Friday, May 04, 2018

Israel Exposes Iran’s Nuclear Lies

Huge intelligence find proves Trump’s suspicions correct

Israel now has proof of what many suspected all along about the disastrous nuclear deal that former President Barack Obama reached with the Iranian regime. “Iran did not come clean on its nuclear program,” Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu charged, claiming that more than 100,000 Iranian documents Israel’s intelligence agents obtained from a secret “atomic archive” in Tehran prove the nuclear deal is "based on lies.” This latest development should make President Trump's decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal a no-brainer.

Prime Minister Netanyahu announced in a press conference that the trove of secret nuclear weapons files came from a hidden Iranian site where they were moved in 2017. He said the files contain materials, which Israel has shared with the United States, that include “incriminating documents, incriminating charts, incriminating presentations, incriminating blueprints, incriminating photos, incriminating videos and more.” The prime minister added that the United States has confirmed its authenticity, a claim supported by Trump administration officials who have reviewed the secret documents.

"Prime Minister Netanyahu gave a powerful presentation today of compelling new evidence documenting Iran's determined pursuit of a nuclear weapon," a senior Trump administration official said, as quoted by the Free Beacon. "It certainly would have been helpful to have this information when the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] was negotiated but the Iranians decided to lock it away in a secret vault for future reference. Only the regime knows what else they're hiding, but the revelations today don't give us much confidence in their protestations that they have never had interest in militarizing their nuclear program."

The “atomic archive” documents reportedly reveal details about a hush-hush nuclear weapons plan known as Project Amad that began back in the early 1990’s. It was supposedly shut down in 2003, but, in actuality, the project work was carried on under different guises with the same Iranian scientists involved. The work has focused on what the prime minister said were five elements. As described by the Times of Israel, these elements consisted of “designing nuclear weapons, developing nuclear cores, building nuclear implosion systems, preparing nuclear tests and integrating nuclear warheads on missiles.” Since the flawed nuclear deal itself did not directly address Iran’s ballistic missile research and development program as it should have, Iran has felt free to work on perfecting the technology for nuclear warhead missile integration.

“Even after the deal, Iran continued to preserve and expand its nuclear know how for future use," Prime Minister Netanyahu pointed out, no doubt having the deal’s sunset clauses in mind. As Debkafile commented, “The material presented by the prime minister demonstrated that Iran’s nuclear program had been secretly stored intact for use at a time of its choice and posed an ever-present peril.”

Iran has played the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN watchdog which has repeatedly given Iran a clean bill of health for supposedly complying with its commitments under the nuclear deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA for short. Iran misled the IAEA into believing that Iran had discontinued the use of any technology for developing nuclear weapons.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif mocked Prime Minister Netanyahu, tweeting, “The boy who can’t stop crying wolf is at it again… You can only fool some of the people so many times.” Zarif is right about only being able to fool some of the people so many times, but his comment applies to the Iranian regime itself. The regime fooled Obama and Kerry, who in turn sold a bill of goods to Congress and the American people. President Trump is not so easily fooled.

Indeed, President Trump now has the proof he needs to announce withdrawal from the JCPOA on May 12th, reimpose harsh sanctions for Iran’s lies to the IAEA and other deceptions, and at the same time send a message to the North Korean regime that he will not tolerate a meaningless paper agreement in his negotiations with Kim Jong-un. As the president noted in response to the evidence of Iran’s lies, it “really showed that I've been 100 per cent right. That is just not an acceptable situation.”

Meanwhile, missile attacks in Syria Sunday evening struck two pro-Iranian Shiite command centers, including a depot with 200 Iranian missiles said to have been slated for transport to Hezbollah. Reportedly, eighteen Iranians were killed, including a senior officer. Israel has not claimed responsibility. However, Israel may be girding for a Hezbollah attack from the north, or possibly for a direct attack by Iran itself. According to Debkafile, there has been unusually heavy Israeli military traffic spotted going north. Israel has also announced that its northern airspace will be closed to civilian flights until the end of May.

As reported by the Washington Times, “Israeli defense officials have told their American and Russian counterparts that if Iranian-backed forces attack Israel from inside Syria, Jerusalem will not hold back from retaliating with direct strikes against Tehran or other targets in Iran.” Iran’s nuclear facilities may well top the target list.



May Day: Dems Seek to Replicate Failed Socialist States

Proponents of socialism see all migration as good, while ignoring what causes the problem 

Across the world yesterday, crowds of leftists demonstrated, protested and rioted all in celebration of that failed egalitarian pipe dream known as socialism. Meanwhile, as the infamous caravan of illegal aliens demands asylum, many of these May Day protests focused on advocating any and all kinds of immigration. Democrats and their Leftmedia cohorts continue to insist that President Donald Trump’s efforts to secure the border and enforce our nation’s immigration laws are dangerous expressions of bigotry and racism. When pressed on why the U.S. should essentially ignore its own immigration laws and allow for the unlawful entry of illegal aliens, they offer a ridiculous non sequitur: Because we are “a nation of immigrants.” The fundamental question is this: Why do these people want to leave failed socialist states to come to America?

The Left’s vacuous logic was on full display recently when Fox News’ Tucker Carlson interviewed Univision senior anchor Jorge Ramos. Carlson asked Ramos why the U.S. should let into the country these illegal alien asylum seekers. Ramos responded by saying that the U.S. is the richest and most powerful nation in the world and therefore has a moral obligation to take in these illegals. Tellingingly, Ramos, who has dual citizenship with Mexico and the U.S., was absolutely unwilling to grant that Mexico has any role to play in helping to deal with the illegal immigration problem. And again, a question: Why is the U.S. the richest nation in the world? Liberty and free-market capitalism.

What this interview displayed was the corrupting influence of a socialist worldview. Never was the question of who is ultimately responsible for the “plight” of these illegal alien asylum seekers legitimately addressed. Rather, as is often the case, Ramos blamed the U.S. for the situation in which these foreign individuals find themselves. And this is the fundamental problem with socialism: It lays the blame for failure at the feet of the successful. Since the U.S. is so wealthy and powerful, and since it enjoys this status due to its free-market economy, leftists blame America for the failure of socialist nations across the globe. Never can the failure of those socialist nations be attributed to the corrupting agent of socialism itself. This was exposed in the controversy over Trump’s alleged reference to “s-thole countries.”

While Democrats are quick to criticize Trump and Republicans for wanting to enforce our nation’s immigration laws, they are amazingly reticent to offer any criticisms of those nations and their socialist systems of government that are directly responsible for creating the dismal economies these illegal aliens are fleeing. Worse, Democrats want to turn our country into exactly the kind of failed socialist states these migrants are fleeing. Democrats preach the glories of socialism as a more “just” and “equitable” system when all we see are examples of its failures.



State of the Resistance

A digest of remarks by CONRAD BLACK

The house of cards of the Trump Resistance is collapsing with accelerating speed, as anything propelled by the force of gravity does. The “comedy” act at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner on Saturday and the groans from the audience must have caused even some of the more militant Democrats to wonder what the whole White House press beat had become.

It was a vicious, unfunny replication of the late-night television laughing hyenas, while the president whipped up his supporters at a large rally in Washington, Mich. (televised nationally).

 Nothing to do with the White House, and especially not the correspondents, amounts to anything without the president. This was always a good-natured back and forth between the president and the reporters who follow him every day and was a pleasant, if fairly predictable, Washington event, like Alfalfa and Gridiron.

It is now just mudslinging in absentia, revealing the White House media as essentially the partisan pack of defamers and myth-makers that they have made of themselves, and that their employers have tolerated. The country doesn’t trust them and doesn’t much listen anymore. It is potentially dangerous when a free press had made itself so dispensable.

The evidence continues to accumulate that not just former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, but his boss James Comey, and the partisan intelligence directors James Clapper and John Brennan will all be facing perjury charges, and that those responsible for the phony surveillance warrant on Carter Page (including the former attorney general, Loretta Lynch, and her chief collaborators) and ultimately a considerable swath of the Clinton campaign and the Obama administration will all be responding to serious allegations.

