Friday, June 14, 2019

Steve Bannon Demands Joe Biden Release Tax Returns To Prove He’s Not Compromised By China

Two can play the tax return game

President Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon said Sunday that former Vice President Joe Biden must release his tax returns to prove that he’s not benefiting economically from China.

“We have to see Joe Biden’s tax returns because we have to see if Joe Biden was a financial consultant to [the fund] or an adviser. Biden has got to answer some basic questions: if he’s been compromised by the Chinese Communist Party? What was his involvement during the Obama administration?” Bannon told John Catsimatidis on 970 AM in New York.

The New York Post Reports:

The fund Bannon was referring to was Bohai Harvest RST, which was started by Biden’s son Hunter. Hunter Biden struck a deal with the state-owned Bank of China in 2013 to create the fund, which coincided with a trip Hunter Biden took to the country with his father, then the vice president.

“The Bank of China is the Chinese Communist Party’s piggy bank,” Bannon stated.

The timing and ability for such a small firm to win the business has raised eyebrows since.

“Biden has got to be the worst,” Bannon said Sunday. “He’s got this private equity fund his son runs. I believe most of the net worth of his family is tied up in that.”

Bannon pointed to a remark Biden made in early May, just days into his 2020 bid, in which the ex-veep downplayed any threat posed by China.

“China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man,” Biden said, pointing to some of China’s problems, including corruption. “I mean, you know, they’re not bad folks, folks. But guess what, they’re not, they’re not competition for us.”

“Biden has got a lot to answer for,” Bannon went on. “And he continues to kind of laugh it off.

He continues to say, ‘Hey, [China is] not really a strategic competitor to us.’ Even people on the Democratic left, even Bernie Sanders, Nancy Pelosi, everybody says they’re a totalitarian, mercantilist, surveillance state.”

Bannon also noted that China will be an important issue in the 2020 campaign because “the centerpiece of President Trump’s economic program” is bringing American jobs back from China.

When Biden was running for vice president in 2008 he released a decade’s worth of tax returns and subsequently released his taxes for every year he served in office. He has yet to publicly release his returns from his years outside of government.



Why Conservatives Should Take Heart Despite Socialist Upsurge

Socialism is the zombie ideology of our era: It fails everywhere, and yet it keeps rising back from the dead.

Despite embarrassing socialist failures in China, Russia, North Korea, Cuba, and now Venezuela, the true believers march onward. Good intentions are unassailable. The revolution must go on.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., arguably has done more than any other living American to market socialism to the next generation. And with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., following closely in his wake, rest assured we’ll be contending with socialism for years to come.

A recent Gallup survey shows that their message is resonating with more and more Americans.

While 51% say socialism would be bad for America, 43% say it would be good. And notably, among the 18-34-year-old cohort, 58% favor socialism while 37% disfavor it.

Those numbers hang like a dark cloud over America’s future, but they don’t tell the whole story.

Interestingly, according to Gallup, Americans still favor the free market over government in multiple areas, including technological innovation, health care, and even basic things like wages, distribution of wealth, and the economy overall. And the comparison isn’t even close.

By contrast, Americans favor government over free markets when it comes to protecting consumers’ online privacy and environmental protection.

This creates quite a mixed picture, even a contradictory one. As a matter of simple math, there have to be millions of Americans who say they favor some form of socialism, yet favor the free market in general when it comes to certain aspects of their lives.

How can that be?

As it turns out, Americans define “socialism” in quite different ways. Traditionally, socialism has meant government ownership of the means of production—businesses, factories, etc. But today, only 17% of Americans hold that definition, according to Gallup. Meanwhile, 23% equate socialism with vague notions of social equality. Another 23% have no opinion on the matter.

So, the public meaning of “socialism” today is indeterminate, meaning that public opinion toward “socialism” doesn’t tell us very much about people’s policy preferences.

But even if it did tell us a lot, public opinion isn’t the surest predictor of what will pass in Washington. After all, big-government policies have often passed in spite of public disapproval.

Obamacare is case-in-point here. At the height of the Obamacare debate in 2010, 59% of Americans disapproved of the bill while just 39% approved. That didn’t stop Obamacare from passing with a supermajority in the Senate.

We should also recall that big-government policies have often come in moments of great national crisis. These moments are often exempt from the dominant themes in public opinion.

Polling trends may be stable in a free-market direction, but when a moment of crisis comes, the public often tolerates—and even demands—immediate action from the government.

That usually translates into an expansion of government.

This happened in both the Great Depression and the Great Recession following the 2007 financial crisis. A host of new programs were created that had little to do with immediate economic recovery—yet they became entrenched parts of the federal government and remain with us to this day.

What’s more, Americans have come to assume these programs are legitimate functions of the federal government. The status quo trains us in what is acceptable, so once a policy becomes enshrined in law, it’s very hard to get rid of. That makes staving off such policies in the first place all the more urgent.

Today’s fight over socialism is in large part a branding war. The left constantly rebrands itself. In the mid-20th century, progressives decided to adopt the word “liberal,” since “progressive” had fallen into disrepute. The same thing eventually happened to the word “liberal,” so now, they’re back to the word “progressive.”

We see this with socialism, too. America’s avowed socialists know the word “socialism” is radioactive in America, so they’ve championed their policies in terms of “fairness” and “equality” while allowing socialist ideology to color those terms.

Such is the strategy with Sanders’ “Medicare for All” bill, a proposal that would allow the government to take over American health care, putting us in league with Canada and the U.K. The bill polls surprisingly well with the public (56% approve) until respondents learn that the bill would abolish private insurance. Then, support plummets to 37%.

That’s why the fight for truth in policymaking is so important—and why the left’s branding tricks are so pernicious.

Americans still have a gut instinct in favor of freedom and the free market, as shown in the details of the Gallup survey. Conservatives should use that to their advantage by dismantling the left’s branding charade.

The truth of each policy proposal must be placed into the light of day—because once such bills pass, America will “find out what’s in it.” Once that happens, yesterday’s fringe view could become the new normal.



California to Pay Health Care for Illegal Immigrants

California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Democratic legislature have reached an agreement that would insure 90,000 low-income illegal immigrants residing in California with full health care benefits.

