Friday, February 01, 2019

Time’s up on Democrat obstruction as Senate GOP considers ending 30-hour debate rule to get more judges

Republicans led by Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) are considering changing Senate rules to speed up the process of confirming nominees, and they should do so as soon as possible. In spite of continual Democrat obstruction, Republicans have done a good job of confirming judges. In fact, a total of 85 judges have been confirmed so far: two Supreme Court justices, 30 appellate court judges, and 53 district court judges.

After two years in office for President Donald Trump, that puts him at above the average of 163 confirmed every four-year term. Still, there are now more judicial vacancies than when Trump took office, and over 50 judicial nominees are awaiting confirmation.

When Trump took office, there were 125 judicial vacancies. Currently, there are 146 vacancies; and the Judicial Conference deems 70 of these vacancies to be judicial emergencies. In addition, there are 20 future vacancies due to judges planning to retire or take senior status.

While conservatives have a narrow 5-4 majority on the Supreme Court, liberals have control of most of the appellate courts. Of the 13 circuit courts of appeal, Republican-nominated judges make up the majority in four circuits, Democrat-nominated judges have the majority in seven circuits, and two circuits are evenly split. Republicans are on the cusp of flipping the 3rd Circuit, which covers Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, and are close to flipping several more.

Why are nominations moving so slowly? Because Democrats are intentionally dragging out the confirmation process. When Republicans request unanimous consent to consider nominations, Democrats typically object. To end debate, Republicans must then invoke cloture, which requires a simple majority. Even after a cloture motion is passed, Senate rules still allow for 30 hours of debate on the nomination, and Democrats have been exploiting this.

Consequently, Senate Republicans are considering reducing the amount of debate time after cloture to two or eight hours, depending upon the office. There is already precedent for reducing debate time: in 2013, Democrats reduced debate time for many nominations.

There is no time to waste. Allowing Democrats to slow-walk judicial nominees could easily lead to many judicial vacancies still needing to be filled in January of 2021. At this point, it is far too early to tell who will win the Democrat presidential nomination, much less who will win the general election. Nor is it clear which party will control the Senate in the next Congress. Should Trump win reelection but Democrats retake the Senate, Democrats could be expected to block most Trump judicial nominees, especially those for appellate courts and the Supreme Court. Amidst all of the uncertainty, it is crucial that Republicans confirm as many judges as possible.

Of course, some will make the argument that Republicans should not shorten the amount of time allowed for debating nominations out of fear of what Democrats might do in the future. But those people may not been paying enough attention to the way that Democrats have been playing the game. For example, Democrats nuked the filibuster to confirm Obama’s judges and shamelessly smeared Justice Kavanaugh at the eleventh hour in hopes of derailing his nomination. Why should anyone expect them to stop there?

For good reason, lifetime appointments to the judiciary are very important to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Accordingly, he has devoted a lot of time to confirming judges; but the number of judicial vacancies has increased in spite of his efforts. The 30-hour debate rule was put in place with the understanding that Senators would, for the most part, behave reasonably. Democrats have not done so. Therefore, Republicans should accordingly reduce the amount of time allowed for debate after cloture has been invoked. There is no tomorrow.



Demo 2020 Frontrunner Vows to Destroy Private Health Care

ObamaCare was never the end goal; Democrats have always wanted single-payer.

Socialized medicine has long been the Holy Grail for American progressives. And why not? With nationalized health care, the state literally holds the power of life and death over its citizens, making them much easier to control.

Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders made socialized health care integral to his 2016 Democrat presidential primary campaign, and other Democrats — already having favored quasi-socialist ObamaCare — are going all in for the latest version, marketed under the name “Medicare For All” banner.

In 2013, former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid eagerly admitted single-payer (read “government-run”) health care was the ultimate goal, with ObamaCare just a step along that path. Of course, Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats knew they could not openly admit that back in 2008, so they blatantly and repeatedly lied. Or, as MIT professor and ObamaCare architect Jonathan Gruber admitted candidly at a 2014 health economics conference, “This bill was written in a tortured way. … Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. … Call it the ‘stupidity of the American voter’ or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical to getting the thing to pass.”

Obama knew he was a liar when he repeatedly claimed, “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor”; a lie so egregious that PolitiFact awarded Obama with its “Lie of the Year” in 2013. Yet few Americans realize that the disastrous results ObamaCare produced — the bankrupted CO-OPs, the millions of Americans kicked off private insurance, the skyrocketing costs — were designed to make Americans so frustrated and angry with those greedy insurance companies that they would clamor for government-run health care.

And now Democrats, more radical than ever, are pushing socialized health care once again — albeit with some feigned resistance among the ranks to at least make it appear there’s thoughtful debate.

At a town hall meeting Monday night, Sen. Kamala Harris, current frontrunner for the 2020 Democrat presidential nomination, was unapologetic in calling for socialized health care. After endorsing Medicare for All, she was asked if Americans who liked their current insurance could keep it. She replied unequivocally that private insurance would be outlawed, stating, “Well, listen, the idea is that everyone gets access to medical care. And you don’t have to go through the process of going through an insurance company, having them give you approval, going through the paperwork, all of the delay that may require. … Let’s eliminate all of that. Let’s move on.”

The private health care of 150 million Americans? Gone.

Moreover, hers was a lie so gargantuan as to make Obama proud.

Medicare has mountains of paperwork, as well as an approval process run by government bureaucrats. Saying so isn’t a “conservative attack,” as leftists claim; those fact come directly from the Medicare website. So with Medicare for All, when your life is on the line, you get the efficiency of the DMV, the competence of the Postal Service, and the compassion of the IRS.

And an astronomical price tag, which George Mason University’s Mercatus Center estimates at a mind-boggling $32.6 trillion over 10 years, nearly doubling the cost of all government. Harris and other proponents claim the doubling of taxes will be offset by eliminating premiums, reducing administrative inefficiencies (because we all know government is the gold standard of efficiency), and cutting drug costs, but these are more blatant lies. ObamaCare was passed promising costs under $900 billion over the following decade, but costs had doubled just three years after passage of the law, despite not being fully implemented.

We don’t even have to guess if this would work. The leftist utopias of Vermont and California both tried to implement single-payer, government-run health care, and both quickly abandoned the quixotic venture after costs spiraled out of control.

And what of results? We already have two government-run health care programs — the Veterans Administration and Indian Health Services — and both are national embarrassments. Five years ago the scandal broke in which we learned VA employees were falsifying appointment records to make it appear wait times were less than 14 days, when in actuality tens of thousands of veterans waited months, or even years, for treatment, with many dying while waiting.

Today this disaster is still not fixed, and has in fact gotten worse. What possible leap of logic would lead us to believe a government-run health care system that leaves hundreds of thousands of veterans without care will suddenly, miraculously be able to provide excellent care to hundreds of millions of Americans?

Leftmedia propagandists are eager collaborators in the “progressive” plan, recently touting polls showing a majority of Americans (56%) favor Medicare for All. That is true … sort of.

Americans support Medicare for All when told it would guarantee health insurance as a right (71%) and eliminate premiums (67%). But that support plummets when people are informed that the government-run system would lead to delays in getting care (26%) and higher taxes (37%), or that it would eliminate private insurance (37%) and the current Medicare program (32%).

Thousands more doctors each year are refusing to take Medicare patients because of shrinking reimbursements and the bureaucratic nightmare of fighting to get paid. It is delusional to think Medicare for All would improve the situation. In Canada and Great Britain, which have nationalized or regionalized health care, primary care is adequate, but seeing a specialist takes months.

Medicare for All would be an unmitigated disaster, and the American people overwhelmingly reject it when given the facts. Now Americans need to reject those who keep trying to repackage it and sneak it past us.



Leftmedia Spin on the U.S. Intelligence Threat Assessment

Actually, Trump has a maddening ability to be both wrong and right at the same time.

