Friday, November 09, 2018

You Won’t Hear the Media Say It, But Last Night Trump Made History

While Tuesday night’s elections gave Democrats a majority in the House of Representatives, the media will likely ignore President Donald Trump’s big win in the Senate, where the GOP held onto its majority and is just awaiting the results of extremely close races to see how big that majority is going to be.

Democrats, meanwhile, suffered a devastating loss in the Texas Senate race, with Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke losing to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

Republicans gained three new Republican senators with outright wins in North Dakota, Indiana, Florida and Missouri and likely a fourth in Florida, where Republican Rick Scott appears to have defeated incumbent Bill Nelson, though the winner hadn’t officially been declared as of Wednesday afternoon.

Some of the Democrats who lost might have been hurt for voting against the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

For example, support for incumbent North Dakota Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, who lost to Republican Kevin Cramer, began slipping in the polls after her vote against Trump’s Supreme Court pick.

One thing we know for sure about these midterm elections is that Trump made history with his Senate gains — even if the media isn’t going to say it.

In Twitter posts early Wednesday, Trump quoted conservative political commentator Ben Stein, who had explained the historic significance of the Republican Senate victories Tuesday on Fox Business Network Tuesday night.

“There’s only been five times in the last 105 years that an incumbent president has won seats in the Senate in the off-year election,” said Stein, author of “The Capitalist Code.” “Mr. Trump has magic  about him.”

That’s a detail — and an opinion — that you won’t hear from the establishment media. But Trump was more than happy to publicize Stein’s take.



Republicans Maintain Majority of Governorships

All told, Tuesday featured 36 gubernatorial contests across the nation. All but a handful were relatively perfunctory affairs. It was the exceptions that are of particular interest, as is the fact that Democrats netted an overall pickup of at least seven governorships. Still not bad considering that Republicans were defending 26 of 36 posts.

In perhaps the most-watched race in the country, Democrat Socialist Andrew Gillum lost to Republican Ron DeSantis. Florida is a critical bellwether state, and DeSantis’s victory — combined with outgoing Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s win over incumbent Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson — is a welcome sign. And yet there’s a cloud. Also on Tuesday, Florida restored voting rights to 1.5 million felons, who vote overwhelmingly Democrat. Donald Trump won Florida in 2016 by a little over 100,000 votes.

Neighboring Georgia remains uncalled, as Democrat Socialist Stacey Abrams refuses to concede until “every vote gets counted,” but as we go to press, Republican Brian Kemp leads by nearly 100,000 votes out of almost four million cast. Two factors are at play in the race remaining uncalled. First, Georgia law requires the winner to exceed 50%, which Kemp currently does at 50.5%. Abrams is hoping that absentee and provisional ballots will pull Kemp under that 50% threshold and put the two in a December runoff. Second, and maybe more to the point, Abrams’s entire campaign was built on painting Kemp as a racist vote suppressor. As executive director of the New Georgia Project, she worked to flood Secretary of State Kemp’s office with voter registrations and then insisted he was racist for working to weed out the fraudulent ones. She’s dedicated to keeping that message going.

Notably, Barack Obama hit the trail for both Gillum and Abrams and appears to have come up empty.

Other notable races include Scott Walker’s defeat in Wisconsin. He won two terms and a recall, but he couldn’t keep the streak alive in a state that isn’t as red as Republicans once hoped. Likewise, Kansas turned blue, as incumbent Republican Kris Kobach couldn’t overcome the negative baggage of Sam Brownback’s administration, and Illinois ousted the worst Republican in the country, Bruce Rauner, opting for unified Democrat control under governor-elect J. B. Pritzker. Yet in the Northeast, Republicans held on in Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont, meaning they still hold four of 10 governorships in the region. And Republican Mike Dunleavy flipped Alaska, even after the incumbent independent dropped out and endorsed Democrat Mark Begich.

Much of the nation’s economic progress depends on state administrations, and Republicans will still control a majority of governorships.



1,834 Refugees Admitted in October: 77.7 Percent Christians

The first month of the new fiscal year saw 1,834 refugees admitted to the United States, more than three-quarters of them Christians, as agencies involved in resettlement began operating under the lowest refugee admission cap set by an administration since the Refugee Act was enacted in 1980.

Despite the 30,000 ceiling set for fiscal year 2019 – down from 45,000 in FY 2018 and 85,000 two years earlier – more refugees were admitted during October than during the same month last year (1,248), although significantly fewer than the numbers admitted in October 2016 (9,945) and October 2015 (5,348).

Of the 1,834 newcomers, 1,425 (77.7 percent) were Christians of various denominations, and 362 (19.7 percent) were Muslims (including Sunnis, Shi’ites and Ahmadis.) Ahmadi beliefs are deemed heretical by many mainstream Muslim clerics and outlawed in the criminal code of Pakistan – the country of origin of the 15 Ahmadi refugees admitted in October.

Rounding out the October refugee admissions were 47 non-Christian and non-Muslim refugees, including 17 Buddhists, five animists, four Hindus, three Jews, and several others who gave their religious affiliation as “other” or “none,” according to State Department Refugee Processing Center data.

The countries accounting for the largest contingents of refugees arriving in October were the Democratic Republic of Congo (612 refugees, all but 33 of them Christians), Eritrea (358 refugees, including 107 Muslims), Ukraine (345 refugees, all Christians bar three Jews) and Burma (304 refugees, mostly Christians but including 131 Muslims, 13 Buddhists, five animists and three Hindus.)

The countries of the Central American “northern triangle” accounted for just 28 refugees – 23 from El Salvador, three from Guatemala and two from Honduras. Twenty-five of the 28 were Christians.

From key Islamic countries, October’s arrivals included 34 refugees from Afghanistan (including one Christian and six refugees with “no religion”), 24 from Pakistan (including the 15 Ahmadis and four Christians), six Iraqis (all Muslims), five from Sudan (all Muslims), three from Somalia (all Muslims), two Syrians (both Muslims) and one refugee from Iran (a Christian).

Early last month President Trump signed an executive order setting the ceiling for refugee admissions in FY 2019 at 30,000.

The regional breakdown for the allocations was: 11,000 from Africa, 9,000 from the Near East/South Asia, 4,000 from East Asia, and 3,000 each from Europe/Central Asia and Latin America/Caribbean.

(The order does authorize unallocated places from any region being used to accommodate refugees from other regions.)

According to a report to Congress on proposed refugee admissions for FY 2019, individuals suffering religious persecution in the ten countries currently designated by the State Department as “countries of particular concern” (CPC) for egregious religious freedom violations may be eligible for “priority one” referral by a U.S. Embassy or the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR..

The ten CPC countries are Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Pakistan, which the Trump administration last year placed on a second-tier watch list that falls short of CPC designation, is added to the ten, the report states.

(“Priority one” does not affect the order in which cases for refugee status are processed. Applications in all three “priority” groups undergo the same processing steps.)

A common theme running through the CPCs (and Pakistan) is persecution of religious minorities at the hand of the state and/or hostile religious majorities. Victims include Christians of various denominations, Muslims (including Rohingya, Shi’ites and Ahmadis), and in China, Tibetan Buddhists and Falun Gong adherents.

The last fiscal year saw the U.S. admit a total of 22,491 refugees, well below the 45,000 ceiling and the smallest number in the history of the modern refugee resettlement program established in 1980.

By contrast, the Obama administration resettled numbers ranging from a low of 56,424 refugees in FY 2011 to a high of 84,994 refugees in FY 2016.

Even under the Trump administration, the U.S. admitted more refugees – 33,368 – in calendar year 2017 than any other country. The next biggest intakes of refugees that year were in Canada (26,600), Australia (15,100), Britain (6,200) and Sweden (3,400).



Routine Election Monitoring Spurs ‘Suppression’ Claims From Left

In a routine pre-election action, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division will monitor polling sites in a total of 35 jurisdictions in 19 states.

Some left-leaning websites cast the move as a voter-suppression effort because the attorney general’s announcement talked about voter fraud. In a press release Monday, Sessions said voter fraud “corrupts the integrity of the ballot.”

President Donald Trump later tweeted that fraudsters at the polls would face “maximum criminal penalties.”

The Obama administration’s Justice Department sent out nearly identical press releases about plans to monitor election sites ahead of the four national elections in 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2016.

Each press release from the Obama administration talked about prosecuting fraud in the context of enforcing elections laws and the right to vote.

This year, the Justice Department said it will send monitors to election sites in Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Virginia.

The total of 19 states actually is scaled down from 2016, when the Justice Department monitored 67 jurisdictions in 28 states. In the preceding national election in 2014, the Justice Department monitored 28 jurisdictions in 18 states, slightly less than this year.

