Friday, January 11, 2019

Heaven preserve us from international bureaucracies

Thomas Friedman’s 2005 best-seller “The world is flat” asserted that we were moving inexorably towards globalization and that barriers to trade and people movement were disappearing, as would many aspects of sovereignty. It is now clear that this process produces a political reaction, in which ordinary people protest vehemently against the flattening of their planet. We should rejoice: a flat world would be a tyranny, and the bumps in our current planetary economic system are all that protects us from this nightmare.

Walter Russell Mead, in a year-end article, echoed this zeitgeist when he described the “liberal international order” as the biggest loser of 2018. This sounds alarming, until we realize that the “liberal international order” is not the classical sense liberal, nor fully international, nor even much of an order. It consists of a morass of international treaties and institutions, all of which are designed to replace the norms of the free market with the dictates of unelected bureaucrats. That is not “liberalism” in the classical sense, which allows free markets the maximum possible rein, with small governments confining themselves to setting up rules of trade and information provision. It is also anathema to individual freedom of all kinds.

Another symptom of the declining credibility of the “liberal international order” comes from Japan, where Vladimir Putin calendars, complete with bare-chested pictures, were the #1 best seller this year. This is not to claim that Japanese are dying to give Putin back the Kurile islands, far from it, nor are they keen to bring corruption and unexplained disappearances to Japan. However, Putin with his nationalism and contempt for international norms represents the best possible protest against the stultifying political correctness that the “liberal international order” represents.

At the state level also, the credibility of bossy international treaties and global organizations is declining rapidly. The U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change has been put down to President Trump’s eccentricity and hatred of the global order. However, last week Japan, generally a dutiful upholder of international agreements, pulled out of the International Whaling Commission, saying it had utterly failed to maintain a balance between whale preservation and orderly development of the whaling industry.

Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe has been in office for years and is nobody’s idea of a screaming radical. Japan’s withdrawal from an agreement with which it had complied for over 30 years is thus deeply significant. It is also however entirely justified; the Commission had allowed no whaling since 1986, on the grounds of whale stocks’ depletion, but those stocks have now rebuilt. Japan’s cultural and economic wishes for an active whaling industry should take precedence, in any rationally ordered society – which the Commission, being an international body, isn’t.

The current passion for international governance, of one sort or another, grew out of World War I and was reinforced by World War II — it was felt that anything that could avoid such global catastrophes in future would be beneficial. However, the winners of World Wars I and II, the United States, Britain, France and the Soviet Union, were all run by big-government advocates.

In 1919, for example, Britain’s Lloyd George believed in the “war socialism” which had taken hold during his period of office in 1916-18, while Woodrow Wilson was an authoritarian would-be-despot whose Progressive ideology believed that all problems could be solved by sufficiently fanatical and determined intellectuals. As for France, Georges Clemenceau was a more practical statesmen than the other two, but he was still a French Socialist, with an instinctive belief in government control.

In 1944-45, similar forces were at work. The United States was run by second-generation Progressives, who wrongly believed their meddling had solved the Great Depression (and several of whom were in any case in the pay of Stalin) while British policy was set mostly by the benign but economically unsophisticated Socialists led by Clement Attlee and the thoroughly un-benign but even more dictatorial Maynard Keynes. The free-market types who had run both the United States and Britain in the 1920s and 1930s – one thinks of the very able Andrew Mellon and the thoroughly capable Neville Chamberlain – were not involved in the design of either set of globalist institutions.

As a result of their provenance, the global institutions that came into being were thoroughly statist and oriented towards rule by “experts.” The World Bank has an innate bias towards the public sector in its lending, and generally requires local governments to support the projects it finances. The IMF offers free advice to governments, but that advice is always tailored towards government control, and the IMF by its very existence put out of business the London merchant banks’ advisory business, which had supported emerging markets economic development so well in the 19th Century.

Likewise, the treaties that were generated by the new international bodies were all heavily oriented towards state control and away from the private sector. Agreements such as the Law of the Sea treaty and the various climate-change agreements allowed infinite influence for left-oriented lobbying groups, but little if any say for private business, which was deemed to be a “vested interest” not worthy of a place at the table. All of this was entirely in the tradition of Keynes himself, who appears to have talked to few private bankers and no businessmen at all in his investigations of how the economy worked, thereby deriving an entirely misguided picture of economic reality.

In recent years, an alternative to the international development institutions has grown up, in the Chinese “belt and road” initiatives to develop emerging market infrastructure. In Africa in particular, but also in countries such as Ecuador and Sri Lanka, these were greeted with joy, as mechanisms by which capital could be injected into the economic development of these countries, without the tiresome and misguided moral and economic lectures from the World Bank and its equivalents.

However, very recently it has become apparent that the Chinese initiatives are a “debt trap” by which Chinese influence can be extended permanently into the recipient countries. China foreclosed on Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port facilities, taking control of them. In South Africa, China is blamed for the massive corruption of the Jacob Zuma administration, through its relationships with the Gupta family. In Malaysia, Mahathir’s new government has torn up several Chinese development agreements, in a bid to preserve Malaysia’s independence. Thus, Chinese imperialism is now seen by emerging markets as only marginally better than the international institutions as a road to development.

There is a better alternative. The global institutions designed by Progressives and socialists after World Wars I and II were not the only way to avoid global conflict. A century earlier, the Holy Alliance between the major powers, assembled at the Congress of Vienna, had provided an ongoing forum to discuss the inevitable areas of friction between different countries’ interests, and arrange solutions for conflicts short of war. It imposed no new international institutions, but merely arranged for a Congress to be held whenever a problem needed to be discussed. By the subsequent Troppau Protocol, the powers agreed to intervention only to prop up an existing government if its potential overthrow might disturb the international peace.

Since it had the ability to overpower any potential malefactor, and its members were in general agreement about the type of world they wanted to preserve, the Holy Alliance was both a more effective and less coercive version of the League of Nations/United Nations structures developed after the World Wars. Regrettably a foolish British statesman, George Canning, decided Britain’s interests lay more with the middle-class urban “liberals” attempting to disrupt the international order than with the order itself, so the Holy Alliance lasted in effective form for less than a decade. By the time global tensions escalated in the run-up to World War I, there was no forum where the world’s statesmen met regularly, to know each other and sort out difficulties such as territorial disputes and Balkan assassinations.

The “liberal international order” is a statist socialist myth. Rather than the current plethora of international bodies and treaties, the G7 and G20 annual meetings between the world’s leaders are all we need to solve disputes and arrange for arbitration of any especially knotty issues. These should not have secretariats of their own, because such secretariats become devoted to their own preservation and aggrandizement, as well as falling prey to Marxist and Alinskyite charitable organizations. Simple meetings, reinforced by ongoing contacts between the various national bureaucracies, are all we need to solve disputes. Anything more diverts control from elected or otherwise legitimate national governments, where it belongs.

Go on, abolish the supra-national bureaucracies, including the EU Commission and its associated empire! You will find that the more extreme forms of populism die down, because people are once again in control of their own destinies.



Navigating the Great Divide

In the months after the election of Donald Trump, there was a mini-political movement in California to get the Golden State to secede from the Union.

It didn't get off the ground, though during a recent trip to Northern California, many of the people I met were still so distraught over the Trump presidency that were he to win re-election, secession would be much more seriously pursued. A majority of Californians don't want to be governed by Donald Trump, and many liberal leaders and talking heads openly compare him to Adolf Hitler.

What if we arrived at a point where a solid majority of Californians wanted independence (and perhaps states like Washington and Oregon sought to join them)? Should they have the moral and constitutional right to do so? Would the other states ever impose military control over Californians to keep them in the Union?

The standard response is this issue was settled during the Civil War. Really? What the Civil War proved was that the North had more military might than the South. Imagine that it were the South in 1860 that held the political and military advantage to impose its will over the North, and moved to legalize the evil of slavery everywhere. Would the North have been morally wrong to secede?

The issue of secession takes on renewed vigor now given the British exit from the European Union. The EU allowed a fairly orderly process for allowing nations to leave the EU governing structure. The political tide in many places around the world appears to be for self-rule and sovereignty.

In America, the deepening and perhaps irreversible red state-blue state schism deserves immediate attention. We as a nation are more divided on ideological, cultural, economic and geographical lines than at any time since the Civil War. Look at the electoral map from recent elections.