It is at that point that the Resistance will have to show whether it has any backbone, and not just an ability to orchestrate the bigotry of the media and the stunned, dethroned solidarity of the OBushinton joint-incumbency under which the political confidence of the country largely eroded.

Like officers on a sinking vessel directing passengers toward an insufficient number of lifeboats, Rahm Emanuel and Nancy Pelosi are now urging Democrats to be more subtle and restrained in calling for the impeachment of the president. As some of the leaders of the Resistance are arraigned for serious misdeeds, the impeachment of a president whose only misdemeanors are in areas of style and etiquette (though those are sometimes jarring) will increasingly seem esoteric.

It is a reasonable inference, though not one that can be made with much confidence, that Rudolph W. Giuliani, former mayor and U.S. attorney of New York, has joined the president’s legal team to negotiate with Robert Mueller a series of written questions for the president to be answered in writing, and a conclusion, at least of the Russian aspect of this inquiry, which will then have to show cause why its mandate should be extended to other fields.

Failing some such agreement, the president could well ask a Supreme Court review of the validity of Mueller’s proceedings, given that they were launched by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein at the instance of Comey’s leaked and partially classified documents (that were probably wrongly removed government property), because he wanted a special investigation into the Russian issue, despite the fact that Rosenstein had recommended the firing of Comey, who himself confirmed that Trump was not a target of the Russian investigation and had made no effort to interfere with the Russian investigation.

There has never been any excuse for any of it, and it has accomplished nothing except to drag Trump’s accusers into a quagmire of their own making. At some point in James Comey’s tortuous book tour, as he twists and turns to square irreconcilably conflicting assertions and actions of his recent past, there will be a moment that will recall Joseph Welch’s counter-attack on Senator Joseph R. McCarthy: “Have you no decency, sir?”

As we wait hopefully for such a moment, I declare the opening front-runners for next year’s Pulitzer Prizes: Tucker Carlson, Mollie Hemingway, and Mark Penn. The first three have declared cogently and forcefully that Comey’s briefing of the president-elect on the Steele dossier was a “set-up,” so that Clapper, the director of the National Intelligence Agency, could leak it to CNN (his future employer), lie to Congress about it as he had about other things, and smear the incoming president with all the spurious defamations that Comey had himself told Trump were “salacious and unverifiable.”

Alan Dershowitz also deserves much credit because, with the great weight of his legal eminence, he has joined Victor Davis Hanson and me in seeking an investigation of Mueller’s role in the horrible Deegan-Bulger scandal of the FBI in Boston in the Sixties to Eighties, when innocent men were knowingly prosecuted and condemned for murder, while the real killers were sheltered because of their assistance in attacking the Patriarca crime family in New England.

Comey conveniently tied a bow on his own misfeasances by condemning the pardon of former vice president Dick Cheney’s completely unoffending chief of staff, Scooter Libby, and by engaging as his counsel in the legal hellfire that is about to burst on him, the special prosecutor in that case, his fascistic doppelganger Patrick Fitzgerald, and his designated leaker, Daniel Richman.

There is now little to do but watch the collapse of the proud fa├žade of the corrupt prosecutocracy that Mueller, Comey, and Fitzgerald personify, corroded and bloated by a 99 percent conviction rate, 97 percent without a trial, because of the hideous mutation of the plea-bargain system. They are all very self-righteous: “Great will be the fall of it.”

Robert Mueller, after nearly 20 indictments (most of them empty gestures at absentee Russians), is on course to discover the extent of collusion with Russia and the identity of the colluders. Even now (issue of April 21), Republicans should “know that Mr. Trump is bad for America and the world.” The Republicans must rally to the bill “to protect Mr. Mueller’s investigation from sabotage.” It was implied that Mike Pompeo would be defeated as nominee for secretary of state, and that Sean Hannity might be the succeeding candidate.



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, May 03, 2018

Fear of the Left: The Most Powerful Force in America Today


The dominant force in America and many other Western countries today is fear of the Left.

This is a result of the fact that the most dynamic religion of the past 100 years has been neither Christianity nor Islam. It has been leftism. Whoever does not recognize this does not understand the contemporary world.

Leftism — in its incarnations, such as Marxism, Communism, and socialism; expressed through egalitarianism, environmentalism, and feminism; in its denigration of capitalism and Western civilization, especially in America and Israel; in its supplanting of Christianity and Judaism; through its influence on Christianity and Judaism; in its celebration of race; and in its replacing of reason with romanticism — has almost completely taken over the news and entertainment media and institutions of education.

There is a largely (though not entirely) nonviolent reign of ideological terror in America. In almost every area of life, people fear antagonizing the Left.

Last week, before my speech at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, a man employed by the university (I will not say in what department) walked over to me, looked around to see whether anyone was watching, and whispered in my ear, “I’m a conservative.”

This happens just about everywhere I speak. People whisper — yes, whisper — that they are conservative or they support Trump. The last time I experienced people looking around to check whether they were seen speaking to me was with dissidents in the Soviet Union.

People call my radio show from all over the country to say that their fellow musicians, nurses, teachers, or employees do not know that they are conservative, let alone that they support the president.

I have called contemporary conservatives in America Marranos, the name given during the 15th-century Spanish Inquisition to Jews who hid their Judaism while appearing to be Catholics, lest they be persecuted. I do not compare the consequences: Losing one’s friends or employment is not the same as losing one’s home or one’s life. But otherwise, the label is apt.

Because of my widely covered conducting of the Santa Monica Symphony Orchestra at the Walt Disney Concert Hall last summer, members of some of the most prestigious orchestras in America have opened up to me, telling me they are conservative but would never reveal this fact to their fellow musicians. They fear either losing their position or, more likely, being socially ostracized.

Why are so many Democrats shocked when a Republican is elected president? Because, as they themselves say, they “don’t know anyone” who voted for the Republican. The primary reason for this is that the people in their lives who voted for Donald Trump — professional colleagues, and even friends and relatives — are afraid to tell them.

There are two reasons the Left labels most conservatives and all Trump supporters “white supremacists,” “neo-Nazis,” and “racists.” One is to defeat conservatives without having to defeat conservative ideas. The other is to instill fear: Speak out and you will suffer the consequences.

Parents call my radio show and ask what they should tell their children at college when they ask whether they should risk receiving a lower grade for divulging their conservative politics in a paper or on an exam.

It is becoming more and more common for leftist mobs to gather in front of a conservative’s home, scream epithets at the conservative’s family members, and vandalize the home. Just last week, the Associated Press reported:

Protesters are targeting the northern Virginia home of the National Rifle Association’s top lobbyist . . . Chris Cox . . . as well as his wife’s nearby decorating business. . . . Libby Locke, a lawyer for the Cox family, said the vandalism included spraying fake blood and defacing the home with stickers.

Left-wing student mobs routinely take over the offices of university deans, professors, and even presidents. The few non-left-wing professors on any campus understand their lives will be made miserable if they speak out. The widely reported case of liberal biology professor Bret Weinstein at Evergreen State College in Washington is directly on point.

In May 2017, Professor Weinstein was surrounded by about 50 left-wing students, who screamed curses at him outside of his classroom for refusing to participate in an event during which white people were asked to leave the campus for a day.

On May 24, 2017, Weinstein tweeted: “The police told me I am not safe on campus. They can not protect me.”

Within a few months, left-wing students and the left-wing Evergreen administration made life so miserable for the lifelong liberal professor that he left the university.

Since the Left began spreading the lie that a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., shot a black youth because he, like most police officers, was a racist, police officers in many cities have feared taking proactive measures to prevent violent crime in black neighborhoods. They fear the left-wing mob known as the news media will ruin their reputation and end their career.

In the recent case of a Philadelphia Starbucks manager who asked two black men to purchase something before giving them the code to the restroom, Starbucks immediately appeased the left-wing mob. The company didn’t wait until any facts came out; it simply abandoned the manager and announced it would close every U.S. store one day in May to educate all Starbucks employees about “unconscious bias.”

These are only a few examples of the left-wing intimidation that dominates much of American life.



