neighborhood in shame and the Internal Revenue Service changed its policy so no other small business would get steamrolled this way—the agency won't give Kwon his money back," writes columnist Petula Dvorak in The Washington Post.

What happened to Kwon is a tragedy. That the IRS won't now admit its mistake and return his money is a travesty.

Kwon was one of hundreds of individuals and businesses targeted by the IRS for nothing but a supposedly suspicious pattern of deposits. A Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration report released in April detailed how the agency seized more than $17 million from innocent business owners as part of an effort at targeting so-called "structuring," in which criminals will make cash deposits of less than $10,000 in order to avoid detecting by federal banking regulators. Under the terms of a 1970 federal law, banks must report all deposits of more than $10,000.

But the IRS's anti-structuring investigations were seriously flawed. In more than 90 percent of the cases, the inspector general found, the seized money turned out to be completely legal. The report also found that investigators violated internal policies when conducting interviews, failed to notify individuals of their rights, and improperly bargained to resolve civil cases.

That seems to be what happened to Kwon. An IRS spokesman told Dvorak that Kwon pleaded guilty to a charge of structuring, even though the agency failed to produce any other criminal charges against him.

There is hope for Kwon. Other victims of the agency's anti-structuring investigations have been made whole, but only after years of legal battles. Last year, the IRS returned $29,500 they had stolen in 2012 from a Maryland dairy farmer. The farmer, Randy Sowers, was represented by the Institute for Justice, a nonprofit libertarian law firm, in his challenge to the seizure.

"I couldn't believe...they would just come in and take my money with no prior notice," Sowers told a congressional committee in 2015 during a hearing on the "structuring" crackdown. "I thought the government was supposed to protect me. I didn't think they were supposed to come out and try to put me out of business."

The same thing happened to Carol Hinders, an Iowa woman who ran a small, cash-only Mexican restaurant. In 2013, two IRS agents showed up at Hinder's door and told her the agency was seizing $33,000 from her bank account for structuring violations. She was never accused of a crime. She later became the face of an investigative report by The New York Times that showed how the IRS was targeting innocent Americans and abusing its asset forfeiture powers. After that, she got her money back from the IRS.

"The government is seizing billions of dollars of cash and property from Americans often without charging them with a crime," said Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) at the 2015 congressional hearing where Sowers testified. Civil asset forfeiture, he said, "has proven a far greater affront to civil rights than it has a weapon against crime."

In response to public outrage over how the IRS was targeting businesses with anti-structuring investigations, the agency announced in 2014 that it would change how those investigations operated, focusing only on cases where there was actual evidence of criminal activity.

But that's little consolation to Kwon, who is still facing an uphill legal battle to get his money back. Dvorak reports that the IRS refused his most recent request in August.

"There was no good policy purpose for the prosecution. They did it for money, and they destroyed a good and honest man," Kwon's attorney tells Dvorak. "It is shameful."



Students love Trump's tax plan...when told it's Bernie's

President Donald Trump’s proposal for comprehensive tax reform was almost immediately dismissed as heartless and impractical by his political opponents.

But what would some of those opponents think if they were told the same plan was being proposed by someone they adore—Senator Bernie Sanders?

To find out, we headed to George Washington University to ask students their opinions on Trump’s new tax plan. WIthout much explanation, the students immediately made clear their distaste for the plan.

“It’s not the most efficient, nor beneficial to the general populace,” said one student when asked her opinion of Trump’s plan.

“It’s better for the upper class than anyone else,” added another.

After watching student after student express their disapproval of the plan, we then asked those same students what they thought of Senator Bernie Sanders’ new tax plan.

Immediately, they expressed excitement and support after hearing the details of the plan.

The only problem for them? There was no tax plan for Senator Sanders. The plan they loved was actually President Trump’s.



Is Liberalism a Dying Faith?

By Patrick J. Buchanan

Asked to name the defining attributes of the America we wish to become, many liberals would answer that we must realize our manifest destiny since 1776, by becoming more equal, more diverse and more democratic — and the model for mankind’s future.

Equality, diversity, democracy — this is the holy trinity of the post-Christian secular state at whose altars Liberal Man worships.

But the congregation worshiping these gods is shrinking. And even Europe seems to be rejecting what America has on offer.

In a retreat from diversity, Catalonia just voted to separate from Spain. The Basque and Galician peoples of Spain are following the Catalan secession crisis with great interest.

The right-wing People’s Party and far-right Freedom Party just swept 60 percent of Austria’s vote, delivering the nation to 31-year-old Sebastian Kurz, whose anti-immigrant platform was plagiarized from the Freedom Party. Summarized it is: Austria for the Austrians!

Lombardy, whose capital is Milan, and Veneto will vote Sunday for greater autonomy from Rome.

South Tyrol (Alto Adige), severed from Austria and ceded to Italy at Versailles, written off by Hitler to appease Mussolini after his Anschluss, is astir anew with secessionism. Even the Sicilians are talking of separation.