In most of the South and the Mountain States — red America — liberal Democrats are virtually nonexistent in state government. In blue America — California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island — Republicans have been wiped off the map. Today, there are only two states that have a divided legislature.

I hope that we can bridge our differences and come together as one nation. This 50-state union is what has made America the unrivaled superpower economically and militarily. We benefit mightily from being the largest free trade zone in the world and from our common bond of freedom.

But it's not unimaginable that the polar opposite visions of where America should be headed economically, culturally and morally can't be repaired. I hope I'm wrong, but prudence dictates we start thinking of what might happen if liberal and conservative America grow so polarized that they can't peaceably coexist in the future.

The fault lines are already showing. In some "progressive" parts of the country, liberals literally don't want to sit at the same lunch counter or restaurant as pro-Trump conservatives. Political activists are so persuaded of the rightness of their position — on abortion, climate change, universal health care, immigration policy, taxation — they now believe they have the moral authority to shut down the First, Second, Fourth, Ninth and Tenth Amendment rights of the people they disagree with.

Houston, we have a problem. The federal government is losing the consent of the governed.

Could this red-state vs. blue-state America end in violence and uprising if one side feels hopelessly aggrieved by the tyranny of the majority of the other side? We know, regrettably, from history that it can.

How do we head this off? Two ideas need to be pursued.

The most practical solution is a reinvigorated emphasis on federalism — a political movement that takes ever-expanding power away from the federal government and restores the sovereignty and home rule of the states. That way Americans can self-select to live under the laws they agree with but within the context of the legal protections of U.S. citizens embedded in the U.S. Constitution.

If you want drugs legalized, government-run health care, abortion on demand and an end to fossil fuels, move to California. If you want low taxes, right-to-work laws and prayer in school, move to Alabama.

If this doesn't work, America may need to consider a Brexit-like option. One of the flaws of the U.S. Constitution is that it never set forth terms of legal separation. Perhaps that needs to be fixed with a constitutional amendment that allows a state to leave the union if a supermajority of the citizens wants to opt out. As long as the states remained as a free trade zone and perhaps agreed to a common currency (like the euro) the economic costs would be small.

Some may view this as an un-American or even a treasonous idea. No. Offering states an exit option would force the majority of states to be more attentive to the grievances of the minority and would help resolve conflicts and could save the union from dissolution.

One last point: If it ever came to this, I suspect that conservatives would not have a big problem with blue states legally separating from red states. Liberals would greatly resist red states from separating from blue states. That is true because a) liberals believe in big centralized government having authority over the citizenry (they are more elitist and authoritarian), and b) they know that the low-tax, less-regulation, right-to-work, economic-freedom model of the red states would economically crush a nation with socialist impulses ruled by Bernie Sanders or another Barack Obama.



Mike Huckabee on barmaid Sandy: ‘There Was a Time When Dems Weren’t Socialists’

On his Twitter page, former governor of Arkansas and two-time GOP presidential primary candidate Mike Huckabee called out Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and the Democratic Party on policy grounds, suggesting that “[t]here was a time when Dems weren’t socialists.”

“I’m just fine w/ Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez dancing; I’m NOT fine w/ her tax proposals,” admitted Mike Huckabee in a tweet. “JFK wouldn’t be either. There was a time when Dems weren’t socialists. What happened to them?”

Huckabee’s remarks stem from a piece published Jan. 4, 2019 by Americans for Tax Reform titled “Ocasio-Cortez Tax Plan Creates 82.7% Top Income Tax Rate for New Yorkers.” According to the piece,

“In an upcoming 60 Minutes interview, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) will call for federal income tax rates of up to 70 percent as part of a proposal to create vast new government spending programs.

“The current top federal income tax rate is 37 percent, [and] the Ocasio-Cortez plan will nearly double the tax rate for the top bracket.”

Avowed “democratic socialist” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in her “60 Minutes” interview, suggested raising taxes “as high as 60 or 70 percent” on the wealthiest Americans to pay for her “Green New Deal,” what calls “a highly ambitious, some would say ‘unrealistic,’ proposal that would convert the entire U.S. Economy to renewable sources of energy in just 12 years, while guaranteeing every American a job at a fair wage.”

The Daily Signal’s Jarrett Stepman, in a commentary piece on Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal, warns that “the tax hikes on the rich would be one of the least radical parts of the agenda,” and further suggests that “if implemented, the Green New Deal would upend our way of life and destroy the liberty and prosperity that Americans, of all backgrounds, currently enjoy.”



Ocasio-Cortez Has A Meltdown Over Being Fact Checked Too Much

Socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) exploded on Monday after multiple left-wing publications fact-checked her and criticized her defense of the numerous falsehoods she has told.

The Daily Wire reports:

The former bartender claimed on CBS News’ “60 Minutes” on Sunday that people were too focused on being “factually” accurate, and not focused enough on being morally right, which drew widespread criticism.

That criticism carried over into news reports today from left-leaning publications, including The Washington Post and CNN, which published reports titled, “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s very bad defense of her falsehoods” and “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s very slippery slope on facts,” respectively.

Even leftist Whoopi Goldberg slammed Ocasio-Cortez, advising her to “sit still for a minute and learn the job .. .before you start pooping on people and what they’ve done, you got to do something … “

Ocasio-Cortez then suggested that it was not fair that she was, in her own mind, being held to the same standards as President Donald Trump.

Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler dismantled her claims, tweeting to her: “We have fact-checked you twice. We have fact-checked 7,645 Trump claims.”



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, January 10, 2019

Freedom FROM

The rare rational Leftist with whom can have an intelligent discussion sometimes asks us advocates of individual liberty what we mean by freedom or liberty.  They are right to ask that.  Over the centuries men have often fought for freedom.  But what was the freedom from?  Scots often declared that they were fighting for freedom.  So did that mean that they wanted a deregulated state?  Not at all.  What they were fighting for was freedom  from rule by the English. That the Scottish king was at least as tyrannical as the English king did not bother them. They saw it as a plus to be tyrannized by a fellow countryman.

And we see a similar ambiguity among libertarians.  It is sometimes said that there are as many versions of libertarianism  as there are libertarians.  Libertarians may even want opposite things. Some libertarians, for instance, want freedom for all individuals to smoke anywhere they happen to be.  That is a pretty purist libertarian position but, fortunately, not one often adopted.

In contrast, another libertarian may value the opportunity for all people everywhere to be able to breathe air unpolluted by the stink of tobacco smoke. So the two libertarians may want opposite things but value both things in the name of liberty.

Examples like that show that there really is no such thing as liberty in the abstract.  There are only freedoms from particular things. Liberty is meaningless without a predicate.

So to be frank and honest in our discourses we should list and justify separately what liberties we value.  Calling oneself a libertarian contains no real meaning at all.  A common list of things that libertarians want includes things that both Leftists and conservatives want but there will be no universally agreed list of those things.  We need to justify each of those freedoms by themselves.  Saying grandly that we stand for "liberty" is meaningless or at least uninformative.  And the same goes for individual liberty. There is no such thing by itself.

There is probably a fair amount of agreement about what liberties advocates of individual liberty want but that is just true of one particular time and place and one particular culture.  So being a libertarian is not easy at all.  It provides you with no magic key to unlock the "correct" position on any issue. We need to argue each point of the liberties we want.  Saying that we stand for freedom is just slipshod.  There is in fact no grand value that we are standing behind.  A love of liberty is always a love of some particular liberties.

Particularly under the influence of Disraeli, English conservatives often said that they stood for traditional English liberties -- which gave a reasonably clear list of liberties -- but there is not much left of those liberties in England these days.  The modern British state is a bureaucratic and authoritarian monster.

Libertarians do specify in general what liberties they want.  They say that they oppose force, fraud and coercion.  Unpacking those generalizations into particular policies is the problem, however -- as I have shown above with the example of smoking.

Note:  I use "liberty" and "freedom" interchangeably, which I think is common.  One word originates from Latin and the other from German but that seems to be the only difference -- JR


The Terrifying Rise of Financial Blacklisting

It is the most totalitarian form of blacklisting: not just to be prevented from speaking on a university campus, or to be kicked off social media, but to be shut out of the entire financial system. That is the terrifying new threat to freedom that western societies must now contend with.