President Donald Trump loves this country and strongly advocates and advances an “America First” foreign policy. Whether it’s withdrawing from the terrible nuclear deal with Iran or the hamstringing climate accord from Paris, he’s moved to undo the “America Last” agenda of his globalist predecessor. And the Leftmedia hates him for it.

So we’re treated to New York Times headlines such as, “On North Korea and Iran, Intelligence Chiefs Contradict Trump” that are meant to portray Trump as an uninformed rube blundering his way through foreign policy. The topic at hand is the annual Worldwide Threat Assessment prepared by the U.S. intelligence community. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, CIA Director Gina Haspel, and FBI Director Christopher Wray testified Tuesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee regarding the assessment.

The trio warned about threats from Russia and China, which the assessment says are “more aligned than at any point since the mid-1950s.” They also addressed North Korea, Iran, and ISIS. On each nation, Coats, Haspel, and Wray did indeed contradict some of Trump’s more brash assertions. For example, in announcing U.S. withdrawal from Syria, Trump declared, “We have won against ISIS; we’ve beaten them, and we’ve beaten them badly.” By contrast, Coats said the Islamic State will continue “to stoke violence” in Syria.

In our humble shop, however, we consider this to be another instance when Trump should be taken seriously but not literally. While Barack Obama effectively created ISIS, Trump has done a lot to beat it back. Unfortunately, by making hyperbolic, black-and-white declarations, he opens himself up to eye-rolling “fact checks” by the media and others. Trump has a maddening ability to be both wrong and right at the same time.

On North Korea, he did the same thing, saying after his summit with Kim Jong-un, “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.” Yes, there is, says the intelligence assessment. “We currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities, because its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival,” Coats said. “Our assessment is bolstered by our observations of some activity that is inconsistent with full denuclearization.”

Naturally, a good deal of time was spent on Russia’s election interference through Facebook. But Terence Jeffrey astutely argues what grassroots Americans are thinking: “The top national security issue facing the federal government today has nothing to do with deceptive political speech on social media. It has everything to do with our southern border.”

In the final analysis, the intelligence threat assessment is done in conjunction with the White House — these are executive agencies, after all — and the apparent disagreement arguably strengthens the American position in negotiations with our geopolitical foes. How? By keeping them off balance, on the ropes. Meanwhile, here at home, the Leftmedia is happy to keep churning anything that can be spun to make Trump look bad, reporting on complicated issues as checker games rather than chess matches.

Update: And of course Trump couldn’t resist punching back against the impression of him given over the last 24 hours:

“The Intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran. They are wrong! When I became President Iran was making trouble all over the Middle East, and beyond. Since ending the terrible Iran Nuclear Deal, they are MUCH different, but a source of potential danger and conflict. They are testing Rockets (last week) and more, and are coming very close to the edge. Their economy is now crashing, which is the only thing holding them back. Be careful of Iran. Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!”



The Democrats' Radicalism Problem
President Trump is deeply unpopular. According to RealClearPolitics, his favorability ratings now stand at just 41 percent — near-historic lows. This means that Democrats have the upper hand heading into 2020. All they have to do is not be radically insane.

And they just can’t do it.

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., the media darling of the moment, stated on a CNN town hall this week that she wants to fully abolish private health insurance, ban all semi-automatic weapons and rid the American economy of carbon emissions within a decade.

None of these positions are popular. Americans are interested in the idea of Medicare-for-All so long as there are no costs. The minute they’re told that there may be delays in receiving care, as there are in nearly all countries with socialized medicine, support plummets to just 26 percent, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll. Only 37 percent support Medicare-for-All if it means merely raising taxes. How about banning all semi-automatic weapons? As of October, 57 percent of Americans opposed banning semi-automatics. And when it comes to abolishing private cars — which would essentially be necessary to achieve the goals of the so-called Green New Deal — that proposal wouldn’t even chart.

Yet the Democratic primaries will require nearly every Democrat to embrace each of these positions. That’s probably why Democrats are quaking in their boots at the possibility of a third-party run by former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. Schultz has declared nationalized health care an impossibility; he has talked about the dangers of our massive national debt; he has opposed a 70 percent income tax rate. “I respect the Democratic Party,” Schultz told CNBC this week. “I no longer feel affiliated because I don’t know their views represent the majority of Americans.”

Now, Schultz may be a boring billionaire, but at least he isn’t pushing proposals so loony they alienate vast swaths of the American public. Democrats want to have it both ways: They want to push radical leftist policy, but they don’t want the blowback such policies entail. They want to pretend that radical leftism is popular even as they implicitly acknowledge the fact that it’s not all that popular.

Hence New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg’s fulminating over Schultz’s candidacy. She writes, “this frustrated executive’s politics aren’t widely shared by people who haven’t been to Davos.” Trump’s riding in the low 40s. Democrats shouldn’t have to sweat out fringe candidacies. Yet that’s what they’re doing, because they know they’ve pushed too far to the left.

There’s an easy answer to the Schultz conundrum for Democrats: Stop embracing the radical id of your own base. But that would involve recognizing that Trump’s unpopularity isn’t equivalent to support for radicalism. And Democrats will never acknowledge it — not as long as the hope remains that Trump’s unpopularity will translate into extreme leftist policy, the likes of which the republic has rarely seen.



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 31, 2019

Is Belarus ("White Russia") another East Germany?

Belarus gets a bad name in the West because of its authoritarian government.  They do have elections there which are not a total sham but President Lukashenko always gets big majorities. So we tend to expect only bad things from the place.

I was talking recently to a lady of Belarusian heritage who still speaks Russian and who still has close family in Belarus.  She reports that people who know Belarus are often very complimentary about it.  It seems well-organized and orderly with very little crime.  It is not a rich country (average income of $8,000 pa) by Western standards but most people eat well and products from all over Europe are to be found in the shops.  Some people who know the place say that Belarus is the best country in the world to live in.

There are occasional big demonstrations about the government but that is true of the USA as well.  Demonstrators will demonstrate.

That is such a different view to what I had expected that I did a little research to see what support I could find for it.  Belarus is however not a place of much interest to the rest of the world but I did find a few interesting facts.

* It is heavily industrialized but is also about 40% primeval forest. Greenies should love it.  It has about the same population as Sweden -- about 8 million.  It lies between Russia and Poland so was the most "Western" part of the old Soviet Union. It is now an independent country.

* The capital city, Minsk, has a population of about 2 million. It was completely destroyed during the Second World War, but, following the example of Warsaw, it was rebuilt in the same place and now is an attractive city

* Minsk is a very green and clean city. In addition to numerous parks, here is the third largest botanical garden in the world.

* Minsk is a very safe city. In the list of 378 most dangerous cities from Numbeo, Minsk was on the 351th place in terms of danger and became the safest city among the former Soviet Union countries. Belarus itself is one of the safest countries in the world according to statistics.

​​* Compared to many large cities, there are very few traffic jams in Minsk.

* It is also surprising for big cities that it's relatively quiet at night, relatively few nightclubs and bars.

* Public transport is always on time. Surprisingly, but it's true: the schedule is maintained with a possible deviation of a couple of minutes.  The American Green/Left wants to get people out of their cars and onto public transport.  Belarus shows it can be done.

So you see what people mean when they find a lot to like about Belarus.  What it reminds me of is the old East Germany.   After German reunification, some East Germans moved to the West and a lot visited the West.  They were mostly not very impressed.  They liked the higher salaries, larger apartments and the up-to-date technology in the West but were very scornful of the social life there.  The old East Germany had a generally fraternal feel while the West is definitely a dog-eat-dog society.  East Germans called it an "elbows" society, where people had little care for one another.

So it should not be a surprise but it is clear that socialism does have an appeal for a lot of people. Living under an authoritarian government that organizes everything can be fairly relaxing as long as it provides a reasonable level of prosperity, which East Germany did and which Belarus does.

So an intriguing possibility which exists is that some Germans could return to a society like the old East Germany.  Very little remains -- even in the Eastern lands of modern-day Germany -- of the old Eastern system but Belarus has something similar. Even the language  would not be a problem for many Easterners.  Russian was taught in the schools of the old East Germany.

