Friday, May 18, 2018

European Officials Bribed Into Accepting Iran Nuke Deal?

After President Donald Trump's decision last Tuesday to pull out of Barack Obama's dubious Iran nuclear deal, which was followed by threats to reimpose economic sanctions against the number-one state sponsor of terrorism, Iran's foreign affairs minister issued his own threat via a bombshell revelation. H.J. Ansari Zarif stated, "If Europeans stop trading with Iran and don't put pressure on the U.S. then we will reveal which western politicians and how much money they had received during nuclear negotiations to make #IranDeal happen."

Now, the Iranians aren't exactly the most trustworthy bunch. That's a huge part of the problem with the deal. But Zarif's charge that several European leaders were essentially bribed into accepting the Iran deal is entirely plausible.

Recall that after Obama completed the Iran deal back in 2015, Fox News commentator Charles Krauthammer wondered, "The most astonishing thing [about the deal] is that in return, they [the Iranians] are not closing a single nuclear facility. Their entire nuclear infrastructure is intact. They are going to have the entire infrastructure in place either for a breakout after the agreement expires or when they have enough sanctions relief and they want to cheat and to break out on their own."

Krauthammer's observation was accurate. So what exactly did the rest of the world get from the Iran deal? Why did so many of Europe's leaders sign on to such a bad deal? The answer is twofold: As far as reining in a rogue regime's efforts to gain nuclear weapons, the West got nothing; as for opportunities for lucrative business deals, that was most definitely in the cards, as Zarif may have just alluded to. And this revelation might also explain why European leaders are scrambling to salvage the deal. French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire argued, "Do we want to be vassals who obey decisions taken by the United States while clinging to the hem of their trousers? Or do we want to say we have our economic interests, [and that] we will continue to do trade with Iran?"

Memo to Le Maire: U.S. GDP ranks first in the world and accounts for 23% of the world's GDP. Iran is 29th, accounting for less than 0.5%. What was that about economic interests again?



What Trump is quietly (and effectively) doing to fix our broken health care system

Since ObamaCare’s passage and failed implementation, patient premiums and out of pocket expenses have gone way up, not down as promised. Consumers now have less options in terms of policies and benefits to choose from, not more as they were told.  Countless patients can no longer see their doctors or be treated at local facilities of their choice.

On the campaign trail, candidate Donald Trump said he would work with a Republican Congress to repeal ObamaCare so that patients and doctors, rather than bureaucrats and unelected boards, would have more control over individuals’ health care decisions. He also vowed to roll back government obstacles to bring new medicines to market faster, speed generic drug approvals, and address the high costs of insurance premiums and prescription drugs, all to reduce unsustainable health care costs.

Detractors of President Trump like to highlight that ObamaCare is still in existence, despite Republicans controlling both houses of congress. But President Trump has quietly gained the upper hand on several crucial health care reforms including the repeal of Obama cares individual mandate, the laws core, in last years tax bill. Another victory is the repeal of ObamaCare's independent payment advisory board, aka the ObamaCare death panel. Naturally the media gives him no credit for these achievements.

The changes that are already underway spurring greater competition which will help further drive down costs without sacrificing new medical innovations, or bringing new treatments to market.   Several of the most significant reforms have come from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the agencies housed within it, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

HHS Secretary Alex Azar is a seasoned veteran who brings experience as a health care reformer in the federal government and as an innovating private sector executive.  Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, an FDA alum, is reforming the regulatory system to expedite reviews and ignite greater competition.  Over the past decade, competition from generic drugs has saved the U.S. health care system $1.67 trillion. Expect much more. Gottlieb is working to eliminate regulatory barriers that stand in the way of bringing more of these drugs to market.

He’s prioritized FDA reviews for the first three generic alternatives to any original brand name drug, and these efforts are having an impact.  In fact, the FDA approved more than 100 generic drugs in the month of October 2017 – more than ever before.  And in July, the FDA will host a pioneering program focused on “Patient Focused Drug Development” that elevates patient perspectives and priorities in both the development of new treatments and their evaluation by regulators.

Much attention of late has been made about patients who have picked up prescriptions at the pharmacy counter only to find the costs under their insurance plan are sky high -and rising even higher. That’s because Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) – middlemen that negotiate discounts and rebates from drug manufacturers – and health plans don’t always pass along those savings, sometimes up to 50 percent, to patients.  This unfairly inflates drug costs, including those of senior Medicare beneficiaries.  CMS Administrator Seema Verma is working to address this through a new proposed Medicare rule, which will ensure patients benefit directly from these substantial discounts. And it’s a change that could yield more than $10 billion in savings for seniors.

Similarly, Verma has proposed reforms to Medicare’s 340B Program that would save patients hundreds of millions of dollars on drug copayments in 2018 alone. The 340B program was originally intended to help low income patients pay for medicines through large discounts provided by drug manufacturers to 340B designated hospitals. The program was expanded significantly as part of ObamaCare. Alas, the 340B program has subsequently been widely abused by hospitals who have turned the discounts into profit centers instead of passing savings on to patients. For context, a recent House Energy and Commerce Committee report calculated that the number of hospitals participating in the 340B program has more than quadrupled  from 591 in 2005 to 2,479 in 2017. Furthermore, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the financial gains for hospitals from the 340B program didn’t lead to expanded care or lower mortality for low- income patients.

Despite representing less than 14 percent of total health care spending, drug costs now have more visible public price tags in the wake of ObamaCare. This largely is because health insurers, even after dramatically spiking premiums, have also vastly increased deductibles, co-pays and other out -of -pocket expenses. Add to this, the misguided practice of insurers and PBMs not passing along negotiated savings from manufacturers to patients, and it is evident that the “system” created under ObamaCare has effectively shifted much of the cost burden directly on to patients in visible, invisible and painful ways. That said, as President Trump noted in his State of the Union address, the cost of drugs remains too high.

Reforms that help to lower drug costs without stifling medical innovation and investment is a critical goal, but one that can only be achieved through an approach that examines the entire “system.” This includes biopharmaceutical manufacturers, health insurers, PBMs, trial lawyers and patent trolls, regulators and our foreign trading partners. Price controls such as those that are routine in Europe would suffocate the development of life-saving, life- improving medicines and medical devices. This is what has happened overseas.



Is it rational to trust your gut feelings? A neuroscientist explains

My survey of the academic literature relevant to stereotyping (See here and here) reached a similar conclusion.  The brain is continually monitoring and integrating new information and changing its responses accordingly -- not necessarily at the conscious level

Imagine the director of a big company announcing an important decision and justifying it with it being based on a gut feeling. This would be met with disbelief – surely important decisions have to be thought over carefully, deliberately and rationally?

Indeed, relying on your intuition generally has a bad reputation, especially in the Western part of the world where analytic thinking has been steadily promoted over the past decades. Gradually, many have come to think that humans have progressed from relying on primitive, magical and religious thinking to analytic and scientific thinking. As a result, they view emotions and intuition as fallible, even whimsical, tools.

However, this attitude is based on a myth of cognitive progress. Emotions are actually not dumb responses that always need to be ignored or even corrected by rational faculties. They are appraisals of what you have just experienced or thought of – in this sense, they are also a form of information processing.

Intuition or gut feelings are also the result of a lot of processing that happens in the brain. Research suggests that the brain is a large predictive machine, constantly comparing incoming sensory information and current experiences against stored knowledge and memories of previous experiences, and predicting what will come next. This is described in what scientists call the “predictive processing framework”.

This ensures that the brain is always as prepared to deal with the current situation as optimally as possible. When a mismatch occurs (something that wasn’t predicted), your brain updates its cognitive models.

This matching between prior models (based on past experience) and current experience happens automatically and subconsciously. Intuitions occur when your brain has made a significant match or mismatch (between the cognitive model and current experience), but this has not yet reached your conscious awareness.

For example, you may be driving on a country road in the dark listening to some music, when suddenly you have an intuition to drive more to one side of the lane. As you continue driving, you notice that you have only just missed a massive pothole that could have significantly damaged your car. You are glad you relied on your gut feeling even if you don’t know where it came from. In reality, the car in the far distance in front of you made a similar small swerve (since they are locals and know the road), and you picked up on this without consciously registering it.

When you have a lot of experience in a certain area, the brain has more information to match the current experience against. This makes your intuitions more reliable. This means that, as with creativity, your intuition can actually improve with experience.