Nevertheless, The Daily Beast warned about a “last-ditch effort of voter suppression” in a story that combined the press release and Trump tweet.

The news and opinion website noted: “The DOJ plans to send officials to 35 jurisdictions in 19 states in an effort to monitor the vote on Tuesday—especially in places Republicans would ordinarily win, like North Dakota and Georgia, who’ve already experienced suppression efforts at the polls.”

The Washington Post appeared alarmed, reporting:

But the statement from former Attorney General Jeff Sessions says the department plans to investigate voter fraud, something President Trump has claimed, without evidence, to be a huge problem since he was a candidate. … The statement doesn’t say what specific fraud-related issues the Justice Department personnel will be looking out for, and how much of their time will be spent investigating impediments to voting as opposed to claims of fraud.

The website AlterNet said: “Jeff Sessions is bending to Donald Trump’s false accusations of voter fraud.”

A database maintained by The Heritage Foundation contains 1,178 proven instances of voter fraud. They include 1,020 criminal convictions, 48 civil penalties, 81 diversion programs, 14 judicial findings, and 15 official findings.

“Voting rights are constitutional rights, and they’re part of what it means to be an American,” Sessions said in his statement Monday, adding:

The Department of Justice has been entrusted with an indispensable role in securing these rights for the people of this nation. This year we are using every lawful tool that we have, both civil and criminal, to protect the rights of millions of Americans to cast their vote unimpeded at one of more than 170,000 precincts across America.

Citizens of America control this country through their selection of their governmental officials at the ballot box. Likewise, fraud in the voting process will not be tolerated. Fraud also corrupts the integrity of the ballot.

Under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division is charged with enforcing federal voting rights laws.

“This is nothing unusual,” Han von Spakovsky, manager of the Election Law Reform Initiative at The Heritage Foundation and a former Justice Department lawyer, told The Daily Signal. “The Civil Rights Division has been doing this on a regular basis. They always send out press releases, usually announcing where the monitors will be.”



Skin in the Game

By Walter E. Williams

In describing the GOP tax cuts, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said that they and bonuses American workers were getting were "crumbs." They were "tax cuts for the rich." Some argued that the tax cuts would reduce revenues. Pelosi predicted, "This thing will explode the deficit." How about some tax facts?

The argument that tax cuts reduce federal revenues can be disposed of quite easily. According to the Congressional Budget Office, revenues from federal income taxes were $76 billion higher in the first half of this year than they were in the first half of 2017. The Treasury Department says it expects that federal revenues will continue to exceed last year's for the rest of 2018. Despite record federal revenues, 2018 will see a massive deficit, perhaps topping $1 trillion. Our massive deficit is a result not of tax cuts but of profligate congressional spending that outruns rising tax revenues. Grossly false statements about tax cuts' reducing revenue should be put to rest in the wake of federal revenue increases seen with tax cuts during the Kennedy, Reagan and Trump administrations.

A very disturbing and mostly ignored issue is how absence of skin in the game negatively impacts the political arena. It turns out that 45 percent of American households, nearly 78 million individuals, have no federal income tax obligation. That poses a serious political problem. Americans with no federal income tax obligation become natural constituencies for big-spending politicians. After all, if one doesn't pay federal income taxes, what does he care about big spending? Also, if one doesn't pay federal taxes, why should he be happy about a tax cut? What's in it for him? In fact, those with no skin in the game might see tax cuts as a threat to their handout programs.

Whenever tax cuts are called for, it's not long before they are called tax cuts for the rich. Let's look at who pays what in federal income taxes. Using IRS data for 2015, the latest year available, the Tax Foundation reports that the top 1 percent of earners made about 21 percent of the nation's income, but their share of federal income taxes was 39 percent. They paid more in income taxes than the bottom 90 percent, who paid 29.4 percent of federal income taxes.

In 2015, the top 50 percent of taxpayers paid 97.2 percent of all individual income taxes. Also, the top 1 percent had an income tax rate of 27 percent, while the bottom 50 percent had a tax rate of less than 4 percent. It turns out that 892,420 households — out of roughly 34 million total households — paid 39 percent of federal taxes that year. Most Americans have little or no federal income tax obligation, so how in the world is it possible to give a tax cut to them?

Another part of the Trump tax cuts was with corporate income — lowering the rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. That, too, has been condemned by the left as a tax cut for the rich. But corporations do not pay taxes. Why? Corporations are legal fictions. Only people pay taxes. If a tax is levied on a corporation, it will have one or more of the following responses in order to remain in business. It will raise the price of its product, lower its dividends to shareholders and/or lay off workers. Thus, only flesh-and-blood people pay taxes. We can think of corporations as tax collectors. Politicians love our ignorance about this. They suggest that corporations, not people, will be taxed. Here's how to see through this charade: Suppose a politician told you, as a homeowner, "I'm not going to tax you. I'm going to tax your land." I hope you wouldn't fall for that jive. Land doesn't pay taxes.

Getting back to skin in the game, sometimes I wonder whether one should be allowed in the game if he doesn't have any skin in it.



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, November 08, 2018

Voter ID Laws Approved in Multiple States

The claim that they disenfranchise blacks is pure racism.  It is a claim that blacks are too dumb to get and use photo ID

Amid competing claims over whether voter ID laws protect the voting process or disenfranchise minority citizens, both Arkansas and North Carolina voters have approved ballot propositions to create voter ID laws.

Arkansas currently requires ID to vote, but the proposal listed as Issue 2 on the ballot would require specific forms of identification.

Voter Eddie Bethany said the proposal made sense. “I think everybody should have a voter ID card, driver’s license, some form of photo ID, preferably a driver’s license,” said Eddie Bethany, a voter.

“It doesn’t make any difference to me if it goes into the constitution or not, it’s something that should be required by law,” Bethany said.

Arkansas has been trying to put a voter ID law in place since 2013, but court decisions have sidetracked implementation. The ballot question would end questions over the law by making it part of the state’s constitution.

In North Carolina, the debate has centered over whether a voter ID law is needed to address voter fraud, or whether it is designed to turn away voters.

“To me, it’s about making sure that every vote counts — one full vote — and that no one’s vote is diluted by votes which are cast either inaccurately or illegally,” said Republican state Rep. John Szoka, the Fayetteville Observer reported.

“This amendment, which we have been calling the ‘voter restriction amendment,’ we think would compromise access to the vote,” said Jen Jones, a spokeswoman for the Democracy North Carolina voting rights organization.

She said that when North Carolina’s voter ID law was in effect in 2016 before being struck down by the courts, legitimate voters were turned away from the polls.

Thirty-four states require ID at the polls, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, according to The Washington Post.

The American Civil Liberties Union said it believes voter ID laws exist to keep away minority voters, according to ABC.

“These types of requirements, these document requirements, they have a disproportionate burden on people of color, the elderly the poor the young and voters with disabilities,” Lakin said. “It is interesting that the voters affected by voter ID requirements and similar things we were seeing… had a disproportionate impact on voters who also turned out in unprecedented numbers in the 2008 election.”

President Donald Trump, however, has said that because of widespread voter fraud, voter ID is a no-brainer. “The time has come for voter ID like everything else,” Trump said at a recent Florida rally.

“Just take a look,” he said recently, according to The Washington Post. “All you have to do is go around, take a look at what’s happened over the years, and you’ll see. There are a lot of people — a lot of people — my opinion, and based on proof — that try and get in illegally and actually vote illegally. So we just want to let them know that there will be prosecutions at the highest level.”



‘Build the wall’ remains Republicans’ priority

With the House lost, legislation in the "lame duck" period may be the only hope of getting more funding for the wall

When President Trump signed a March 2018 spending bill into law, Congress allocated $1.6 billion for border wall construction and $400 million for repairing and replacing existing border fences. At the time, Trump referred to this as a “down payment” to begin wall construction, with more coming in the months ahead.

That money has already been put to good use.

Last week, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kristjen Nielsen unveiled a newly built 30-foot border wall along the border of California and Mexico. During her visit to the wall she reinforced her support for the president’s policy, “Let me be clear: Walls work. That’s not my opinion, it’s not a tagline, it’s not a political statement — it’s a fact. We have seen the success of walls in El Paso, in Yuma, in San Diego, and in the past right here in the El Centro sector”

But she continued to note that the President cannot do this alone and more action is needed by Congress, “It wasn’t just this physical barrier that led to decreased apprehensions, it was a combination of infrastructure, improved technology, and additional manpower. Together these attributes compromise a successful border wall system, this is the wall system we are requesting Congress to fund.”

