Friday, December 01, 2017

Many non-poor people cannot now access health cover

They can't cover deductibles so most of the time effectively have no insurance

Many lower and moderate income Americans can’t cover their cost sharing if they get sick. It raises the question: How much cost sharing is too much?

High deductible plans, which require people to pay large amounts out of pocket before their medical bills are covered, are a good deal for some middle and upper income people. But many lower and moderate income Americans simply don’t have $1,500 to $3,000 to pay for the colonoscopy that might save their life, or a stress test that might reveal the heart disease which is the cause of their chest discomfort.

More than four in in 10 households with private coverage and incomes between 150% and 400% of the federal poverty line do not have enough liquid assets to cover a deductible of $1,500 for single people and $3,000 for families.

That’s not a high deductible plan, but about the average in an employer-provided insurance plan.

Sixty percent couldn’t cover deductibles double those amounts, which are not uncommon, especially in the individual insurance market.

Ninety percent of insured households with incomes of 400% of poverty or more could meet a typical employer insurance deductible, but just 37% of lower income household with incomes under 150% of the poverty level could.

For many families, even if they have insurance, any significant illness could wipe out all their savings, making impossible to fix a broken car to get to work, or pay for school, or make a rent or mortgage payment.

Congress has passed no law declaring that the country will go with high deductible coverage as its main approach to health insurance. There has been no meaningful debate about its pros and cons. But as deductibles and other forms of cost sharing have inched up year by year, the nature of insurance has changed.

The people to worry about most are the ones who are least equipped to deal with that change.



Terminally Ill Patients Deserve “Right to Try”

After 21-year old Abigail Burroughs succumbed to cancer in 2001, her family created an organization to help give terminally ill patients access to what Abigail was denied: potentially life-saving drugs not approved for such purposes by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Fortunately, after much criticism the FDA now routinely grants access to patients requesting such drugs, and most state governments have enacted so-called right-to-try laws. These are steps in the right direction, but more could be done.

Terminally ill patients and their families would have even more hope if Congress passes SB 204, a national right-to-try bill that gives patients access to experimental drugs without having to get FDA permission, explains Independent Institute Research Fellow Raymond March, in an op-ed for The Hill. Passing such a law, he notes, would require its supporters to overcome political opposition.

Remarkably, opponents of right-to-try laws cite safety concerns for their favoring that the FDA continue to have veto power over the decisions of terminally ill patients and their physicians. Opponents also worry that experimental drug treatments create false hope. “What is truly ‘false hope’ for the terminally ill,” March writes, “is to leave life-and-death decisions to politicians and federal regulators. Allowing them unwarranted and unneeded influence only works to deny these patients from a chance to prolong their life. The alternative, although less ‘risky’, is certainly worse.”



Get Government Out and Let Markets Work in Health Care

Tom Coburn

Ask the average American what he thinks about health care costs, and he’ll tell you a few things. He’ll tell you it is too expensive and too complicated, that he pays too much for too little, and how outrageous it is that Americans pay more for health care than any country in the world. In all cases, he’ll be spot on. He knows there’s a problem, and he doubts it can be solved — but it can.

Here’s what we know: America is predicted to spend $3.5 trillion on health care in 2017, but about a third of that spending will have no health impact whatsoever; we know that health care inflation accelerated when the government became the primary purchaser of health care for more than half the country; and we know that around $100 billion of government health spending is the result of fraudulent billing and improper payments.

We need policies that encourage competition and transparency, allowing markets to function freely and lower costs across the board.

Put simply: the American health care system is broken. Decades of government mismanagement and over-regulation have encouraged waste, fraud, and inefficiency, which may benefit the healthcare industrial complex, but harms patients and tax payers in the long run. To fix this, we need policies that encourage competition and transparency, allowing markets to function freely and lower costs across the board.

Fortunately, this idea has begun to gather widespread support. A recent study from the Brookings Institution argues that the way to really lower health care costs is to address anticompetitive regulations and practices, like Certificate of Need requirements, health systems acquiring physician-owned practices, and hospital mergers.

The study also argues for federal and state authorities to more actively enforce antitrust laws in the health care industry, which is one of the most important steps that can be taken towards real health care reform. Without real competition, hospital systems, like all monopolies, are free to charge high prices for a subpar product — which is, in this case, your medical care.

These reforms are all necessary, and would have a real impact, but there is still one thing that has not been offered to remedy the barriers to accessing fairly priced, high quality care: price discovery.

Most proposals for health care reform are based around the assumption that people either can’t or won’t take initiative in finding the best health care to meet their needs, and so someone – either an employer or the federal government – has to make those choices for them. This couldn’t be more untrue. The Amish community is a perfect example of how to shop for health care and save a few dollars in the process. I dealt with plenty of Amish patients in my 25 years as a practicing physician, and I was always impressed by their determination — and success — in shopping for value. I get the sense that they buy health care in the open market cheaper than the most sophisticated employer-based plans would provide.

The Amish are, of course, a special case, driven to this kind of frugality by their religious convictions. But they don’t have to be. A wave of new websites and apps – like HealthEngine, Medefy, and MedEncentive – are saving patients and employers hundreds of thousands of dollars a month by making it easy to search for the best values among providers and other medical services. As employers continue to make use of these tools, providers will be forced to compete for patients’ business, not just by lowering prices, but by increasing the time they spend with patients or offering additional services, like telemedicine.

The way I see it, in other markets, the sellers chase us — telling us their prices, their quality, and how much better they are than their competitors. Other businesses, like Trip Advisor, Car Fax, and Schwab help us to sort through our options.   It shouldn’t be any different in health care.

Today, inefficient hospital chains, big insurance companies, and a bloated federal bureaucracy like the status quo, not because it’s the best option for American patients, but because it’s the best way for them to maintain their profit margins and power. By rolling back anticompetitive regulations and broadening the use of price transparency tools, we can level an unfair playing field, and make it possible for individuals to regain control of their health care. 

The benefits of competition have already been demonstrated by the direct primary care model, where medical practices don’t take insurance. Instead pay a monthly fee – usually around $100 – in exchange for unlimited primary care services. Without insurance to reimburse them, doctors have to compete for patient business, offering a variety of perks, most especially longer visits.

Longer physician visits have a broader benefit, since doctors who spend more time with patients order fewer expensive (and unnecessary) tests, and have lower treatment costs in general.

When it comes to lowering health care costs, we’ve tried everything but price transparency.

How can we introduce this level of competition into the rest of the health care space? The simplest change would be for the federal government to unleash all of Medicare and Medicaid’s information on hospital and physician charges by zip code, and let private entrepreneurs mine the data to find the most efficient providers. Congress could take this a step further by passing a law that mandates all hospital and physician prices must be published and made available to the public in a clear and concise format. As soon as people can readily access this information, they will begin voting with their feet.

When it comes to lowering health care costs, we’ve tried everything but price transparency. Our best option is to empower individuals to choose what’s best for them in a free and open market.

It works for 80 percent of our economy — who says it can’t work here?



Seattle Saved From Punitive Income Tax

King County Superior Court Judge John Ruhl ruled that Seattle's recent income tax is illegal.

