Friday, April 13, 2018

The swamp is a huge drag on us all

Matt Ridley

While the world economy continues to grow at more than 3 per cent a year, mature economies, from Europe to Japan, are coagulating, unable to push economic growth above sluggish. The reason is that we have more and more vested interests against innovation in the private as well as the public sector.

Continuing prosperity depends on enough people putting money and effort into what the economist Joseph Schumpeter called creative destruction. The normal state of human affairs is what The jurist Sir Henry Maine called a “status” society, in which income is assigned to individuals by authority. The shift to a “contract” society, in which people negotiate their own rewards, was an aberration and it’s fading. I am writing this from Amsterdam and am reminded we caught the idea off the Dutch, whose impudent prosperity so annoyed the ultimate status king, Louis XIV.

In most western economies, it is once again more rewarding to invest your time and effort in extracting nuggets of status wealth, rather than creating new contract wealth, and it has got worse since the great recession, as zombie firms kept alive by low interest rates prevent the recycling of capital into new ideas. A new book by two economists, Brink Lindsey and Steven Teles, called The Captured Economy: How the Powerful Enrich Themselves, Slow Down Growth, and Increase Inequality, argues that “rent-seeking” behaviour — the technical term for extracting nuggets — explains the slow growth and rising inequality in the US.

They make the case that, in four areas, there is ever more opportunity to live off “rents” from artificial scarcity created by government regulation: financial services, intellectual property, occupational licensing and land use planning: “The rents enjoyed through government favouritism not only misallocate resources in the short term but they also discourage dynamism and growth over the long term.”

Here, too, hidden subsidies ensure that financial services are a lucrative closed shop; patents and copyrights reward the entertainment and pharmaceutical industries with monopolies known as blockbusters; occupational licensing gives those with requisite letters after their name ever more monopoly earning power; and planning laws drive up the prices of properties. Such rent seeking redistributes wealth regressively — that is to say, upwards — by creating barriers to entry and rewarding the haves at the expense of the have-nots. True, the tax and benefit system then redistributes income back downwards just enough to prevent post-tax income inequality from rising. But government is taking back from the rich in tax that which it has given to them in monopoly.

As an author, my future grandchildren will earn (modest) royalties from my books thanks to lobbying by American corporations to extend copyright to an absurd 70 years after I am dead. Yet there is no evidence that patents and copyrights incentivise innovation, except in a very few cases. Indeed, say Lindsey and Teles, the evidence suggests that “rents that now accrue to movie studios, record companies, software producers, pharmaceutical firms, and other [intellectual property] holders amount to a significant drag on innovation and growth, the very opposite of IP law’s stated purpose.”

[Thomas Babington Macaulay MP summarised an early attempt to extend copyright in a debate thus: "The principle of copyright is this. It is a tax on readers for the purpose of giving a bounty to writers. The tax is an exceedingly bad one; it is a tax on one of the most innocent and most salutary of human pleasures; and never let us forget, that a tax on innocent pleasures is a premium on vicious pleasures." A correspondent sends me the following details of this appalling saga: "Someone noted that there is a divergence in copyright term in the European Union.

All the then member states protect works for the life of the author plus fifty years while West Germany alone protects works for the life of the author plus seventy years. Immediately the copyright publishers suggested this as something in need of harmonisation. But instead of harmonising down to the norm, all the member states were lobbied to harmonise up to the unique German standard. As a result, Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf" which was going out of copyright in 1995 was suddenly revived and protected as a copyrighted work throughout the European Union.

Gilbert and Sullivan operettas whose copyright had been controlled by the stultifying hand of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company found themselves in a position to once again stop anyone else performing Gilbert and Sullivan works or creating anything based upon them. It is not surprising that, following a brief flowering of new creativity when the Gilbert and Sullivan copyrights initially expired (e.g. Joseph Papp's production of Pirates on Broadway and the West End stage), since their revival by the European Union harmonisation legislation their use have become effectively moribund. A generation of young people are growing up without knowing anything about Gilbert and Sullivan - an art form which, it can be argued, gave birth to the modern American and British musical theatre."]

As for occupational licensing, Professor Len Shackleton of the University of Buckingham argues that it is mostly a racket to exploit consumers. After centuries of farriers shoeing horses, uniquely in Europe in 1975 a private members bill gave the Farriers Registration Council the right to prosecute those who shod horses without its qualification.

Then there are energy prices. Lobbying by renewable energy interests has resulted in a system in which hefty additions are made to people’s energy bills to reward investors in wind, solar and even carbon dioxide-belching biomass plants. The rewards go mostly to the rich; the costs fall disproportionately on the poor, for whom energy bills are a big part of their budgets.

An example of how crony capitalism stifles innovation: Dyson found that the EU energy levels standards for vacuum cleaners were rigged in favour of German manufacturers. The European courts rebuffed Dyson’s attempts to challenge the rules, but Dyson won on appeal and then used freedom of information requests to uncover examples of correspondence between a group of German manufacturers and the EU, while representations by European consumer groups were ignored.

So deeply have most businesses become embedded in government cronyism that it is hard to draw the line between private, public and charitable entities these days. Is BAE Systems or Carillion really a private enterprise any more than Oxford University, Oxfam, Oxfordshire county council or the NHS? All are heavily dependent on government contracts, favours or subsidies; all are closely regulated; all have well-paid senior managers extracting rent with little risk, and thickets of middle-ranking bureaucrats incentivised to resist change. Disruptive start-ups are rare as pandas; the vast majority work for corporate brontosaurs.

Capitalism and the free market are opposites, not synonyms. Some in the Tory party grasp this. Launching Freer, a new initiative to remind the party of the importance of freedom, two new MPs, Luke Graham and Lee Rowley, not only lambast fossilised socialism and anachronistic unions, but also boardrooms “peppered with oligarchical and monopolist cartels”.

One of the most insightful books of recent years was The Innovation Illusion by Fredrik Erixon and Bj√∂rn Weigel, which argues that big companies increasingly spend their profits not on innovation but on share buybacks and other “rents”. Far from swashbuckling enterprise, much big business is “increasingly hesitant to invest and innovate”. Like Kodak and Nokia they resist having to reinvent themselves even unto death. Microsoft “was too afraid of destroying the value of Windows” to go where software was heading.

As a result, globalisation, far from being a spur to change, is an increasingly conservative force. “In several sectors, the growing influence of large and global firms has increasingly had the effect of slowing down market dynamism and reducing the spirit of corporate experimentation”.

The real cause of Trump-Brexit disaffection is not too much change, but too little. We need to “radically reduce the restrictive effect of precautionary regulation” and promote a new regulatory culture based on permissionless innovation, Erixon and Weigel say. “Western economies have developed a near obsession with precautions that simply cannot be married to a culture of experimentation”. Amen.



Trump Signs Executive Order Pushing Work for Welfare

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Tuesday that aims to add and strengthen work requirements for public assistance and other welfare programs.

The order, signed in private, promotes "common-sense reforms" that policy adviser Andrew Bremberg said would reduce dependence on government programs.

"Part of President Trump's effort to create a booming American economy includes moving Americans from welfare to work and supporting and encouraging others to support common-sense reforms that restore American prosperity and help them reclaim their independence," he said.

The order focuses on looking for ways to strengthen existing work requirements and exploring new requirements for benefits such as food stamps, cash and housing assistance programs.

Trump has long accused beneficiaries of abusing government assistance programs and has claimed many who have no intention of working make more in benefits than those with jobs.

"I know people that work three jobs and they live next to somebody who doesn't work at all. And the person who is not working at all and has no intention of working at all is making more money and doing better than the person that's working his and her ass off," Trump said in November. During the campaign, he pledged that, under a Trump administration, families "trapped in welfare" would be "provided with jobs and opportunity."

Most people who use the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, who are able to hold jobs do work, but they don't earn enough to pay for food and cover other expenses. According to 2015 data from the Department of Agriculture, 44 percent of the total households using the SNAP program had someone in the family earning money.

