Friday, September 14, 2018

George W. Bush Decides To Help Save The Senate, House

Notoriously silent since leaving office, W. dipped his toe back in the political arena as his brother, former Florida Governor Jeb! Bush ran for the 2016 GOP nomination for the presidential race. He went on the record admitting that he left the top race on the 2016 general election ballot blank and he made a veiled reference to Trump in a 2017 speech. Now, however, as top Republicans get a bit edgy about the impending (maybe) blue tsunami or wave or ripple, Bush is hitting the campaign trail to raise some money.

“While he prefers to consider himself retired from politics, President Bush recognizes how important it is to keep the Senate and decided to help a few key candidates,” said Freddy Ford, a Bush spokesman.

This morning he did a closed-door event for Rep. Will Hurd who is in a district that swings back and forth between parties. Trump lost Hurd’s district in the 2016 election. Then Friday Bush heads to Florida for two events benefitting Governor Rick Scott now running against Democrat Senator Bill Nelson. Next week he will be in Fort Worth for North Dakota candidate Kevin Cramer, challenging current Democrat Senator Heidi Heitkamp. And the last event announced is in Dallas for Texas Rep. Pete Sessions.

The district Sessions represents is the one in which Bush lives and also home to the George W. Bush Presidential Library. It is a race that the Democrats had in their sights when the national party originally listed seven or so districts for flipping in 2018.

George W. Bush has drawn criticism among Texas Republicans since leaving office and essentially turning his back on Republicans trying to change course from the eight disastrous years of Barack Obama. While it is admirable for former presidents to remain on the sidelines and not criticize the current president – as Barack Obama did last weekend – it is quite another matter when he admits not supporting the party’s nominee for President. In this case, Trump won and Jeb! flamed out very early in the primary process. The Bushes, like many of us (yes, especially me) didn’t understand the full extent of the dissatisfaction most Americans felt towards standard candidates from both parties. The voters were looking for something completely different and that is why both Trump and Bernie Sanders rose in popularity. Yes, Bernie is a career politician but he was able to capture the imagination of the new direction of the Democrat Party as it lurches towards socialist dreams.



Brent Bozell: Corrupt Democrats Are Not 'News'

When seeking to demonstrate the degree to which the "objective" news media act like Democratic partisans, the best place to start is scandals, as in "Have you heard all about the latest Republican scandal?" versus "What Democrat scandal?"

On Aug. 8, Republican congressman Chris Collins of the Buffalo, New York, suburbs was indicted for insider trading and lying to the FBI.  ABC, CBS and NBC played this story to the hilt, with 18 minutes and 24 seconds of coverage in just the first 24 hours, according to the Media Research Center. CBS devoted the most coverage, pounding away for 7 minutes and 6 seconds. ABC came in second, offering 5 minutes and 41 seconds, and NBC was right behind, with 5 minutes and 37 seconds.

On Aug. 21, prosecutors indicted California Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter on charges of wire fraud and campaign finance violations. The morning and evening newscasts on ABC and CBS spent a total of 4 minutes and 44 seconds covering the story in the first 36 hours. In contrast with Collins, Hunter was "lucky" that there was breaking anti-Trump news — the conviction of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and the guilty plea of former longtime Trump confidante and lawyer Michael Cohen to charges of campaign finance violations.

It thrilled the networks that these two men, Collins and Hunter, were the first congressional endorsers of Donald Trump for president. That multiplied the "newsworthiness" for them.

Now wait a minute! Why, that's such a loaded, unsubstantiated conclusion!

Except it isn't. Look what happens when a Democrat is indicted. And tried. And convicted. And sentenced.

These very same three networks, these champions of public integrity, were bored to tears by the indictment and trial of former Democratic Congressman Chaka Fattah of Philadelphia. During the year and a half between his 2015 indictment and 2016 conviction and sentencing for misappropriating hundreds of thousands of dollars of federal, charitable and campaign funds, the ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening programs offered a measly 68 seconds of "news."

In other words: Collins received 16 times as much coverage as Fattah in just one day. But wait. It gets worse.

There's former Rep. Corrine Brown of Florida, who was sentenced to five years in prison in 2016 for using an alleged children's charity called One Door for Education as a personal slush fund for herself and several aides. She used it for more than $300,000 in personal expenses, including tickets for NFL games and a luxury box for a Beyonce concert. "Brazen barely describes it," the judge, Timothy Corrigan, said of Brown's sham charity. Never heard of her? There's a reason.

Network coverage: Zero. Zilch. Nada.

Both Fattah and Brown were members of the Congressional Black Caucus and were defeated in 2016 primaries by other black Democrats after the national whisper of their indictments. Both had been in Congress for two decades and faced no serious general-election opposition for most of that time.

There are other House Republican scandals the networks have noticed since Fattah and Brown. On Dec. 13, 2016, NBC's "Today" featured a nearly two-minute-long report on former GOP congressman Aaron Schock's arraignment on corruption charges in federal court.

Even after they leave office, Republicans garner more attention than incumbent Democrats.

On Oct. 5, 2017, when pro-life Republican Congressman Tim Murphy from Pennsylvania resigned after the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported he had urged his mistress to get an abortion (she wasn't actually pregnant), all three broadcast evening shows ran reports on it. It added up to more than 6 1/2 minutes of coverage in the morning and evening, and almost 5 minutes of it aired on NBC.

Think of this, and then feel free to laugh at NBC's Chuck Todd, who proclaimed on Sunday's "Meet the Press" that charges of a liberal bias in the media are an old Roger Ailes tactic "not based in much fact."



Kavanaugh hearing antics showed Dems’ contempt of Congress

Democrats like to pillory President Trump for destroying American institutions and breaking the norms of conduct. Yet, during the Supreme Court confirmation hearing for Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Democrats blatantly and flippantly violated Senate norms, rules and traditions — and inflicted in the process considerable damage on the institution.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) interrupted the very first sentence of Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley’s (R-Iowa) opening statement. Protesters constantly interrupted questions asked by senators of both parties, as well as Kavanaugh’s answers; they were challenged only by Republican senators. But even in this chaotic atmosphere, Sen. Cory Booker’s (D-N.J.) decision to violate the committee’s confidentiality agreement with the executive branch, pursuant to which the committee received documents that otherwise would have been withheld, was particularly egregious.

On Wednesday night, Booker asked Kavanaugh about an email exchange dating to the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks. He quoted a committee confidential document — that is, a document that no senator had the authority to make public, and which Kavanaugh did not have in front of him.

Early Thursday, to ensure that  Kavanaugh and the American public would be able to see the emails for themselves, Grassley worked with the Department of Justice and former President George W. Bush’s attorney to release several committee confidential documents, including the one Booker had quoted. They were taken off the “committee confidential” roster at 4 a.m.

Despite the accommodation extended to him by Grassley and the Trump administration, Booker proceeded to engage in a display of remarkable grandstanding. On Thursday morning, he announced he would release the documents marked committee confidential. “This is about the closest I’ll ever have in my life to an ‘I am Spartacus’ moment,” he said — even though the documents had already been released.

Booker’s performance is stunning, in large part because he could have had the emails released well in advance of the hearing. As Grassley often made clear, senators were given the opportunity to request the public release of documents that were initially marked committee confidential, but only Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) did so. It seems that Booker decided to put his presidential ambitions ahead of Senate protocol and transparency.

Booker’s flouting of committee confidential protocol is more than a violation of the Senate rules. What he did is also truly destructive for the legitimacy of the Senate itself, given the fact that the documents at issue were provided to the Senate Judiciary Committee based on an assurance to the executive that they would be treated in accordance with certain procedures. Given this precedent, this administration and its successors will be much more reluctant to provide documents to the Senate based upon assurances that they will remain confidential, thereby impairing the Senate’s oversight and legislative functions.

All of this underscores the low esteem in which the Senate Democrats hold their own institution. This conclusion is reinforced by the fact that the email string that precipitated all of this sound and fury does not contain anything particularly dramatic or support what Booker implied: rather than seeming like someone who approved of racial profiling, even in the tense post-9/11 days, Kavanaugh makes clear that he “favor[s] effective security measures that are race-neutral.”

In marked contrast to the poor behavior of some senators, the nominee behaved with remarkable patience and thoughtfulness. Kavanaugh answered questions fully, effectively and fairly, while showing himself to be a fair and impartial judge. He declined to answer questions about cases that might come before the court and he avoided being brought into current political debates; doing either of those things would have undermined his appearance of impartiality. In so doing, he followed what is known as the Ginsburg Standard.