In a little-noticed court decision Monday, King County Superior Court Judge John Ruhl ruled that Seattle’s recent income tax is illegal. We argued it was back in July, so we’re glad Ruhl came to the right conclusion.

“Today’s ruling is a victory for all taxpayers in Seattle and throughout the state, and for everyone who values the rule of law,” said Brian Hodges, an attorney with Pacific Legal Foundation, on behalf of the Seattle residents challenging the tax. “The court performed a service for all taxpayers, and all property owners, by defeating the city’s strategy to undermine their rights.”

As we noted in July, Seattle has hiked its minimum wage, hurting low-income workers by reducing jobs and hours. The city likewise wanted to specifically target wealthier people with a 2.25% tax only on people earning more than $240,000, or $500,000 for couples, annually. Of course, the legal challenge was inevitable. Washington state is one of seven states without an income tax, and state law prohibits cities from levying one — especially one that’s “uneven.” Seattle’s tax was in essence a bill of attainder (outlawed in Article I, Section 9) specifically targeting one group of citizens for the “crime” of earning more money than other people.

The city resorted to some creative rationale to defend the tax. That included arguing it wasn’t an income tax but an “excise tax,” despite the first sentence of the city ordinance calling it … an income tax. But Ruhl wasn’t fooled. “The City’s tax, which is labeled ‘Income Tax,’ is exactly that,” he wrote. “It cannot be restyled as an ‘excise tax’ on the alternate ‘privileges’ of receiving revenue in Seattle or choosing to live in Seattle.”

We’ll see if the same wisdom wins the day if and when the city appeals to the Washington Supreme Court.



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, November 30, 2017

Shock! Horror!  Conservatives are more cautious

The article below is an amusing example of "spin".  They report research which shows that conservatives are innately more cautious -- something that no-one I know would argue with. We rather celebrate it, in fact.  Caution is almost the definition of conservatism.  But the galoots below seem to think that they have shown something new.

The only way they justify that is by seeing caution as "fear".  But even that is unoriginal.  Conservatives do indeed have realistic fears and make no apologies for it.  They particularly fear the outcomes of the madcap schemes that Leftists embark upon -- such as the"Affordable Care Act", which has deprived many Americans of healthcare altogether -- via the huge deductibles that are now often asked before any care is given.

The article is rubbishy in other ways too. The sample consisted of people taking an online survey. But such surveys routinely give a different picture from a proper random sample. The generalizability of the findings is therefore unknown.  You can only generalize to a population if you have taken a random or otherwise representative sample of that population.

And they make quite a point about a suspicion of minorities being associated with a germ model.  I quote:  "For centuries, arch-conservative leaders have often referred to scapegoated minority groups as “germs” or “bacteria” that seek to invade and destroy their country from within."

Curiously, they don't name any such leader.  But there certainly is one leader who did that:  Adolf Hitler, a socialist.  Arch-conservatives, such as Winston Churchill opposed him.  He wasn't one of them.

Hitler even used the old revolutionary slogan "Alles muss anders sein" (Everything must change).  Is that arch conservative?  He wanted to "fundamentally transform" Germany, just as Obama wanted to do to America.  It is an old Marxist lie that Hitler was conservative.

The article seems to imply that the changes they made in people's attitudes were permanent.  But there is no evidence of that given.  It is improbable.

At Yale, we conducted an experiment to turn conservatives into liberals. The results say a lot about our political divisions

By John Bargh

Keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe from harm is perhaps our strongest human motivation, deeply embedded in our very DNA. It is so deep and important that it influences much of what we think and do, maybe more than we might expect. For example, over a decade now of research in political psychology consistently shows that how physically threatened or fearful a person feels is a key factor — although clearly not the only one — in whether he or she holds conservative or liberal attitudes.

Conservatives, it turns out, react more strongly to physical threat than liberals do. In fact, their greater concern with physical safety seems to be determined early in life: In one University of California study, the more fear a 4-year-old showed in a laboratory situation, the more conservative his or her political attitudes were found to be 20 years later. Brain imaging studies have even shown that the fear center of the brain, the amygdala, is actually larger in conservatives than in liberals. And many other laboratory studies have found that when adult liberals experienced physical threat, their political and social attitudes became more conservative (temporarily, of course). But no one had ever turned conservatives into liberals.

Until we did.

In a new study to appear in a forthcoming issue of the European Journal of Social Psychology, my colleagues Jaime Napier, Julie Huang and Andy Vonasch and I asked 300 U.S. residents in an online survey their opinions on several contemporary issues such as gay rights, abortion, feminism and immigration, as well as social change in general. The group was two-thirds female, about three-quarters white, with an average age of 35. Thirty-percent of the participants self-identified as Republican, and the rest as Democrat.

But before they answered the survey questions, we had them engage in an intense imagination exercise. They were asked to close their eyes and richly imagine being visited by a genie who granted them a superpower. For half of our participants, this superpower was to be able to fly, under one’s own power. For the other half, it was to be completely physically safe, invulnerable to any harm.

If they had just imagined being able to fly, their responses to the social attitude survey showed the usual clear difference between Republicans and Democrats — the former endorsed more conservative positions on social issues and were also more resistant to social change in general.

But if they had instead just imagined being completely physically safe, the Republicans became significantly more liberal — their positions on social attitudes were much more like the Democratic respondents. And on the issue of social change in general, the Republicans’ attitudes were now indistinguishable from the Democrats. Imagining being completely safe from physical harm had done what no experiment had done before — it had turned conservatives into liberals.

In both instances, we had manipulated a deeper underlying reason for political attitudes, the strength of the basic motivation of safety and survival. The boiling water of our social and political attitudes, it seems, can be turned up or down by changing how physically safe we feel.

This is why it makes sense that liberal politicians intuitively portray danger as manageable — recall FDR’s famous Great Depression era reassurance of “nothing to fear but fear itself,” echoed decades later in Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address — and why President Trump and other Republican politicians are instead likely to emphasize the dangers of terrorism and immigration, relying on fear as a motivator to gain votes.

In fact, anti-immigration attitudes are also linked directly to the underlying basic drive for physical safety. For centuries, arch-conservative leaders have often referred to scapegoated minority groups as “germs” or “bacteria” that seek to invade and destroy their country from within. President Trump is an acknowledged germaphobe, and he has a penchant for describing people — not only immigrants but political opponents and former Miss Universe contestants — as “disgusting.”

“Immigrants are like viruses” is a powerful metaphor, because in comparing immigrants entering a country to germs entering a human body, it speaks directly to our powerful innate motivation to avoid contamination and disease. Until very recently in human history, not only did we not have antibiotics, we did not even know how infections occurred or diseases transmitted, and cuts and open wounds were quite dangerous. (In the American Civil War, for example, 60 out of every 1,000 soldiers died not by bullets or bayonets, but by infections.)