The administration has made several moves pushing work for Medicaid recipients and those who use the SNAP program.

In January, officials announced that states would be able to impose work requirements for Medicaid. And they've proposed tightening the existing requirement that able-bodied adults who want to receive SNAP benefits for more than three months at a time must work in some capacity.

The proposal would raise the age limit for recipients who are exempt from the requirement and restrict the ability of states to offer waivers. The Department of Agriculture has been soliciting public comment on the issue.

The administration has also been exploring more stringent work requirements for those who receive assistance under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, as well as minimum weekly work hours for those who receive housing assistance.

The order gives various Cabinet secretaries 90 days to review the programs their agencies offer, and recommend possible changes.

Advocates argue that, while encouraging people to work is fundamentally a good thing, imposing strict requirements on already vulnerable populations, particularly when coupled with an aggressive effort to slash funding and shrink public assistance programs, could be disastrous for those in need.

Such requirements could have dire consequences for those already experiencing barriers to finding, and keeping, a job, including single mothers who can't afford child care, people who lack access to transportation and those who suffer from mental illness.

Rebecca Vallas, vice president of the Poverty to Prosperity Program at the Center for American Progress, said Trump's executive order served to reinforce myths about poverty in the U.S.

"By using dog-whistle terms like 'welfare,' Trump's trying to paint people who turn to Medicaid, SNAP, and other public programs as Reagan's mythical 'welfare queen' -- so we don't notice that he's coming after the entire working and middle class," Vallas tweeted.

The White House had once identified overhauling the welfare system as one of its top two legislative priorities for 2018, along with a major investment in infrastructure. But GOP leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, told the president there was little chance of passing anything that needs Democrats' votes.

Trump appeared to agree as he huddled with GOP leaders at the Camp David presidential retreat in January.

"It's a subject that's very dear to our heart," Trump said then. "We'll try and do something in a bipartisan way. Otherwise, we'll be holding it for a little bit later."



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, April 12, 2018

More vindication for Trump

Chinese president Xi Jinping promised to open up economy and lower tariffs.  Xi vowed to slash car import tariffs and strengthen intellectual property rights, two key Trump gripes

The FTSE 100 hit a six-week high after relieved markets rallied on Chinese President Xi Jinping's keynote speech at the "Asian Davos" cooling trade tensions with Washington.

Markets rattled by the prospect of a severe disruption in trade between the world’s two largest economies were soothed by Xi’s olive branch to the White House.

Xi reinforced the Asian powerhouse’s commitment to open up its economy, setting out China’s stall to attract foreign investment in the shipbuilding, aviation and financial sectors.

Xi’s conciliatory tone pandered to Donald Trump’s criticisms on car tariffs and intellectual property rights but also warned against regressing to a “Cold War mentality” that could drive a growth-derailing wedge in international trade.

The Dow Jones — the US blue-chip index — surged as much as 2.2pc on opening in New York while London’s mining heavyweights, which are so reliant on the free flow of trade and consumption in China, climbed higher along with metal prices.



Whatever the Left Touches It Ruins (and it means to)

Dennis Prager
The only way to save Western civilization is to convince more people that leftism — not liberalism — is a nihilistic force. Quite literally, whatever the Left touches it ruins.

So, here is a partial listing of the damage done by the Left and the Democratic Party:

The most obvious — and, therefore, the one more and Americans can resonate with — is the near destruction of most American universities as places of learning. In the words of Harvard professor Steven Pinker — an atheist and a liberal — outside of the natural sciences and a few other disciplines (such as mathematics and business), “universities are becoming laughing stocks of intolerance.”

If you send your children to a university, you are endangering both their mind and their character. There is a real chance they will be more intolerant and more foolish after college than they were when they entered college.

When you attend an American university, you are taught to have contempt for America and its founders, to prefer socialism to capitalism, to divide human beings by race and ethnicity. You are taught to shut down those who differ with you, to not debate them. And you are taught to place feelings over reason — which is a guaranteed route to eventual evil.

The Left has ruined most of the arts. The following three examples are chosen because they are scatological, a favorite form of left-wing artistic expression. Before the Left poisoned the arts, art was intended to elevate the viewer (or listener). But to the Left, “elevate” is a meaningless term; it is far more at home depicting urine, fecal matter and menstrual blood.

In 2011, a lifelike German sculpture depicting a policewoman squatting and urinating — even the puddle is sculpted — received an award from a prestigious German foundation, the Leinemann Foundation for Fine Art.

In 2013, the Orange County Museum of Art in California placed a huge 28-foot sculpture of a dog outside the museum, where it periodically urinates a yellow fluid onto a museum wall.

In 2016, one of the most prestigious art museums in the world, the Guggenheim in New York, featured a pure-gold working toilet bowl, which visitors were invited to use. The name of the exhibit was “America” — so one could literally relieve oneself on America.

Thanks to the Left, The Philadelphia Orchestra, one of the greatest orchestras in the world, allowed itself to become of a voice of leftist hate last week. It featured the premiere of Philadelphia Voices, “a political rant put to musical garbage,” as some musically knowledgeable Philadelphians described it to me. In the fifth movement, titled “My House Is Full of Black People,” the black teen narrator chants the following lines: “The county is full of black people/ All wanting to be heard/ While old white men draw lines on maps/ To shut all of them up.” Later in the movement, he yells, “If you would all just f—ing listen!”

Uplifting, no?

On the Left, that’s considered art.

And, of course, such politicization of the arts is accepted as the norm. Indeed, that’s part of the Left’s poisoning of everything — its politicization of everything.

The Left is increasingly poisoning sports. In most football stadiums this past season, one could not attend an NFL game without being subjected to left-wing contempt for America and its flag.

So, too, one cannot watch late-night television if one desires to simply be entertained before drifting off to sleep. Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert and other hosts have changed late-night TV into left-night TV. Why merely be funny when you can use your monologues to advance your left-wing views?

The Left has poisoned mainstream religion. Mainstream Protestantism, non-Orthodox Judaism and much of the Catholic Church — including and especially Pope Francis — are essentially left-wing advocacy groups with religious symbols.

The Left is destroying the unique American commitment to free speech. Almost half of incoming college freshmen do not believe in free speech for what they deem “hate speech” (merely taking issue with a left-wing position is, in the Left’s view, “hate speech”). They do not understand that the whole point of free speech is allowing the expression of opposing ideas, including what we consider “hate speech.”

The Left has poisoned race relations. America is the least racist multiracial society in the world. On a daily basis, Americans of every race and ethnicity get along superbly. But the black Left and the white Left constantly poison young minds with hate-filled diatribes against whites, “white privilege,” “systemic racism,” black dorms, black graduations, lies about the events in Ferguson, Missouri, and the like.

The Left has made innumerable women unhappy, even depressed, with its decades of lying about how female sexual nature and male sexual nature are identical — leading to a “hookup” culture that leaves vast numbers of young women depressed — and its indoctrinating of generations of young women into believing they will be happier through career success than marital success.

And, in some ways scariest of all, the Left is poisoning our children with its commitment to ending male and female as distinct categories. One of the great joys of life, celebrating one’s sex, is now deemed nothing more than a hateful idea in many of your children’s schools.

For these and other reasons, if you treasure American and Western civilization, fighting the Left — something all liberals and conservatives need to do — is the greatest good you can engage in at this time.



Commerce Secretary Ross Wants to See US Catch Up to Other Countries on Economic Freedom

The United States will be turning the tide on economic freedom, said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, referencing the United States being ranked 18th on The Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom.

“It’s imperative that we acknowledge and address the reasons for which our country lags behind the 17 nations that are ranked above us,” Ross said Monday, speaking at The Heritage Foundation. “The good news is that thanks to President [President] Trump, we believe our downward slide in the index over the past decade not only has come to a halt, but should be reversing itself.”

Though free trade was among the factors determining which governments offered the most free economic environment, Ross gave a staunch defense of the Trump administration’s tariffs.