Biased understanding

In the psychological literature, intuition is often explained as one of two general modes of thinking, along with analytic reasoning. Intuitive thinking is described as automatic, fast, and subconscious. Analytic thinking, on the other hand, is slow, logical, conscious and deliberate.

Many take the division between analytic and intuitive thinking to mean that the two types of processing (or “thinking styles”) are opposites, working in a see-saw manner. However, a recent meta-analysis – an investigation where the impact of a group of studies is measured – has shown that analytic and intuitive thinking are typically not correlated and could happen at the same time.

So while it is true that one style of thinking likely feels dominant over the other in any situation – in particular analytic thinking – the subconscious nature of intuitive thinking makes it hard to determine exactly when it occurs, since so much happens under the bonnet of our awareness.

Indeed, the two thinking styles are in fact complementary and can work in concert – we regularly employ them together. Even groundbreaking scientific research may start with intuitive knowledge that enables scientists to formulate innovative ideas and hypotheses, which later can be validated through rigorous testing and analysis.

What’s more, while intuition is seen as sloppy and inaccurate, analytic thinking can be detrimental as well. Studies have shown that overthinking can seriously hinder our decision-making process.

In other cases, analytic thinking may simply consist of post-hoc justifications or rationalisations of decisions based on intuitive thinking. This occurs for example when we have to explain our decisions in moral dilemmas. This effect has let some people refer to analytic thinking as the “press secretary” or “inner lawyer” of intuition. Oftentimes we don’t know why we make decisions, but we still want to have reasons for our decisions.

Trusting instincts

So should we just rely on our intuition, given that it aids our decision-making? It’s complicated. Because intuition relies on evolutionarily older, automatic and fast processing, it also falls prey to misguidances, such as cognitive biases. These are systematic errors in thinking, that can automatically occur. Despite this, familiarising yourself with common cognitive biases can help you spot them in future occasions: there are good tips about how to do that here and here.

Similarly, since fast processing is ancient, it can sometimes be a little out of date. Consider for example a plate of donuts. While you may be attracted to eat them all, it is unlikely that you need this large an amount of sugars and fats. However, in the hunter-gatherers’ time, stocking up on energy would have been a wise instinct.

Thus, for every situation that involves a decision based on your assessment, consider whether your intuition has correctly assessed the situation. Is it an evolutionary old or new situation? Does it involve cognitive biases? Do you have experience or expertise in this type of situation? If it is evolutionary old, involves a cognitive bias, and you don’t have expertise in it, then rely on analytic thinking. If not, feel free to trust your intuitive thinking.

It is time to stop the witch hunt on intuition, and see it for what it is: a fast, automatic, subconscious processing style that can provide us with very useful information that deliberate analysing can’t. We need to accept that intuitive and analytic thinking should occur together, and be weighed up against each other in difficult decision-making situations.



Jobless in Seattle

Here's irony for you: Seattle is penalizing the companies most responsible for employing people while rewarding the city officials most responsible for creating a crisis of homelessness. What do we mean? We're referring to Seattle's new "head tax" of $275 per full-time employee for companies earning at least $20 million in annual revenue. Nearly 600 employers will be hit by the tax, which was dialed back from the initially proposed $500 per job. It was unanimously passed by the Democrat-run city council this week with the ostensible aim of raising nearly $50 million per year to pay for affordable housing and other "homeless services" — services needed because Democrat policies cause poverty. Seattle and King County, "home" to the third-highest number of homeless people in America, already spent $200 million on the problem last year.

The resurrected and greatly expanded tax is significant for two reasons: First, and most important, it serves as a Democrat model for other cities. Democrats always aim to punish the successful so they can redistribute to their favored constituency groups in return for votes and, thus, power.

Second, Seattle is home to both Starbucks and Amazon, two of the nation's largest employers, both of which oppose the tax. Now, don't get us wrong, we have little sympathy for either company. Starbucks has been at the forefront of leftist social justice battles, albeit recently getting a taste of its own medicine. And Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is the world's richest man and a stalwart financier of leftist causes, not least of which is owning The Washington Post. Amazon recently justified some anti-conservative discrimination based on the work of the radical leftist hate group known as the Southern Poverty Law Center.

But Amazon Vice President Drew Herdener sounded downright conservative in denouncing this "tax on jobs." He hammered the city, saying, "City of Seattle revenues have grown dramatically from $2.8 billion in 2010 to $4.2 billion in 2017, and they will be even higher in 2018. This revenue increase far outpaces the Seattle population increase over the same time period. The city does not have a revenue problem — it has a spending efficiency problem. We are highly uncertain whether the city council's anti-business positions or its spending inefficiency will change for the better." Indeed, Amazon is looking to expand elsewhere.

A letter signed by more than 100 Seattle business leaders likewise nailed it: "We oppose this approach, because of the message it sends to every business: if you are investing in growth, if you create too many jobs in Seattle, you will be punished." Companies won't hire more workers, and they've stop shy of earning $20 million.

As Fox News dryly notes, "Seattle once had a $25-a-year per head tax, but killed it in 2009 because leaders said it sent the wrong message to businesses during the recession."

Back to homelessness, again, Seattle's city council helped create the problem. Investor's Business Daily reports, "From 2010 to 2013, the city saw an explosion in the construction of 'congregate housing units' — basically, affordable, dorm-room size apartments with shared kitchen and living areas. Within those three years, private developers constructed 1,800 units. But by 2015, not one was built. Why? In 2014, the city stepped in and smothered this option with regulations that required the apartments to be bigger, banned them from more desirable areas, and forced builders to jump through costly design reviews." Voila, housing shortage.

And that's on top of Seattle's job- and pay-crushing $15/hour minimum wage, its income-redistributing tax on high-earners (that was struck down as illegal), its tax on property owners to pay for political speech, its soda tax and its gun tax, just to name a few.

It sure seems Seattle's Democrat overlords are doing everything possible to follow in the footsteps of the socialists killing Venezuela.



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 17, 2018

Who are the Mass. voters supporting Scott Lively?

The 2018 Massachusetts gubernatorial election will take place on November 6, 2018. The primary is scheduled for September 4, 2018. Incumbent RINO Governor Charlie Baker is running for re-election to a second term in office. He is very popular in Mass. so will win the Republican primary and subsequently the governorship. He has a real Republican challenger in the primary, Scott Lively, who has no hope of winning so some people are wondering why he is standing.  A report from the Leftist Boston Globe below

The Globe treats as ludicrous Lively's claims about the homosexual element in Nazism but it is well documented here

In addition to such well-known homosexuals as Roehm and Schirach at the top of the Nazi hierarchy there were others such as Heines -- whom Shirer ("The Rise and fall of the Third Reich") describes thus: "Edmund Heines, the Obergruppenfuehrer of Silesia... a notorious homosexual" (p. 307). Silesia is of course a major industrial area of great historic significance so command of the Nazis there was no mean post. Could a "notorious homosexual" get a prominent party job anywhere else in the world at that time? I think not. So Nazism did in its times embody an exceptional degree of "gay lib". Arguably it was in fact the first flowering of "gay-lib"

Roehm (L) and Heines (R)

DEMOCRATS WANT BIG WINS in the November midterm elections. But in primaries last week in Indiana, Ohio, North Carolina, and West Virginia, not a single Republican critic of President Trump survived. In Massachusetts, nearly 28 percent of delegates to the state GOP convention last month voted for Scott Lively over Charlie Baker, the most popular governor in the country.

Lively has claimed that gays controlled the Third Reich. He also calls himself “100 percent pro-life,” “100 percent Second Amendment,” and “100 percent pro-Trump.”

Who are these Lively voters? Activists who want to send Baker a message to move to the right? Anti-gay bigots? Or mega-fans of Donald Trump, whose own extremes freed them up to support the ultra-extreme Lively?

It’s Trump, says Todd Domke, a long-time Republican analyst who resigned from the GOP after Trump’s election. The GOP base here is more conservative and populist than most realize, he says, and a president’s appeal is huge. Domke sites Ray Shamie’s stunning win over Watergate star and former Attorney General Elliot Richardson in the state’s GOP primary in 1984. Shamie wrapped himself around the swaggering Ronald Reagan. Richardson? Not so much.

The convention vote to put anti-gay crusader Scott Lively on the primary ballot is a self-inflicted black eye for the state’s Republicans.

Now we’re talking supper-swaggering Trump, a TV star billionaire with a cult-like appeal who drives liberal elites bananas. At a Belchertown Flag Day celebration last year, Lively supporter Chris Pinto of Massachusetts Gun Rights gave a speech detailing most every nasty remark made by such elites about Trump. Among them: Madonna, Robert DeNiro, Mickey Rourke, Stephen Colbert, Kathy Griffin, Snoop Dogg, YG, and Everlast.