The agreement reached would be available to those who are low income, between the ages of 19 and 25, who permanently reside in the state. The 90,000 illegals would be insured through the California Medicaid program, commonly referred to as Medi-Cal.

The Sacramento Bee says the plan would be implemented by January 2020.

“While it’s not all we sought, it will provide a real tangible difference for people, especially for those around and below poverty and for middle income families who don’t get any help under the federal law,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of the advocacy group Health Access.

“Indeed, a family of four earning as much as six times the federal poverty level -- or more than $150,000 a year -- would be eligible to get about $100 a month from the government to help pay their monthly health insurance premiums,” Fox News reports.

In order to finance the illegal immigrants, the state has enacted an Obama-era regulation commonly referred to as the “individual mandate” that taxes those who aren’t covered by health insurance.

The final budget must be approved by the state legislature which is expecting to vote on it later this week.


Why I'm Never Going Back To California

Calfornia's Democrat-controlled government spends its time crafting laws to jail people for using the wrong pronoun while the obscene condition of downtown Los Angeles has become an international disgrace.

A week or so ago, Dr. Drew Pinsky spoke with Fox News host Brian Kilmeade about the horrific conditions on the streets of Los Angeles, America's second-largest city, before making the frightening prediction, “There will be a major infectious disease epidemic this summer in Los Angeles."

Pinsky described to Kilmeade what he believes to be the almost medieval conditions in the City of Angels and compared local politicians to Nero, the infamous Roman Emperor who allegedly fiddled while his nation burned.

"We have tens and tens of thousands of people living in tents. Horrible conditions. Sanitation. Rats have taken over the city. We're the only city in the country, Los Angeles, without a rodent control program. We have multiple rodent-borne, flea-borne illnesses, plague, typhus. We're gonna have louse-borne illness. If measles breaks into that population, we have tuberculosis exploding. Literally, our politicians are like Nero. It's worse than Nero," Pinsky said.

Homelessness and trash are a growing problem for residents in Los Angeles and as the garbage piles up, so do the rats, fueling concerns about flea-borne typhus, according to a report this week.

Pinsky said the city's homeless situation and sanitation crisis are out of hand and politicians are doing nothing to stop it. He believes the mentally ill will suffer the most and that officials are not reacting to an eventual epidemic reported Victor Garcia of Fox News.

"It's like nothing I've ever seen in my life," Pinsky said. "I feel like I'm on a train track waving at the train and the train is going to go off the bridge. The bridge is out."

Pinsky added, "Here's what I want to do, I want to take away qualified immunity from the politicians so we can go after them for reckless negligence."

Tammy Bruce recently explained that one glance at the formerly Golden State is a frightening embarrassment. The latest indictment of liberal leadership is the trash heap of Los Angeles. Literally. Despite the emergence of louse-borne typhus, Los Angeles can’t seem to get its act together.

According to Ms. Bruce, Steve Lopez of the Los Angeles Times reported on the obscene condition of downtown Los Angeles, “A mountain of rotting, oozing, stinking trash … stretching a good 20 yards along a skid row alley. Rats popped their heads out of the debris like they were in a game of Whac-A-Mole, then scampered for cover as a tractor with a scoop lurched toward them. … The trash problem is not confined to any one street, but this particular location on the 800 block of Ceres Avenue is surrounded by food distribution companies that sell to shoppers, vendors, stores and restaurants. I counted seven within a block, so you have to wonder — given the colonies of football-size rats — about the potential contamination of the food supply chain and the spread of disease.”

This disaster did not just thunder into LA like an earthquake – unpredicted and without human causation – it’s been brewing for quite some time, but what have the Democrats who run California and LA been doing the past few years?

On October 4, 2017, California’s then- Governor, Democrat Jerry Brown, signed legislation that would punish health care workers with a fine, and potential jail time, if they decline to use a senior transgender patient's "preferred name or pronouns."

"It shall be unlawful for a long-term care facility or facility staff to take any of the following actions wholly or partially on the basis of a person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) status," the bill reads.

Among the unlawful actions are “willfully and repeatedly” failing to use a transgender person’s “preferred name or pronouns” after he or she is “clearly informed of the preferred name or pronouns.”

The law states that if provisions are violated, the violator could be punished by a fine “not to exceed one thousand dollars” or “by imprisonment in the county jail for a period not to exceed one year,” or both, Brooke Singman of Fox News reported.

So, the California legislature was able to craft an excruciatingly detailed law to make sure people suffering from gender dysmorphia and other mental illnesses are not upset by the use of their non-preferred name or pronoun, but what happens when it is confronted with a trash problem of epidemic proportion?

Tammy Bruce reports “Gov. Gavin Newsom called growing homelessness in California a national disgrace as he announced Tuesday that he is launching a task force to find solutions amid a housing crisis in the most populous state.”

So, instead of dealing with the reality of the problem, Mr. Newsom announced the creation of a task force, the members of which will travel around the state and make recommendations. There’s only one recommendation that will work and will change the state’s fate, says Ms. Bruce: a plea to all California voters to stop electing Democrats.



Nikki Haley: Don’t Call Political Opponents ‘Evil;’ ‘I’ve Seen Evil’

Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and former Governor Nikki Haley (R-S.C.) told attendees at Turning Point USA’s Young Women’s Leadership (TPUSA) Summit that American politics are “reaching the point of hate” now that politicians are calling each other “evil,” simply for having policy differences.

Politicians’ passions have become toxic, Haley said Friday during a question and answer session with TPUSA President Charlie Kirk, The Daily Caller reports:

“I believe in being passionate, I do. But when it gets toxic and I say that now it’s getting to where people are calling each other evil. They’re hiding behind anonymous things and they’re saying things that are really reaching the point of hate.”

Haley said it’s wrong to call political opponents evil when they’re just expressing different ideas, because she has seen true evil during her travels with the United Nation:

“When I hear them call each other evil, it bothers me because I’ve seen evil. I’ve been to the Democratic Republic of Congo, where they use rape as a weapon of war. I’ve been to South Sudan where they’ve taken babies from women’s arms and thrown them into fires. … That’s evil. What we’re having in our country is a debate of ideas. That’s it.”