By Sunday, the Czech Republic may have a new leader, billionaire Andrej Babis. Writes The Washington Post, Babis “makes a sport of attacking the European Union and says NATO’s mission is outdated.”

Platform Promise: Keep the Muslim masses out of the motherland.

To ethnonationalists, their countrymen are not equal to all others, but superior in rights. Many may nod at Thomas Jefferson’s line that “All men are created equal,” but they no more practice that in their own nations than did Jefferson in his.

On Oct. 7, scores of thousands of Poles lined up along the country’s entire 2,000-mile border — to pray the rosary.

It was the centennial of the Virgin Mary’s last apparition at Fatima in Portugal in 1917, and the day in 1571 the Holy League sank the Muslim fleet at Lepanto to save Europe. G. K. Chesterton’s poem, “Lepanto,” was once required reading in Catholic schools.

Each of these traditionalist-nationalist movements is unique, but all have a common cause. In the hearts of Europe’s indigenous peoples is embedded an ancient fear: loss of the homeland to Islamic invaders.

Europe is rejecting, resisting, recoiling from “diversity,” the multiracial, multicultural, multiethnic and multilingual future that, say U.S. elites, is America’s preordained mission to bring about for all mankind.

Indeed, increasingly, the indigenous peoples of Europe seem to view as the death of their nations and continent, what U.S. liberal elites see as the Brave New World 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 22, 2017

New Zealand gets its own Donald Trump

New Zealand has an odd electoral system which tends to help  minor parties to get seats in parliament in addition to the two main parties. Which often means that no one party has a majority of seats.  So it is usually necessary for two or more parties to enter into an agreement to govern together. 

After the recent inconclusive election, the support of a small populist party -- chiefly supported by Maori and the elderly --  was crucial to forming a new coalition government.  The populist leader, Winston Peters, has policies very similar to Trump and is determined to implement them. He is however entering into an unlikely coalition with the Leftists and the Greens. His coalition partners wildly disagree with him, however. But they can't do without him. 

Peters.  He is half Maori

So it should be interesting from now on.  We may see Trump-like policies being enacted with the support of Leftists and Greens! He should at least be a restraining influence on Green/Left idiocy.  Some details below

SHE’S enjoyed the kind of stardust-scattered rise most politicians only dream of.

Four weeks ago, Jacinda Ardern was at home painting the fence in her trackpants, trying to work off the “nervous energy” of waiting for an election result.

On Thursday, the 37-year-old was crowned Prime Minister-elect following a month of negotiations to form a coalition government with the Greens and New Zealand First.

Like Emmanuel Macron, 39, in France and Justin Trudeau, 45, in Canada, Ardern has ridden a wave of euphoria over her likability, relaxed style and fresh approach to politics.

She shut down radio hosts who asked about her baby plans, took selfies with school kids and even admitted she had been handed a “hospital pass” to the leadership. In seven weeks she reversed Labour’s slide to gain 37 per cent of the national vote, leaving her competing with National’s Bill English on 44 per cent, for the attentions of New Zealand First leader Winston Peters to form a coalition government.

The deal struck will offer Peters the role of Deputy Prime Minister and four cabinet posts. However it could also include major policy concessions and become an Achilles’ heel given Peters’ experience as a kingmaker and the party motto of “refusing to accept defeat in any cause we believe in”.

Act Party leader David Seymour said it leaves a “weak Left coalition beholden to a madman on the loose.”

The man whose party scored just 0.5 per cent of the vote said the “perverse marriage” that Labour and the Greens had created threatens millenials, immigrants and businesses.

“The silver lining for the centre right is that the three-ringed circus is likely to fall apart — perhaps even before its three years are up,” he said.

“The Greens and New Zealand First despise each other, and Winston Peters has caused chaos in every government he’s joined. New Zealanders may face an election sooner than they think.”

United Future MP Peter Dunne echoed that sentiment to Green Party leader James Shaw, saying he was now in charge of keeping an “unruly new partner” in line.

Peters said he decided to pair with Labour and the Greens because they offered the best way to mitigate what New Zealand is expected to face in the years ahead.

“It’s time for capitalism to regain its human face,” he said. “Our perception was the people of this country did want change and we’ve responded to that.”

But the political marriage could prove an uneasy alliance for the parties that have starkly different platforms on immigration and business.

Peters wants a ban on foreign ownership of residential and farm land, net migration slashed to 10,000 per year and to create a low tax environment.

In contrast, Labour campaigned on New Zealand being a country “built on immigration” and wants to increase the refugee quota to 1500. It also wants to crack down on foreign property speculators and has planned to build 100,000 new homes across the country.

What's more, at 72 Peters thinks it’s “now or never” to leave a mark on New Zealand after nearly 40 years in politics. “Frankly, of late, I’ve been asking myself that question because we’re coming to an election and I kind of think it’s now or never,” he said in August.

