Friday, January 25, 2019

I'm back already

My procedure went unexpectedly well and I am now out of hospital and back to normal.  So I am posting today but will be observing my usual Sabbath tomorrow


Shutdown alarm is unfounded

There's a view that the President is elected to adminster the law only, not to create it or force it to be created.  Trump, however, is doing what he does on the authority of the voters. They voted for the wall in voting for him.  It was his big issue.  He has a democratic mandate to build the wall. So I think we have here a case of divided authority rather than one branch of government usurping the authority of another

According to Congressional Budget Office (CBO) data, the federal government spent $3.9 trillion in 2017. In Argentina, total federal spending in 2017 was $161 billion.

The above statistical disparity rates mention in consideration of all the hand wringing related to the partial federal government shutdown in the U.S. Supposedly an elongated one would slam the brakes on the U.S. economic expansion. No less than J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon observed this week that a prolonged shuttering of one quarter of the federal government could “reduce growth to zero.”

Dimon would be wise to relax. So would others convinced that government spending is a substantial driver of U.S. economic vitality. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Implicit in what’s wholly false is that Argentina’s economy is a fraction of the U.S.’s simply because its politicians are quite a bit more parsimonious than are the members of Congress. Such a view isn’t serious, but it’s a reminder of just how much statistics can obscure reality.

Simply put, Argentina’s federal spending is a fraction of U.S. federal spending precisely because its economic output is a fraction of what takes place stateside. Just the same, federal spending in the U.S. dwarfs that of other countries precisely because the U.S. economy is quite a bit larger than other country economies.

Governments only have money to spend insofar as the private sector in countries produces wealth for them to spend. Congress was able to spend $4.1 trillion (according to CBO data) in 2018 because American output is many multiples of $4.1 trillion.

Governments can’t stimulate economic growth with spending; rather their spending is only possible because of economic growth. Applied to the partial shutdown of the federal government, what limits government spending logically cannot limit economic growth. Figure that if there were a permanent cessation of a quarter of federal activity, the result would be trillions worth of extra resources for private actors to put to work.

Readers might think about the above for a moment. When our federal government spends, it means that Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump are playing a substantial role in the allocation of trillions worth of wealth first created in the private sector. On the other hand, when fewer dollars flow to Washington it happily means that people like Jeff Bezos, Peter Thiel and Travis Kalanick have more in the way of resources to experiment with. Yet defenders of the big government status quo persist.

In a client report written last week, Regions Bank chief economist Richard Moody lamented that the partial shutdown would disrupt the “flow of economic data” at a “most inopportune time given increased uncertainty about over the course of the U.S. economy.” Moody unwittingly makes the case the case for a more permanent shutdown.

Lest he forget, arguably the most scrutinized of all economic statistics produced by the federal government is the one that measures the rate of unemployment in the U.S. Yet too often unsaid here is how totally unnecessary the report is. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) employs 2,500 people at a cost of $640 million annually to produce its monthly unemployment report. Each month, meanwhile, the private company ADP releases a report two days ahead of the BLS's that nearly mimics the BLS's, all at no expense to the taxpayer. There is a market demand for reliable employment data, and the market is providing it. What works for unemployment can logically work for any other statistic that economists claim to be necessary for them to do their jobs. If it’s necessary, private actors can do it without burdening every American with the cost.

The point of all this is that true believers in limited government would be wise to not let this partial government shutdown go to waste. Instead, proponents of a shrunken federal footprint should seriously address whether or not many people in a country populated by over 300 million have actually noticed a difference in their lives in the past few weeks. 

Indeed, arguably the most vivid lesson of the shutdown is being overlooked. 800,000 furloughed federal employees, and what, exactly, is the noticeable harm?  The media trumpet the federal employees’ missed paychecks and niche difficulties faced by the citizenry (economists and financial types lacking economic data, for instance), but what goes unreported is that for 95% of the population, life goes on essentially unaffected in any material way. What better evidence that our government spending is mostly waste and make-work?

So while alarmists will continue to promote false notions about the “lost” economic growth that will result from the political class wasting fewer dollars, reality will continue to intrude on what’s not serious as most get on with their lives properly indifferent to what at least temporarily limits the activities of ¼ of our federal behemoth.

Which brings up a challenge that is also an opportunity. What hasn’t affected voters after three weeks will similarly not affect them after three years. If Republicans really want to prove how unnecessary our $4 trillion federal government is, keep it shut down through the 2021. The economy will boom in the interim thanks to a shrunken federal burden, and a long-term point will have been made about the good of shrinking Leviathan to all of our betterment.



The 7 Most Insane Licensing Proposals of 2019 (So Far)

State lawmakers target pet groomers, drain cleaners, interior designers, pecan buyers, athletic trainers, antler dealers, therapists?

The new year brought the opening of many state legislative sessions, and the opening of state legislative sessions has brought a predictable but disappointing flurry of new licensing proposals.

Today, nearly 30 percent of American workers need a license to do their jobs, up from just 5 percent in the 1950s. The majority of that growth, as the White House noted in a 2016 report on licensure, comes "from an increase in the number of professions that require a license rather than composition in the workforce."

Some states seem to have gotten wise to the economic problems that excessive licensing can cause—one study has found that licensing laws across all 50 states resulted in 2.85 million fewer jobs and cost consumers more than $200 billion annually. As Reason detailed last week, the governors of Ohio and Idaho took action in early 2019 to join three other states—Louisiana, Nebraska, and Oklahoma—in approving important reforms that curtail the power of licensing boards and increase economic freedom.

Unfortunately, many state lawmakers seem determined to continue the expansion of occupational licensing into professions where there is little public health or safety justification for these barriers to employment.

"We know occupational licensing reduces consumer choice, increases prices, and keeps people out of jobs. It also criminalizes innocent behavior," says Shoshana Weissman, digital media director and policy fellow at the R Street Institute, which tracks these and other state legislative proposals, and advocates for licensing reforms. "Are we willing to fine people or throw them in jail for practicing interior design or being a health coach without a license? This is insanity and it hurts real people."

Insanity, indeed. Here are the five worst occupational licensing proposals of 2019—so far.

Pet Groomers (New Jersey and New York)

Two states are proposing new regulations for anyone who makes money by bathing, brushing, clipping, or styling a pet, and New Jersey's proposal is a particularly good example of how bad licensing laws get on the books.

The bill offered by three members of the state assembly would create a new licensing board—the New Jersey State Board of Pet Groomers—consisting of three members of the public, three pet groomers, two veterinarians, and one governor-appointee. The bill, as currently written, would delegate pretty much all rulemaking authority to the newly created board. The board would get to set qualification requirements, including a written and practical test that applicants would have to pass, and would determine licensing fees as well as fines for unlicensed pet grooming. The board would also be empowered to investigate and even shut down pet groomers that it determined were not meeting the board's standards.

All of that might sound fine—no one wants their pet to get a bad haircut—but those types of provisions are the makings of an anti-competitive cartel. The groomers and veterinarians on the board have an incentive to limit competition and control a majority of the votes. By proposing to delegate so much authority to the board, the state lawmakers have effectively eliminated their own role in the lawmaking process—and are effectively allowing the board to do whatever it wants.

That's not just unwise, it might also run afoul of a 2014 Supreme Court ruling that requires state lawmakers to actively supervise licensing boards.

Pecan Buyers (Texas)

Should it be a crime to buy nuts without a government-issued permission slip? At least one state lawmaker in Texas (Rep. Mary González) thinks so. Her bill would require anyone "engaged in the business of purchasing in-shell pecans from a pecan producer" to be licensed by the state—though grocery stores would be exempted.

Getting the license would require the payment of a fee of $400 and showing government-issued identification. What's really pernicious about González' proposal, though, is the record-keeping requirement imposed on those licensed pecan buyers. Licensed pecan buyers would have to maintain up-to-date records of all purchases, including the date and location of the transaction, the license plate number of the seller's vehicle (along with the make and model), and the address "or physical location of the tree" where the pecans originated.

Failure to keep those records accurately would trigger a $250 fine, and each violation could be another fine. Assuming that pecan buyers in Texas are probably buying thousands if not millions of pecans every month, well, those fines could add up fast.

Athletic Trainers (West Virginia)

Despite living in one of America's least healthy states, three state lawmakers in West Virginia have decided that what their state really needs is fewer personal trainers.