If you don't speak Russian, however, forget it.  Russian has about twice as much grammar as German and German is frustrating enough for English speakers.

For my previous comments on East Germany, see here and  here

See also below:


In Defense of Assimilation
The worst thought crime is the one you don’t realize you’re committing. So it was with NBC News legend Tom Brokaw, who — for good reason — didn’t understand that assimilation is now a third rail of American politics.

He caused a furor with comments on the venerable Sunday news program “Meet the Press” over the weekend, including, most controversially, his statement that he believes “that the Hispanics should work harder at assimilation.”

The condemnations were swift and sweeping, and a sign that being a beloved media figure who has never before said anything that could legitimately be considered bigoted is no defense when the furies descend.

It was Presidential Medal of Freedom to white hood in one sound bite. A group called Latino Victory hit Brokaw for allegedly giving “credence to white supremacist ideology.”

Typically, his apologies were deemed insufficient and part and parcel of the original offense.

Let’s stipulate that using a definite article to refer to any minority group will always strike people as tone-deaf, but what Brokaw was getting at — the importance of assimilation to cultural cohesion — should be uncontroversial.

It isn’t anymore. The head of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists rejected the very idea of assimilation, which he decried as “denying one culture for the other.” It is astonishing that in that formulation “the other” is American culture. We are perhaps the only nation in world history that has sought to “otherize” its own culture.

It’s also been a trope to accuse Brokaw, as Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro did, of xenophobia. But saying immigrants should assimilate is the opposite of xenophobia — it is an expression of a belief that they can be and should be fully part of the American mainstream.

The old American ideal of the melting pot is that immigrants become wholly American (learning the language, embracing the folkways and traditions, becoming deeply patriotic), but also make a distinctive contribution to our national culture, which is organic and open to a variety of influences. It is wrong to view this dominant culture as hateful or exclusionary.

As Michael Lind wrote in his brilliant 1995 book, “The Next American Nation”: “The common culture of the American nation is a unique blend of elements contributed by Algonquian Indians and Midwestern Quakers and black Americans and Mexican mestizos and New England patricians. The national culture is not a white culture; black Americans have shaped it far more than the most numerous white immigrant group, German-Americans.”

In his comments, Brokaw focused on assimilation as a function of individual effort on the part of immigrants. The real problem is that we have fashioned an immigration system that is not geared toward assimilation.

In 1920, when we were absorbing another historic wave of immigrants, the newcomers were evenly distributed across nationalities. No single group predominated. In contrast, the wave of the last few decades has been heavily tilted toward Mexico in particular and Latin American countries in general.

In the early 20th century, we also reduced numbers of immigrants after 1924, facilitating the breakup of ethnic communities and a de-emphasis on ethnic identity.

We have never tapped the brakes on the current wave. A National Academy of Sciences study noted that Spanish-speaking immigrants are acquiring English more slowly than other immigrant groups: “A major reason is the larger size and frequent replenishment of the Spanish-speaking population in the United States.”

Reducing levels of immigration would aid in assimilation, if that is still considered a universally desirable goal.

In the play that that gave us the phrase “the melting pot,” Israel Zangwill wrote, “Yes, East and West, and North and South, the palm and the pine, the pole and the equator, the crescent and the cross — how the great Alchemist melts and fuses them with his purging flame!”

The Brokaw controversy is a sign that the great Alchemist may soon be looking for work.



White House Eyes Reducing Capital Gains Taxes Without Congress

The White House is having internal discussions about the prospect of executive action by President Donald Trump to hold down capital gains taxes, said Larry Kudlow, director of the president’s National Economic Council.

“I personally have campaigned for inflation indexing of capital gains for at least three decades,” Kudlow told The Daily Signal during a press gaggle Thursday at the White House.

The Trump administration’s goal, in theory, would be to end unfair taxation on income from stocks, real estate, or other investments that come from inflationary gains.

“I still strongly support it and I know the president has a very positive view about it,” Kudlow said of indexing. “We are talking about it internally. We are still talking about it internally.”

The development comes after 51 leaders of conservative groups asked for the executive action in a Jan. 22 letter to Trump. Among the groups are Americans for Tax Reform, Citizens Against Government Waste, and the American Legislative Exchange Council.

The Daily Signal asked Kudlow whether the law allows the president to act without Congress, something the top economic adviser said is under review.

“Many lawyers believe he can. Not all lawyers believe he can,” Kudlow said. “I’m not a lawyer.” “I have a hard enough time doing my own thing,” he quipped. “[But] inflation indexing in cap gains, would love to see that.”

The letter to Trump—also signed by leaders of the 60 Plus Association, American Conservative Union, and Club for Growth—notes that because Democrats control the House and Republicans control the Senate, it’s not likely lawmakers would pass the proposal.

“With a divided Congress, any effort to pass Tax Reform 2.0 or additional middle-class tax reduction is unlikely,” the letter from conservative leaders says. “On the other hand, ending the inflation tax can be achieved through the administration’s executive authority.”

The capital gains tax is imposed on the profit from sale of certain assets, such as a stock, bond, or real estate. The rate on capital gains taxes is based on a taxpayer’s income tax bracket, ranging from 0 to 15 percent.

In laying out the case to the president, the letter, spearheaded by Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist, states:

When a family or a business saves money and buys a stock, real estate, or any other asset, the investment grows in value over time. Some of that growth is due to the asset appreciating in real terms, and some of that growth is merely due to the effect of inflation making everything more expensive.

Our tax system does not distinguish between these two increases in savings—the economic growth increase and the merely inflationary increase. The whole gain is taxable. According to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, fully one-third of all unrealized capital gains are due only to inflation. …

According to legal scholarship going back decades, the executive branch can define cost basis in an investment in such a way that the inflation tax on savings can be eliminated. Rather than having to pay tax on both real and inflationary gains, a family or business selling an asset would only pay tax on the real gain, or the gain derived from economic growth.

Last June, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told The Wall Street Journal the administration would prefer that Congress pass legislation, but could act on its own in lieu of that.

Without weighing in on the issue of executive action, Adam Michel, a senior policy analyst for The Heritage Foundation who specializes in tax policy, said indexing capital gains is good policy. Heritage was not among the groups represented in the letter to Trump.

“Indexing capital gains taxes is a necessary policy to alleviate the inflation tax on investment in America,” Michel told The Daily Signal. “It is silly for the government to tax inflation. Indexing would be sensible.”



Conservatives are united in opposing H.R. 1, the attempt by House Democrats to fundamentally undermine the American electoral system

While they cloak the bill in terms of “restoring democracy” and “preventing corruption,” the legislation has one goal: to protect incumbents, at the expense of the First Amendment, federalism, and individual voter integrity.

H.R. 1 undermines the First Amendment. H.R. 1 undoes key Supreme Court cases that protect elections as fundamental to free speech. It would allow the Federal Election Commission to track and catalogue more of what Americans are saying, register even very small political donations, and make public those who donate to different charitable and nonprofit organizations. The legislation will subject private citizens to intimidation and harassment for their private and political beliefs, far broader than what was done in the IRS targeting scandal in 2013.

H.R. 1 yanks election authority away from the states. H.R. 1 reasserts the ability of the federal government to micromanage state elections through a process known as “preclearance.” Preclearance, which was previously overturned by the Supreme Court, requires states to get permission from the federal government for changes as small as modifying the hours of an election office, or moving a voting location from a school gym to the library. Critically, none of these practices would undo any fraud or corruption. Rather, these same practices result in incorrect registrations and inaccurate voter data, while failing to address actual corrupt practices like ballot harvesting. Moreover, they are all designed to eliminate the federalism that keeps elections transparent, local, and fair.