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

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


Thursday, June 13, 2019

Thousands in Britain left to go blind due to eye surgery rationing

And the NHS isn't even apologetic.  Aint single payer healthcare grand?

Thousands of elderly people in Britain are left to go blind because of rationing of eye surgery in the National Health Service (NHS), a report revealed on Saturday April 6.

The Times newspaper said a survey by the Royal College of Ophthalmologists (RCO) found tens of thousands of elderly people are left struggling to see because of an NHS cost-cutting drive that relies on them dying before they can qualify for cataract surgery.

The survey has found that the NHS has ignored instructions to end cataract treatment rationing in defiance of official guidance two years ago.

The RCO said its survey has found 62 per cent of eye units retain policies that require people's vision to have deteriorated below a certain point before surgery is funded.

With more than 400,000 cataract operations carried out each year, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) concluded that there was no justification for policies that denied patients cataract removal surgery until they could barely see.

The RCO said that refusal to fund surgery was insulting and called into question the entire system through which the NHS approves treatments.

Ms Helen Lee of the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) said: "Cataracts can have a dramatic impact on someone's ability to lead a full and independent life, potentially stopping them from driving and increasing their chance of serious injury by falling. The NICE guidelines make it clear cataract surgery is highly cost effective and should not be rationed. It is nonsensical for clinical commissioning groups to deny patients this crucial treatment."

Ms Julie Wood, CEO of NHS Clinical Commissioners, which represents local funding bodies, defended the restrictions.

She told the Times: "NICE guidance is not mandatory and clinical commissioners must have the freedom to make clinically led decisions that are in the best interests of both individual patients and their wider local populations. The NHS does not have unlimited resources."



No, My Study Did Not Find Medicare for All Would Lower US Health Costs By $2 Trillion

Charles Blahous

Last year I published a study with the Mercatus Center projecting that enacting Medicare for All (M4A) would add at least $32.6 trillion to federal budget costs over the first 10 years. After the study was published, some advocates misattributed a finding to it, specifically that M4A would lower national healthcare costs by $2 trillion over that same time period. This misattribution has since been repeated in various press reports. Multiple fact-checking sites have pointed out that the study contains no such finding, as did a follow-up piece I published with e21 last year. However, because the mistake continues to appear occasionally, this article provides additional detail about how and why it is wrong.

First, some brief background on the study itself. The study estimated the federal budget costs of M4A, as this is an important number that would guide Congress’s procedural points of order if such legislation were considered. The study did not focus on aggregate changes to national health spending under M4A, in part because such estimates do not affect Congress’s legislative procedures. Whenever Congress considers legislation with budgetary significance, such as a new federal program or a tax cut, its procedures are affected by what the bill would do to federal spending, revenues, and deficits, but not private-sector spending. For example, no Congress would consider a large tax cut as having zero budgetary effect, based on the irrelevant rationale that the reduction in federal revenues would be offset by an equal gain in taxpayers’ after-tax income.

Accordingly, my study’s estimates, like any performed by the Congressional Budget Office, focused on M4A’s effects on the federal budget rather than on other areas of the U.S. economy. This is a primary reason why neither the $2 trillion figure nor any other such estimate appears in the study.

However, a critical additional reason why the attribution of $2 trillion in savings is wrong is that it is inconsistent with the study’s conclusions. Some have attempted to convert the study’s lower-bound federal cost estimate of $32.6 trillion into an estimate of savings in national health spending, arriving at the $2 trillion number. It is incorrect to do so, as the following analogy may help to explain.

Imagine that members of a family have separate cell-phone data plans that add up to $57 a month. Now imagine the following conversation:

Q: How much would it cost my mother to buy my cell-phone data for me instead of continuing to pay it for myself? I think she’s better than I am at negotiating a good deal.

A: Well, if she buys it and allows you to use it for free, your usage will typically go up. Even if she’s the brilliant negotiator that you say, it’s going to cost her at least another $33 a month on top of her current expenses. Most likely her extra costs would be between $33-$39, possibly more.

Q: But then it wouldn’t cost me anything, right? Don’t you have to think of it in terms of how much money everyone in the family, together, would pay? If she bought it, how much would my family as a whole be paying?

A: Well, she was already paying $22 each month, so altogether the family would pay at least $55, probably between $55-$61, again possibly more.

Q: But otherwise we’d pay $57. So, you’re saying we’ll save $2 a month because of her superior negotiating skills?

A: No, I didn’t say anything about her negotiating skills; you did. Her actual history shows a tendency to overspend. I’m just saying that even under your assumption, it’s going to cost the family at least $55, probably somewhere between $55-$61. It’s actually highly unlikely it would be as low as $55.

Q: Great, so you’re saying we’ll save $2!

Basically, what some advocates have done is the equivalent of the above. They’ve done this by taking my study’s lower-bound federal cost estimate and converting it into a claim of savings relative to currently projected national health spending. The study does indeed emphasize the lower-bound estimate, but it does so only by way of explaining that the federal costs of M4A would be at least $32.6 trillion over 10 years, and more likely substantially higher. The study does not present the $32.6 trillion number in a manner consistent with a finding of $2 trillion in national health cost savings.

The study is clear and explicit that the $32.6 trillion estimate is a lower-bound (best case) estimate, and repeats this caveat throughout the report. This point is made in the study’s abstract, on its first page of text, and in many other passages. To cite but some of the quotes from the study explaining the nature of the lower-bound estimate:

It is likely that the actual cost of M4A would be substantially greater than these estimates” (Abstract)

 “Conservative estimates” (Abstract); “conservative estimates” (p.3)

“It is likely that the actual cost of M4A would be substantially greater” (p. 3)

“These cost estimates essentially represent a lower bound” (p. 4)
“Actual savings (from lower drug prices) are likely to be less than assumed under these projections (p. 14)

“This is an aggressive estimate of administrative savings that is more likely to lead to M4A costs being underestimated than overestimated” (p. 14)

 “The resulting implicit estimates of national and federal spending on LTSS should be regarded as conservative” (p. 17)
“This study’s assumption of no net increase in LTSS benefit utilization. . . is an additional factor contributing to these projections’ being more likely to underestimate costs than to overestimate them” (p. 17)

The study does contain a couple of isolated references to scenarios in which national health spending would decrease relative to current projections. One such reference is preceded by a reminder that the actual cost of M4A would likely be “substantially greater” than this “lower bound” estimate, while the other one notes that this decrease would only occur “under the assumption that provider payments for treating patients now covered by private insurance are reduced by over 40 percent,” along with other aggressive assumptions, and that “whether providers could sustain such losses and remain in operation” was a “critically important” unanswered question.