There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical of the need for a license like this, of course, but the bill also highlights another problem with licensing laws in general. Buried way down on the 14th page of the proposal is a clause that would allow the state board of physical therapy (which would be given power over athletic trainers) to block applicants who have committed a "felony or other crime involving moral turpitude" along with anyone who is judged to be "guilty of unprofessional conduct" as determined by the board itself.

As we've covered at Reason on many occasions, banning individuals with criminal records from getting licenses is bad policy. It continues to punish someone long after they've paid their debt to society, it decreases employment, and it increases recidivism—because the best predictor of whether someone will commit another crime after getting out of prison is whether they have a job or not. The use of deliberately vague language ("moral turpitude" and "unprofessional conduct") gives the state board even greater authority to block would-be personal trainers from getting licensed.

Antler Dealers (Nevada)

A full legislative committee in the Nevada Assembly has teamed up to introduce a bill on behalf of the state Department of Wildlife to create a new licensing category for people who sell or trade antlers. The bill would make it a crime to "engage in the business of buying, selling, trading or dealing in certain antlers or any head or skull of a big game mammal without first obtaining an antler dealer's license," though the proposal does not include any details for how violators would be punished.

There's no testing or mandatory training requirements included in the bill—a would-be antler dealer only has to sign up with the Department of Wildlife and pay a fee—making this the least bad form of licensing. Still, it would likely restrict the ability of non-Nevada residents to sell antlers in Nevada, we really need a license for selling antlers in the first place?

Art Therapists, Drain Cleaners, and Interior Designers (Massachusetts)

Yes, these are all serious proposals.

Sen. Diana DiZoglio (D-First Essex) wants to license practitioners of art therapy, which is "a mental health discipline that integrates use of psychotherapeutic principles, art media, and the creative process." That sounds like it might help some people cope with stress or more severe mental disorders, but it also really doesn't sound like something that needs a permission slip from the government.

Meanwhile, Sen. Barry Finegold (D-Middlesex) has a bill to license drain cleaners under the auspices of the Board of Examiners of Plumbers—which really sounds like it should be abolished, rather than expanded—and to impose unspecified civil penalties against anyone who dares to make money by cleaning a drain without the state board's permission.

And Sen. Joan Lovely (D-Second Essex) is proposing to make Massachusetts the fourth state to adopt licensing for interior designers, presumably to protect her constituents from the dangers of mismatched drapes and ugly throw pillows. The proposal would create a new board to regulate interior designers, and the bill specifies that four of the five members of the board must be "engaged in the practice of interior design." I'm sure they can be trusted to write rules that don't restrict their own competitors.



When single-payer medicine kills

The deaths of up to 250 patients who died following heart surgery at an NHS hospital are to be reviewed.

All the patients underwent surgery at St George's Hospital in Tooting, south London, between April 2013 and September 2018.

The review, commissioned by NHS Improvement, comes after the hospital suspended complex heart surgery last year to improve services.

A leaked report previously suggested that poor relationships at the cardiac unit contributed to a higher mortality rate.

The review only applies to cardiac surgery at St George's, and does not include other associated specialities - for example, cardiology.

The panel will examine the safety and quality of care that patients who died during or after cardiac surgery at St George's received during the review period.

They will do this by reviewing the medical records of deceased cardiac surgery patients, as well as any investigations conducted by the Trust at the time of the patients' deaths.

The panel is likely to review between 200-250 deaths as part of this process, which will take place between six and 12 months to complete.

The period between April 2013 and March 2017 has been identified as a time when the trust had a statistically higher mortality rate compared with the other 31 cardiac surgery centres in the UK.

The panel will also review deaths between April 2017 and 1 September 2018, when improvements were being made.

Last summer a leaked report  warned that a "toxic" feud between two rival camps at the unit left staff feeling a high death rate was inevitable.

St George's Hospital heart unit was consumed by a "dark force" and patients were put at risk, the investigation concluded.

The damning review was written by former NHS England deputy medical director Mike Bewick in response to higher mortality rates at the hospital.

He found the south London facility had a cardiac surgery death rate of 3.7 per cent - above the national 2 per cent average, reports said.

Internal scrutiny was said to be "inadequate" and the department was riven between "two camps" exhibiting "tribal-like activity".

Professor Bewick's review was quoted as saying: "Some felt that there was a persistent toxic atmosphere and stated that there was a 'dark force' in the unit."

Conversations with 39 members of staff revealed they were shocked by the death rate, but "most felt that poor performance was inevitable due to the pervading atmosphere".

The independent reviewer examined "disturbing and often difficult information", concluding an "existential threat" was posed to the unit because staff and patients would go elsewhere if problems persisted.



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 23, 2019


Later today I am going into hospital for a day procedure so I am unlikely to be back on top of things for a while. At age 75 my resilence is limited. Presuming all goes well, I should be back posting on Sunday.  If there are complications, of course, I could be admitted and that would take a longer time to resolve.  I will however be in very good hands so I think I will end up satisfactorily patched up. My mood is a bit dark at the moment -- unusual for me -- but as I write this I am listening to some of the marvellous music of Mozart and that helps


Trump has the media tied in knots

The story from the NYT below is amusing. They hate Trump but can't stop helping him.  "There's no such thing as bad publicity" and Trump uses simple words that anyone can understand.  Commentary is irrelevant

"POCAHONTAS" won’t be lonely for long. As other Democrats join Elizabeth Warren in the contest for the party’s presidential nomination, President Trump will assign them their own nicknames, different from hers but just as derisive. There’s no doubt.

But how much heed will we in the media pay to this stupidity? Will we sprint to Beto O’Rourke, Cory Booker or Mike Bloomberg for a reaction to what Trump just called one of them and then rush back to him for his response to that response? Or will we note Trump’s latest nonsense only briefly and pivot to matters more consequential?

That’s a specific question but also an overarching one — about the degree to which we’ll let him set the terms of the 2020 presidential campaign, about our appetite for antics versus substance, and about whether we’ll repeat the mistakes that we made in 2016 and continued to make during the first stages of his presidency. There were plenty.

Trump tortures us.

Deliberately, yes, but I’m referring to the ways in which he keeps yanking our gaze his way. I mean the tough choices that he, more than his predecessors in the White House, forces us to make. His demand for television airtime on Tuesday night was a perfect example: We had to weigh a request in line with precedent against a president out of line when it comes to truth. We had to wrestle with — and figure out when and how to resist — his talent for using us as vessels for propaganda.

We will wrestle with that repeatedly between now and November 2020, especially in the context of what may well be the most emotional and intense presidential race of our lifetimes. With the dawn of 2019 and the acceleration of potential Democratic candidates’ preparations for presidential bids, we have a chance to do things differently than we did the last time around — to redeem ourselves.

Our success or failure will affect our stature at a time of rickety public trust in us. It will raise or lower the temperature of civic discourse, which is perilously hot. Above all, it will have an impact on who takes the oath of office in January 2021. Democracies don’t just get the leaders they deserve. They get the leaders who make it through whatever obstacle course — and thrive in whatever atmosphere — their media has created.

“The shadow of what we did last time looms over this next time,” the former CBS newsman Dan Rather, who has covered more than half a century of presidential elections, told me. And what we did last time was emphasize the sound and the fury, because Trump provided both in lavish measure.

“When you cover this as spectacle,” Rather said, “what’s lost is context, perspective and depth. And when you cover this as spectacle, he is the star.” Spectacle is his métier. He’s indisputably spectacular.

And even if it’s a ghastly spectacle and presented that way, it still lets him control the narrative. As the writer Steve Almond observed in a recently published essay, “He appears powerful to his followers, which is central to his strongman mystique.”

TRUMP was and is a perverse gift to the mainstream, establishment media, a magnet for eyeballs at a juncture when we were struggling economically and desperately needed one. Just present him as the high-wire act and car crash that he is; the audience gorges on it. But readers’ news appetite isn’t infinite, so they’re starved of information about the fraudulence of his supposed populism and the toll of his incompetence.

And he wins. He doesn’t hate the media, not at all. He uses us.



Economic history shows how to prevent socialism

Martin Hutchinson

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio claimed last week that there was plenty of money for his pet projects, but it was “in the wrong hands.” In response, the Wall Street Journal, supposedly the voice of capitalism, gave a turgid list of rich New Yorkers’ charitable donations while blasting the inefficiencies of de Blasio’s administration. Both sides are wrong; in a well-run system, property rights should be inviolable regardless of what owners do with their property. That’s tough to defend when funny money has unfairly rewarded speculators – yet another reason to return to sound policies.