Therefore, we reasoned, making people feel safer about a dangerous flu virus should serve to calm their fears about immigrants — and making them feel more threatened by the flu virus should cause them to be more against immigration than they were before. In a 2011 study, my colleagues and I showed just that. First, we reminded our nationwide sample of liberals and conservatives about the threat of the flu virus (during the H1N1 epidemic), and then measured their attitudes toward immigration. Afterward we simply asked them if they’d already gotten their flu shot or not. It turned out that those who had not gotten a flu shot (feeling threatened) expressed more negative attitudes toward immigration, while those who had received the vaccination (feeling safe) had more positive attitudes about immigration.

In another study, using hand sanitizer after being warned about the flu virus had the same effect on immigration attitudes as had being vaccinated. A simple squirt of Purell after we had raised the threat of the flu had changed their minds. It made them feel safe from the dangerous virus, and this made them feel socially safe from immigrants as well.

SOURCE/.  There are some further critical comments on the study here


CFPB Is an Offense to the Constitution: Time to Abolish It

The spectacle of two people turning up at a major government bureau claiming to be its Acting Director this Monday is not just an indignity – it’s an affront to the Constitution. Back in 2010, the Democrat-controlled Congress set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to operate independently of oversight. Amid a host of other problems, that arrangement has now resulted in a mid-level bureaucrat from the bureau defying the President, his legal advisers, and the CFPB’s own legal department in an attempt to assert control. Congress needs to recognize its past mistake, abolish this lawless bureau, and start over.

In a normal government agency, its head is responsible to the President. If an agency director overreaches, the President can fire him or her as a check on power. With independent agencies, the director is typically insulated from Presidential firings, but in the past that was balanced by a different sort of accountability: the presence of several commissioners, each answerable to one another. The CFPB was set up as an independent bureau with a sole director.

Moreover, the Dodd-Frank act that set up the bureau says that the President cannot fire the director except “for cause” (e.g. malfeasance), and the director has no colleagues to whom he or she is answerable either. Moreover, because the CFPB gets its funding on demand from the Federal Reserve, Congress cannot exercise the power of the purse to discipline the CFPB director by withholding funds, as is the case with other independent agencies.

In a final rebuke to such constitutional protections, Dodd-Frank says that the director can appoint a deputy director who will take over in the director’s absence, which may include the director’s resignation. That is what happened here, as departing director Richard Cordray appointed his Chief of Staff, Leandra English, as deputy director on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. So Ms. English, a mid-level bureaucrat, is claiming to be the rightful Acting Director.

Problem is, there is also another, general statute that covers vacancies for positions appointed by the President, the Federal Vacancies Reform Act. This allows the President, in the event of a vacancy for a Senate-confirmed position, to appoint another Senate-confirmed official to act as director until he nominates a full-time replacement. The President relied on this statute to promptly appoint Office of Management and Budget head Mick Mulvaney as Acting Director on the same Friday that Cordray tried to appoint English to that post. Incredibly, Ms. English (who, needless to say, has not been confirmed by the Senate) brought a lawsuit two days later, on Sunday, to stop the President’s appointment. (Constitutional lawyer Adam White delves into the dueling legal theories at the Yale Journal of Regulation.)

Yet whoever ends up as Acting Director, the embarrassing and disruptive fiasco illustrates how Dodd-Frank’s attempt to create an all-powerful independent executive agency flouts constitutional norms. The Constitution vests the power to execute the laws and appoint high-level officials in the President, not in bureaucrats. The Constitution vests the power to allocate taxpayer money in the Congress, not the Federal Reserve.

The Constitution was specifically designed to do all this for very good reasons. A government official who lacks the checks and balances of accountability is likely to abuse power. So it proved with the CFPB.

Director Cordray, for instance, abused the due process rights of a New Jersey-based mortgage processing firm, PHH Corporation. His CFPB abruptly changed the long-standing interpretation of a rule to do with reinsuring mortgage products, applied that retrospectively to PHH (and others), and then fined the company millions of dollars for infringing a rule it did not know would be changed. The CFPB appealed the decision of its own Administrative Law Judge that PHH should be fined to none other than … Director Cordray himself! Cordray then upped the fine by many more millions.

Under Cordray, the CFPB has also engaged in attempts to get around Congressional restrictions on its power. The Dodd-Frank Act stops the CFPB from regulating auto loans, but the bureau has nonetheless attempted to exercise power over auto lenders, devising statistical models to show alleged racial discrimination in auto lending and otherwise trying to regulate various products sold as part of auto loans.

The bureau has also engaged in fishing expeditions in an attempt to expand its power. Immigration services provider Nexus Services is currently in court trying to stop the CFPB from demanding countless financial records of both it and its clients. Nexus simply does not provide any sort of credit to its clients, but the CFPB says that it cannot take the company’s word for it, so is demanding the documents.

Unfortunately, it is unlikely that even legitimate Acting Director Mulvaney would be able to fix these institutional problems. A past Congress made the mistake of granting the CFPB Director these unconstitutional powers, so the current Congress should make it a priority to set things right. The best way to do that is to start again, return consumer protection from fraud and deception to the Federal Trade Commission, and just abolish the CFPB entirely.



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, November 29, 2017

Victims of hate

Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock, you will have noticed an ominous cultural shift resulting in the wholesale condemnation of one class of people, namely, white, American males. In particular white, conservative, American males. By definition, they are evil, and by default, they are guilty. Whatever comes their way, they deserve.

Perhaps the one tweet best expressing this outlook comes from a black woman named Taiyesha Baker who used the moniker “Night Nurse.” She wrote, “Every white woman raises a detriment to society when they raise a son. Someone with the HIGHEST propensity to be a terrorist, rapist, racist, killer, and domestic violence all star. Historically every son you had should be sacrificed to the wolves.”

Are these sentiments extreme? Absolutely, and there has been a firestorm of well-deserved criticism against Baker. And I’m sure many black Americans find her comments utterly abhorrent.

But these sentiments were not expressed in a vacuum. Baker only articulated what some others were thinking, albeit in very extreme terms. Those evil, white males! It’s best if all of them were slaughtered in infancy, “sacrificed to the wolves.”

Emily Lindin, a white columnist with Teen Vogue, shared some similar sentiments, although, in her case, the hostility was not as extreme and was not limited to white males. Any male will do!

She tweeted, “Here's an unpopular opinion: I'm actually not at all concerned about innocent men losing their jobs over false sexual assault/harassment allegations.”

Come again? You have no problem with innocent males losing their jobs after being falsely accused? You wouldn’t mind if it was a fine, respectable, upright, ethical, hardworking, kindhearted man whose reputation was sullied and whose career destroyed because of outright lies? You wouldn’t mind if this happened to your father or your brother (or husband, if you are married)?

Precisely so. As she explained, “Sorry. If some innocent men's reputations have to take a hit in the process of undoing the patriarchy, that is a price I am absolutely willing to pay.”

Patriarchy must be crushed, and there will always be innocent casualties of war. So be it.

As for whiteness, it is inherently evil and must be eliminated or subjugated.

This is the fruit of decades of radical feminism and identity politics. It is fruit that is rotten to the core.

As for white evangelicals, African American TV host Roland Martin gives us a succinct summary. Martin was asked, “For a party that is evangelical and dealing with someone who was claiming to be a religious moral leader [speaking of Judge Roy Moore], what does that tell us?”  Martin responded, “It tells us, first of all, white evangelicals do not care.”