“If we don’t turn it around, and you’ve all got your different views, but if you were remotely neutral and you examined New Zealand — where it once was as a country in the Western world to where it is now ... you’d have to admit we’ve done very badly.”

While supporters celebrate smashing a decade of right-wing rule, if Ardern wants to avoid the popularity slumps seen by Trudeau and Macron since they took office, her greatest political challenge yet may come from within.



The Trump Nominee Poised to Be Point Man on Draining Government Swamp

President Donald Trump’s nominee to run the federal government’s bureaucracy could be a key player in reforming it, and in keeping the president’s campaign pledge to “drain the swamp.”

“We don’t see any major draining of the swamp with the massive bureaucracy,” Robert Moffit says.

Trump last month nominated Jeff Tien Han Pon, 47, to be director of the Office of Personnel Management, the government’s human resources agency. Pon served in the administrations of both President Bushes—with jobs in the White House, OPM, and Energy Department—and held information technology and human resources positions in several private companies.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee was scheduled to hold a confirmation hearing Wednesday on Pon’s nomination.

Pon is largely unknown to those who seek reform of the civil service, said Robert Moffit, a former OPM assistant director under President Ronald Reagan who is now a senior fellow for health studies at The Heritage Foundation.

“The OPM director has enormous authority and can help the president staff the administration, and would be welcome at a time when we don’t see any major draining of the swamp with the massive bureaucracy,” Moffit told The Daily Signal. “Every day, career bureaucrats are issuing decisions on guidelines and making interpretations of regulations. We need management there to take the bull by the horns.”

Trump’s previous nominee, George Nesterczuk, withdrew in August after relentless opposition from federal employee unions.

However, Pon seems less controversial and gained the backing of the Senior Executives Association, a nonprofit that advocates for top federal government officials. In a letter to the Senate, SEA President Bill Valdez wrote:

While serving at the Department of Energy, I had the privilege of working with Jeff on a project he initiated to improve human capital processes at DOE. The thought leadership he brought to that project is indicative of the skills and experience he will bring to his new role at OPM. Jeff’s expertise in human capital management has only grown since I worked with him in government, as evidenced by senior roles with the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), Futures Inc., and Booz Allen Hamilton.

Pon also doesn’t face outright union opposition.

“While it is early in the nomination process and we reserve final opinion, we appreciate the consideration to name a nominee with a diverse and rich professional history in federal human capital,” Randy Erwin, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees, said in a statement early last month to the publication Government Executive. “We look forward to learning more about Mr. Pon and we hope that he, if confirmed, will view employee organizations as valuable and significant partners.”

Trump is nine months into his administration without an OPM director, the official charged with managing the federal workforce. Moffit and other conservatives have criticized the president for not filling key political positions, which they contend is how he can control career federal employees who have civil service protections.

However, Trump recently told Forbes: “I’m generally not going to make a lot of the appointments that would normally be—because you don’t need them. I mean, you look at some of these agencies, how massive they are, and it’s totally unnecessary. They have hundreds of thousands of people.”

Trump’s vanquished Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, recently urged federal employees to stay, asserting: “I don’t want to lose decades—really, if you added it all up, the thousands of years—of experience in the EPA, in the State Department, in the Labor Department. … If [Democrats] can take back one or both houses of Congress in 2018, you will have people you can talk to again.”

Pon has been the chief human resources and strategy officer for the nonprofit professional membership organization Society for Human Resource Management, where he has worked since February 2012.

For about 18 months before that, he was chief operating officer for Futures Inc., which helps members of the military transition into the civilian workforce.

At barely 21, Pon worked in the White House Office of Public Liaison under President George H.W. Bush from 1991 to 1992. He returned to Washington to work for President George W. Bush as deputy director for e-government at the OPM from June 2003 to December 2005. He left to work as chief human capital officer at the Energy Department from January 2006 through August 2008.

In between the two Bush presidencies, Pon worked in information technology and human resource jobs at Federal Express, Williams Sonoma, PetCo, and Burger King. He has a doctorate in psychology from the University of Southern California.



More Cases of Voter Fraud Pile Up as Liberals Look the Other Way

The Heritage Foundation added another round of cases this week to its ever-growing Voter Fraud Database.

Accounting for these new additions, the database now documents 1,088 proven instances of election fraud, including 949 cases that have resulted in criminal convictions, 48 that have ended in civil penalties, and 75 that have seen defendants enter diversion programs.

Americans should be alarmed, not only because Heritage has compiled so many examples of fraud—impacting nearly every state and elections for all levels of government—but because this figure is likely just the tip of the iceberg.

The Heritage database is not a comprehensive tally of election fraud. That figure would almost certainly be substantially larger.

Most states, after all, lack the robust procedures needed to detect fraud when it occurs. Even when fraud is detected, prosecutors often opt not to pursue cases because their priorities lie elsewhere.

Put simply, American elections are vulnerable and fraudsters know it. Not content to leave their ideological causes or their own careers up to the unpredictable will of voters, many fraudsters choose to act on this knowledge.



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