Yes, Obama's Iran Nuke Deal Really Was the Sum of All Lies

Benjamin Netanyahu's damning report of Iran's lies undermines the whole foundation of the deal

Just yesterday, we wrote about the upcoming negotiations and policy considerations surrounding Barack Obama’s 2015 Iran nuclear deal — how President Donald Trump was facing pressure from European allies to once again waive sanctions and continue pretending everything is all well and good. Soon after we published, along came Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to effectively nuke the idea that Iran has ever done anything but lie about its nuclear program.

Israeli intelligence collected a massive amount of intelligence — literally half a ton of materials — proving that Iran hid its nuclear weapons program for two decades. And the U.S. has verified it. “I am here to tell you one thing: Iran lied,” Netanyahu said. “After signing the nuclear deal in 2015, Iran intensified its efforts to hide its secret files.” He continued, “We’ve known for years that Iran had a secret nuclear weapons program called Project Amad. We can now prove that Project Amad was a comprehensive program to design, build and test nuclear weapons. We can also prove that Iran is secretly storing Project Amad material to use at a time of its choice to develop nuclear weapons.” Those weapons include a goal of five 10-kiloton nuclear warheads, all to go with its ballistic missile program that Obama allowed to continue.

As part of the ruse, Iran ensured that some of its program was dual-use — nuclear energy, not weapons. But it continued covert work on nuclear weapons, particularly at its Fordow facility, and lied to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about that work and Project Amad. So much for what it insisted were “peaceful purposes.”

Obama’s nuclear deal was built on lies, just as we said from the beginning. The worst part is that Obama and his secretary of state, John Kerry, weren’t duped — they were part of the con, all in search of a legacy for Obama. And what a horrible legacy it was, too.

Bloomberg’s Eli Lake observes, “Advocating for a pact in 2015, John Kerry said American agencies had ‘absolute knowledge’ about the regime’s past nuclear efforts. Oops.” Except it wasn’t an “oops.” Team Obama deliberately looked the other way and deceived the world. Now, Lake says, “Beyond the fate of the nuclear deal, the Israeli intelligence also presents a crisis for the [1970] Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, to which Iran is a member. If verified, it shows that Iran has systematically lied to weapons inspectors for nearly 20 years. If Iran doesn’t pay a price for its deception, then what is to stop future rogues from following the Iran model?”

Even if Trump now pulls out of the deal, however, Europe may stand by it. The Washington Examiner’s Tom Rogan argues, “Yet while Israel’s intelligence community, the Mossad in particular, deserves immense credit for successfully seizing and extricating this material from an Iranian stronghold, it is unlikely to persuade Europe’s big three (Britain, France and Germany) to join Trump in withdrawing from the deal. To persuade those leaders to do so, Netanyahu would have needed to show evidence of continuing, covert Iranian efforts either to construct a nuclear weapon or to secretly enrich uranium beyond the low-level cap the current agreement allows for medical research. That was not on display [Monday].”

Time will soon tell what Trump does, but in discussing Netanyahu’s report in a Monday press conference, he made another important strategic point: Pulling out of the Iran deal would send “the right message” to North Korea.



Prosecution for Immigration Crimes Rising Again

Fell under first year of Trump, but now returning to Obama levels

Prosecutions of criminal immigration offenses are projected to rise almost 20 percent in FY 2018, a new report from the Transaction Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) shows.

TRAC bases its estimates on the 7,020 new criminal immigration prosecutions in March of 2018, an increase of 23.9 percent from the previous month. TRAC projects that, if the federal government continues to prosecute criminal immigration offenses in accord with this trend, there will be more than 70,000 prosecutions by fiscal year's end.

Criminal immigration offenses importantly do not include simple illegal immigration, which is a civil, rather than criminal offense. Rather, criminal offenses include acts such as reentry of a previously deported person, the smuggling of illegal immigrants, or visa or other document fraud.

Prosecutions for criminal immigration offenses are historically quite low, TRAC noted, with fewer than 20,000 per year under the last term of the Clinton administration and the first term of the Bush administration. They increased some under Bush's second term, but only really took off with the swearing in of President Barack Obama. The number of criminal immigration prosecutions almost reached 100,000 in 2013.

Immigration prosecutions began to decline thereafter, likely due to a more selective prosecution policy during Obama's second term. That trend continued in the first year of President Donald Trump's administration: Fiscal year 2017 saw the fewest prosecutions of any administration in a decade. This is likely due in part to the conspicuous decline in immigration in Trump's first year, a phenomenon often referred to as the "Trump effect."

However, as immigration rates rise again, so too are prosecutions. The most common charges faced by defendants are entry at improper time or place and reentry subsequent to deportation, combined making up well more than half of all charges. Charges unsurprisingly concentrate within the federal judicial districts along the southwestern border; a previous Free Beacon analysis found that those regions were responsible for the plurality of federal offenses, primarily due to the concentration of immigration offenses.

While immigration charges concentrate along the southwestern border, certain districts are seeing less activity than they used to, TRAC noted. Texas's northern district, Florida's southern district, and the eastern district of Michigan were all immigration crime hot spots twenty years ago, but have now fallen out of the top ten.

This renewed concentration of criminal immigration offenses along the southwestern border helps to explain why earlier this month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions implemented a "zero tolerance" policy for immigration offenses in that region. Under the Obama administration, the Department of Justice generally sought to prosecute only violent or criminal immigration offenders. Sessions has instructed U.S. attorneys to prosecute all offenders to the maximum extent allowable by law.

This zero tolerance has been shown historically to drive down illegal immigration levels, according to Sessions, a claim he based on analysis by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency which has in turn been questioned by the Department of Homeland Security.



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, May 02, 2018

Cognitive flexibility rides again

The article below revives a very old tale.  It originated in a book called "The authoritarian personality" published in 1950 under the lead authorship of prominent Marxist theoretician Theodor Wiesengrund (AKA Adorno).  The story was that conservatives are rigid thinkers, prone to oversimplified categories and generally unable to think straight.  Since almost all psychologists are Leftist, the story was wildly popular and generated much research based on it.  I had a lot of articles published which pointed out holes in that research.

As early as 1954, however, it emerged that the supposed measures of rigid/flexible thinking correlated very poorly with one another. In one popular measure, the Budner scale, I found that the supposedly positive and negative items of the scale were totally uncorrelated with one-another.  The conclusion had to be that there was no such thing as cognitive flexibility -- as the various alleged measures of it disagreed with one another.

Whenever it was examined, however, they showed a correlation with IQ, suggesting that they were all just clumsy measures of IQ and should therefore be either abandoned or used only in conjunction with an IQ measure. So the various correlations found with flexibility/rigidity were in fact correlations with IQ.

And that very well explains the findings below.  The heavy Brexit vote came from generally depressed centres in Northern England which would have had few bright sparks left there.  Smart people in England gravitate to London.  And it was the London vote which  was most pro-EU.  So the most probable explanation of the findings below is simply that it confirms the well-known IQ gradient from the big city towards rural areas.  The interpretations the authors put on the findings simply reflect their own intentions and prejudices.  The correlates with "flexibility" were in fact correlates of IQ.

Interpreting that, however, would be a whole new story.  Why are Brexit opponents dumber?  Probably because of a third factor. Probably because the EU really is bad for areas where poor people live.  A comparison with Northern affluence before and after membership of the EU would probably be adverse to the EU.

The academic journal abstract is appended to the summary immediately below

The Cambridge Analytica scandals have made it obvious that some people’s votes can be predicted and manipulated by knowing their emotional triggers. But new research suggests that the way people think, in apparently unemotional ways, is also a reliable predictor of political attitudes, and in particular, of nationalism and enthusiasm for Brexit.

Leor Zmigrod, a Cambridge University psychologist, set out to investigate whether a preference for clear categories in thought mapped on to a preference for clear national boundaries and precise, exclusionary definitions of citizenship. Instead of relying on self-reported habits of thought, as previous surveys have done, she had participants (who were not students) take part in some standard psychological tests. One of them tested how easy it is for participants to adapt to changes in the rules of the game they are playing; the other is a test of the ability to associate words and ideas across different contexts, so that it works as a measurement of cognitive flexibility, or woolly-mindedness, as the more rigid would no doubt say.