Politically, de Blasio doubtless feels he is on the winning side of the argument. A majority of Millennials claim to favor Socialism, though a high percentage of that majority are unable to define it correctly. That combination is a staggering indictment of U.S. public schools and colleges, but we knew that. Rich New Yorkers tend to have an exceptional penchant for displays of vulgar, tasteless excess – even by the standards of those who, like myself, find President Trump’s gold leaf rather attractive. Most important, since New York is the United States’ financial center, much of the New York wealth has been gained by exploiting the artificially low interest rates and overblown asset prices of the last 24 years – so can it really be said to be legitimate?

Certainly, the Wall Street Journal’s defense of New York’s capitalists is feeble indeed. You can bet your bottom dollar that every $50 million extension to the Metropolitan Museum has given its donor an equivalent tax deduction. That means roughly $20 million or even $25 million, given state and city taxes, of that $50 million extension has come from the pockets of you and me, and represents extra taxes we must pay to fund public services. Looked at that way, de Blasio would seem to have a point – if he simply seized the $50 million and funded public services directly with it, you and I would be $20-25 million better off. The charitable tax deduction is a universally corrupting influence and needs to be abolished. Certainly, completely contrary to the Wall Street Journal’s view, the fact that rich people get to deduct their charitable donations is the best possible argument for their expropriation.

That counter-intuitive argument, that de Blasio is right and we should wish the very rich to be expropriated, is an indication that the current U.S. economy has moved a long way from a healthy free market. Accumulation of wealth by rich speculators is subsidized by interest rates that have been for two decades far below their free-market levels. It is also subsidized by a charitable tax deduction that blesses the ultra-rich far more than it does other taxpayers, producing the nauseating result that by making flashy well-publicized charitable donations they save taxes and at the same time get held up as models of virtue by the Wall Street Journal. It is perfectly possible for the very rich to be models of virtue, but the most virtuous ones are those whose wealth accumulation does the most for their fellow men, not those prone to splashy tax-deductible charitable donations that burden the rest of us with the taxes they have avoided.

The problem with just shrugging our shoulders and accepting the morality of de Blasio and the current tax system and Fed policy is that such an economic system does not work too well. In this system, it is much easier to get rich from borrowing excessively and doing something not very clever than from true entrepreneurship. Eddie Lampert’s destructive 14-year ownership of Sears is a prime example of this.

In a system in which cheap money is the most reliable source of wealth, access to cheap money becomes the deciding factor in who gets wealthy, so mediocre projects with quick paybacks get financed in vast numbers and the long-term and difficult projects don’t happen at all. The result is an economy in which innovation and productivity improvement slow to a crawl or cease altogether, as was the case in the United States in 2008-16 and is still the case in Britain and the Eurozone.

To see how the economy ought to work, we must go back to the dawn of the Industrial age, when low tax, sound money and well-aligned incentives made productivity growth in the British and later world economies accelerate rather than decelerate. From 1819, Britain was on the Gold Standard, so there was no question of spuriously cheap borrowing making people rich. At that period, if you became rich, you had done it either by successful trade or by getting your hands dirty in some way in industry. On the other side, there was no Income Tax and all taxes were on some element of consumption, so the very rich who engaged in vulgar displays of ostentation were financially penalized by paying taxes on the cost of their ostentation. As for charity, there was no charitable tax deduction (because no Income Tax to deduct it from) so charitable donations were made only by the truly charitable, for genuinely beneficial purposes – and they cost non-donors nothing.

In the early industrial system, statesmen on both sides of the political divide held property rights as sacrosanct. “Property is theft” was the sort of thing only a Frenchman (Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, 1840) could say, resulting from that society’s impoverishment and tendency to violent revolutions – with such attitudes it was no wonder that country never made any material progress! With property rights sacrosanct, entrepreneurs and inventors could be sure that, if they devised a new product or way of doing business that was genuinely superior, they would be able to keep most of the proceeds of doing so.

For the early 19th Century, there was also an important moral component to this. John Locke, a hundred years earlier, had defined the purpose of government as to secure people’s life, liberty and property. Security of property from arbitrary raids, either by powerful barons or the government, was a vitally important principle over which the English Civil War had been fought, and which was incorporated into British constitutional practice by the great Earl of Clarendon after the Restoration. Britain’s better economic performance after 1660, and the growth of a huge capital market that could finance government’s needs, were important advantages the country enjoyed over rivals such as France that did not have such security. The United States, where Thomas Jefferson perverted Locke’s trilogy to replace property with French rubbish about the pursuit of happiness, suffered thereby in having a distinctly gamey business climate.

For statesmen of the early Industrial Revolution, the idea of “redistributing” people’s property to remedy imagined injustices would have been a laughable negation of what government was about. It was not possible for “the wrong people” to be rich, because there was no mechanism to make them so; the law existed to prevent fraud, and with a Gold Standard monetary system there was no great advantage to having better access to financing sources. Since property had been acquired legitimately its possessor had an absolute moral right to it – the miser just as much as the philanthropist.

The lesson is clear. Capitalism is a moral economic system and works well if allowed to do so. It however requires certain rules in order to function, notably the security of private property. If private property is insecure, to be looted by every passing populist, then the universally enriching features of capitalism do not work. Capitalists, instead of competing properly in the market, spend their resources on shielding their wealth from populists, thereby preventing it from doing any good.

If the economic system is distorted by government meddling, however, the moral equation that is central to capitalism falls apart. If interest rates are artificially distorted by government over a prolonged period, then not only does the capitalist system itself work badly, but it unfairly rewards some participants, producing property to which there is no intrinsic moral right. Equally, if government provides egregious tax breaks to the very rich for their “charitable” activities” then not only do corrupt excrescences like the Clinton Foundation spring up, but government gains the moral right to divert property into its own uses, rather than just rewarding property owners for deploying their property in one manner rather than another.

De Blasio is wrong, politically, morally and economically. But we must eliminate grossly distorting government policies such as “funny money” interest rates and the charitable tax deduction before we truly have the right to rule him out of the discussion.



The true Trump legacy: Renewed economy, restored hope

Amidst all of the focus on the partial government shutdown and the national security and humanitarian crisis at the border, the fact that President Trump has now been in office for a full two years cannot be lost, and quite a two years it has been.

President Trump inherited an economy with low unemployment, but one where many Americans had been left behind with stagnant wages, manufacturing jobs off-shored, and a genuine lost hope for much of middle America. Into this, the previous president declared that it would take a magic wand to bring those job back.

Twenty four months later, more than 500,000 new manufacturing jobs have been created out of a total of 4.8 million new jobs nationwide. The unemployment rate has been below 4 percent for eight out of the last twelve months. To understand the significance of this, prior to 2018, the unemployment rate had fallen below 4 percent only five times since 1970. That’s right, if you are 38 years old, the unemployment rate has been below 4 percent more in the past year than in the entire rest of your lifetime.

The ability to get a job has reached across racial boundaries. African American, Asian and Hispanic unemployment reached the lowest rates on record in the past year, and real wages have been increasing as the amount workers are paid has exceeded the inflation rate in 2018 meaning people are getting ahead rather than just fighting to stay even.

One real outcome is that 4.6 million fewer Americans are dependent upon food stamps. Not because standards have become more stringent, but because they are wealthier and more able to care for their own family’s needs.

This is the dignity and hope created by a job and the rising tide which lifts all boats in the Trump economy.  It is the beginning of breaking the stranglehold of the dependency cycle which has ensnared generations in some communities in the despair of constant poverty.

Let’s be clear however, there are still problems to tackle as the labor participation rate for people ages 18 to 64, while rising, is still too low compared to prior generations. But the trend is in the right direction as more jobs are available than workers in the workforce to fill them for the first time since the Labor Department started tracking job availability.

What’s more, people are now voluntarily leaving their jobs at a higher rate than when the President took office. While this would seem to be a negative, it actually demonstrates that people feel free to risk leaving a job they don’t like without having another one lined up due to confidence that they will be able to find a better one shortly.

This freedom to move jobs without fear of not finding a new one had been lost over the past decade, and the Trump economy has restored it.

So, what was this “magic wand” that failed former President Obama derided?

Rather than a wand, it actually was a pair of magic scissors.