As Andrew Grossman and I recently argued in The Wall Street Journal, all judicial nominees must follow the rule, invoked by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg during her confirmation hearing in 1993: “A judge sworn to decide impartially can offer no forecasts, no hints, for that would show not only disregard for the specifics of the particular case — it would display disdain for the entire judicial process.” Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) once called this approach a “grand tradition,” and Kavanaugh upheld it by declining to answer questions about issues that might come before him, including abortion.

Meanwhile, Harris sought to pull Kavanagh into a political discussion of last year’s Charlottesville, Va., riots, and attempted to probe his view of how President Trump handled the situation. Kavanaugh responded, “I am not here to assess comments made in the political arena, because the risk is I'll be drawn into the political arena.” With this answer, he again echoed Ginsburg, who refrained from answering political questions that were “not relevant to the job for which you are considering me, which is the job of a judge.”

Booker’s action has injured the Senate as an institution and merits an appropriate institutional response. Indeed, only the Senate has the constitutional authority to deal with this matter and, with this power, comes responsibility. Under Supreme Court precedent, Gravel v. United States (1972), Booker’s actions were clearly covered by the Constitution’s Speech or Debate Clause. Gravel, which involved the senator who made public during a committee hearing the top secret “Pentagon Papers,” teaches that senators are not subject to executive branch investigative or prosecutorial action in these circumstances, leaving the Senate as the only entity that is empowered to take any disciplinary action.

Whatever the nature of Booker’s action or his justification for it might be, the Senate is entitled to censure him, and that censure itself is immune from judicial review, as the D.C. Circuit made clear in Rangel v. Boehner (2015). There, a House member challenged his censure, and the court ruled that the judiciary had no power to inquire into congressional disciplinary actions because of the immunity conferred by the Speech and Debate Clause.

Kavanaugh showed respect for the Senate, the judiciary and the hearing itself. The same cannot be said for many of the senators asking him questions.



Construction of California’s Stonehenge Costing $3.1 Million Per Day

Historian Victor Davis Hanson coined a great nickname for California’s Bullet Train construction project, calling it “California’s Stonehenge.” The project is proving to be a very costly monument to the ego of state politicians.

How costly? California’s high-speed rail project is back in the news thanks to the Los Angeles Times‘ Ralph Vartabedian’s reporting on the ever-escalating cost of the troubled project, where the construction bills are now topping $3.1 million per day:

The California bullet train project has cost state taxpayers an average $3.1 million a day over the last year—a construction spending rate higher than that for the Bay Bridge, Boston’s Big Dig or any U.S. transportation project in recent history.

But still it’s not enough, planners say. Yikes! How much would be enough for the planners?

In order to hit its 2033 deadline and $77-billion budget, the California High Speed Rail Authority will have to increase daily spending by up to nine times over the next four years or risk putting the already-delayed system further behind.

If that seems crazy, that’s because it is. At least, according to some professional civil engineers.

“That burn rate is ludicrous,” said civil engineer James Moore, director of USC’s transportation engineering program. “It is so far outside standard experience that it doesn’t make sense to assume it will occur.”

I would never doubt the ability of politicians determined to spend money at rates that have never before been achieved for an infrastructure project. Right now, California is trying to build the easiest part of its already-scaled back high-speed rail system, over flat land with relatively few obstacles, and it is costing California’s taxpayers over $3.1 million per day. Just imagine how big the daily bills will become once they get to the modestly difficult parts of the construction, or to the parts that will be technically challenging.

But if they cannot, all they would need is to further delay the completion date of California’s bullet train project beyond the 13 years that it has already been delayed. Or cut back the amount of track they will build even more than the 123 miles that they’ve already subtracted from the original plan in transforming it into the current scheme.

Or both. No matter what, until the project is permanently canceled, the one thing that can be guaranteed is that its cost will grow even higher than the $77 billion it is slated to cost California taxpayers today.



Democrat "generosity"


Stalin is alive and well in Britain

Hate-filled British Labour Party heavyweight John McDonnell incites harassment of Tory MPs. "I want to be in a position where no Tory MP can show their face in public without being threatened with direct action. They are social criminals & we will try them for their crimes."


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, September 13, 2018

Only dummies use drugs

Forgive the over-simplified heading above.  I have clearly been reading too much journalism. What the article below shows is that illegal drug use is greatest in people who did poorly at school. Sadly, the authors are better at using complicated statistics than they are at thinking.  The BIG determinant of academic achievement is IQ, and yet they do not even mention IQ, let alone control for it.  They have wasted their efforts by that omission.  Low IQ would have caused both the low academic achievement and drug abuse.  The study tells us NOTHING new and skips over what was actually going on.  Sad and pathetic

Academic Achievement and Drug Abuse Risk Assessed Using Instrumental Variable Analysis and Co-relative Designs

Kenneth S. Kendler et al.


Importance:  Low academic achievement (AA) in childhood and adolescence is associated with increased substance use. Empirical evidence, using longitudinal epidemiologic data, may provide support for interventions to improve AA as a means to reduce risk of drug abuse (DA).

Objective:  To clarify the nature of the association between adolescent AA and risk of DA by using instrumental variable and co-relative analysis designs.

Design, Setting, and Participants:  This study, assessing nationwide data from individuals born in Sweden between 1971 and 1982, used instrumental variable and co-relative analyses of the association between AA and DA. The instrument was month of birth. Co-relative analyses were conducted in pairs of cousins (263 222 pairs), full siblings (154 295), and monozygotic twins (1623) discordant for AA, with raw results fitted to a genetic model. The AA-DA association was modeled using Cox regression. Data analysis was conducted from October 2017 to January 2018.

Exposures:  Academic achievement assessed at 16 years of age (for instrumental variable analyses), and estimated discordance in AA in pairs of monozygotic twins (for co-relative analyses).

Main Outcomes and Measures:  Drug abuse registration in national medical, criminal, or pharmacy registries.

Results:  This instrumental variable analysis included 934 462 participants (478 341 males and 456 121 females) with a mean (SD) age of 34.7 (4.3) years at a mean follow-up of 19 years. Earlier month of birth was associated with a linear effect on AA, with the regression coefficient per month equaling −0.0225 SDs (95% CI, −0.0231 to −0.0219). Controlling for AA, month of birth had no association with risk of DA (hazard ratio [HR], 1.000; 95% CI, 0.997-1.004). Lower AA had a significant association with risk of subsequent DA registration (HR per SD, 2.33; 95% CI, 2.30-2.35). Instrumental variable analysis produced a substantial but modestly attenuated association (HR, 2.04; 95% CI, 1.75-2.33). Controlling for modest associations between month of birth and parental educational status and DA risk reduced the association to a HR of 1.92 (95% CI, 1.67-2.22). The genetic model applied to the results of co-relative analyses fitted the observed data well and estimated the AA-DA association in monozygotic twins discordant for AA to equal a HR of 1.79 (95% CI, 1.64-1.92).

Conclusions and Relevance:  Two different methodological approaches with divergent assumptions both produced results consistent with the hypothesis that the significant association observed between AA at 16 years of age and risk of DA into middle adulthood may be causal. These results provide empirical support for efforts to improve AA as a means to reduce risk of DA.



WH Economic Adviser Explains Why Obama Can’t Take Credit for Recent Economic Boom

Kevin Hassett, chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, dispelled the notion that former President Barack Obama can claim credit for the recent U.S. economic boom that has occurred during the Trump administration.

“One of the hypotheses that’s been floating around about the economy lately is that the strong economy that we’re seeing is just a continuation of recent trends. And, you know, since we're the nerds at the White House, we decided that this is a testable hypothesis. And so what we can do is we can go out and we can estimate recent trends -- that is, trends that ran in the economy up to the point of the last election -- and then compare the latest data to the recent trends,” he said.

Hassett showed several slides illustrating economic factors like small business optimism, business investment, structures, and equipment investment. Small business optimism, he illustrated, is at near record high, second only to July 1983.

“And so, I think that if you look at this chart, you can see that the first thing is small-business optimism. The middle chart is the percent reporting now as a good time to expand. The last one is the percent expecting higher real sales in six months. I think if you look at any of those, you'd say, ‘Gee, that doesn't really look like the continuation of a recent trend,’” he said.

Business investment is up more than $300 billion over the trend, Hassett noted.

“And I think that if anyone were to assert that the capital spending boom that we're seeing right now was a continuation of the trend that President Trump inherited, then, well, you know, they wouldn't get a high grade in graduate school for that assertion.