Even with a reasonably small sample of about 330, the differences that appeared were large and startling. In particular, her team found that less cognitive flexibility correlated strongly with “positive feelings toward Brexit and negative feelings toward immigration, the European Union, and free movement of labour”. This not to say that there is anything abnormal about people on either side of the question. There is a lot of normal variation in temperament and imagination among perfectly healthy and sane people, even those who disagree with us. But it is still extraordinary to think that some political differences can quite reliably be traced to cognitive ones which seem to have no connection with politics at all.

One of the strongest links was between cognitive flexibility, as measured by these two tests, and disagreement with Theresa May’s statement that “a citizen of the world is a citizen of nowhere”.

These cognitive styles do not work directly on attitudes to Brexit, says Zmigrod. They predispose people to wider ideological attitudes, and those in turn determine the attitudes people took to the referendum. And the test results she found work differently to each other: in particular, nationalism and authoritarianism were very strongly predicted by a preference for fixed rules and categories, whereas political conservatism (as self-reported) was influenced by an inability to take words out of familiar contexts and make fresh connections between them (which the second test measures).

Nonetheless, the correlation between the style in which people think and the way that they voted was very much stronger than any of the other factors in the sample: controlling for class, age and sex only changed the results by 4%, although there was a strong, and possibly related, correlation with the length of time in education.

“The way the brain constructs internal boundaries between conceptual representations and adapts to changes in environmental contingencies has been shown here to be linked to individuals’ desire for external boundaries to be imposed on national entities and for greater homogeneity in their cultural environment. Information-processing styles in relation to perceptual and linguistic stimuli may also be drawn upon when dealing with political and ideological information,” she writes.

What this suggests to me is that some kinds of political argument are going to be literally interminable. Obviously this isn’t true of any particular issue. Even the question of our relations with Europe will be settled some time before the heat death of the universe. But it may be replaced by something else which arouses the same passions and splits the population in the same way, because the cognitive traits she is analysing are all part of the normal variation of humanity.

Despite what you learn on the internet, the people who disagree with you about Brexit do not all have something terrible wrong with their brains. Progress is not necessarily on our side. Nor is it even on the other side. One of the underlying tendencies of political argument at the moment is that both left and right expect the other side to be proved conclusively wrong by history – either to be swept away by progress or to be destroyed by the return of traditional reality. But if ideologies arise in part from differences in cognitive style which are evenly distributed through the population, the war between progress and reaction will continue for as long as humanity does.


Cognitive underpinnings of nationalistic ideology in the context of Brexit

Leor Zmigrod, Peter J. Rentfrow and Trevor W. Robbins


Nationalistic identities often play an influential role in citizens’ voting behavior and political engagement. Nationalistic ideologies tend to have firm categories and rules for what belongs to and represents the national culture. In a sample of 332 UK citizens, we tested whether strict categorization of stimuli and rules in objective cognitive tasks would be evident in strongly nationalistic individuals. Using voting behavior and attitudes from the United Kingdom’s 2016 EU referendum, we found that a flexible representation of national identity and culture was linked to cognitive flexibility in the ideologically neutral Wisconsin Card Sorting Test and Remote Associates Test, and to self-reported flexibility under uncertainty. Path analysis revealed that subjective and objective cognitive inflexibility predicted heightened authoritarianism, nationalism, conservatism, and system justification, and these in turn were predictive of support for Brexit and opposition to immigration, the European Union, and free movement of labor. This model accounted for 47.6% of the variance in support for Brexit. Path analysis models were also predictive of participants’ sense of personal attachment to the United Kingdom, signifying that individual differences in cognitive flexibility may contribute toward ideological thinking styles that shape both nationalistic attitudes and personal sense of nationalistic identity. These findings further suggest that emotionally neutral “cold” cognitive information processing—and not just “hot” emotional cognition—may play a key role in ideological behavior and identity.


UPDATE:  A reader has sent in a comment on why London people voted so strongly against BREXIT:

Now, I can think of a much more cogent reason: London is foreign. It is the one place in the sceptred isle where the indigenous population, the so-called "white British" are marginally in a minority. The others are not necessarily black or brown, but they hail from somewhere else - especially Europe.

Indeed, I might add an anecdote of my own. Last year, I spoke to a guard outside a major hotel in London, and discovered that he worked for a company which provided guards. I then said, "I could tell you weren't employed by the hotel, because you have a British accent. There seems to be some rule that nobody who works for a major hotel can be native born."

"You're not the first person to make that comment," he replied. (To be fair, the hotel staff were very helpful and efficient.)

The majority "Remain" vote came from Scotland and SE England. The heartland of England voted for Brexit just as the heartland of the US voted for Bush. In fact, the two best predictors for Brexit were:

Age, Older people (who remembered what it was like to be independent) were more likely to vote for Brexit.

Englishness. People were asked whether they considered themselves (say) more English than British, more British than English, British but not English etc. The more they self-identified as English, the more likely they were to vote for Brexit.

Incidentally, they were more likely to vote for Brexit if they self-identified as Anglican, even if they didn't attend church. The established church is part of their English identity, whereas many Roman Catholics and, of course, non-Christians, have affiliations outside the UK.

Also, it was pointed out that, in many market towns, the local church has a central social function irrespective of its spiritual function - something I've noted on British TV.


Has Maine found a bipartisan solution to easing health care costs?

Might we ever see a bipartisan health care bill that addresses costs and receives unanimous legislative support? Although one emanating from Washington seems unlikely anytime soon, an innovative bipartisan health care bill — referred to as Right to Shop — unanimously passed the Maine Legislature in 2017 and merits a closer look.

The Maine Right to Shop law begins by giving patients direct access to price information, enabling them to make informed decisions about costs of their care. It simultaneously incentivizes them to shop for high-quality, lower-cost providers by offering them financial rewards when they do so.

Maine’s bill was developed by a local lawmaker who was fed up with the rising cost of coverage at his small, family-owned business. He borrowed from initiatives promoting transparency in at least three other states — Arizona, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire — and cleverly coupled these with cash (or other) incentives to encourage patients to shop. This combination has already shown promising results with state employees and at large companies, but until this legislation, it was largely nonexistent for those at small companies or buying insurance on their own.

But will this work to lower health spending? Some have questioned the effectiveness of price transparency, and others have reported mixed outcomes with transparency alone. But this shouldn’t be surprising, because price transparency has rarely been coupled to meaningful incentives — like paying cash to patients who use high-value providers.

Today, most of us make online purchasing decisions to obtain savings of a few dollars. But remarkably, we remain indifferent to choices between care options whose prices differ by tens of thousands of dollars, despite numerous studies showing that higher health care prices do not correlate with better quality. Choosing the wrong provider might cost patients and the overall system more, with no improvement or even with lower quality care.

Until providers are incentivized to compete for patients based on both the cost and quality of care, the massive waste of resources produced by this predictable market failure is unlikely to be remediated. The Maine law is one approach that just might open the door to such developments.

In addition to transparent pricing and rewards, a third key feature of the Maine law allows out-of-network providers to compete for patients on a level playing field. In other words, you can see any provider you want out of network, as long as they are lower-cost. Together, these ingredients could set off a race to provide high-quality care at lower prices. In addition, this policy would provide a counterweight to the growing trend toward hospital consolidation and narrower insurer networks, both of which reduce patient options. Consolidation drives prices and expenditures higher.

By combining transparent prices that enable a patient to shop with financial rewards for accessing the best-value providers — independent of insurer network — incentives may finally align to improve quality and reduce cost of care.

Like many legislatively driven health care solutions, Maine’s new law certainly won’t solve all the problems in health care. But broader application of Right to Shop could catalyze innovation to improve both cost and quality. Indications of bipartisan interest in the Maine law on the part of state lawmakers across the country suggest this approach could help break today’s partisan health care legislative gridlock. Why? At the risk of overgeneralizing: Republicans are drawn to the potential for more competition and Democrats to greater access to care, and both like the outcome of lower costs.