In other words, the study emphasizes that the $32.6 trillion federal cost minimum cannot be accurately converted into a claim of $2 trillion in national health cost savings. Actual costs would likely be substantially greater (specifically, factors such as drug costs, health provider payment rates and long-term care utilization would probably all be greater than assumed in that lower-bound estimate). It is the same principle by which, if someone tells you that something now costing $57 would cost somewhere between $55-$61 after a policy change, it would be incorrect to claim thereafter that the person had concluded you would save $2.

It is not possible to correct every advocate’s mistaken claim that my study found that M4A would lower national health costs by $2 trillion over 10 years. But anyone interested in accurately understanding the study should be aware that it contains no such finding.



Leftism Makes People Meaner: Reflections on the Torture of Paul Manafort


The sadistic treatment of Paul Manafort illustrates something I have believed since I attended graduate school in the 1970s and saw the behavior of left-wing students: Leftism makes people meaner.

There are kind and mean conservatives and kind and mean liberals. Neither liberalism nor conservatism makes people kinder or meaner. But this is not the case with leftism. With the handful of exceptions that accompany every generalization, leftism makes people meaner, even crueler.

Take the transfer of Manafort, the one-time Trump campaign manager, from a federal prison to New York's Rikers Island prison. Rikers Island is universally regarded as a wretched place. As Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz wrote:

The decision to move Paul Manafort ... from the decent federal prison to which he was sentenced to solitary confinement to the dangerous hell hole that is New York City's Rikers Island seems abusive and possibly illegal.
I know Rikers well having spent time there visiting numerous defendants accused of murder and other violent crimes. It is a terrible place that no one should ever be sent to.

Mass murderers and torturers are among those incarcerated at Rikers Island.

Moreover, Manafort, found guilty solely for white-collar crimes, will be placed in solitary confinement -- "for his own safety."

Virtually everyone who has written about solitary confinement, both on the right and the left, deems it torture. Manafort will therefore be tortured after being sentenced to seven years' imprisonment for fraud and, in the words of the Daily Wire, "a little-known law that requires lobbyists to report that they are working on behalf of a foreign government (in Manafort's case, Ukraine)."

Angry over the possibility that Manafort may be pardoned by President Trump, the Manhattan District Attorney, Cyrus Vance, charged Manafort with additional crimes based on state law. That way, if found guilty of state offenses, he cannot be pardoned by Trump, as the president's power to pardon applies only to federal -- not state -- crimes.

Everyone knows this prosecution is politically motivated. Vance hates the president and wants to use solitary confinement in a hellhole with violent criminals to squeeze Manafort into testifying against the president.

As Dershowitz said to me on my radio show, what Vance is doing reminds him of Stalin and Beria -- the infamous state prosecutor, a man Stalin referred to as "my Himmler." Dershowitz, a lifelong liberal Democrat and supporter of Hillary Clinton, does not use Stalin analogies loosely.

To her credit, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted: "A prison sentence is not a license for gov torture and human rights violations. That's what solitary confinement is. Manafort should be released, along with all people being held in solitary."

I might add that my opposition to Manafort's treatment is not partisan or new. On a number of occasions over the years, I have cited favorably New York Review of Books articles describing the horror of solitary confinement.

Despite its history of opposition to solitary confinement, The New York Times article reporting the plan to relocate Manafort said nothing against the unnecessary transfer but did comment on the expensive suits Manafort used to wear.

Solitary confinement is "basically a deathtrap," former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik wrote when Manafort was placed in solitary at his federal prison. Manafort should never have been sentenced to solitary confinement. But Robert Mueller (and Judge Amy Berman Jackson) sought it for the same political reason Vance has: to break the man.

As former federal prosecutor Sidney Powell wrote:

When a witness or defendant from whom prosecutors want 'cooperation' does not do as they demand, they put him in solitary confinement. And it works. It literally breaks people.
Solitary does have a place in our prison system, but only for those people who are simply too dangerous to be placed around others at all. However, the torture of solitary confinement should never be used as it is now to break people to prosecutors' will -- to torture them until they will say or do anything to get out.

"Solitary is also called the 'hole.' It's a small space, barely large enough to stand, with a slit for light, to which prisoners are confined/caged for 23 hours a day...

Paul Manafort, seventy years old, has endured this torture for eight months. He's now in a wheelchair, while Judge Amy Berman Jackson mocks his rapidly deteriorating health. Where is the outcry from the ACLU?

So, then, what enables Vance, Mueller and Jackson to engage in such evil?

The only answer is their politics -- the politics of the Trump-hating left. Cyrus Vance, Robert Mueller and Amy Berman Jackson may well be good parents, loving spouses, loyal friends and charitable individuals. But leftism has given them permission to act vilely and mercilessly while thinking of themselves as fine people -- just as evil doctrines have done throughout history.

As noted at the beginning of this column, when I was at Columbia, I witnessed this leftist mean-spiritedness firsthand in the personal cruelty of left-wing agitators against professors and others with whom they differed.

Here's a question perhaps millions of parents will be able to answer: If your child returned home from college a leftist, was he or she a kinder or meaner person than before he or she left for college?

The question is rhetorical.



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, June 12, 2019

Depressed billionaires are good news

Martin Hutchinson below continues his Philippics against low interest rates.  Martin is an economic historian and by historical standards interest rates have been weirdly low for some years now.  Low interest rates in effect price the use of capital very cheaply and, as Martin says, that renders  acquisition of all real assets very easy.  So investors have it easy and profit accordingly.

An important question, however, is whether low interest rates also benefit the average Joe.  Everybody benefits from low interest rates so it should on theory be good for any borrower.  Even an average person can now afford a lot of borrowing to buy a house or whatever.

