Friday, January 26, 2018

Foundlings:  A pre-modern social welfare system

I actually knew a foundling once so it's really quite recent history. It reflected a time when food was much less abundant than it is now in a modern capitalist society.  Lots of people had to battle to feed their families.  There was even some real starvation. 

Under those circumstances, a father wanted to be sure that the kids he was feeding were all his.  And the only way he could achieve that was by forging all sorts of bonds which would ensure that his wife slept only with him.  Marriage was a public agreement that she would do that and he would provide for the resultant kids.  And the society generally co-operated with that.  There were all sorts of norms for female behaviour that made it punitively difficult for her to stray.

But the sex drive being what it is, women did sometimes stray. The woman and her lover of course did the utmost to hide her lack of virtue but that became difficult when a baby popped out.  The social disgrace was enormous and even the woman's family would not support her lest they to fell into disgrace.

So how was she to support herself and the babe?  She could hardly go to work with a new baby and the poorhouse would close its doors to her.  The poorhouse was the Victorian social support net for those who could not support themselves.  So on many occasions the baby had to be disposed of in some way.  A common way was for the mother to wrap the baby up warmly and leave it on the doorstep of one of the great houses.

When one of the servants opened the door of the house next morning, the babe was found.  And there was generally some sympathy for it among the servants.  The cook (who had access to food) or some other kindly person would informally "adopt" the babe and see to its needs. It became a foundling. 

The master of the house would not always be told imediately but, when he was, he would generally accept it as a fait accompli and wash his hands of the matter.  As long as his dinners were not interrupted and the cleaning was done, he could allow the servants the occasional folly. But he would not acknowledge the baby in any way.

But babies grow up eventually and the legitimate children in the house would sometimes notice another child in their environment and might even get to play with it. So if the child had some virtue -- a clever brain or a pleasant manner, say -- this would become generally known to all -- eventually even to the master.  And for the inculcation of virtue, the foundling would quite often be included in the children's lessons. 

Children of a great house were not sent to a school.  They were taught at home by a tutor or a governess.  A tutor mainly taught Latin and a governess generally taught French but there was some general education included.  So foundlings often got a better education than children brought up in a poor household.  And there were occasions, when the foundling displayed some talent or other, that the master of the house would give some acknowledgement to the foundling -- taking personal credit for having taken in the foundling.

So it was a very hit-and-miss social safety net but its results for the child would fall within the range of what many legitimate children experienced at the time.  That it didn't starve was a significant achievement.

Having a great house nearby was not always available so an embarrassing babe would be left on the doorstep of what was apparently a prosperous couple -- with uneven but not too terrible results.  The foundling I knew was actually unaware for most of her life that she was a foundling.  She was brought up no differently from the other children of the family.  It is normal for babies to be treasured.

There are of course still foundlings of a sort in the Western world today.  A babe is left at a hospital by a distressed mother and modern social welfare measures grind into gear.

In history and in literature there are many stories about foundlings, starting with Moses.


Don Lemon really is a lemon

After news broke that a Michigan man threatened to carry-out a mass shooting at CNN’s headquarters, Don Lemon placed the blame for the domestic terrorist threat on President Donald Trump’s rhetoric against the press.

The man in question, reported Hitler-fan Brandon Griesemer, allegedly called CNN 22 times this month before his arrest claiming he was “coming to gun you all down” and referring the network as “fake news.”

In response to this incident, Lemon said the following:

“There’s nothing random about this. Nothing. This is what happens when the president of the United States, Donald Trump, repeatedly attacks members of the press simply for reporting facts he does not like. I’ve heard from a number of very credible sources from within the White House that you watch this show. So, Mr. President, I’m going to speak directly to you: The caller who threatened to kill CNN employees made his threat using these words: ‘Fake news.’ … I wonder where he got those words.”

Of course, the term “fake news” has been Trump’s go to slam against the press for the past two years — particularly CNN. He used the attack against them as recently as yesterday morning, calling them “Fake News CNN,” and famously shouted, “You are fake news” at the network’s White House reporter during a presser.


So by this logic, is Don saying that he and his party are responsible for the Democrat Bernie supporter who shot at a bunch of congressmen on a ball field nearly killing Scalise? This was after their rhetoric of GOP killing everyone.


Trump was right -- again

Donald Trump recently got in trouble with liberals for referring to one of the most impoverished third world countries, Haiti, as a s*******. Port-Au-Prince, the biggest city in Haiti, doesn’t have a sewer system and crime is out of control but apparently, that’s not enough for liberals to classify it as a bad place to live.

Now, some videos have emerged that prove Trump was absolutely correct. Narrative shattered. From Conservative Tribune:

Despite all the grief President Donald Trump recently received for allegedly referring to Haiti as a “s***hole” nation, the fact remains the island does suffer from some serious sanitation problems — primarily because it lacks a conventional trash disposal system.

As a result, Haiti is teeming with trash everywhere — on the streets, in rivers and even along the coast. According to Deutsche Welle, it’s so bad there that sadly many Haitians literally live “in (and around) garbage.”

And according to environmental activist Rosaly Byrd, there’s so much trash that it’s virtually impossible to go swimming anywhere in Haiti without encountering some.

All Trump did was ask a question that not enough politicians have asked. Why are we importing a lot more unskilled and impoverished workers from places like Haiti than we are people from places like Norway? A normal person can think about that question rationally. Liberals aren’t capable of seeing beyond race.  It’s really pathetic. They can’t accept reality.

It has really been remarkable watching how badly liberals were triggered over Trump’s comment.



Why evangelicals stand by Trump: Those calling out the hypocrisy of Christian conservatives ignore the scars of recent history

Evangelicals don't see Trump as the embodiment of Christian values but as a protector of their right to live by them

By S.E. Cupp

It was one of President Trump’s most supportive voting blocs in 2016: 80% of white evangelicals voted for him, according to exit polls. Just 16% voted for Hillary Clinton.

Many on the left and in the media were shocked then by Trump’s evangelical support, and they are shocked now, after some faith leaders have brushed off credible new allegations that the President had an extramarital affair with a porn star years ago, then paid her to stay silent.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins told Politico, “We kind of gave him — ‘All right, you get a mulligan. You get a do-over here.’ ” Franklin Graham, son of the Rev. Billy Graham, told CNN that Trump is a “changed person.” He rationalized, “These alleged affairs, they’re alleged with Trump, didn’t happen while he was in office.”

There are two ways to view this: Either evangelicals like Perkins are rank hypocrites or, in the spirit of their faith, are simply very, very forgiving.

Many lean toward the former interpretation, and I get the temptation.

But it willfully leaves out a lot of recent history. As the left and liberal media try to “figure out” Christian America during this latest, complicated moment, it’s instructive to understand where they’ve recently been.

Two years into Barack Obama’s first term, I wrote a book on the liberal war on Christianity. When “Losing Our Religion” came out, folks on the right got it immediately. “Of course the left is attacking Christians,” was the general refrain.