Some incumbent providers will probably resist this change, fearing price competition, and insurers may claim this would burden them with added administrative costs. Yet without innovations like Right to Shop, we’ll be stuck with high prices and inconsistent quality — the worst possible combination.

In 2018, federal lawmakers would be wise to consider similar efforts by rewarding patients who can shop on both private and public-subsidized insurance, like, Medicare, and Medicaid. Without such sensible innovations, many patients, whether insured or not, will struggle to afford care. With respect to both cost and quality of health care, Maine’s new law could be just what the doctor ordered.



There are idiots and then there are real idiots

Why would Trump sign it?  A  pocket veto would kill it

According to The Hill, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to APPROVE legislation that would protect special counsel Robert Mueller on Thursday.

The panel approved the bill in a 14-7 vote that go support from both Democrats and Republicans. Four GOP senators supported the legislation, including Sens. Tillis, Graham, Grassley, and Flake.

The Republicans who opposed the bill were Senators Hatch, Lee, Cornyn, Crapo, Sasse, Kennedy, and Cruz.

“The vote marks the first time Congress has advanced legislation to formally protect Mueller from being fired by President Trump, who has railed against him in public and reportedly talked in private of dismissing him,” reports the Hill.

The bill doesn’t have the 60 votes necessary to pass the Senate, and has even less of a chance to pass the more conservative House. It also would be unlikely to win the two-thirds support needed to override a presidential veto.



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, May 01, 2018

Student Confronts Pelosi: Actually, Tax Reform 'Crumbs' Are Helping My Family Put Me Through College

A college student confronted House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi at an on-campus event sponsored by Georgetown University's Institute of Politics on Tuesday, challenging her rhetoric referring to the GOP-passed tax cuts and related bonuses as "crumbs."  Other Democrats have followed suit, sneering at the tangible benefits being experienced by everyday American families -- all thanks to a law that people like Pelosi wrongly predicted would inflict "Armageddon" on the US economy and trigger "the end of the world."  The student, who identified himself as freshman from Virginia, relayed his family's positive experience with tax reform and pressed Pelosi on whether she would stand by her dismissive formulation

“You’ve spoken about the effects of the Republican tax plan, specifically referring to its effects on average Americans as crumbs,” the student said. As the son of small business owners, I know that it’s helped my parent hire more employees. It’s helped us pay off our mortgage, helped put me through college...Would you still refer to the effects of this tax plan on average Americans as crumbs?”

Pelosi conceded that some people are benefitting from the new law, but referred to the economic arguments in favor of the Republican policy as "BS." She also made the following claim: "Here's a tax bill that they advertise as a benefit for the middle class, and did you know 83 percent of the benefits of the tax bill go to the top one percent? ...In the life of the bill, 86 million middle class families will pay more taxes." 

The first part of that statement is flat-out false.  The second, carefully-parsed attack is deeply misleading.  Let's unpack each element.  It's simply wrong to say that 83 of the new law's tax benefits go to the top one percent.  Here's the truth:

Brian Riedl of the Manhattan Institute points out, “The bottom 80 percent of families currently pay 33 percent of all combined federal taxes, yet will get 35 percent of the tax cuts. By contrast, the top one percent currently pays 27 percent of all federal taxes, but will get just 21 percent of the tax cuts. This means the share of all federal taxes paid by upper-income earners will slightly rise.”

That's a far cry from what Pelosi said (and while we're at it, read this piece about tax burdens and "fair shares"). So where did she come up with that number? By embracing a total distortion that we've dismantled in previous analyses. Here is exposing her dishonest point back in January:

"The Republican tax plan was signed into law just last month, and Democrats already have a well-worn, and misleading, talking point about it: 83 percent of the tax cuts go to the wealthiest 1 percent. That’s true for 2027 but only because most of the individual income tax changes expire by then. In 2025 — the last year before those tax changes expire — a quarter of the tax cuts go to the top 1 percent. It’s a classic case of politicians using a technically accurate statistic but without the context or explanation it requires...

The important missing context is that the final tax legislation, which President Donald Trump signed into law Dec. 22, allows most of its individual income tax provisions to expire by 2027, making the tax benefit distribution more lopsided for the top 1 percent than in earlier years.

In other words, the only way transform Pelosi's statement into something remotely accurate is to pretend as if the years 2018 through 2026 do not exist.  That's preposterous and goes well beyond mere "misleading," especially considering how she used that statistic to describe the entirety of the law.  That's a lie. 

Her talking point also assumes that all of the tax cuts will, in fact, expire by 2027.  How likely is that?  Not bloody likely.  Indeed, Republicans are already planning to call votes to make the middle class tax cuts permanent, which would completely blow up this critique from Democrats.  Her latter statistic, which was preceded by the caveat about "the life of the bill," relies on the same sleight of hand.  She was slapped with Pinocchios by the Washington Post over a previous iteration of this fear-mongering, so she's added a qualifier to make it slightly less deceitful. 

Again, the bottom line is that these alleged "tax increases" on 86 million middle class families would only hypothetically occur if the GOP tax cuts go away years from now.  Republicans are on the record in favor of extending them indefinitely, but couldn't make the "reconciliation" math work in order to pass the original bill with a simple majority in the Senate.  That's why the on-paper expiration date was included; it was a necessary budget gimmick, and everyone knew it. 

Will Democrats oppose efforts to keep those tax cuts in place?  If so, they would be to blame for a potential politically-painful and therefore extremely unlikely tax hike in the future.  And what's especially galling about this line of attack from Pelosi is that she's endorsed repealing the law, which would guarantee a massive middle class tax increase.

Back in reality, the law is reducing taxes for roughly 90 percent of all taxpayers, across all income groups, including an estimated 91 percent of middle income families.  The corporate tax cuts have resulted in hundreds of companies announcing expansion plans, new investments, enhanced benefits, and special bonuses for millions of workers. 

Financial optimism among voters, manufacturers and small business owners has soared, as have employment projections for the wider economy -- all of which has spurred stepped-up GDP growth.  Pelosi can wave this all away as "crumbs" and "BS," but she's living in an alternate, anti-math universe.  But that's nothing new, especially on this front.  I'll leave you with Mitch McConnell calling out Indiana Democrat Joe Donnelly (not by name, but by obvious implication) for voting with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi against a law that has precipitated a great deal of good news for Hoosiers:

“As my colleague, Senator Young, reports, the results in Indiana are adding up. He heard from a Hoosier in Cedar Lake who’s expanding his family milk-hauling business, and a Kokomo small business owner who’s now hiring more workers. And I recently read that over in Ellettsville, one family has found an additional $200 in their monthly paychecks -- enough to cover a week’s worth of groceries. I don’t think my colleagues across the aisle intended to make life more difficult for middle-class families across the country. It’s just that left-wing policies make it harder, not easier, for American workers and job creators to get ahead.

But when my Democratic friends had the chance to join us and deliver historic tax relief to American families, they stood firm and tried to block tax relief on party lines. One of Indiana’s own senators tried to block all that good Indiana news from happening. I’m proud Republicans overcame that obstruction and got tax reform done for Americans.”

Don't be surprised to see a "Joe voted no" reprise in Indiana sometime soon.



Democrats Won’t Be Pleased with Ben Carson’s Plan for Public Housing

President Donald Trump’s administration will propose increasing the minimum percent of income that poor families living in subsidized housing will pay in rent, according to suggested legislation The Washington Post first reported.

Currently, the lowest-income residents in housing provided by the Department of Housing and Urban Development pay 30 percent of adjusted salary toward rent.

However, Secretary Ben Carson’s proposal would raise that to 35 percent.

Carson’s proposal suggests raising the minimum rent for the poorest families to $150 a month, compared to the current monthly minimum of $50, according to The Post.

The suggested legislation text stipulates the secretary may raise the minimum rate through regulation.

The administration’s proposal would have to be approved in Congress, which is currently considering proposals to reform HUD’s rent assistance model in line with Trump’s goal of encouraging poor families and welfare recipients to participate in the workforce and become self-sufficient.

Carson also hopes to reduce the burden of Byzantine rules housing authorities and tenants must navigate to calculate rent costs for families with similar incomes.