But the unmentionable person in the woodpile is the effect on asset prices of lots of keen borrowers in the market.  Asset prices are obviously bid up.  So low interest rates are not much benefit to you if the house you want to buy has had its purchase price inflated by the easy money environment.  What you gain on the swings you lose on the roundabouts.

It seems at the moment however that the easy money effect may have approached an asymptote.  A new price equilibrium may have been reached in the real estate market.  The party is certainly over for a while as far as real estate is concerned. House prices overshot the equilibrium level for a short while and may now be settling down to sustainable levels.  So what your house is worth should stay much the same for some time  -- barring unexpected shocks.

One shock would be the implementation of Martin's recommendations. If central banks did jack up interest rates to Martin's desired levels, there would be a huge rash of bankruptcies as people became unable to pay their mortgage interest bills -- with a concomitant huge slump in real estate values.  So anybody with a mortgage should be hoping that Martin is a voice crying unheard in the wilderness.

But I think he will remain unheard and unheeded. I suspect that he is overlooking something.  Administered interest rates need not closely reflect the market but they cannot easily be too far outside the market for too long.  And I suspect that the low interest rates of the last decade are in fact a market response to the abundance of capital poured out by first Obama's and now Trump's money creation binges. Capital has become cheaper because it is more abundant.  So while governments are "printing" lots of new money, interest rates should stay low.

But that gets us to the thorny question of how long can government continue to create new money without ill effects -- without galloping inflation in particular. We have seen recently the economic disaster that unbridled money issue brought about in Zimbabwe and Venezuela so the old economic laws can still be seen functioning.

And I think it is obvious where the money has gone in the U.S. and other similar economies -- such as Britain and Australia.  It has gone into real estate prices. Real estate prices have risen to soak up all the new money. Why the expanded  money supply  has not affected other prices much is a bit surprising but the way that people cut back on other expenditures in order to save up for a home probably explains that.

So where do we go from here?   There are a lot of people who wish they knew and I am one of them.  There are feeble efforts in the GOP to rein in government spending but with neither Trump or the Donks on side that unlikely event is not going to happen soon.  If I am right that real estate prices have stabilized, we may start to see cost pressures on other assets -- meaning that ALL other prices will start to rise sharply.  How long will Trump and Congress tolerate that?  For quite a while is my guess

“It’s a depressing environment” said billionaire investor Stanley Druckenmiller to MarketWatch, explaining that he is investing in Treasury bonds in the hope that short-term interest rates will descend to zero again. At first sight, that should be bad news for the rest of us. But when you examine the different financial universe in which billionaires live, you come to realize that Druckenmiller’s gloom may be a healthy sign – provided the Fed doesn’t follow his policy recommendations.

“What’s good for General Motors is good for America, and vice versa” famously said GM CEO “Engine Charlie” Wilson at his Secretary of Defense Senate hearing in 1953. That was undoubtedly true then. GM employed hundreds of thousands of people, its suppliers and distribution system employed millions, and Americans as a whole, in their jobs, their wealth and their consumption, benefited from the health of the great manufacturing companies of which GM was the epitome.

What was true for General Motors in the 1950s is much less obviously true for the major corporations of 2019, notably the FAANGS (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Alphabet/Google). For one thing, much of their business consists of manufacturing in emerging markets such as China. Thus if Apple’s sales zoom up, for example, it may merely mean the employment of another army of Chinese workers and a surge in profits parked in tax havens, with no obvious benefit for the U.S. economy at all.

If the interests of today’s large companies, especially in tech, are detached from those of the United States, the same is still more true of the billionaires who run those companies or invest in them. In particular, economic policies that benefit billionaires are mostly highly damaging to the interests of ordinary citizens and of the United States as a whole. Not only can billionaires benefit economically from policies that damage the interests of ordinary citizens, there is reason to believe that, at the present time, billionaire angst and gloom may lead to better times for the rest of us.

The principal policy that over the past two decades has benefited billionaires and damaged the rest of us is that of artificially low interest rates. Low interest rates benefit asset prices, of stocks, bonds and real estate, while artificially depressing the cost of borrowing. Billionaires obviously have more assets than the rest of us, not just as a truism, but also in the sense that a higher proportion of their income after expenses is derived from revenues from assets and fluctuations in asset prices, which are relatively unimportant for those mostly dependent on earned income and pensions derived therefrom.

Because of their wealth, billionaires also have access to more and cheaper leverage than the rest of us. This combination, of greater dependence on asset values and greater ability to borrow cheaply, gives them a double-whammy benefit from interminable periods of low interest rates. Their assets rise in price, increasing their wealth both in absolute terms and in relation to the rest of us more dependent on earned income. In addition, they can leverage at artificially cheap costs and thereby buy more assets.

The ability to take on cheap leverage has been especially valuable to two classes of billionaire: those investing in real estate and those engaged in money management through hedge funds and private equity funds. As a result, those sources of wealth have increased in importance in recent decades, overwhelming wealth from conventional businesses like oil and retailing, which dominated the “rich list” 30 years ago. However, real estate and money management billionaires are especially cut off from the rest of the economy; both can flourish while the economy as a whole stagnates.

For that reason, the Barack Obama years were an especially joyful period for such people and especially miserable for the rest of us. The economy stagnated, while interest rates were held artificially low for a decade. The additional refinement of “quantitative easing” and the policy of globalization made matters even easier for them; it produced new pools of money, from foreigners and financial institutions, which could be poured into real estate and market speculation, growing the billionaires’ asset pools still further.

It is now clear that artificially low interest rates damage the real economy, in which ordinary people work. They distort investment away from productive uses – productivity growth in all the countries with near-zero interest rates has been abysmal over the last decade. Only in the United States, where rates have been allowed to lift somewhat, has it recovered, though there has been no retrieval of the productivity growth lost forever in the stagnant Obama years. With asset prices artificially high, a crash, wiping out huge amounts of wealth, is utterly inevitable – Lord Liverpool foresaw and warned against this repeated cycle as far back as 1825. Everyone except billionaires is currently poorer for these policies; once the crash comes, even some of the billionaires will suffer as well.