Now more than ever, Republicans are needed to continue funding the border wall and build on the success they have achieved thus far.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has already introduced a bill that provides $23.4 billion to construct a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, with $5.5 billion in funding available immediately. While a lame duck push is expected on the issue, a Republican majority in the 116th Congress could ensure our border is secured long term.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has already made it clear she does not support a border wall and does not see any Democrats voting for wall funding anytime soon, meaning a Democratic majority might destroy our chances of having a secure border before 2020.

This is particularly pressing as a caravan of several thousand illegal immigrants march toward our southern border demanding entry into the United States. Trump has said he is deploying the military in the meantime to deter the caravan.

Hill contributor Jen Kerns explains, “Humans aren’t the only entity streaming across the border — drugs are, too — at the hands of the Mexican drug cartels and others. In fact, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol data for fiscal 2018 show that seizure of illegal drugs along the border have consistently increased in the past five years. This election season, as U.S. politicians wrangle with whether or not they want to support full funding for a border wall and increase number of border agents, they might also want to consider these other intruders coming uninvited over the border.”

Kerns reminds the American people that in just the first five months of 2018, customs officials and border patrol agents seized 1,060 pounds on fentanyl, a lethal opioid becoming common in the U.S., at the border.

A border wall is necessary to slow the stream of these drugs into the U.S.

While the down payment for the wall has already been received, much more will need to be done to ensure the border is truly secure and if Republicans lose the House on Tuesday, this might be one of the reasons why. If the American people want the wall built, they must realize that will probably never happen if Democrats control Congress.



Snopes Gets Its Own Scathing Fact-Check, Learns the Hard Way Not To Mess with Conservative Media

Snopes is a verified fact checker for Facebook, which should tell you all you need to know about the state of social media in 2018. Few news organizations tilt so far to the left as Snopes does, and it’s supposed to be the site news organizations use to find out if a story is true. Ay dios mio.

Conservative writers and websites are pretty much used to the site’s bias; in fact, to borrow a phrase from Oscar Wilde, the only thing worse in conservative media than being assailed by Snopes is not being assailed by Snopes. It’s a sign that you’ve made it. Or, at least I think so, since I’ve been the subject of what I thought was one of its more eye-rollingly iffy pieces about a ridiculous essay that tried to draw a profoundly tenuous parallel between last summer’s solar eclipse and institutional racism. (Without going into specifics of why Snopes was wrong, let me just say this: Try harder next time, guys, and get a sense of humor.)

I don’t remember receiving any inquiries from Snopes about the piece in question, however. Apparently, that’s now a thing, since Snopes is demanding to know where Breitbart got images of members of the New Black Panther Party campaigning for Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, a Democrat.

“Over the weekend, Breitbart News — among other media outlets — published explosive photographs of armed Black Panthers campaigning for Abrams, holding up her campaign sign while also holding up various guns,” Breitbart’s Matthew Boyle reported Monday.

“In the story, Breitbart News
included a quote from the campaign of her GOP opponent, Brian Kemp, calling on her to denounce the radicals campaigning for her.”
"Stacey Abrams needs to denounce these armed thugs, but she won't. She agrees with the racist New Black Panther philosophy"

The story went viral and got picked up by a number of mainstream media outlets. This prompted Snopes to send a series of questions to Breitbart regarding the photos it had obtained.

“On Monday, a self-identified ‘reporter’ for Snopes, Bethania Palma, reached out to Breitbart News with a series of questions about the Black Panther report,” Breitbart reported.

“None of the questions implies anything was inaccurate about the report,” it said. “Facebook relies on Snopes as an official ‘fact checker’ to detect fake news and misinformation on the platform, along with a small group of other primarily left-wing organizations including Politifact.”

Here were some of Palma’s questions:

“The story says Breitbart ‘obtained’ images of the Black Panthers. Where did Breitbart obtain the images from?”

“Why does Breitbart quote the Kemp campaign with no obvious effort to get comment from the Abrams campaign?”

“Why did Breitbart use the term ‘lobby’ in the headline?”

“Breitbart normally takes a pro-gun stance. Does Breitbart maintain that stance when the gun owners are black?”

“Did anyone at Breitbart make an effort to contact the New Black Panther Party for comment?”

That last one is a doozy, because if there’s anything that’s going to make this story look better, it’s a quote from the equable folks at the New Black Panther Party.

However, Breitbart noticed some interesting things about Palma.

“Just a quick glance at Palma’s Twitter account or at her history of writing for radical leftist outlet Alternet shows a hard leftist mentality, one quick to accuse Trump of being ‘racist’ (the latest is a series of tweets attacking the president’s campaign ad on the migrant caravan as such) or linking Trump to the Ku Klux Klan any way she can — a history dating back years, as Breitbart News has reported about Palma before,” the publication said.

So, Breitbart had a few questions for Palma, which thus far have gone unanswered:

“1.) Why can anyone trust Snopes to be an independent authority on fact-checking when you personally are so clearly biased in favor of leftists?

“2.) You implied in your questions to us that our story had something to do with race. The story clearly did not. What made you think that? Please be specific.

“3.) In your questions to us, you did not indicate that there was anything even close to inaccurate in our story. So, again, please be specific: what exactly are you ‘fact checking’?

“4.) Do you send similar lists of questions to outlets like the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, and others on their reporting?”

I’m sure the temptation to include that emoji with the smiley-face stroking its chin was very, very tempting.

We don’t need the answer to any of these questions, mind you, nor are they important. What they do is make a point: Snopes is supposed to be about fact-checking. None of what Palma asked had to do with the facts behind the pictures. It was an attempt to smear Breitbart by questioning its sources (I don’t remember Snopes taking a hard-line stance regarding anonymous sources in the past; quite to the contrary, if my desultory reading of the website wasn’t mistaken) and implying that Breitbart was against the New Black Panther Party because of race and not because it’s a revolutionary fringe organization with a history of voter intimidation inserting itself into a campaign.

“Palma has not replied to our request for comment before publication,” Breitbart dryly noted. I wouldn’t be counting on that email, but I’m sure an article “debunking” its piece is on its way.



The old, old folly of Rent Control

It's bad for both landlords and tenants

Californians have just voted on Proposition 10, which would allow local governments to impose and expand rent control laws. Consider the long-term harms the measure would inflict on housing quantity, quality, and affordability.

Rent control is a textbook example of a price ceiling, in which prices are capped below market rates (i.e., where supply and demand are left free to interact). As those Econ 101 textbooks will show you, many more people will demand housing at these lower prices, but fewer landlords will be willing to provide them at those rates. This leads to a shortage of housing, which only exacerbates the affordability problem. Furthermore, diminished landlord profits and a glut of prospective renters lead to less investment in maintaining properties and offering amenities, thereby reducing the quality of rental housing.

This is well understood among economists. Though they struggle to agree on many issues, an astonishing 93 percent of economists in a 1992 survey of American Economic Association members agreed that “a ceiling on rents reduces the quality and quantity of housing.”

And yet, here we have Prop. 10, which would roll back a 1995 law that curbs rent control. The Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act prohibited local governments from implementing rent control for housing built after January 31, 1995. It also exempted condos and single-family homes from rent control laws and allowed landlords to bump prices back up to market rates once a tenant left.

Santa Monica, one of the early adopters of rent control, is champing at the bit to double down on the policy if Prop. 10 passes, and property-owners and developers have taken notice. The number of multifamily rental properties up for sale in the city is at the highest level in 20 years—with about 80 percent more listings than usual—and developers are holding off on land deals, the Wall Street Journal noted in May, as they fear plunging property values if the measure passes.

But if rent control is so harmful an economic policy, why is it still being pursued with such vigor at the ballot box? Because it is all about politics. As journalist Henry Hazlitt asserted in his book, Economics in One Lesson, “[t]enants have more votes than landlords.” In an even more sobering analysis, Hazlitt observes: “The more unrealistic and unjust the rent control is, the harder it is politically to get rid of it.” In effect, you have created a group with strong personal interests that feels forever entitled to such subsidies. The truth of this can be seen in any attempt to reduce—or even slow the growth of—any government welfare program.

The best way to improve housing affordability across the state would be to eliminate the laws and regulations that restrict supply and keep it from meeting demand. But this is much more difficult politically than blaming “greedy” landlords, wealthy tech workers in the Bay Area, and “gentrification.” After all, powerful unions want their prevailing wage laws, environmentalists want to prevent development to keep the environment in a “pure” state (and preserve their hiking and biking trails), neighborhood busybodies want to impose “smart growth” and prevent people from developing their own property to “preserve the character of the neighborhood,” and local governments want to impose high development fees and extract concessions from developers to pad city coffers and get others to pay for their priorities.

It is no wonder, then, that California produces 100,000 fewer housing units than it needs each year, particularly in coastal communities, according to a March 2015 Legislative Analyst’s Report, and why California home prices have gone from 30 percent above the national average in 1970 to 80 percent above average in 1980 to two and a half times the national average in 2015 (not to mention rents that are 50 percent higher).