Capital goods orders and shipments are up sharply, Hassett illustrated.

“Durable goods orders, capital goods orders -- it's a key part of the economy, and it's one of the factors that we look at most closely because it characterizes, basically, the good-paying jobs, the jobs that affects normal Americans -- blue-collar Americans,” he said.

“And the first chart is core capital goods orders, and the second chart is core capital goods shipments, and if you look at it, the blue again shows a clear downward trajectory and billions of dollars, and then that trajectory reversed itself completely when President Trump was elected. If you were going to assert that the current good news is just the extension of a recent trend, then you'd just simply be factually incorrect,” Hassett said.

Business conditions have also improved sharply, Hassett noted in his chart presentation. Furthermore, new business applications have surged.

“Now, one of the things that I can remember at the American Enterprise Institute talking a lot about before I came in here was the fact that entrepreneurship in America was falling off, and one of the ways we can measure entrepreneurship is that, if you start a new business, that you have to apply for an ID number -- a tax ID number -- for your business,” he said.

“And so, in this chart, we've plotted the EIN applications for new businesses, and if you look at the blue line, they were heading up because we were at a recovery, but there's clear upward trajectory way above the trend at the end,” Hassett said.

Furthermore, he said, prime-age workers are re-entering the labor force and finding jobs, as illustrated by his chart presentation. There’s also improvement in blue collar jobs, Hassett noted. Additionally, blue collar jobs grew 3.3 percent in the year through July, the fastest pace since 1984.

“The next chart is prime-age workers re-entering the labor force, and again, if you look at the trend, one of the things people said when we put out our growth forecast that said that we'd have 3 percent growth was we said that President Trump's policies are going to bring factories back to the U.S., give you the capital spending boom that you saw in the previous chart, and that was going to bring people back into the labor force at precisely the right time,” Hassett said.

“Once again, you can see that there's clear break in the trend, and so, if you see a break in the trend in the capital spending, the new plant formation that gives blue-collar workers their jobs ... then maybe we see a break in the trend in blue-collar workers employment as well, and so this is employment for people in goods-producing industries,” he said.

“If you look, again, at the blue part on the left, you can see that there's a clear downward trend going on in the growth rate of that for President Obama, and then a clear inflection timed almost precisely, once again, at the election. And the notion, again, that somebody might defensively attempt to assert that this is a continuation of the trend is almost laughable if you look at this chart and, you know, look at the rest of them,” Hassett said.

His final chart showed that the growth of private nonresidential fixed investment Is well above projections. It illustrated what the Congressional Budget Office predicted would happen with capital spending back in 2017, what the CBO said in April 2018, and then what actually happened.

“And so, I would assert that if you look at the collective body of evidence, the notion that what we're seeing right now is just a continuation of recent trends is not super defensible,” Hassett said.

“And I think that -- I know that we're in a political time and passions are high, but, as geeky economists, one of the things we have to do is think ahead to what historians will think when they look back at this time,” he said.

“And I can promise you that economic historians will 100 percent accept the fact that there was an inflection at the election of Donald Trump, and that a whole bunch of data items started heading north. They will, of course, argue for a long time about why that happened,” Hassett said.

“In fact, we provided estimates at the time last fall that said that capital spending this year would go up about 11 percent because of the tax cuts. So far, in the first half of the year, capital spending is up 10 percent, and so you don't have to really reach far for a theory of what happened,” he said.

“President Trump deregulated the economy; we've talked about how that affects growth. The tax cuts have had exactly the predicted effect on the economy that's brought businesses back to the U.S., factories back to the U.S., and created jobs for ordinary Americans. It’s clear in the data that there's been a trend break,” Hassett added.



Doctor Shortages Explode Thanks To ObamaCare — Who Could Have Predicted That?

A year before ObamaCare became law, an IBD/TIPP Poll warned that it would lead to doctor shortages because many would quit or retire early. New evidence shows that our warnings were dead on.

A recent report from the Association of Medical Colleges projects doctor shortages of up to 121,300 within the next 12 years. That's a 16% increase from their forecast just last year.

Not only are medical schools having trouble attracting doctors (New York University plans to offer free tuition to its med students), but current physicians are cutting back on patient visits, retiring early or switching careers.

An article in a recent issue of the Mayo Clinic Proceedings says that nearly one in five doctors plan to switch to part-time clinical hours, 27% plan to leave their current practice, and 9% plan to get an administrative job or switch careers entirely.

Another survey found that nearly two-thirds of doctors feel burned out, depressed or both.

This is already having a significant effect on patient access to doctors. A Merritt Hawkins survey of doctors in 15 metro areas found that "average new-patient physician appointment wait times have increased significantly. The average wait time for a physician appointment for the 15 large metro markets surveyed is 24.1 days, up 30% from 2014. "

Getting a new-patient appointment with a family physician, for example, went from an average 19 days in 2014 to almost 30 days in 2017. To get an appointment for a heart checkup with a cardiologist, wait times climbed from seven days in 2009 to 21 days in 2017. For a well-woman exam with an OB/GYN, they went from 17 days to 26 over those years.

This should not come as a surprise to anyone.

Eight years ago, IBD/TIPP surveyed 1,376 practicing physicians across the country, asking them what they thought about the health reform bill Democrats had been putting together.

The survey found that a surprisingly large share of doctors, 45%, "would consider leaving their practice or taking an early retirement" if Congress passed what ended up as ObamaCare. (To read more about ObamaCare, click here.)

The survey generated plenty of attention — most of it from Democrats and the mainstream media who desperately wanted to get ObamaCare enacted. They viciously attacked the survey, calling it "shoddy," "out of whack," "ludicrous," "not trustworthy," "shabby" and "garbage."

Turns out it was the critics of the poll who were shoddy, out of whack and not trustworthy.

Subsequent surveys proved the IBD/TIPP poll right, including one taken in 2015 by the Mayo Clinic that found 54% of doctors suffering burnout, and a 2016 survey that found just over half say they participate in ObamaCare plans.

Obama Mandates and Doctor Shortages

One of the big drivers of doctor exits, by the way, is the Obama administration's "electronic health records" mandate, which was supposed to vastly improve the quality and efficiency of care.

It's had the opposite effect. A Mayo Clinic survey found that the EHR mandate is reducing efficiency, increasing costs and paperwork hassles, and pushing more doctors to quit or retire early.

A Harris Poll found that 59% of doctors say the current EHR system foisted on them by the Obama administration needs "a complete overhaul," and 40% say it imposes more challenges than benefits.

ObamaCare continued what had been a long and sorry trend in health care. Government-imposed rules designed to fix some problem in the system instead generated mountains of new administrative work.

The result has been that while the number of physicians in the country has climbed modestly over the past three decades, the number of health care administrators exploded.

Driving doctors out of the medical profession and exacerbating doctor shortages was not what Obama promised when he started "reforming" health care. But it is what his heavy-handed government interventions are producing. Don't say we didn't warn you.



The U.S. economy is a gift that keeps on giving

Appalachian Power recently announced utility rate cuts for more than 500,000 Americans. The West Virginia-based energy provider estimates the total rate reduction will come out to roughly $50 million, meaning customers’ monthly bills will decrease about six percent for the average residential account.

What explains the drop? The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed last December. Because of its lower federal tax bill, Appalachian Power can afford to slash rates and pass along its tax savings to working Americans who desperately need financial relief.

This story is playing out all across the country. Because of federal tax cuts, more than 665 U.S. employers can afford to help the Middle Class American workers in the form of pay raises, 401(k) increases, bonuses, and other employee benefits. Job creators are also taking advantage of their beefed-up budgets to expand hiring, extending career opportunities to thousands upon thousands of Americans who couldn’t find them years ago.

Appalachian Power’s utility rate reductions comprise only the tip of the iceberg. Wal-Mart issued a $1,000 bonus to employees. Apple will use its tax savings to hire 20,000 new employees, while Kraft Heinz plans to put $1.3 billion toward pre-funding of worker retirement benefit plans. New York-based M&T Bank Corporation focused on bumping up employee paychecks, increasing its base wage from $14 to $16 an hour.

And don’t forget the Republican tax bill’s positive impact on small business, which remains America’s most important employer. The United States is home to more than 30 million small businesses, which employ nearly 60 million workers—half of our private-sector workforce. In fact, small businesses account for 99.9 percent of all U.S. employers.

When they succeed, the U.S. economy flourishes. And they are succeeding!