“We believe that trade should be fair, free, reciprocal, and free, free, free. But free trade is almost like the unicorn in the garden. People talk about it, but it’s very, very hard to find it now days,” Ross said. “Our tariffs are among the lowest of any major country in the world and we have the least in the way of nontariff trade barriers. Yet American exporters are plagued by every type of tariff and nontariff barrier thrown against them even by our most trusted allies.”

During the question and answer portion, Heritage Foundation President Kay Coles James asked if the United States is in a trade war with China.

“You’ve probably heard the president recently say, a trade war has been going on for the last 50 years,” Ross said. “The only difference is that now American troops are coming to the ramparts.”

In the Index of Economic Freedom, Hong Kong maintains the No. 1 spot for the fourth consecutive year. Five other countries ranked as free: Singapore, New Zealand, Switzerland, Australia, and Ireland. Rounding out the top 10 countries are Estonia, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United Arab Emirates. The U.S. is ranked in the second tier category of “mostly free.”

For its part, amid fears of a trade war between the world’s two largest economies, China ranks 110th on the index.

“In Davos recently, I was on a panel with the director of the World Trade Organization,” Ross said, referring to the World Economic Forum in January. “To start things off, I asked him the question: If the United States is not the least protectionist big country, please tell me who is. He had no answer. So, we are using all of our available tools to ensure a level playing field.”

Coming in as least economically free in the index is North Korea at 180th. Neighboring South Korea ranks 27th.

Categories for ranking are “rule of law,” “government size,” “regulation efficiency,” and “open markets.” Each has three subcategories. High rankings in these categories correspond with individual prosperity, health, higher education levels, and have better environment, according to the index.

For thousands of years, people were denied economic freedom and lived dehumanizing lives of poverty and sickness, James said during her remarks.

“A few people controlled most of the power and most of the wealth and everyone else suffered for it,” James said. “Thankfully, those days are over for more people today than at any previous time in human history. But we still see instances, such as in North Korea, that serve as a stark reminder of where we’ve come from and where we could return if we don’t remain dedicated to building a better future.”

Rolling back regulations has been “one of the most positive achievements of the Trump administration,” said Terry Miller, the director for the Center for International Trade and Economics at The Heritage Foundation, who presented the report’s findings. But it hasn’t had time to factor into the ranking.

“It is in fact too early for us to be able to take account of those changes in this year’s edition of the index,” Miller said. “We will be picking that up strongly next year in the index as well as changes from the tax reform. So there is some hope that the U.S. score will improve. I would caveat that only with the issue of trade policy, which seems to be going in the opposite direction at this time. It would be very hard to predict what would happen to the U.S. score in the year ahead.”



Real fake news

Leftists have no ethical standards

Christopher Blair was sitting quietly in the corner of Dunkin’ Donuts, not far from his home on an unpaved road in rural Maine, looking at his phone.

People around him, absorbed in their own phones, paid no attention to the large man sitting alone among them.

Fact-checking organizations like Snopes and Politifact have labeled Blair one of the Web’s most notorious creators of fake news. Hidden behind his Internet persona, “Busta Troll,” he has for several years pumped out geysers of newsy-looking posts for an audience eager to believe it.

He doesn’t deny that he intentionally fools people. But Blair says he does so for an unusual reason — because he’s a hard-core Democrat, a “liberal troll” with a mission of undercutting the far right.



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, April 11, 2018

Why Liberals Are More Likely to Be Unhappy People

Did you know that for all the projection you get from liberals about conservatives being angry, unhappy, bitter people, conservatives are actually happier than liberals? Don’t take it from me; take it from Arthur Brooks in the very liberal New York Times:

"Scholars on both the left and right have studied this question extensively, and have reached a consensus that it is conservatives who possess the happiness edge. Many data sets show this. For example, the Pew Research Center in 2006 reported that conservative Republicans were 68 percent more likely than liberal Democrats to say they were “very happy” about their lives. This pattern has persisted for decades. The question isn’t whether this is true, but why"

Now, there are a variety of theories that help explain why conservatives are happier. Could it be because percentage wise, more conservatives are married or religious? Arthur Brooks had something to say about that:

"Whether religion and marriage should make people happy is a question you have to answer for yourself. But consider this: Fifty-two percent of married, religious, politically conservative people (with kids) are very happy — versus only 14 percent of single, secular, liberal people without kids.
He also added this, which many liberals may agree with:

An explanation for the happiness gap more congenial to liberals is that conservatives are simply inattentive to the misery of others. If they recognized the injustice in the world, they wouldn’t be so cheerful."

Is it that conservatives simply don’t see all the injustice in the world or could it be that conservatives do see it, but the attitude they have about that misery is different? Conservatives generally believe in making a better world, but they have very little faith that the government can make things better; they don’t believe you can make utopia here on earth and they have a pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps philosophy. Charity? It’s a good thing and something that we should all strive to do, but it’s not owed to you.

In other words, everybody has problems, but it’s your job to take care of YOUR problems. Are we all in this together? Sure, in a broad “We wish all fellow Americans well and will do what we can to create an atmosphere where they can succeed” sort of way, but if you fail or succeed at life, that’s on you as an individual, not society.

Liberals do not tend to look at things this way. In fact, they tend to politically approach life the way liberal comic book aficionado Seanbaby imagines that Superman must look at the world:

"Superman has got to be jaded as hell. Besides the crap he has to put up with from Aquaman every day, he can hear the death screams of orphans for thousands of miles in every direction. That kind of thing would get to get to you. When I hear about dynamite ninjas blowing up the president, I don't feel guilty. There's nothing I could have done; I don't know how to defuse a ninja or even where the president lives. Not Superman. He can take every single obituary personally. He can go through the paper and say, "Let's see, this was the bus that fell off the bridge when I was in the bathroom... and here, I was playing ping pong when this family suffocated under tons of rubble... Oh! And I could barely get to sleep while this former skydiver was screaming for help! Ha ha ha!"

I'm surprised he even cares when the Trouble Alert goes off. I'd expect him to say, "Sorry your government building got shrink-rayed, Congressman, but I can hear a baby being circled by vampire hippos right now. Do you want me to let it get torn apart becau-- oh, there. It's dead. Good job, Congressman Selfish @sshole. How about you don't call again until there's a real emergency like poison ivy or a leg cramp?"

 Liberals always seem to imagine that we’re a few steps away from Utopia and that only selfish conservatives are stopping us from getting there. Why, there’s always some poor doofus who desperately needs the help of a liberal to get ahead. If only we could make people realize they were keeping him down with their sexism, racism or ageism, that person could finally make it. If only we were all a little bit more obsessed with politics. If only we could get a few trillion dollars’ worth of new government programs in place and everybody were a little more sensitive, we’d be in Nirvana.

Conservatives would argue that given the typical state of human civilization, THIS IS NIRVANA and that we’ll be lucky to even preserve our current level of success long term; that’s not an argument liberals seem to accept.

…….Which finally, nearly 800 words in, brings us to an article in Self magazine entitled “Yoga Should Address Social Justice, So I Want to Open My Own Studio.” Now, you may be thinking, “What does Yoga have to do with social justice?” Good question. That was what prompted me to read the article and find, what I think, is a great read-between-the-lines example of why so many liberals are not happy people. There are so many unintentionally revealing parts to it. For example:

"I recognize that yoga in the Western world can be culturally appropriative, and I’ve had many an existential crisis about whether I, as a black southern American woman, should even be doing yoga, let alone thinking about teaching it."

She likes yoga, but she’s having an EXISTENTIAL CRISIS about whether she should be doing it all. An EXISTENTIAL CRISIS. Over YOGA. I thought it would be fun to throw axes, so I bought some tomahawks and had a target built in my backyard. It never occurred to me as a conservative to wonder whether I should be having an EXISTENTIAL CRISIS because I might be filching German – or is it Viking — culture? Who knows? I ate Chinese food on Friday. I don’t feel bad about that either, but I guess if I were liberal, that might have been the start of an EXISTENTIAL CRISIS.