The slogan should not be “The rent is too damn high!” It should be “The government is too damn big!”

It is dishonest for proponents of Prop. 10 to promise that rent control will deliver affordable rents for all. If they were more forthright, they would say, “We are going to violate people’s property rights and right of contract to force them to offer below-market rents, and only a small portion of you will actually benefit from it, while most of you will have to pay even higher prices for a smaller choice of more poorly maintained housing, or move farther away to areas without rent control.” But that requires longer-term thinking—and doesn’t work so well on a bumper sticker or a protest sign.



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, November 07, 2018

Perspective: Biggest Midterm House Losses Since WWII: Obama (-63), Truman (-55), Clinton (-54)

Very hard to hold the House in mid-term elections

In 2010, when Obama was in his first term and had signed the Obamacare law, the Democrats lost a net of 63 House seats. In 1946, after Truman had succeeded the late Franklin Roosevelt (who died in April 1945) and real GDP was declining by 11.6 percent, the Democrats lost 55 seats. In 1994, when Clinton was in his first term in which his signature proposal was Hillarycare (a “universal healthcare plan"), the Democrats lost 54 seats.

These losses exceeded the 48 seats the Republicans lost in the 1974 midterm, which took place three months after President Richard Nixon resigned because of the Watergate scandal and in a year when real GDP contracted by 0.5 percent.


Democrat Joe Manchin Wins Re-election in Trump Country After Voting To Confirm Kavanaugh

An old-style Democrat

Despite siding with President Donald Trump on a number of key issues, Democrats cheered when networks announced that Sen. Joe Manchin would win another term representing West Virginia in the U.S. Senate.

According to The Daily Beast’s Gideon Resnick, a joyous uproar could be heard at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee after Manchin was declared the predicted winner in his race against Republican challenger Patrick Morrisey.


GOP Projected To Hold Senate, win some governor races

GOP Picks Up ND Senate Seat as Cramer Defeats Heitkamp

GOP Take IN Senate Seat from Democrats as Braun Defeats Incumbent Donnelly

Mike Braun Unseats Democrat Joe Donnelly in Indiana Senate Race

GOP Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas wins 2nd term

Wyoming Governor Seat Goes to Republican Mark Gordon

Republican Asa Hutchinson Wins Second Term as Arkansas Governor, Defeating Democrat Jared Henderson

Blackburn Defeats Bredesen, Keeps TN Sen. Seat in GOP Column

GOP Picks Up MO Senate Seat as McCaskill Loses to Hawley

Scalise Defeats Dem. Opponent, Holds Louisiana Seat for GOP


Thank goodness! Ted Cruz Projected to Defeat Beto O’Rourke in Senate race

Senate looking good for GOP

Money flowed freely into this race as liberals and conservatives poured campaign donations into the contest. Even before the end of October, the race had broken the $100 million barrier, The Texas Tribune reported.

Although Cruz came into the race with an aggressive fundraising operation honed by his initial campaign for Senate and his 2016 attempt to capture the Republican presidential nomination, O’Rourke was the king of fundraising, leading Cruz throughout the campaign.


Great!  Gillum down

Republican Ron DeSantis has defeated Democrat Andrew Gillum in the hotly-contested race for Florida governor, The Western Journal projects.

The contest between Gillum, who is the mayor of Tallahassee, and DeSantis, who currently represents Florida’s Sixth District in the House, has been a high-profile battle for a state that is pivotal in every presidential election.


The midterms, the left and the Trump effect

By Monica Crowley

As he’s addressed massive campaign rallies, President Trump gives the crowds a singularly important marching order: “Pretend I’m on the ballot.”

His advice is wise. As we head into the final stretch of the 2018 midterm elections, pollsters and strategists are debating which party has the intensity edge, but one thing is crystal clear: There is no enthusiasm gap when it comes to Mr. Trump.

Over the past few months, Mr. Trump has done what he does best, and appears to enjoy the most: Campaign. Not for himself this time, but for Republican Senate and House candidates in tight races in an attempt to preserve the party’s majorities. He draws crowds often in the tens of thousands, as big if not bigger than the ones he drew in 2016, and far bigger than the candidates could attract on their own. A recent rally in Houston to support Sen. Ted Cruz’s re-election attracted so many people that organizers had to move the event to a much bigger arena.

The events have given Mr. Trump a mega-platform to tout his growing record of accomplishments: A thriving economy, tax cuts, deregulation, historically low unemployment (particularly among blacks, Latinos and women), wage growth, confirmation of two U.S. Supreme Court justices and more than 80 federal judges, exit from the Iran nuclear deal, initial work on the border wall, the U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem, the return of American hostages from North Korea, the successful renegotiation of NAFTA with the renegotiation of other trade relationships underway. The candidates who stand by his side hope that voters will associate Mr. Trump’s policy success with their ability, if elected, to help keep it going.

Mr. Trump also gleefully criticizes Democrats, flipping the Alinsky script as he mocks their radicalism, failures and hypocrisy. He gives the news media the same treatment, something they are not used to and cannot abide. He is so effective at highlighting their bias, double standards and outright dishonesty that they immediately default to blaming him for the actions of every violent lunatic and ill befalling the nation.

Following the arrests of the maniac who sent threatening packages to prominent Trump critics and the anti-Semitic monster who gunned down 11 innocent souls at a Pittsburgh synagogue, the left immediately attributed the “violent hate” to Mr. Trump’s rhetoric. That’s a staggering jujitsu of projection, given the incessant hate that’s long poured out of leftist precincts.

Projection is, in fact, the left’s main tool of distraction. They denounce “fear tactics” while incessantly preaching fear of Mr. Trump and everything related to his party. They decry “bigotry” while often demonstrating the most intolerant bigotry of their own, particularly when it comes to anyone with an opposing view. When in power, they pay lip service to “coming together” and “finding common ground” while crushing their opposition; when out of power, they feel fully justified in deferring civility until they’re back in control.

Meanwhile, Mr. Trump’s power largely comes from giving voice to the silent majority, expressing its legitimate concerns, frustrations and wishes. The left, however, has monopolized the microphone for so long that hearing other views elevated and respected by the president shocks and infuriates them.

To the left, this reads as “division,” when in fact it’s simply a more equitable distribution of expression and views. The division has been there all along, simply hidden under the jackboot of leftist media control, and the silent majority has long been blocked from responding in kind. No longer, now that Mr. Trump is championing them and blasting the left’s tyranny of thought.

This is Mr. Trump’s first midterm cycle, however, and some Republicans still aren’t sure how to navigate him. The smart Republican candidates have embraced him, buoyed by his robust job approval rating and broad public support of the stronger economy and international position he’s delivering.

History suggests that midterm election night may not be a great night for Republicans. But politics hasn’t adhered to normal trends in quite a while. There is a significant shift taking place, accelerated by Mr. Trump who has upended most expectations and shattered traditional precepts of leadership.

Additionally, unforeseen events could further scramble the election calculus, including the imminent arrival of thousands of Central Americans at the southern border, the deployment of troops to support the Border Patrol, more terrorist threats or violence, an economic shock or some other unknown.

But we do know that we’re still in the midst of a major populist realignment, the effects of which continue to ricochet. We will find out on Nov. 6 exactly which old assumptions still apply, which new ones need analysis and how Mr. Trump continues to shape the national landscape. “Pretend I’m on the ballot,” he says, because in so many ways, he is.

As he gives voice to the silent majority, let’s hope the silent majority returns the favor with its votes.



 There is a Republican plan to cover pre-existing conditions — and the House already passed it

Here is a fact that Democrats are desperately trying to keep from the public: Not only do Republicans support providing health insurance coverage for those with preexisting conditions, but Republicans in the House actually passed legislation that did just that.

The American Health Care Act included an amendment that Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz., and I introduced. It ensured that anyone with a preexisting condition could purchase health insurance. The Palmer-Schweikert amendment established a risk-sharing plan that allowed any individual with a preexisting condition to purchase insurance at the same price as a healthy individual. This was not an unproven idea — in fact, the plan was modeled after a successful state-level program.

Instead of billions of dollars in bailouts for health insurance companies, the Republican plan was funded by having the majority of the premiums paid by those with preexisting conditions transferred into a fund. This represents an alternative approach to Obamacare’s guaranteed-issue provision, which priced everyone as sick, resulting in far more expensive premiums.

Our amendment put the money in a risk-sharing plan that targeted assistance to cover those with preexisting conditions, but also required the insurers to have some skin in the game. The result was more affordable premiums for all.