Because of lower rates and increased deductions, job creators—large and small—now have more resources to invest in business expansion and job creation, bringing undeniable economic prosperity to local communities. The list of tax cut beneficiaries certainly includes America’s largest corporations, but it would be foolish to overlook the likes of neighborhood diners and community banks.

Take it from me: I’m a small business owner. As the president and CEO of Joseph’s Lite Cookies in Florida, I run a family-owned, sugar-free cookie business. We bake more than 12 million sugar-free cookies a day. And thanks to the tax cuts, we’re now experimenting with new product lines including sugar-free pancake syrup.

For years, I sent as much as 50 percent of my business income to the government—federal, state, and local. As the owner of a pass-through small business, my business income was taxed as personal income at the top federal rate of 39.6 percent, on top of the state and local tax burden.

But the future is now brighter—because of our tax savings. Thanks to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, I not only awarded four-figure raises to key employees, but also purchased new computer systems and created new product packaging for international expansion.

The bottom line is this: When you help job creators, you are helping those who depend on them—not millionaires and billionaires, but everyday Americans in need of a leg up. That’s the way the cookie crumbles.



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, September 12, 2018

US threatens to sanction Hague war crimes judges

The United States has said it will sanction, arrest and prosecute judges of the International Criminal Court if they charge Americans who served in Afghanistan with war crimes.

John Bolton, President Trump’s hawkish national security adviser, also vowed to punish any foreign government that helped the court to hold Americans or Israelis to account for alleged war crimes including torture.

He repeated a State Department announcement from earlier yesterday shutting the Palestine Liberation Organisation office in Washington, effectively the Palestinian embassy, as punishment for its calls for Israel to be investigated by the court in the Hague.

Judges are considering whether to open formal investigations into alleged war crimes by Israel in Gaza and Americans in Afghanistan.

“The United States will use any means necessary, including force, to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court,” Mr Bolton told the right-wing Federalist Society.

He proposed banning the court’s judges and prosecutors from entering the US, sanctioning any funds they had in the country and pursuing them through the American courts. He also called on the US to negotiate binding agreements with allies prohibiting them from surrendering Americans to the Hague and warned countries co-operating with the court that they could find American aid funds and military assistance cut off as a result.

Mr Bolton added that the US would let the court “die on its own”.



Trump administration orders closure of PLO office in Washington

The Trump administration on Monday ordered the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington, saying that the PLO “has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel.”

The closure was announced by the State Department shortly before White House national security adviser John Bolton, in his first major policy speech, threatened U.S. punishment for individuals and countries that cooperate with the International Criminal Court, where the Palestinians have lodged complaints against Israel.

“The United States supports a direct and robust peace process,” Bolton said, “and we will not allow the ICC, or any other organization, to constrain Israel’s right to self-defense.”

The PLO is recognized by most of the world as the “legitimate representative” of Palestinians. Its office in Washington — while not recognized as an embassy, since there is no recognition of a Palestinian state — is one of the few Palestinian vehicles for communication with the levers of U.S. power. It has survived repeated political and legislative calls to shut it down, across decades of unsuccessful U.S. efforts to forge a peace agreement between Palestinians and Israelis.

But Monday’s order to shutter it within 30 days comes amid the Trump administration’s systematic chipping way at the core tenets of Palestinian aspirations for any negotiations and its ramping up of financial pressure on the Palestinian Authority that governs the West Bank.

Late last year, President Trump declared U.S. recognition of the contested city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. This year, the State Department canceled most U.S. aid funding to the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Late last month, in a move that effectively dismissed any Palestinian right of return to contested land, the administration called for a redefinition of Palestinian refu­gee status and said the United States — long the largest individual donor — would no longer fund the U.N. refu­gee aid program. Israel rejects any “right of return,” and considers the demand a main stumbling block to peace.

Last week, the administration said it would withdraw $25 million in support for six East Jerusalem hospitals that are primarily used by Palestinians. Largely church-run, they traditionally serve as the main providers of care for those referred for treatment not available in the West Bank and Gaza.

The Palestinians say those measures are designed to lay the groundwork for a yet-to-be-revealed U.S. peace proposal that they charge is already rigged in Israel’s favor. Since the Jerusalem announcement, they have refused to meet with U.S. negotiators, led by White House senior aide and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner.

In its statement justifying the PLO closure, the State Department said that far from cooperating, “the PLO has condemned a U.S. peace plan they have not yet seen and refused to engage with the U.S. government with respect to peace efforts and otherwise.” Although Trump has often declared “progress” in the secretive compiling of what Kushner and others have said would be a “comprehensive” plan, its release has repeatedly been delayed.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat called the measure the continuation of a policy of “collective punishment” by the administration. “These people have decided to stand on the wrong side of history by protecting war criminals and destroying the two-state solution,” he said.

The United States, he said, is not “part of the peace process” and does not even have the right to “sit in the room” during any negotiations. Erekat dismissed U.S. officials such as David Friedman, the ambassador to Israel, as a “group of settlers” pursuing a right-wing Israeli agenda.

Numerous Palestinian officials have said that the United States can no longer be an “honest broker” for peace. Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO’s executive committee, described Monday’s action as a form of “crude and vicious blackmail” and “clear proof of American collusion with Israel’s occupation.”

The White House has been “very upfront throughout the process and the fact that we want to see peace, we want to have those conversations, we want to help broker that deal,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. “Certainly, we have a great deal of support with our friend and ally in Israel. But again, we are as committed today as we’ve ever been to the peace process.”

The announcement is likely to be widely welcomed by the Israeli government, which was on holiday Monday to mark Rosh Hashanah.



The myth of a New Nazism

In June, former UK prime minister and Labour leader Tony Blair warned that today’s rising tide of populism risked ‘a return to the 1930s’. He is far from alone in drawing such an analogy. Over the past two years, since the election of Donald Trump in the US, and the Brexit vote in the UK, a flurry of op-eds, endless political speeches and countless books have all made a similar claim: that just as the institutions of liberal democracy nurtured, and then fell to, Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers’ Party, so too might our institutions nurture and fall to contemporary fascists in populist clothing.

Yet just how accurate is this analogy? It certainly does a service for those seeking to delegitimise the Trump or Brexit votes, but does it do a disservice to history? To answer these questions, we decided to speak to associate professor of history Udi Greenberg, author of the superb The Weimar Century: German Émigrés and the Ideological Foundations of the Cold War, and, with Daniel Bessner, co-author of the essay ‘The Weimar Analogy’.

spiked review: Do you think the Weimar analogy – that, effectively, today’s populists are yesterday’s fascists – obscures the historical specificity of the rise of Nazis?

Udi Greenberg: Every analogy has its limits, but that doesn’t mean analogies can’t be useful. The question is how we use it and to what purpose, and I think the usage of the Weimar analogy for our specific moment is more distracting than helpful. That is in part because the differences between the fall of the Weimar Republic and the populist surge today far outweigh the similarities.

For a start, the collapse of the Weimar Republic happened in the midst of the worst economic crisis of the 20th century, when a third of the potential workforce was unemployed. Nothing on the scale of that economic calamity is happening today. Yes, the rise of populism is still tied to important economic transformations that have happened in the past two decades, but these do not amount to anything of the order of the Great Depression.

The analogy between today and the rise of the Nazis obscures far more than it illuminates

The Weimar Republic also fell because the fascist movement used mass violence on the streets and decimated democratic and socialist, left-wing political forces. We have not seen anything similar to that today. Even the despicable violent march of white supremacists in Charlottesville in Virginia last summer, which rightfully drew so much media attention, was nothing like the violence that erupted in the streets of Germany and other European countries in the 1930s.

So it seems to me the analogy between today and the rise of the Nazis obscures far more than it illuminates.

review: Did the intense class conflict of the 1920s and 1930s not also play a considerable role? Bolshevism, in light of the Russian Revolution, was considered a real threat, certainly in light of the Munich Soviet of 1918-19. There was so much to frighten certain sections of German society towards the National Socialists.

Greenberg: That is very accurate. The politics of the 1920s and 1930s in Europe were defined perhaps more than anything by anti-Communism, by a fear of a potential popular Communist uprising, the fear of a violent transformation of society along the lines of the Soviet model. Nothing of this kind is really in operation today in our political culture. The rise of fascism was an explicitly right-wing response to the rise of militant Communism. And that makes it very, very different from the rise of populism today.