Financial blacklisting doesn’t just rob you of a chance to spread your message: it robs you of your ability to do business, your livelihood, your very means of functioning in a capitalist society. Thanks to the encroachment of progressive ideology into the financial industry — including major credit card companies like Visa, Discover, and Mastercard — it has now become a reality.

I first wrote about the rise of financial blacklisting in July, in a column for Breitbart News in which I highlighted the growing tendency of online financial platforms — as well as Visa and MasterCard — to deny service to customers for political reasons. I was surprised to receive a strongly worded comment from the liberal Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), who bluntly warned that banks and credit card companies had become “de facto internet censors.” That even liberal groups had raised the alarm signaled the seriousness of the problem.

Since then, financial blacklisting has only gotten worse. In August, Mastercard and Discover deplatformed conservative and Islam critic Robert Spencer. In the same month, Visa and Mastercard ceased service to David Horowitz. While credit card processing service to Horowitz was eventually restored, Spencer remains financially blacklisted.

Crowdfunding platforms like Patreon, which allow online content creators to collect donations from their supporters, are frequently cast as the primary villains in financial blacklisting. Patreon’s recent ban of YouTuber Carl Benjamin, better known by his moniker Sargon of Akkad, triggered a crisis for the platform. Both donors and creators — including prominent atheist Sam Harris — quit the platform in protest, while Jordan Peterson and Dave Rubin pledged to create an alternative platform that is pro-free speech.

But Patreon and other crowdfunding platforms are not the real villains. They are dependent on the whims of the credit card companies, something that was already apparent in August when Mastercard forced them to withdraw service from Robert Spencer. We now know that the credit card companies were also a factor in Patreon’s decision to boot Benjamin.

YouTuber and Patreon creator Matt Christiansen recently released a transcript of his conversation with Jacqueline Hart of Patreon about Benjamin’s ban. Hart frankly admits that the sensibilities of credit card companies play a key role in Patreon’s decisions.

Here’s an excerpt of that transcript (emphasis ours):

JACQUELINE: The problem is is Patreon takes payments.  And while we are obviously supportive of the first amendment, there are other things that we have to consider. Our mission is to fund the creative class. In order to accomplish that mission we have to build a community of creators that are comfortable sharing a platform, and if we allow certain types of speech that some people would call free speech, then only creators that use Patreon that don’t mind their branding associated with that kind of speech would be those who use Patreon and we fail at our mission.  But secondly as a membership platform, payment processing is one of the core value propositions that we have. Payment processing depends on our ability to use the global payment network, and they have rules for what they will process.

MATT:  Are you telling me that this was Patreon’s decision then, or someone pressured you into this?

JACQUELINE:  No – this was entirely Patreon’s decision. 

MATT:  Well then I don’t understand passing the buck off to somebody else. 

JACQUELINE:  No, I’m not passing the buck off.  The thing is we have guidelines, but I’m trying to explain, #1 it is our mission to fund the creative class and obviously some people may not want to be associated. 

MATT:  Well if it’s your mission, then payment processors are irrelevant.  It’s your mission. That’s what you’re pursuing.

JACQUELINE:  We’re not visa and mastercard ourselves – we can’t just make the rules.  That’s what I’m saying – there is an extra layer there.

This “extra layer” places platforms like Patreon in an impossible position: abandon free speech or lose your ability to process payments. That’s also why so many free-speech alternatives to Patreon have failed: FreeStartr, Hatreon, MakerSupport, and SubscribeStar all tried to offer a more open platform, and were promptly dumped by the credit card companies. All are unable to do business.

This exposes the emptiness of establishment conservative arguments about the free market. Those who oppose Silicon Valley censorship aren’t allowed to just build their own alternative platforms. They must build their own global payment processing infrastructure to have any hope of restoring free speech online.

That, or they must find a way to stop Visa, Mastercard and Discover from taking advice from the far-left Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Color of Change. The former was allegedly responsible for the blacklisting of Robert Spencer, while the latter claims to have removed 158 funding sources from “white supremacist sites” — although as the group won’t list what those sites are, we don’t know if they really are “white supremacist.” The far left typically includes regular Trump supporters under the label.

Another thing the credit card companies will have to avoid — listening to the New York Times, which is currently pressuring them to blacklist gun purchasers.

The only other option is to find an alternative to Visa, MasterCard, and Discover that is indifferent about American social justice politics. There’s only one card which has a similar level of global coverage — China’s UnionPay. It remains to be seen if a company at the whim of Chinese Communists is better than Visa, Discover, and Mastercard — all of which currently appear to be at the whim of American communists.

Visa, Mastercard, Discover and Patreon did not return requests for comment.



Sidestepping Congress to Build the Wall

Could President Trump order the construction of his proposed border wall without having Congress specifically authorize the funds to pay for it?

Authorizing funds to pay for the proposed border wall is the central focus in this year’s episode of federal government shutdown theater. The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a total of $5 billion (0.1%) of the U.S. government’s projected $4.4 trillion spending budget for 2019 toward border security improvements that includes money to construct the wall, while the U.S. Senate has countered with a spending proposal of $1.3 billion that includes no wall construction funds. The lack of a compromise in setting the amount of this spending authorization that President Trump would approve is why the federal government is now partially shut down, as Washington D.C. politicians put on their nearly annual political performance.

But former House Oversight Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz argues that President Trump could sidestep Congressional approval for the improved border barricade and use funds that haven’t been authorized to pay for it. Now a Fox News contributor, Chaffetz explains how that might happen in a recent op-ed:

Can the government spend money that has not been specifically authorized by Congress? In theory—no. In practice? Absolutely.

Each year the government spends hundreds of billions of dollars on things that are not specifically authorized by Congress. Both Democrats and Republicans have been complicit in this practice.

President Donald Trump, to his credit, has worked hard to get his wall funding properly authorized. But he may ultimately do exactly what presidents before him have done: take advantage of the broken Congressional process.

Washington’s dirty little secret is that unauthorized spending is not even uncommon anymore. As a freshman member of Congress, this truth stunned me—and I was not alone. By my estimation, there were many in the body who disapproved of the practice. But to our disappointment, the body as a whole was not inclined to address the issue.

How much money are we talking about? In 2016, the Congressional Budget Office reported that the U.S. government spent over $310 billion that wasn’t authorized by the Congress for that fiscal year. The $3.7 billion difference between the House and Senate budget bills for border security now being argued about on Capitol Hill, about 1.2% of the 2016’s total unauthorized spending total, could be scrounged from these funds.

Then, if President Trump wanted to escalate the stakes in this year’s government shutdown revue, he could force Congress to address the issue by ordering the shutdown of all the U.S. government’s nonessential functions whose money to operate comes from these unauthorized funds.



Anticipating New US-Bound ‘Caravan,’ Mexican Minister Says Mexico’s Southern Border Will be Secured to Ensure ‘Legal and Orderly’ Entry

A day before President Trump gives a prime time Oval Office address on “the humanitarian and national security crisis” on the Southwest border, Mexico’s interior minister outlined plans to strengthen her own country’s porous southern border, where hundreds of illegal crossing points have been identified.

Speaking at a gathering of Mexican diplomats at the foreign ministry, Olga Sánchez Cordero said at least 10,000 migrants had entered Mexico from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala since last October, and that another U.S.-bound “caravan” from the south was expected to arrive in mid-January.

Sánchez Cordero said the government was determined to ensure that “legal and orderly” entry takes place.

As part of the new government’s migration policy, she said, anyone wanting to enter Mexico would have to provide information including reason for entry, biometric data, and an identity document.

“Those who refuse to provide identity or biometric data will not be able to enter Mexican territory.”

For those whose objective in entering Mexico is to travel to the U.S., the government’s policy would be to stipulate “certain deadlines,” so that if access to the U.S. is not possible they return to their countries of origin.

Sánchez Cordero said although Mexico was not the cause of the mass migration phenomenon, it was “willing and determined to be part of the solution.”

To do so it would need the United Nations and Organization of American States (OAS) to assume their “co-responsibility in addressing the phenomenon,” along with the active participation of the governments of the migrants’ countries of origin.

“It is also essential that the governments of the countries of Central America, particularly Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, assume their inescapable responsibilities.”

She noted that there were 12 formal points of entry along the southern (Mexico-Guatemala/ Mexico-Belize) border, but that approximately 370 illegal crossing points had also been detected, and said the government would monitor them to prevent illegal entry into Mexico.

The minister predicted that mass migration would continue, and may even grow in the months and years to come.