The entire modern world is based on appropriating other cultures and given how interconnected we all are these days, other than perhaps some very isolated tribal cultures, appropriation is so common as to be almost universal. In fact, if you’re living in the Western world, it goes without saying that you are wholesale appropriating large amounts of Greek and Roman culture. So, why worry about it? Of course, there’s more…

"But at first, finding a studio where I felt comfortable was no easy task. If you walk into a yoga class in the United States, you likely won’t see someone who looks like me. Over the years, I’ve dropped into many a yoga session to see a near unbroken sea of slender bodies, white skin, and expensive athletic wear.

I often wondered why there were not more black femmes participating in or leading the yoga classes that I attended. Then I began to see the barriers that prevented people who look and live like me from engaging in yoga. Yoga classes can be expensive, y’all! And childcare usually isn’t provided, which can make it doubly hard for parents to attend

I’ve also found that many teachers often use white, Western references that are inaccessible and isolating to those who aren’t privy to those cultural cues."

 Those sure do seem like First World problems. The white people weren’t mean to her; it’s just that there were too many of them and she would have felt comfortable if there were more black people in the class. Uh….okay. Apparently, ONLY black Americans struggle to pay for things or find child care because… who knows.

Then there are all those awful “white, Western references” which I assume are worse than Indian spiritual references that often go along with Yoga because… uhm, something. This all plays into the relatively new liberal idea that only black Americans can teach, understand and relate to black Americans. The very fact that there are too many white people in a YOGA CLASS of all places is a problem. This would be similar to going to an inner city Chicago basketball court and being upset that there aren’t a lot of white people shooting hoops, but let’s just go on.

"Finally, in my experience, yoga instructors rarely acknowledge social and political happenings in the outside world....In the past few years, I have found it almost impossible to concentrate on happiness, love, and joy when yet another black person is being shot by police, immigrants are being rounded up in their own neighborhoods and deported, and the president of the United States is tweeting bigotry against transgender service members.
Not talking often enough about these realities in a safer space like yoga is a disservice to the consciousness of the nation.

Wow, there’s so much to unpack here. First of all:

 (In 2016), according to the Washington Post’s tally, just 16 unarmed black men, out of a population of more than 20 million, were killed by the police. The year before, the number was 36. These figures are likely close to the number of black men struck by lightning in a given year… And they include cases where the shooting was justified, even if the person killed was unarmed.

There are actually more unarmed white men being shot by the police every year than black men being shot by the police. In any case, whether you’re talking about white or black men, it’s a very rare occurrence and most of the time the people being shot deserve it. In the rare cases where they don’t, the cops involved face a trial.

As to illegal aliens being deported, that has been the law as long as anybody reading this has been alive. When it comes to transsexuals in the military, Obama put that in place on the way out the door and a lot of people didn't agree with it.

Personally, as a conservative I think the police have gotten a bum rap, I don’t think we’ve done enough to get rid of illegal aliens, and I don’t believe transsexuals should be in the military, but it hasn’t stolen my happiness, love and joy. Life’s not perfect and it’s never going to be perfect, but it does go on.

Also, to a non-liberal, discussing these issues at yoga seems… STRANGE? People... well... I should say most people don’t come to yoga to talk about political issues. Trying to shoehorn political discussions into a yoga class seems like trying to shove politics into a cooking class, into the NFL or into the Oscars….oh wait.

Liberals LOVE to try to turn every public activity into a political war zone where no one can just have a good time. Instead, everything has to be a vehicle for their ideology. Do you think that could lead to a lot of unnecessary conflict and arguing? Does that sort of political obsessiveness seem mentally healthy to anyone who’s not liberal? Then, to conclude:

"That’s why my dream is to create a yoga studio of my own… This kind of opportunity can be especially important for black women like me. In her book Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America, Melissa Harris-Perry recognizes that black women “need sheltered, private space not available to public view. Because of their history as chattel slaves, their labor market participation as domestic workers, and their role as dependents in a punitive modern welfare state, black women in America… lack opportunities for accurate, affirming recognition of the self.” When I first read these words, I felt like they were plucked from my own heart. I, too, have struggled to find a private space to inquire about my personal identity without fear of the white heteronormative gaze.

As the owner of one of those white heteronormative gazes, I think the good news is that people are inherently concerned with their own business and they’re not thinking of you at all (or for that matter me or anyone else). The extent to which heterosexual white people are thinking of you is, “Wow, that’s a weird, depressing article she wrote” or alternately, “I wish that lady would stop vacantly staring at the lettuce while she mumbles about yoga. I need to get by her and get some avocados.” Being upset that you can’t find public “private spaces” where you can do yoga without the imaginary “judgey” gaze of straight white people looking at you seems like a lot of unnecessary self-inflicted pressure. If you enjoy yoga, just stop inserting all these oddball political issues into it and enjoy the yoga class.

 If you want to teach yoga, just teach the yoga class. If you want to run your own liberal, no-white-heteronormative-gazes-allowed yoga classes, give it a shot. In a place like New York City, that might even work and then you can shout “Viva la capitalism,” put some cash in your pocket and enjoy your success. When you make something this simple into something so complicated and fraught with unnecessary existential crises, it seems unlikely that it would lead to anything but misery.



Stop comparing Trump to Stalin

Alex Beam (below) has an unsually strong grip on relaity despite being a Boston liberal

People say crazy things about Donald Trump, some of them factual, some not. To start with the obvious, Josef Stalin murdered his political adversaries, murdered the Soviet officer corps during the lead-up to a world war, and is “credited” with the annihilation of millions of Soviet citizens — “bourgeois” farmers; fictional “oppositionists” of every stripe — more or less because he felt like it.

Donald Trump is many things: a liar, a bloviator, a golf cheater. But he is not a mass murderer.

It is true, as Iannucci, a British citizen, has said, that Trump “questions judges, defies democratic norms and attacks the press and any person or institution that challenges him.” But here’s where that piece of paper called the Constitution comes into play. It is possible to impeach a federal judge, but that is the job of the Senate, which confirms judges, not of the president, who is left to whine about their rulings.

Trump famously fulminated against Judge Gonzalo Curiel, he “of Mexican heritage,” but it turns out that “ticking off a man/child politician” is not an impeachable offense. Curiel remains active on the bench.

On another front, Trump loves to make wild claims about ballot irregularities, stating that “millions of people . . . voted illegally” in the 2016 presidential election. He briefly convened an Advisory Commission on Electoral Integrity, which disbanded after nine months.

Trump thinks he can sway elections, campaigning in vain for Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, and more recently against Democrat Conor Lamb, who was running in a pro-Trump congressional district in Pennsylvania. Trump failed to relegate Lamb to the dustbin of history, and Pennsylvania certified Lamb’s victory last week, without a peep about voter fraud.

Stalin would have had Lamb shot.

You want to know what tyranny looks like? Starting this fall, Chinese high school students will be required to study “Xi Jinping thought,” the nominal philosophizing of China’s Communist Party leader-for-life. In a similar manner, institutes of Marxism-Leninism have masticated the profound thoughts of such intellectual giants as Mao Zedong, the Albanian strongman Enver Hoxha, and Josef Stalin.

Luckily we don’t have a nationalized school curriculum, so it will be a moment or two before “The Art of the Deal,” Trump’s ghostwritten 1987 song of himself, becomes required reading in schools.

Let’s despise Trump for his despicable qualities, not for grandly imagined “parallels” with the brutes of the past and present.



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, April 10, 2018

The Changing Landscape of Political Parties

There is overlap between the parties in ways that you might not expect. And there's still hope.

The surprising outcome of the 2016 election and talk about Democrat hopes of flipping the House and/or Senate in 2018 have a lot of people speculating about political party alignment. Will Donald Trump drive Republican voters away from the Grand Old Party? Are we looking at 2018 or 2020 to be a “wave” election for Democrats?

A recent study by Larry Bartels of Vanderbilt University’s Department of Political Science asked these questions and more about the current state of affairs. What he found suggests some points that confound the prevailing wisdom.