H.R. 1 attacks individual voter integrity. America was founded on the principle of “one person, one vote.” H.R. 1 turns this on its head by weaponizing every aspect of the political regulatory system. The Federal Election Commission, which is currently a neutral body, would be given a 3-2 makeup, guaranteeing a partisan outcome with little accountability toward the actual votes which are cast. H.R. 1 also includes a 600 percent government match for political donations, and authorizes even more public dollars to campaigns. The bill also wants to make Election Day a new paid holiday for government workers, with additional paid vacation given to bureaucrats to oversee the polls. All of these changes are designed to distance the outcome of the election from those casting their votes.

H.R. 1 would also implement the following changes:

* Forces states to implement mandatory voter registration, removing civic participation as a voluntary choice, and increasing chances for error.
* Mandates that states allow all felons to vote.
* Forces states to extend periods of early voting, which has shown to have no effect on turnout.
* Mandates same-day voter registration, which encourages voter fraud.
* Limits the ability of states to cooperate to see who is registered in multiple states at the same time.
* Prohibits election observers from cooperating with election officials to file formal challenges to suspicious voter registrations.
* Criminalizes protected political speech by making it a crime to “discourage” someone from voting
* Bars states from making their own laws about voting by mail.
* Prohibits chief election officials in each state from participating in federal election campaigns.
* Mandates free mailing of absentee ballots.
* Mandates that states adopt new redistricting commissions.

H.R. 1 would cause sweeping and irrevocable damage to the free speech, privacy, and integrity that are central components to free and fair elections in America. We oppose H.R. 1 in the strongest terms, and urge all conservatives to do likewise.



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 30, 2019

The Real Lesson of the Shutdown

So much of government in Washington is nonessential.
One of the lessons of the Trump–Pelosi standoff on border security is that government shutdowns are a foolish way to resolve partisan disputes.

But the other lesson may be far more important. The partial shutdown, with agencies such as the Transportation, Agriculture, and State Departments, as well as other independent agencies, closed for business, demonstrated how irrelevant so much of our $4 trillion government is to the everyday lives of Americans.

As I traveled over the last several weeks to Florida, California, and many states in between, and asked people what they thought of the shutdown, many said they didn’t even know the government was shut down for more than a month. Their everyday lives were disrupted or inconvenienced only, if at all, in a trivial way. It turns out there are countless Americans who don’t watch CNN or MSNBC and so didn’t learn about the supposed horrors of agency closures.

This was a particularly painless shutdown for the average taxpayer because the essential activities of government were mostly unaffected. Seniors got their social-security checks. The military was protecting us. We got through the airports with minimal delays — until the last week when some TSA officials and air-traffic controllers weren’t on the job.

It was also telling that the only real “victims” of the shutdown (about whom the media obsessed) were 800,000 government employees who were furloughed. Yes, I know many people in Washington who work for the federal government who faced financial stress for several weeks (and I also know many for whom this was a deferred-pay vacation).

But wait a minute. What is the primary purpose of a government program or agency? To give workers a paycheck? I thought these agencies were in business to serve the taxpayers and provide important services for our economy and our citizens. Businesses don’t keep workers on the payroll if what they produce isn’t necessary to customers or if they don’t add to earnings. They certainly can’t do that if they are losing money. The federal government is $1 trillion in the red a year despite record revenues in 2018.

The media tried to find stories of major negative effects from the shutdown, but amazingly, their findings were pretty slim pickings. One of my favorites was that a climate-change report was going to be delayed. Say it ain’t so. The Wall Street Journal reported that paleontologists were forced to delay their dinosaur research. The horrors! Agencies like the Census may not be able to find out how many bathrooms you have in your house or how often you drive to work. But none of this is the government’s business anyway.

Yes, government is important, and liberals love to point to the very important things government does — like providing security at airports or food-safety inspections. But those public-safety functions are classified as “essential” government services. There were 800,000 government employees laid off due to the partial shutdown. Less than half are considered “essential.” Many of the other half are engaged in activities that are completely incidental to the lives of Americans in most parts of the country. I am not saying that all of these activities are not valuable. I am saying that for the benefit of taxpayers, congress and the president need to find out which are and which aren’t.

Now that the government is reopened, Congress needs to figure out what we can live without in terms of redundant, wasteful, and obsolete services. Congress could start by investigating the thousands upon thousands of examples of waste and misappropriation of funds. Why do federal-government workers get as many as 40 days a year in sick leave, vacation, holidays, personal days, and so on? Many private-sector workers don’t get benefits nearly this exorbitant.

Congress should also examine its spending priorities. Do we need an Urban Transit Agency? This should be conducted by cities and states, not the feds. Do we need a vast diplomatic corps at the State Department? Probably that could be cut in half. Do we need crop subsidies? Do we need the Defense Department to be spending money on climate change? Do we need to pay for foreign-aid programs or arrogant institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF, all of which have done little to provide real and lasting economic aid to the poor around the world?

All of government today has more employees than our entire manufacturing sector in America. Twenty years ago, I wrote a book entitled: Government: America’s Number One Growth Industry. It still is, which happens to be the reason we have a $1 trillion deficit and $22 trillion debt. Institutions that lose money year after year after year can’t afford to be spending tens of billions of dollars on nonessential activities.

In October, Trump floated a proposal for every agency to cut at least 5 percent of its budget this year. The government shutdown has taught us how easy this should be.



"The Kulaks Must Be Liquidated as a Class"

Elizabeth Warren is not proposing a tax; she’s proposing asset forfeiture.

History is very short, if you look at it the right way.

The American Revolution seems like it was a very long time ago, but looked at with the right kind of eyes, it was the day before yesterday: The revolution of Washington and Jefferson inspired the French Revolution, which unhappily perverted the classical-liberal principles of the American Founders and created instead an ersatz religion purporting to be a cult of pure reason — le Culte de la Raison — which culminated in fanaticism, terror, and dictatorship. The French Revolution inspired the Russian Revolution, which created its own cult of pure reason — “scientific socialism” — and modeled its “enemies of the people” purges on French revolutionary practice, culminating in fanaticism, terror, and dictatorship. The Russian Revolution in turn inspired the Iranian one, which had intellectual roots in the Bolshevik experience in the Caucasus and culminated in fanaticism, terror, and dictatorship. The Iranians exported many of their revolutionary principles to Hugo Chávez, his United Socialist party, and their so-called Bolivarian Revolution (whose colectiovos gangs were modeled on Iran’s basji militias) which culminated in fanaticism, terror, and dictatorship, currently on particularly dramatic display.

In most cases, the revolution begins with a peasant prelude and reaches its crescendo with some variation on the theme of Napoleon; socialist revolutions in particular have a peculiar habit of beginning with a man in a work shirt and ending up with a man dressed like Cap’n Crunch. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro does look a sight in his beauty-pageant sash and Mr. T-worthy gold chains. The people who endure his socialist government are eating zoo animals and pets in what was the richest country in South America.

Elizabeth Warren is going to look terrific in those mirrored aviator sunglasses and peaked captain’s hat. She’s spent half her life playing dress-up, morally — pretending to be an Indian — so she may as well dress the part of her aspirations. “Who are you wearing to the state dinner? Oscar de la Renta? Prada? Pinochet?”

Revolutions do not set out to be awful. Not usually. They just end up that way. When the Bolsheviks came to power in Russia, many of them wanted to prohibit capital punishment, which they saw as a high-handed czarist institution. V. I. Lenin overruled them. “How can you make a revolution without executions?” he asked. The key to revolution in his mind — and in those of his revolutionary antecedents and descendants — was terror. “We shall return to terror and to economic terror,” he promised, in a revolution of “unrestricted power based on force, not law.”

Senator Warren apparently has found her guiding spirit and has announced along with her presidential campaign a campaign of economic terror based on force, not law. Specifically, she has proposed to begin seizing a portion of the assets of some wealthy Americans, a course of action that the federal government has no constitutional power to undertake. The seizure of assets is a fundamentally different thing from the taxation of income, which itself took a constitutional amendment to implement. What Warren is proposing is essentially a federal version of the hated asset-forfeiture programs that have been so much abused by law-enforcement agencies — minus the allegation of criminal misconduct and made universal and annual.