Richard Howell, another Lively supporter, says that zeal for Trump turned into zeal for Lively, who’s wrapped himself around Trump completely. [Mass. governor] Baker, meanwhile, has kept his distance. He even blanked the 2016 presidential ballot, voting for neither Trump nor Hillary Clinton.

But it’s not just where Trump “stands on the issues,” says Howell. “It’s performance. Trump is not going to be threatened or intimidated.” And neither, he says, is Lively.

What about those Trump issues? The Iran deal? The Mueller investigation? Michael Cohen and his links to the Russian mob? All those women who’ve accused Trump of sexual assault or harassment?

Howell says he loves what the president is doing “with the mullahs in Iran.” He calls the Mueller investigation a “deep state operation” and wonders why nobody ever prosecuted Clinton for her e-mails. “If there were any truth to (the women’s claims) it would’ve come out sooner,” he says.

The zeal for President Trump turned into zeal for Lively.
You talk to deep-red Massachusetts Lively conservatives, and you realize: Although their numbers are tiny, their ideas echo talking points you heard in reports from Indiana and Ohio and daily on “Fox News.” Though no one I talked to embraced Lively’s crusade against homosexuality, they do oppose gay marriage and transgender rights. But mostly, they love Trump on guns, the wall, and anti-abortion judges.

Massachusetts’ progressives, meanwhile, may as well live in a different galaxy. They’re horrified by Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ plan to separate children from mothers at border crossings. They love talk of Cohen’s “slush fund” for porn stars and CNN debates between Alan Dershowitz and Jeffrey Toobin over Trump’s taking “the Fifth.”

GOP activist Steve Aylward of Watertown says he couldn’t vote for Charlie Baker, “who’s supported every kooky liberal program there is, from the bathroom bill (his term for transgender legislation) to bilingual education to this most recent crime bill, which may as well be called the let-people-out-of-jail bill.” Aylward, famed in state conservative circles for successfully leading the defeat of the 2014 gas hike ballot proposal, insists Lively support “has very little to do with gay rights. This is the anti-Baker Trump vote, if it was Scott Lively or Joe the Plumber.”

None of this is to argue that Charlie Baker needs to worry about Scott Lively on Election Day. But Trump fever clearly still thrives here in blue Massachusetts. And if it thrives here, Democrats may yet face a long, tough slog across America this fall.



Face it: Trump has been right about Iran and North Korea

By Niall Ferguson

THE GREATEST GUNFIGHT in the history of cowboy films is in “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” It’s a three-cornered shoot-out between Clint Eastwood (Blondie), Tuco (Eli Wallach), and Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef). The crucial point is that before the shooting starts, Blondie has emptied Tuco’s revolver of bullets.

To members of Washington’s foreign policy establishment, regardless of party affiliation, President Trump’s decision to exit one nuclear deal (with Iran) only to enter another nuclear deal (with North Korea) is beyond baffling. They clearly never saw “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” Like Eastwood’s Blondie, Trump understands that only one of his antagonists has a loaded gun.

I wish I had a fistful of dollars for every article I have read in the past year about the foolishness or recklessness of Trump’s foreign policy. The funny thing is how few of the people writing such pieces ever pointed out the much greater foolishness and recklessness of his predecessor’s foreign policy.

The goal of Barack Obama’s Iran deal was not just to postpone the Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons by 10 years. For it to be more than a mere deferral, it also had to improve the relative strategic position of the United States and its allies so that by 2025 they would be in a stronger position to stop Iran entering the club of nuclear-armed powers.

As Obama himself put it then, his hope was that by “building on this deal, we can continue to have conversations with Iran that incentivize them to behave differently in the region, to be less aggressive, less hostile, more cooperative. . . . [We will] seek to gain more cooperation from them in resolving issues like Syria or what’s happening in Iraq, to stop encouraging Houthis in Yemen.”

In return for merely slowing down its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, Iran was handed $150 billion in previously frozen assets, as well as a trade bonanza as sanctions were lifted. Under the deal, remember, there was no threat to “snap back” sanctions if Tehran opted to use its new resources to increase its military support for Hezbollah and Hamas, Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, and the Shi’ite Houthi rebellion in Yemen. And so it did just that.

What about Obama’s North Korea policy? In essence, his administration applied ineffectual sanctions that did nothing whatsoever to slow down Kim Jong Un’s nuclear arms program. As Obama left the White House, we were assured that North Korea was still roughly five years away from having intercontinental ballistic missiles and a nuclear warhead small enough to fit on them. Not long after Trump’s inauguration, it became clear that North Korea had in fact been just five months away from possessing those assets.

Trump’s approach is almost exactly the opposite of Obama’s. Trump began by explicitly threatening Pyongyang with “fire and fury.” For a time Kim acted defiant, but the fact that both South Korea and China feared Trump was in earnest had its effect. The South Koreans offered olive branches. The Chinese squeezed North Korea’s economic windpipe. Trump then made a key concession: He agreed to a summit meeting with Kim. Next month in Singapore we shall see what comes of it. My guess is that the deal will make Trump’s knee-jerk critics themselves look foolish. He won’t get complete denuclearization, but he will get some. Meanwhile, large-scale South Korean and Chinese investment in North Korea will start the process of prising open the hermit kingdom.

Now for Iran. Trump’s strategy in year one was to reassure his country’s traditional allies in the region — not only the Saudis and Israelis, but also the other Arab states — that he was on their side against Iranian expansionism. In year two he is not only reapplying the US sanctions on Iran — and remember that they affect not only US companies but European ones too — but also applying pressure on the ground in all those different countries where the Iranians have intervened. Step forward the new national security team, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton — names calculated to make the mullahs quake.

“You see, in this world there’s two kinds of people, my friend,” Blondie tells Tuco after that memorable gunfight. “Those with loaded guns and those who dig.” Thanks to the Obama administration’s ineffectual tactics, the North Koreans got themselves into the former category: it became a nuclear state. But Iran — its Obama-era boom over — now has to dig.

Economically weak enough to suffer a wave of urban riots in December and January, the Iranians will not find it easy to withstand the snap-back of sanctions and the roll-back of its forces abroad. And if you think the Russians will help them, then you must have missed Benjamin Netanyahu shaking Vladimir Putin’s hand in the Kremlin last week.



US threatens sanctions against European Union after trade body rules Boeing harmed by Airbus aid

The US has threatened to impose billions of dollars worth of retaliatory sanctions against the European Union, after the World Trade Organisation ruled the trading bloc had been providing illegal aid to Airbus.

The WTO dismissed an appeal by the European Union over an earlier ruling, saying it had failed to remove unfair funding for two of Airbus's models.

Boeing had been arguing that European plane maker Airbus received $22bn (£16.2bn) in market distorting preferential government loans to help launch the A380 superjumbo and A350 jet.

Boeing chief executive Dennis Muilenburg said: “Today’s final ruling sends a clear message: disregard for the rules and illegal subsidies are not tolerated.

"The commercial success of products and services should be driven by their merits and not by market-distorting actions."

The ruling marks a significant victory for Washington, bringing to a close a case dating back to 2004, and is the first of two key decisions to be made by the WTO regarding the ongoing dispute between Airbus and Boeing.

The second ruling, expected later this year, relates to a separate case, in which the EU is challenging US aid to Boeing. This could lead to the EU later imposing its own punitive tariffs against the US.

Airbus chief executive Tom Enders said the report was "really only half the story… The other half coming out later this year will rule strongly on Boeing’s subsidies and we’ll see then where the balance lies.”

The WTO's findings mark a stepping up of trade tensions between the US and European Union, which are already wrangling over whether US tariffs on aluminium and steel will apply to European products.

Speaking after the ruling, US trade representative Robert Lighthizer said: "It is long past time for the EU to end these subsidies.

"Unless the EU finally takes action to stop breaking the rules and harming US interests, the United States will have to move forward with countermeasures on EU products."

The EU's trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said the WTO had agreed that the EU had "largely complied" with its original findings, but that the EU would also "now take swift action to ensure it is fully in line with the WTO's final decision in this case".