Many on the left, however, were incredulous. One far-left radio host had me on to tell me he had no plans to read the book, but that my premise was absurd on its face. Christianity’s the biggest religion in the country; it can’t possibly be an oppressed class, they insisted.

OK, ask one — just one — evangelical Christian why they voted for Trump.

Perkins spelled it out. Evangelical Christians, he says, “were tired of being kicked around by Barack Obama and his leftists. And I think they are finally glad that there’s somebody on the playground that is willing to punch the bully.”

It wasn’t just Obama’s condescension toward the faithful, who he famously said “cling to guns and religion” when angry or scared. It was eight years of policies that trampled on their religious values, from expanded abortion rights and decreased regulation, even in the face of horrific cases like Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s, to continued efforts to chip away at religious employers’ rights.

It was a smugness from the liberal media, which talked about Christian America as if it were a vestigial organ of some extinct, diseased dinosaur.

Liberal television hosts mocked Sarah Palin for banal things like praying, and reporters wrote that her faith — Pentecostalism — was fanatical, kooky and bigoted. Liberal networks and newsrooms were windowless cocoons of secularism that only deigned to cover Christianity to dismiss its relevance or spotlight its perceived backwardness.

And it was decades of concerted cultural elitism that marginalized Christians as not cool enough to cater to. Movies like “The Passion of the Christ” and “The Chronicles of Narnia” were blockbuster hits in spite of dismissive Hollywood film critics who refused to believe there were enough Christians to go see them. Celebrities called them fanatics; comedians made fun of them.

Many evangelicals I talk to say they grew tired of turning the other cheek. In Trump, they finally found someone who was willing to voice the anger and resentment they had been holding in.

They could overlook his personal foibles — after all, let he who is without sin cast the first stone — and his evangelical illiteracy, in exchange for getting someone who would tell off all their past tormentors.

It’s worth noting, there’s also Trump’s record. From tapping Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court to acknowledging Jerusalem is the capital of Israel to following through on his pro-life rhetoric, the President has delivered on a number of promises he made to evangelicals. But that’s not why they voted for him.

So while the willingness to forgive and even defend Trump’s alleged sins seems anathema to many, the fact is evangelicals, like many Trump voters, had good reason to pull the lever for him — and now to stand by him.



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, January 25, 2018

Politics as unusual: why America's 'forgotten citizens' stick by their champion

During the dizzying first year of Donald Trump's presidency, Americans and the world at large witnessed a political personality in a state of perpetual war. To the delight of his core supporters, but to the dismay of many others, this pugnacious approach defined Trump's image. But what can we expect from the persistent battler in the future?

To win the White House, Trump attacked opponent after opponent, first during the nominating process against 16 other foes and then in the general election against Hillary Clinton. Radioactive nicknames, including the relentless repetition of 'Crooked Hillary,' became part of his arsenal of insults, and he turned Twitter into a verbal grenade launcher to assault enemies and to defend himself.

What worked for a candidate who'd never sought elective office carried over to Trump's governing. At every turn, when a challenge to his stature or power arose, he punched back with as much force as he could muster.

No matter whether it was his perception of 'fake news' (a phrase he didn't start using until after his election), the investigation of Russian involvement in the campaign (in his opinion "the single greatest witch-hunt in American history") or North Korean missile tests authorised by the country's leader Kim Jong-un (dismissed as 'Little Rocket Man'), Trump didn't turn the other cheek. No direct shot or apparent slight went unanswered.

Trump's combativeness appeals to his base of political support - generally between 38 and 40pc of US voters who approve his leadership. Though on average 55 to 57pc disapprove, the fluctuation in his core following is relatively small, given the enormous attention - both negative and positive - he's received the past year.

Winner of 45.9pc of the popular vote in 2016, his current support largely comes from a coalition of conservative Republicans and independents or former Democrats whom Trump frequently calls the "forgotten men and women" of America.

A two-pronged support base

Interestingly, the reasons of the two main groups for backing him differ. Traditional party members - and Trump's approval among just Republicans stands at over 80pc - applaud the strength of the economy, the soaring stock market, the recently enacted tax-cut legislation, the reversal of government regulations and a multitude of conservative (and lifetime) judicial appointments.

The "forgotten" citizens, mostly members of the working class and instrumental in delivering Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin to Trump's Electoral College triumph, take note of what's happening economically and governmentally, but they also enthusiastically endorse the president's social and cultural stands.

They admire that he's willing to keep attacking the traditional news media, to defend retaining controversial Civil War monuments and to denounce professional athletes who refuse to stand for the National Anthem to protest racial inequality. In their opinion, Trump is fighting for causes they embrace. He's a word warrior (if you will), and his outbursts of full-throated criticism cheer them.

That Trump took 57pc of the white vote (to Clinton's 37pc) - including a whopping 62pc of whites between the ages of 45 and 64 and the same percentage of white men - helps explain why the president targets so many messages to working-class whites. These men and women are nostalgic for an earlier time in the US.

You might even say that many committed to "Make America Great Again" - Trump's signature slogan - long for a national past markedly different from the present.

In general terms, they tend to be less multicultural, less secular, less globalised and less environmentally sensitive. Most of them, frankly, weren't offended the other day when the president referred to "shithole countries" - like Haiti, El Salvador and African nations - for sending immigrants to the US. These newcomers often compete with white working-class men and women for jobs.

To be sure, there's undeniable irony of a billionaire business mogul serving as the tribune of the struggling blue-collar class, but Trump methodically sought their votes. Other candidates, including Clinton, didn't.

"I have visited the laid-off factory workers and the communities crushed by our horrible and unfair trade deals," Trump told the Republican National Convention in the summer of 2016. "These are the forgotten men and women of our country. People who work hard but no longer have a voice. I am your voice."

The Twitter factor

During recent months, Trump's voice has been heard at campaign-style rallies in key states, but it's most often expressed via his thumbs through Twitter, where he currently boasts about nearly 50 million followers.

His tweets report on his activities and travels, with many trumpeting economic trends for which he - as with every other president - takes credit. But the messages that take on a perceived ­opponent or a potential danger to his standing become news stories on their own, receiving enormous amplification in the media's global echo chamber.

Last month, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat, called on Trump to resign on the basis of what she said were "very credible allegations of misconduct" by more than a dozen women before he entered the Oval Office. Trump lost no time reacting.

"Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Chuck Schumer and someone who would come to my office 'begging' for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump," he tweeted.

The sexually suggestive phrasing ("would do anything") raised eyebrows, while the boxing reference reinforced his self-identity as someone ready to do battle whenever confronted by man - or woman.

A new 'diplomacy'

What's simultaneously fascinating and worrying about Trump's use of Twitter is his consistency in formulating messages with haymaker impact. Potentially sensitive international matters are rarely couched in diplomatic language.

He's harshly taken on UK prime minister Theresa May for her objections to him retweeting anti-Muslim videos from the far-right organisation Britain First, and even the prospect of launching nuclear weapons can provoke a scary response.

As 2018 began, Trump tweeted: "North Korean leader Kim Jong-un just stated that the 'Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times'. Will someone from his depleted and food-starved regime please inform him that I too have a nuclear button, but it is a much bigger and more powerful one than his, and my button works!"