Bartels maintains that there have been no mass defections from either Republicans or Democrats. His research found that the splits within each party break out in contrasting ways. Democrats are, of course, more united in their belief in an active government, but somewhat surprisingly they find themselves less united when it comes to cultural issues. Republicans tend to have the opposite leanings, being more united in their view on cultural issues but more at odds with one another when it comes to the role government should play in peoples’ lives.

Hence the failure to repeal ObamaCare and budgets that keep the Democrat pace on deficits.

Surveys Bartels conducted in his research found that nearly 25% of Republicans were closer to the average Democrat on the role of government when compared to the average Republican, while only 11% of Democrats were closer to Republicans on that role when compared to the average Democrat. On the flip side, over 26% of Democrats were closer to the average Republican on cultural issues. This is likely due in part to the Democrat Party’s small tent, in which elected officials and voters are practically coerced to toe the party line on abortion, same-sex marriage and other topics.

The one area that Bartels doesn’t go into but should cause concern among Republicans is the loss of Millennial women. A Pew Research report found that in 2014, Democrats held a 21-point advantage over Republicans with women in this group. By 2018, the number of women who self-identified or leaned Democrat rose to 70%. Nearly three-fourths of women in the Millennial age group now identify as Democrats. Certainly, the election of Donald Trump played a big role in this, but we cannot discount the fact that Hillary Clinton was not nearly as popular among young women as Bernie Sanders. But with Clinton no longer a factor, Republicans will need to work much harder to reach this voting bloc with the message of Liberty.

In fact, Democrats aim to exploit women voters to take down Trump.

This issue aside, if we accept Bartels’ numbers and the idea that a larger percentage of Democrats are growing closer to Republicans on cultural issues, then why does the Left appear to be winning the culture war? This is where the power of the media comes into play. With much of the media and academia leaning heavily to the left, it becomes easier for progressives to steer the message. Consider the point that Republicans have been labeled increasingly more radical in recent years even while their fundamental policy stances have not changed all that much.

That’s because if any party has moved its fundamental policy stance, it’s been the Democrats. Former Clinton adviser and political prognosticator Dick Morris observes that Democrats tend to move further left based on negative outcomes during election cycles. This happened throughout the 1980s, and continued during the midterm drubbings Barack Obama received while in office. It seems counterintuitive to move further in a direction that voters reject, but leftists’ strategy is to drive everything their direction so the very terms of debate change over time.

So, if more Republicans are finding common cause with Democrats about the role of government, and young women are leaving the GOP in droves, is there any good news? Yes, and that is that progressives have not necessarily moved the electorate to the left, they have only succeeded in moving themselves further to the left. And in doing so, according to National Review’s David French, they are deceiving themselves about the impact they are having on voters. They are not changing many minds; they’re only browbeating people. And they are in fact illustrating to the rest of the country just how out of touch they truly are. The downside is that we can expect deeper polarization. The upside is wave elections are not born out of polarized electorates.



No, Hillary, it’s the red states that are ‘dynamic’

Hillary Clinton is being universally panned by Republicans and Democrats for her rant last week in India against Trump voters. She boasted, “I won the places that represent two-thirds of America’s gross domestic product. So I won the places that are optimistic, diverse, dynamic, moving forward.”

As evidence, she pointed to places like Illinois and Connecticut — where she won by sizable margins. Then she added that those who voted against her “didn’t like black people getting rights, and don’t like women getting jobs.”

Our guess is that Hillary Clinton’s words didn’t go over very well in Arkansas, the state that she once served as first lady. She lost Arkansas: Trump 60.6 percent, Clinton 33.7 percent. Her speech was offensive and filled with arrogance for sure (and a reprise of her 2016 description of Trump voters as “deplorables” and “irredeemables”), but what hasn’t been corrected for the record is that Mrs. Clinton had her facts wrong.

Hillary Clinton’s assessment of how the red Trump states are performing economically versus the blue Clinton states was backward. For at least the last two decades, most of the dynamism and growth — as measured by population movements, income growth and job creation — has been fleeing from the once-economically dominant blue states that Mrs. Clinton won, and relocating to the red states that Donald Trump won.

Here’s the evidence. Of the 12 blue states that Hillary Clinton won by the largest percentage margins — Hawaii, California, Vermont, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, Illinois, Washington, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Delaware — all but three of them lost residents through domestic migration (excluding immigration) over the last 10 years.

In fact combined, all 12 Hillary Clinton states lost an average of 6 percent of their populations to net out-migration over the past decade. California and New York alone lost 3 million people in the past 10 years.

Now let’s contrast the Hillary Clinton states with the 12 states that had the largest percentage margin vote for Donald Trump. Every one of them, save Wyoming, was a net population gainer — West Virginia, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Idaho, South Dakota, Kentucky, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Nebraska and Kansas.

The move from blue to red states — almost 1,000 people every day — has been one of the greatest demographic stories in American history. If you go to states like Arizona, Florida, Tennessee and Texas these days, all you see is out of blue state license plates.

Pretty much the same pattern holds true for jobs. The job gains in the red states carried by the widest margins by Mr. Trump had about twice the job creation rate as the bluest states carried by Mrs. Clinton.

Hillary Clinton mentioned GDP numbers. While it is true that the blue states of the two coasts and several of the Midwestern states are richer than the redder states of the South and mountain regions over recent decades, she failed to mention the giant transfer of wealth from Clinton to Trump states.

IRS tax return data confirm that from 2006-2016 Hillary Clinton’s states lost $113.6 billion in combined wealth, whereas Donald Trump’s states gained $116.0 billion.

The Hillary Clinton states are in a slow bleed. That is in no small part because the deep blue states that she carried have adopted the entire “progressive” playbook: High taxes rates. High welfare benefits. Heavy hand of regulation. Excessive minimum wages. War on fossil fuels. These states dutifully check all the progressive boxes.

And the U-Haul company can barely keep up with the demand for trucks and moving vans to get out of these worker paradises. A recent Gallup Poll asked Americans if they would want to move out of their current state of residency. Five states had more than 40 percent of its respondents answer yes: They were: Connecticut, New Jersey, Illinois, Rhode Island and Maryland. Hillary Clinton country.

Even more unbelievable to us was Mrs. Clinton citing Connecticut and Illinois as dynamic places. There probably isn’t another state in America that can match these two for financial despair and incompetence. Things are so bad in Illinois after decades of left-wing rule in Springfield that Illinois residents are now fleeing on net to West Virginia and Kentucky to find a better future.

Connecticut has raised income and other taxes three times in the last four years and still has one of the most debilitating budget deficits in the nation. The pension systems are so many billions of dollars in the red, they are technically bankrupt.

Even when it comes to income inequality, the left’s favorite measure of progressive success, blue states carried by Mrs. Clinton fare worse than red states. According to a 2016 report by the Economic Policy institute, three of the states with the largest gaps between rich and poor are those progressive icons New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Sure, Boston, Manhattan and Silicon Valley are booming as the rich prosper. But outside these areas are deep pockets of poverty and wage stagnation.

The “progressive” tax and spend agenda has been put on trial. Not only do the policies lead to much slower growth, they also benefit the rich and politically well-connected at the expense of everyone else.

Getting these statistics right — about where the growth and dynamism is really happening in America — is important because if we want to be a prosperous nation, we need to learn what works and what doesn’t.

We need national economic policies that have been shown to work at the state level. Donald Trump wants to make America look like Florida and Tennessee. Hillary Clinton wanted to make America look more like Illinois and Connecticut. Maybe that’s the real reason why she lost.



Save lives with the 'right to try'

Giving terminally ill patients the right to try experimental treatments won’t transform the healthcare sector radically, but it will stop the government obstructing those who want to take a chance to live a little longer.

The House passed its version of a "right-to-try" bill on Wednesday, but it gained little notice because it was overshadowed by the omnibus spending bill that had just become public and which President Trump signed on Friday.