As he explained, “Because if you look at Jerry Falwell Jr., you look at Ralph Reed, you look at Tony Perkins, you look at Robert Jeffress, you look at how they have defended anything and everything Donald Trump has done. They don’t care.

“White conservative evangelicals also care about power. All they care about is a right-wing judge on the Supreme Court. All they care about are the same judges on the federal bench.”

All clear. White evangelicals are not concerned with the sanctity of life, beginning in the womb. White evangelicals are not concerned with preserving religious liberties, a bedrock of our society. White evangelicals are not concerned with caring for the poor and the needy. White evangelicals only want power so they can dominate society and (as Martin further expressed) make “profits” from their power.

All these comments and quotes reflect what happens when a group of people gets caricatured, when there is an Animal Farm type reaction that demonizes those who are dominant in society, when “justice” means hurting those whom you perceive have previously hurt you.

Have whites oppressed blacks in the past? Then all whites are evil. Have men hurt women? Then all men are evil. Have evangelicals been hypocritical? Then all evangelicals are evil.

It hardly matters that the vast majority of men recently accused of sexual harassment are liberals or that other liberals are covering for them (like Nancy Pelosi claiming that Congressman John Conyers is an “icon” who deserves due process while calling Roy Moore a “child molester,” or MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt defending Al Franken).

No. It is those hypocritical, power-hungry, white evangelicals. Their only agenda is to dominate the country again and rule over everyone else. That’s just what white evangelicals do.

To be sure, anti-white, anti-male, and anti-evangelical sentiments like this are not new. But having simmered and festered for several decades on university campuses and among liberal intelligentsia, they are now rising to the surface with shocking anger and ferocity.

The controversial nature of the Trump presidency, following on the heels of eight years of identity politics under President Obama, provided the perfect breeding ground.

That’s why, in the coming days, I expect even more shrill, more despicable sentiments to be expressed. You have been forewarned.

On our end – and by “our” I mean civil-minded people from every background – we do well to major on the majors: standing for justice for all; standing with the oppressed; and standing against stereotypes and lies.

This way we can be busy doing good while the extremists are getting exposed for who they really are.


Hedonism's Predictable Horrors

At the center of today's outbreak of sexual deviancy lies hedonism and modern liberalism

"There's no such thing as right and wrong" liberals say.  And they practice it

Headlines lately serve as sirens warning of an epidemic of a widespread contagion called sexual misconduct. Presenting in various forms — harassment, groping, fondling, intimidation and rape — these inappropriate behaviors are in the public view because individuals on both sides of the political aisle and within the media/entertainment industry are standing accused as pedophiles, rapists, perverts and power-hungry sex addicts.

The unending disgust is justified. None of these alleged behaviors, if true, is ever right or appropriate, though there is a vast distinction lost to conflation. The #MeToo hashtag activism railing against predators and predatory behavior soars to new heights of moral supremacy, while accomplishing nothing.

But how exactly did the American culture arrive at such a moment? How did our mores slide from viewing pornography in private to living it out in the public square as daily fare?

Those who blame Donald Trump are laughingly ignorant and live blissfully under the banner of victimhood, finding a target of hatred and blame for their own missteps and grievances. Those who blame a prominent institution of our society such as the media or education get a bit closer to touching part of the answer. The aforementioned institutions have been and are tools that have chipped away at our standards and norms to yield such cultural and moral decay.

At the center of today’s outbreak of sexual deviancy lies several factors, among which are two that we’ll approach broadly: hedonism and modern liberalism.

According to Stanford’s Encyclopedia of Philosophy, hedonism is a philosophy, whether taught or simply pursued out of human satisfaction, that’s been argued back to Plato and Aristotle. It’s founded on the premise that humankind is motivated by either pleasure or pain, with the former being understood in terms of pleasant feelings, experiences, delight, gratification and emotions of the like. Restraints to the pure elation sought at all costs of human behavior, consequences to others and even criminality have been the observances and practices of religion, a common morality and the respect of the law.

Those who observe hedonism, whether deliberately or not, possess a few common characteristics of self-indulgences, addictions, excesses, unbridled pursuit of individual satisfaction and the exploitation of others for an end goal. Clearly, the sexual deviants under public scrutiny manifest these characteristics.

But, hey, back in the 1960s, the revolution of the individual — the root of hedonism — and the elevation of a clash of culture against accepted norms heralded self-indulgence, addictions, excess and the “freedom” to do with one’s body as one chose. This birthed a new type of liberalism. Modern liberalism targets an individual’s pleasures and desire for “freedoms.” The Left redefined the “empowered” woman to be one whose anatomy is her own to display, exploit, prostitute, sexualize, objectify, etc., even extending to terminating the life of her unborn child in the name of “choice.” Pleasure without consequence.

These two darlings of deviancy are raging at the core of our cultural war today. Hedonism spans the ages because it’s a doctrine based on the human tendency to satisfy versus experience pain and discomfort. Liberalism, however, has been hijacked by radicals to weaponize egalitarianism and individualism. Thus they inflict societal and individual self-harm under the wrongheaded belief that any standards are to be treated as bigoted judgments instead of logic based on objective reasoning and discernment.

Let’s take these two approaches — hedonism and modern liberalism — and see how today’s “sudden” rash of sexual scandals has been a predictable outcome.

In 1996, Judge Robert Bork wrote a prescient book, Slouching Towards Gomorrah, which greatly expanded the notion of “defining deviancy down” and fingered radical egalitarianism and radical individualism as the responsible culprits in our cultural decay. Bork cited Emile Durkheim, a founder of sociology, who observed a limit ultimately reached by a society of deviant behavior that recalibrates norms. Specifically, as collective behavior coarsens, and deviant behavior prevails, the community will adjust its standards to define deviancy down related to drug use, illegitimacy, promiscuity, and the like, and begin to normalize wrong conduct — even crime.

So, our natural bent to pursue pleasure has been combined with political indoctrination to create today’s cultural cesspool. There’s no shock — it just took time for the mixture to prove its putrid toxicity.

Take pornography. In its original definition, pornography was the visual consumption of material that prostituted an individual’s physical essence for the sexual pleasure of voyeurs. Today, that which was deemed to be pornography just two decades ago is now disguised as various television series and watched by millions.

Remember, applying the philosophy of hedonism, pornography then and now is meant to achieve pleasure. Coupled with modern day liberalism, an individual’s anatomy is theirs to exploit as a government-sanctioned right to empower self. Yet when that which previously restrained hedonism — the ideas of moral limitation, respect of the law and even the application of religion that one’s body is a uniquely created, precious vessel fashioned in the likeness of one’s Creator — has been politically and publicly disdained, we’re supposed to feign shock that sexual squalor in the workplace, in our media, in our entertainment and in our politics is normal.

There was a day when pornography was “look, don’t touch.” In 2017, the predictable horrors of hedonism are rampant and being fanned by liberalism’s indoctrination. So, today pornography is occurring in real time as daily life in the halls of Congress, in the studios of Hollywood, in the newsrooms of major broadcast news organizations and throughout our society.