Weaponising Twitter, which disturbs many Americans and others as being unpresidential, is a deliberate strategy to provide continuous, direct communication with core supporters. For no cost, and without much effort, Trump can go around the traditional media and deliver his message exactly as he wants.

Twitter, in effect, becomes a stream-of-consciousness script tapped out by the narrator-protagonist occupying the most significant government office in the US, if not the world. The most fervent Trump followers - who hate politics as usual and enjoy punch-in-the-nose outbursts aimed at adversaries - take delight in the social media fisticuffs.

Riding a rollercoaster

As Trump's first year in the White House ends, drama and combat have been pre-eminent hallmarks of this president. But most impartial observers wonder whether the citizenry, beyond the core voters, can stay tuned day-after-day without wanting to turn the channel? How long can any nation ride a rollercoaster?

The recent publication of Michael Wolff's tell-all-and-more portrait, Fire and Fury, lays bare an administration in disarray and an easily distracted president unwilling to tackle complex details of the office.

A flawed book, littered throughout with factual mistakes, Fire and Fury nonetheless raises serious questions about Trump's process for making judgments and decisions.

Whether from genuine grievance or gnawing insecurity, Trump took particular umbrage that his mental fitness deserved anyone's scrutiny. Twitter became his medium of self-assessment, and he pronounced himself "a very stable genius."

Personal testimonials of intellectual acuity might seem out of place in high electoral office, but the past year has brought a succession of jaw-dropping statements and actions, which produced a large question mark that hangs over the White House.

Back in May, Trump admitted to NBC News that the investigation of possible Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign served as a principal reason for firing FBI director James Comey because "this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story."

Trump's own Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, and the Justice Department proposed the removal of Comey for other causes, but the president publicly pointed elsewhere.

After the violent demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia, pitting white supremacists against groups opposed to the Neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan, the president told a news conference that "you had some very bad people in that group [the supremacists], but you also had people that were fine people on both sides."

Interestingly, Trump's approval from core supporters stayed almost exactly where it was for several days after Comey's firing and "the very fine people" comment, according to the Gallup organisation's tracking surveys of opinion. He paid no price with his backers.

Thus far the impact of the Wolff book - with a remarkable 1.4 million copies in print - has also been negligible among Trump's base. To be safe, however, the president on Twitter and in talking with reporters keeps defending himself in no uncertain terms.

The Fake News defence

Back in October, Trump remarked during an interview, "one of the greatest of all terms I've come up with is 'fake'." He's certainly liberal invoking it - nearly 200 times on Twitter alone attacking 'fake news' this past 12 months - and hatred of the mainstream media is so high among his followers that repeatedly making the charge guarantees applause.

What's baffling to some White House watchers, however, is Trump's duality, if not duplicity, in his handling of the communications outlets he attacks with such abandon.

Late last March, when he decided not to put a healthcare bill up for a vote in Congress, he personally called reporters at both The New York Times and Washington Post to explain the decision. Other interviews with so-called 'fake news' sources have followed since then, including one with The New York Times this past December 28.

Down in Florida for the holidays, Trump assured reporter Michael Schmidt that "no collusion" occurred between his election campaign and the Russians. Indeed, the president repeated his two-word denial of any complicity 16 separate times in the half-hour session.

Reiterating the same phrase over and over is revealing in itself, but, then, Trump's last recorded statement in the exchange made readers wonder what he really thinks about traditional news institutions.

"We're going to win another four years for a lot of reasons, most importantly because our country is starting to do well again and we're being respected again. But another reason that I'm going to win another four years is because newspapers, television, all forms of media will tank if I'm not there because without me, their ratings are going down the tubes. Without me, The New York Times will indeed be not the failing New York Times, but the failed New York Times. So they basically have to let me win. And eventually, probably six months before the election, they'll be loving me because they're saying, 'Please, please, don't lose Donald Trump'."

Trump's ability to joke about himself is one of his least conspicuous traits. His assurance of re-election and the media's role in it might be an attempt at humour, but even if it is, the speaker's self-regard tends to overshadow everything else.

Does he persistently assail the news media to curry favour with his core followers, or are his attacks the volleys of someone with very thin skin who wants attention and the last word? It's difficult to tell.

What's definitely known is that Trump will seek a second term in 2020. He officially filed formal papers with the Federal Election Commission on the day he was inaugurated last year, even going so far as to trademark a new slogan for his re-election bid.

Instead of "Make America Great Again," the emphasis will shift to continuity by looking ahead: "Keep America Great!" Note the exclamation mark, Trump's own flourish. Before then, though, the mid-term Congressional elections loom this November. If the Democrats win control of the House of Representatives or the Senate - or both chambers - investigations of the administration will proliferate, including almost certain consideration of presidential impeachment.

But the actions and distractions, the ups and the downs, of Trump's first year have kept his core followers together in nearly unwavering fashion. His constant war against the mainstream media, the Washington establishment and globalist elites caters to his base - but doesn't expand his universe of potential voters to a coalition with broader appeal.



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, January 24, 2018

IQ: Matzo with sauce get it nearly right

The journal abstract:

The paradox of intelligence: Heritability and malleability coexist in hidden gene-environment interplay.

Sauce, Bruno; Matzel, Louis D.


Intelligence can have an extremely high heritability, but also be malleable; a paradox that has been the source of continuous controversy. Here we attempt to clarify the issue, and advance a frequently overlooked solution to the paradox: Intelligence is a trait with unusual properties that create a large reservoir of hidden gene–environment (GE) networks, allowing for the contribution of high genetic and environmental influences on individual differences in IQ. GE interplay is difficult to specify with current methods, and is underestimated in standard metrics of heritability (thus inflating estimates of “genetic” effects). We describe empirical evidence for GE interplay in intelligence, with malleability existing on top of heritability. The evidence covers cognitive gains consequent to adoption/immigration, changes in IQ’s heritability across life span and socioeconomic status, gains in IQ over time consequent to societal development (the Flynn effect), the slowdown of age-related cognitive decline, and the gains in intelligence from early education. The GE solution has novel implications for enduring problems, including our inability to identify intelligence-related genes (also known as IQ’s “missing heritability”), and the loss of initial benefits from early intervention programs (such as “Head Start”). The GE solution can be a powerful guide to future research, and may also aid policies to overcome barriers to the development of intelligence, particularly in impoverished and underprivileged populations.



The above article is in the Psych. Bulletin, a top journal in psychology which is devoted to surveying the research literature on a particular subject and attempting a theoretical integration of it.  Sauce & Matzel, however, don't come up with much. Their concept of gene–environment (GE) networks is really just a rehash of the well-known finding that to maximize your  final IQ you need good environmental influences on top of your genetic given. 

Considering that the article is a research summary, it is however interesting how high the genetic given is rated.  They say that measured IQ is 80% genetic. Around 70% is the figure that has mostly been quoted in the past and people who hate the idea of IQ have on occasions put the figure as low as 50%.