Scissors cutting regulations at a record pace which restricted economic growth only issuing new ones when absolutely necessary

Scissors cutting taxes for both individuals and business allowing for Americans to keep more of their hard earned dollars, but also encouraging business to expand their operations and bring hundreds of billions of dollars back to America for investment here.

Scissors cutting bad trade deals which encouraged the off-shoring of American jobs. Trade deals built from a Cold War model designed to prop up struggling economies around the world through opening up our markets while leaving foreign ones closed to U.S. products.  One of President Trump’s first actions was to exit the disastrous Trans-Pacific Partnership, and he has continued by renegotiating NAFTA, the South Korean Free Trade Agreement, opening negotiations with Japan and the European Union while pressing China to engage in honest trade.

President Trump promised America that he would Make America Great Again, and in his first two years, he has jump started a restoration of our economy that benefits all of America and not just those who live on the two coasts.

Is there work still to be done?  Absolutely. But at the quarter pole of his presidency, President Trump has accomplished what previous White House occupants have declared the impossible.

And in the midst of the current turmoil over the President’s attempt to unravel the open borders policy of his predecessor, this simply should not be missed.

America is working, Americans is more prosperous and Americans have renewed hope for our collective future.

That is the true Trump legacy, the renewed hope and vigor of a great people striving to make tomorrow better for their children benefitting from fewer government restraints, taxes and bad deals designed to transfer their opportunities overseas. While much remains to be done, the first two years of Donald Trump’s presidency have been remarkably successful in restoring America’s heartland after decades of neglect.



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 22, 2019

As MLK foresaw, racism in America has been largely overcome

I think Jeff Jacoby is a bit optimistic below.  It is undoubted that whites have been persuaded that they should treat blacks as equals -- or at least say they do -- but America's major racial problems -- stratospheric black crimes of violence and heavy black welfare dependence -- remain.  No American can be unaware of that but they can be persuaded not to mention it.

Jeff is mainly going by what people say but psychologists have long been aware that what people say is a poor guide to action -- particularly in racial matters.  So white flight goes on.  A few brave whites are enticed by low prices to move into the margins of black ghettoes but the ghettoes remain. Racial segregation is not much less than it was in the old South

I note that claims of interracial marriage tend to be overstated.  The high rate of intermarriage between whites and Asians tends to get lumped into that.  And gold-digging white women who partner with rich black men are not much of an examplar for anyone

I am aware that my occasional mention of racial issues puts this blog at some risk of being cancelled by Google -- who host it.  The fact that I have extensive academic publications on such matters, combined with the fact that even here I tend to write in a scholarly way, seems so far to have protected me.  Leftist censorship of all conservative writing has however been ratcheting up lately so this blog is clearly not safe

If DISSECTING LEFTISM is wiped out by Google, however, I will simply host it elsewhere -- probably here -- and my various home pages will also tell you where the new blog is located

"I HAVE NO DESPAIR about the future," wrote the Rev. Martin Luther King in his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" in April 1963. "I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham.... We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom."

He was right.

It is a commonplace that racism is America's original sin. Hardly a day goes by without attention being focused on instances of the racial injustice, friction, and double standards that can still be found in this nation. Open the morning paper or watch cable news, and there will be something to remind you of the country's racial tensions — from controversy over flying the Confederate flag to NFL players protesting police brutality, from anti-black taunts at high school football games to the anti-white tweets of a New York Times editorialist, from accusations of voter suppression in Georgia to an Iowa congressman defending "white nationalism." It isn't surprising that when Americans are asked in opinion polls whether race relations are getting better, many of them — sometimes most of them — gloomily reply that racism is still a major problem.

But it isn't. It is only a minor problem now, one that has grown steadily less toxic and less entrenched. King predicted confidently that America would surmount its benighted racial past and his confidence was not misplaced. Though his own life was cut short by a racist assassin, he foresaw that racism would lose its grip on American life.

"We've got some difficult days ahead, but ... I've been to the mountaintop," King said in his final speech. "I've looked over, and I've seen the Promised Land." He knew that American racism would wither away. Fifty-one years later, it mostly has.

Consider some of the data on changing American values.

In 1958, 48 percent of white Americans polled by Gallup said that "if colored people came to live next door," they would be likely to move. By 1978, only 13 percent still said that; by 1997, the proportion had fallen to 1 percent.

That dramatic metamorphosis in American attitudes shows up as well in the World Values Survey. When researchers in 59 countries asked residents how they would feel about having neighbors of a different race, Americans turned out to be among the least racist people in the world. The United States ranked 47th out of 59 countries surveyed, making it more racially accepting than Japan, Mexico, Germany, South Korea, and the Netherlands, among others.

That's only one measure of racism's profound decline. Friendship is another.

In 1964, a mere 18 percent of white Americans claimed to have a friend who was black. Four decades later, Gallup found that the proportion of interracial friendships had more than quadrupled: 82 percent of whites said they had close nonwhite friends (and 88 percent of blacks reported having close friends who were not black). Perhaps some white respondents were fibbing to appear more enlightened. But as commentator Jonah Goldberg observes, "the mere fact that they wanted others to believe they had a black friend is a kind of progress."

It isn't only American friendships that straddle the color line. American families do too.

In King's day, the vast majority of Americans disapproved of marriages between whites and nonwhites. Today the opposite is true: Nearly 90 percent of the public approves of interracial marriage. In 1967, just 3 percent of couples tying the knot were of different races, according to the Pew Research Center. By 2015, 17 percent of all US newlyweds — one of every six — had married someone of another color. Naturally, the number of multiracial American children has soared in recent years as well.

When King was assassinated, tens of millions of Americans would have put the prospect of a black US president in the realm of sheer fantasy. In fact, the election of the first black president was just a few decades away. And when Barack Obama in 2008 won the White House, it was with a greater share of the white vote than six of the previous seven Democratic nominees. White racism, once such a powerful force in US electoral politics, had shrunk to puny insignificance.

In December 2014 — in the aftermath of the Ferguson riots, the killing of Trayvon Martin, and other racial flashpoints — an interviewer asked Obama if the United States was growing more racially divided. The president rejected the premise of the question. "No, I actually think that it's probably in its day-to-day interactions less racially divided," Obama said. A few disturbing events had "gotten a lot of attention," he acknowledged, but "I think that's good. I think it ... points to our ability to solve these problems."

None of this is to claim that racial ugliness has vanished outright, or that racial concerns can be safely ignored. It is to claim that despite the occasional eruption of racist hatred or cruelty, and despite the coarse racial crudeness of the incumbent president, the American people are far removed from the bigots of yesteryear. In less than two generations, the United States transformed itself from a largely racist society to a largely non-racist one. "We shall overcome," King and the civil rights heroes vowed. Inspired by their courage, uplifted by their moral leadership, Americans did just that.



The Left’s Extremism Will Continue to Drive Support for Trump

What are Donald Trump’s chances for re-election in 2020? If history is any guide, pretty good.

In early 1994, Bill Clinton’s approval rating after two years in office hovered around a dismal 40 percent. The first midterm elections of the Clinton presidency were an utter disaster.

A new generation of younger, more conservative Republicans led by firebrand Newt Gingrich and his “Contract with America” gave Republicans a majority in the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years. Republicans also picked up eight Senate seats in 1994 to take majority control of both houses of Congress.

It was no wonder that Republicans thought the 1996 presidential election would be a Republican shoo-in. But Republicans nominated 73-year-old Senate leader Bob Dole, a sober but otherwise uninspired Washington fixture. By September of 1996, “comeback kid” Clinton had a Gallup approval rating of 60 percent. Dole was crushed in an Electoral College landslide.

Barack Obama was given a similarly dismal prognosis after the 2010 midterms, when Democrats lost 63 House seats and six Senate seats. Republicans regained majority control of the House, though Democrats clung to a narrow majority in the Senate. At the time, Obama had an approval rating in the mid-40s.

Republicans once again figured Obama would be a one-term president. Yet they nominated a Dole-like candidate in the 2012 election. Republican nominee Mitt Romney had little appeal to Republicans’ conservative base and was easily caricatured by the left as an out-of-touch elite.

By late 2012, Obama’s approval rating was consistently at or above 50 percent, and he wound up easily beating Romney.

What is the significance of these rebound stories for Trump, who had a better first midterm result than either Clinton or Obama and similarly low approval ratings? People, not polls, elect presidents.

Presidents run for re-election against real opponents, not public perceptions. For all the media hype, voters often pick the lesser of two evils, not their ideals of a perfect candidate.