There are a lot of forces tending to continue the billionaire bonanza. For example, the IMF earlier this year proposed a new dual currency structure, in which cash would be forcibly devalued against e-currency, stealing people’s savings, simply so that central banks could institute even more cuckoo policies of negative interest rates. It beggars belief that globalist bureaucrats, all careful and diligent readers of the Financial Times and the Economist, can come up with ideas as destructive as that, and then express surprise when a despised, tortured people vote for populists. It is incredible that they would impose all the costs of a second currency on the economy, deliberately discriminating against savings, so that some damn silly Keynesians can impose their leftist fantasy monetary policies on us. I would probably vote for Attila the Hun or Genghis Khan against those guys — at least one would enjoy the spectacle of a massacre of IMF economists while one’s savings were being looted.

Other policies favor billionaires at the expense of the rest of us. One is the charitable tax deduction. This allows billionaires to reduce their tax bills to infinitesimal proportions, which acquiring a spurious reputation as a generous donor – and getting all kinds of non-cash benefits in return. Since many of the charities themselves spend most of their resources lobbying for policies that damage the interests of the rest of us, their special privileges are doubly obnoxious.

Druckenmiller and President Trump, both billionaires, are united in one demand: they want lower interest rates as soon as possible. Their wish is entirely self-serving; lower rates will merely further prop up the prices of the assets that both men own, already hugely overpriced. Declines in the prices of high-end real estate in the major urban centers are already happening, ding the wealth of billionaires, and are thoroughly beneficial to those of us not owning high-end real estate. Someday, we may be able to afford to live in New York and San Francisco again (not that one would want to!) Declines in loss-making tech private equity investments, also beginning, will be good for the rest of us as resources are reallocated from these money pits into products that are genuinely useful and not bottomless chasms of endless operating loss, sucking resources from more beneficial innovation.

Declines in stock market prices may seem more equivocal, but you should remember that most middle-class people with stock market investments are continually saving for their retirements. A market decline thus increases the future returns on their investments, brings them a higher dividend yield and allows them to make new stock purchases at lower prices. A market that declines and then recovers, through the magic of dollar-cost averaging and higher dividend yields, will make a middle-class stock purchaser far wealthier than a market that stays overpriced throughout.

Because of those years’ extreme monetary policies, most of the billionaires of the last twenty years are creatures of the night, that will disappear amidst much shrieking and wailing if we can restore the economy’s genuine health. A sustained period of higher interest rates, wiping out all the excesses of the Obama period and before, is needed to achieve. Let us hope the Fed stops its ears to the low-interest rate sirens, from President Trump, Druckenmiller and all those whose wealth depends on the currently grossly distended economy. A 4% Federal Funds rate, extended over the next five years, will restore the health of the U.S. economy, to the point that what’s good for General Motors and its 2025 equivalent will genuinely be good for America.



Tucker Carlson: The Democratic Party demands delusion - and that doesn't bode well for them in 2020

On Sunday, CNN held town hall specials with a trio of presidential candidates -- Seth Moulton, Eric Swalwell and Tim Ryan. We watched it so you wouldn't have to. All three of them are Democratic members of Congress. None is in danger of becoming president anytime soon.

So why do we pay attention to what they say? Well, because as they stammer and sweat and pander profusely, they give us a good idea of what the Democratic primary voters believe and what they care about. And of course, the thing they care about most -- a thing they can't stop talking about ever -- is race. They are obsessed in a deeply unhealthy way. Racial obsessions are always deeply unhealthy.

Moulton explained that Georgia didn't elect Stacey Abrams governor not because she wouldn't be a good governor, but because, you sir, are a bigot.

"We have a problem with racism in American today," he said. "If this country wasn't racist, Stacey Abrams would be governor. People of color are being systemically denied the most basic right in the democracy, which is the right to vote."

Moulton went to Andover and Harvard, unlike you. So he must be unbelievably impressive, probably a verified genius and a good person, too. And yet, somehow Moulton didn't bother to muster a single piece of evidence to show any of his claims were true. Because actually, they're not true, because it's not 1953 anymore. They can't let you know that, though.

For Moulton's purposes -- purposes of control -- it has got to be Jim Crow Alabama at all times, now and forever. Burning crosses and the sound of night riders in the distance. That will keep you terrified and easier to manipulate. That is the whole point.

Eisenhower sent the 101st Airborne to bring the South to heel. But the modern Democratic Party doesn't need the military; instead, they've got big business to make the population obey. Eric Swalwell of California bows before the gods of woke capitalism.

Jim Sciutto, CNN anchor:: We have Netflix, Disney, NBC Universal, WarnerMedia which owns CNN. They have all warned they halt business here if the law goes into effect. I wonder, do you support that economic boycott?

Swalwell: Yes, if that law goes into effect, I absolutely do, and CNN may have to move. There's a lot of young women who work at CNN that could be affected.

Do you support putting big companies in charge of America's social policy? Eric Swalwell was asked. "Of course I support that," he might as well have said. "Screw the voters. They are irrelevant. Our billionaire donors will bring back the abortion fairy." You'll notice the applause from the audience. They love that.

Democratic primary voters love it when you talk like that -- that some billionaire is going to ride to the rescue and make everything okay. You know what they don't like? They don't like reality. That infuriates them. Biology is real. Russia did not beat Hillary. Global warming isn't actually killing millions of people right now.

All true statements. All of those statements drives them bonkers because they are true. Here was the response from Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who is also running for president, reminded them that, actually, socialism doesn't really work.

Hickenlooper: If we want to beat Donald Trump and achieve big progressive goals, socialism is not the answer. I was re-elected -- [Booing]

Hickenlooper: I was -- you know, if we are not careful, we are going to end up helping to re-elect the worst president in American history ...

So that is the point where Hickenlooper should have paused and called out the audience, like a standup comic, and ask them to name a single place outside of Sweden in the 1970s in which socialism has actually worked. Anyone? Anyone?

But of course, he didn't do that. He was too afraid. A moist-palm Democrat. God knows what the mob would have done if he tried. Watch what happened to John Delany, maybe the bravest of anyone in the race, when he suggested the Medicare-for-All might not be such a great idea:

Delaney:  Medicare-for-All may sound good, but it's actually not good policy. Nor is it good politics. I'm telling you ... I'm telling you ...  [Booing]

He is dying out there. "Boo! Stop him before he hurts our dreams. If we want it to be true, it must be true," screamed the 4-year- olds in attendance. "I am the center of my universe. Cater to me. Tell me I'm wonderful."