The authors are aware that an enriched (stimulating) environment from early childhood on can bump up IQ but they are also aware that the gain is not permanent once the enrichment fades out. Headstart kids, for instance, test as brighter while in the program but revert to an IQ similar to their peers when they get into normal schooling.

But what the authors conclude from that is, I think, too optimistic.  They seem to think that the environmental enrichment should be kept up into much later life.  What they overlook is that all environmental influences tend to fade out  as maturation goes on and by about age 30 environmental influences seem to zero out entirely.  Identical twins reared apart will have very similar IQs at whatever age that is measured but the greatest similarity occurs when it is measured around age 30.

So growing up is a process of your genetics coming to the fore and the advantages/disadvantages of your environment fading out.  So enriching the environment throughout childhood is pissing into the wind.  What you are trying to manipulate will have less and less influence as maturation goes on and it will have NO final influence.


Trump’s enemies blunder

Schumer chose illegal aliens over the American people, and it BACKFIRED

IN THE staring match that gripped Washington DC over the weekend, it was the Democrats who blinked first.

Senate Democrats chose to push the US government into a shutdown — smack bang on the anniversary of Donald Trump assuming the presidency. The hope was that the move would embarrass the commander-in-chief, and strongarm Republicans into protecting the Dreamers, more than 700,000 illegal immigrants who came to the country when they were children.

Forcing a shutdown is a risky political move. Last time it happened in 2013 over Obamacare, the Republicans copped the blame. This time around, it’s not yet clear who voters will punish.

Regardless, the Democrats have given in just three days after taking the nuclear option — and they’ve got next to nothing to show for it.

They wanted a deal on the Dreamers. All Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has pledged is that it is his “intention” to deal with immigration issues in the Senate over the next three weeks. They received no commitment on whether House Republicans would get on board

The Republicans would have been forced to deal with the Dreamers soon enough, because Mr Trump gave the Congress a March 5 deadline to resolve their status once and for all.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the Democrats’ position was “indefensible” and that, in the end, they agreed to everything that was in the original continuing resolution.

Mr Trump said he was “pleased” the Democrats had “come to their senses” but added that “we will make a long-term deal on immigration if, and only if, it is good for our country”. He tweeted at the weekend that the shutdown was a “nice present” on his one-year anniversary.



The most unpopular president on record - but here's why Trump could win again in 2020

Donald Trump ends his first year as the most unpopular president on record.

He is the only US president since Harry Truman to have a negative net approval rating after 12 months in the White House - some 24 points below Barack Obama at the same time in his presidency.

The year since Mr Trump's inauguration has been packed with controversy and intrigue - during which there have been persistent allegations over Russian connections. He has fired the head of the FBI, launched tirades against the media, failed to push through healthcare reform and has escalated his rhetoric surrounding North Korea.

All of this led to a slump in approval ratings, with Mr Trump achieving a majority disapproval rating in a record of just eight days since his inauguration.

In the run-up to this year's US mid-term elections, this might be enough to worry him - particularly after Trump-backed Roy Moore faced a shock defeat in Republican-leaning Alabama last year.

But this overall unpopularity may not matter that much - after all, Mr Trump was unpopular when he was elected America's 45th president.

When we dig into the figures, few people seem to have really changed their minds about him - and this is how the president still stands a chance in 2020.

While there has been an overall drop in public opinion, the president's approval ratings have remained relatively stable since July, even experiencing a small uptick following his handling of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, and Hurricane Irma. The polarisation of America's politics is so extreme that his popularity among Democrats can't really drop any further, while Republicans seemingly refuse to desert him, no matter what he does.

Mr Trump's approval rating hasn't dropped much among those who voted for him

Back in January 2016, Mr Trump claimed that he could shoot somebody and not lose any votes. He seems to have largely been correct in this estimation, with his approval rating among those who voted for him last November standing at 90pc.

Among those who self-identify as being conservatives - although not necessarily Republicans - his approval rating is actually marginally higher than it was at the start of the year while, importantly, he is liked better by people who are registered to vote. His approval rating among registered voters hasn't dropped below 40pc all year.


This doesn't mean that there isn't cause for concern for Mr Trump among these ratings. Although his electoral college victory was significant, he lost the overall popular vote, and his election was secured by around 100,000 voters in key swing states.

It is therefore potentially significant that the demographic that has gone off Mr Trump most since the start of the year is of those who self-identify as being moderates.

Among these middle-ground voters - who make up 29pc of the population - Mr Trump's approval score slipped from a three-poll average of 40.5pc in January 2017 to 30.7pc this January.

Could he in again? Given that Mr Trump managed to win last year despite being unpopular among swathes of America, the impact of his waning popularity on his chances of a second term are not clear-cut.

Additionally, a US presidential election isn't conducted on a national level, so national polling is only of limited use when assessing his chances.

In a race for electoral college votes, a presidential election is essentially divided into 50 separate votes in each of America's states - a lesson Hillary Clinton bitterly learned as last year's results trickled out.

Consequently, we must look at state-level data to gain a full picture of how he is performing compared to this time last year, especially in the states that turned red in 2016.

Mr Trump had a positive net approval rating in 17 states during 2017, all of which he won in the 2016 presidential election.

Some 33 states had a negative net approval rating. This includes all six states that swung to him in the 2016 election. He had an average negative approval rating in each of these states in 2017. A negative net approval rate in these states may not bode too well for a potential 2020 run for the Republican president.



Feds planning massive Northern California immigration sweep to strike against sanctuary laws

U.S. immigration officials have begun preparing for a major sweep in San Francisco and other Northern California cities in which federal officers would look to arrest more than 1,500 undocumented people while sending a message that immigration policy will be enforced in the sanctuary state, according to a source familiar with the operation.

Officials at Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, declined to comment Tuesday on plans for the operation.

The campaign, centered in the Bay Area, could happen within weeks, and is expected to become the biggest enforcement action of its kind under President Trump, said the source, who requested anonymity because the plans have not been made public.

Trump has expressed frustration that sanctuary laws — which seek to protect immigrants and persuade them not to live in the shadows by restricting cooperation between local and federal authorities — get in the way of his goal of tightening immigration.

The operation would go after people who have been identified as targets for deportation, including those who have been served with final deportation orders and those with criminal histories, the source said. The number could tick up if officers come across other undocumented immigrants in the course of their actions and make what are known as collateral arrests.

Under the Trump administration, ICE has repeatedly warned that if the agency can’t detain people from local jails, it will be forced to arrest them in the communities that hold such policies.



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, January 23, 2018

A debate between extremists

There is an article here by an Erik Sherman about Trump's new division of The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the Department of Health and Human Services.  The new division has the mission of restoring freedom of conscience to religious people -- something of which all conservatives would surely approve.  But Mr Sherman does not approve.  To him there should be no liberty to withdraw ones services on religious grounds.

He argues that Christians are free enough already and that in an emergency, people might not be able to find an alternative service provider in a timely manner.