Kanye and Democrats

By Walter E. Williams

In the aftermath of the Kanye West dust-up, my heart goes out to the white people who control the Democratic Party. My pity stems from the hip-hop megastar's November announcement to his packed concert audience that he did not vote in the presidential election but if he had, he would have voted for Donald Trump. Then, on April 21, West took to his Twitter account, which has 28 million followers, to announce, "I love the way Candace Owens thinks." Owens is Turning Point USA's director of urban engagement and has said that former President Barack Obama caused "damage" to race relations in the United States during his two terms in office.

West's support for Trump, along with his criticism of the "plantation" mentality of the Democratic Party, has been met with vicious backlash from the left. In one song, West raps, "See, that's the problem with this damn nation. All blacks gotta be Democrats. Man, we ain't made it off the plantation." Rep. Maxine Waters said West "talks out of turn" and advised, "He should think twice about politics — and maybe not have so much to say." The bottom-line sin that West has committed is questioning the hegemony of the Democratic Party among black Americans. The backlash has been so bad that West had to hire personal security to protect him against threats made against his life. Fortunately, the police are investigating those threats.

Kanye West is not saying anything different from what Dr. Thomas Sowell, Larry Elder, Jason Riley, I and other black libertarians/conservatives have been saying for decades. In fact, West has tweeted quotations from Sowell, such as "Socialism in general has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it" and "The most basic question is not what is best but who shall decide what is best." Tweeting those Sowell quotations represents the highest order of blasphemy in the eyes of leftists.

The big difference between black libertarians/conservatives and West is that he has 28 million Twitter followers and a huge audience of listeners whereas few blacks have even heard of libertarian/conservative blacks outside of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. (I might add in passing that Dr. Thomas Sowell is one of the nation's most distinguished and accomplished scholars alive today.)

The Kanye problem for the Democratic Party is that if the party doesn't keep blacks in line and it loses even 20 to 25 percent of the black vote, it can kiss any hope of winning any presidential and many congressional elections goodbye. Democrats may have already seen that threat. That's why they support illegal immigration and voting rights for noncitizens. Immigrants from south of the border who are here illegally may be seen as either a replacement for or a guarantee against the disaster of losing the black vote.

Keeping blacks blind to the folly of unquestioned support for the Democratic Party by keeping blacks fearful, angry and resentful and painting the Republican Party as racist is vital. Democrats never want blacks to seriously ask questions about what the party has done for them. Here are some facts. The nation's most troublesome and dangerous cities — Indianapolis, Stockton, Oakland, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Kansas City, Baltimore, Memphis, St. Louis and Detroit — have been run by Democrats, often black Democrats, for nearly a half-century. These and other Democratic-run cities are where blacks suffer the highest murder rates and their youngsters attend the poorest-performing and most unsafe schools.

Democrats could never afford for a large number of black people to observe, "We've been putting you in charge of our cities for decades. We even put a black Democrat in the White House. And what has it meant for us? Plus, the president you told us to hate has our unemployment rate near a record low." It turns out that it's black votes that count more to black and white politicians than black well-being, black academic excellence and black lives. As for black politicians and civil rights leaders, if they're going to sell their people down the river to keep Democrats in power, they ought to demand a higher price.



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 16, 2018

A joyous occasion in Israel as the U.S. embassy opens in Jerusalem

Only one song seems right to celebrate the occasion


The appalling seductiveness of Karl Marx

Martin Hutchinson

The 200th birthday of Karl Marx on May 5 passed with several indications, in both Europe and China that his appeal is not dead, and indeed showing considerable signs of revival. China has significantly reversed its move away from Marxism, whereas elements in the EU High Command seem to be recognizing that a centralized Marxist dictatorship is what they are aiming for. “Big Data” possibilities bring the frightening possibility that Marxism may work – better than it did, at any rate. How can a freedom-lover fight this apparently inexorable trend?

Probably the worst prophesy ever made was Francis Fukuyama’s 1992 “The End of History.” Far from becoming universal, the liberal democracy that appeared to have triumphed with the fall of communism rapidly became “liberal” in the American sense, acquiring a thick gooey patina of political correctness, wasteful social spending, non-market interest rates and endless yawning budget deficits.  Whatever was supposed to have won in 1991, it wasn’t this. As a result, old falsehoods, which were never really killed, only scotched, made a rapid comeback in the West’s education institutions and now appear to be making a significant comeback in the West as a whole.

In this respect European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s speech in Trier, Marx’s birthplace, was typical. Saying that Marx had been misunderstood, Juncker claimed that people learned “freedom, emancipation and independence” from his works. That’s not just rehabilitation, it’s hagiography, and goes along with the 18-foot statue of Marx, donated by China, that now disfigures the pretty former capital, whose Archbishop was for over 500 years one of seven electors of the Holy Roman Empire. 

The European Union, with its dirigiste assumptions that the big decisions must always be taken by a centralized government, is moving increasingly towards Marxism, while on the other side of the world China never really left it. President Xi Jinping is now promoting Marx as a rallying symbol for the nation while economically, the move towards private enterprise seen since Deng Xiaoping took over in 1978 has reversed in recent years, with state owned enterprises taking the great majority of loans and investments, funded by a banking system that remains almost entirely state-controlled.

There are three main reasons why Marxism remains attractive: the desire of governments to exert control, the insidious philosophical influence of leftist professors in universities and the advent of Big Data, which has for the first time awakened the horrid dream that its practitioners might actually be able to achieve the universal control they seek.

It is no coincidence that the two economists most favored by the big governments of today’s world are Karl Marx and John Maynard Keynes. Both thought in terms, not of an economy of small producers and consumers competing for resources, but of governments allocating them. In Marx’s case, the individual consumer or producer was subsumed in a “class,” with private ownership eliminated and resources allocated by the state after negotiations between the classes.

In Keynes’ case, while the price mechanism had some relevance in ordinary commerce, interest rates had no place in allocating capital, and the overall level of the economy, as well as much capital investment, would be determined by benign government bureaucrats. Both systems, therefore, are instinctively appealing to those who choose to work for government and fear the uncertainties of commerce.    Keynes was himself highly sympathetic to Marxism/Communism, especially during the 1930s when he was locked out of influence in Britain by the capable free-market Chancellor of the Exchequer Neville Chamberlain.

There is no avoiding the natural proclivities of those working in government, except setting clear constitutional rules preventing them from messing up the economic system. In that context, it is a great pity that Thomas Jefferson, when drafting the Declaration of Independence, allowed his fascination with dodgy French philosophers to replace John Locke’s “life, liberty and property” with “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Without Locke’s firm property right, there is no protection against government allocating private resources to itself (a fact reinforced by the infamous 2005 “Kelo vs New London” Supreme Court decision) and therefore no protection against the horrors of Marxist economics. “The pursuit of happiness” as an aspiration tends to negate property rights and provides no real protection against anything.

The cultural drift towards Marxism needs little explanation. Professors, being unconcerned with the market system and, once established, secure in their jobs feel free to advocate economically destructive nostrums. Most college systems are set up with no effective control on this, because college alumni, many of whom are committed to market mechanisms, are deliberately given very little voice. The institution’s funding is either by government or through a charitable trust that benefits from unfair tax breaks and is thereby insulated from market forces. In such circumstances, there is no check on leftist fantasy, and the idiocies which the older members of the professoriat picked up during the “Summer of Love” are perpetuated among their juniors.

The pull towards Marxism exerted by modern technology is a more interesting question. I speak now not of the likes of “Facebook” which with its PC content-censors is merely another arm of the leftist academic-charitable complex. However, the abilities of Big Data are more sinister. Suddenly the problem that wrecked Gosplan, the lack of knowledge of the myriad factors affecting production, demand and value, may in principle be soluble. To the likes of Juncker and Xi, a dream beckons: If data can only be made BIG enough, it may finally be able to reflect the efficiencies of the market mechanism, while being controlled entirely by Big Brother standing at the Off switch.

If you combine Big Data with the censorship possibilities of social media, an even more enticing vision opens to authoritarians in government. Using Big Data, they can control the economy more efficiently than Gosplan (they think) and ensure that all the little regulations they can think of for enforcing economic conformity are in fact being followed. Then using social media they can suppress any data points that suggest something might be going wrong, and ensure that any economic actors whose lives are wrecked by their Big Data economic control are never heard from. 

There are fortunately flaws in the Marxists’ dream of a super-Gosplan. Sure, you can imagine Big Data recording the production side of the economy so accurately that Big Brother has an idea of widget output to the last widget. You can even imagine Big Data recording via point-of-sale terminals every time a widget is sold, so that Big Brother knows the exact sales of widgets, second by second, together with data on where they are sold and who bought them. But there is very little he can do with this data. He can match production to sales, increasing production of fast-selling items – but any filthy capitalist can do this, and with Big Data will have as much information as Big Brother has to do it.