The right-to-try legislation, if signed into law, will allow terminally ill patients to seek drug treatments that have passed phase one of the FDA’s approval process, but have not yet received full approval.

Terminally ill patients are not a big or vocal political constituency, but their vulnerability makes them worth listening to. Giving them the right to try experimental treatments won’t transform the healthcare sector radically, but it will stop the government obstructing those who want to take a chance to live a little longer.

The reform is common sense, and is therefore popular nationwide: Thirty-eight states, from deep-blue California to deep-red Alabama, have already established a right to try. But the question of whether FDA regulations pre-empt state laws is unclear, which makes congressional action necessary.

Thankfully, a similar right-to-try bill already passed the Senate unanimously.

There are legitimate concerns about the right to try, but the bills in Congress improve on the status quo. The FDA already has expanded access programs for some terminal patients, and between 2010 and 2015 it authorized more than 99 percent of requests. But that amounts to only 1,200 patients a year, a tiny portion of the millions who are diagnosed with or die of terminal illnesses. Too many patients who would be helped by the right to try don’t qualify for the FDA process.

Critics worry that phase one FDA approval means a drug isn’t yet safe enough for terminal patients. But phase one approval means a treatment has already passed basic safety testing and is probably ready for clinical research trials. As the libertarian Goldwater Institute says: “Fewer than 3 percent of terminally ill patients gain access to investigational treatments through clinical trials. Right to try was designed to help the other 97 percent.”

There are also safeguards in the legislation. No patient will ever be forced to take an unapproved drug. And no doctors will be forced to provide a drug they wouldn't advise. No pharmaceutical company will be forced to give a drug if they don't think it will help the patient. What’s more, a drug manufacturer or prescriber couldn’t be sued for providing treatment through right to try.

Right to try won’t save everyone who takes advantage of it, but if a treatment has passed basic safety testing and terminally ill patients understand the risks, the government shouldn’t stop them trying to save their own lives.

President Trump endorsed the right to try in his first State of the Union address, saying, “We also believe that patients with terminal conditions should have access to experimental treatments that could potentially save their lives. People who are terminally ill should not have to go from country to country to seek a cure — I want to give them a chance right here at home. It is time for the Congress to give these wonderful Americans the ‘right to try.’”

The Senate and House should swiftly resolve the minor differences between their bills and send a right-to-try to Trump.



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, April 09, 2018

Democrat corruption of the electoral process
Democrats thought 2016 was the election they could not lose. But lose it they did — the presidency along with Congress and a record number of state governments. Which has made them desperate.

Obviously, Democrats are out of sync with the American people. Most Americans want to restrain government and keep more of their money. They believe in a strong military and defense, in killing, not appeasing terrorists. They don’t want stupid regulations and high taxes to get in the way of economic growth and job creation.

Instead of listening to the people, Democrats are trying to get different people to vote. It doesn’t matter if the people are actually eligible to vote. All they need do is cast ballots for Democrats.

This process is going on in Pennsylvania. First, Democrats gained a stranglehold over the state supreme court. Democratic justices believe their job is to overrule the people’s representatives whenever the Democrats lose.

Second, after routinely gerrymandering elections in their favor when in power, Democrats now express shock to learn that politics influences legislatures. The Democratic answer is for the courts to seize control of the redistricting process. Pennsylvania’s Democratic court majority imposed a plan that was even more favorable to Democrats than that pushed by the Democratic Party.

Third, the Democratic governor is pushing “reforms” that would reverse Republican victories by putting Democrats in charge of redistricting and inviting illegal and fraudulent votes in future elections. If you can’t win based on the districts and people you have, change the districts and people!

Gov. Tom Wolf’s first idea is for a nonpartisan commission to draw election maps. The idea may sound appealing, to take politics out of redistricting. But drawing legislative lines is inherently political. There is no such thing as an independent, objective panel.

Most so-called experts have opinions. And someone political must choose the supposedly “independent” members of whatever commission or other body is created. It is impossible take politics out of, well, politics.

While politics is sometimes unseemly, it does ultimately allow accountability. Moreover, it is transparent: We know who is making the decision. That is better than allowing partisans to pose as modern Vestal Virgins.

Even more insidious is Gov. Wolf’s proposal to abandon standards for registering to vote. He would allow election day registration and automatically sign up anyone who applies for a drivers’ license or other government service. Finally, he would allow anyone to use an absentee ballot without an excuse.

All of these changes would be convenient, but convenience is not the appropriate standard for elections. Even a cursory review of registration rolls nationwide shows widespread error and fraud — noncitizens and the dead voting, for instance. Lawsuits filed by the American Civil Rights Union have exposed how little many local officials do to protect the votes of their citizens.

Yet the Democratic Party attempts to thwart even modest measures designed to ensure election integrity. Simply showing a photo ID is considered too onerous for would-be voters.

All of Wolf’s proposals, intentionally or not, would enable and actually encourage more fraudulent voting.

Same-day registration creates chaos for registrars at the very moment their focus should be on balloting. More important, there would be no verification of eligibility.

Noncitizens routinely get driver’s licenses. Partisan activists manipulate unregulated use of absentee ballots.

If fraud is later discovered, it will be too late. Then the newly elected Democrats can even help cover up the process.

Gov. Wolf talked of bringing the state’s electoral process into the 21st century. Actually, he’s proposing a big leap backward, into the 19th century when vote fraud was rife.

Instead, officials at all levels should work to improve the safeguarding of our election process. The foundation for American democracy is free and honest elections. Without that, the American people understandably will lose faith in their government.

No doubt, in the future Democrats will again win the presidency and control of Congress. The latter could come as soon as seven months. But if so, Democrats should win honestly, through legal votes cast in the ballot box.



Another overbearing Obama regulation, the fiduciary rule, bites the dust

As many have noticed the Obama administration was very much in favor of regulations for the sake of regulations. The administration tried to regulate everything from the air in our lungs and food in our stomach, to the climate controlled by the Sun. But earlier this month, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals struck another blow against the abusive administrative state imposed on the American People by the previous administration and returned some sanity to the U.S.

Spurred on by the financial crisis the Department of Labor (DOL) attempted to regulate the part of the financial industry by proposing a rule in 2010. The department already had authority over employer-sponsored retirement plans under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). The authority did not include Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA), which are already regulated by the IRS and SEC. The backlash caused the administration to withdraw the rule and try again five years later.

In 2015, President Obama warned the financial industry change was coming, and in April of 2016, the new rule came down under DOL. The new rule was designed to get away from the commission-based system financial services industry. The then Assistant Secretary for Employee Benefits Security Phyllis Borzi was the main driver for the rule. A quick glance of a Borzi speech and it becomes clear, the former Assistant Secretary does not like the financial services industry.

The rule would be known as the DOL Fiduciary Rule or the Best Interests Rule. The main thrust of the rule raised the fiduciary standard of brokers to Registered Investment Advisors. Brokers typically were paid on commission of sales, and the DOL believed this meant they could not be objective when giving advice. DOL believed taking commissions out of the equation would result in better financial advice. It became apparent quickly this was not going to be the case.

The DOL rule would have ended up hurting small dollar retirement savers. If someone saves a couple hundred a month for their retirement, where is the incentive for an investment firm to advise them? At the end of the year, that person or couple was able to save $1,500-$3,000, but the investment firm has a much greater liability according to the rule. The investor could come after the investment firm years later claiming the firm made the wrong investments and sue. What incentive is there to take on small dollar clients that can sue for more than they invest? None. This is not hypothetical; this is reality.

The Chamber of Commerce conducted a survey of investment firms and found some startling statistics:

92 percent of firms surveyed say that the rule could limit or restrict investment products for their customers, which could ultimately affect some 11 million households;

Up to 7 million individual retirement account owners could lose access to investment advice altogether;

A survey of insurance service providers shows 70 percent already have or are considering exiting the market for small balance IRAs and small plans, and half are preparing to raise minimum account requirements for IRAs;

A survey of advisors finds 71 percent will stop providing advice to at least some of their current small accounts due to the risk and increased costs of the rule;

Other surveys found that 35 percent of advisors will stop serving accounts under $25,000, and 25 percent will raise their client minimum account thresholds; and

One large mutual fund provider reports that its number of orphaned accounts nearly doubled in the first three months of 2017, and that the average account balance in these orphan accounts is just $21,000. Further, it projects that ultimately 16 percent of the accounts it services will be orphaned this year because of the fiduciary rule.