Finally, in terms of the historical specificity of the rise of the Nazis, political life in the 1920s and 1930s was shaped by the experience of mass war. Entire nations and whole generations experienced war firsthand. The formative experience of almost all the leaders of fascist movements in Germany and elsewhere was fighting as soldiers in the First World War. The leaders of populist movements today do not have any experience of military conflict. War is not an important experience for them. It is a very distant memory, if indeed it is a memory at all in our political culture today.

review: There was also the sense then that war, and not just in the context of German nationalism, was almost a spiritually rejuvenating process, wasn’t there?

Greenberg: Indeed, fascist theory glorified war as a transcendental, spiritual experience that transformed the soul. Fascists and semi-fascist art celebrated the experience of war. War was a major trope in fascist ideology, even in its depiction of a future classless society, in which the working class and the middle class worked together just as they had done during the First World War. This is something that is very foreign to the rhetoric or experiences of, say, Viktor Orban or Donald Trump, neither of whom has served in combat (or in the case of Trump, in the military at all).

review: What do you make of the argument that democracy was experienced almost as foreign imposition on the authoritarian body of German nationalism? After all, Germany’s transformation into a modern nation state in the second half of the 19th century was undertaken by Otto von Bismarck, a Prussian junker and monarchist, who famously declared ‘I am not a democrat’.

Greenberg: There is a long and very important debate among historians about how deep or shallow democratic culture was in German politics in the 1920s and 1930s. For a long time many assumed that because Germany was founded by a conservative militarist who co-opted nationalist and democratic sentiments in the 19th century, its democracy was therefore weak and easy to topple. But over the past couple of decades, an important group of scholars has challenged this narrative, arguing that Germany did in fact have a very vibrant democratic political life, with meaningful elections and parliamentary debates. And that in the late 19th century and early 20th century, people voted in very high numbers for parties that competed fairly peaceably with one another before and after the First World War. As a result, parliament became more and more important as time progressed. It is one of the reasons why, after the First World War, when the German monarchy collapsed, the expectation among Germans was that it would be replaced by a republic, not a military dictatorship. And that was because German citizens had been socialised into democratic norms, and took it for granted that that was the next step for politics.

The politics of the 1920s and 1930s in Europe were defined more than anything by anti-Communism

In some ways, scholars of this school argue that what truly made democracy in Germany so weak was that it was very polarised throughout the 1920s. The fascists and the Nazis were able to appropriate democratic language, gestures and ideas for what we would see as very undemocratic ends. So, for example, the leaders of the Nazi party all came from very humble backgrounds. They were not military generals or aristocrats. Hitler himself spoke with a working-class German accent. So much of the Nazis’ appeal rested on their claim to be the real democracy, the force that was really giving the people control over politics in a way that was dramatically different from the Prussian aristocrats and militarists of the 19th century.

So there is an ongoing debate as to how important the militarist foundations of the German state was versus how robustly democratic it was. This democratic culture, and its appropriation by the Nazis, is key to understanding the rise of fascism.

review: But that is not to say that the Nazis rose to power because of democracy, is it?

Greenberg: No. As historians know, the Nazis never actually managed to win a majority in free and open elections. The largest share of the vote they ever received, in 1932, was about a third. The reason they were able to secure power was because of the active support of conservatives, the aristocrats and militarists, who sided with them in parliament, and, most importantly, because they were using mass violence and intimidation, exiling and murdering their opponents. This is how they came to power, through ruling-class support and force, not because of free and democratic elections.

review: What is interesting about the ‘Weimar Analogy’ piece is that you were both able to bring out a far more telling analogy between then and now, and that is in the response to the rise of fascism, and the response to today’s populist revolt.

Greenberg: Yes, what prompted Professor Bessner and me to write this piece was that the over-reliance on the fascist analogy would lead us down the same path taken by pro-democratic and anti-fascist thinkers in the 1940s, like Hans Spier and Karl Loewenstein, both of whom fled Germany to the US in the 1930s. They came to the conclusion that fascism proved that democracy could not be trusted. And that for democracy to survive, the state had to curtail some freedoms.

This line of thinking, this idea of militant democracy, which proved very influential in the US, led to the creation of very undemocratic, unaccountable institutions like the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Council in the US. It was an ideological tendency that also led to the dramatic limiting of political horizons in postwar Europe.

Most famously, in West Germany for example, the Supreme Court outlawed the Communist Party in 1956. And although the Communists were not a significant force in West Germany, the logic of militant democracy – and the West German Supreme Court used this very term when outlawing the Communists – rendered certain political visions illegitimate, and banished them from political discourse. And this created very elitist and what we would call anti-democratic institutions and norms in the 1940s and 1950s.

Anti-fascist political theorists in the 1940s and 1950s claimed that in order to achieve stable democracy you need to limit people’s involvement in politics

This does not mean to say that everyone who invokes the Weimar or Nazi analogy immediately ends up an anti-democrat, but Professor Bessner and me worry that we could eventually end up in a similar place. We are both scholars of the Cold War, and we both studied how political theorists in the 1940s and 1950s claimed that in order to achieve stable democracy you need to limit political activism and people’s involvement in politics. And we were worried that the same logic might lead us in the same direction today.

In our view, the right, progressive response to the contemporary moment should be a doubling down in our commitment to democracy, limiting technocracy and increasing democratic and grassroots involvement in politics.

review: Yet it does seem that the predominant response to the populist moment, certainly in left-wing and liberal circles in both the US and the UK, has been to make a stronger appeal to technocracy, to a rule by expertise.

Greenberg: That is true for some, certainly. It has actually been developing since at least the 1990s, with the so-called left moving more and more in the direction of technocracy, and trying to achieve progress through technocracy, rather than through more popular control of the economy. And I think that is born of a deep disappointment with the masses, and a belief that the masses cannot be trusted to make the right economic decisions. And that tendency developed and deepened right through to the Obama administration, which was very much defined by technocracy.

The reason this recent development on the left stood out for us was that too many on the left today make the same argument as the militant democrats – both contend that technocracy is the best means to preserve democracy. So, if the masses are not to be trusted, then you have to transfer as much power as possible into the hands of technocrats, who know what’s good for the masses, who will make the right call. And you have to shield technocrats from democratic accountability precisely to make those calls.

We have seen this logic operating in the past two decades among centrist politicians, and political elites more generally. And we were worried that the rise of populism on the right will further exacerbate and intensify this technocratic way of thinking. We believe that the left should adopt a very different model of thinking. In some ways, we believe that the logic of militant democracy and technocracy is precisely what led us to where we are now.

review: How difficult will it be for the left to embrace what used to be its own radical democratic heritage, given the extent to which it has turned away from, and often against, the masses?

Greenberg: It’s certainly not going to be easy, but democracy has never been easy. Each generation of political theorists and activists has to reimagine and rethink democracy, and chart new opportunities and possibilities. I believe the crisis of the past few years, and the rise of the radical right in Europe and the US is also an opportunity to do precisely that — to rethink the possibilities of the left. To think of its past, of what it got right, and what it got wrong, and maybe chart new possibilities. We already see it happening in grassroots politics in Britain and in the US, and we can only hope it continues to go in this direction.



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, September 11, 2018

Voltaren (diclofenac) gives you heart attacks -- or does it?

Alternative U.S. brand names: Cambia, Cataflam, Zipsor, Zorvolex.

Between 1970 and 1990, I spent 20 years energetically involved in psychological research, with over 200 papers published in the academic journals to show for it eventually.  I stopped doing it and turned to studies of history instead when I became convinced that I was just about the only one doing serious psychological research.  I concluded that almost all of my colleagues were just playing clever games.  They were routinely failing to take the basic methodological precautions -- such as random sampling -- that that would enable their results to have any degree of generalizability.

Now many years later that conclusion has been resoundingly confirmed by the "replication crisis" -- the finding that up to 70% of the findings from psychological research failed to show up again when the relevant research was repeated, which was a complete blow to any claims of generalizability for the research findings concerned.

From quite early on, however, I had always had an interest in medical research.  I assumed that with the stakes being higher there the level of caution in the research would be better.  I even contributed a few papers to the medical literature myself.  And from 2005 to 2014  I ran a blog that took critical looks at the latest medical research.  I again found what I had found in psychological research -- a great lack of the precautions which would give you any confidence in the findings.  In fact, psychological research seemed more robust, in that larger effect sizes were generally demonstrated.  The tiniest effect in medical research seems to generate vast claims.  And the replication crisis has hit medical research too -- confirming that most medical findings are not representative of reality either.