“We need to bring order to our borders, and provide migrants with humanitarian aid and the dignified and respectful treatment they deserve,” she said.

Sánchez Cordero stressed that President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s instructions were for a humanitarian migration policy, with migrants seen not as delinquents but as human beings seeking to escape insecurity and deprivation in their countries of origin.

Participants in previous caravans that entered Mexico from Central America in the closing months of 2018 have either crossed into the U.S., are waiting in the border city of Tijuana, have taken up offers to be repatriated, or have applied for asylum in Mexico.

Sánchez Cordero’s figures about some 370 illegal crossing points along Mexico’s southern border are not new: They were cited in 2015 in a State Department Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs document, in which the Obama administration outlined ways it was helping the previous Mexican government to secure that border.

They included millions of dollars’ worth of mobile “non-intrusive inspection equipment” – scanners that use X-rays to inspect vehicles – and mobile kiosks used to capture migrants’ biometric and biographical data.



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, January 09, 2019

Postmodernism -- A much abused term

There are two articles here and here which seem to me to be very confused about what is postmodernism.  One claims that it is nothing more than a form of art criticism and the other claims that there can be conservative postmodernists -- with even the impeccably conservative Dennis Prager being elected as a postmodernist.

The first writer above, Michael Barnard, lists some of the many  lines of thought that have been described from time to time as postmodernist and many others could be added.  "Postmodernist" has become a sort of all-purpose description of any body of thought that seems fanciful or unrealistic, or, indeed incoherent.

So what is postmodernism?  Is it just a form of Art criticism as Barnard contends, for instance?  It may be the form that Barnard most respects but his own examples of where discourse about postmodernism arises show his claim as merely provocative if not silly.

So am I going to provide a better definition?  Not at all.  There are a variety of definitions and all get at something in postmodernism.  Read as many as you like.  I cover a fair few of them here

What I want to do is to trace postmodernism to it source and from that an understanding of what it is readily emerges.  It originated in a severe philosophical problem that became increasingly well-known and influential in the twentieth century. It traces at least from David Hume's denial in the 18th century that one can derive an “ought” from an “is” but arguably goes all the way back to Socrates.  The problem was how do we know what is right, good or ought to be done?  The expressions "X is pink" and "X is good" are of similar form so are they of the same kind?  Is goodness as objective a property as pinkness?

For almost everybody, the answer to that is clear.  The first is a statement of fact and the second is a value judgment.  But where do values come from?  Is goodness and rightness hiding under a rock somewhere?  If not, where is it?  There have been various attempts to answer that but in the end there is nothing objective that can be pointed to. It all devolves into a matter of opinion.

Analytical philosophers have labored long and hard to find ways of defining what is good but the very fact that they have different opinions about it undermines the effort.  We just have to accept that there is no such thing as an objective right and wrong.  Statements about rightness and wrongness are expressions of attitude, not expressions of fact.  Philosophy has failed to give an account of objective or absolute rightness and goodness.

Awareness of that state of affairs gradually grew throughout the twentieth century as exposure to education spread  -- and many people encountering it seemed to find it liberating.  They saw a failure of philosophy as telling them something important about the world.  They saw it as undermining all standards in morality, ethics, aesthetics and much else.  They interpreted it as liberating them from all restraints.

Civilized restraints however did not go away.  Certain old-fashioned customs were no longer seen as binding but what you needed to do to have a pleasant life did not change much.

But if your behavior remained constrained, your theorizing was not.  And the resultant gabble is what we identify as postmodernism.  Postmodernism is an attempt to use or at least understand why there are no absolute moral truths and, in some cases, an attempt to construct alternative truths.  Whatever you dreamed up could be justified by the absence of objective moral truths.

Thus it became customary that when a Leftist was backed into a corner over the value of some policy, he would say "But there's no such thing as right and wrong anyway".  He eluded a practical debate by describing it as something else, as a debate about moral absolutes

So postmodernists celebrate a lack of objective standards about what is good or right -- and usually offer their own behavior recommendations anyway, the pursuit of power being the main one.  In their celebration of their own incoherence they can say in almost the same breath that there is no such thing as right and wrong but Donald Trump is wrong about just about everything. Their philosophy does not even account for their own usage.

So most of the world's people  carry on with efforts to build a pleasant life for themselves and bother themselves with debates and explorations about how to achieve that.  Abstract philosophical debates don't enter their consciousness.

And conservatives in particular do that.  If analytical philosophy has failed to solve one of it central problems they are unconcerned.  What gives them the life they want is their overriding interest.  And they search for guidelines about that.  It is not at all clear how one should behave to have a life with maximum happiness and minimal pain.  And when they do arrive at a guideline or set of guidelines that sounds like it has an impressive track record (such as evangelical Christianity), they do tend to value that guideline and act in accordance with it.  They might even describe it as the "right" way to live in discussions with others who are searching.

Among Leftists, however, there seems to be a belief that because there is no such thing as objective right and wrong, therefore there are no guidelines that lead to a happy life.  One pities them.  It is  no wonder that all the surveys find that conservatives are happier.

So the absence of an objective right and wrong does not tell us that all roads will lead to happiness.  As Jesus said, that road may be "strait and narrow".

So in the end there was one moral philosopher who got it right.  R.M. Hare argued that the only defensible function of "is good' or "is right" statements is to commend.  That can be unpacked in various ways but it can also be unpacked to interpret "rightness" statements as saying "This makes me happy and I think it will make you happy too", or "This satisfies me and I think it would satisfy you too" or "This gets me results I like and I think you would like its results too" -- and so on.

The similarity of the two statements "X is pink" and "X is good"  does lead some people to think that the goodness they are discussing is something objective, something that can be pointed to in the same way that one can point to a color. A little reflection normally tells us however that the "goodness" or "rightness" being referred to is something fundamentally different from a color.

There is a belief among some people however -- particularly among the products of a Catholic education -- that there ARE some moral absolutes.  They cannot point to any proof of it but they FEEL that some things are "just wrong" and are always wrong.  There is a sound evolutionary reason for that feeling which I discuss in my fuller account of moral philosophy


Why The Attacks On Trump’s Character Don’t Land

 Derek Hunter

President Donald Trump’s character has been under nonstop attack since he first appeared on the national stage in the 1980s. Yet somehow people still seem to think this is an effective tactic in an attempt to either change him, take him down, or turn off his supporters. It’s not going to work.

When porn star Stormy Daniels emerged with allegations of a tryst with Trump in 2006, Trump supporters yawned. They didn’t deny the possibility, or even the probability, they simply didn’t care. Not because half the American people suddenly decided infidelity is a good thing, or even an indifferent thing, but because Donald Trump wasn’t elected the nation’s husband, he was elected President of the United States.

A good chunk of the 90s were spent arguing over this very thing – does legal but morally repugnant private conduct matter more than public behavior? The answer then was an unambiguous “no.” Putting aside what is unquestioningly a denigration of our culture and civil society, that the answer remains a resounding no today should surprise no one.

But the complaints about Trump’s character don’t stop at his actions in his personal life, they’ve bled into his actions and words as President.

One writer declared, “Trump’s refusal to listen to advisers, his inability to bite his tongue, his demonization and belittling of senators who vote for his agenda but refuse to keep quiet when he does or says things they disagree with, his rants against the First Amendment, his praise for dictators and insults for allies, his need to create new controversies to eclipse old ones, and his inexhaustible capacity to lie and fabricate history: All of this springs from his character.”

These have also largely fallen flat for the same reason his past personal conduct, both admitted (in his first 2 marriages) and denied, did – words aren’t actions. If Trump acted to limit freedom of the press, for example, that would be one thing. But complaining about CNN is hardly setting up a Gulag. If saying nice things about Kim Jong-Un translated into adopting hereditary, absolute power, rather than a plausible diplomatic tactic, then again, sure.

Lying is never good, but it’s also the currency of politicians. Not to excuse it, because I don’t, but exaggeration and falsehoods weren’t created on January 20, 2017. Just because the media embraced a hair-trigger, hyper-sensitive breathlessness in their reporting of the concept after 8 years of uninterrupted slumber does not mean people care.