So, when will society see the value of the boundaries provided through the respect of law and religion? When will society wake up and reject the almost mythical mess created through the follies of modern liberalism?



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, November 28, 2017

Scrap the Obamacare mandate

by Jeff Jacoby

ALASKA SENATOR LISA MURKOWSKI, a Republican, repeatedly opposed her party's attempts this year to repeal the Affordable Care Act. But doing away with the ACA's individual mandate, a change included in tax-reform legislation being readied by Senate Republicans, is a different matter.

"I have always supported the freedom to choose," Murkowski wrote in an op-ed for the Daily News-Miner in Fairbanks. "I believe that the federal government should not force anyone to buy something they do not wish to buy, in order to avoid being taxed."

Murkowski's positions — unwilling to kill Obamacare but very willing to kill the individual mandate — put her squarely in the mainstream. The individual mandate, unfair and ineffective, has always been the most disliked feature of the law, and not just by Republicans.

From the outset, Americans across the spectrum resented the notion that the federal government could order citizens to buy something they didn't want — not as a condition to doing something, the way auto insurance is required for those who wish to drive a car on public roads, but simply for being alive. According to an Economist/YouGov survey in February, the requirement to have health insurance or pay a tax penalty was opposed by two-thirds of US adults. In May, a Harris Poll found that 58 percent of the public opposed the individual mandate, with only 24 percent in favor.

You can be a liberal Democrat committed to affordable health insurance for everyone and still be against an individual mandate. That was Barack Obama's original position, and he reiterated it often during his 2008 campaign. "If a mandate was the solution," he said in a Super Tuesday interview, "we could try that to solve homelessness by mandating that everybody buy a house. The reason they don't have a house is they don't have the money."

It was a good argument then; it's an even better argument now. In 2015, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen reported to Congress, about 6.5 million American households paid the tax penalty for not having health insurance. The fine isn't trivial. Tax filers this year who don't acquire health insurance must pay the government a fee equal to $695 per adult plus $347.50 per child, or 2.5 percent of total family income — whichever is greater. Yet, steep as the penalty is, millions of Americans would rather fork it over than buy medical insurance they don't want or can't afford. Nearly 80 percent of those who paid the fee in 2015 earned less than $50,000.

The individual mandate amounts to a tax on low- and middle-income families. And it would be whacking considerably more than 6.5 million households (the number of uninsured is about 28 million) if not for all the "hardship exemptions" included in the ACA. For example, anyone who is homeless or recently faced eviction or foreclosure is not required to obtain insurance. Neither are taxpayers who experienced domestic abuse, filed for bankruptcy, had a utility shut off, or went to prison.

With Obamacare's hefty subsidies, Congress has underwritten many people's purchase of health-care plans. But it has also wrecked the individual insurance market, causing premiums to skyrocket and competition to collapse. That may not be a salient issue for the 82 percent of Americans whose insurance comes from their employers or through Medicare and Medicaid. It's a huge issue for those with no insurance recourse other than the individual market, and who don't qualify for (or know about) the exemptions from the mandate.

In Murkowski's words, "there are many for whom this law has not been helpful" — those who make "the calculated risk to go without insurance and pay the tax . . . They prefer to take a gamble, pay for care out of pocket, and hope nothing too bad happens because the insurance available to purchase is unaffordable." For several million American families, the mandate penalty is a perverse bargain: Better to pay the IRS a stiff fine that nets them nothing than to pay many thousands of dollars in premiums and deductibles for overpriced insurance.

The argument against repealing the individual mandate is that without a law corralling healthy Americans into the overall insurance pool, insurers will face a death spiral: Only sick people will have an incentive to be insured, so average payouts for those with insurance will rise, so insurers will keep raising premiums, so even more people will forgo insurance, so costs and premiums will rise even more, until insurers abandon the individual market altogether.

But the argument fails on both moral and practical grounds.

As a moral matter, it's intolerable to treat citizens as mere instruments of an economic policy. Government has no right to force Americans to engage in unwanted commercial transactions just because that's the only way a Rube Goldberg policy can be made to work. The IRS doesn't penalize taxpayers for not having children, not buying a car, or not going to college. It is unjust to penalize them for not buying health insurance. From that perspective alone, the individual mandate is an outrage.

Even as a practical matter, however, the individual mandate has been a flop. Not only does it hurt the working poor, it has done little — as even a key Obamacare architect, Jonathan Gruber, has acknowledged — to boost coverage rates. Universal health coverage may or may not be a worthy goal, but penalizing a small fraction of non-affluent taxpayers is an especially lousy way to pursue it.

Obama had it right the first time: Health insurance should be voluntary. Punishing people for not buying something they can't afford isn't good public policy. It's just mean. Congress is divided on the future of Obamacare, but scrapping the individual mandate deserves bipartisan support.



A modern witch hunt

Claims of sexual misconduct against leading figures in American politics are piling up, as the #MeToo movement swoops into Washington.

The recent wave began with allegations against Roy Moore, the Republican candidate for the Senate from Alabama, who faces claims of sexual misconduct with teenage girls. Then last week, a radio-show host, Leann Tweeden, accused Al Franken, Democrat senator from Minnesota, of unwanted kissing, as well as taking a photo in which he appeared to grope a sleeping Tweeden (a photo that has since gone viral). Then the floodgates broke, and more claims of sexual misconduct in politics emerged:

* A second woman alleged Franken groped her, at the Minnesota state fair.

* Michigan Representative John Conyers, an 88-year-old civil rights icon and the longest-serving Democrat in Congress, faces allegations of sexual harassment, as he admitted he paid $27,000 in 2015 to a woman who claimed he fired her because she rejected his advances. More women are said to have received unwanted advances from Conyers.

* After pressure, the congressional Office of Compliance released documents showing it had paid out $17million since 1997 to settle workplace claims, including sexual harassment.

* Democrat representative Diana DeGette accused Bob Filner, a fellow Democrat, of groping her in an elevator.

* Multiple media figures covering politics, including Charlie Rose, Glenn Thrush and Mark Halperin, have been suspended or fired for sexual misconduct.

And there is a palpable sense that this is just the beginning.

It was only a matter of time before the #MeToo groundswell would spread from Hollywood and the media to Washington. This outpouring of sex-related accusations is a broader cultural phenomenon, not limited to showbusiness or celebrities. It is a movement that seeks to expose high-profile, powerful men in all institutions, and US politics is full of high-profile, powerful men.

Many politicians and commentators have welcomed the new focus on the issue of sexual harassment on Capitol Hill. Democrat representative Jackie Speier said, ‘Many of us in Congress know what it’s like, because Congress has been a breeding ground for a hostile work environment for far too long’. Speier has described her own instances of being sexually harassed, and has been a leading voice in calling for an overhaul of how Congress handles complaints. Many politicians, including Speier, are supporting calls for ethics investigations into Franken, Conyers and others.