We have no idea what the economy or the world abroad will be like in 2020. And no one knows what the country will think of the newly Democrat-controlled Congress in two years.

The public has been hearing a lot from radical new House representatives such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich. Their pledges to deliver “Medicare for All,” to phase out fossil fuels and to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement service are occasionally delivered with snark. Tlaib recently used profanity to punctuate her desire to see Trump impeached.

But much of the public supports Trump’s agenda of deregulation, increased oil and gas production, getting tough with China on trade, and stopping illegal immigration.

What if the Democrats impeach Trump, even knowing that a Republican Senate would never convict him?

When Republicans did that to Clinton, his approval rating went up. Some Republican senators even joined the Democrats in the effort to acquit Clinton. As a reward for the drawn-out drama around the impeachment, Republicans lost seats in both the 1998 and 2000 House elections.

We still don’t have any idea whom the Democrats will nominate to run against Trump. Will they go the 1996 or 2012 Republican route with a predictable has-been such as Joe Biden, who will turn 78 shortly after the 2020 election?

Well-known candidates from the Senate such as Walter Mondale in 1984, Dole in 1996, John Kerry in 2004, John McCain in 2008, and Hillary Clinton in 2016 have a poor track record in recent presidential elections. They are usually nominated only by process of elimination and the calling in of political chits rather than due to grassroots zeal.

Democrats can continue their hard-left drift and nominate socialist Bernie Sanders, or they can try again to elect the first female president, either Kamala Harris or Elizabeth Warren, both of whom represent the far left.

But going to extremes did not work well in 1972, when leftist Democratic Sen. George McGovern was crushed by incumbent Richard Nixon. The Republicans learned that lesson earlier when they nominated Sen. Barry Goldwater in 1964 and were wiped out.

Whether or not they like Trump, millions of voters still think the president is all that stands between them and socialism, radical cultural transformation, and social chaos.

Many would prefer Trump’s sometimes-over-the-top tweets and hard bark to the circus they saw at the Brett Kavanaugh nomination hearings, the rantings of Ocasio-Cortez, or the endless attempts to remove Trump from office.

What usually ensure one-term presidencies are unpopular wars (Lyndon Johnson) or tough economic times (Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush).

If Trump avoids both, perhaps a majority of voters will see him as political chemotherapy—occasionally nausea-inducing but still necessary and largely effective—to stop a toxic and metastasizing political cancer.



WaPo Urges Pelosi To Take Trump’s Deal as Pressure Splits Dem. Leadership from Others

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and congressional Democrats are losing one big voice in their opposition to President Donald Trump’s push for a border wall: The Washington Post’s Editorial Board.

The Post noted in a Sunday editorial reasons why Pelosi should rebuke the president’s most recent offer to temporarily extend protections for the so-called Dreamers.

But the paper eventually explained that taking the deal would ultimately help those who came here through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

“He should not be rewarded for having taken the government hostage. Any piece of a wall would reinforce his hateful, anti-immigrant rhetoric,” The Post noted. “He’s unreliable, having made and withdrawn similar offers in the past.”

The Post’s editorial board has blasted Trump in the past for what its writers call pushing immigration policies that would “cripple the economy.” It’s taking a different approach now.

Sunday’s editorial explained why young people who came to the U.S. through the Obama-era program are in peril of being deported. If nothing happens soon, then the Dreamers could get the short end of the stick, The Post noted.

“If no deal is reached, the Supreme Court is likely at some point to end that dispensation, as Mr. Trump has demanded, and they will be sent back into the shadows, or to countries of which they have no memory.”

Trump offered Pelosi and congressional Democrats a deal on Saturday. His deal included $800 million in urgent humanitarian assistance, $805 million in new drug detection technology, and three years of legal relief from deportation for DACA recipients in exchange for the $5.7 billion for “strategic deployment of physical barriers.”

Pelosi was not impressed. She preemptively shot down the proposal in a statement before the president’s announcement.



4 Border Activists Convicted of Illegally Entering Refuge, Aiding Illegal Immigrants

Four activists have been found guilty of illegally entering a federal wildlife refuge in southwestern Arizona as part of their effort to assist illegal immigrants.

The four women were part of a group called No More Deaths, which says it is fighting to reduce the number of fatalities among illegal immigrants who try to cross the desert and go through the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, Fox News reported.

The four defendants — Natalie Hoffman, Oona Holcomb, Madeline Huse and Zaachila Orozco-McCormick  — were all found without permits inside the refuge on Aug. 13, 2017. They were leaving jugs of water and cans of beans for illegal immigrants who might pass that way.

Catherine Gaffney, a No More Deaths volunteer, attacked the verdict, according to a news release on the group’s website. “This verdict challenges not only No More Deaths volunteers, but people of conscience throughout the country,” Gaffney said. “If giving water to someone dying of thirst is illegal, what humanity is left in the law of this country?”

Art Del Cueto, vice president of the National Border Patrol Council, said humanitarian groups miss the point with their efforts, according to the Arizona Daily Independent. “While it’s humanitarian of them to want to put this out there and try to help these people, it’s not going to” migrants, Del Cueto said.

“It’s going to the drug cartels, it’s going to the people smuggling, and it’s going to the scouts that are up there trying to harm (migrants). It’s not being used for the purpose they intended.”

U.S. Magistrate Judge Bernardo Velasco ruled Friday that the women broke the rules. “The Defendants did not get an access permit, they did not remain on the designated roads, and they left water, food, and crates in the Refuge,” his ruling stated. “All of this, in addition to violating the law, erodes the national decision to maintain the Refuge in its pristine nature.”

The defendants said they did not get a permit because permit forms specifically required those applying to agree not to leave behind food, water, blankets or other aid for illegal immigrants, according to the Arizona Daily Indpendent.

In his ruling, Velasco noted that the defendants claimed they were “acting in accordance with a higher law.” One of the Defendants claims her conduct is not civil disobedience, but rather civil initiative, which is somehow not a criminal offense,” he wrote.

Velasco said No More Deaths was to blame for not advising the women of the consequences of violating the refuge’s rules, according to the Arizona Republic.

The women could face up to six months in prison and a $500 fine when they are sentenced.

“No one in charge of No More Deaths ever informed them that their conduct could be prosecuted as a criminal offense nor did any of the Defendants make any independent inquiry into the legality or consequences of their activities,” Velasco wrote. “The Court can only speculate as to what the Defendants’ decisions would have been had they known the actual risk of their undertaking,” he wrote.



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, January 21, 2019

Beto O’Rourke Questions ‘Principles’ of Constitution: ‘Does This Still Work?’

In the interview report below you see the whole Left/Right  opposition.  Brainless Beto wants "sweeping change" while conservatives are very leery of that -- with good historical precedent -- and see sweeping change as dangerously arrogant.  Conservatives don't see change as a virtue or goal at all.  They value stability, not change, though cautious and well-justified changes are not seen as incompatible with stability.  So we can see why any agreement between the two sides is always going to be a big mountain to climb

Former Congressman and potential 2020 Democratic nominee Beto O’Rourke questioned the “principles” of the U.S. Constitution on Wednesday, arguing that its usefulness is the “question of the moment.”

In an interview with The Washington Post, O’Rourke was asked if he believes the U.S. is capable of “dramatically [changing] its approach to a whole host of issues” or whether he holds a “dismal suspicion that the country is now incapable of implementing sweeping change.”

“I’m hesitant to answer it because I really feel like it deserves its due, and I don’t want to give you a — actually, just selfishly, I don’t want a sound bite of it reported, but, yeah, I think that’s the question of the moment: Does this still work?” O’Rourke replied.

“Can an empire like ours with a military presence in over 170 countries around the globe, with trading relationships … and security agreements in every continent, can it still be managed by the same principles that were set down 230-plus years ago?”

During the interview, O’Rourke also made an argument that the “border is already fully secured and that further investment would take it even further ‘past the point of diminishing returns'” by forcing illegal migrants into dangerous territories.

“You will ensure death,” he said of Trump’s plan to build a wall on the southern border. “You and I, as Americans, have caused the deaths of others through these walls.”

The 46-year-old, who lost his Senate race against Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) last November, is currently weighing up whether to run for the 2020 presidential nomination.



Modern Monetary Theory: Who’ll be brave enough to try it?