By setting up this arrangement, the Republican plan not only guaranteed coverage to people with preexisting conditions, it reduced premiums for everyone else in every age group. According to an analysis by Milliman, one of the nation’s top independent actuarial firms, the Republican risk-sharing plan would have provided prompt assistance for people with high-cost claims, lowered premium costs by 12-31 percent, and increased the number of people with health insurance by up to 2.2 million.

The Republican bill with this amendment passed the House on May 4, 2017 without a single Democrat vote in favor. Even though the ACHA stalled in the Senate, the risk-sharing plan will be part of a legislative package that I, along with others, intend to reintroduce in the next Congress along with provisions that will be a huge step toward repairing and restoring health care in America.

The legislation will allow for the formation of Association Health Plans that help small businesses save money, and allow for the sale of short-term health insurance policies that can help the uninsured. The Trump administration has issued guidelines that allow for both. Our bill would protect these new options.

As a result of Obamacare, health insurance premiums more than doubled and the mandates forced small businesses to cut employees’ hours, lay people off, and stop hiring. Currently, only about 56 percent of small businesses can afford to offer health insurance. But the new guidelines allow for individuals and small businesses to qualify for these lower-cost association health plans — making affordable health insurance available to millions of workers.

Empowering people to purchase short-term health insurance will make coverage available to millions of Americans who are currently uninsured. Short-term plans would allow individuals to purchase one-year plans that are renewable for up to three years. These plans are 50 – 80 percent less expensive.

Republicans are advocating for these options to empower the American people, but Democrats are once again misleading the American public about healthcare. During the debate over Obamacare, they said we could keep our doctors if we liked them. That was a lie for millions of Americans. They promised premiums would be reduced by an average of $2,500 per family per year, but premiums more than doubled for tens of millions of people. They said that over 20 million people would be covered by government exchanges, but it was less than half that number — and insurance companies dropped coverage in many states.

Now, the Democrats are calling for government-run healthcare under the guise of "Medicare for All." What they want is a Canadian-style health system. But in Canada, the average wait time to see a doctor in metropolitan areas is over 18 weeks, and it's over 31 weeks in rural areas. A study by the Fraser Institute of Canada reported that from 1993 to 2009, an estimated 25,000 to 63,000 Canadian women died while waiting for treatment.

By contrast, the Republicans are on record with a sensible plan to cover preexisting conditions, a plan that will help individuals get the health insurance they need at prices they can afford, and which allows small businesses to provide health insurance coverage to their employees.

The difference between the Republican plan and the Democrat’s plan is that our plan will offer Americans more options and make health insurance affordable again.



If We Don’t Enforce the Law, We Get Anarchy

What makes citizens obey the law is not always their sterling character. Instead, fear of punishment—the shame of arrest, fines, or imprisonment—more often makes us comply with laws.

Law enforcement is not just a way to deal with individual violators but also a way to remind society at large that there can be no civilization without legality. Or, as 17th-century British statesman George Savile famously put it: “Men are not hanged for stealing horses, but that horses may not be stolen.”

In the modern world, we call such prompt, uniform, and guaranteed law enforcement “deterrence,” from the Latin verb meaning “to frighten away.” One protester who disrupts a speech is not the problem. But if unpunished, he green-lights hundreds more like him.

Worse still, when one law is left unenforced, then all sorts of other laws are weakened.

The result of hundreds of “sanctuary cities” is not just to forbid full immigration enforcement in particular jurisdictions. They also signal that U.S. immigration law, and by extension other laws, can be ignored.

The presence of an estimated 12 million or more foreign nationals unlawfully living in the U.S. without legal consequence sends a similar message. The logical result is the current caravan of thousands of Central Americans now inching its way northward to enter the U.S. illegally.

If the border was secure, immigration laws enforced, and illegal residence phased out, deterrence would be re-established and there would likely be no caravan.

Campus protests often turn violent. Agitators shout down and sometimes try to physically intimidate speakers with whom they disagree.

Most of the disruptors are upper-middle-class students. Many have invested up to $200,000 in their higher education, often to ensure well-paying careers upon graduation.

Protesters assume that ignoring laws about peaceful assembly poses no consequences. Usually student disruptors are right. College administrators will typically shrug at even violent protests rather than call police to make arrests.

Yet if a few bold disruptors were actually charged with misdemeanors or felonies and had arrests tarnishing their otherwise sterling resumes, there would likely be far fewer illegal and violent protests.

In the last two years, a number of celebrities have openly fantasized about doing physical harm to the president of the United States. Madonna, Kathy Griffin, Johnny Depp, Robert De Niro, Snoop Dogg, and other stars have expressed their wishes that President Donald Trump might be beaten up, blown up, cut up, or shot up.

Their shared premise is that they are too famous, influential, or wealthy to expect consequences that ordinary citizens might face for making threats to the safety of the president of the United States. If the next time a Hollywood icon tweeted or voiced a threat to the president he or she was subsequently put on a no-fly list, the current assassination chic would quickly stop.

Every person assumes the freedom to eat safely in a restaurant, to walk to work without disturbance, and to relax without fear of violence. Now, that is not always the case, at least not if one is deemed politically influential and conservative.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., must worry that when they venture out in public, protesters will scream in their face, attempt to bar their passage, or disrupt their meal—and do so without legal ramifications.

There are many causes of the current legal laxity.

Trump is a polarizing president, and his critics have decided that extraordinary and sometimes extralegal measures are morally justified to stop him. Supposedly high-minded ends are seen as justifying unlawful means. Helping undocumented immigrants evade the law, stopping the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, or otherwise thwarting Trump all warrant special immunity.

The problem with ignoring laws is that it is contagious—and can boomerang.

Sanctuary cities could in theory birth conservative sanctuary zones. Would today’s protesters wish for other jurisdictions to nullify federal laws and court rulings concerning abortion, gun registration, and gay marriage?

If thousands of Hondurans in a caravan are deemed above the law, then why not exempt future mass arrivals of Chinese or South African immigrants?

If Cruz and other Republican politicos can’t eat in peace, will former President Barack Obama; Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., soon face the same disruptions—the illegality justified by higher moral concerns?

If students can block a right-wing speaker or storm a diner, will they also object when anti-abortion protesters bar the passage of a pro-choice campus guest?

German philosopher Immanuel Kant noted that “anarchy is law and freedom without force.”

Translated to our current context, Kant might say that all our high-minded talk about the Bill of Rights means absolutely nothing without the cop on the beat and the local district attorney.



More CNN Racism

Kirsten Powers stated on CNN Tonight that “white men are very violent and a problem” on an episode where Don Lemon was defending his previous comments that aligned white males in America as the “biggest terror threat” to our country.

Lemon discussed an article from the New York Times that included information from a study that was conducted by the Anti-Defamation League.

Their study suggested that our great law enforcement doesn’t have enough concern for the white or right-wing extremism, violence, terror, and hate crimes conducted by the white males.

Lemon stated, “They say, of the extremist-related murders in the U.S., 71 percent came from right-wing extremism, 26 percent Islamic extremism, three percent from left-wing extremism. That’s 387 total deaths from 2008 to 2017. Shouldn’t law enforcement be concerned about it? Shouldn’t we be concerned about it? Shouldn’t we be able to talk about it without being demonized, quite honestly. I did, but it was accurate. What I said was right. What’s the way — what do we do?”

At some point it was Powers who later complained, stating something similar in nature, provided by NewsBusters:

Her complaint was that if school shootings were conducted by someone from the Middle East, that Americans would have a very different reaction. She also stated that if school shootings were done by African-Americans, then there would be a different reaction as well.

“So what we see here is we ignore — and we have statistics here showing that white men are very violent and a problem, and nothing’s being done about it.

And then we have the President of the United States talking about a bunch of brown people like they’re the terrorists. I mean, we have a county where we — every other day it seems like a white woman calls the police on a black man for barbecuing or gardening or delivering the mail, and yet we sit quietly while all these white men are out, you know, terrorizing people essentially. I mean, every time there’s one of these shootings, and it’s a white man.”



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, November 06, 2018

Trumpmania: President storms the States on final weekend

Emma Reynolds

THE President has stormed the United States with a dizzying show in the finals days before a crucial vote. This is how it works.

THE scene is pure theatre.

A wall slides open to the setting sun, the crowd is whipped into a frenzy and the music reaches a crescendo. A jumbo jet emblazoned with “United States of America” glides past in a graceful landing, before nosing back into view as Simply The Best blares from the speakers. A door opens, and a man with a stiff orange hairstyle waves and walks down the stairs, taking the stage to God Bless The USA.

At times, during Donald Trump’s Saturday Florida rally, I am almost swept up in the crowd’s mania, feeling an urge to clap as the room goes wild. More often, it is wearisome, with the President repeating all the familiar lines — the dangers of the migrant caravan, the US becoming a “sanctuary for ruthless gang members”, corrupt Democrats who let others “steal our jobs”.