What Big Brother cannot do, even with Big Data, is get an accurate estimate of what consumer demand for any new product variant might be (because opinion polling is unamenable to Big Data accuracy). Further, Big Brother cannot in any way change the products the consumer wants to buy, or alter the products sold in any way that optimizes the economy beyond what is done by the market. Any attempt to produce excessive amounts of steel, because you have just decided to call yourself Stalin, will result in miserable failure, as consumers will not buy any more steel products than they would in a free market, so the excess steel will be wasted.

The instrument of control that Marx never thought of is interest rates. By pushing economies onto fiat money, and then setting interest rates at bureaucrat-determined ultra-low levels, Big Brother has over the last decade produced a gigantic mass of misguided investment, and urban housing markets that completely fail to serve ordinary people. This will doubtless eventually produce another enormous housing crash, which Big Brother will address by inventing more controls (such as abolishing cash) and distorting the economy further. Still, to be fair it is Keynes, not Marx, whom we must blame for this particular gigantic economic disaster.

Social media may offer Big Brother better opportunities for Marxist control than Big Data. If as several countries of the EU have recently done, you have through legislation acquired control of social media’s output, so that you control the political and social messages seen by the vast majority of the electorate, who do not take the trouble to make themselves properly informed, then you have gone a long way to ensuring that the electorate will vote as you want it to vote.

The EU is happy to sneer at Vladimir Putin’s version of “democracy” which draws heavily on techniques developed in the previous Marxist-Leninist state, but one can easily imagine the EU itself and its puppet European Parliament becoming a very similar one-party bureaucracy, with opposition limited to a few gadflies from unimportant countries, who can easily be quelled and overruled. As Putin has discovered, you don’t need to control 99% of the votes in an assembly to do exactly what you want; 70% will do just fine. 

Fortunately, it appears Big Data won’t bail out Big Brother, although social media may well make his task of domination easier. If a free market can be kept going, the lives of ordinary people will improve even in a non-free state, as Russians have proved over the significantly populace-enriching period of Vladimir Putin’s rule. The trick, therefore will be to preserve as much of capitalism as possible against the bureaucrats – and do something about the universities, so Marx’s pernicious doctrines are gradually relegated to the dustbin of history, where they belong.



Top Four Obama Policies Trump Has Reversed

Fulfilling a campaign promise, earlier this week Donald Trump officially withdrew the United States from the Obama-era nuclear deal with Iran, calling it “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.” For critics of the deal who recognized its flaws and did not turn a blind eye to evidence Iran was violating the terms of the agreement, this was welcome news a long time coming. Trump fulfilled his promise, and the days of kowtowing to terror-sponsoring regimes are behind us.

Naturally, Obama administration alums are throwing hissy fits. Obama himself released a statement calling the decision “a serious mistake.” Apparently, the man who gave billions of dollars and a pathway to creating nuclear weapons to the world’s number one state sponsor of terrorism thinks he has any credibility on the issue. Of course, Obama, the self-proclaimed former constitutional law professor, should have known that Senate ratification is required for his deal to be legally binding. For all intents and purposes, Obama’s Iran deal was written in pencil, and Trump took his eraser to it.

Just like that, Obama’s "major" foreign policy achievement became yet another example of just how foolish Obama’s “I have a pen and a phone” approach to governing was for someone who wanted to establish a long-term legacy.

Below are the top four unilaterally implemented Obama policies Trump has successfully reversed:

1. The Trans-Pacific Partnership

It may have been Obama’s signature trade deal, but Trump was not “down with TPP” and he often referred to it as a bad deal while on the campaign trail. Trump made good on his promise to end it just days after taking office. The move was no surprise, and the fact that Obama didn’t go to Congress to approve the deal made it an obvious choice for President Trump’s chopping block.

2. Planned Parenthood Protections

In January, the Department of Health and Human Services rescinded Obama-era “legal guidance” that would have punished states for defunding Planned Parenthood, the nation’s number one abortion provider and big money donor to Democrats. The regulations “warned states that ending Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood or other health-care providers that offer abortions could be against federal law.” Of course, for many pro-life conservatives, while this was a welcome reversion of an Obama regulation, the subsequent omnibus bill that fully funded Planned Parenthood was not so welcome.


Perhaps one of Trump’s more brilliant moves in undoing Obama’s legacy was how he handled Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Aside from being pseudo-amnesty, one of the primary objections to DACA was that Congress, not the president unilaterally, is supposed to make decisions regarding issues of immigration. In place for five years at the time Trump ended it, nearly 800,000 people were protected from being deported under DACA, and reversing it was no simple issue. So Trump put the onus on Congress to work out a permanent solution. Trump said of his decision: "We will resolve the DACA issue with heart and compassion -- but through the lawful Democratic process -- while at the same time ensuring that any immigration reform we adopt provides enduring benefits for the American citizens we were elected to serve.”

Obama may not have understood how our constitutional republic works, but Trump clearly does. Currently, Republicans are trying to force a vote on DACA in Congress.

4. The Paris Climate Accord

Once again, this was another multinational treaty that Obama knew he couldn’t sell to Congress, so he didn’t even try. It has been just under a year since President Trump withdrew the United States from the 2015 Paris climate accord. So far, no climate apocalypse has occurred. Sea levels haven’t eaten up our coastlines and the air is still breathable. We’ve survived.

It is true that Trump has signaled that rejoining the treaty is still a possibility, but if he punts that to the Senate (where it should be), it will never happen.

Keep in mind, this list is by no means complete. Trump has reversed or weakened many Obama-era policies that were enacted without the consent of Congress. Earlier this year, Obama’s Vice President Joe Biden lamented: “All he seems to be trying to do is undo everything that President Obama has done.”

Yeah, that is why he won. But Obama was the one who chose to take an unconstitutional unilateral approach to governing. Obama took office with comfortable majorities in the House and Senate. Bipartisan compromise was unnecessary, and was never sought. When Democrats lost their majorities, Obama never felt the need to meet Republicans in the middle to achieve consensus the way his predecessors had. Obama was counting on Hillary Clinton to win the presidency and keep his unconstitutionally enacted agenda in place.



Bolton: Iran's Economy 'Quite Shaky,' So Effect of Sanctions 'Could Be Dramatic'

Regime change in Iran is "not the policy of the administration," National Security Adviser John Bolton told ABC's "This Week" on Sunday. "The policy of the administration is to make sure that Iran never gets close to deliverable nuclear weapons," he said.

But on CNN's "State of the Union," Bolton noted that getting out of the Iran nuclear deal will result in the reimposition of American sanctions on Iran: "And I think what we've seen is that Iran's economic condition is really quite shaky, so that the effect here could be dramatic," Bolton told CNN's Jake Tapper.

Tapper noted that Bolton repeatedly pushed for regime change in Iran before he became national security adviser. "I know that is not the current position of the United States government. But are you behind the scenes pushing for it to become the position of the United States government, regime change?" Tapper asked Bolton.

Bolton replied that he has "written and said a lot of things over the years when I was a complete free agent. I certainly stand by what I said at the time. But -- but those were my opinions then.

"The circumstance I'm in now is that I'm the national security adviser to the president. I'm not the national security decision-maker. He makes the decisions, and the advice I give him is between us."

Meanwhile, CBS's "Face the Nation" started on Sunday with a report from foreign correspondent Elizabeth Palmer in Tehran. Host Margaret Brennan asked Palmer how Iranian citizens are reacting to the U.S. pulling out of the nuclear deal:

"Well, the hard-liners hit the streets after President Trump's decision, with the old cries of 'Death to America,'" Palmer responded. "But they and everybody else are actually much more angry with their own government. They're fed up, because they haven't had salary increases. There are no jobs. There's corruption. And, most of all, they say the Iranian government can offer nothing but a bleak future.

"I have never heard people so angry here. At the moment, the government is keeping a lid on little protests that have been springing up everywhere, but it's anyone's guess how long they can maintain stability," Palmer concluded.