This theory is something of a relief.  It does explain why inflation remained under control during Obama's money printing binge.  It applies because unemployment was high at the outset of the Obama era.  It does NOT apply to the Trump economy, however, as unemployment is very low now.  The theory requires Trump to raise taxes, which he will not do.  So we should expect the emergence of significant inflation in a Trump second term -- or maybe before

In the past decade, the world has suffered two global crises: the financial disaster of 2008 and the eurozone sovereign debt crisis two years later. Policymakers responded with bailouts, cheap funding schemes, zero interest rates and quantitative easing. In one sense, the past ten years was a period of intense economic experimentation. In another, nothing has changed.

Following previous crises, macroeconomic ideas were replaced. After the Second World War, Keynesian, under which governments spend to create demand and protect jobs, was ascendant. After the inflation-induced recessions in the 1970s, the big idea was monetarism, using interest rates and the money supply to keep prices under control.

And now, after two existential crises? Nothing. The fundamental macroeconomic ideas have not changed. Labour and the Tories do battle on the scale of the deficit, like two old fools arguing who should pay for the last round long after the bar has closed. Beyond that, John McDonnell’s socialist revolution is pilfered from crumbling communist textbooks. It’s all a bit disappointing.

A new idea is slowly gaining momentum, though, particularly in the United States, where the charismatic Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been championing it. The idea is modern monetary theory and, as with many new ideas, it is not actually that new. Its origins date back to 1993 and it even featured in the 2016 US election. Bernie Sanders’ economic adviser was Stephanie Kelton, a prominent advocate of MMT.

At first glance, the theory seems barmy. As long as a government borrows in its own currency, it need never default because it can always print the money it needs. Described that way, MMT sounds like that other MMT, the magic money tree, or Jeremy Corbyn’s “People’s QE” - the kind of thing Weimar Germany and Zimbabwe tried with devastating inflationary consequences. But that’s because we’re looking through the wrong end of the telescope.

Warren Mosler, a former banker and hedge fund manager, went back to basics when he was developing the idea. The challenges governments face are growth, unemployment and inflation. To achieve those goals today, central banks use rates to regulate the economy while governments manage the public finances.

Mr Mosler and Ms Kelton look at the world differently. Running a budget deficit is not a sign of overspending, they say. Inflation is. Viewed though that lens, deficits look fine so long as inflation is under control. If inflation is low, unemployment high and the private sector is not picking up the slack, the government’s role is to create productive work through tax cuts or spending. The new jobs will create enough demand to drive up prices.

But who finances the deficits? That’s where money-printing comes in. It is here that convention is flipped on its head. Under MMT, tax and spending decisions are taken to regulate the economy, ignoring the impact on the public finances. If inflation picks up, rates don’t budge (Mr Mosler would have them set at zero). Instead, taxes rise to suck demand out of the system. In doing so, the budget may move into surplus. The central bank’s role is simply to finance the deficit.

Surely markets will hate this and punish governments with higher borrowing costs? Proponents reply that the government does not need to borrow from the market. When the state cuts income taxes, it creates more domestic savings. Those savings are exactly equal to the state’s additional borrowing. As a nation, one hand owes the other. The central bank only need mark the debt on the government’s ledger.

The key here is to think of the state as a monopolist, not a household. A government that borrows in its own currency has a monopoly on the money supply so cannot run out and go bust. Foreign investors might lose money on their dollar assets, but the debt can always be paid. The model does not work for countries without their own currency, such as eurozone members. As they do not control their currency, they must live within their means and ultimately balance their books. They are not monetary monopolists, just households for the purposes of budget management.

Although MMT has been jumped on by deficit-spending left-wingers, the theory is not intrinsically fiscally irresponsible. Mr Mosler claims to have developed the idea after a steam room session with arch-hawk Donald Rumsfeld, the former US defence secretary. JW Mason, an economist at the City University of New York, reckons it would lead to smaller budget deficits over the long term, provided politicians are bold enough to combat inflation with higher taxes.

Ultimately, the theory reframes and simplifies our conception of the economy, drawing the focus on to the core priorities of employment and inflation. The deficit would no longer be an obstacle. There would be no tension between fiscal and monetary policy, just a single lever. Responsibility for economic management would fall to politicians, ending the outsourcing to technocrats that has provided legislators cover for so long. And there would no place for an independent central bank.

In a way, MMT is nothing new. Japan’s national debt is 2.4 times the size of its economy, three times UK levels, but most is owed to Japanese pension funds and its money-printing central bank. In Britain, the 527 billion pounds of debt raised by the state between 2009 and 2012 was largely matched by the Bank of England’s 375 billion pounds of QE. Today, Donald Trump is blowing up the US deficit and driving up inflation in what looks like a practical demonstration of MMT.

There, in a nutshell, is the problem. The theory states that President Trump should be raising taxes, not cutting them. But would politicians ever have the courage to raise taxes if domestic inflation is climbing, despite high unemployment? The whole reason central banks were given independence was because politicians cannot be trusted to make unpopular decisions.

What MMT does prove, however , is that we will not run out of new ideas as long as we can describe the world in different ways. That, at least, is encouraging.



Humans: The Domesticated Primates

Capital punishment is the key to civilization

As we became more peaceable, our bodies evolved along the lines of other tamed animals

A few years ago, I stayed in Kenya with the conservationists Karl and Kathy Ammann, who kept a rescued chimpanzee named Mzee in their home. Even as a young adult, Mzee was generally well-behaved and trustworthy. Yet he could be impulsive. At one point, over breakfast, Mzee and I reached for the jug of orange juice at the same time. He grabbed my hand as I held the jug, and he squeezed. Ouch. “You first!” I squeaked. I was still rubbing my fingers back to life once he had finished his drink.

“We differ from our ancient ancestors in ways similar to how dogs differ from wolves.

The truth is that even when chimpanzees know the rules perfectly well, they don’t always restrain their aggression. In the wild, their lives are full of violence. A day spent with wild chimpanzees gives you a good chance of seeing chases and hitting; every month, you are likely to see bloody wounds. Compared with even an unusually violent group of humans, chimpanzees are aggressive several hundred to a thousand times more often over the course of a year.

The greater peaceability of human societies comes from our nature. We can look each other in the eye. We don’t lose our tempers easily. We normally control our aggressive urges. In primates, one of the most potent stimuli for aggression is the presence of a strange individual. By contrast, Jerome Kagan, a pioneer in developmental psychology, reports that in his hundreds of observations of 2-year-olds meeting unfamiliar children, he has never seen one strike out at the other. That willingness to interact peacefully with others, even strangers, is inborn.

What accounts for this human difference? The answer lies in the evolutionary pressures that selected against aggression, particularly in men. The cultural anthropologist Christopher Boehm has found that, in hunter-gatherer societies, a man who threatens others by having too violent a temper is treated in a consistent way.

If the bully can’t be contained by the cajoling effects of ridicule or ostracism, the other men reach a consensus, make a plan and execute him. Over the eons, the long-term practice of killing unrepentant aggressors must have favored genes for more peaceful behavior.

No other mammal has the brainpower to organize capital punishment. When language became sufficiently sophisticated, our ancestors’ ability to conspire led not only to a more peaceful species but also to a new kind of hierarchy. No longer would human groups be ruled by the physical force of an individual. The emergence of capital punishment meant that henceforth, anyone aspiring to be an alpha couldn't get away with just being a fighter. He had to be a politician, too.

The result of generations of such selective pressure is that human beings are best understood as an animal species that has been domesticated—like dogs, horses or chickens. Recent archaeological evidence suggests that humans became increasingly docile and less reactively aggressive around the time of becoming Homo sapiens, a process that started about 300,000 years ago.

Critical clues come from comparisons with domesticated animals. In his 1868 book “The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication,” Charles Darwin reported that there are various surprising biological markers of the domestication process.

For instance, every kind of domesticated nonhuman mammal includes some adults with floppy ears, which are very rare in adult wild animals. Making matters more mysterious, there was no obvious reason why docility should be linked to floppy ears. It was just something that happened.

Another example is white spots on foreheads, which are common in horses, cows, dogs and cats but not in wild animals. It was the same story for white feet, curly tails and more than a dozen other characteristics.

The list of traits associated with the “domestication syndrome” is useful, because it provides telling clues to the human past. Critically, the domestication syndrome includes changes to bones. Fossil bones allow archaeologists to recognize when species such as dogs, goats and pigs became domesticated.