And I am afraid that the latest piece of research (below) that I look at is just as hopeless. The authors did a lot of work and had available an excellent body of data but they took almost no methodological precautions whatever.  For epidemiological research to be assigned any confidence, alternative explanations for its correlations have to be ruled out.  That can never be conclusively done but reasonable confidence can be reached.  And at a minimum, the Big Five personality variables have to be controlled for plus the big seven demographic variables (Race, sex, age, education, income, IQ and self-assigned social class).  Any one of those factors can intrude into the findings.

Needless to say, I know of NOT ONE piece of medical research which has used all those controls.  One might have hoped that many studies would at least have incorporated controls for the big two demographics -- Income (where poverty has wide-ranging negative effect on health) and IQ (where high IQ has wide-ranging positive effects on health).  I know of only one study where those two variable were considered -- as part of a wide range of demographic variables. That study found that IQ accounted for more of the variance than all of the rest of the demographics put together.  So the importance of basic controls is beyond dispute.

The study below is also epidemiological.  It is an "emulated trial design" so displayed some caution but is almost totally lacking in real controls.  And, as such, one or more pesky "third" factors could have intruded into the results. The authors seem to have been so excited by the wonderful statistics made available to them by the authoritarian Danish state, that they abandoned basic caution.  Not even demographic controls seem to have been applied.

The issue with this study, as with many epidemiological studies, is to ask WHO it was who fell into the target group.  WHY did some people take Voltaren while other people took other drugs?  What put people into the category of Voltaren users?  Were they, for instance, poor people?  The study authors are silent on such questions.  Had they showed a reasonable level of research caution, they would at least have looked at the demographics for Voltaren use.  Had they found that Voltaren users were mostly poor people, we could have concluded that the study was just one of many which routinely show poor people to have worse health.  The absence of such information means, I am sorry to say, that the results are uninterpretable.

I know nothing about how Voltaren is perceived in Denmark and who takes it.  My only stay in Denmark lasted only for a matter of hours.  But I can offer an hypothesis for what lay behind the study results below based on my knowledge of how Voltaren is perceived in Australia, where I happily live.

And a crucial (and correct) thing that everybody tells you here  is that you cannot use Voltaren for much more than a week without risking an upset stomach.  And so good middle class people like me observe that warning. If we take it at all we take it only briefly.  But medical warnings often go in one ear and out the other, particularly -- you guessed it -- among poor people.  So I guess that Voltaren is used at some sort of conventional rate by incautious people, whereas more cautious (smarter?) people use other drugs.

So I suspect that the bad health outcomes in Voltaren users reflect the characteristics of its users rather than the characteristics of the drug.  There is no way of separating the two interpretations

Diclofenac use and cardiovascular risks: series of nationwide cohort studies

Morten Schmidt et al.


Objective: To examine the cardiovascular risks of diclofenac initiation compared with initiation of other traditional non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, initiation of paracetamol, and no initiation.

Design: Series of 252 nationwide cohort studies, each mimicking the strict design criteria of a clinical trial (emulated trial design).

Setting: Danish, nationwide, population based health registries (1996-2016).

Participants: Individuals eligible for inclusion were all adults without malignancy; schizophrenia; dementia; or cardiovascular, kidney, liver, or ulcer diseases (that is, with low baseline risk). The study included 1 370 832 diclofenac initiators, 3 878 454 ibuprofen initiators, 291 490 naproxen initiators, 764 781 healthcare seeking paracetamol initiators matched by propensity score, and 1 303 209 healthcare seeking non-initiators also matched by propensity score.

Main outcome measures: Cox proportional hazards regression was used to compute the intention to treat hazard ratio (as a measure of the incidence rate ratio) of major adverse cardiovascular events within 30 days of initiation.

Results: The adverse event rate among diclofenac initiators increased by 50% compared with non-initiators (incidence rate ratio 1.5, 95% confidence interval 1.4 to 1.7), 20% compared with paracetamol or ibuprofen initiators (both 1.2, 1.1 to 1.3), and 30% compared with naproxen initiators (1.3, 1.1 to 1.5). The event rate for diclofenac initiators increased for each component of the combined endpoint (1.2 (1.1 to 1.4) for atrial fibrillation/flutter, 1.6 (1.3 to 2.0) for ischaemic stroke, 1.7 (1.4 to 2.0) for heart failure, 1.9 (1.6 to 2.2) for myocardial infarction, and 1.7 (1.4 to 2.1) for cardiac death) as well as for low doses of diclofenac, compared with non-initiators. Although the relative risk of major adverse cardiovascular events was highest in individuals with low or moderate baseline risk (that is, diabetes mellitus), the absolute risk was highest in individuals with high baseline risk (that is, previous myocardial infarction or heart failure). Diclofenac initiation also increased the risk of upper gastrointestinal bleeding at 30 days, by approximately 4.5-fold compared with no initiation, 2.5-fold compared with initiation of ibuprofen or paracetamol, and to a similar extent as naproxen initiation.

Conclusions: Diclofenac poses a cardiovascular health risk compared with non-use, paracetamol use, and use of other traditional non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.



Leftism as a Secular Religion

Dennis Prager

One of the most important books of the 20th century—it remains a best-seller 59 years after it was first published—is “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl.

Marx saw man’s primary drive as economic, and Freud saw it as sex. But Frankl believed—correctly, in my opinion—that the greatest drive of man is meaning.

One can be poor and chaste and still be happy. But one cannot be bereft of meaning and be happy—no matter how rich or how sexually fulfilled one may be.

The greatest provider of meaning for the vast majority of human beings has been religion. In the West, Christianity (and on a smaller scale, Judaism) provided nearly all people with the Bible, a divine or divinely inspired text to guide their lives; a religious community; answers to life’s fundamental questions; and, above all, meaning: A good God governs the universe; death does not end everything; and human beings were purposefully created.

In addition, Christianity gave Christians a project: Spread the Good News, and bring the world to Christ. And Judaism gave Jews a project: Live by God’s laws of ethics and holiness and be “a light unto the nations.”

All this has disappeared for most Westerners. The Bible is regarded as myth, silly at best, malicious at worst—there is no God, certainly not the morality-giving and judging God of the Bible; there is no afterlife; human beings are a purposeless coincidence with no more intrinsic purpose than anything else in the universe. In short: This is all there is.

So, if the need for meaning is the greatest of all human needs and that which supplied meaning no longer does, what are millions of Westerners supposed to do?

The answer is obvious: Find meaning elsewhere. But where? Church won’t provide it. Nor will marriage and family—increasingly, secular individuals in the West eschew marriage, and even more do not have children. It turns out, to the surprise of many, that marriage and children are religious values, not human instincts.

In the West today, love and marriage (and children) go together like a horse and a carriage for faithful Catholics, Orthodox Jews, religious Mormons, and evangelical Protestants—not for the secular. I know many religious families with more than four children; I do not know one secular family with more than four children (and the odds are you don’t either).

The answer to the great dearth of meaning left by the death of biblical religion in the West is secular religion. The first two great secular substitutes were communism and Nazism. The first provided hundreds of millions of people with meaning; the latter provided most Germans and Austrians with meaning.

In particular, both ideologies provided the intellectual class with meaning. No groups believed in communism and Nazism more than intellectuals. Like everyone else, secular intellectuals need meaning, and when this need was combined with intellectuals’ love of ideas (especially new ideas—”new” is almost erotic in the power of its appeal to secular intellectuals), communism and Nazism became potent ideologies.

With the fall of communism and the awareness of the extent of the communist mass murder (about 100 million noncombatants) and mass enslavement (virtually all individuals in communist countries—except for Communist Party leaders—are essentially enslaved), communism, or at least the word “communism,” fell into disrepute.

So, what were secular intellectuals to do once communism became “the god that failed”?

The answer was to create another left-wing secular religion. And that is what leftism is: a secular meaning-giver to supplant Christianity. Left-wing religious expressions include Marxism, communism, socialism, feminism, and environmentalism.

Leftism’s guiding principles—notwithstanding the principles of those Christians and Jews who claim to be religious yet hold leftist views—are the antitheses of Judaism and Christianity’s guiding principles.

Judaism and Christianity hold that people are not basically good. Leftism holds that people are basically good. Therefore, Judaism and Christianity believe evil comes from human nature, and leftism believes evil comes from capitalism, religion, the nation-state (i.e. nationalism), corporations, the patriarchy, and virtually every other traditional value.