“The system we currently use to calculate a family’s rental assistance is broken and holds back the very people we’re supposed to be helping,” Carson said Wednesday.

“HUD-assisted households are now required to surrender a long list of personal information, and any new income they earn is ‘taxed’ every year in the form of a rent increase,” he added.

“Today, we begin a necessary conversation about how we can provide meaningful, dignified assistance to those we serve without hurting them at the same time.”

The current rental structure for subsidized housing encourages families to work few hours and doesn’t provide incentives raise incomes, critics said.



Mattis On Russian Mercenaries In Syria: I Ordered Them 'To Be Annihilated'

On Thursday, Secretary of Defense James Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he ordered Russian mercenaries in Syria to be annihilated once he found out that they were not part of the Russian military.

Mattis revealed that the military used a deconfliction line with Russia to make sure that forces with which they were engaged in conflict were not part of the Russian military. Once the military received confirmation from Russia, Mattis ordered U.S. military forces to destroy the Russian mercenaries, The Washington Free Beacon reported.

"The Russian high command in Syria assured us it was not their people, and my direction to the chairman was for the force, then, to be annihilated," Mattis said. "And it was."

Mattis added that at this point he couldn't attribute responsibility for who was behind the Russian mercenaries to the Russian government, noting that there are multiple forces involved in the operations in Syria.

"I cannot target the responsibility to the Russians right now," he said. "It is a crowded battlefield; it’s also got Iranians there and, of course, the regime forces as well."



Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman: Palestinians Need To Negotiate Or 'Shut Up And Stop Complaining'

According to Barak Ravid of Israel’s Channel 10 News and Axios, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman shocked Jewish attendees during a meeting in New York in March, saying:

In the last several decades the Palestinian leadership has missed one opportunity after the other and rejected all the peace proposals it was given. It is about time the Palestinians take the proposals and agree to come to the negotiations table or shut up and stop complaining.

Bin Salman also slammed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, reports Ravid, citing inside sources.

Mohammed Bin Salman has risen to fame on a rocket after he was made Crown Prince in June 2017. Since he came to power, bin Salman has begun to open up the nation to more Western values — if only by inches. According to TIME:

In June, women will drive on Saudi roads, independent from male chaperones. Music festivals and movie theaters are opening, though questions remain about separate seating for men and women. The kingdom’s religious police are being reined in. In a setting as sterile and controlled as Saudi Arabia, these modest changes have generated genuine enthusiasm among activists, many of whom had been skeptical of bin Salman.

However, the Saudi government has also continued to conduct itself in a manner more befitting a dictatorship.

The New York Times reports that in November, a number of Saudi businessmen and royals were imprisoned in the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton at the behest of bin Salman, some of whom were allegedly manipulated or forced into handing over “more than $100 billion” collectively.

This act was billed as an “anti-corruption campaign,” according to the Saudi government — although some critics say it was the opposite, a move designed to gather power.



Broward Deputy Union Drops Hammer On Sheriff Scott Israel

In an overwhelming vote, the Broward Sheriff's Office Deputies Association announced it has "no confidence" in Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel and is going to ask Florida Governor Rick Scott to remove him from office over his handling of the Parkland shooting.

Out of the 628 officers in the union, 534 voted that they had no confidence in Sheriff Israel. Union President Jeff Bell said that it was the "union's first vote of no confidence against a sheriff."

WPBF Investigative reporter Terri Parker noted that the union said Sheriff Israel was a liar, deputies were demoralized and the police force was understaffed.

In response to the vote, Israel claimed that Bell was trying to "use the Parkland tragedy as a bargaining tactic to extort a 6.5 percent raise."

Bell responded by telling the newspaper, “Amazing leadership starts from the top, and there is no amazing leadership here. We are a ship out at sea with no power — adrift,” adding that “members have displayed great courage to come out and vote under threat of retaliation and reprisal from the sheriff.”



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 30, 2018

Federal Court Rules Against Liberals, Decimates Voter Fraud with Historic Ruling

A New Orleans-based federal court ruled Friday that a Texas law that requires proper identification to vote was constitutional, Reuters reports.

The 2-1 ruling by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court decision that found that the voter ID law was discriminatory against minorities.

Reuters described the current law as being “designed as a fix for previous voter ID legislation struck down for being discriminatory,” with the three-judge panel noting that the new law has “improvements for disadvantaged minority voters.”

In a statement, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton praised the court’s decision.

“The court rightly recognized that when the Legislature passed Senate Bill 5 last session, it complied with every change the 5th Circuit ordered to the original voter ID law,” the statement read.

“Safeguarding the integrity of our elections is essential to preserving our democracy. The revised voter ID law removes any burden on voters who cannot obtain a photo ID.”

“Senate Bill 5 allows registered voters without one of the seven state-approved forms of photo identification to cast an in-person ballot by signing a sworn declaration of reasonable impediment stating why they couldn’t obtain photo ID,” the statement noted.

Liberal groups have predictably decried the ruling as discriminatory.

“No law should be allowed to stand that is merely built on the back of a plainly discriminatory law,” said Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

I’ve never quite understood the idea that liberals think minorities who are legally entitled to vote are somehow biologically or socially unable to get identification but it’s those proposing voter ID laws who are the racists. The logic here eludes me.

Of course, perhaps it’s the specter of voter fraud. Democrats insist that it’s so rare as to be negligible, although few studies have been done on the matter. One — widely attacked by liberals after the election — found that the percentage of non-citizens who could have voted in the 2008 presidential election could be as high as 6.4 percent.

This probably doesn’t even include the biggest instance of voter fraud, however, which are people who are ineligible to vote because they’re registered in more than one state or locality.

A Judicial Watch study in Virginia found that at least 57,000 voters were illegally registered in two states just in the swing state of Virginia, compared with a little over 1,000 illegal aliens on voter rolls.

When you consider how few votes can decide elections these days, that’s not negligible.

Remember — back in 2000, the presidential election was decided by 537 votes in the state of Florida. Even if you disregard non-citizen voting, protecting the system from voters who are ineligible to vote in a certain district or state is vital to our national interest. It’s not discriminatory, and it’s not fighting a phantom problem. Voter ID ought to be a national issue, but Texas is certainly a start.



Ben Carson Attacks Welfare Leeches, Moves Against Millions Living on Taxpayer Dime

Ben Carson just gave liberals one more reason to hate him.  The man who achieved world fame as a gifted neurosurgeon before entering politics already had a target on his back for being a black man with the courage to espouse conservative beliefs.

And now, the secretary for Housing and Urban Development is putting those beliefs into practice.

In an announcement this week, Carson proposed sweeping changes in the country’s subsidized housing program that would raise the percentage of their income housing assistance recipients pay toward rent from 30 percent to 35 percent. The proposal would also raise the minimum rent payment from $50 to $150.

In an interview with the Townhall website Friday, Carson said it was a way of “moving people along to a position of self-sufficiency.”

And naturally, liberals are screaming.

With the mainstream media giving the idea scathing headlines like “HUD Secretary Ben Carson Wants to raise rents on the poorest of the poor” (Los Angeles Times) and predicting — of course — that it would “hurt single mothers the most” (Washington Post), Carson had to reach out to a conservative-leaning site like Townhall to get his point out to Americans.

The proposal is called the “Making Affordable Housing Work Act,” and it would require congressional action because HUD can’t change rent rules on its own authority, according to CNN Money.

That means it’s already getting hammered by Democrats in Congress — who love nothing more than keeping poor people poor and voting Democrat — but Carson told Townhall he was expecting the resistance.

That doesn’t mean the ideas are bad, he said. With the economic improvements under President Donald Trump, with the nation’s unemployment rate is at an historic low, now is the time to overhaul the system, he said.

“I would only be shocked if someone said yes, please increase my rent,” he told Townhall. “No one’s ever going to say that, but you know we have exemptions for anybody for whom this is going to be a great hardship.” “For the vast, vast majority of cases it is not going to be.”

But for those who do find themselves kicking in more of their own money to pay for a roof over their own heads, only a liberal Democrat (or a mainstream media reporter) could treat Carson like he just stole Tiny Tim’s crutch.