As the archaeologist Helen Leach argued in an influential 2003 article, they can do the same for humans. Dr. Leach listed four characteristics of the bones of domesticated animals:

They mainly have smaller bodies than their wild ancestors; their faces tend to be shorter and don’t project as far forward; the differences between males and females are less highly developed; and they tend to have smaller brain cavities (and thus brains). As it turns out, all of these changes appear in human fossils. Even our brain size fits the pattern: While the human brain grew steadily over the last two million years, that trajectory took a sudden turn about 30,000 years ago, when brains started to become smaller.

The differences between modern humans and our earlier ancestors have a clear pattern: They look like the differences between a dog and a wolf.

Half a million years ago, our ancestors were heavier-bodied, with relatively bigger males, more masculine faces and bigger teeth. To extrapolate from domesticated animals, these characteristics indicate that our ancestors were less docile than we are today. Pre-sapiens humans would have had a greater propensity for reactive aggression, losing their tempers more easily, quick to threaten and fight one another.

A fascinating puzzle is why these physical changes go along with the changes in emotion and behavior that we call domestication. Why should humans and animals grow flatter faces as they become less aggressive?

One way of answering that question is to think about nipples. Nipples provide no benefit to males, yet mammals have maintained them since the origin of suckling around 200 million years ago. That is because, in the growing embryo, the sequence of development responsible for female nipples, which are adaptive, also leads to male nipples, which aren’t.

In the same way, the traits associated with domestication—like flatter faces and smaller brains—may not be evolutionarily adaptive in themselves. Rather, they are side effects that go along with what really matters about domestication: the reduction of aggression that, in animals, we call tameness. The forces that led us to become more peaceful with one another, over the course of thousands of generations, have apparently left their mark on our bodies as well as our minds.



Obama's Immigration Action Means Tax Refunds For Illegals, Says IRS

A great absudity.  Hopefully Trump will find time to look into it

President Obama’s aggressive executive action on immigration is still being litigated in the courts. In the meantime, tax refunds for the affected illegal immigrants have become controversial too. The IRS has reconfirmed that illegal immigrants can file and claim refunds for the last three years. Sound too bizarre to be true? Some say it isn’t possible, but not the IRS.

It's called the Earned Income Tax Credit, the same refundable tax credit responsible for billions in fraudulent refunds. IRS Commissioner Koskinen explained the seemingly bizarre result to Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa). Illegal immigrants covered by the President’s amnesty deal can claim back tax credits for work they performed illegally, even if they never filed a tax return during those years.

This written response clarified the IRS chief's earlier statements, confirming that illegals can get back taxes. Earlier this year, Mr. Koskinen said that to claim a refund, an illegal immigrant would need to have filed past tax returns. Now, the IRS chief says they can claim it even if they never filed tax returns in the past. According to the IRS, illegal immigrants granted amnesty and Social Security numbers can claim up to three years of back tax credits.

The IRS says a 2000 Chief Counsel Advice (CCA) on this issue is correct. With the amnesty, illegal immigrants could receive tens of thousands of dollars in tax refunds. Under President Obama’s executive action, an illegal immigrant can: (1) get a Social Security number; (2) claim the Earned Income Tax Credit for the three open tax years; and (3) IRS sends three years of tax refunds. No matter that you never paid taxes, never filed a return, worked off the books, etc.

The IRS says this is the way the Earned Income Tax Credit works. IRS Commissioner Koskinen says the IRS is following a 15-year-old opinion that “a taxpayer may claim the Earned Income Tax Credit for a taxable year using a Social Security number acquired in a later taxable year.” Calling the three year tax refund perk a mockery of the law, Senator Grassley noted that illegals would be able to claim billions of dollars in tax benefits.

Meantime, U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry introduced a bill to keep undocumented workers from receiving the Earned Income Tax Credit. “My bill is a direct result of the (IRS) announcement,” said McHenry, a Republican who represents the 10th District, which includes Gaston County. “It’s very simple. If you’re not here legally, you should not be able to access the Earned Income Credit. It’s for the American taxpayers who are trying to make ends meet.”



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 20, 2019

Make the shutdown permanent

The Daily Caller is taking the rare step of publishing this anonymous op-ed at the request of the author, a senior official in the Trump administration whose identity is known to us and whose career would be jeopardized by its disclosure. We believe publishing this essay anonymously is the only way to deliver an important perspective to our readers. We invite you to submit a question about the essay or our vetting process here.

As one of the senior officials working without a paycheck, a few words of advice for the president’s next move at shuttered government agencies: lock the doors, sell the furniture, and cut them down.

Federal employees are starting to feel the strain of the shutdown. I am one of them. But for the sake of our nation, I hope it lasts a very long time, till the government is changed and can never return to its previous form.

The lapse in appropriations is more than a battle over a wall. It is an opportunity to strip wasteful government agencies for good.

On an average day, roughly 15 percent of the employees around me are exceptional patriots serving their country. I wish I could give competitive salaries to them and no one else. But 80 percent feel no pressure to produce results. If they don’t feel like doing what they are told, they don’t.

Why would they? We can’t fire them. They avoid attention, plan their weekend, schedule vacation, their second job, their next position — some do this in the same position for more than a decade.

They do nothing that warrants punishment and nothing of external value. That is their workday: errands for the sake of errands — administering, refining, following and collaborating on process. “Process is your friend” is what delusional civil servants tell themselves. Even senior officials must gain approval from every rank across their department, other agencies and work units for basic administrative chores.

Process is what we serve, process keeps us safe, process is our core value. It takes a lot of people to maintain the process. Process provides jobs. In fact, there are process experts and certified process managers who protect the process. Then there are the 5 percent with moxie (career managers). At any given time they can change, clarify or add to the process — even to distort or block policy counsel for the president.

Saboteurs peddling opinion as research, tasking their staff on pet projects or pitching wasteful grants to their friends. Most of my career colleagues actively work against the president’s agenda. This means I typically spend about 15 percent of my time on the president’s agenda and 85 percent of my time trying to stop sabotage, and we have no power to get rid of them. Until the shutdown.

Due to the lack of funding, many federal agencies are now operating more effectively from the top down on a fraction of their workforce, with only select essential personnel serving national security tasks. One might think this is how government should function, but bureaucracies operate from the bottom up — a collective of self-generated ideas. Ideas become initiatives, formalize into offices, they seek funds from Congress and become bureaus or sub-agencies, and maybe one day grow to be their own independent agency, like ours. The nature of a big administrative bureaucracy is to grow to serve itself. I watch it and fight it daily.

When the agency is full, employees held liable for poor performance respond with threats, lawsuits, complaints and process in at least a dozen offices, taking years of mounting paperwork with no fear of accountability, extending their careers, while no real work is done. Do we succumb to such extortion? Yes. We pay them settlements, we waive bad reviews, and we promote them.

Many government agencies have adopted the position that more complaints are good because it shows inclusion in, you guessed it, the process. When complaints come, it is cheaper to pay them off than to hold public servants accountable. The result: People accused of serious offenses are not charged, and self-proclaimed victims are paid by you, the American taxpayer.

The message to federal supervisors is clear. Maintain the status quo, or face allegations. Many federal employees truly believe that doing tasks more efficiently and cutting out waste, by closing troubled programs instead of expanding them, “is morally wrong,” as one cried to me.

I get it. These are their pets. It is tough to put them down and let go, and many resist. This phenomenon was best summed up by a colleague who said, “The goal in government is to do nothing. If you try to get things done, that’s when you will run into trouble.”

But President Trump can end this abuse. Senior officials can reprioritize during an extended shutdown, focus on valuable results and weed out the saboteurs. We do not want most employees to return, because we are working better without them. Sure, we empathize with families making tough financial decisions, like mine, and just like private citizens who have to find other work and bring competitive value every day, while paying more than a third of their salary in federal taxes.

President Trump has created more jobs in the private sector than the furloughed federal workforce. Now that we are shut down, not only are we identifying and eliminating much of the sabotage and waste, but we are finally working on the president’s agenda.

President Trump does not need Congress to address the border emergency, and yes, it is an emergency. Billions upon billions of hard-earned tax dollars are still being dumped into foreign aid programs every year that do nothing for America’s interest or national security. The president does not need congressional funding to deconstruct abusive agencies who work against his agenda. This is a chance to effect real change, and his leverage grows stronger every day the shutdown lasts.