We all know of religious cake-bakers and others who have been harassed and prosecuted over their adherence to what the scriptures say about homosexuality so Mr Sherman's claim that they are already free enough is crass and stupid.  It is an argument that flies in the face of the facts

His second point about emergency services falls down when we look at the servicves at issue. Is there anything urgent about cakes, abortions or contraceptives?  Hardly.  People are not wheeled comatose on a trolley into emergency rooms for want of a cake!  The man is a fruitcake.

So it is no surprise that Sherman has attracted a reply from the Bolen report.  Sadly, the Bolen report is also off into the stratosphere. It goes on about vaccines made out of pork for Muslims, Vegans being injected with material from animal tissues and all sorts of improbabilities.  Extremism begets extremism, I guess. I do think Forbes showed a notable error of judgment in publishing the idiotic Sherman article.


US Government shutdown: Donald Trump urges change to Senate rule as stalemate enters second day

I guess it's not very original of me but I hope the shutdown goes on for a long time.  It would show Americans how little they need the government for.  It's all just play-acting anyway. Republicans have cancelled the requirement for a supermajority on  previous occasions so they could do that now too.  The Donks won't budge so they may have to.

If Harry Reid could ditch a supermajority rule, so can Mitch McConnell.  The Democrats set the precedent. McConnell is reluctant because he wants to preserve the power of Congress to block funding legislation from a future Democrat administration. But the Donks have already shown a willingness to ditch such rules so McConnell is wishing on a dream.  Supermajority rules are finished. Both parties have already ditched them for judicial appointments -- and judicial appointments are arguably much more important than a temporary budget impasse. As usual, Trump is right.

Top Republicans have been quick to dismiss Donald Trump's call to change Senate rules, which currently require a super-majority for legislation to advance, if the Government shutdown drags on.

Funding for federal agencies ran out on Saturday with Mr Trump and Republican politicians locked in a standoff with Democrats, who say any funding bill must include protections for "Dreamers".

As the shutdown entered its second day, there appeared to be no clear path for a quick end to the crisis.

"The Dems just want illegal immigrants to pour into our nation unchecked," Mr Trump tweeted. "If stalemate continues, Republicans should go to 51 percent (Nuclear Option) and vote on real, long term budget."

The proposal was almost immediately rejected by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.

Senate Republicans oppose changing the chamber's rules so that legislation to fund the Government and end the current shutdown could pass with a simple majority, a spokesman for Senator McConnell said.

Current Senate rules require a super-majority of three-fifths of the chamber, usually 60 out of 100, for legislation to clear procedural hurdles and pass.



One year later, President Trump restores limited government, the separation of powers and U.S. economic prosperity

On Jan. 17, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) took to the floor the U.S. Senate and disgracefully compared President Donald Trump to one-time Soviet dictator Josef Stalin because the President called the fake news publishing stories falsely alleging he is a Russian agent “an enemy of the American people.”

Perhaps not appreciating the irony, just a day later, Flake voted to reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), legislation that authorizes the President to exercise intelligence gathering powers said to have been abused during the Bush and Obama administrations in the form of mass surveillance.

It is all political theater for the retiring Arizona senator as the elites in Washington, D.C. applaud his “courage” for idiotically comparing the President to one of the greatest mass murdering dictators in human history who killed millions of his own people and sent many more to gulags.

As a personal note, my wife’s aunt grew up in one of those gulags in Siberia before being liberated years later and eventually immigrating to the U.S. In 2016, she voted for Trump.

Flake’s was an outrageous, despicable comparison, and reflects how hysterical and disconnected from reality Trump’s opponents have become since his unlikely victory in 2016. If Flake truly believed Trump was a Stalinist — who spied on, imprisoned and mass-murdered his political enemies — he wouldn’t be granting more national security powers to the executive branch.

To be fair, perhaps Flake thought he was voting to spy on Trump and the First Family so that the intelligence agencies will finally help overturn the outcome of the 2016 election with their fake, trumped up charges of treason and foreign collusion. Who’s the real monster?

Since the Church Committee, which was convened in 1975 to get to the bottom of revelations by Seymour Hersh’s explosive report to the New York Times on Dec. 22, 1974 that the CIA had engaged in a mass, domestic surveillance program against anti-war protestors, members of Congress and other political figures, the de-weaponization of intelligence — a war power, mind you — against the American people was an article of faith in our democracy.

Now, sadly it is a forgotten epitaph memorializing the destruction of the Constitution by those now in a frenzy to utilize that very deep state to overturn the American people’s Nov. 2016 decision to elect Donald Trump. Have they stopped to consider the irreparable damage that has been inflicted on the republican form of government and the rule of law by their rash inquisition?

This feverish mob mentality, which Flake does nothing to alleviate, is utterly dangerous.

In the meantime, back in reality, President Trump is at work on behalf of the American people who elected him. He is internally taking on these deep state actors that unconstitutionally used the nation’s surveillance powers against the opposition party in the 2016 election campaign. On the day FISA Section 702 was reauthorized in the House, Trump tweeted, “I have personally directed the fix to the unmasking process since taking office…”

Meaning, despite the broad grant of authority by Congress, Trump is circumscribing the exercise of those surveillance powers to prevent these types of partisan, political abuses of the surveillance authority from ever happening again. The nation’s intelligence agencies must never again be weaponized against political enemies.

It is Trump’s Justice Department that is now turning over the papers to the House Intelligence Committee that document these abuses and more.

Americans for Limited Government did not support the FISA reauthorization precisely because of those unconstitutional abuses, but we are pleased that the President is taking action to rein them in all the same. Thank goodness for small favors.

That is the true story of Trump’s first year in office. The President is restoring limited government through his actions, while his opponents are distracted by his unique, Trumpian rhetoric he uses to connect with his supporters. It’s okay, Jeff. We get it, even if you don’t.

Where he has the power, Trump is rescinding and limiting economy-killing regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and others.

But, the President is not relying solely on his executive authority to get things done. In other areas, he is helping to restore Congress’ Article I responsibilities. Even on former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which Trump campaigned against and has suspended becoming effective March 5, Trump put the issue where it belongs — in Congress. At the time, he said, “Hopefully now Congress will be able to help them and do it properly.”

Agree or disagree with DACA, that is limited government in action. President Trump cannot just arbitrarily change the law. Making laws is Congress’ job. If members want to do DACA, then they should put it in a bill and put it on his desk.

But Trump is being no pushover. He wants a lot in return, supporting a bill by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) that ends chain migration, eliminates the visa lottery, fully funds the southern border wall and implements a national E-Verify system.

Here, Trump is clearly exercising the separation of powers and using the bully pulpit to get parts of the agenda he campaigned on into law. That’s exactly what he’s supposed to be doing.

Trump is also enforcing the nation’s immigration laws vigorously, prioritizing deportations of violent gang members, cracking down on sanctuary cities and extreme vetting to keep terrorists out of America.

Another constitutional responsibility of the federal government Trump has taken full command of is foreign relations, securing the release of American held hostages, strengthening old alliances and forging new ones.