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 15, 2018

Donald Trump’s Mommy Issues

The report below is very light on evidence. It is by an amateur psychologist, PETER LOVENHEIM, who has devoted himself to "Attachment Theory" -- the claim that you need to have a lot of nurturance from your mother in the first 4 years of you life to grow up psychologically healthy

It is a theory from John Bowlby, an early British psychoanalyst who was disowned by other psychoanaysts, who think the father is the key.  Bowlby himself lost his mother when he was about 4 so that seems to be the genesis of the theory.  Psychologists today -- such as Rutter -- generally think there is something in the Bowlby theory but see it as only one of several influences

But when you have got a hammer everything looks like a nail and Lovenheim sees attachment theory as an explanation of Trump's behaviour.  As Trump always talks warmly of his mother, that would seem to disprove the Lovenheim theory but Lovenheim thinks he knows better what Trump feels.  It's all just speculation.

For what it's worth, I just think Trump was rather spoilt in his upbringing but it has not hurt his ability to empathize with normal people

Donald Trump is easily the most psychoanalyzed president of modern times. His decision-making style and behavior have been hotly debated by journalists, voters, politicians, world leaders and pundits who have bestowed upon him any number of fanciful, grave-sounding mental conditions, calling him, among other things, a narcissist, a sociopath, a psychopath and a paranoiac. Trump has said he distrusts mental health professionals, so we don’t have access to a formal assessment of his psychology. But colloquially speaking, perhaps the best explanation for the president’s behavior dates back to his earliest interactions with his mother.

Although I’m not a psychologist, I have spent years researching a major field of psychology known as attachment theory for a book. According to the science of attachment—developed in the second half of the 20th century by British psychotherapist John Bowlby—we’re hardwired at birth to attach to a competent and reliable caregiver for protection because we are born helpless. The success or failure of this attachment affects all our relationships throughout life—in the workplace, on the athletic field, with loved ones—and yes, even in politics. Children who bond successfully with a primary caregiver—usually this is the mom but it could also be the dad, grandparent, nanny or other adult—grow up with what is termed a “secure” attachment. As adults, they tend to be confident, trusting of others, resilient in the face of setbacks, and able to enjoy long, stable relationships. Children who fail to achieve a successful attachment, on the other hand, may as adults have a lack of comfort with intimacy, difficulty trusting others, a constant need for reassurance from relationship partners, and a lack of resilience when faced with illness, injury or loss.

The biographical record is fairly strong on Trump’s failure to develop a healthy emotional attachment to either of his parents. It may have contributed to his tumultuous personal life, but it also endowed him with some traits that made him well-suited to his late-career entry in politics.

Donald Trump is the fourth of five children of Fred and Mary Trump. Because his father was busy building a real estate business, and it was the mid-20th century when dads didn’t typically do a lot of early child care, his mother cared for the children (with the help of a live-in maid) and was their primary “attachment figure.” What factors may have affected the quality of young Donald’s early care—his own temperament as an infant; the role, if any, of the family’s maid in child care; the demands on his mother’s time and energy of three older children and a subsequent pregnancy—we don’t know. The president’s own writings are largely silent about his early childhood; journalists and biographers fill in only some of the blanks.

But we do know that Mary Trump became seriously ill from complications during labor with her last child. An emergency hysterectomy and subsequent infections and surgeries followed—four in two weeks, one of her oldest daughters once said. As a result, at just two years and two months of age, Trump endured the trauma of the prolonged absence and life-threatening illness of his mother. It’s not clear how long she was incapacitated. Indeed, we don’t know that she ever really re-engaged with her son. According to a Politico Magazine story on Mary Trump, there’s evidence that Mary and her son didn’t interact much during his childhood (more on this later).

Infants who fail to receive that kind of care usually fall into one of two categories as adults. Either they have what’s called attachment anxiety—leading them as adults to crave intimacy but have difficulty trusting others and constantly seeking reassurance—or they have attachment avoidance, where as adults they generally distrust others and convince themselves they don’t need close relationships. The relationships they do have are often unstable. They also tend to be excessively self-reliant and desire a high level of independence. These last two traits—self-reliance and independence—are not necessarily disadvantageous, of course. They might be just the right recipe, for example, for an entrepreneur.

The only way to be certain of President Trump’s attachment style would be for him to take the Adult Attachment Interview, an hour-long, structured interview that is considered the gold standard for assessing attachment in adults. Since that isn’t likely to happen, we’ll have to make an educated guess. While mental health professionals are constrained by ethical standards to avoid diagnosing public figures they haven’t personally examined, I am not bound by those rules. Based on my seven years of research, reading countless academic studies and interviewing leading attachment researchers worldwide, I’m willing to say what they can’t. I would peg President Trump’s attachment style as avoidant. Here are my three reasons:

First, Mary Trump’s major health crisis appears to have compromised her efforts—no matter how well-intentioned—to care reliably for young Donald.

Second, as previously reported in Politico Magazine, Trump has over the years said many flattering things about his mother, calling her “fantastic” and “tremendous.” He’s also described her as “very warm” and “very loving.” And yet, I find no stories or other anecdotes of early childhood that support these sentiments. In fact, friends of the Trump family who knew the Trump kids when they were young have reported they “rarely saw Mrs. Trump” and that Donald, while “in awe” of his father, was “very detached from his mother.” A characteristic of adults with avoidant attachment is the tendency to idolize one’s parents without supporting evidence.

Finally, much of the president’s behavior, both before and since he took office, is clearly consistent with attachment avoidance: His powerful sense of self-reliance and near-inability to acknowledge self-doubt; his bragging about his sexual relations; his almost complete lack of close friends; his multiple marriages; and his unstable relationships with White House staff, Cabinet members and congressional leaders of both parties.

Trump’s almost compulsive need to be in the spotlight might be evidence of attachment anxiety if it were aimed primarily at needing approval. But in the president’s case, it appears to be more about needing admiration. Overt narcissism or grandiose self-regard, the leading attachment researchers Mario Mikulincer and Philip R. Shaver report, is associated with attachment avoidance.

By any number of measures, President Trump may be seen as an anomaly among politicians—after all, how many people have run for precisely one political office and landed directly in the White House?—but if my hunch is correct, in this one trait—attachment avoidance—Trump may, in fact, be rather typical.

Attachment avoidance accounts for about 25 percent of the general population, with about 55 percent of people being secure, 15 percent anxious and 5 percent disorganized (often those who were neglected or maltreated in childhood). But in the course of my research, I asked questions from the Adult Attachment Interview to diverse officials: a former presidential nominee, current and former members of Congress and a mayor. With only one exception, their results indicated attachment avoidance.

Some of this may be because avoidance—though generally not the ideal for anyone—does confer some advantages for the political lifestyle. Avoidant athletes, for example, do well when they compete individually—as politicians do in elections. Avoidant people travel well—think never-ending campaign trail—feeling little need to be near loved ones. And the avoidant person’s general reluctance to trust others can act like protective radar in a field like politics that is rife with betrayal and double-dealing.

Avoidant politicians have one more quality that under the right circumstances can lead to success in office: They are quick to respond to threats and to take action. In a clever study in 2011 where test subjects were exposed to what appeared to be a threatening situation (a room gradually filling with smoke because of a supposedly malfunctioning computer), people high in attachment avoidance—who prize independence and self-reliance—were the first to find a way out to safety for themselves and others.

So is having a president with an avoidant attachment style good or bad? According to attachment theory, human relationships would generally be healthier and more stable if more people had a sensitive and consistent caregiver during infancy—and grew up to have a secure attachment style. So it is likely that leaders with secure attachment—as, for example, Franklin Roosevelt had, according to researchers—can become truly transformational by encouraging and uplifting the population in times of crisis. And while it’s true that people with attachment avoidance can often be personally successful—in business and other individually focused activities—there are requirements for public office, such as the ability to connect emotionally with constituents or at times to act selflessly—that may be difficult for those with attachment avoidance to muster. While it is too early for history to judge this presidency, understanding President Trump’s likely attachment style—and the attachment styles of all our political leaders—can give us important insights into their behavior and actions in office.

We should keep in mind that as voters, we have attachment styles, too. According to research, these may affect our political leanings and the relationships we have with elected leaders.

Secure voters, for example, tend to be tolerant of ambiguity, flexible in their political views, and thus disinclined to embrace any rigid dogmatism, As such, secure voters are most often found in the political center. Insecure voters, on the other hand, may be attracted to the perceived safety of dogmatism and are more likely to be found on the far-left or far-right. For example, anxious voters—seeking security in a world that feels threatening—may find comfort in a liberal orthodoxy that advocates redistribution of wealth and political power, and aggressively demands “inclusion” and protection in the form of a care-giving government. Avoidant voters, on the other hand, often distrusting others and prizing self-reliance, may embrace a strident conservatism, both economic (the world is a “competitive jungle”) and military (“we can only depend on our own strength”).