If you strip it all away, that really is the message of the Democratic voters -- 200-proof narcissism. "Give us more."

The Narcissist-in-Chief was very offended. For the crime of making an obvious point, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez went on Twitter and demanded that Delaney get out of the race. And that doesn't, in the end, bode well for Democrats. When a party demands delusion, that means only the delusional can win.



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, June 11, 2019

Rush to Subvert Electoral College Hits Roadblock

Democrats in Maine and Nevada decline to join the National Popular Vote initiative.   

Ever since the 2017 inauguration, we’ve known leftists would do whatever they could to bring down Donald Trump’s presidency. Indeed, while most of the nation waited breathlessly for Robert Mueller to announce the results of his two-year, $30-million investigation into the now-debunked Trump/Russia collusion conspiracy, Democrats were working on a backup plan to keep future Republican nominees from ever setting foot into the White House.

Their plan is known as the National Popular Vote, an interstate compact that would essentially make the Electoral College null and void. In its early stages, the campaign didn’t garner much attention. But now that we’re facing the real possibility of ending the Electoral College, people seem to be waking up to this sleight-of-hand attempt to undermine the Constitution and ensure one-party rule in perpetuity.

The campaign had been picking up steam. Had. Recently, both Maine and Nevada dealt setbacks to the initiative, with Maine’s state House rejecting it in bipartisan fashion and Nevada Democrat Gov. Steve Sisolak vetoing his state’s measure. He even explained what many Americans already know to be true: The NPV compact would “diminish the role of smaller states like Nevada in national electoral contests and force Nevada’s electors to side with whoever wins the nationwide popular vote, rather than the candidate Nevadans choose.”

Still, as the editors at The Wall Street Journal write, “Fourteen states so far, along with the District of Columbia, have joined a compact to bypass the Electoral College by pledging their presidential electors to whichever candidate wins more ballots nationally.”

In other words, if the candidate your state chooses on Election Day falls short by one vote in the national tally, all of his electoral votes go to his opponent.

Even worse, the system would open up the floodgates to increased voter fraud and would do violence to both the wisdom of the Founders and the “one person, one vote” goal that Democrats talk about ad nauseam.

The initiative is misleading and subversive.

Tara Ross writes at The Daily Signal, “National Popular Vote’s compact would radically change the presidential election system, even as it pretends to leave America’s current state-based Electoral College untouched. National Popular Vote must be laughing all the way to the bank. It relies on the state-based aspects of the system when convenient, but then switches to reliance on a national tally when that’s convenient.”

Ross asks us to “consider what is happening on another front: California legislators are working to prevent President Donald Trump from appearing on their state ballot in 2020. Assuming Trump is the Republican nominee, how could he possibly win the national popular vote when he will be unable to win even a single vote from the largest state in the Union?”

Democrats who pride themselves on defending voting rights are essentially seeking to steal the votes from millions of Americans in order to support the popular-vote winner. And while no system is perfect, the Electoral College ensures that presidents represent the interests of a broad section of the American population, not merely the views of people living in big cities or on the coasts.

Under NPV, future candidates for president would never again set foot in Nevada, Iowa, New Mexico, or any other state between New York and California. After all, why go on the stump in 30 small states when all one needs is California, New York, and a few other big states to siphon the votes away from the rest of the citizenry?

Think about it: Under NPV, a candidate could theoretically lose 39 states and still win the presidency. That’s what founding father James Madison called “the tyranny of the majority.”

Undeterred, Oregon moved one step closer to becoming the 15th state to pass the national popular vote bill by sending it to the Democrat governor for a rubber stamp. This would bring the tally to 196 of the 270 votes needed to put the NPV into effect.

But there’s still a glimmer of hope that we can save the Electoral College. Nathaniel Rakich writes at FiveThirtyEight, “The compact could encounter other obstacles. Republicans could recapture full control of one (or more) of the states in the compact and repeal the National Popular Vote law. And if the compact began to look like it was really going to take effect, opponents would likely sue and claim that it is unconstitutional. So despite its successes in 2019, the National Popular Vote interstate compact remains a highly uncertain proposition in the long term.”

For now, it looks like the Electoral College will remain in place for the 2020 presidential election. After that, all bets are off. Progressives have chipped away at the Constitution for more than a century, but now they’re taking a sledgehammer to its foundation.

If thoughtful legislators don’t rise up to stop NPV from taking effect now, we may never have the means to stop it in the future.



Barr Asking Questions the Media Don't Want Asked
“I’m amused,” Attorney General William Barr told CBS News’ Jan Crawford, “by these people who make a living by disclosing classified information, including the names of intelligence operatives, wringing their hands about whether I’m going to be responsible in protecting intelligence sources and methods.”

He went on after further questions: “Well, the media reaction is strange. Normally the media would be interested in letting the sunshine in and finding out what the truth is. And usually the media doesn’t care that much about protecting intelligence sources and methods. But I do, and I will.”

You don’t have to have been “in the business” for Barr’s nearly 50 years to understand what he means. Just flash back 13 years to June 2006 and read The New York Times’ revelations about the Swift bank procedures.

The Belgian-based Swift manages foreign currency transfers, and after 9/11, the CIA and Treasury conducted data searches to spot — and, ultimately, stop — terrorist financing. The Times’ story conceded that this program was successful in obstructing terrorist activity, and it identified no abuses.

Top administration officials pleaded with The Times not to publish the story, and then-President George W. Bush said the publication was “disgraceful.” Times editor Bill Keller’s justification was that “the administration’s” — not the government’s but the administration’s — “extraordinary access to this vast repository of international financial data … is a matter of public interest.”

In other words, The Times didn’t care much about weakening America’s fight against terrorism by disclosing classified information and revealing intelligence sources and methods. It was more interested in letting the sunshine in on a program that, to the best of its knowledge, had infringed no one’s rights.

Some called for prosecution of The Times for violating the Espionage Act of 1917, which criminalizes the publication of classified information, signed by then-President Woodrow Wilson two months after the U.S. entered World War I. But as then-Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan pointed out in his 1998 book “Secrecy: The American Experience,” the Espionage Act is overbroad, and government tends to overclassify information, including even newspaper articles.