But the expansion of #MeToo to Washington has highlighted how this cause is really a sex-based crusade, a frenzy of puritanism, rather than a constructive movement that might help women. How do we know? Consider the irrational and illiberal ways that #MeToo is playing out in Washington. We have seen:

* The blurring of real (or close-to) criminal acts with awkward flirtation or passes. For example, the allegations against Moore (which include paedophilia) are more serious than those leveled at Franken, yet, in public discussion, both have been considered essentially the same.

* The disregard for context. Franken’s alleged improper moves were in a comedy skit, yet they are considered on a par with Conyers’ alleged acts while in Congress and as an employer.

* The dredging up of old history. There seems to be no statute of limitations when it comes to accusations. Franken’s skit-gone-wrong was in 2006, the allegations against Moore go back 40 years or so – and yet are just becoming public. Now other political figures from the past, with controversial sexual histories, like Bill Clinton and Clarence Thomas, are being re-evaluated.

* The demand that we believe the accusers, and not wait for substantiation of the evidence. Moore’s defenders – who have questioned why the accusers are speaking out now, and wondered if they might be motivated by the fact Moore is in an election contest – have been denounced, while Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, has been praised for saying: ‘I believe the women, yes.’

* Related to this, the calls for removals before any further evidence or investigation, and despite the accused often denying the allegations. Both Democrats and Republicans have called for Moore to drop out of the race, and for Franken to resign. Also, the punishment has no sense of proportion: a boorish come-on, which is what Franken’s move appeared to be, is enough to end a political career. (Maybe Franken, who has prominently supported the moves on campus to deny due process to accused male students, is rediscovering the value of that concept.)

* The demand that all accused must immediately apologise if they want to remain in public life. Franken, like many others who have been accused of sexual misconduct, right away said he was sorry, even if he couldn’t remember what he did. Despite such self-abasement, these forced, hostage-like apologies are no guarantee that the accused will be welcomed back.

Such a fevered, witch-hunt-like atmosphere has severe negative consequences in any social arena, but it is particularly problematic in political life. It is far too easy for such claims of sexual misconduct to be utilised for old-fashioned political advantage. Indeed, we are already seeing the weaponising of sex claims for political ends. See how Democrats have denounced Moore and hope to gain the Alabama Senate seat, while Republicans were giddy at the woes befalling the Democrat Franken.

Of course, the biggest game yet to be caught is Trump himself. We all know how Democrats would like to see Trump impeached, hoping in particular that the allegations of collusion with Russia will stick. As the #MeToo reaction takes off, accusations that Trump abused women are being revived (the Washington Post published a detailed list of allegations this week).

At the same time, it is striking how the latest swirl of accusations have created strange political bedfellows. For example, Republicans have been joined by feminists and activists in calling for Franken to resign. Indeed, we cannot underestimate how conservatives’ conversion to the cause of #MeToo has consolidated a consensus on this issue. We all know how conservatives like to mock campus feminists, blaming them for much of what ails society today. And yet, here we have Republicans like McConnell professing ‘I believe the women’, sounding like a spokesperson for the women’s studies department.

With the spread of #MeToo in Washington, it’s those on the right who are ensuring that the modern-day feminist narratives – all men are potential rapists, and all women are vulnerable damsels in distress – gain further acceptance in our discussions of the topic.

A political take-down by sex accusation is coming to be seen as a reasonable mode of political discourse. This is a degradation of what politics should mean. ‘The personal is political’, goes the old feminist slogan. With #MeToo, our political life threatens to be reduced to personal behaviour.

The potential to use sex claims for short-term gain is just too tempting for our politicians to pass on. They are blind to how destructive these actions can be for the entire political class. It’s like Republicans and Democrats are unconsciously stumbling towards Mutually Assured Destruction. Already, the political class is held in low regard, is not trusted by the public, and lacks legitimacy. Joining the #MeToo bandwagon will only make matters worse for them.

Jane Curtin, who worked with Franken on Saturday Night Live, said of the latest wave of accusations against Franken and others: ‘It’s just like the red menace. You don’t know who’s going to be next.’ Claims of a new McCarthyism are overused, but Curtin is right: this is getting out of control, and it is probably the closest similar experience of mass condemnation and expulsion we’ve had since the McCarthy era. But we must support the women speaking out against our powerful politicians, they say. What they really mean is, let’s rush to believe unsubstantiated allegations from years ago, however trivial, and begin a wholesale purge of politicians from public life.

This witch-hunt will not help women, and, like all witch-hunts, it will not end well.



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, November 27, 2017

More sugar crusade nonsense

Ever since the demonization of salt and fat went into a 180 degree turn, sugar has been the favoured dietary nemesis, despite a lot of evidence that sugar is generally harmless.  We eat so much sugar that we would all be dead if it really were harmful.  But the idea that there is no such thing as "healthy" food just seems to be beyond a lot of brains to accept.

The campaigners below however have found a study which showed sugar as harmful in rats.  Sadly however, the study was never completed or published.  The authors below draw most adverse inferences from that -- blaming "big sugar".

But if big sugar was reponsisible for cancelling the study, they had good reason to do so.  The study was a example of the now discredited strategy of feeding rats huge amounts of something and seeing what happened.  As soon as the paymasters saw that that was what the researchers were doing, they had every right to withdaw funding.  You can show that almost anything -- including water -- can be harmful if you feed some subject huge amounts of it.  The quantities used these days have to bear some relationship to normal consumption.

And none of that is new.  It has long been a basic principle of toxicology that the toxicity is in the dose.  It is no loss that a study which ignored that faded from view

More than four decades ago, a study in rats funded by the sugar industry found evidence linking the sweetener to heart disease and bladder cancer, the paper trail investigation reports.

The results of that study were never made public.

Instead, the sugar industry pulled the plug on the study and buried the evidence, said senior researcher Stanton Glantz. He is a professor of medicine and director of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education.

Glantz likened this to suppressed Big Tobacco internal research linking smoking with heart disease and cancer.

"This was an experiment that produced evidence that contradicted the scientific position of the sugar industry," Glantz said. "It certainly would have contributed to increasing our understanding of the cardiovascular risk associated with eating a lot of sugar, and they didn't want that."

In response to the investigation, The Sugar Association issued a statement calling it "a collection of speculations and assumptions about events that happened nearly five decades ago, conducted by a group of researchers and funded by individuals and organizations that are known critics of the sugar industry."

The new paper focuses on an industry-sponsored study referred to as Project 259 in documents generated by the Sugar Research Foundation and its successor, the International Sugar Research Foundation, and dug up decades later by Glantz and his colleagues.

Researchers at the University of Birmingham in England conducted Project 259 between 1967 and 1971, comparing how lab rats fared when fed table sugar versus starch. The scientists specifically looked at how gut bacteria processed the two different forms of carbohydrate.

Early results in August 1970 indicated that rats fed a high-sugar diet experienced an increase in blood levels of triglycerides, a type of fat that contributes to cholesterol.

Rats fed loads of sugar also appeared to have elevated levels of beta-glucuronidase, an enzyme previously associated with bladder cancer in humans, the researchers said.

Months after receiving these results, the International Sugar Research Foundation failed to approve an additional 12 weeks of funding that the Birmingham researchers needed to complete their work, according to the authors behind the new investigation.