Judaism and Christianity hold that utopia on Earth is impossible—it will only come in God’s good time as a Messianic age or in the afterlife. Leftism holds that utopia is to be created here on Earth—and as soon as possible. That is why leftists find America so contemptible. They do not compare it to other nations but to a utopian ideal—a society with no inequality, no racism, no differences between the sexes (indeed, no sexes), and no greed in which everything important is obtained free.

Judaism and Christianity believe God and the Bible are to instruct us on how to live a good life and how the heart is the last place to look for moral guidance. Leftists have contempt for anyone who is guided by the Bible and its God, and substitute the heart and feelings for divine instruction.

There may be a clash of civilizations between the West and Islam, but the biggest clash of civilizations is between the West and the left.



Democrat-led cities now "Third world"

AGEING and defunct infrastructure in some of America’s cities has lead to a lack of basic services, leaving residents in what some have described as “third world” conditions.

About 50,000 Detroit public school students across 106 schools will start the school year this week without access to flowing drinking water from taps and bubblers after the discovery of elevated levels of lead or copper in the water supply.

It is the latest setback in the state of Michigan which is already dealing with the consequences of contaminated tap water in Flint and other communities.

With the taps turned off, Detroit students and staff will be relying on bottled water that will cost about US$200,000 over two months, after which the district will probably seek bids for a longer-term contract, said Detroit Public Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti.

Given the problems in other parts of the state, some students have long avoided the public water fountains. “There has been an undertone of not trusting the water to begin with,” Mr Vitti told The Associated Press.

The old plumbing and water infrastructure is decaying, becoming dangerous and local cash-strapped governments are struggling to find a solution.

Detroit is not the first major school district to switch to bottled water. The 49,000 student district in Portland, Oregon, turned off its fixtures in 2016 after a scandal over high levels of lead in the water at almost every school — a problem that took two years to fix.

Water at most schools in the 80,000-student Baltimore districts have been shut off for more than a decade.

Last year, Detroit mother LeeAndria Hardison, 39, saw brown water coming from fountains at the school attended by her teenage son.  “I’ve been sending water to school every day with his name on it — five bottles of water in a cooling pack,” she said. “He was only allowed to drink that water.”

The entities that provide and distribute Detroit’s drinking water — the Great Lakes Water Authority and the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department — said it meets and surpasses federal and state standards, and the district’s problems are due to ageing plumbing.

In response to a Reuters story about the water crisis in Detroit, one US resident whose Twitter profile describes her as living in Nashville, expressed dismay at her country. “WTF is wrong with country? We give tax cuts to the rich that explode the deficit & in Detroit we have kids in schools with no water. We are becoming a third world country. The greed is mind boggling,” she wrote on Twitter.

She is far from the only one to make the third world comparison.  Actor Alyssa Milano shared a Washington Post story about Detroit schools turning off their potentially dangerous water and was met with comments of equal anger from social media users.

“Corrupt and incompetent Democratic leadership for generations has turned the city of Detroit into a third world sh**hole,” replied a man from Ohio.

In Flint, Michigan, residents have been dealing with the issue of toxic water for more than four years.

The consequences of the problem are laid bare in a new book by journalist Anna Clark titled The Poisoned City: Flint’s Water and the American Urban Tragedy. “America is built on lead. Networks of ageing pipes made from the bluish-grey metal bring water into millions of US homes,” she wrote. “But when lead, a poison to the nervous system, gets into drinking water — as happened in Flint, Michigan — the heavy metal can cause irreparable harm.”

In the US, only eight states require lead-in-water testing in schools and Michigan is not among them.

Stephanie Chang, a Detroit Democrat, said the inaction is disappointing given the serious health consequences of being exposed to lead. “It only makes sense to test water on a regular basis in our schools and in childcare centres and in other places where there are vulnerable populations,” she said.



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, September 10, 2018

Obama bureaucrat critiques Trump health care

Once you get past the introductory Trump abuse (which I omit below), Donald M. Berwick makes an intelligently-stated case to the effect that American health care has been damaged by actions of the Trump administration. Like all Leftist writing, however his leaves out half the story.

He is probably right in saying that the administration has been hasty in winding back some aspects of Obamacare but he does not ask why.  His default explanation appears to be that the Trump adminstration is evil, a typically brainless Leftist claim.  What he takes no account of is that the Donks rammed through the ACA legislation with not one skerrick of bipartisan consultation or support.  They treated the GOP and its reservations as beneath contempt.  What did they expect of that?  What they now have to live with is the GOP treating their baby with contempt. It's not Christian but in the real world contempt breeds contempt. Conservatives often do turn the other cheek to Leftist attacks on them but the Left cannot expect that to go on forever.

And in his third point he says :"Modern health care, for all of its flaws, espouses and generally tries to act on science as its guide. Much of the US public is not so sure. The reasons for that doubt lie beyond the scope of this essay, but the effects on public debate and political positioning are strong"

He is right about that but again he glides over the causes of it.  The current "replication crisis" in medical and psychological research found that up to 70% of research findings were "unreplicable" or "wrong" in layman's terms.  What are people supposed to make of that?

And then, on top of that, we have the vast global warming hoax that goes on despite scientific findings against it purely on the basis that "the experts say so".  Throughout the world, the conservative side of politics mostly thinks global warming is a lot of hokum.  How can you expect respect for science in that situation?  It is thoroughly deplorable that science has become so disrespected but it is not conservatives who have created that disrespect.

His final point is that the intervention of government is needed to ensure proper healthcare for all.  He is probably unaware that libertarians challenge that.  In the Victorian era very good health insurance was available to the worker -- though friendly societies.  Most occupations had a body associated with a particular occupation to which they could subscribe for a modest sum.  And if the subscriber got sick he could go to the society doctor and get treated for free.

But there were always some feckless people who did not contribute and their plight caused a gradual intrusion into the issue by way of government hospitals being set up which would treat the uninsured.  And that binary system continues to this day in most countries.

In Australia, where I live, the contrast between the two systems is stark.  As with all "free" hospital systems, care is rationed in non-monetary ways, principally by waiting lists -- so much so that some people die while waiting. In my State (Queensland) there are in some cases even waiting lists to get on waiting lists.  There was one notorious case in Queensland where a man waited seven years for a cataract operation, during which time he could not see well enough to read and TV was rather mysterious too.  The impact on his life of such poor "care" was obviously severe.

But 40% of the Australian population is privately insured, despite the availability of the "free" system. They have heard many reports of what the free system is like.  And they get private care as good as anything in the world.  When I needed a cataract removed, I had private insurance so waited barely a week for an appointment to a private eye hospital and my treatment was brilliant. I experienced minimal discomfort both during and after the procedure.  And when I got a sudden and very painful attack of kidney stones I was on the operating table same day  -- and paid zero "deductibles". So there is an alternative to government healthcare and and it makes government healthcare look prehistoric.

But what about the 60% of Australians who do not take out private insurance?  Health insurance is very cheap in Australia -- from as little as $150 per month -- so even people in humble employment  can afford it.  Many people on low incomes choose to spend that $150 on beer and cigarettes instead but that is their choice.  They get the "free" government care.  And the Australian system is well settled and accepted. It is not a political football, as it is in the USA.  Any propositions to change it are greeted with widespread outrage.

So Dr Berwick would do well to broaden his horizons. Government healthcare is and always will be inferior healthcare.  It is best avoided.  Working on ways to get more people into private health insurance is the logical course to pursue.  Obamacare theoretically did that but in practice it has de-insured many -- with rocketing premiums and stratospheric deductibles.

When I served as administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicare Services, hardly a day passed—and never a week—without a direct request or instruction from a congressional office or White House official bearing on clinically relevant decisions, such as coverage for a new technology, payment levels for a care sector, interpretation of a Medicaid regulation, classification of a hospital as “rural” or “critical access,” measurement and reporting of quality, or, most famously, coverage for physician counseling on end-of-life care options. The private lobbyists were equally relentless, pleading their cases, usually for more money, directly or, more often, indirectly through congressional offices.

The politicization of decisions affecting clinical care was not confined to one political party. Conservative members of Congress pressed against almost every implementation detail of the ACA, with nary a single opening for rational, authentic inquiry about facts and logic. As quickly as they could, Republicans slashed the ACA investments in preventive care and services. Political opponents of President Obama promulgated uninformed and frankly ridiculous accusations about my agenda and beliefs as CMS Administrator but almost never engaged in any serious conversation about how to protect and improve the health of patients.

But also, one of the most liberal members of the Senate accompanied me to his technology-rich state in part to meet with a bevy of executives of medical equipment manufacturers, who explained the value of their products—in effect, a trade show for an agency head hosted by a US senator.