Fortunately, thanks to the Fifth Circuit’s ruling, the rule is null and void, and investment firms need not worry. In a 2-1 decision, the court vacated the rule “in toto,” noting the DOL’s new definition of fiduciary was did not fit with the text of ERISA and the IRS code. The court also found the rule’s new definitions were unreasonable.

The Obama administration tried to literally regulate everything under the sun. This is a small victory for free market capitalism, but the fight is not over. The DOL has not shown it is going to fight the ruling, and it should not. All agencies across the federal government should continue to roll back abusive regulations, and Congress should act to ensure future abusive administrations cannot overregulate people’s lives. This is a two-front battle, the executive branch, and the legislative branch; Congress needs to step up.



Trump Is Cutting Old Gordian Knots
The proverbial knot of Gordium was impossible to untie. Anyone clever enough to untie it would supposedly become the king of Asia. Many princes tried; all failed.

When Alexander the Great arrived, he was challenged to unravel the impossible knot. Instead, he pulled out his sword and cut through it. Problem solved.

Donald Trump inherited an array of perennial crises when he was sworn in as president in 2017. He certainly did not possess the traditional diplomatic skills and temperament to deal with any of them.

In the last year of the Barack Obama administration, a lunatic North Korean regime purportedly had gained the ability to send nuclear-tipped missiles to the U.S. West Coast.

China had not only been violating trade agreements but forcing U.S. companies to hand over their technological expertise as the price of doing business in China.

NATO may have been born to protect the European mainland, but a distant U.S. was paying an increasingly greater percentage of its budget to maintain NATO than were its direct beneficiaries.

Mexico keeps sending its impoverished citizens to the U.S., and they usually enter illegally. That way, Mexico relieves its own social tensions, develops a pro-Mexico expatriate community in the U.S. and gains an estimated $30 billion a year from remittances that undocumented immigrants send back home, often on the premise that American social services can free up cash for them to do so.

In the past, traditional and accepted methods failed to deal with all of these challenges. Bill Clinton’s “Agreed Framework,” George W. Bush’s “six-party talks” and the “strategic patience” of the Obama administration essentially offered North Korea cash to denuclearize.

American diplomats whined to China about its unfair trade practices. When rebuffed, they more or less shut up, convinced either that they could not do anything or that China’s growing economy would sooner or later westernize.

Europeans were used to American nagging about delinquent NATO contributions. Diplomatic niceties usually meant that European leaders only talked nonstop about the idea that they should shoulder more of their own defense.

Mexico ignored U.S. whining that our neighbor to the south was cynically undermining U.S. immigration law. If America protested too much, Mexico usually fell back on boilerplate charges of racism, xenophobia and nativism, despite its own tough treatment of immigrants arriving into Mexico illegally from Central America.

In other words, before Trump arrived, the niceties of American diplomacy and statecraft had untied none of these knots. But like Alexander, the outsider Trump was not invested in any of the accustomed protocols about untying them. Instead, he pulled out his proverbial sword and began slashing.

If Kim Jong Un kept threatening the U.S., then Trump would threaten him back and ridicule him in the process as “Rocket Man.” Meanwhile, the U.S. would beef up its own nuclear arsenal, press ahead with missile defense, warn China that its neighbors might have to nuclearize, and generally seem as threatening to Kim as he traditionally has been to others.

Trump was no more patient with China. If it continues to cheat and demand technology transfers as the price of doing business in China, then it will face tariffs on its exports and a trade war. Trump’s position is that Chinese trade duplicity is so complex and layered that it can never be untied, only cut apart.

Trump seemingly had no patience with endless rounds of negotiations about NATO defense contributions. If frontline European nations wished to spend little to defend their own borders, why should America have to spend so much to protect such distant nations?

In Trump’s mind, if Mexico was often critical of the U.S., despite effectively open borders and billions of dollars in remittances, then he might as well give Mexico something real to be angry about, such as a border wall, enforcement of existing U.S. immigration laws, and deportations of many of those residing illegally on U.S. soil.

There are common themes to all these slashed knots. Diplomatic niceties had solved little. American laxity was seen as naivete to be taken advantage of, not as generous concessions to be returned in kind.

Second, American presidents and their diplomatic teams had spent their careers deeply invested in the so-called postwar rules and protocols of diplomacy. In a nutshell, the central theme has been that the U.S. is so rich and powerful, its duty is to take repeated hits for the global order.

In light of American power, reciprocity supposedly did not matter — as if getting away with something would not lead to getting away with something even bigger.

Knot cutters may not know how to untie knots. But by the same token, those who struggle to untie knots also do not know how to cut them.

And sometimes knots can only be cut — even as we recoil at the brash Alexanders who won’t play by traditional rules and instead dare to pull out their swords.



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, April 08, 2018

Fascism 'goes unnoticed until it's too late': Albright sounds dire warning on Trump

Just for starters in considering Albright's fulminations below, I should point out that Fascism does NOT sneak up on anybody ('goes unnoticed until it's too late'). It is very vocal and the rises to power of both Mussolini and Hitler were very well telegraphed in advance.  Hitler won power in a democratic election after having fought many previous unsuccessful election campaigns, and Mussolini was a well-known and widely respected thinker long before the March on Rome (which he did not attend).

The Albright article is in fact an amusing example of how one-eyed Leftism can be.  What president has become so tired with the democratically elected legislators that he has tried to over-ride them with a slew of regulations and orders, some with with no apparent legal warrant?  That's incipient Fascism if ever there was one.  Ignoring the legislature is a huge step in the direction of Fascism.  But that was Barack Obama, not Donald Trump.

The essence of Fascism is control, a high level of government control over everything.  So has Trump sought to expand government control of the country and its citizens?  To the contrary he has rejoiced and continues to rejoice in how many governmental regulations he and Congress have wiped out,

But surely the Leftist claims below have SOMETHING anti-democratic to point to in Trump's actions? There is not in fact a single deed listed.  All they have is a jaundiced account of what Trump has SAID.  But blind Freddy by now knows that Trump thinks out loud, meaning that he gets details wrong and often contradicts himself. But that is actually his process of looking at all the options and choosing the best one out of all the possibilities.  It is an unusual way for a President to proceed but it ensures that he gets a lot of feedback before he acts and in the end  what he DOES is very moderate.  He is an unusually open person but his actions are well considered.

And even his most controversial actions are beginning to show their rightness.  We must not forget that Trump has a degree in economics so he knows all the traditional arguments for free trade perfectly well.  So why his repeated announcements of tariffs on imports?  Because he is not operating at the Economics 101 level.  He is operating more at the economics faculty level.  And almost everything is disputed there.  And the huge fact about free trade in American economic history is that America prospered mightily behind HIGH tariff walls in the 19th century.  There are of course arguments to explain that -- "infant industries" etc. But the basic point is that real-life is a poor fit to classical Ricardian free trade ideas.  And Trump has clearly taken that on board

And the fruits of that are already clear to see.  South Korea  has come to the party and has agreed to ease its restrictions on imports from America in return for Trump exempting them from his tariffs.  So clearly, despite their novelty, his trade ideas are realistic and effective.  And his actions have in fact led to FREER trade with S. Korea.  That must be a shit-sandwich to the many who thought he was anti-trade.

The huffing and puffing over tariffs on China will be resolved in a similar way.

And, unlike Obama, Trump has co-operated with the legislators.  Obama vetoed most of what came before him but Trump even signed an Omnibus spending bill that clearly stank to him.  So Trump has stuck with and respected the role of Congress while Obama did his best to defy it and escape its restrictions.  So who is the Fascist again?