SOURCE. Journal article here


Judicial Watch sues Kentucky over alleged 'dirty voting rolls'

A conservative watchdog group is suing Kentucky over its alleged failure to maintain accurate voter registration lists, claiming 48 counties in the state have more registered voters than citizens over the voting age of 18.

Judicial Watch filed the federal lawsuit against Kentucky’s Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky on Wednesday.

In its complaint, Judicial Watch claims that Kentucky leads the nation in the number of counties where total registration exceeds the citizen voting-age population.

“Kentucky has perhaps the dirtiest election rolls in the country,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said Wednesday. “Federal law requires states to take reasonable steps to clean up their voting rolls—and clearly Kentucky hasn’t done that.”

Fitton said the lawsuit aimed to “ensure” that Kentucky citizens have “more confidence” that elections in the state won’t be “subject to fraud.”

Kentucky is required by law to disclose to the federal Election Assistance Commission the inactive registrations it carries on its voter rolls. Judicial Watch claims the state “failed to do so.”

According to Judicial Watch, Kentucky also is required by the National Voter Registration Act to make registration-related records publicly available by request -- but the group claims the state did not make records available to them.

“Dirty voting rolls can mean dirty elections,” Fitton said.

But the Kentucky secretary of state’s office told Fox News the lawsuit is “without merit.”

“We are confident the facts will prove Kentucky is following the law and doing its due diligence to protect voters’ rights and franchise,” Grimes’ spokesman Bradford Queen told Fox News Wednesday.

Queen told Fox News that under Grimes’ leadership, Kentucky “has and will continue to” maintain the state’s voter rolls in accordance with all federal and state statutes, ​“including the National Voter Registration Act and the Help America Vote Act.”

“Judicial Watch is a right-wing organization masquerading as a citizen advocacy group, and a majority of its lawsuits have been dismissed,” Queen said. “In reality, Judicial Watch wants to make it harder for people to vote, and the Commonwealth and its State Board of Elections won’t bow to their efforts.”

Judicial Watch is also currently suing the state of Maryland and Montgomery County over their alleged failure to release voter registration documents.



An End to Democrat Stonewalling on Judicial Picks

Blue slips are out.  "No more Mr Nice guy" from the GOP at last

Don’t say we didn’t warn you, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, told Democrats at a rocky Senate Judiciary meeting last week.

When Democrats blew up the 225-year-old judicial confirmation rules in 2013, Grassley said they’d regret it. Now, four years later, the left is finding out just how right he was.

Sure, clearing the way for a simple majority to rubber-stamp Obama's judge nominees seemed like a good idea at the time. But now that the shoe is on the other foot, liberals suddenly find themselves on the wrong side of the same process they manipulated.

President Donald Trump certainly doesn’t mind. He’s been filling bench vacancies at lightning speed, shattering records set in much less partisan times.

Now, left without the only weapon that could stop a confirmation—the filibuster—Democrats are grasping for anything to put the brakes on this high-speed train of nominees. What they’ve settled on is a century-old tradition born out of common courtesy: the blue slip.

Dating back to 1917, if a president nominated someone to the Senate, committee chairmen would send an evaluation form of sorts to the person’s hometown senators. They could return it, signaling their willingness to hold a hearing, or withhold it—usually grinding the progress on that nomination to a halt.

Desperate for leverage, liberal senators like Sens. Al Franken, D-Minn.; Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.; and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., have tried to use these blue slips as the obstructionist method du jour.

There’s just one problem: The practice has never been an official Senate rule. Instead, it’s more of a gentlemanly agreement to give deference to the two leaders who may know the person in question best.

So while senators have taken to withholding their blue slips in protest, there’s nothing stopping Grassley from moving forward without them.

And on Thursday, he promised to do just that. The longtime conservative announced to his colleagues that his patience has officially run out.

“As I’ve said all along, I won’t allow the blue slip process to be abused. I won’t allow senators to prevent a committee hearing for political or ideological reasons. … The Democrats seriously regret that they abolished the filibuster, as I warned them they would. But they can’t expect to use the blue slip courtesy in its place. That’s not what the blue slip is meant for.”

The tradition was never created, Grassley went on, to be a home-state veto. And after Thanksgiving, he refuses to treat it like one.

When the Senate flies back from turkey day, the Iowa Republican has already announced his plan to move on 8th and 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals nominees David Stras and Kyle Duncan.

“I’ll add that I’m less likely to proceed on a district court nominee who does not have two positive blue slips from home state. But circuit courts cover multiple states. There’s less reason to defer to the views of a single state’s senator for such nominees.”

For Trump, Grassley has been a perfect partner in accomplishing what most voters agreed was one of their biggest priorities: reshaping the federal judiciary.

“When the history books are written about the Trump administration, the legacy will be the men and women confirmed to the trial bench,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, explained. And when that happens, some of the credit will almost certainly belong to leaders like Chuck Grassley.



Blood pressure nonsense

They keep putting the "safe" level down

Seven million more people in England would be classed as having high blood pressure under controversial new guidance.

Doctors have expressed alarm over a change that would result in four in ten adults being classed as ill, warning of a statins-style row over the medicalisation of healthy people.

However, blood pressure experts insist that it is right to focus on a risk that is one of Britain’s biggest causes of death.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) is looking at whether to lower the level at which blood pressure should be treated, saying that there is currently “no natural cut-off point above which ‘hypertension’ definitively exists and below which it does not”.



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, November 26, 2017

Karl Marx had his Donald Trump

In my monograph on the subject, I claimed that Leftism versus Conservatism is largely a product of genetic influences that manifest themselves as differences in personality.  Conservatives are born as generally contented people where Leftists are heavily discontented people.  It follows from that that there will be a recognizable polarity between Left and Right throughout history.  And in my monograph I did a quick tour of history to show that that was so. So there is in one way a tendency for history to repeat itself

I am in a very small way a student of Karl Marx.  I even have a blog devoted to his words.  He was in no way a great thinker but his unrelenting hate for just about everyone -- including his own mother -- has always made him very attractive to the Left and that has made him very influential in world affairs.

And perhaps Marx's most famous saying is that "history repeats itself, the first as tragedy, then as farce" (Exact quote here).

The quote is from Marx's book "The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte". and he was comparing the original Napoleon with  his nephew, Napoleon III (Napoleon II was the son of Napoleon I and ruled as the King of the Netherlands).  Napoleon III started out as a popular democratic politician but later made himself a popular emperor with a big message of French patriotism.

And Napoleon III was very frustrating to Marx.  Marx was hoping for some sort of revolution of the workers -- given the many discontents of the workers at that time.  But along came Napoleon III as a very popular ruler who took advantage of worker discontents by making big promises.  So in the preface to the second edition of "The Eighteenth Brumaire", Marx stated that the purpose of his essay was to "demonstrate how the class struggle in France created circumstances and relationships that made it possible for a grotesque mediocrity to play a hero's part."