Purists might ask simply to “get politics out of health care.” That would be nice, but it is quixotic. Today, federal and state governments fund about 50% of all US health care (65% if coverage of government employees and various tax breaks are included).4 That proportion has increased from 31% in 1965.5 It would be inconceivable—indeed, irresponsible—for that level of public investment in any enterprise not to fall under government oversight, and, in a democracy, with such oversight authority come political pressures.

With government in the picture, politics has at least 4 on-ramps to health care.

First, and biggest, is money. Health care comprises almost one-fifth of the US economy. A nation that values entrepreneurship and protects private profits cannot expect that those motives will fail to engage the enormous financial opportunities through every possible channel of influence. The fragmentation of ownership, governance, and oversight of US health care makes it possible for a vast industry of political pressuring to flourish. With the US commitment, so far, to an enormously complex system of health care payment and provision comes the opportunity for every single organization with an economic stake in health care, whether motivated by private interest or public interest, to find multiple pressure points for influence.

Second is doctrine. The Federalists and Republicans at the birth of the nation became viciously divided as to the proper role of states and the central government. The North and the South became divided, and eventually fought a war, over attitudes toward slavery. Today, public discourse is also riven into factions according to deeply held beliefs about matters no less fundamental than human nature, individual responsibility, and the role of compassion in public affairs. Health care is an inevitable battlefield for that contention. The disputes take shape over laws, regulations, judicial decisions, and other governmental actions about assertions that reflect those underlying doctrines: assertions that health care is a human right; that richer people ought, through government, to help poorer people; that the rights of women should prevail over those of the unborn; and that health status is as much a collective responsibility as an individual one.

Third is trust in science and institutions. Modern health care, for all of its flaws, espouses and generally tries to act on science as its guide. Much of the US public is not so sure.6 The reasons for that doubt lie beyond the scope of this essay, but the effects on public debate and political positioning are strong. The current administration in Washington, exploiting public doubt, has in many scientific sectors, including medicine, weakened the commitment of agencies to use scientific evidence in exercising their duties.7 This has chilled action and research on such topics as environmental threats to health, US Food and Drug Administration guidance, and reports on risks from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.8 Weakening science through political action ultimately weakens care and harms patients.

Fourth, and finally, politics enters health care though attitudes toward solidarity. The commitment to mutuality—that government exists as a mechanism for acting on responsibilities for one another—is as deeply embedded in most other western democracies as it is fragile in the United States. The basic credo of physicians—to put the interests of patients before their own—at its best reflects a form of solidarity: that those who are fortunate are duty-bound to help those who are less fortunate. Opponents in Washington criticized me for making the assertion that in a civilized nation, the pursuit of health as a human right must be to some extent redistributional because poverty and ill health are correlated. That that logic could be questioned depends not on data—the data are incontrovertible—but rather on the degree of belief in the concept that ultimately, the nation is of one people, responsible in some measure for each other’s well-being, especially with respect to misfortunes not of a person’s own making. Government, and therefore politics, is the avenue for the expression or the negation of that sense of solidarity.

Physicians who want politics out of health care are going to be disappointed. If they value the principles to which they pledged as healers, then they ignore politics at their peril and their patients’. The sidelines are safe places for neither.



The NYT article: Are Trump's enemies proving his conspiracy theories TRUE?

He always said dark forces were out to get him... now, after revelations of a ‘resistance’ inside the White House, the BBC's JON SOPEL asks if the President has a point

This treacherous article concludes with the self-justification that he or she is part of the ‘quiet resistance’ putting ‘country first’. But listen to an alternative argument. The country went to the polls. Nearly 63 million Americans voted for Trump, and by the rules of the electoral college he was the duly elected President.

And furthermore, no one can say he’s not doing what he promised. Renegotiating trade deals, tougher immigration laws, confronting North Korea, cutting taxes, exiting the Iran nuclear deal, winding back regulations, are exactly what he promised during the campaign.

As Sarah Sanders noted, while it may not always be pretty, Trump’s economic policies are paying dividends, with 200,000 new jobs created, salaries growing at their fastest rate in nine years, and unemployment at a historic low of 3.9 per cent.

So what legitimacy does the writer have in declaring that he or she is the guardian of US democracy? For better or worse, the ballot box is where elections are decided and in November 2016 the American people spoke.



Hate in Politics Today Goes Beyond Anything This Nation Has Ever Experienced

Charlie Daniels

To anybody who will admit the truth, the animosity and downright hate that exists in the political arena goes way past anything this nation has ever experienced before. The vitriol has grown to the point that party power comes before patriotism for many of these jaded partisans, to the point they will fight tooth and nail to defeat things that would be beneficial for the country just because it’s the opposing party’s idea.

They’d literally rather do harm to the people they are sworn to serve than lose any political ground. They develop hyperbolic phrases, “tax cuts for the rich, throw Grandma off the cliff” resorting to kindergarten claptrap, trying to inflate the situation into dire warnings of impending doom to intimidate and terrify the electorate.

The Internal Revenue Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Justice Department have all been politicized, federal officials have been granted sweeping powers which is reminiscent of the motto of Lavrentiy Beria, head of Russian secret police under Joseph Stalin, “Show me the man and I’ll show you the crime.”

We have two standards of justice in America now, as one side is being exposed to the most painstaking, needle in a haystack scrutiny, while the other side is being ignored, even exonerated, while anybody with enough gray matter to walk through a door without bumping his head knows that there’s way too much smoke in the Hillary camp not to be some fire somewhere.

The politicians who defend open borders, at least in my opinion, couldn’t care less about the illegals they so gallantly defend. They just look at them as future voters. Their ideas are so far afield, they can’t win in that arena, so the coordinated complaints against a wall that would go a long way toward preventing illegal border crossing of people, drugs, and no telling what else, is nothing more than importing a loyal political base.

All the passionate appeals from the Democrats about “separating children from their parents” is shouted from the rooftops by people who care not a whit about the millions of unborn children separated from their mother’s womb and from a chance at breathing every year.

If Donald Trump is guilty of treason, collusion with our enemies or any other offense that is detrimental to this nation, I want him tried for it.

Conversely, how can paying a foreign intelligence agent for a dossier filled with cloudy, unverified information, using it and laying the groundwork for the FISA court warrant to mount surveillance on American citizens not be worthy of further investigation?

And how can destroying thousands of documents that have been subpoenaed by Congress not be a crime?

And why has a former CIA Director – who was actually caught on television lying to a congressional committee – not been prosecuted?

Why has the Russian acquisition of America’s uranium under Obama-Clinton not been thoroughly investigated?

And why has Obama’s blocking of the records of Holder’s part in the Fast and Furious debacle not been unsealed?

Andrew America “was never that great” Cuomo, Obama, Hillary Clinton and the preponderance of the progressive elite are globalists. They think America needs to be overhauled, our wealth passed around and our military power blunted.

Before Trump, America, along with practically every other industrialized nation on earth was merrily tripping down the primrose path to globalism. Hillary’s election was to be the lynchpin, the long-awaited consolidation of power, the open borders and legalization of millions of illegal immigrant voters, the appointment of Supreme Court judges that would take care of any little details, that for one reason or another should fall through the legislative cracks.

The cock assuredness of a landslide Hillary victory made some people careless to the point that they left some loose ends, made some glaring mistakes, but never mind, when Hillary got in, there were no worries, everything would be buried so deep it would never be found.

Along comes brash, outspoken, abrasive, unafraid Donald Trump, and the corks went back in the champagne bottles, the balloons were not released, and the strategy hurriedly went from celebration to CYA and bring down this president before he can get the economy hopping, build up the military, move the American Embassy to Jerusalem, banish silly business-killing regulations and attract businesses back to American shores.

The proverbial square peg had inserted itself into the round hole, demanding that we put America first and threw a monkey wrench into globalist aspirations for the foreseeable future.

The resurgence of American manufacturing businesses, tax cuts, fewer regulations, a strong military and an “America First” attitude does not foster globalism.

Being a Bible-believing Christian, I hate globalism with a passion.

Globalism is the kingdom of the antichrist, and it happens when the nations of the world hand their sovereignty and power over to a person, masquerading as an angel of light, who seems to have all the answers to the world’s problems, but is actually the embodiment of evil.

That is the ultimate act of mankind putting their trust in other men rather than Almighty God.

That’s when the term “hell to pay” becomes a reality.

What do you think?

Pray for our troops, our police and the peace of Jerusalem.



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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