That’s really what it boils down to – Trump supporters don’t care. None of the untruths, to whatever degree, aren’t important enough to matter. This is largely due to overkill. Liberal journalists are all too happy to “fact check” everything the President says, no matter how insignificant, as if flooding the zone will somehow bring about a critical mass that turns off support. What it really does is drown out all of it, and the petty nature of most of it leads the larger issues to be dismissed as well. Trump declaring he won the Electoral College in a historic landslide isn’t important to anyone, it’s the equivalent of stretching the size of a fish you caught. Yet it’s presented alongside other substantive falsehoods as if it’s the same as saying, “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.” It’s not, by a longshot.

That’s the difference between critics and haters. Critics, whether you agree with them or not, are generally justified in their criticisms, which tend to be based on specific policy or even style differences. Haters will be unsatisfied and angry even as someone accomplishes things they’d sworn they supported because of who is accomplishing them. It’s irrational. There is so much personal hatred of Donald Trump for existing in a way the old order doesn’t like, it’s become impossible and exhausting trying to separate out legitimate criticism from venomous ramblings. It’s like trying to blame which raindrops made you wet in a thunderstorm.

Mitt Romney, the failed 2012 GOP presidential nominee who will be sworn in as Utah’s junior Senator today, appears ready to ride his high horse right into the Senate. He’s attacking the President’s character now, after happily accepting his support during his election. “A president should demonstrate the essential qualities of honesty and integrity, and elevate the national discourse with comity and mutual respect,” Romney wrote.

He added, “With the nation so divided, resentful and angry, presidential leadership in qualities of character is indispensable. And it is in this province where the incumbent’s shortfall has been most glaring.”

Virtue signaling, Romney concluded, “I will speak out against significant statements or actions that are divisive, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, dishonest or destructive to democratic institutions.” It could have been lifted from any transcript from CNN or MSNBC, and will go a long way toward his elevation to the post of “the new John McCain.”

But people have heard all of this before, and have discounted it. Partisanship existed long before Trump, he didn’t invent it and his unhinged critics are the ones who’ve lost their collective minds. The President treats every critic the same, regardless of race (it’s up to you whether you think that’s a good thing or not), and the same goes for gender. There is nothing “anti-immigrant” about seeking to end illegal immigration, unless you equate the two. And if the First Amendment has any meaning, exercising your right to it does not diminish any else’s to do the same, even if it’s pointed toward them.

There’s plenty to dislike about Donald Trump the man, just as there’s plenty to dislike about everyone, if you spend all your time looking for it. Trump voters don’t, Trump critics do. And they do so while claiming his supporters are obsessed with him…without irony.



Presidential Approval 2 Years In: Reagan 41%, Trump 39%

The data from Gallup's Presidential Job Approval Center show that approximately two years into their first term as president -- at the middle or end of December in their second year -- several presidents, including Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump shared a near-equal job approval rating among the American people, respectively 41%, 42% and 39%.

Both Reagan and Clinton were trending downward at the time, with Clinton dropping to 40% (December 28-30, 1994)  and Reagan falling to 37% in mid-January 1982 (and then 35% at January's end).

Only three recent presidents enjoyed job approval ratings above 50% two years into their first term: Jimmy Carter at 51%; George H.W. Bush at 63%; and George W. Bush at 63%.

Barack Obama's job approval rating two years in was 46% (Dec. 13-19, 2010).

Presidential Job Approval Two Years Into First Term

Donald J. Trump   39%   (Dec. 17-22, 2018)

Barack H. Obama   46%   (Dec. 13-19, 2010)

George W. Bush   63%   (Dec. 16-17, 2002)

Former President Bill Clinton. (Getty Images)
Bill Clinton   42%   (Dec. 16-18, 1994)

George H.W. Bush   63%   (Dec. 13-16, 1990)

Ronald W. Reagan   41%   (Dec. 10-13, 1982)

Jimmy Carter   51%   (Dec. 8-11, 1978)



A View of the Shutdown From the Border 

As the partial government shutdown enters its third week, there is still no immediate end in sight. In fact, if anything President Donald Trump upped the ante over the weekend by suggesting that he might use the military to build the wall after declaring the border situation a national emergency. Of course, if Trump were to attempt such an action it would be immediately challenged in the courts, and historical precedent in such cases does not favor the president. But we suspect that threat and his insistence that he’s willing for a shutdown to last for years are simply shots across the Democrat bow. Meanwhile, as both sides continue to dig in, some Americans are taking matters into their own hands, as in the case of Yellow National Park, where private businesses have banded together to keep the park open for the tourism their businesses depend upon.

As for the situation at the border in the midst of this shutdown, the best people to hear from are those actually dealing with the situation on the frontlines. Here’s a sampling of their perspective on why an actual physical wall is desperately needed:

Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, said, “I’ve been a Border Patrol agent for 21 years. I can personally tell you … that walls actually work. … If you interview Border Patrol agents, they will tell you that walls work. … They have been an absolute necessity for Border Patrol agents in securing the border. We need those physical barriers, and we appreciate President Trump and all of his efforts in getting us those physical barriers.”

Hector Garza, vice president of the National Border Patrol Council and a Border Patrol agent in Texas, argues, “We’re talking about murderers, rapists, [and] people that commit very serious crimes in this country. … These criminal aliens that have been released from jail [and] that have been deported will come right back into the United States. However, if we had a physical barrier, if we had a wall, we would be able to stop that. … We ask our congressmen to fund border security and fund the border wall.”

Finally, this assessment from Acting ICE Director Ronald Vitiello: “2,000 people are coming to the border each and every day. … Loopholes in the law [are] encouraging people to come to that border. … We are running out of resources and the status quo is not acceptable. [Democrats] are saying that a wall doesn’t work. Agents need an enduring capability to slow people down [at the border]. It provides an anchor for them to add technology, access roads, and patrol response to protect our border. We always have a safer border where we have that barrier. People who don’t believe it works — why do they have fences around their homes and lock their doors at night? … This is getting bottled up in politics. … I was in the Border Patrol for 33 years. … Walls work.”



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, January 08, 2019

No posts today

I am just back from an urgent trip to hospital
We seem to have a handle on what the main problem is now, however, so I live in  hope


Monday, January 07, 2019

The Truth About Sweden and Socialism

For years, I’ve heard American leftists say Sweden is proof that socialism works, that it doesn’t have to turn out as badly as the Soviet Union or Cuba or Venezuela did. But that’s not what Swedish historian Johan Norberg says in a new documentary and Stossel TV video.

“Sweden is not socialist—because the government doesn’t own the means of production. To see that, you have to go to Venezuela or Cuba or North Korea,” says Norberg. “We did have a period in the 1970s and 1980s when we had something that resembled socialism: a big government that taxed and spent heavily. And that’s the period in Swedish history when our economy was going south.”

Per capita gross domestic product fell. Sweden’s growth fell behind other countries. Inflation increased. Even socialistic Swedes complained about the high taxes.

Astrid Lindgren, author of the popular “Pippi Longstocking” children’s books, discovered that she was losing money by being popular. She had to pay a tax of 102 percent on any new book she sold. “She wrote this angry essay about a witch who was mean and vicious—but not as vicious as the Swedish tax authorities,” says Norberg.

Yet even those high taxes did not bring in enough money to fund Sweden’s big welfare state. “People couldn’t get the pension that they thought they depended on for the future,” recounts Norberg. “At that point the Swedish population just said, ‘Enough, we can’t do this.'”

Sweden then reduced government’s role. They cut public spending, privatized the national rail network, abolished certain government monopolies, eliminated inheritance taxes, and sold state-owned businesses like the maker of Absolut Vodka. They also reduced pension promises “so that it wasn’t as unsustainable,” adds Norberg.

As a result, says Norberg, his “impoverished peasant nation developed into one of the world’s richest countries.”

He acknowledges that Sweden, in some areas, has a big government: “We do have a bigger welfare state than the U.S., higher taxes than the U.S., but in other areas, when it comes to free markets, when it comes to competition, when it comes to free trade, Sweden is actually more free market.”

Sweden’s free market is not burdened by the U.S.’s excessive regulations, special-interest subsidies, and crony bailouts. That allows it to fund Sweden’s big welfare programs.

“Today our taxes pay for pensions—you (in the U.S.) call it Social Security—for 18-month paid parental leave, government-paid childcare for working families,” says Norberg.

But Sweden’s government doesn’t run all those programs. “Having the government manage all of these things didn’t work well.”

So they privatized. “We realized in Sweden that with these government monopolies, we don’t get the innovation that we get when we have competition,” says Norberg.