It amused me that Marx saw Napoleon III in exactly the same way as contemporary American Leftists see Donald Trump.  I would not be surprised to find that some Leftist has described Trump too as a "grotesque mediocrity".  It may be no consolation to the Left  that Napoleon III ended up ruling for 18 years.

Aside from his popularity with the workers and his aim to make France great again, there are few other parallels between Napoleon III and Trump, though Napoleon did carry out extensive public works. Trump has similar aspirations but has been thwarted by RINO traitors in the GOP.

It is interesting to see, however, that the Leftist response to patriotic leaders has remained the same for over 150 years -- and  got the facts completely wrong on both occasions.


Obama regulations under attack
If you can’t legislate, regulate! That was the slogan of the Obama administration, which put enough stuffing in the federal rulebooks to fill every Thanksgiving turkey. By the time the former president left office, the government probably had to chop down entire forests to produce enough paper for the Federal Register — which at a record 97,110 pages was hardly light reading for anyone, let alone the agencies trying to keep up with it!

And those guidelines aren’t just oppressive, they’re pricey. Just putting those changes in effect cost hundreds of billions of dollars each year. (That’s some expensive red tape.) But apart from the expense, conservatives’ biggest beef with Obama’s rule-making is that it took the legislating out of Congress’s hands and put it in his and hundreds of unelected bureaucrats, who all used these regulations to rewrite policies that the House and Senate already passed.

To put the situation in perspective, Congress passed 211 laws in 2016. To implement those laws, President Obama issued a whopping 3,852 regulations. That means the Obama administration had an 18 to 1 advantage over lawmakers in directing the government’s activity. And they weren’t insignificant changes either. They defined everything from “gender” in health care to “reproductive services” in immigration. Obama’s lawlessness got so out of hand that even his own party called him on the carpet. “It’s become an unfortunate tradition of this administration,” the executive director of the Center for Progressive Reform said of the president trying to accomplish his agenda without following the constitutional process. “Congressional rather than agency approval of regulations and regulatory costs should be the goal.”

Instead of waiting for activist judges to read something into the law that wasn’t there, President Obama hung a “We Can’t Wait” banner and used his own pen. Even the former director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office weighed in about the last administration’s governing by guidance. “There was a lot of overreach,” Douglas Holtz-Eakin said, and it resulted in a “cumulative burden” of $890 billion in compliance costs. “There’s no question the Obama administration went too far,” he told reporters plainly.

Donald Trump agreed. When he ran for president, he promised to slash as many as 80 percent of all federal regulations. And over the summer, he got a good start. In July, Trump’s agencies announced it “was pulling or suspending 860 regulations. "I cannot express to you enough how much things have changed when it comes to the regulatory burden,” Office of Management and Budget head Mick Mulvaney explained.

Now, thanks to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, they’re changing even more. On Friday afternoon, the Justice Department boss explained that the days of legislative free-wheeling are over at an agency that, under Obama, was one of the worst offenders. In a memo, Sessions banned the DOJ from the lawless practice of the last administration. “Effective immediately,” he ordered, “Department components may not issue guidance documents that purport to create rights or obligations binding on persons or entities outside the Executive Branch (including state, local, and tribal governments)… The Department of Justice is duty-bound to defend laws as they are written, regardless of whether or not the government likes the results. Our agencies must follow the law — not make it.”

For too long, Sessions explained, the DOJ has “[cut] off the public from the regulatory process by skipping the required public hearings and comment periods — and it is simply not what these documents are for… Guidance documents should be used reasonably to explain existing law — not to change it or rewrite the law.” After all, he reminded everyone, “simply sending a letter” to “make new rules” is unconstitutional. Although he didn’t mention it, Sessions was almost certainly referring to Obama’s school bathroom mandate, which he forced on states with the help of former Attorney General Loretta Lynch. Instead of having a constructive policy debate, the former president defaulted to governing by executive action — stomping over Congress in the process.

That subversion ends now, Sessions vows. As Charles Cooke explained in a great column for National Review, “In America, presidents enjoy the right to use their limited powers to get as much of what they want as is possible. But they enjoy nothing more. When his ambitions are tempered by the ambitions of the other elected figures within the structure… well, nothing happens. That, I’m afraid, is how separation of powers works.”



Liberal denial

They can't see the nose in front of their face

As the media elites roll their eyes and sigh at people who deny the apparently inevitable approach of traumatic climate change, there's one category of denial they always endorse: a liberal bias in the "news." Chest-pounding journalistic activism defines the Trump era, and yet shameless journalists still claim media bias is a myth.

James Warren, a former managing editor and chief of the Chicago Tribune Washington, D.C., bureau, now works at The Poynter Institute for media studies (or media denial?). He posted a commentary on Nov. 20 headlined "How Mega-Media Deals Further Erode the Myth of a 'Liberal' Media."

Liberals made fun of Mitt Romney when he claimed that "corporations are people," but they subscribe to the cartoonish idea that "corporations are all conservative." Corporations have a profit motive, so that somehow inexorably translates to Republican propaganda?

Rupert Murdoch is looking at unloading some of his Hollywood assets, and among the suspected potential buyers are The Walt Disney Co. (ABC) and Comcast Corp. (NBC). To Warren, this somehow heralds a new era of "not just unceasing consolidation but the unceasing influence of folks of distinctly conservative ideology." The Murdochs explore selling off assets, and that's conservative consolidation?

Not only that, Warren says the "caricature" of a liberal media is "dubious" and can be rebutted by the fact that the "aggressively conservative" Sinclair Broadcasting Group "is primed to become the biggest local TV broadcaster." Yet Sinclair stations are routinely airing network news and entertainment content from ... ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox.

Warren then rounds up academics who sound like they never read or watch the liberal media. Matthew Baum, the Marvin Kalb professor of global communications at the Harvard Kennedy School, claims that conservatives "mostly point to the political views of journalists at mainstream media outlets, who tend to lean Democratic." He adds: "Of course, the core journalistic norm of balance and objectivity run directly counter to that. So at minimum it isn't obvious why personal political views would trump professional norms." He then argues that some "research" shows that "news reporting tends to reflect the interests of ownership," so that predicts "a more pro-conservative bias."

It's official: This professor sounds dumber than a grade schooler.

He seems to have ignored every story written or broadcast over the last two years about President Donald Trump and his allegedly racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic voters, as the "professional norms" have included demeaning Trump and the Republicans as a dangerously ignorant gang shredding democracy.

Warren then cites Danny Hayes, a political scientist at George Washington University who doubles down on the idiocy. "The debate about ideological bias in the media is not productive at all," he says. That's true ... if you're a liberal who wants the average (and, apparently, ignorant) media consumer to think the news is objective. Hayes insists "the social science research finds virtually no evidence in the mainstream media of systematic liberal or conservative bias."

Hayes should be teaching geology because, clearly, he is living under a rock. We've been churning out daily evidence of a dramatic liberal bias in the "objective" news media for 30 years, and this "scientist" in Washington, D.C., thinks there's "virtually no evidence"?

This is a little like arguing that "research" shows there's virtually no evidence of pro football players kneeling during the national anthem this season. Everyone's seen it. No one is fooled. The only fool is the one who thinks denying the obvious just might work



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