The crowd hangs on every word, booing or cheering as the pantomime requires, waving signs and chanting the key phrases: “Drain the swamp!”, “Lock her up!”, “USA! USA! USA!” and even “Space Force!”

Mr Trump is nearing the end of his astonishing run of 11 rallies in six days leading up to the midterm elections on Tuesday. He’s the “Energiser Bunny”, according to one onlooker, and it may be his greatest strength. There are dramatic storylines, goodies and baddies, and childlike whimsy. This is why Mr Trump is seen as a president who keeps it real.

“He’s not the status quo of Washington,” Chris Oaks, a 30-year-old sound technician, tells “The divide that we have here in America, I kind of put that off on past politicians.

“He is pro-America, he’s not for the socialism that is taking over the world, in my opinion. He’s pro-capitalism.”

The President draws in his fans here in Pensacola with dark tales of socialism and financial disaster under the Democrats, before painting a beautiful picture of his dream America. The audience can’t get enough.

Some in the long queue outside the airport hangar have camped overnight to ensure they get in, while others arrived at dawn for a rally due to start at 6.30pm. There is a festival atmosphere here on the conservative Florida Panhandle, with portable toilets, entrepreneurs selling merchandise from carts, and spontaneous singing from queuers dressed in red, white and blue and slogan T-shirts.

The pop music with a message is key today. There’s Macho Man, Sweet Home Alabama, Under Pressure and YMCA. Mr Trump even sings a few bars of the latter to help us recall the name of his new trade agreement, USMCA (US-Mexico-Canada agreement).

It’s the last weekend before the US goes to the polls, and Mr Trump is going full-throttle to make sure the Republicans retain control of Congress. The Democrats may struggle to gain a majority in the Senate, but are expected to win the 23 House of Representatives seats they need for a majority. Even Mr Trump this week allowed for the possibility, insisting it wouldn’t matter. The crowd here is confident “the red wave’s a-coming”.

The President kicked off his mega-run of rallies in South-West Florida on Wednesday, and was back in the battleground state three days later, determined to ensure the rest of the purple state turns as red as Pensacola, on the northwest Panhandle.

Mr Trump needs Florida. The state chose him in the presidential election by a 1.6 per cent margin, but also twice voted for Barack Obama.

It is where the President spends his weekends at his lavish Mar-a-Lago golf resort.

“It’s my home also,” he tells the crowd. “I love the state of Florida and I have to tell you, we love the Panhandle.”

Here, Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum will fight it out for governor in one of the nation’s tightest and hardest-fought races, while outgoing Republican governor Rick Scott and incumbent Democratic senator Bill Nelson face another too-close-to-call match for the Senate.

Mr DeSantis is a man crafted in Mr Trump’s image. The Republican former navy prosecutor has appeared in a TV advert teaching his young children to “build the wall” with blocks and to say “Make America Great Again”.

He uses the same phrases, the same style of speech — the President at one point jokes that the gubernatorial candidate has “stolen his speech”.

Mr DeSantis is not the only one. “America is back and we’re just getting started, Florida,” Vice President Mike Pence tells the crowd.

It’s a celeb-packed affair, with boxer Evander Holyfield and American football coach Bobby Bowden also in attendance.

Florida is also where Cesar Sayoc allegedly put together a chilling plan to send pipe bombs to some of the country’s most vocal Democrats and Trump critics.

Many have blamed Mr Trump’s incendiary statements and tweets for galvanising the suspect’s white-hot fury, and for hate-fuelled violence such as the killing of 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue, the worst anti-Semitic attack in US history. But the President does not accept culpability, instead pointing the finger at his political opponents and the media.

He tells everyone to turn and insist the media to move the cameras around and show the size of the crowd.

“They never do,” he mocks, as the audience turns, some waving and cheering, some shaking fists and booing. Others are searching for the despised CNN, or their favourite far-right bloggers.

Florida is the perfect embodiment of a deeply divided America, with Mr DeSantis and Mr Gillum a personification of each side.

Mr DeSantis has painted the Tallahasee mayor as anti-police and made much of his acceptance of tickets to Broadway show Hamilton from a group including an FBI agent. Mr Gillum, who could be Florida’s first black governor if he can capitalise on a wafer-thin lead in the polls, denies any wrongdoing and is not under investigation.

But Mr Trump has seized on the opportunity, calling him “a thief” and mayor of “one of the most corrupt cities in the country”.

On Saturday, he called Mr Gillum “a radical socialist” who “will tax and regulate your jobs into oblivion” and “end all borders”, warning: “When you have people camping out on your front lawn, remember Gillum has people come in.”

On the other side, Bernie Sanders and Barack Obama have been issuing their own warnings as they campaign for Mr Gillum and Mr Nelson in Florida.

“The character of our country is on the ballot,” Mr Obama told a crowd of 4000 in Miami on Friday. “In the closing weeks of this election, we have seen repeated attempts to divide us with rhetoric designed to make us angry and make us fearful, that’s designed to exploit our history of racial and ethnic and religious division, that pits us against one another to make us believe that order will somehow be restored if it just weren’t for those folks who don’t look like we look, or don’t love like we love, or pray like we do.”

Everyone will be watching this election. It has become a debate about what America stands for, and how it exists in relation to the rest of the planet. Gender, class and race are paramount.

“I’m not calling Mr DeSantis a racist,” said Mr Gillum in his final debate with his Republican rival on Wednesday. “I’m simply saying the racists believe he’s a racist.”

Thomas Brown, attending with his 17-year-old son, says he used to vote for Mr Obama, until he realised, “Presidents say things, and don’t do it.”

Mr Brown, one of the few African-Americans in the crowd, isn’t concerned by accusations of racism, and is impressed with Mr Trump’s effectiveness on unemployment and undoing the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“He’s no worse than anybody else, judge people by their actions,” says Mr Brown. “He seems to care about America, and when America does well, we all do well.”

 “Look what we’ve done with other countries, they’re respecting us again. Doesn’t it feel different?”

 What a night, crowd hanging off Trump’s every word. Seems like he’s a rockstar here, but will it be reflected across the state on Tuesday? Most of these people are convinced it will

Mr Trump is hoping the great trick he pulled off in 2016 can be repeated, using a tried and tested method. There are always new talking points — birthright citizenship and the unfair treatment of Brett Kavanaugh, for example — but the repeated sound bites and catchy refrains work.

What’s more, they trust his record on employment and the economy is all the evidence they need. “He’s one of us,” says Sandra Miller, from Mississippi.

But that’s just it. Billionaire Mr Trump is, if anything, awkward in his displays of empathy. “Take care of the person!” he tells security when an unwell woman needs to be helped out of the crowd.

His words of sympathy over the recent hurricane are also typically odd. “It was a bad one, that was like a giant tornado, that wasn’t a hurricane that was like a 50-mile wide tornado, incredible,” he tells the crowd.

Perhaps that awkwardness, his stumbling over words, is what makes him relatable.

“Nobody’s ever seen anything like that, but you are great people and we are with you one thousand per cent,” he adds. “In just three days, the people of Florida are going to elect Rick, Scott and Ron DeSantis to protect jobs, defend your borders and continue making America great again we’re just days away from one of the most important elections of our lives.”

There’s one other vote that may be even more important to Mr Trump — the presidential election in 2020. He has never stopped campaigning to win that second term.

“We will never surrender!” he declares at the end of the rally, channelling Winston Churchill as the emotion reaches fever pitch. “We bleed red, white and blue!

“Our new theme — we could probably do it now because we’re so ahead of schedule — is Keep America Great.” The room rings as the crowd joins in with his refrain.



The Privilege of the Grave- and The Voting Booth

Yaacov Ben Moshe

Mark Twain wrote "The Privilege of the Grave" at the age of 69- the same age I am now. I survived a bout with cancer this past spring so I know a bit about having thoughts of the grave. It was Twain's opinion, while a man is living he does not really have free speech. Then he qualifies it, “The living man is not really without this privilege—strictly speaking—but as he possesses it merely as an empty formality, and knows better than to make use of it…,”

That essay was only published recently (in 2008) having been put aside out of a reticence that Twain clearly but coyly described in the last few lines of the essay itself. “I have just finished an article of this kind,” Twain wrote, “and it satisfies me entirely. It does my weather-beaten soul good to read it, and admire the trouble it would make for me and the family. I will leave it behind, and utter it from the grave. There is free speech there, and no harm to the family.”

I would like to commend this delicious essay to my readers at this, the threshold of the 2018 midterm elections because Twain secreted a timely message in this essay. That message is hidden in plain sight within this long neglected masterwork. He wrote these words five years before his own death and they lay dormant for 103 years. Now ten years after that, I have discovered a plea he embedded in it- to try to save us from making a terrible mistake.