Sweden switched to a school voucher system. That allows parents to pick their kids’ school and forced schools to compete for the voucher money. “One result that we’ve seen is not just that the private schools are better,” says Norberg, “but even public schools in the vicinity of private schools often improve, because they have to.”

Sweden also partially privatized its retirement system. In America, the Cato Institute proposed something similar. President George W. Bush supported the idea but didn’t explain it well. He dropped the idea when politicians complained that privatizing Social Security scared voters.

Swedes were frightened by the idea at first, too, says Norberg, “But when they realized that the alternative was that the whole pension system would collapse, they thought that this was much better than doing nothing.”

So Sweden supports its welfare state with private pensions, school choice, and fewer regulations, and in international economic freedom comparisons, Sweden often earns a higher ranking than the U.S.

Next time you hear Democratic Socialists talk about how socialist Sweden is, remind them that the big welfare state is funded by Swedes’ free-market practices, not their socialist ones.



New York Times Bias Exposed

President Donald Trump has called out The New York Times for its bias numerous times and it turns out he was actually right. Former New York Times editor Jill Abramson’s soon-to-be published book “Merchants of Truth” suggests the magazine’s news reporting has become “unmistakably anti-Trump,” Fox News’ Howard Kurtz reports.

The fact is, The New York Times has had a liberal bias that started long before Trump was elected president. This often came through in more subtle ways, such as the stories it chose to cover—and how it treated Democrats versus Republicans. This is old news.

What has changed is that the Times is now so aggressively hostile to the president that it’s made it more hyperbolic and reckless, even in its straight news reporting. Trump has merely exposed the long-term biases that media organizations like the Times and The Washington Post have always had, but now those outlets—in their zeal to undo his presidency and get clicks—have undermined their own credibility.



Debunking Two Moral Questions People Often Ask to Support Lax Border Policy

Within some religious communities, as well as outside houses of worship, a question often being asked is: How can we turn away people from our borders in light of the Bible’s statement “Thou shall not afflict the Stranger”? Former President Obama, in concert with many liberal leaders, are in speeches across the country quoting this very passage to justify a lax, almost open-borders policy. The truth is that the Bible is speaking of individual sojourners and not thousands marching at one time, whose sheer numbers and concentration could immediately harm society.

America is not afflicting strangers within our country. Those in the caravan outside our borders could have spared themselves their discomfort along the way if they would have followed the common and lawful practice we’ve created for making application at our embassies back in their home countries.

In times past, the Bible would have seen the amassing of 7,000 on its borders, with still more threatening to come and charge the gates, as something worrisome and something quite political, which is precisely what some of the caravan sponsors and marchers – who are against the concept of a nation-state – have in mind.

The sojourner stranger of whom Scripture speaks was a harmless individual. This cannot entirely be said regarding the immigration phenomenon of the last few years. Among the caravan activists are former criminals, gang members, mules for drug lords, people carrying contagious diseases, and ANTIFA-types who pose a grave threat to the American population. Undoubtedly, the Bible would not demand a scenario where a host population and its families face their own form of potential affliction. The Bible, as the Constitution, is not a suicide pact and would not stand in the way of a vetting process that for safety and national security reasons takes place outside our borders.

Furthermore, not afflicting a newcomer living among us is a universal application of decency, but does not matriculate automatically into a right for citizenship in a particular country. Neither is there a biblical right to enter a country and thereby be supplied open-ended and across-the-board subsidies burdensomely placed on the backs of a tax-paying citizenry that itself does not receive such largess.

Self-defense is a primary theme in the Old Testament, and defending the country, as our Founders saw it, is the first duty of an American president. In the caravan and particularly among certain Middle-Eastern and North African countries, there is a worrisome proportion with tendencies and outlook which can result in certain forms of jihadism or extreme Shariaism. Here again, this is not the innocuous stranger and newcomer of which the Bible speaks. Statistics reveal that once migrants physically enter our borders, they often elude us forever, as was the case with the 9-11 hijackers; thus, our need for meticulous and comprehensive vetting off-shore.

The other question often posed in certain religious and secular communities is how a universal God, who is the father of all humanity, could allow a country to shut its doors to the needy trying to get in? While many to various degrees are needy, some of those trying today to enter our country pose a real threat to us, and even a universal God tells us of the need to protect ourselves from those among His creation who can harm us.

Among the most profound convictions of the Bible is that of personal responsibility. We are responsible to take care of and protect those we have freely chosen to live with: first our family, then our community and nation – in that order. One cannot shirk and displace this priority, this personal responsibility in the name of universalism or mankind.

Turning a blind eye to danger to those who directly depend on you, be it a head of a household or a president to his citizens, in the name of universalism is not moral. Morality is not what makes us feel good about ourselves or looks good to others, rather that which we ought to do, doing that for which we are personally responsible.

One of the gems of biblical understanding is that while God is universal and many of his laws and prescriptions universal, the incubation, implementation, and success of its ethos depends on what is done within the particular – the particular family, community and nation. It is within particular constructs that the Judeo-Christian paradigm is honed and flowers, and from inward is released outwardly. The universal is born and depends on what happens in the particular, i.e., subsidiarity.

Borders, distinct and sovereign nations are vital. No wonder when speaking to ancient Israel the universal God proffers the people with the following blessing: “And I shall protect your borders so that strangers and enemies not fill your camp and become a thorn in your side.” As with protecting one's home and family residents inside (Exodus: 22), so too the God of humanity prioritizes the legitimate need for protective borders and its citizens inside.

While we cannot absorb all who wish to come here, we can as humanitarians export our American prescription for a workable and productive life to those who wish to accept and import it. Absent that, our first responsibility is to protect this nation from harm, be it economic, social or physical. Defending our nation and families is a noble part of who we are.



The Personality Cult of Ginsburg

Many Americans lament the demise of the federal judiciary from an independent and objective part of the American system into a branch of government that seems more self-serving and politicized than ever before. But while leftist and conservative justices alike have strayed from the vision of our Founding Fathers, none have eclipsed the cult-like status of the Supreme Court’s oldest justice: 85-year-old Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Of course, Supreme Court justices are only human, and they’re just as susceptible to outside influences as any politicians on Capitol Hill. But the very nature of their position demands more discipline in order to fight the temptations of a society that can turn just about anyone into a celebrity overnight.

And even the most independent nominee can become more ideologically hardened after surviving the grind of the nomination process.

Politico’s Peter Canellos writes, “Even if nominees aren’t particularly partisan at the outset, they quickly learn to recognize their friends and enemies; the loyalties forged in the furnace of the confirmation process carry over onto the bench. It’s only human that such anger or gratitude, growing out of a trauma that some compare to a near-death experience, would alter judicial decision-making.”

Canellos adds, “There’s a third element to the politicization of the courts, though. That’s the visceral sense of approval and validation that judges get when they please their fans. The 60,000-member Federalist Society provides conservative judges with a Greek chorus of admirers. And many members of the Supreme Court, such as the late Antonin Scalia, couldn’t resist taking bows before conservative audiences for court rulings that devastated liberals.”

But earning the admiration of a respected organization like the Federalist Society is nothing compared to Ginsburg’s celebrity status among leftists, many of whom weren’t even born when Ginsburg was appointed to the High Court by Bill Clinton in 1993. From the “RGB” documentary of last year to the recent biopic entitled “On the Basis of Sex,” the leftist Supreme Court justice is being turned into a mythical figure. How can fair-minded Americans expect Ginsburg, a former ACLU general counsel, to make independent decisions based on the law when she’s been deified by millions on the Left?

As Ginsburg said in the RGB film, “I’m 84 years old and everyone wants to take their picture with me.”

In 2016, seemingly emboldened by her superstardom, she joked that it’d be time to move to New Zealand if Donald Trump were elected. “I can’t imagine what the country would be,” she said. Later, under intense criticism from both the right and the left, she admitted regret for the comments. But she never apologized — not to the American people, nor to the Republican nominee.

As Stephanie Mencimer writes at the far-left Mother Jones, “Ginsburg has since been tattooed on women’s arms, immortalized in song and a children’s book, and featured on [‘Saturday Night Live.’] She’s had her face plastered on everything from tote bags to water bottles. This merchandising could not have happened without the justice’s blessing; the law gives her a fair amount of control over the use of her image, as she well knows. Rather than start copyright battles, Ginsburg has encouraged her cult following. She assisted Carmon and Knizhnik with their book, appeared in the CNN documentary and makes a cameo in ‘On the Basis of Sex,’ carries an RBG tote bag in public, distributes RBG T-shirts to friends and admirers, and generally has reveled in her celebrity.”