The senator is in a bit of a panic: She hadn’t expected to face a challenge from her left in her quest for the Democratic nomination, but as her entire party lurches in a chávista direction, she has been forced to go one step farther lest she fall into the “moderate” class, whose members almost certainly will be slaughtered in the 2020 Democratic primary. And so she proposes this ridiculous and illegal course of action.

She may not be the radical she pretends to be, but Senator Warren has pretended to be a lot of things. A Cherokee, for one, which is good for a laugh, but perhaps not the worst of it. Her longing for fame — and money and power — is impossible to miss. She spent a period trying to launch a career as a writer of dopey self-help books (The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan!) and then tried on the costume of a Lou Dobbs-style populist China hawk, and even in her scourge-of-Wall-Street incarnation, she couldn’t help cribbing from Margaret Thatcher in pandering to Dobbs, then at CNN: “One of the problems with spending money in this way is that at some point we really do run out of money.” She boasted that her little bureaucratic fiefdom — the Congressional Oversight Panel — was called “COP.” Her “professor of color” act got her a couple of cushy academic postings and a net worth of a few million dollars. I covered her Senate race against Scott Brown and watched her doing a pretty poor impersonation of an Irish-American ward-heeler in Boston, clapping along awkwardly to “Charlie on the M.T.A.” like some animatronic Muldoon. If she has to pretend to be Hugo Chávez, it won’t be her first act of cultural appropriation. And the recipe book should be a hoot.

Funny thing about Senator Warren’s asset-forfeiture scheme. Like many similar proposals, it probably would not raise much revenue and might in fact leave the country as a whole economically worse off. And the people advising Senator Warren on that are perfectly content with that outcome, because, as Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman argue in the case of Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal to radically increase income taxes, this is to be understood not as an economic question but as a moral one: It is simply morally obligatory to hurt wealthy people. “The point of high top marginal income tax rates is to constrain the immoderate, and especially unmerited, accumulation of riches,” they write.

And who gets to decide what’s merited and what’s unmerited? What are the chances that, say, Senator Warren’s modest millions or her multimillion-dollar home are deemed “unmerited”? What decides, of course, is “unrestricted power based on force, not law,” because the law cannot substantially answer that kind of question but can only instead encode the desires of people with power, which is what Senator Warren is seeking more of.

Again, we have been here before.

When the socialist schemes of Joseph Stalin et al. foundered, they blamed the “kulaks,” i.e. those who had enjoyed the “unmerited accumulation of riches.” There was never any real definition of a “kulak.” Basically, if you had one cow and your neighbor had two, he was a kulak. Stalin announced the “liquidation of the kulaks as a class” as a necessary precondition for the progress of his program, which was, like Kamala Harris, “for the people.” Dekulakization (раскулачивание) was responsible for the deaths of about 5 million subjects of the workers’ paradise. This was necessary, the socialists argued, because the kulaks dominated the political party system (“for the rich, wealth begets power,” Zucman writes), because expropriating their wealth was necessary to fund benefits for the people (“The affluent,” Saez and Zucman write, “can contribute more to the public coffers. And given the revenue needs of the country, it is necessary”), because the kulaks were hoarders (under the headline “Elizabeth Warren is trying to save capitalism from itself,” David Atkins of Washington Monthly decries the “artificial lack of resources caused by the looting and hoarding of the obscenely wealthy”), etc.

But do our modern progressives really propose to liquidate these “hoarders” as a class?

Saez and Zucman write hopefully of the prospect that high tax rates would make the class of people with larger incomes “largely disappear.” Representative Ocasio-Cortez declares it “immoral” that we have a “system that allows billionaires to exist.” Marshall Steinbaum, the research director of the progressive Roosevelt Institute, wrote: “It’s increasingly clear that having wealthy people around is a luxury our society can no longer afford.”

And, so, here we are again: The kulaks must be liquidated as a class. But who is a kulak?

You may not feel like a kulak. You may take comfort in hearing that only the “tippy-top” wealthiest people are to be expropriated in the name of social justice. Those children at Covington Catholic probably didn’t think they were Nazis a week ago, either.



Trump’s Re-election Chances May Be Better Than You Think


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.
What are Donald Trump’s chances for reelection 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 reelection 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 Bill 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 recent 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 Senator George McGovern was crushed by incumbent Richard Nixon. The Republicans learned that lesson earlier when they nominated Senator 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.



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 29, 2019

Trump was ahead of the times: Saw years ago the trouble with open borders, while others were downplaying it

Donald Trump’s wall draws a line between two centuries. The 20th-century dream of a liberal international order is dimming. The new world order is nationalist, Western and unrepentant.

In 2015, Trump wrote the blueprint for what would become his winning election manifesto. In "Great Again", immigration, infrastructure and national security formed the basis of renewed patriotism. To get an idea of how essential building the southern wall was to his election manifesto, note the chapter title: "Immigration: Good Walls Make Good Neighbours".

No Democrat can feign shock about Trump’s border wall demand. It has been in the offing for years. Despite it forming the core of Trump’s winning election campaign, or perhaps because of it, the Democrats are holding the US government to ransom by blocking funds for construction.

Like open-border activists the world over, they use race-baiting inflammatory rhetoric to conceal the irrationality of porous border policy. But people beyond the beltway know there will be no liberty in the world unless free world nations defend their borders.

The southern border wall is estimated to cost 0.01 per cent of federal funding. It will be designed to deter people-smugglers and traffickers. Republicans are aiming to create a disincentive for gangs who profit from the movement of people across the southern border.

There is a large-scale illegal immigration problem in the US. About 400,000 migrants were caught trying to cross the border last year. Senate Republicans report 6000 were gang members. There were 60,000 unaccompanied children who arrived at the border in the last financial year — a 25 per cent increase. About 70 per cent of aspiring immigrants become victims of violence or trafficking en route to the US border.

If Trump needed evidence that the border wall constitutes a national emergency, the Democrats are providing it readily. Their refusal to support a hard border endangers US citizens while enabling criminal activity, people-smugglers and trafficking. But the irrationality of the American Left runs deep. In response to Trump’s Oval Office address on border security last week, #MeToo activist Rose McGowan tweeted: “Trump was grooming hard tonight. Hitler-Ian rhetoric.” Bette Midler compared his approach to Munchausen by proxy. It would be better simply to emphasise Trump’s historical claim that Mexico would pay for the wall.

The convulsions over border security in the US reflect the broader shift in geopolitics triggered by mass migration from the global south. Australia has fought a protracted battle to secure borders by introducing boat turnbacks and tougher vetting procedures while maintaining offshore immigration processing.

The Liberal Coalition government has thwarted 80 people-smuggling operations in five years. The Australian reported last year that 33 boats had been turned back and more than 3300 illegal immigrants denied entry.

In contrast to Australia, the EU has facilitated people-smuggling and trafficking operations by demanding open borders.

Recent data from Eurostat, the European statistical agency, found 618,780 non-EU citizens were illegally in the union. The problems caused by malformed immigration policy are comprehensive. Last year, the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees found about 43,000 migrants were unable to read or write. Despite targeted language courses, they were unable to learn German.

Language difficulties result in many migrants being unemployable in the West. The consequent welfare dependency coupled with a failure to integrate are creating a perfect storm in the West as public resentment rises in response to poorly designed migration policy.

Statistical agencies estimate the number of undocumented mig­rants in the US is about 11 million. A recent Yale University study by Fazel-Zarandi et al. put the figure at closer to double that. The think tank Federation for American Immigration Reform issued a study that estimated the cost of resettling refugees for the five years to 2016. The authors, Matthew O’Brien and Spencer Raley, included costs for various government services, public education and housing, Medicaid and food stamps. They concluded that for the first five years, resettling a refugee cost about $US79,600 ($110,200) in taxpayer funding. Across the period studied, taxpayers paid $US8.8bn for refugee resettlement.

While it is contentious to use a utilitarian calculus to assess refugees’ contribution to society, the fin­ancial crises that have rocked Western countries coupled with unprecedented debt are forcing a rethink on immigration and population policy. Many people are questioning the sustainability of mass immigration programs.