First of all, the proposals don’t apply to the elderly or physically handicapped, only to able-bodied adults, according to CNN. Americans as a rule have a pretty low tolerance for able-bodied adults who would rather sponge off the taxpayers than provide for their own needs.

Second, as Carson said, the idea of subsidized housing isn’t supposed to be using taxpayer dollars to support families for generations of poverty, but that’s what it’s become.

“If you look at HUD over the last couple decades it’s been mostly about just putting people under a roof and sort of keeping them there,” Carson told Townhall.

“Instead of it being a stepladder it’s become a mode of life and, in many cases, for generation after generation of individuals and I don’t think it’s their fault. I think it’s the fault of the system that has basically sapped the incentive for people to work.”

Finally, the move is part of a broader effort by the Trump administration and Republican governors to tie the receipt of public assistance — like food stamps — to recipients being willing to work.

There’s going to be plenty of shrieking from the left as the proposal makes its way through Congress (and if Democrats win either the House or Senate in November it’s probably as good as dead), but Carson clearly thinks the time to act is now.

“Obviously we’re sensitive to people who have exceptional situations,” he told Townhall. “Obviously, we’re going to take care of those people in an appropriate way but the key thing for people to understand is that doing nothing simply is not an option.”

Liberal Democrats have had a lot of reasons to hate Ben Carson before this: His intelligence, his work ethic, his phenomenal success against the odds make him living evidence that the eternal victimhood preached by progressives is simply a lie.

With this proposal, he just gave them one more.



More scientific deceit from the Left

Leftist ideologues couldn't lie straight in bed. 

Gary Kleck, a criminologist now retired from Florida State University, was likely astonished to learn that his controversial study, The National Self-Defense Survey, was accurate after all. He and FSU fellow professor Marc Gertz concluded, based on their carefully-crafted surveys conducted in 1993, that there were more than 2.2 million defensive gun uses (DGU) each year in the United States. The results were presented in 1994, published in 1995, and have been incessantly attacked by the anti-gun movement ever since. His conclusions didn’t fit the anti-gun narrative that guns are used in crimes far more than in self-defense and therefore private ownership must be abolished.

Kleck just learned that almost immediately after the publication of his study, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a federal agency that receives more than $11 billion of taxpayer money every year, conducted its own study of the matter. It conducted three separate studies, in fact, and each of them came to the same conclusion as Kleck and Gertz: Indeed, about 2.5 million Americans use guns to defend themselves or their families every year.

But the CDC studies were never published. It would have infuriated the powers-that-be in the Clinton administration, and so the results were buried.

After reviewing the newly-discovered/recovered studies, Kleck — in his best professorial manner — wrote:

The final adjusted prevalence of 1.24% [of the population experiencing a DGU in the past twelve months] therefore implies that in an average year during 1996-1998, 2.46 million U.S. adults used a gun for self-defense. This estimate, based on an enormous sample of 12,870 cases (unweighted) in a nationally representative sample, strongly confirms the 2.5 million past-12-months estimate obtained [by me and Marc] Gertz in 1995 … CDC’s results, then, imply that guns were used defensively by victims about 3.6 times as often as they were used offensively by criminals.

Kleck added, “CDC never reported the results of those surveys, does not report on their website any estimates of DGU frequency, and does not even acknowledge that they ever asked about the topic in any of their surveys.”

In other words, the CDC got caught hiding information damaging to the anti-gun narrative then prevalent during the Clinton administration. But they didn’t bury it deeply enough.

Dean Weingarten, recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30-year career in Army research, development, testing, and evaluation, knew exactly what the CDC was up to, calling “the timing and size of the surveys done by the CDC … fascinating. They were done immediately after Kleck and Gertz published their paper.”

Weingarten noted that

"Gary Kleck, as a scientist, a Democrat, and a proponent of a number of gun control measures, is careful not to cast aspersions on the CDC. He does not accuse anyone of malfeasance. He notes the surveys were done during the Clinton administration, and these findings would have worked against the gun control agenda of the administration."

Someone at the CDC made the decision not to publish these results.

Does any of this matter? It’s common knowledge that operatives supportive of the gun-control narrative have infiltrated various government agencies. These studies took place more than 20 years ago. There’s been a lot of water under that bridge since then. Private ownership of guns has skyrocketed, while overall gun violence has fallen by half. National reciprocity has already passed one branch of Congress. Americans own more weaponry than any other country on Earth.

It matters because first, it removes one more “talking point” used by anti-gunners to defend their intention to remove firearms from every law-abiding gun owner in the country. Second, it confirms that government agencies cannot be trusted without verification. Third, it is one more argument in the arsenal of those promoting private gun ownership to those who haven’t yet made up their minds.

That means that the real battlefield isn’t between Kleck’s study and the the CDC’s failure to admit the truth. Anti-gunners aren’t likely to change sides merely because of deceit committed by one of their own 25 years ago. The real battle is in the hearts and minds of Americans who will one day have to take a stand on the issue, one way or the other.

This obvious example of deceit on the part of the CDC is just one more reason why education is of paramount importance. Educating the American populace is key on the issues involving gun control and gun ownership. And it’s precisely there where the educational programs of organizations such as the John Birch Society come into play — programs such as Support Your Local Police, Stop a Con Con, Get US Out! Of the United Nations, Get US Out! of NAFTA to stop the North American Union, and others.





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 29, 2018

No attack, no victims, no chem weapons: Douma witnesses speak at OPCW briefing at The Hague

Witnesses of the alleged chemical attack in Douma, including 11-year-old Hassan Diab and hospital staff, told reporters at The Hague that the White Helmets video used as a pretext for a US-led strike on Syria was, in fact, staged.

“We were at the basement and we heard people shouting that we needed to go to a hospital. We went through a tunnel. At the hospital they started pouring cold water on me,” the boy told the press conference, gathered by Russia’s mission at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague.

Hassan was among the “victims” seen being washed by water hoses in a video released by the controversial White Helmets group on April 7. The boy and his family later spoke to the media and revealed that Hassan was hurried to the scene by men who claimed that a chemical attack had taken place. They started pouring cold water on the boy and others, filming the frightened children.

“There were people unknown to us who were filming the emergency care, they were filming the chaos taking place inside, and were filming people being doused with water. The instruments they used to douse them with water were originally used to clean the floors actually,” Ahmad Kashoi, an administrator of the emergency ward, recalled. “That happened for about an hour, we provided help to them and sent them home. No one has died. No one suffered from chemical exposure.”

Halil al-Jaish, a resuscitator who tended to people at the Douma hospital that day, told the press conference that some of the patients had indeed experienced respiratory problems. The symptoms, however, were caused by heavy dust, which engulfed the area due to recent airstrikes, and no one showed any signs of chemical warfare poisoning, al-Jaish said.

The hospital received people who suffered from smoke and dust asphyxiation on the day of the alleged attack, Muwaffak Nasrim, a paramedic who was working in emergency care, said. The panic seen in footage provided by the White Helmets was caused mainly by people shouting about the alleged use of chemical weapons, Nasrim, who witnessed the chaotic scenes, added. No patients, however, displayed symptoms of chemical weapons exposure, he said.

Ahmad Saur, an emergency paramedic with the Syrian Red Crescent, said that the ward he was working at did not receive any patients exposed to chemical weapons on the day of the alleged incident or after it. All the patients needed either general medical care or help with injuries, he said. Saur told journalists he came to speak at The Hague independently of the Red Crescent, and that he was testifying freely and without any pressure.

One reporter asked what would happen to the eyewitnesses and whether they would “stay in Europe to testify.”

“We’re going back home, and see no problem with that. The situation is a lot better now. We’re Douma residents, like many others,” Hassan Ayoun, a doctor with the emergency department, said.

Six of the Douma witnesses brought to The Hague have already been interviewed by the OPCW technical experts, Russia’s permanent representative to the OPCW, Aleksandr Shulgin, said.