So as we think about President Trump, we might consider that his presidency—and our personal reactions to it—may be influenced not only be his attachment style, but also our own.



Exhaustive Study: Murder Rates Rise Every Place that Bans Guns

So, think banning guns is going to solve America’s murder problem? The data should tell you to think again.

Yes, in spite of the fact that we’ve been told that Mr. and Mrs. America turning all their guns in is the best way to fix violence, that’s actually a complete lie. And the Crime Prevention Resource Center has the numbers to prove it.

The 2013 study looked at murder rates from places that had banned guns around the world, from Washington, D.C. and Chicago to England, Wales, Jamaica and even the Solomon Islands, an archipelago in the South Pacific which only had mass shootings after they decided to ban guns.

The most striking example might be that of England and Wales, both of which banned firearms back in 1997. Homicides rose from 676 to 734 the first year of the ban. And things only got worse from there.

“After the ban, clearly homicide rates bounce around over time, but there is only one year (2010) where the homicide rate is lower than it was in 1996,” the CPRC noted. “The immediate effect was about a 50 percent increase in homicide rates.  Firearm homicide rate had almost doubled between 1996 and 2002 …  The homicide and firearm homicide rates only began falling when there was a large increase in the number of police officers during 2003 and 2004. Despite the huge increase in the number of police, the murder rate still remained slightly higher than the immediate pre-ban rate.”

The highest recorded murder rate was in 2002/03, which saw 1,041 murders. That number included 172 murders by Dr. Harold Shipman, a notorious physician and serial killer who murdered his patients via lethal doses of morphine. That said, the general trend was still toward more killings after the gun ban was put into place.

Meanwhile, Jamaica’s murder rate was at roughly 10 killings per 100,000 people in 1974, when guns were banned. By 1980, that number spiked to over 40 per 100,000, and 58 per 100,000 in 2005. While the numbers have again bounced around, Jamaica didn’t see under 20 murders per 100,000 people between 1990 and 2007. According to the Jamaica Gleaner, 38 people were murdered in the first six days of this year alone.

Ireland also saw a spike when it banned guns, the CPRC reports, from under 0.4 murders per 100,000 in 1972 to over 1.6 per 100,000 in just a few years, an increase of well over 400 percent. While that was the peak of the murder rate, it never fell below what it was the year before the gun ban.

Chicago also banned guns in 1982. How did that work? Well, the Windy City has always had a high homicide rate, but as you can see, it rose dramatically in the years following the ban. While there was a reduction in the 2000s, it rebounded again in the 2010s to become the gunshot capital of America.



Escape from Obamacare: Coming soon to a health insurance plan near you

Millions of Americans could soon enjoy lower health insurance premiums, thanks to a new Trump administration rule.

The rule, which was proposed in January and will likely be finalized by early summer, would make it easier for self-employed individuals and small businesses to band together and purchase coverage through association health plans.

AHPs offer small businesses and sole proprietors an alternative to overpriced plans sold through the Obamacare exchanges. In 2018, average individual premiums on the exchanges were nearly twice as high ($444 per month) as average individual-market premiums in 2013, the year before most of Obamacare took effect.

Premiums for small-group plans have also skyrocketed. This year, the price of plans in Connecticut jumped an average of 25 percent compared to 2017. Small businesses in Minnesota experienced increases of up to 23 percent.

These hikes explain why many small businesses don't extend health benefits to employees. Less than one in three employers with 50 or fewer workers currently offers coverage.

President Trump's AHP proposal could make it less expensive for small-business owners and self-employed Americans to obtain health insurance. In effect, the rule gives these people access to the coverage enjoyed by large businesses.

Historically, premiums for large employer plans have increased at a far slower rate than individual and small-group market premiums. Among companies with at least 1,000 workers, average premiums for an individual plan rose by less than 6 percent between 2014 and 2016.

The reason? Larger companies have more bargaining power to negotiate lower rates with insurers and providers. These companies also aren't subject to some of Obamacare's most expensive 10 essential health benefit mandates.

AHPs would level the playing field. Right now, a 20-person construction company has little to no leverage to negotiate favorable rates. But if a dozen small construction firms formed an AHP, they could negotiate better deals and keep costs low.

AHPs give small-businesses and self-employed Americans an affordable alternative to Obamacare-compliant coverage. The reform can't come soon enough.



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, May 14, 2018

Would-be Hitler says Trump Must Be Impeached before He Becomes another Hitler

Leftist projection again.  Steyer and his Greenie companions want to control just about everything that people do.  They are the real heirs of the Nazis

Billionaire liberal Tom Steyer told the crowd at an Iowa town hall Thursday that President Trump communicates effectively like Hitler and must be impeached before he leads the country down a similarly dark path.

A lady from the crowd remarked to Steyer that Trump reminds her of Hitler, saying the president separates immigrant families just as the leader of Nazi Germany separated Jewish families and others.

“[Trump] really is an incredibly skillful and talented communicator. He really is, which Hitler was, too,” Steyer agreed.  He added, though, that there is still a “very big difference” between the two men:

    I think the reason people push back against the Hitler comparison, regardless of any similarities, is Hitler ended up killing millions and millions of people, and Mr. Trump has shown a disregard for our law, he breaks the law…and in many ways he has done things that we find, or I find abhorrent. But he hasn’t killed millions of people.

The crowd rumbled with raised voices, causing Steyer to entertain the comparison some more.

“I agree! Look, that’s why we want to impeach him!” Steyer said. “We’d like to end it here while it’s still OK….We haven’t gotten to that point. God bless us, let’s hope we never get anywhere near that point.”

Steyer, the heavyweight anti-Trump activist, has invested tens of millions of dollars trying to convince Democrats to impeach the president, to the chagrin of many party luminaries including House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, who has argued that the best way to oppose Trump is to gain control of Congress.

As part of his campaign against Trump and the GOP, Steyer’s political action committee, NextGen America, released an ad this week comparing Republicans to white nationalists.

“We’re just telling the truth to the American people, and it’s an important truth,” he said of impeaching the president. “And if you don’t think it’s politically convenient for you, that’s too bad.”



The Republican Advantage That’s Easy to See but Nobody Notices

In close elections, any slight advantage might be responsible for determining the outcome, and it might be that the red party has a slight advantage over the blue party... because it’s the red party.

An article reporting on studies by two psychologists suggests that color influences behavior and that red is a winning color. In one study from the 2004 Olympics, where competitors in combat sports like boxing and taekwondo were randomly assigned either red or blue kits, they found that those assigned the red kits were more likely to win than those assigned the blue.

One of the researchers said, “Simply wearing red doesn’t turn you into an excellent competitor, but it helps tip the balance between winning and losing when people are fairly evenly matched.” Might referring to one party as the red party and the other as the blue have the same effect in politics?

The article gives many other examples of the color red being associated with dominance. People feel more dominant when they wear red. Gamblers feel more confident and gamble more when they use red poker chips. Waitresses get higher tips when they wear red. Men and women are both rated as being more attractive when they are wearing red rather than other colors.

This suggests that the party associated with red will have an advantage over the party associated with blue.

Today, we are accustomed to thinking of the Republican Party as the red party and the Democratic Party as blue, but this color assignment was solidified only in the past few decades. This article explains that color-coding the parties as red and blue became popular with the advent of political reporting on color television, but initially, the colors were not consistently assigned. The election of 2000 was the point at which the current color identification was solidified, and the Republican Party became the red party.

If there really is an advantage to being the red party, how did the Republicans manage to get it? One conjecture is that the mainstream news media (which may slant toward the left) rightly associated red with communism, and didn’t want the Democrats being the red party. During the Cold War, being a red meant being a communist. So, the media assigned red to the Republican Party to avoid associating the Democratic Party with socialism.

If so, this may have been a lucky break for the Republicans. They managed to grab the color that dominates all others by default, giving them a slight advantage in elections. Surely, in politics more than in many aspects of life, symbolism exerts powerful effects.

This is a red party advantage that everyone can see, but nobody notices.



Free Traders Should Be More Careful When Defending Trade Deficits

 In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, Harvard economist Robert Barro understandably took aim at President Trump’s faulty mercantilist criticism of free international trade. In contrast to Trump’s view, Barro argued that imports are “things we want” whereas exports are “the price we have to pay” to obtain them. Although Barro’s statements are a useful way to get novices to think about trade, they can be misleading, and in this case actually did lead a WSJ editor to write something incorrect. All too often, in their zeal to defuse hysteria over America’s trade deficit, free-trade economists prove too much, using arguments that suggest countries with trade surpluses are somehow getting ripped off. In this post, I’ll spell out the WSJ mistake, and offer a clearer way to think about international trade.