Mencimer adds that Ginsburg’s desire to hang on to her position on the Court actually threatens to undermine the Left’s agenda. For years Ginsburg rejected suggestions by “progressive” supporters that she retire during the Barack Obama years to ensure a like-minded successor. Now, her desire to fight on through various health issues — including recent surgery for lung cancer — at an advanced age may be setting the stage for a conservative replacement if she’s unable to outlast Donald Trump.

But that’s not stopping her.

NPR’s Nina Totenberg writes, “Even as she was secretly undergoing a series of tests and consulting an array of doctors, she made multiple public appearances and was interviewed in front of audiences three times, at one point reciting from memory the words of several arias from an opera about her famous friendship and legal dueling with the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.”

The Left has professed to do just about anything, even offering to donate their own organs to Ginsburg, in order to keep her on the bench.

But should Ginsburg retire or pass away before Trump leaves office, allowing him to replace her with a Constitution-friendly justice, the Left may one day regret the cult of personality that they alone created. And rightly so.



Elizabeth Warren, the would-be Queen

She planned to rule American businesses from atop the  Consumer Financial Protection Bureau but Trump's victory took that away from her

On December 31, Democratic Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren launched her 2020 presidential exploratory committee. A prominent member of the Democratic party, it has long been speculated that Warren’s ambitions were greater than the Senate.

Warren has positioned herself as an advocate for women’s rights, universal healthcare and the working class. However, this is nothing more than a carefully cultivated facade. When faced with even the slightest scrutiny, it becomes apparent that Warren’s priorities are not with the American people but are instead focused solely on serving her own ambitions.

Since first being elected in 2011, Warren has gained a reputation of hypocrisy. Focused on promoting herself instead of the interests of Massachusetts, Warren took every opportunity to be an incendiary roadblock to progress.

In 2016, Warren voted against the 21st Century Cures Act, a bipartisan bill that would have provided over $12 million in funds for fighting the opioid epidemic in her home state. That same year, she proceeded to criticize the Trump administration for not doing enough to combat the opioid crisis.

In another flagrant display of hypocrisy, Warren vocally aligned herself with the #MeToo movement while simultaneously accepting a $10,000 donation from a self-confessed sexual assailant, and ignored calls by opponents to return the funds.

Warren has proven repeatedly that she is willing to promote any stance that will win her national favor, even at the expense of her own long-term credibility.

During her first term as senator, Warren demonstrated that the health of Massachusetts was secondary to positioning herself as a 2020 contender. During her first six years in office, Warren focused her efforts on authoring two books, touring across the country holding book signings and speaking at campaign rallies across the country. Her constant travel to states like Wisconsin, Ohio, Iowa and California drove her opponent Geoff Diehl to create a “Where’s Warren?” campaign, which highlighted the Senator’s constant devotion to everyone but her own constituents.

Despite spending the majority of her time out of state, Warren refused to admit her presidential ambitions. In a blatant display of dishonesty and deceit, Warren claimed that her goals if re-elected would be to continue serving Massachusetts and that a 2020 bid was not on her mind.

When called to sign a pledge to serve the full term if re-elected, Warren refused, but was quoted several times stating clearly, “I am not running for president.” In a move that surprised no one, Warren did not even make it 60 days post re-election before breaking that promise.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Sunday, January 06, 2019

Universal Basic Income Is a (Costly) Socialist Pipe Dream

All the attempts to implement it have been abandoned on cost grounds

Universal basic income has had a phenomenal year in 2018 when it comes to publicity. Silicon Valley billionaires, academics, and leftist politicians are raving about the brilliant new scheme, which we are told will prevent a Social Darwinist dystopian future in which average Joes everywhere stand to lose their low-functioning blue collar jobs to the grave perils of automation.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO and one of the three wealthiest individuals in the world, is a big fan. He has emerged as a high-profile public cheerleader for the universal basic income scheme. During last year’s Harvard commencement address, the fanciful concept featured prominently: “We should explore ideas like universal basic income to make sure that everyone has a cushion to try new ideas.”

Zuckerberg seems to miss something on a basic human nature level. It may be fashionable to promote a philosophy of egalitarianism. The reality, however, is that human beings are not equal in terms of ability or anything else. Under our constitutional system, human beings enjoy equal protection of our constitutional rights, but that hardly means we should expect equality of outcomes. And that is something the Silicon Valley pseudo-socialists will never understand.

A Fanciful Notion

It would be nice to believe that a universal basic income program would allow human beings to fully realize their potential. Young people with few opportunities would enjoy the economic freedom to become captains of industry, technological pioneers, and inventors, perhaps learning how to code in their free time, developing software programs, and founding the next major social media platform to compete with Facebook.

To say this is a fanciful notion is an understatement. There are human beings who are highly motivated. There are human beings who are incredibly lazy and unproductive. There are human beings with IQs of 130, and there are human beings with IQs of 70. What message will human beings take away from receiving a monthly check, with no strings attached, for USD $1,000…or $2,000, or $5,000? Will this usher in some golden new age of invention, of technological wonder, of allowing the teeming and downtrodden masses to realize their full potential?

Such a program has never been tried on a large scale, so there are no empirical results, except for small-scale test runs. A basic understanding of human nature, coupled with common sense, however, suggests that the UBI is not the golden panacea that a few starry-eyed Silicon Valley billionaires make it out to be.

With a check in the mail each month for doing nothing, how many are now going to be “liberated” to work in what they really love, and how many are going to be encouraged to do nothing?

Why should we reward human beings for doing nothing? Mark Zuckerberg is the rare technological genius who would spend his free time coding and developing his own social media platform. What about typical human beings? With a check in the mail each month for doing nothing, how many are now going to be “liberated” to work in what they really love, and how many are going to be encouraged to do nothing?

The Numbers Don't Add up

Setting aside human nature, for a moment, let’s take a look at the economics of a UBI program.

Surprise, surprise. They are phenomenally expensive to implement. Just doling out USD $1,000 a month to Americans would cost USD $3.8 trillion a year, according to a recent study by Bridgewater Associates. Well, golly, that’s a tab even Zuckerberg can’t pick up.

National and local governments across the world have been cutting funding for UBI programs in droves. They are expensive and wreak havoc on local budgets. Unsurprisingly, taxpayers (one would presume even of a left-wing bent) don’t take too kindly to funding such pilot programs, especially when they are not the beneficiaries of this state largesse.

Programs in both Canada and Finland have been shut down under political and budgetary pressure, which brings us to the point.

Even with an incredibly low-brow American public, ever more eager to get something for nothing through the smoke and mirrors of big government socialism, I believe Americans are intelligent enough to see through the farce of the basic income.

I have no problem with Mark Zuckerberg or other wealthy benefactors funding such programs and showing us their data—holding up the great successes for all the world to see. But it is the height of hypocrisy to ask the United States government, already USD $22 trillion in debt, to fund handing out free money to the entire nation.



Major Victory for Cleaner Elections in CA

Media release from Judicial Watch []

Good news for the voters in California and across the country.

We have signed a settlement agreement with the State of California and the County of Los Angeles under which they will begin the process of removing from their voter registration rolls as many as 1.5 million inactive registered names that may be invalid.

These removals are required by the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), a federal law requiring the removal of inactive registrations from the voter rolls after two general federal elections (encompassing from 2 to 4 years). Inactive voter registrations belong, for the most part, to voters who have moved to another county or state or have passed away.

Los Angeles County has over 10 million residents, more than the populations of 41 of the 50 United States. California is America’s largest state, with almost 40 million residents.

We filed a 2017 federal lawsuit to force the cleanup of voter rolls (Judicial Watch, Inc., et al. v. Dean C. Logan, et al. (No. 2:17-cv-08948)). We sued on our own behalf and on behalf of Wolfgang Kupka, Rhue Guyant, Jerry Griffin, and Delores M. Mars, who are lawfully registered voters in Los Angeles County. We were joined by Election Integrity Project California, Inc., a public interest group that has long been involved in monitoring California’s voter rolls.

In our lawsuit, we alleged:

Los Angeles County has more voter registrations on its voter rolls than it has citizens who are old enough to register. 