Next week comes the release of Fascism: A Warning, a new book by former US ambassador to the United Nations and secretary of state, Madeleine Albright. It is in part a survey of the rise of authoritarian leaders and parties in Russia and the Philippines, in Hungary, Germany, Poland and Italy, and finally in the United States.

In a recent interview with American public radio NPR, Albright concedes that yes, the title is alarmist. It is intended to be, she explains. She was inspired by that phrase deployed across Western democracies in this age of terrorism, “If you see something, say something”. Albright has seen quite a lot in the Trump administration, and she has a lot to say.

“We have never had a president, at least in the modern era, whose statements and actions are so at odds with democratic ideals,” she writes in her chapter on the US.  “[Donald] Trump has spoken harshly about the institutions and principles that make up the foundation of open government, in the process he has systematically degraded political discourse in the US, shown an astonishing disregard for facts, libelled his predecessor, threatened to lock up political rivals, bullied members of his own administration, referred to mainstream journalists as enemies of the American people, spread falsehoods about the integrity of the US electoral process, touted mindlessly nationalistic economic and trade policies and nurtured a paranoid bigotry toward the followers of one of the world's foremost religions.”
Madeleine Albright joins Hillary Clinton on the presidential campaign in 2016.

There are those of course - not least in the Republican Party - who would dismiss this as hyperbole. But when you break it down, it is hard to challenge any assertion in that passage.
Fascism, she says in the interview, approaches us one step at a time, even in countries with strong democratic institutions and traditions, “and in many ways goes unnoticed until it's too late”.

Albright is not the only prominent commentator to sound such dire warnings about the Trump administration. Last year the polemicist Andrew Sullivan wrote an apocalyptic essay for New York Magazine in which he cast back to the first book on politics, Plato’s Republic, to illustrate what he saw as the potential for a contemporary American descent into tyranny.

But applying ideas like Sullivan’s - or Plato’s or Albright’s - to contemporary America is difficult because the Trump administration resists definition. It is a twitching, impulsive tachycardic mess; a movement without substance or identifiable intent, let alone ideology. The journalists that have covered it - and this has been a golden era of American political journalism - have tripped over one another as they navigated the miasma of incompetence and trough-snuffling that Trump presents them with, allowing the administration to obscure each catastrophe with the next.

Amy Siskind’s new book, The List: A Week-by-Week Reckoning of Trump’s First Year, helps clear some of that thick air and reminds us of just how weird the last year has been. Siskind’s book is based upon her viral blog, The Weekly List, which she began when Trump was elected. Siskind, a Wall Street executive turned feminist activist, had been inspired by the suggestion by another shell-shocked liberal Sarah Kendzior, who had appealed to concerned citizens to keep lists of facts, beliefs and principles, of the minor changes they perceived in the nation under Trump, so they could better watch for what Albright would later describe as the steps towards fascism.

None of these writers suggest that America today is an authoritarian state, just that the only consistency of the Trump administration is its anti-democratic urges and impulses, that Trump himself has no regard for democratic institutions or traditions, that his greatest appeal to his core base is his willingness to demonise minorities.



Ex-Treasury secretary compares Trump to Mussolini

Musso also believed in minimum wages, equal rights for women and a strong progressive tax. So I expect Summers will also mention that the Democrats are the true heirs of Mussolini.  Or maybe not

Once again, all Summers has on Trump is his words.  He convicts Trump of Fascism solely because Trump has critizied one particular business - Amazon.  For some unknown reason, a President is not allowed to criticise a business, apparently.  No First Amendment protections for Trump's speech?

Summers is an economist so he should know that a perfectly democratic country -- Britain -- not only criticized various businesses but nationalized them and brought them under government control in the '40s and '50s. Such actions clearly go a long way beyond criticizing the businesses concerned.  Mrs Thatcher reversed that folly but both the nationalization and the de-nationalization were accomplished in a perfectly democratic way.

Mr Summers appears to have a quite strange idea of what democracy can and cannot do.  From Alcibiades in the Peloponnesian wars to this day, democratic leaders can do very foolish things but that does not make them less democratic

Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers believes President Trump's recent attacks on Amazon are un-American. "Going on jihads with the power of the federal government against companies whose CEOs' private activity he doesn't find congenial — that's not the stuff of democracy," Summers said in an interview Thursday on CNN's "New Day. "That's the stuff of much more totalitarian countries."

Amazon (AMZN)founder and CEO Jeff Bezos privately owns the Washington Post, which Trump often derides as "fake news" for reporting on the administration. Trump has claimed without evidence that the Post is a "lobbying group for Amazon."

In the past week, Trump has fired off five false or misleading tweets about Amazon, including that the company doesn't pay state and local taxes and is causing the Postal Service to lose money. (Amazon collects sales tax in every state that charges one and remits it to the states, and it also pays the post office to deliver packages to customers' doors.)

Trump's tweets, as well as reports raising the possibility the Trump administration may look into tighter regulation or antitrust lawsuits against Amazon, have driven down the company's stock.

"Make no mistake, that's a Mussolini tactic, not an American tactic," Summers said of Trump targeting a private company. He called Trump's tweets "potentially quite dangerous for our business confidence."

Summers, a Democrat, led the Treasury Department under President Clinton and served as President Obama's top economic adviser from 2009-2010. He has been an outspoken critic of Trump and the administration's economic policies in the past.

The former Treasury secretary said Trump's attacks on Amazon should make "pro-business Republicans" nervous.



Trump orders end of 'catch & release' immigration policy

President Donald Trump has signed an order ending the so-called 'catch and release' policy, under which US immigration officers allowed the release of 'caught' illegal immigrants back on US soil, pending their immigration hearing.

“President Donald J. Trump signed a Presidential Memorandum to take important steps to end catch and release, the dangerous practice whereby aliens who have violated our Nation’s immigration laws are released into the United States shortly after their apprehension,” the White House said in a statement.

The White House justified ending the controversial policy, much criticized by Trump, by citing concerns about the American public’s “safety and security.” The US president also used the opportunity to once again call on the Democrats to end their “staunch opposition” to toughening border security measures.

While no set definition exists to the US “catch and release” policy, the practice has been applied mostly to asylum seekers and children of migrants, so they can stay out of custody while their cases pass through the US courts. The lengthy process, which can take years to complete, allows most to stay in the US illegally. Many of them do not show up for court dates and continue to stay in the US without authorization.

Almost immediately after assuming office in January 2017, Trump signed an Executive Order to expand the border wall with Mexico and increase the number of detention centers, to tackle the management of an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants. The order also mandated US authorities to assign asylum officers and immigration judges to the facilities, to conduct asylum interviews and hearings.

Currently, federal prisons, local jails as well as private companies are responsible for housing US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees. According to October estimates, between 31,000 and 41,000 illegals are kept there on a daily basis.

The omnibus spending bill, which Trump reluctantly signed on March 23 to avoid the government shutdown, allocated $1.6 billion for Trump to construct his wall with Mexico. The bill, however, also allocated some $3.1 billion to fund 40,520 immigration beds across detention facilities for FY 2018. That marked a 1,196-bed increase on FY 2017.



Report: Dem. Sen. Joe Manchin Has Been Talking About Switching Parties

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice claims he’s talked to Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin about him switching parties.

President Donald Trump needs Manchin’s vote in the Senate, Justice said Thursday on “Fox & Friends.”

“Joe and I had discussions along those lines,” Justice, a Republican, said.

“I wish Joe was a Republican to tell you the truth,” he said of the West Virginia senator.

“But to just tell it like it is, Joe’s got to do his thing and I’ve surely got to do mine and the president has got to do his. We need Joe’s vote.

“And to be perfectly honest, you know, this nation needs to get behind our president in a great way every day.”

Manchin has regularly displayed conservative talking points and his conservative flare continues to increase as he gets closer to a reelection bid in November.

Manchin went on CNN’s “New Day” in January and said the country needed Trump’s border wall.

He returned on CNN to rebuke House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s immigration rhetoric a few days later.



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