Let me explain. He sheepishly admits that thirty years before the Civil War, he and most other Americans actually accepted the existence of slavery. It was, “… not because we wanted to, for we did not, but we wanted to be in the swim. It is plainly a law of nature, and we obeyed it.” “In the swim,” (today we might say, “to be mainstream”) he explained, is the main motive for party and ideological identification.  According to Twain, “The average citizen is not a student of party doctrines…after all the fuss and all the talk, not one of those doctrines has been conclusively proven to be the right one and the best.”

In Twain’s time political feelings were personal and ambient. The only media were newspapers, flyers and the occasional speech. These days, we have television, radio and social media all of which leverage “the mainstream” into a flood tide. In place of Twain’s neighbors, co-workers and townspeople, we are beset by the almost unanimous howling, bleating  and self aggrandizement of preening Mass Media Personalities. They are the avatars of the elite establishment. They are telling you what to think and feel and how to think and feel it 24/7. They mean to make you understand that if you do not do it precisely as they say, you are NOT IN THE SWIM!

This is why the loudest most persistent cries in public and private life are anti-Trump. The constant battering our president takes from luminaries like Don Lemon, Morning Joe and Rachel Madow are as prejudicial as they are unfounded in facts. Its mostly name-calling and hysteria. Then there are the rage filled mobs of “liberals” who publicly harass and intimidate anyone connected to Mr Trump. A reasonable person would accept Twain’s approach: “…oftenest we suppress an unpopular opinion because we cannot afford the bitter cost of putting it forth. None of us likes to be hated, none of us likes to be shunned.”

Hated and shunned! When did it happen that the hard working people in fly-over country became so out of “The Swim” as to be objects of hate? When did it become smart to shun religious principals? The workers, the business people, the taxpayers- when did liberal elitists and media nabobs become so smart that they can tell us what to think? I don’t like it and I don’t accept it.

But then, what hope does Mark Twain offer? What secret message has he left us?

Here it is: “When a man has joined a party, he is likely to stay in it. If he change his opinion—his feeling, I mean, his sentiment—he is likely to stay, anyway; his friends are of that party, and he will keep his altered sentiment to himself, and talk the privately discarded one. On those terms he can exercise his American privilege of free speech, but not on any others. These unfortunates are in both parties, but in what proportions we cannot guess. Therefore we never know which party was really in the majority at an election.”

That’s it! That’s why the polls were all wrong in 2016. It's also why we now have the best economy in decades and we down here in the hoi polloi have the feeling that things have gotten better than we could ever have expected if we had listened to the smart people in Washington and New York. We have remembered that we can vote against “The Swim” and that free speech is not just for the grave it is also the privilege of the vote! Please, let's show them again. Show them that the “Blue Wave” was just their wishful thinking- just like “Ready for Hillary”- whistling past the graveyard, if you will. Get up on Tuesday and express yourself!



156,562,000: Record Employment for 12th Time Under Trump

The economy is the second most important issue for registered voters as the midterm election nears, a new Gallup Poll says. And there was very good economic news on Friday, as the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics rolled out the October employment report -- the final one before next week's midterm election.

The number of employed Americans has never been higher. The 156,562,000 Americans employed in October is the twefth record set under President Donald Trump.

In October, the number of employed men age 20 and up -- 80,405,000 -- set the 12th record since Trump took office; and likewise, for the 12th time, the number of employed women age 20 and up set a record, reaching 70,909,000 in October.

The unemployment rate held at 3.7 percent, the same as September, which is the lowest it's been in decades -- since the end of 1969. And the Hispanic unemployment rate, 4.4 percent, has never been lower.

The unemployment rate for African-Americans, 6.2 percent, remained near the all-time low of 5.9 percent set in May.

On top of those numbers, the economy added a whopping 250,000 jobs last month. After revisions, job gains have averaged 218,000 over the past 3 months.



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, November 05, 2018

Lining up for battle in the not so United States

The US has never seen a mid-term election quite like this — but, then again, it has never had a president quite like Donald Trump.

With only days to go before Americans vote on Wednesday (Tuesday US time), polls show an unprecedented level of interest and engagement by voters, suggesting they will turn out in force to cast judgment on the first two years of the Trump presidency.

Love him or hate him, it seems everyone has an opinion on Don­ald J. Trump.

In true Trump style, the President is having it both ways. He says the mid-terms are a referendum on himself, but at the same time if things go badly he says it will be the fault of the Republicans in congress.

Either way, these elections will play a crucial role in shaping the future of the Trump presidency. If Republicans lose control of the House of Representatives or the Senate, then the Democrats will spend the final two years of Trump’s first term trying to tear him down.

They would block his legislative agenda, cruelling his hopes of taking a second shot at repealing Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, raising funds for a border wall, infrastructure reform and other key election promises.

What’s more, Democrats would have the numbers to launch a dizzying series of investigations into Trump himself, ­including his family finances, his tax records and an extension of the Russia probes.

“I don’t want to see him lose the house or the Senate because they will fight everything the man does,” Margie Martindale says as she feeds chickens on her farm south of Allentown, Pennsylvania — a Republican district that the Democrats hope to retake.

“I work in a car yard removing chips and scratches from cars and I have worked all my life, nobody gave me anything. Trump is for us workers and I’m very pleased with what he’s done.

“The economy is booming and he is trying to close our borders ­because we have an invasion coming of 7000 people (in a migrant caravan) ready to come through our borders. If the Democrats come in they will just block and destroy because that’s what they do.”

But history is on the side of the Democrats. Since World War II the president’s party typically loses an average of 26 seats in the mid-terms and often much more when a president’s approval rating is below 50 per cent, as Trump’s is.

Bill Clinton and Obama’s Democrats each lost more than 50 seats and control of the house in their first mid-terms in 1994 and 2010.

To win the house, the Democrats need to win only 23 seats, and while Republicans still see a possible way of stemming a Democrat “blue tide”, pollsters concede they would have to win an almost perfect alignment of toss-up seats across the country.

The Senate is a different story because although the Republicans have a slim 51-49 majority, the Democrats find themselves defending 10 seats in states that were won by Trump.

Polls suggest the Democrats have probably already lost North Dakota to Republicans, meaning they would need to pick up the very few vulnerable Republican seats in Arizona, Nevada and possibly Tennessee to forge a narrow majority. But, if anything, the Republicans are tipped to hold on or even slightly extend their majority in the Senate.

Polls suggest the likeliest outcome is that the Democrats will take the house and the Republicans will keep control of the Senate. This would clear the way for the Democrats potentially to launch impeachment proceedings against the President in the house.

However, this would be little more than a political statement by the Democrats because it almost certainly would be blocked in the Senate, in the same way Clinton’s house-voted impeachment was.

Trump has worked hard to swing the late momentum towards Republicans, blitzing the country with rock star-style rallies to try to energise his Republican base and motivate them to vote.

Polls show the Republicans recently have closed the gap with Democrats in dozens of vulnerable seats, casting doubt on the early assumptions of many Democrats that there would be a giant blue wave of protest votes against Trump delivering them both houses of congress.

Some Republicans even are daring to dream that they may keep the house after polls this month showed Trump’s approval ratings had jumped from the low-40s to the mid-40s.

But the President’s approval rating fell this week in the unsettled aftermath of the twin shocks of pro-Trump mail bomb suspect Cesar Sayoc — who has been charged with sending at least 14 bombs to Democrat politicians and prominent Trump critics — and the mass shooting of 11 Jews at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

The horrific nature of both crimes has stirred debate in the US about the divisive nature of political rhetoric. Although the Democrats also have been guilty of deeply partisan rhetoric, the issue has greater potential to hurt Trump, whose pugnacious and ­aggressive rhetoric is a hallmark of his leadership style.

“I just want to see an end to the hostility and anger between the Democrats and the Republicans,” Janice Paget says as she walks her dog, Chai, in Quakertown, north of Philadelphia.

“With Trump’s remarks and him attacking everybody, there doesn’t seem to be any unity anymore. All these massacres, this violence. I’ve never seen anything going on like this in my lifetime in America,” says Paget, a retired medical worker who says she will “probably” vote Democrat.

Bob Moran, who has retired after a lifetime working for Sears department stores, says he believes Trump has soured and divided Americans and that is why he is going to cast his first vote in more than 20 years for Democrats.

“I don’t like Trump, I don’t like anything about what’s going on in this country,” he says. “It’s just ­unsettled, too much trouble from everywhere, I am just uncomfortable with it. If I could put a sign out for the Republican Party, it would say they better do something about their own man.”