The rise of jihad as a Western condition has contributed further to public scepticism about the social and economic benefits of mass immigration and accepting large cohorts of asylum-seekers.

The argument for open borders fell foul of public opinion as violent crime rose, public debt increased and activists failed to counter evidence that lax border security had enabled terrorism.

As the backlash against porous borders grew, politicians, officials and the media no longer could depend on shaming dissenters into silence. Instead of acknowledging the failure of multiculturalism and improving border security in response to it, globalists refused to reckon with reality.

The EU and UN defended the old world order by vilifying dissenters from porous border policy as racist, xenophobic and intolerant. In late 2016, the then UN high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, lashed out at conservative politicians.

His bizarre speech at The Hague illustrated the globalist panic about democratic demands for national security. He said: “I am the global voice on human rights, universal rights; elected by all governments.” He compared Trump and Viktor Orban to Islamic State. But the emotive rhetoric failed. The political cor­rectness and collective guilt that had kept dissenters in check for decades succumbed to grassroots resistance marshalled by politicians with realist instincts.

Trump understands the new world order and the natural instinct for security that gave rise to it. He won the US presidency with the vow to make America great again in the wake of globalism. His political future is nailed to the wall.



Reality Check: Support for Single-Payer Healthcare Craters When Americans Discover Higher Taxes, Longer Wait Times

Leftists are crowing about a new public survey that they claim shows robust, or even overwhelming, support for single-payer healthcare -- which they refer to as "Medicare for All."  As usual, whenever Medicare is invoked in this context, it is imperative to note the mathematical reality that the existing program is currently on an express train to insolvency, according to government accountants.  Undaunted, an increasing number of Democrats are determined to take the financially-doomed program for seniors and massively expand it to the entire population.  And look, they say, it's popular:

Overall, a majority of Americans (56/42) initially favor "Medicare for All."  But as I've argued repeatedly, and will continue to argue, this is a disastrous policy.  It would (1) uproot well over 150,000,000 Americans from their existing healthcare arrangements, (2) hand much more unaccountable power over to an unresponsive and often incompetent federal bureaucracy, (3) inevitably increase wait times for care through rationing, (4) deeply hamper America's world-leading innovation in the critical field of medical technology, and (5) require truly enormous tax increases on every single American worker and family.  How might those, shall we say, "policy tradeoffs" sit with voters?  Not well:

The poll found that Americans initially support “Medicare-for-all,” 56 percent to 42 percent. However, those numbers shifted dramatically when people were asked about the potential impact, pro and con. Support increased when people learned “Medicare-for-all” would guarantee health insurance as a right (71 percent) and eliminate premiums and reduce out-of-pocket costs (67 percent). But if they were told that a government-run system could lead to delays in getting care or higher taxes, support plunged to 26 percent and 37 percent, respectively. “The issue that will really be fundamental would be the tax issue,” said Robert Blendon, a professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health who reviewed the poll. He pointed out that state single-payer efforts in Vermont and Colorado failed because of concerns about the tax increases needed to put them in place.

Democrats inveighed against the GOP-passed tax reform law of 2017 by warning -- falsely -- that it was a tax increase on the middle class, eventually shifting to complain that the middle class tax cuts weren't permanent (before voting en masse against making them permanent).  In light of the political anathema that is hiking taxes on the non-"rich," let there be no mistake: Single-payer health care would absolutely, positively force tax rates much higher on middle income and working class Americans.  Please recall this menu of ugly options to cover the annual (!) $3.2 to $3.8 trillion price tag (for context, the entire federal budget in 2017 was $4 trillion) of "Medicare for All," which would bend the total American healthcare cost curve upward by four-to-six trillion dollars over its first decade alone:

 The Mercatus Study -- like others -- shows that "Medicare for All" would require a federal tax hike of roughly 10% of GDP even after capturing state govt. savings.

But capturing the savings to families into a "single-payer tax" is not easy -- which is why Sanders comes up short

Perhaps the most efficient way to achieve that would be to combine the top three revenue generators listed: Raise the payroll tax (paid for by workers and employers) by ten percentage points for everyone, impose a brand new 20 percent national VAT/sales tax, and hike income tax rates across the board by ten percentage points.  Not one of those three; all of those three.  That is an extraordinary, radical, humongous package of tax increases on virtually all Americans.  Please notice that cobbling together a string of more populist "fair share" nibblings that tend to poll better would result in woefully insufficient revenues.

If the general concept of tax increases to pay for single-payer drags public support down into the 30's, how would the bruising blend of hikes mentioned above go over with Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer?

As for delays in treatment, that consequence is an unavoidable side effect of government-run systems, as we've seen at the VA, and in places like Great Britain (where entire types of surgeries are sometimes postponed nationwide for months, with even more drastic measures being debated), and Canada. 

Americans would have their existing plans canceled, be given far fewer options, wait longer (already polling at 26 percent) for care, and relinquish decision-making power to a centralized government machine under "Medicare for All."  And that's even if we somehow had a realistic or palatable way to pay for it, which we don't. 

There's a reason why this idea crashed and burned in Colorado, was abandoned in uber-liberal Vermont, and would shatter California's broken budget.  The failed state-level experiments are already speaking for themselves -- loudly.  I'll leave you with a useful refutation of the deeply misleading statistics that are often invoked to justify demolishing America's world-class healthcare status quo in favor of a government supremacist regime.



The FDA is on a mission to 'protect' you from harmless products

Regardless of how you feel about any given government shutdown, they do provide a great opportunity to evaluate what the government is actually doing when agencies are funded. A strong argument can be made that President Trump and his supporters should be eager to reopen the government so that the administration can continue its unprecedented work in cutting regulatory red tape.

However, this is not so much the case when it comes to the Food and Drug Administration. Some of the current agenda items at the FDA should leave supporters of the Trump administration scratching their heads.

While it is hard to tell what exactly is going on inside federal agencies whether the government is open or not, we do know that the FDA, the agency charged with ensuring the safety of critical consumer products such as medicine, cosmetics, and, of course, food, is considering major regulatory actions against products that not only aren’t hurting anyone, but allow consumers to reduce their risk of having life-threatening illnesses.

The FDA’s crusade against e-cigarettes and other reduced-risk nicotine products is the one grabbing the most attention. Commissioner Scott Gottlieb last Friday just trial-ballooned the prospect of completely banning e-cigarettes and vaping products. FDA also appears to be considering a regulation on using dairy terms in the name of plant-based products.

That’s right, the FDA is positioning itself to go after almond milk and vegan cheese.

The current impasse over funding the government is entirely about immigration and border security, but this seems like as good a time as any to ask why we’re funding what can only be described as radical nanny-statism at the FDA. Vaping and vegan products aren’t likely to find a lot of sympathizers outside of the people who actually consume them. But perception and popularity generally do not breed good policy, which is a reason why we supposedly have “independent” regulatory agencies like the FDA.

The idea that companies using dairy terms in their plant-based product names constitutes a crisis deserving FDA attention is ridiculous on its face and most certainly does not justify a massive breach of these companies’ First Amendment rights. What’s more likely happening here is a giveaway to the dairy industry in terms of a regulatory boot on the neck of their competitors — as if the billions of dollars in direct and indirect subsidies for dairy producers are not enough. There are already regulations forcing companies to clearly list the ingredients of their food products.

If these are insufficient to protect people from getting confused by almond milk, then that’s a problem for the Department of Education, not the FDA.

Despite the obvious public health crisis presented by conventional cigarette use, there is no evidence to suggest that e-cigarettes and vaping products constitute any sort of major threat. Nicotine is undeniably addictive, however it is not known to cause cancer. Getting products to market that will safely deliver nicotine to the millions of people who struggle to quit smoking or choose not to will save countless lives, not endanger them. Other countries realize the amazing benefits offered by reduced-risk nicotine products, not emergencies. According to Cancer Research UK, “Switching from tobacco to e-cigarettes substantially reduces a major health risk.”