Also, on foreign affairs, Trump is keeping his promise to be tough on trade and other economic relations. Under Trump, the U.S. has withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He has left the Paris Climate Accord. He has ordered that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to be renegotiated. He has initiated discussions with China to begin narrowing the trade deficit.

Here, Trump is exercising the authority granted by statute and under the Constitution to put America first on trade and to take a tough stance with foreign nations that take advantage of the U.S. And for the tens of millions of Americans who voted for him — particularly in the rust belt states of Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania who put him over the top in the Electoral College — it’s about time.

More broadly on the economy, Trump successfully navigated the pitfalls in Congress and got the most major tax cuts for individuals and corporations since Reagan, ensured the repatriation of trillions of dollars of foreign earnings to be reinvested into the U.S. economy, opened up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling and repealed the Obamacare individual mandate to purchase health insurance. Each of those individually would have been major legislative achievements. Trump got them all in the same bill.

Overall, Trump’s actions on taxes, trade, energy and deregulation are going to help the U.S. economy to grow more robustly and create new, good-paying jobs over the next decade. And yes, taking on the fake news enemy of the American people and telling the truth for a change.

By every measure, President Trump deserves not only credit, but the heartfelt thanks of the American people he is fighting on behalf of, regardless of who they supported in 2016.

We need to set aside the hysterical rantings of Trump’s opponents, like retiring Sen. Jeff Flake whom history will soon forget, and focus on what Trump has actually done as president. These are the acts of a little “R” republican; of the dutiful watchman.

One year later, the American people are getting what they voted for in President Donald Trump: the restoration of limited government, the separation of powers and new-found prosperity for the U.S. economy. Agree or disagree with President Trump’s agenda, he is putting America first — and he is getting the job done.



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, January 22, 2018

Treat women with respect

It was once normal courtesy and gentlemanliness to treat women with respect and conservatives still have some tendency to do so. Feminists too demand respect for women but rarely do anything to inspire or earn it.

For those of us who follow the news closely, there has been the unpleasant experience of reading about a date between a monkey-like man named Ansari and a pseudonymous woman named Grace.

The initial reaction to the story about that encounter told by  Grace was condemnatory.  Mr Ansari pushed himself unforgiveably on her.  Subsequent comments however have been exculpatory of Mr Ansari.  He stopped when he was formally told to so that is OK.

I am the last one to sympathize with feminist complaints and I accept that any comment on the encounter is approaching the limits of the absurd if one does not know the participants concerned -- but I do strongly disapprove of the actions of Mr Ansari.  His actions may, I suspect, have been fairly mainstream but that is in my view no praise of them.

I am of the painfully old-fashioned view that women should always be treated with respect, even if they are not paragons of virtue.  And I have been married 4 times so maybe I am qualified to have a view of such matters. I even came of age in the licentious sixties so that may be an additional qualification.

So I have experienced many occasions on which a rapport seemed evident between myself and a woman.  And such a rapport is a very valuable thing that must be left to develop in its own way and at its own pace.  And if it does end up in bed that is the most natural thing with no need for pressure of any sort.  In that context the behavior of Mr Ansari was simply ugly.  That it may also be common is saddening. For balance, I append below a defence of Mr Ansari by a conservative female columnist:

A young woman approaches a famous comedian at the 2017 Emmy Awards after-party in Los Angeles. The young photographer is excited to meet him, they chat, talk photography, take a few pictures of each other, then she returns to the dance floor with her date. Later in the evening she gives the comedian her number.

That week they exchange a few flirty texts and then agree to meet. She runs various outfits by her girlfriends and settles on a tank top and jeans. The young woman and the comedian meet up, have a few drinks and later that evening they have bad sex on his kitchen counter. And then she outs him in the media, humiliates and destroys him because the sex wasn’t romantic and the man wasn’t Prince Charming. Good grief.

This isn’t female empowerment. This is girl power gone badly wrong. The sexual revolution has given women access to sex and men on demand; it doesn’t guarantee that sex will be great or that men will be romantic. Tinder is not called Tender for a reason. The sexual revolution delivered us the ability to avoid pregnancy when we don’t want to have a baby and, if we don’t want sex, the right to say no. Or to swipe left.

This angry 23-year-old woman, who has chosen to remain anonymous while naming the comedian as 34-year-old Aziz Ansari, had chance after chance that warm evening in September last year to say no to his advances.

Ansari wasn’t coy about his desire. They drank, they kissed. She performed oral sex on him; he performed oral sex on her. She didn’t like what he did with his fingers. But she stayed. He asked her how she wanted to have sex. She didn’t say, ‘Hey, I’m not into this, I’m leaving.’ She didn’t say, ‘Hey, this isn’t what I want after all.’

She stayed. And then she told the world she was uncomfortable with his behaviour, he wasn’t very good at sex and she felt violated.

She says he didn’t read her cues that she wanted something more from the night than his desire for hot, fast sex. This week the young woman spoke to, a feminist website “for girls who don’t give a f..k”. She decided on a graphic expose of “the worst night of my life” after the comedian won best actor for his Netflix show Master of None at the Golden Globes last weekend. On the red carpet, Ansari wore a “Time’s Up” pin and said he supported the fight against sexual assault and harassment. For that, in her mind, he deserved to be outed as a lousy lay and an even worse mind-reader. gave Ansari’s anonymous accuser the fictional name Grace. So let’s do the same. Grace told that Ansari texted her the next evening saying: “It was fun meeting you last night.” And she replied: “Last night might’ve been fun for you, but it wasn’t for me … You ignored clear non-verbal cues; you kept going with advances.”

“I’m so sad to hear this,” he responded. “Clearly, I misread things in the moment and I’m truly sorry.”

The problem for Grace is she didn’t leave his apartment when she worked out that the night wasn’t the start of a grand romance. She stayed. They watched an episode of Seinfeld on the couch. When he suggested she perform oral sex on him again, she did. No wonder Ansari continued with his advances.

Before she left, she said: “You guys are all the same, you guys are all the f..king same.” She could have left it at that. Or left it at her last text message to him.

If Grace’s other sexual encounters are the same, she needs to ask how is a man meant to know what she’s thinking when she doesn’t make it clear to him? When Ansari didn’t turn out to be Mr Darcy, Grace expected him to be capable of reading her mind. That’s a big enough ask and rather tricky when you’re not sure what’s in your own mind.

Grace could have spent more time getting to know Ansari before getting naked. The idea that sex on a first date would be some magical match of sexual desires between two people who don’t know each other is plain dumb on Grace’s part.

And her whining about bad sex is downright dangerous. Not just for Ansari, who has been humiliated, his reputation being destroyed. Grace’s public shaming of Ansari is dangerous for other men too as they try to discern the unspoken words of a woman’s mind. Didn’t the sexual revolution teach women to speak up, take control, rather than give non-verbal cues?

Claims that Grace relenting is not Grace consenting may sound terribly clever in a women’s studies class but it makes no sense in the real world of sex, or life. Consent is not a checklist done before two people strip naked and then at each stage of sex. All of us relent in so many ways, every day, sometimes about sex, or at work, or negotiating with headstrong children. Relenting can often mean consenting. It’s just a slower way of getting there. When is a bloke meant to know when it’s not consent if we don’t speak up?