Trump’s colossal presence in US politics has largely overshadowed the focus on local candidates in these mid-terms.

When Inquirer travelled this week through southeastern Pennsylvania — a key battleground for the mid-terms — many voters cited Trump rather than local candidates as their motivation to vote.

Candidates are tailoring their campaigns to distance themselves from Trump or embrace him, depending on the mood in their electorate. For example, in Pennsylvania’s 1st Congressional District in Bucks County just outside Philadelphia, Republican candidate Brian Fitzpatrick is cam­paigning as anti-Trump as he tries to win over those voters, especially women in outer-suburban Philadelphia who do not like the President but have conservative leanings. Fitzpatrick, a former FBI agent, has opposed attempts to repeal Obamacare, supports a carbon tax and even has criticised Trump for attacking the FBI.

By contrast, in West Virginia Democrat senator Joe Manchin has aligned himself almost entirely with the Republican President to keep his seat in a deep-red state where 63 per cent of people voted for Trump in 2016 and where his approval ratings ­remain above 60 per cent.

Manchin was the only Democrat to break party ranks and vote in favour of the confirmation of conservative Supreme Court judge Brett Kavanaugh.

The fallout from the bruising confirmation fight over Kavanaugh also is an issue that has energised Republicans and Democrats, with both believing it will work in their favour.

Doris Huntzinger, a former primary school teacher from Hartsville, Pennsylvania, says she is pro-life and is likely to vote Republican because she was appalled by the attacks on Kavanaugh after he was accused by Christine Blasey Ford of sexual assault at a high school party more than three decades earlier.

“The treatment of Brett Kavanaugh was terrible,” she says. “I am a woman, don’t tell me we are not supposed to think because I am a woman. People lie and women lie, but in that whole thing it was like whatever that woman said, that was the truth. I don’t get it. I have a husband, sons and a grandson. Are they going to grow up in a world where women are just going to say something and there is no evidence, no proof? It made me so angry.”

But the Democrat candidate in Huntzinger’s seat, Scott Wallace, says he believes the issue will work in his favour.

“On the independent and Democratic side, and of course moderate Republicans, there is a sense of anger about how Dr Ford was treated,” Wallace says. “My observation is that anger is a stronger motivator than gratitude. So I think by election day you will see the Kavanaugh effect will produce more energy on our side.”

Polls show the most important factors influencing American voters at these mid-terms are the Supreme Court, the economy and jobs, healthcare, immigration and Trump.

The robust and growing US economy is Trump’s biggest selling point with the electorate. Although he was lucky to inherit an economy on the uptick, his pro-business, anti-regulation rhetoric has helped fuel confidence. Unemployment sits at 3.7 per cent — the lowest since 1969 — along with strong job gains and a forecast economic growth of 3.1 per cent this year. If the Republicans can save congress, the buoyant economy will be a central factor.

In Pennsylvania’s 1st District, many voters tell Inquirer they believe Trump is largely ­responsible for this outcome.

“The economy has got a lot better, including around here,” real estate agent Cherry Blumgren says as she loads her grandson Easton, 5, into her car near the town of Dublin. “People are back at work, their confidence is back.”

Blumgren says her decision to vote Republican in the mid-terms is a case of weighing the strong economy against her reservations about Trump’s style. “I know Trump can be a bit opinionated and he can say things that are shocking, but we will put up with it,” she says.

Trump’s efforts to energise his base have been greatly helped by the emergence last week of the 7000-strong migrant caravan slowly winding its way through Mexico towards the US border.

Trump has exploited this opportunity to remind voters of the contrast between his border security polices and those of the Democrats, knowing the issue plays well to his base. He has tweeted about the caravan repeatedly, claiming that it contains criminals and gang members. This week he pointedly ordered up to 15,000 troops to the border as a statement of his intent to prevent them crossing into the US. “This is an invasion of our country and our military is waiting for you,” Trump tweeted, even though the US military is forbidden by law from detaining and ­deporting migrants.

Sandra Ligowski, a former bookkeeper at the local prison near Quakersville, says she will vote Republican because she is worried about illegal immigration.

“I like the idea of building the wall and I like the idea that those people have to have papers to come into the US,” she says. “They think they can just walk into this country and that’s not right, it’s a drain on our economy.”

Floating over all of these issues is the question of Trump’s unique and confrontational style.

The President’s supporters love his combative nature and praise him for his self-declared war on those he dislikes, from the Democrats and the liberal media to special counsel Robert Mueller and America’s trading partners.

“I like that he is stern with some of the other countries and he stands up for the United States,” Patricia Funk says as she takes her morning walk north of Philadelphia. “He doesn’t take any other country’s crap and that’s what we were looking for,” says Funk, who ran her own cleaning business and voted for Obama in 2008.

“I don’t like Trump’s stand on women but I picked him on how he runs the country, not how he runs his personal affairs.”

But Daryle Dobos, a grocery store worker from the small town of Chalfont, says Trump is a bully and he can’t understand why he continues to be popular with many voters.

“He is bombastic, he is loud, he is rude, he is ignorant and it’s effective,” says Dobos, who will vote Democrat. “That’s the mind-boggling thing — it has worked well enough to get him into office.”

Republican strategists are concerned about how Trump’s tariffs trade war with China, Europe, Mexico and Canada will play out in rural midwest states, which have been the President’s strongest supporters but which now have been hit by retaliatory tariffs from those countries. Trump has responded by announcing a $US12 billion ($16.6bn) aid package to US farmers in the hope they will stay loyal to him despite their hip-pocket pain.

“I’m a Republican but we don’t like the tariffs,” says Missy Gannon, a Hartsville mother of three sons who have all enlisted in the military. “My husband is in the (steel) fastener business and the things he sells now get taxed so he is not getting paid as much as he was.” But Gannon says she and her husband will vote Republican.

Trump needs to keep voters such as Gannon, who have been caught in the crossfire of his trade wars, on side if Republicans are going to perform strongly across the crucial farming and rust belt regions of the midwest.

But it is in the suburbs of towns, rather than the countryside, where the mid-terms are likely to be ­decided. This is the heartland of those who voted for Trump but are disillusioned by his style and who pose the greatest risk of abandoning the Republicans.

As Karl Rove, former Republican adviser to George W. Bush, puts it: “To win in many contests, Republican candidates must not only hold the crowd that likes everything about the President but also corral most of the half-happy voters who are pleased with Trump’s results but not how he handles himself.”

The biggest challenge is Trump’s growing disconnect with female voters. Among registered voters, women favour Democrat candidates in the house by a hefty 59 per cent to 37 per cent, while men have a narrow 48 per cent to 46 per cent preference for Republican candidates.

The key battlegrounds in the nation’s suburbs are filled with conservative-leaning, educated women who polls show have had a more adverse reaction to Trump than any other Republican group. A study by the Wall Street Journal this week found that the gap in political views by education and gender has widened in the US as women with college degrees have grown more negative about Trump, while men without degrees have grown warmer towards him since his inauguration.

Former schoolteacher Huntzinger is one of Rove’s “half-happy” voters but she still will vote Republican on Wednesday. “While I like Trump’s policies, I am not particularly fond of the man,” she says. “But he seems to be getting things done, which we haven’t seen for awhile. If I had my choice, I would rather a guy who is going to do something than a guy who is nice and sweet and pleasant to everybody but gets nothing done.”



Al Sharpton Has Complete Meltdown After Seeing Black Crowd Full of MAGA Hats

BizPac Review reported that Trump graciously allowed Turning Points USA to hold this year’s Young Black Leadership Summit at the White House. But, according to Sharpton on MSNBC, “It’s one of the lowest things he could ever do.”

“To go in the East Room, which is sacred, have a staged rally. Notice that all of those youngsters had caps on. It was almost like we’re going to dress you for the photo. And to call it a young black leader summit ….”

His ignorant commentary about Trump and the black youth who participated in the summit was not missed by social media. Twitter users had a field day calling him out over it. First up, the “dress you for the photo” comment, which also implies the hats, etc were bought and paid for by Trump, not the attendees.



Experienced inequality and preferences for redistribution

If you have been poor and risen above it, you tend to see welfare payments as unfair


We examine whether individuals' experienced levels of income inequality affect their preferences for redistribution. We use several large nationally representative datasets to show that people who have experienced higher inequality during their lives are less in favor of redistribution, after controlling for income, demographics, unemployment experiences and current macroeconomic conditions. They are also less likely to support left-wing parties and to consider the prevailing distribution of incomes to be unfair. We provide evidence that these findings do not operate through extrapolation from own circumstances, perceived relative income or trust in the political system, but seem to operate through the respondents' fairness views.

Journal of Public Economics Volume 167, November 2018, Pages 251-262


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