The president should add to his demands, including a vote on all of his political nominees in the Senate. Send the career appointees back. Many are in the 5 percent of saboteurs and resistance leaders.

A word of caution: To be a victory, this shutdown must be different than those of the past and should achieve lasting disruption with two major changes, or it will hurt the president.

The first thing we need out of this is better security, particularly at the southern border. Our founders envisioned a free market night watchman state, not the bungled bloated bureaucracy our government has become. But we have to keep the uniformed officers paid, which is an emergency. Ideally, continue a resolution to pay the essential employees only, if they are truly working on national security. Furloughed employees should find other work, never return and not be paid.

Secondly, we need savings for taxpayers. If this fight is merely rhetorical bickering with Nancy Pelosi, we all lose, especially the president. But if it proves that government is better when smaller, focusing only on essential functions that serve Americans, then President Trump will achieve something great that Reagan was only bold enough to dream.

The president’s instincts are right. Most Americans will not miss non-essential government functions. A referendum to end government plunder must happen. Wasteful government agencies are fighting for relevance but they will lose. Now is the time to deliver historic change by cutting them down forever.



Cracks in the Democrats’ wall opposition

Some Democrat lawmakers are losing their will to fight on in the ongoing stalemate with President Trump over border wall funding that has partially shuttered the federal government since before Christmas.

The GOP-controlled House of Representatives voted 217 to 185 on Dec. 20 for a spending bill with $5.7 billion for the wall. The measure floundered in the Senate and the partial shutdown began Dec. 22. The Senate remains in Republican hands but the House is now controlled by Democrats.

The president’s negotiations with Democrats over the $5 billion needed to begin construction of the border wall have gone nowhere largely because of Democrat intransigence –leadership in the House refuses even to meet with the president at the White House—and the federal government continues to be partially shut down for lack of appropriated funds. Although pressure on Trump has been growing, the president has vowed to keep the shutdown going as long as it takes to secure funding for the wall.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who barely won the House speakership after an internal party revolt, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), vow to prevent Trump from securing any funding for a wall along the nation’s multi-state border with Mexico.

Pelosi’s lieutenant, House Majority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), said Democrats are solid in their opposition to negotiating with the president on the wall. “We are totally united — totally,” Hoyer reportedly said.

But that claim of unity is nonsense, according to Matthew Boyle of Breitbart News.

“In fact, many Democrats–particularly the newly elected freshmen–want to negotiate with Trump on the wall, and they are saying so publicly while expressing their disdain for Pelosi and her fellow leaders,” Boyle writes.

Freshman Rep. Jared Golden (D-Me.), is urging his party’s leaders to negotiate with Trump and the Republicans. Democrat leaders and Trump need “to stop hiding and show a little leadership” to bring the longest-lasting federal government shutdown in the nation’s history to an end, he said.

Freshman Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) said “there’s a number of us on the Democratic side who are quite concerned that we’re not working on negotiated positions and taking the bull by the horns and trying to think about what it would look like.”

Freshman Rep. Max Rose (D-N.Y.) told local media he was “sick and tired” of government shutdowns being used “as a form of brinksmanship—a tool of negotiation.”

“All we’ve done in the House is repass the Senate bill,” he said. “Now that will allow us some freedom, some space, some real debate. The Senate though has to show their independence. I just got out of a bruising fight with my House leadership … Let’s open the government back up and let’s get back to work.”

Freshman Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-N.Y.), acknowledged he has been defying Pelosi and negotiating directly with GOP lawmakers.

“I’ve been meeting with several representatives from across the country, both Democrats and Republicans,” Brindisi said. “And I’ve been trying to force leadership on both sides of the aisle to work out a compromise to this shutdown.”

“If you listen to all the experts, they’ll say some elements of physical barriers where it makes sense are in order,” he said. “We need more border agents, we need more technology at our border crossings and ports of entries so trucks and shipping containers are inspected before coming into our country.”

Freshman Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), is taking heat from her constituents.

“If I am getting comments and contact from my constituents expressing concern that the Democrats are not prioritizing security, then I think we can do better,” she said.

Freshman Rep. Colin Allred (D-Texas), said he would consider supporting appropriations needed to build the wall.

“I’m not going to rule anything out, I really am not,” he said.

Freshman Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.), said she is optimistic a deal can be brokered.

“I hope that we can all come to a compromise because that’s the way things get done,” she said. “If we don’t compromise, the American people are the ones who get hurt. Right now, they are hanging in the balance.”

Freshman Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-N.J.) said he would vote for wall funding.

“If I had the opportunity to vote for some sort of a deal, I would,” he said. “I think if we work on the border security, in my opinion, the president would be willing to work on some of these other issues.”

Rep. Ami Bera (D-Calif.) told Vice News that plenty of Democrats outside the freshman cohort are bucking Pelosi’s refusal to negotiate.

“I think we all want to see DACA protections, so I think there’s an opportunity to, if they give something — it’s called negotiation, right?” Bera said. “Give us a chance to protect the Dreamers; maybe we can give something on border security.”

Some in the House Democrat leadership are also diverging from Pelosi’s position.

Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) said some kind of border barrier is necessary.

“If we have a partial wall, if we have fencing, if we have technology used to keep our border safe, all of that is fine,” Bustos, who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), said on CNN last week.

Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), vice chairman of the House Democrat conference, said on MSNBC that a barrier of some kind would work in parts of the U.S.-Mexico border. “You know, I think there are parts of the border that would benefit from repairing fencing and other barricades that already exist there,” she said.

For his part, President Trump has said he is willing to fulfill his signature campaign promise by declaring a national emergency under federal law so the government can finally move forward with building a desperately needed wall on the nation’s porous southern boundary with Mexico.

Legal experts say the president has the authority to declare an emergency and invoke a federal statute called the National Emergencies Act that President Gerald Ford signed into law on Sept. 14, 1976.

President Trump has already invoked the National Emergencies Act three times in his tenure, according to ABC News. President Barack Obama invoked the statute no fewer than 10 times.

But the next move belongs to House Democrats.



Fake News Attacks Rand Paul for Getting Surgery in Canada, Fails to Realize Clinic Is Private

Some media outlets and activists are suggesting that Sen. Rand Paul (R–Ky.) is guilty of hypocrisy because he will travel to Canada for surgery related to his 2017 assault at the hands of a neighbor. Paul, after all, has warned loudly against adopting the Canadian health care system.

"Rand Paul, enemy of socialized medicine, will go to Canada for surgery," tweeted Talking Points Memo. The tweet includes a link to a Courier-Journal story that reminds readers that "Paul has called universal health care and nationalized options 'slavery.'" Newsweek went a similar route. And the Democratic Coalition tweeted:

"Oh, the irony: Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, one of the fiercest political critics of socialized medicine, will travel to Canada later this month to get hernia surgery."

Checkmate, libertarians? Nope.

Those who chuckled at this supposed irony missed a major detail, even though it was noted in the press coverage: Paul's surgery will take place at the Shouldice Hernia Hospital in Thornhill, Ontario. The clinic is private, and run for profit; The Toronto Star's Daniel Dale, who is from Thornhill, notes that it was "grandfathered in to Ontario's socialized health system."

According to Dale, New Democratic Party Leader Jack Layton, a left-leaning Canadian politician, attracted criticism in 2006 for visiting the private clinic, even though he was a champion of publicly provided health care. That is indeed hypocritical. Paul's decision to seek out the best care—and pay for it—is not.



Shock Poll: Trump Gains 19 Points with Latino Voters During Border Wall Shutdown

In the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll released Thursday, President Donald Trump may have suffered some among Republicans overall, but he saw a huge point gain in a different demographic breakdown, and an unexpected one by conventional wisdom.

In early December, the poll had Trump’s approval rating among Latino adults at 31%. The results from the poll released Thursday show the president’s job approval among Latino adults at 50%.

That is an astonishing 19 point swing. Prior results had less variance, with Latino approval numbers at 36% in their November 1st findings. It was 27% in the pollster’s mid-October survey.

The January poll was conducted during the government shutdown over border wall funding, most notably. So the big swing among Latinos was while Trump and Democrats faced off over funding for the wall.

The president did not fare that well among all Americans, or even among Republicans, with a seven point drop with the latter since December.

In this same January poll, on the question of whether Trump is doing “too much, too little, or about the right amount to work with Democrats in Congress”, among Latinos, 50% of said he was doing too little, while 32% said he was doing the right amount. It was not a polled question in the December survey.



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