Grace’s problem is she can’t accept that her evening of bad sex has no more meaning than just that. It’s like a dud meal in a good restaurant, or a new pair of shoes that look great at first sight but don’t fit as well when you wear them out. It’s like a visit to the hairdresser that doesn’t pan out as expected. That’s all.

In 2009 Lily Allen sang about a bloke who treats her with respect, loves her all the time, calls her 15 times a day, “but there’s just one thing that’s getting in the way, when we go up to bed you’re just no good”.

“It’s not fair,’ sang Allen, “you never make me scream, you never make me scream.”

Complaining about bad sex should have stopped at a funny song. Grace’s clawing need to make her rotten date part of the #MeToo movement is especially dangerous to real victims, women who have been sexually abused, women who have been raped. She disrespects and devalues them.

Sadly, Grace isn’t the first to cheapen the #MeToo cause. Last month a 3000-word piece of fiction in The New Yorker went viral. Cat Person by Kristen Roupenian tells the story of 20-year-old Margot, a college student who flirts with 34-year-old Robert as she serves him popcorn at a movie theatre. They swap numbers, then some flirty texts where both try to be something they’re not. Robert pretends to own a couple of cats because that’s what girls like. Margot tries to be a sweet young thing so as not to scare him off. They go on a date, Margot drinks three beers and takes a swig of whisky and still Robert doesn’t rush things. Much to her chagrin. When they finally have sex, she’s repulsed by his weight, and the sex is disappointing. She doesn’t pull away, because that would require “tact and gentleness that she felt was impossible to summon”. In the days that follow Robert tries to understand where he went wrong, and Margot blows him off in a text.

Cat Person comes with a sting with Robert’s last text to Margot: “whore”. The more potent sting came when a neat piece of fiction about two flawed characters was elevated into revolutionary feminist art by millions of women eager to wage war on Robert.

The reaction to Cat Person is a peek into Western feminism’s fatal flaw: its obsession with the most trivial travails of dating. Here’s a summary: Cat Person is “the story of the year”, it’s “the next step in the #MeToo movement”, a “major cultural touchstone” for women by tapping into our “inner monologue”. It speaks “truth to power”. It is “the most gut-wrenching relatable content I’ve ever read”. Some girls need to get out more.

It’s true that Cat Person captures a lived experience for some. One rainy day last June, a young woman I know bumped umbrellas on a busy city street with a young man she didn’t know. He asked for her number and she gave it to him, more out of awkwardness than interest. He texted her a few days later suggesting a drink. She didn’t respond. He texted again, “will I be seeing you again?” When she didn’t respond again, he texted: “I guess not cause you are a bitch.”

That drew a response from the young woman: “woah, mate, you have no idea what’s going on in my life, I’m simply not in a position to do the whole going out on a date thing. Always act with kindness. x”

The young man started texting again: “When I stopped you on the street it’s not only cause you’re pretty, I’d like to get to know you.” When she didn’t respond, he wrote, “seeing as I can’t have you, can I ask you a question.” Eight minutes later, like the fictional Robert in Cat Person, the young man asked: “What am I doing wrong?”

These two might have followed Margot and Robert — gone on a date, had crummy sex. And so what? Alas, it was inevitable that a fine piece of fiction from The New Yorker last December would become real life, if not this week, then next week. Not just because this stuff happens between men and women, wires get crossed, expectations are often dashed for one or the other. But because the #MeToo movement was always destined to go off the rails of credibility by including silly claims that sully the serious ones.

If complaining about bad sex is the next step in the #MeToo movement, god help us all. It’s not, as some claim, overdue justice to shame a bloke for being bad in bed. It’s not, as others claim, a correction of power when millions of women coalesce on Facebook to support a fictional Margot or a real-life Grace by humiliating a young man for not being a mind-reader. It’s not a worthy form of feminism when guilt is determined by those who shout the loudest on social media platforms. If feminism has settled on this as the new battleground to bring men to heel, then the women’s lib movement is officially out of ideas.

Earlier this month, as millions of young Western women were inhaling the injustice of Margot’s treatment in Cat Person, just as they are rallying behind Grace this week, another young woman stood on a real-life platform in a Tehran street and removed her hijab, protesting against Iran’s treatment of women.

Her target is real injustice, her act one of real girl power.



Russia is a Christian country -- and as a good Russian, Vladimir Vladimirovich honors that

In his latest publicity stunt, Vladimir Putin braved icy waters to take a dip in Lake Seliger, north of Moscow, during the celebration of Epiphany.

He was seen taking the plunge to commemorate the Baptism of Jesus which is celebrated with a feast by members of the Russian Orthodox Church.

The President wandered to the water in a thick fur coat and matching boots before removing his clothing and taking a dip.

The plunge crowned a busy day for Putin who earlier laid flowers during a ceremony at the Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery to mark the 75th anniversary of the breakthrough the Nazi Siege of Leningrad in the World War II.

This is the not the first time Putin has taken his shirt off in front of the cameras. The famous 2007 picture of him hunting topless appears in the 2018 Putin Calendar which also sees him cuddle a kitten and show off his judo skills.

In others he appear more statesman-like; being saluted by a Kremlin guard or  inspecting a Russian Navy warship.



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, January 21, 2018

Senators shut down most American government functions: Trump on sidelines

A refusal to compromise on both sides.  The Donks think they can use it to force through legalization of DACA. A few Republicans sympathize

The federal government shut down at the stroke of midnight Friday - halting all but the most essential operations and marring the one-year anniversary of President Donald Trump's inauguration in a striking display of Washington dysfunction.

Senate republicans fell far short of passing a procedural motion that would have kept the federal government funded, causing the fourth government shutdown in a quarter century. 

Five Democrats who represent Trump-country red states crossed the aisle to vote with Republicans, but the GOP lost four of its own, erasing any doubts about the state of partisan bickering in the US Capitol.

The recalcitrant Democrats included four who are up for re-election this year – Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Claire McCaskill of Missouri – along with Alabamian Doug Jones, who took his Senate seat just days ago in a bright red state. 

Despite hours of attempted negotiations, talks failed and the shutdown was finalized, and quickly the blame game began.

Just after midnight on Saturday morning the White House released a statement, calling Democrats 'obstructionist losers' who 'put politics above our national security, military families, vulnerable children, and our country's ability to serve all Americans'.

'We will not negotiate the status of unlawful immigrants while Democrats hold our lawful citizens hostage over their reckless demands. This is the behavior of obstructionist losers, not legislators,' the statement reads, before promising that during the shutdown Trump will continue to work for the American people. 

McConnell and Schumer each took the floor after the shutdown was finalized Friday night - with each lawmaker attempting to paint the opposition party as guilty.

'The decision by Senate Democrats to shove aside millions of Americans for the sake of irresponsible political gain was 100 percent avoidable,' McConnell said. He claimed that the Democrats held the opposition party 'hostage' 'over the completely unrelated issue of illegal immigration.' 