Specifically, according to data provided to and published by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, Los Angeles County has a registration rate of 112 percent of its adult citizen population.

The entire State of California has a registration rate of about 101 percent of its age-eligible citizenry.

Eleven of California’s 58 counties have registration rates exceeding 100 percent of the age-eligible citizenry.

The lawsuit confirmed that Los Angeles County has on its rolls more than 1.5 million potentially ineligible voters. This means that more than one out of every five LA County registrations likely belongs to a voter who has moved or is deceased. We noted:

“Los Angeles County has the highest number of inactive registrations of any single county in the country.”

Our lawsuit also uncovered that neither the State of California nor Los Angeles County had been removing inactive voters from the voter registration rolls for the past 20 years. The Supreme Court affirmed last year in Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Inst., 138 S. Ct. 1833 (2018) that the NVRA “makes this removal mandatory.”

The new settlement agreement, filed with U.S. District Court Judge Manuel L. Real, requires all of the 1.5 million potentially ineligible registrants to be notified and asked to respond. If there is no response, those names are to be removed as required by the NVRA. California Secretary of State Padilla also agrees to update the State’s online NVRA manual to make clear that ineligible names must be removed and to notify each California county that they are obligated to do this. This should lead to cleaner voter rolls statewide.

Prior to this settlement agreement, we estimated that based on comparisons of national census data to voter-roll information, there were 3.5 million more names on various county voter rolls than there were citizens of voting age. This settlement could cut this number in half.

Judicial Watch Attorney Robert Popper is the director of our Election Integrity Project and led our legal team in this litigation. We were assisted in this case by Charles H. Bell Jr., of Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk, LLP; and H. Christopher Coates of Law Office of H. Christopher Coates.

This is only the third statewide settlement achieved by private plaintiffs under the NVRA – and we were the plaintiff in each of those cases. The other statewide settlements are with Ohio (in 2014) and with Kentucky (2018), which agreed to a court-ordered consent decree.

You can take pride in knowing that we are the national leader in enforcing the list maintenance provisions of the NVRA. In addition to settlement agreements with Ohio and a win in Kentucky, we have filed a successful NVRA lawsuit against Indiana, causing it to voluntarily clean up its voting rolls, and we have an ongoing lawsuit with the State of Maryland.

We helped the State of Ohio successfully defend their settlement agreement before the Supreme Court. In North Carolina, we supported implementation of the state’s election integrity reform laws, filing amicus briefs in the Supreme Court in March 2017. And, in April 2018, we filed an amicus brief in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in support of Alabama’s voter ID law. In Georgia, we filed an amicus brief in support of Secretary Brian Kemp’s list maintenance process against a lawsuit by left-wing groups. We won when the Supreme Court ruled in Ohio’s favor.

This settlement vindicates our groundbreaking lawsuits to clean up state voter rolls to help ensure cleaner elections. We are thrilled with this historic settlement, which will set a nationwide precedent to ensure that states take reasonable steps to ensure that dead and other ineligible voters are removed from the rolls.

Via email


156,945,000: 2018 Ends With Record Employment; Participation Rate Hits Trump-Era High

Amid concerns about trade with China and rollercoaster stock markets, the final employment report of 2018 counts as good news.

The Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics said on Friday the economy added an impressivve 312,000 jobs in December, which was a month of strong retail sales; and the nation's unemployment rate increased two-tenths of a point to 3.9 percent, which is still an 18-year low.

The number of employed Americans has now set a 14th record under Trump:

When Trump became president in January 2017, 152,076,000 Americans were employed. Last month, that number grew to a record 156,945,000, a gain of 4,869,000 in two years.

At the same time, the number of unemployed Americans increased by 276,000 last month, to 6,294,000, as more people were actively looking for work but had not found a job.

In another positive sign, the labor force participation rate increased two-tenths of a point to 63.1 percent, the highest it's been since Trump took office.

In December, the nation’s civilian noninstitutionalized population, consisting of all people age 16 or older who were not in the military or an institution, reached  258,888,000. Of those, 163,240,000 participated in the labor force by either holding a job or actively seeking one.

The 163,240,000 who participated in the labor force equaled 63.1 percent of the 258,888,000 civilian noninstitutionalized population. The participation rate has showed little change since Trump took office. The highest it's ever been is 67.3 percent in the year 2000.

Among the major worker groups in December, the unemployment rates for adult men (3.6 percent) and Blacks (6.6 percent) increased in December. The jobless rates for adult women (3.5 percent), teenagers (12.5 percent), Whites (3.4 percent), Asians (3.3 percent), and Hispanics (4.4 percent) showed little or no change over the month.

In December, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose 11 cents to $27.48. Over the year, average hourly earnings have increased by 84 cents, or 3.2 percent.

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for November was revised up from +155,000 to +176,000, and the change for October was revised up from +237,000 to +274,000. After revisions, job gains have averaged 254,000 per month over the last 3 months.

The number of Americans counted as not in the labor force --  many are retirees -- dropped by 288,000 in December but remains high at 95,649,000.

China trade and earnings

Kevin Hassett, who chairs the White House Council of Economic Advisers, told CNN on Thursday that while the U.S. economy is growing at a 3 percent rate, "the rest of the world is slowing." Hassett said that slowdown is having an impact on earnings, particularly for companies that do business in China.

Hassett said he anticipates that "a heck of a lot of U.S. companies that have a lot of sales in China" are going to see their earnings downgraded -- until a trade deal with China is finalized.

"If we have a successful negotiation with China, then, you know, Apple's sales and everybody else's sales will recover," Hassett said.

Asked if he is concerned about the onset of recession later this year or in early 2020, Hassett said not really:

Look, there's never been a recession that started in the quarter after a quarter like the one that we just had in the fourth quarter of last year. And so we're carrying a lot of momentum in the next year. We had a lot of capital spending last year which meant that firms were building new factories. As those factories, you know, plug their machines in and start producing output, that will increase GDP next year.

And so with the kind of momentum we've got, I really don't see a recession next year. And I think that if we add...positive outcomes to the things that have stressed markets like the trade negotiations, then there's lots of upside risk in the market.



Trump’s New Asylum Policy Will Help Block Illegal Immigration

Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen recently announced a significant policy change to stop illegal immigration.

After years of catch and release, loopholes, and poor enforcement, the Department of Homeland Security is moving to plug the holes in the U.S. immigration system, and especially the loopholes that surround the asylum system.

One of the most serious problems the U.S. faces in its immigration system is that when illegal immigrants cross the border, they can claim asylum in order to avoid quick deportation. This is an especially common tactic with illegal immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

Less than 10 percent of these individuals, however, will end up qualifying for asylum.

But asylum often isn’t the real objective: Those who manage to pass through the initial screening are often released into the U.S. This is made worse by various loopholes such as the Flores settlement and the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which require unaccompanied children and adults with children to be released.

The result is that many “asylum seekers” will simply disappear, many not even bothering to apply for asylum after being released.

Congress should have closed this dangerous pathway for the illegal immigration of children years ago, but instead, asylum claims and the illegal immigration of children from Central America has ballooned. The U.S. currently has an asylum backlog of over 786,000 pending cases, which serves neither U.S. interests nor those of asylum-seekers with legitimate claims.

So, the administration searched its existing legal authority for ways to stop this phenomenon and found a provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act that allows the government to return aliens to Mexico while they await their immigration court hearing.

By ending catch and release and replacing it with “catch and return,” Homeland Security is ending one of the major incentives driving illegal immigration.

As the administration pursues this protocol, Mexico has said it will provide humanitarian visas, work authorizations, and other protections to those waiting in Mexico. This partnership with Mexico is a critical piece of the solution and one that the Trump administration should be commended for reaching.

This action also closely follows the recommendations of Heritage Foundation analysts for fixing the broken immigration system. Heritage research has recommended that Congress adjust the asylum process to move asylum processing to consulates in Mexico. This way, the U.S. does not have to detain asylum-seekers and none are released into the U.S. until they have proven their asylum claims are valid.

And on this note, Congress still should close these loopholes and fix the asylum system. This order will likely be challenged in the courts, and the only sure way to lastingly reform our broken asylum system is with legislation. Congress must do its job if the U.S. is ever going to really fix the problems in its immigration system.

In the meantime, the new asylum policy is welcome news.



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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