To set the scene and to be fair to Barro, here is his argument in context:

The Trump theory of international trade seems straightforward: Selling stuff to foreigners is good, and buying stuff from foreigners is bad. It’s a form of mercantilism. Exports are attractive because they represent domestic production and American jobs. Imports are undesirable because that production and employment otherwise could have happened at home.

Simple economic reasoning, however, suggests that this logic is backward. Imports are things we want, whether consumer goods, raw materials or intermediate goods. Exports are the price we have to pay to get the imports. It would be great, in fact, if we could get more imports without having to pay for them through added exports. [Barro, bold added.]

To reiterate, there’s nothing explicitly false in the above excerpt; this is a standard approach to getting students to think about international trade. However, there’s actually a problem with this typical line of free-trade reasoning that I’ve noticed for some time now. And to prove I’m not just handwringing, look at the title and subtitle that a WSJ editor (presumably) gave to Barro’s piece:

Trump and China Share a Bad Idea on Trade

Imports are things we want, and we pay for them with exports. Isn’t getting more for less a good thing?

Contrary to this claim, the U.S. trade deficit does not mean that Americans are “getting more for less.” If it did mean that, then the flip side would hold as well: Countries running a trade surplus must be getting less for more, and so presumably a populist candidate could run for office in those countries and offer trade barriers as a way to stop the bleeding. Yet, of course, that’s not right either: so long as people around the world are engaging in voluntary transactions, the trades are all win-win and a “trade deficit” or “trade surplus” is a bit of statistical trivia.

The problem with the WSJ subtitle stems from the equivocation in the claim that “we pay for them [imports] with exports.” Although this statement is a useful first step in getting novices to think about trade, strictly speaking, it is not literally correct in any finite time frame. After all, if a country literally paid for its imports with its exports in any particular time period—say, during each calendar year—then every country’s measured trade deficit/surplus would always be $0.

It’s easy to unpack the confusion by considering an analogy with an individual. We can imagine an economics professor telling her students: “Contrary to popular belief, ‘consumption’ is the things you want, while ‘work’ is the price you have to pay to get them. Indeed, if you could get more consumption without having to work more, that would be great.”

There’s a certain sense in which this statement is correct, and it might help some students get their thinking straight when sorting out benefits vs. costs in the context of employment. However, suppose a particular student replied, “Ah, then I’m doing great! Last year I spent $52,400 on consumption, while I worked only enough to earn $18,700 in wages. I plan on keeping my consumption the same this year, while maybe working even less. I love getting more goods for fewer labor hours!”

It would be clear that such a student utterly misunderstood the professor’s statement. The student isn’t bartering labor-hours directly for consumption goods. Rather, the student is spending a full $52,400 on the “$52,400 worth” of consumption goods; that’s what it means to measure consumption in dollars. The difference between the consumption ($52,400) and wages ($18,700) is made up by the fact that the student is selling assets worth $33,700 in order to finance his “trade deficit,” by selling off pieces of property (such as an old car) and/or by issuing claims against his future income by (say) borrowing money from credit card companies.

There is similar confusion in the WSJ’s treatment of U.S. trade with China. According to Barro, “In 2017, the Chinese sold the U.S. $524 billion of goods and services and bought only $187 billion, for a bilateral trade deficit of $337 billion.” Even though it’s true that imports are things we want and exports are the price we pay to get them, it is not the case that Americans are somehow snookering the Chinese. No, we paid a full $524 billion for our $524 billion of imports; that’s what it means to measure imports in dollars. The fact that we only sold them $187 billion of goods and services means that we made up the difference by issuing a net $337 billion in asset sales, such as U.S. real estate, corporate stock, and Treasury debt.

There’s a sense in which a worker must pay for consumption by selling labor hours, but that is only a long-run condition; the timing of consumption and wage payments can be different, with the gaps accommodated through asset sales (including the credit markets). Furthermore, if we observe a worker who consumes more than his wages in a certain year, this isn’t evidence of shrewdness; it simply means the worker is selling assets and/or taking on future claims against himself. Maybe that’s a sign of wise investment (in the case of a student taking out loans to attend medical school) or maybe it’s a sign of profligacy (in the case of someone running up credit cards for gambling vacations), but either way we shouldn’t congratulate such a worker for “getting more for less.”

What is crystal clear in the case of an individual is, unfortunately, obscured in the case of a country, as even a WSJ editor got tripped up. The editor took Robert Barro’s correct claim that a nation pays for its imports with its exports, and then erroneously misconstrued trade deficits as evidence of a bargain. But it’s more accurate to say the United States in any given time period “pays for” its imports with exports and by selling claims on future U.S. dollars. Maybe that’s a sign of wise investment (in the case of foreigners investing in U.S. factories) or maybe it’s a sign of profligacy (in the case of foreigners lending money to Uncle Sam to fuel boondoggle programs), but either way we shouldn’t view our trade deficit as “getting more for less.”



Curing Diseases Is Sustainable, Government in Healthcare Is Not

 Goldman Sachs analysts recently asked the question, “Is curing patients a sustainable business model?”, in a report entitled The Genome Revolution. The report outlined profit strategies for biotechnology companies engaged in gene therapy, which attempts to replace defective genes to correct genetic disorders. CNBC has since obtained the report and released the answer:

The potential to deliver ‘one shot cures’ is one of the most attractive aspects of gene therapy, genetically-engineered cell therapy and gene editing. However, such treatments offer a very different outlook with regard to recurring revenue versus chronic therapies... While this proposition carries tremendous value for patients and society, it could represent a challenge for genome medicine developers looking for sustained cash flow.

Some have taken the report to be an “outright acknowledgment from the financial services industry that curing diseases with a single treatment is not profitable.” Others allege the report demonstrates “curing patients is bad for business” more broadly.

While Americans have every reason to be concerned about their healthcare, the belief that private medical companies will not develop and produce products that cure various conditions is unwarranted.

Recent medical history provides ample evidence that the medical industry has tremendous incentives to cure patients. For example, chicken pox, smallpox, rabies, SARS, measles, polio, and shingles, among many other diseases, were all cured and eradicated in our lifetime. Insulin, although not a cure for diabetes, has saved countless diabetics from certain death. Similarly, HIV and AIDS are now manageable when they were once fatal.

Further, most medical discoveries do not earn profits. This is especially true of pharmaceuticals where, according to a white paper published by the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, only 20 percent of the drugs that make it to market obtain enough revenue to cover their R&D and FDA drug approval costs. Although not all these drugs provide a cure, profits are clearly not the only motives for these companies.

However, there is a more fundamental misunderstanding about these claims. Are profits derived from curing diseases sustainable? No. However, in a market economy, no profits are sustainable! Entrepreneurs work tirelessly to improve their products and lower their prices to please their customers and to compete for the profits earned by others. When profits dwindle, entrepreneurs search for other opportunities to serve customers. In some cases, this means finding innovative ways to cut costs. In others, it can mean improving the product. Offering a cure for a condition, although difficult, is a clear way to beat out other treatment methods.

Consider the case of the biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, whose entrepreneurial insight to purchase and develop an unproven compound became Sovaldi, the only cure for hepatitis C. In 2014, Solvaldi earned over $10 billion in sales. However, two years after making the cure, Solvadi sales fell over 50 percent. Far from suffering from its “unsustainable business model,” the company recently released data on a drug it is developing to help HIV infection.

While the evidence companies do not find curing diseases profitable is weak, concerns that the healthcare sector might act in ways against the patient’s interest are very real. But these concerns stem from the relationship between the state and the market, not from the market itself.

For example, the burdensome costs and time-intensive FDA drug approval process, which is supported by large pharmaceutical companies, prevents many smaller companies with less financial capital from getting their products approved. When the medical industry spends lobbying for government favors, and it spent $57 million last year, it uses resources to thwart competition to the detriment of consumers. Efforts like these are how the firms in the healthcare sector can earn sustainable profits without benefiting consumers.

Fundamentally, the alarm created by Goldman Sach’s report stems from a fear that the companies in the healthcare sector will not act in the patient’s interest and little can be done about it. I can think of no better way for these fears to become a reality than to have government involved in healthcare. Once we understand this diagnosis, we can work toward a cure.



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.

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