But despite Trump's attempts to paint democrats as the guilty party - recent polls show Republicans and President Trump will bear most of the blame.

A national ABC News/Washington Post poll released Friday found 48 percent of people surveyed say they will blame Trump and the GOP for a shutdown, while only 28 percent will blame Democrats.

Even before the vote, President Donald Trump was pessimistic - seeming resigned to presiding over the first shutdown since 2013. 'Not looking good for our great Military or Safety & Security on the dangerous Southern Border,' Trump tweeted, referring to the hit the Homeland Security Department would take in the event the government's wheels grind to a halt.   

'Dems want a Shutdown in order to help diminish the great success of the Tax Cuts, and what they are doing for our booming economy,' the president claimed.

With the Friday's late-night voting failure, Congress will have failed to keep the lights on in Washington for just the fourth time in a quarter-century. 

But ultimately a broad range of federal operations would be curtailed, although food inspections, law enforcement, airport security and other vital services would continue, along with Social Security and military operations. 

Republicans are calling the current standoff the 'Schumer Shutdown,' arguing that there's nothing in the bill that Democrats oppose, while a short-term extension would give lawmakers time to work out differences on issues like protecting young immigrants and disaster assistance.

The U.S. military will continue to fight wars and conduct missions around the world, including in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. And members of the military will report to work, though they won't get paid until Congress approves funding.



Trump’s exam shows serious heart concerns, doctors outside the White House say
In order to find something wrong with him they have had to resort to a discredited theory.  It is now clear that cholesterol is NOT a problem.  We need it, in fact. Trump should be taking NO statins.  The whole issue is covered in detail below:

Cardiologists not associated with the White House said Wednesday that President Trump’s physical exam revealed serious heart concerns, including very high levels of so-called bad cholesterol, which raises the risk he could suffer a heart attack while in office.

Dr. Ronny L. Jackson, a rear admiral and the White House physician, said Tuesday in his report on the president’s medical condition that Trump was in “excellent” cardiac health, despite having an LDL cholesterol level of 143, well above the desired level of 100 or less.

Dr. Eric Topol, a cardiologist at the Scripps Research Institute, disputed that rosy assessment. On Wednesday, he said the most alarming fact is that the president’s LDL levels remain above 140 even though he is taking 10 milligrams of Crestor, a powerful drug that is used to lower cholesterol levels to well below 100.

“That’s a really high LDL,” Topol said, echoing the concerns of other heart experts who reviewed Jackson’s report. “We’re talking about a 70-plus-year-old man who is obese and doesn’t exercise. Just looking at the lab value, you would raise a big red flag.” He added: “I would never use the word excellent health. How you could take these indices and say excellent health? That is completely contradicted.”

On Tuesday, Jackson said he would be prescribing a higher dose of Crestor, the brand name for rosuvastatin, to help lower the LDL levels. He said he is pressing Trump — who at 6-foot-3 and 239 pounds is just below the official label of obese — to eat better and abandon his largely sedentary life for one that includes exercise.

But on the positive side, Jackson said Trump has no history of smoking or drinking and does not have diabetes. An exercise stress test using a treadmill showed “above average” capacity for his age. An ultrasound of the heart was normal, he said.

“His cardiac health is excellent,” Jackson said. “He doesn’t smoke, he doesn’t have diabetes — a lot of the traditional risk factors he doesn’t have. And so I think those things, in combination with the excellent cardiac results that we got from the exercise stress test, I think, are very reassuring.”

Asked if Trump has heart disease, Jackson said he did not. “Technically, he has nonclinical coronary atherosclerosis,” Jackson told reporters.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House press secretary, stood by Jackson’s assessment, noting on Wednesday that he has been a White House physician 12 years, treating George W. Bush and Barack Obama in addition to Trump.

“He is the only doctor that has weighed in on this matter that has actually examined the president,” Sanders said. She called Jackson “the only credible source when it comes to diagnosing any health concerns. We support what he said yesterday 100 percent — that he is in excellent health.”

David Axelrod, one of Obama’s top advisers, said on Twitter Tuesday: “I knew Dr. Ronny Jackson in the White House. In my experience, he was very good guy and straight shooter.”



Jobless claims drop to lowest level in nearly 45 years

New applications for unemployment insurance benefits plunged by 41,000 to 220,000 in the second week of 2018, the Labor Department reported Thursday, the lowest level in nearly 45 years.

The report easily beat forecasters expectations for new jobless claims to drift down to around 250,000.

Low jobless claims are a good sign because they suggest that layoffs are relatively scarce. Federal Reserve officials and investors watch the numbers because they come out weekly, providing an early warning sign of any trouble.

New claims, which are adjusted for seasonal variations, are well below the mark that would suggest that unemployment is going to rise.

Thursday's number was likely artificially low because of the difficulties involved in adjusting for the seasonal affects of holiday hiring and winter weather. The extreme low level of claims "is probably an outlier," noted Jim O'Sullivan, chief U.S. economist for High Frequency Economics.

Nevertheless, new claims have scraped multi-decade lows several times in recent years as the jobs recovery steadily reduced the number of unemployed workers throughout the end of President Obama's term and the beginning of President Trump's.

The total number of people receiving unemployment benefits, which are available for up to 26 weeks in most states, stayed below 2 million, also near the lowest levels since the 1970s.

And at 4.1 percent in December, unemployment is as low as it has been since the dot-com bubble.

The Trump administration and congressional Republicans have stated that they want to maintain a high level of job creation not only decrease unemployment, but also boost the labor force participation rate by encouraging people who have retired or quit the workforce to seek out jobs.



Trump: Working Is Good for Your Health

States will now be allowed to implement work requirements for able-bodied Medicaid recipients.

Working is a good thing and good for your health too. President Donald Trump is now making this argument as his administration announced that it would allow states to enact work requirements for Medicaid. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) stated that it would “support state efforts to test incentives that make participation in work or other community engagement a requirement for continued Medicaid eligibility or coverage for certain adult Medicaid beneficiaries. … CMS supports state efforts to enable individuals to gain and maintain employment.”

Citing research on the overall health benefits of working, the CMS said, “A growing body of evidence suggests that targeting certain health determinants, including productive work and community engagement, may improve health outcomes.” The Foundation for Government Accountability noted that since 2000 the number of individuals receiving Medicaid benefits has more than doubled to 75 million enrolled — including 28 million able-bodied adults. Over 50% of Medicaid beneficiaries who are able-bodied adults do not work.

Since the passage of ObamaCare the number of individuals enrolled in Medicaid has increased significantly, greatly adding cost to the program. Unfortunately, there are those who reject the notion that able-bodied adults benefiting from the Medicaid program should be required to perform at least 80 hours of work a month via a job, community engagement activity, education, job skills training or volunteering. Fundamentally, working is a good and rewarding aspect of life. It produces less dependency, greater personal accountability, and purpose in life. It is the primary means by which an individual positively contributes to their community and society at large. Work is empowering, and should never be vilified for political gain.



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