Cancer Research UK further adds that no significant evidence exists that the chemicals in the vapor emitted from these products present any danger:

"Some studies have found chemicals in e-cigarette vapour that are known to cause health problems. But these studies have tended to use artificial conditions, and when good quality e-cigarettes are used normally (e.g. not overheated), there are far fewer harmful chemicals present in the vapour than in tobacco smoke. If the e-liquid is being overheated it tends to produce an acrid, unpleasant taste — you’ll know if this happens."

Restricting e-cigarette and vaping products because they might be dangerous when misused is a terrible precedent to set in terms of consumer product safety. It’s hard to imagine a product that isn’t potentially dangerous when misused.

When the government inevitably opens back up, most Americans will likely be relieved to have government watchdogs back on their normal beat. However, the overzealous agenda of the current FDA begs the question: What good is a watchdog that gets distracted and bites innocent people?



Trump hatred among British conservatives too

There's still a small segment of the GOP that doesn't like Trump (think Jeff Flake). There's a larger segment in Britain

Britain’s Telegraph newspaper has apologised and paid damages to US first lady Melania Trump after publishing an article it says contained many false statements.

The newspaper said on Saturday it apologises “unreservedly” to Mrs Trump and her family for any embarrassment caused by the content of a cover story published on January 19 in the newspaper’s weekly magazine supplement.

“As a mark of our regret we have agreed to pay Mrs Trump substantial damages as well as her legal costs,” The Telegraph said.

The newspaper did not disclose the size of the settlement with Mrs Trump. The Telegraph said it falsely characterised Mrs Trump’s father’s personality, falsely reported the reasons she left an architecture program, and falsely reported her career as a model was unsuccessful before she met Donald Trump.

“We accept that Mrs Trump was a successful professional model in her own right before she met her husband and obtained her own modelling work without his assistance,” the newspaper said, also acknowledging it had incorrectly reported the year when the couple first met.

“The claim that Mrs Trump cried on election night is also false,” The Telegraph said.

It also retracted the statement that Mrs Trump’s father, mother and sister had relocated to New York in 2005 to live in buildings owned by Trump.

The Telegraph is one of Britain’s leading broadsheet newspapers and is traditionally aligned with the Conservative Party.

It is not the first time Mrs Trump has successfully challenged the British press.

She received damages and an apology from the Daily Mail in 2017 after bringing a libel action against the popular tabloid.



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 28, 2019

Barmaid Sandy

That she has a degree in economics and international relations proves that if you have a good rack and Leftist attitudes you don't actually have to know anything


Britain is doing well economically under a conservative administration too

The number of people in work has hit another high and wages have continued to grow at their fastest pace in a decade despite a slowdown in the economy and the uncertainty created by Brexit.

Employment rose by 141,000 to 32.5 million in the three months to November, the highest since records began in 1971, the Office for National Statistics said. While unemployment increased by 8,000 to 1.37 million, the total is 68,000 lower than a year ago. This pushed the jobless rate to 4 per cent, the lowest since 1975.



Leftists are attacking America’s bedrock institutions to advance “social justice”

Progressives want to radically transform America’s noble experiment in self-government, the securing of inalienable rights of the individual, and the rule of law within the structure of a constitutional republic. They prefer a model of an all-powerful government expanding its reach as necessary to bring about their evolving conception of a virtuous society. They use epithets such as “racist” and “bigot” to silence opposition to their leftist agenda and try to ruin the livelihoods of those who won't be silenced. When that does not work, progressives resort to “hate speech” codes enforced by sympathetic social media and college campus censors.

The liberal media’s darling and possible candidate for the presidency, former Democrat Representative Beto O'Rourke, questioned whether the United States can “still be managed by the same principles that were set down 230-plus years ago.” That’s nothing new for progressives. They have been mouthing much the same thing for over a century, from Woodrow Wilson through Barack Obama and beyond. They believe that the Constitution is nothing more than an outdated document written by dead white males to protect their property interests.

President Woodrow Wilson, the progressives’ hero who was a blatant racist himself, urged that the Constitution be treated as a living document and that its core principle of checks and balances be discarded.  “No living thing can have its organs offset against each other, as checks, and live,” he wrote.

Barack Obama criticized the Constitution’s focus on “negative liberties” rather than saying “what the federal government or state government must do on your behalf.” Obama had in mind “the issues of redistribution of wealth, and of more basic issues such as political and economic justice in society.”

In an op-ed column for the New York Times entitled “Let’s Give Up on the Constitution,” a progressive law professor, Louis Michael Seidman, wrote that “our insistence on obedience to the Constitution, with all its archaic, idiosyncratic and downright evil provisions” is to blame for “a dysfunctional political system.” In a law review article that he wrote in 2018, the professor defined progressivism today as “a modern political stance favoring an activist government that strives to achieve the public good, including the correction of unjust distributions produced by the market and the dismantling of power hierarchies based on traits like race, nationality, gender, class, and sexual orientation.”

Progressives are not content with tearing down the U.S. Constitution’s pillars of liberty to advance their idea of “the public good.” They also believe it necessary to delegitimize traditional Western religious beliefs and their adherents as evil vestiges of racism, sexism, and homophobia.

“Christians became moral renegades,” wrote Rachel Lu, a contributor at The Federalist, “because the mainstream culture shifted, leaving our beliefs ‘on the wrong side of history’ as progressives have envisioned it. We’re vilified for maintaining positions that have been embedded in the Christian tradition for centuries. If the dominant culture can change enough to permit this level of kulturkampf against an ancient Western faith, who can say how much further it might go?”

Totalitarian purges and persecutions in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries demonstrate how much further such enforced cultural transformation can go. Progressives like to think of themselves as too enlightened to go down such a destructive path. However, they mimic the dogma of the French Revolution’s Republic of Virtue that perverted the reasoned enlightened thought and political philosophy upon which the Founding Fathers had drawn for their own inspiration.

The Founding Fathers sought to preserve individual freedom of worship and practice while eschewing the establishment of any official state religion. French revolutionary zealots, on the other hand, sought to de-Christianize France as much as possible. Their secular belief, based on the slogan "Liberté, égalité, fraternité," was intended to replace religious beliefs. Temples of Reason took the place of churches, which were treated as the enemies of the Republic of Virtue.

Progressives today target traditional religious beliefs to make way for the dominance of secularism in all realms of American society. Moral absolutes of good and evil based on religious truths get in the way of progressives’ application of evolving cultural norms to define morality. In arguing for their belief in moral relativism, they seek to marginalize people of faith and interfere with their freedom of religion. Progressives use all instruments available to them to enforce their code of secular virtues.

For example, progressives are using activist courts to force Christian photographers and bakers to employ their expressive skills to celebrate same-sex weddings. An activist federal judge in Pennsylvania just blocked the Trump administration from implementing a rule that would have allowed employers to decline to offer contraceptive coverage in their health insurance policies on moral or religious grounds.

Progressives troll and slander people of faith on social media. A recent example is the vicious onslaught against Second Lady Karen Pence for daring to decide to teach art at a traditional Christian school in Virginia. One anti-religion progressive tweeted that “Karen Pence is an extremist bigot” and “a dangerous monster” who is “unfit to even be around kids, let alone teach them.” A fellow hater of religion replied that “exposing children to the toxic virus of religion before they are 21 should be considered child abuse.”

This anti-religion attitude has moved from social media to the halls of Congress. Nominees for federal judgeships have been lambasted for their personal religious views during Senate confirmation hearings. For example, Senator Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Senator Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, quizzed Brian Buescher, President Trump’s nominee for the U.S. District Court in Nebraska, over his membership in the Catholic charity organization known as the Knights of Columbus. The senators were uncomfortable with some of the religious-based stances the Knights of Columbus organization has taken on such issues as same-sex marriage and abortion. They wanted to know if Mr. Buescher would resign from the Knights of Columbus once he is confirmed. Last year, Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., went after another Trump nominee for the federal bench, Amy Coney Barrett, for her Catholic beliefs. “When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern,” Senator Feinstein said. Evidently, these senators have forgotten that Article VI of the Constitution states that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

The zealots of the French Revolution went after people who, in their minds, had strayed from the path of virtue and expressed impure thoughts favoring the interests of the rich and powerful propertied classes. The progressives of today likewise believe, in the words of Professor Seidman, that free speech “favors status quo distributions and, so, the rich and powerful.”  He added that “the free speech right tends to obstruct the realization of progressive objectives.”