“The others were ready too, but the experts are sticking to their own guidelines. They’ve picked six people, talked to them, and said they were 'completely satisfied' with their account and did not have any further questions,” Shulgin revealed. He added that the allegations by “certain Western countries” ahead of the briefing that Moscow and Damascus were seeking to “hide” the witnesses from the OPCW experts did not hold water.

The alleged chemical incident was only supported by the White Helmets’ video and social media reports from militant-linked groups, but the US, the UK and France judged they had enough evidence that it actually took place and launched a series of punitive strikes against Syria on April 14. The US and its allies accused Syrian President Bashar Assad of carrying out the “attack,” without providing any proof of their claim. Notably, the strike came hours before the OPCW fact-finding team was set to arrive in Douma to determine whether chemical weapons had been used there.



Market dominance might be good for consumers

The phrases monopoly, duopoly and oligopoly typically rouse fear in the hearts of the public. They imply big, self-interested companies, with a purportedly unhealthy dominance of the market. Consumers will get ripped off, critics say. The barriers to entry are too high for new competitors to have a chance.

Such imagery is typical of the suspicion of big business, and the superlatives have been flowing in recent weeks as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission continues its investigation into the dominance of Google and Facebook in Australia’s digital advertising market.

However, outside of price fixing and state supported market dominance, aren’t these major players just providing consumers with a superior product?

One of the greatest strengths of the private market is that companies are judged solely on how consumers value their goods and services. Offer something good and customers will come flocking. Offer something bad and bankruptcy beckons.

If a company has established market dominance, that suggests it is offering a product so good that the vast majority of shoppers prefer it to the competitors’ alternatives.

Google has certainly accomplished this. Who remembers Ask Jeeves? Who still searches the internet with Yahoo? Not many, is the answer. Back in the early 2000s Yahoo and Google were neck and neck. However, with its comprehensive search engine and wide range of complimentary products, Google won the battle for consumers’ hearts and minds.

Facebook has achieved similar feats. MySpace, Bebo and Google Hangouts were usurped for a reason — because people like Facebook’s offerings more.

As a result, the two companies have come to dominate the digital advertising market. They offer an advertiser’s dream: detailed information on billions of users, which can see promotions customised down to the individual level.

Even in the more congested US market, inferior competitors have lost their share (see graph). As an advertiser, why would you want to work with a secondary player when these two companies offer so much?

Market dominance is a good thing if it means that consumers get a superior, reasonably-priced product.



Progressives are using lawfare to target their political opponents

The Democrat Party has unveiled a not so new technique to attack their opponents. Everyone knows about the typical intimidation techniques such as boycotts, protesting, and rioting. Lawfare is an asymmetric technique using the legal system against an enemy. Keeping their enemies tied up in court and legal costs demoralize and sometimes forces the opponents to quit. Republicans need to wake up to tactics of the left and realize they are sometimes playing into their hands.

This has been a successful strategy for the Democrat Party so far, as we have seen with former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. After the fraudulent Mueller investigation was started, it quickly became apparent Flynn was one of the primary targets. After months of interviews and interrogations, Flynn finally gave in and pled guilty to lying to the FBI. The charge had nothing to do with what Mueller was supposedly investigating, it was just another scalp.

Shortly after the guilty plea, the mainstream media concluded Flynn must have lied to the FBI if he pled guilty. It quickly became apparent the plea had nothing to do with guilt or innocence, it had more to do with finances. Flynn was going broke defending himself against the multimillion-dollar team Mueller sent after him. Almost immediately after pleading guilty, Flynn was forced to sell his home in Alexandria, Va. to pay his legal bills.

Since the guilty plea, it has revealed that former FBI Director James Comey briefed several Members of Congress in March of 2017 on the Flynn matter. Writing for the Washington Examiner, Byron York stated, “According to two sources familiar with the meetings, Comey told lawmakers that the FBI agents who interviewed Flynn did not believe that Flynn had lied to them, or that any inaccuracies in his answers were intentional.” Why did Flynn plead guilty then? Because he couldn’t afford to prove his innocence.

Former Trump campaign advisor Michael Caputo has been under constant siege since the end of the 2016 election. Once the various congressional committees started to investigate the non-existent connections between President Trump and Russia, Mr. Caputo would end up retaining lawyers in March of 2017. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) would state Mr. Caputo was Vladimir Putin’s “image consultant” in congressional testimony with no evidence to back up the claim.

So far Mr. Caputo has only been interviewed by the House Intelligence Committee as a witness, but that comes at a steep price. Caputo estimates his legal bill will be in the neighborhood of $125,000, and that is if he is not part of the special counsel probe. If he has to go to the grand jury, the cost could further skyrocket.

Why would anyone want to serve in the Trump administration if they are going to have to spend more than half if not all their salary on lawyers for non-existent crimes? It has become increasingly obvious the Trump-Russia narrative was faked by the DNC and Hillary Campaign, but do the people caught up in the investigation get their time or money back? No.

It appears we had an attempted coup after the last election. Why does it seem the only people that are paying for the coup are Republicans that had nothing to do with Russia? Republicans must realize the longer they keep this sham investigation going instead of focusing on the coup attempt they are only hurting innocent people.



Trump saves millions of working-class families from Obamacare penalty

The Trump administration just quietly made it possible to escape having to pay the Obamacare fine imposed for not having health insurance in 2018, potentially saving millions of families hundreds or even thousands of dollars in penalties.

When congressional Republicans passed tax reform in December, they gutted the provision of the Affordable Care Act mandating uninsured Americans pay a fee for not having “qualifying” health insurance. Although this important decision will provide tax relief to millions of people forced to pay a fine for not being enrolled in a health insurance plan the government approves of, a completely ridiculous mandate that greatly limits freedom, the new policy does not go into effect until 2019, which means families are still required to have health insurance this year to avoid paying the penalty.

The Affordable Care Act allows for people who do not have qualifying health insurance to escape paying the penalty if they apply for at least one of a few available “hardship exemptions.” Perhaps the most common exemption allows people to escape the penalty if they “experienced financial or domestic circumstances, including an unexpected natural or human-caused event, such that … [they had] a significant, unexpected increase in essential expenses that prevented [them] from obtaining coverage under a qualified health plan.”

Earlier in April, the Trump administration’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a new guidance expanding the allowed exemptions to include four new qualifying circumstances: (1) living in a region where there is just one health insurer selling plans in an Obamacare marketplace, (2) living in a region where there are no plans sold on an Obamacare exchange, (3) the lack of availability of a plan that doesn’t include coverage for abortion, and (4) when a person is unable to find a plan on the Obamacare exchange that covers the “specialty care” needed.

These four added exemptions will make it possible for millions of people now forced to pay the Obamacare mandate penalty to escape liability, especially the provision that permits people living in a region with only one insurer to avoid the fine. According to CMS’ most recent analysis of Obamacare exchanges, people living in half of all counties in the United States have only one health insurer to choose from when purchasing a qualifying plan through Obamacare. All these people (about 2.1 million) would not be forced to pay a fine for not having qualifying health insurance under the Trump administration’s new guidance.

Most Americans who are forced to pay the Obamacare penalty are not upper-middle class or wealthy families, but rather lower-income filers. IRS data for 2015, the most recent year for which data are available, show more than 6.6 million people were forced to pay the Obamacare fine. Nearly 79 percent of those required to pay reported adjusted gross incomes between $10,000 and $50,000, which means the penalty disproportionately punishes lower-income and working-class people.

This is particularly troubling because of how expensive Obamacare plans have become in recent years. Many annual family deductibles for the cheapest qualifying Obamacare plans, Bronze Plans, now top $12,000. Forcing people to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year for health insurance they can’t afford to use is morally wrong, but thanks to congressional Democrats and the Obama administration, that’s the current situation facing countless families across the country.

Obamacare has been a complete disaster, but the Trump administration is working tirelessly to find ways to improve the health insurance market and expand access to affordable healthcare plans. Thanks to Trump and his team, millions of people will be able to keep more of their own money when they file their taxes next year.

However, there is only so much President Trump can do. Congress must act by passing legislation that makes permanent many of the Trump administration’s policies, embraces free-market principles, and empowers states with the ability to pass reforms locally that best fit the unique needs of their citizens.



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