It follows, therefore, that progressives must seek to enforce their own code of acceptable speech. Words deemed offensive to certain “oppressed” identity groups would themselves be considered acts of violence that must be suppressed. Anyone who crosses the line is subject to boycott, ostracism, vitriolic personal attacks online, firing and even physical assault.

Of course, progressives can hurl pretty much any epithet at Christians and Jews they want and get away with it. They hide behind the First Amendment. But, for example, when a public high school teacher simply declined, out of religious conviction, to use the politically correct pronoun for a self-identified transgender student, the teacher was fired. “I am being punished for what I haven’t said,” the fired teacher told a Virginia newspaper. After all, once you know the gender that someone identifies with, “if you continue to misgender them, that’s when you get into violent territory,” wrote a transgender activist.

During the French Revolution, the Enragés were a direct action group who advocated radical measures including violence to achieve social and economic transformation on behalf of the poor who constituted the bottom 90 percent of the population.

Today’s progressives are the 21st century’s version of the Enragés, without there being anything remotely close in the United States to the horrendous conditions that inflamed the rage of the French masses. Progressives wear their rage on their sleeves. Just recall those who disrupted the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, hounded senators at their homes, issued death threats, and then clawed at the Supreme Court doors when they did not get their way. Protesters in the third anti-Trump Women’s March this weekend held up signs with radical slogans such as “White Old Men…Extinction Nearing!” and “Pussy is God.”

There is little difference between today’s version of progressivism and democratic socialism. Both call for radical change in America’s government, economy and society in the service of “social justice” for the “oppressed.”

The New York Democratic Socialists of America  tweeted last year their core demands: "Abolish profit, abolish prisons, abolish cash bail, abolish borders." Its platform has moved to the House of Representatives in the person of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America who was recently elected as a progressive Democrat congresswoman from New York. She is leading the charge for such radical ideas as confiscatory taxes, a rapid change-over to a fossil fuel free economy, government-run health care for all, and open borders. “I do think we are in a crisis of late-stage capitalism,” she claimed. Evidently, historically low unemployment, including for African-Americans and Hispanics, is a “crisis” according to the self-described radical Ms. Ocasio-Cortez.

We are at the crossroads that Ronald Reagan foresaw nearly fifty-five years ago in his 1964 speech entitled “A Time for Choosing.”  He observed that “the full power of centralized government was the very thing the Founding Fathers sought to minimize. Either we accept the responsibility for our own destiny, or we abandon the American Revolution and confess that an intellectual belief in a far-distant capitol can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.”

The progressives want our country to abandon the American Revolution and its legacy of constrained governmental power and the protection of individuals’ inalienable rights. In the progressives’ version of the French Revolution’s Republic of Virtue, border barriers are “immoral,” masculinity is “toxic,” all white persons in America are born “privileged,” due process depends on the racial or sexual identity of the accused and accuser, and biological sex is no more than an “oppressive” social construct.  Equality of outcome must be enforced through massive government action to redistribute wealth and control major sectors of the economy. All this does not represent the land of the free that many of us grew up in. Rather, we would be taking what Ronald Reagan described as “the first step into a thousand years of darkness.”



The crusade against masculinity

Courage, stoicism and autonomy are things we should all strive for

Toxic masculinity has emerged as the target of choice of many identitarians. That said, the term itself has almost become redundant, since masculinity itself is now increasingly framed as toxic, as a kind of poison.

The recent entry of the term ‘toxic masculinity’ into mainstream media discussions – as we saw last week with the controversy over Gillette’s #MeToo-inspired advert – coincides with a growing tendency to cast men, especially white men, as the key obstacle to a just, ‘inclusive’ and ‘diverse’ society. It is important to note that the crusade is not simply against men, but against the values associated with men. Outwardly, the wrath of the campaign is directed against male violence, entitlement and sexual aggressiveness. But this crusade is also intensely hostile to virtues such as courage, risk-taking, self-control and stoicism. These once-celebrated values are treated as pathologies.

The invention of toxic masculinity is really an attempt to pathologise masculine identity. Our era is characterised by the flourishing and celebration of a growing number of identities, but it makes an exception for male identity. That cannot be celebrated. Indeed, male identity has all but become what the sociologist Erving Goffman, in his classic study Stigma, characterised as a ‘spoiled identity’.

A spoiled identity is one that lacks any redeeming moral qualities. It is an identity that invites stigma and scorn. What is perhaps unique to the spoiled identity of masculinity is that it has not only been morally devalued – it has also been medicalised. The American Psychological Association, for example, recently published guidelines for dealing with boys and men which explicitly present masculinity as a medical problem.

According to the APA, traditional masculinity is ‘marked by stoicism, competitiveness’; it casually couples these values with ‘dominance and aggression’. It says that the bad habits associated with masculinity, ‘like suppressing emotions and masking distress’, often start early in life and are ‘psychologically harmful’.

Psychology has a long history of denigrating identities by medicalising them. Until the 1970s, homosexuality was broadly treated as an illness. Today, it seems, it is the turn of masculinity to be cast in the role of a dangerous pathology.

These guidelines reflect a wider cultural crusade against masculinity which is aimed at re-engineering boys and young men. As one of the authors of the guidelines, Ryon McDermott explains, ‘If we can change men, [then] we can change the world’. From this standpoint, masculinity is the moral equivalent of a disease that must be eradicated.

Since the rapid ascendancy of the #MeToo movement, the moral crusade against masculinity has gained widespread support among the cultural elites and mainstream media. And now psychology is providing the intellectual resources that might give this crusade the authority of scientific expertise.

In truth, though, it is not science but moralising that informs the APA guidelines. The APA condemns so-called masculine values while counterposing them to what it considers emotionally correct values.

Since the 1990s, the emotional inadequacy of men has been a constant theme in psychological literature. The central argument being that the failure of men to seek help, display their emotions and acknowledge their vulnerability harms them and others. The term ‘toxic masculinity’ has been developed to disparage stoic men who are drawn towards autonomous behaviour and self-control.

The apparent inability of masculinity to acquiesce to weakness is framed as a fatal flaw in the male psyche. Self-control and the aspiration for individual autonomy are presented as psychologically destructive impulses. Indeed, the therapeutic profession has continually decried the tendency of young boys to aspire to autonomy. As two British psychologists, Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson, wrote in The Times in 1999, ‘Stereotypical ideas about masculine toughness deny a boy his emotions and rob him of the chance to develop the full range of emotional resources’.

This new hostility to masculine values is not simply a hostility to men. Women who display such ‘masculine’ characteristics as self-control and strong ambition have also come under intense suspicion. Men who act like women are clearly preferred to women who behave like men. According to today’s emotionally correct hierarchy, feminine women come out on top, feminine men beat masculine women for second place, and ‘macho’ men come last.

The stigmatisation of masculine behaviour actually corrodes the psychological and moral development of boys and young men. Young boys are continually taught that they are morally and emotionally inferior to their female counterparts. Many of them are led to believe that unless they cease behaving like boys, they will never become emotionally literate and be able to cope with the challenges of life. Teaching children that masculine behaviour is a cultural crime disorients young boys. Many young men today find the transition to adulthood confusing because values that are associated with being a man receive so little cultural validation.

Humanity as a whole suffers from this crusade against values that are (wrongly) attributed to men. Courage, autonomy and risk-taking have been central to the development of the human spirit. Contrary to the APA’s new guidelines, the ethos of stoicism serves well those who face difficult experiences. Humanist values will suffer a severe setback if this crusade against so-called male values continues.



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