Accordingly, successive administrations up to and including George W. Bush’s have declined to prosecute news media for publishing stories, including leaks of classified information, that seem clearly forbidden by the words of Wilson’s Espionage Act.

Abandoning that precedent, perhaps surprisingly, was the administration of Barack Obama. He described himself as “a strong believer in the First Amendment” and dismissed “stories about us cracking down on whistleblowers or whatnot” as “a really small sample.”

Actually, they were an unprecedentedly large number. As James Risen, co-byliner on The Times’ original Swift story, wrote in December 2016, the Obama administration “has prosecuted nine cases involving whistleblowers and leakers, compared with only three by all previous administrations combined.”

Obama’s Justice Department subpoenaed Associated Press phone records — of AP trunk lines and 30 separate phones. It identified Fox News reporter James Rosen as a “co-conspirator” in an Espionage leak case. The supposedly liberal and pro-First Amendment Obama administration was actively pursuing what the Columbia Journalism Review called “a massive intrusion into newsgathering operations.”

It’s true that Obama did not emit as many tart words for the press in his eight years as president as Donald Trump has in his two and a half. But it’s also true that Trump has come nowhere near to challenging Obama’s record as the president most inclined to sic law enforcement on the press since Woodrow Wilson himself. Liberal Democrats aren’t necessarily the best friends of press freedom.

Nor are they, it seems, friends of a citizen’s right to privacy or a candidate’s right to seek public office without government surveillance. In his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, when Barr made the point that the government “spying” had occurred on the Trump campaign, Democrats and the press expressed horror. You’re not supposed to say “spying,” apparently, even though Democrats and media like The Times have routinely used it as a conveniently short and understandable synonym for surveillance.

As Barr told Crawford, spying is appropriate if it’s “adequately predicated” — and it’s unclear whether the spying on the Trump campaign was. Certainly, the use of the partisan and unverified Steele dossier is not adequate.

Barr is old enough to remember when liberals did not take government legal or intelligence agencies’ word that spying on an administration’s opponents was justified and did not attack those who questioned it as unpatriotic.

He may be amused that such doings are self-righteously justified today, but it’s good that he’s willing to ask questions most of the media don’t want asked, to determine how the Obama law enforcement and intelligence agencies set about spying on the opposite party’s presidential campaign.



Backflip Biden
After two days of intense criticism, Joseph R. Biden Jr. reversed himself Thursday night on one of the issues most important to Democratic voters, saying he no longer supports a measure that bans federal funding for most abortions.

As recently as Wednesday, Mr. Biden’s campaign had said he supported the measure, known as the Hyde Amendment. His decision to change positions illustrates the intense pressure he faces as the presumed front-runner for the Democratic nomination for president.

[What is the Hyde Amendment? Here’s a look at what it does, and why the politics have shifted.]

His turnaround was abrupt, particularly because Mr. Biden has grappled for decades with his views on abortion rights. While he has said he supports Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling that made abortion legal nationwide, he has opposed members of his own party on a number of abortion measures, ascribing his reluctance to his Roman Catholic faith.

In a speech at a gala hosted by the Democratic National Committee in Atlanta on Thursday night, Mr. Biden credited the change, in part, to recent efforts by Republicans to roll back abortion access in states including Georgia and across the country — especially in the South — calling them “extreme laws.”



Lies are normal for the Left

Joe Biden has claimed for DECADES that he marched during the civil rights movement.

And while this claim has been disputed ever since he first made it in 1987…he’s still making it. Even though he was told not to by his own people.

“When I marched in the civil rights movement, I did not march with a 12-point program,” Biden told a New Hampshire audience in 1987. “I marched with tens of thousands of others to change attitudes. And we changed attitudes.”

Nope, he didn’t.

Jake Tapper reminded his panel of what the New York Times had previously reported: “More than once, advisers had gently reminded Mr. Biden of the problem with this formulation: He had not actually marched during the civil rights movement. And more than once, Mr. Biden assured them he understood — and kept telling the story anyway.”

“That is really, really weird,” Tapper followed up with an awkward chuckle.

CNN Senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny replied: “When he gets very comfortable out on the stump speaking and other things, he has tended to embellish. He has tended to, you know, make things sound slightly rosier than they are.”

Yeeeeah. They’re taking it SO easy on him. He’s not embellishing. Biden is peddling a repeatedly disproven lie.



Who You Callin' Fascist?

R. Emmett Tyrrell
For over two years now, a peculiar combination of the media and the Democrats has been goading Donald Trump, always to painful effect — painful for both sides in this vituperative battle but particularly painful to the media and the Democrats. Not much good has come of it.

The media and the Democrats vilify Trump as a Hitler, a fascist, a racist, a misogynist, a homophobe and so forth. What is more, they do not approve of his hair. Interestingly, they do not disparage him as a Stalin, a Castro or a communist. Why do they not dip into their arsenal of dread phraseology to call him a Stalinist, a Castro or a communist? Is it because they still see these comrades as the good guys? Do they perceive communists as liberals without the red tape? What Henry Wallace once called liberals in a hurry.

Do the media and the Democrats harbor some lingering respect for these historic friends of the working class? Are they somewhat smitten by the bilge of the left? Do they even understand the term “fascist”? What would Sen. Chuck Schumer or Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi describe as Trump’s fascist traits? His songs? His martial music? What is his daily uniform? All I see is Donald’s sober business suit, always worn with a tie, a white shirt and wingtip shoes. How does this uniform differ from that of Schumer?

What is all this talk of fascism? Fascism generally features politicians who favor one-party dictatorship above democracy. Fascism favors a glorified sense of nationalism, often of race over the individual. In governance it favors centralized government and is heavily militaristic. Actually, when you compare fascism with communism, it is pretty much the same thing, though the German and Italian fascists always were smarter dressers, and their guns usually worked better. The communists even caught up with German racism eventually. Both the Germans and the Russians were anti-Semites.

What is more, now that the latest edition of Democrat is coming out as a socialist I guess they have all the more reason to stay clear of calling Trump a communist or a Stalin or a Castro. These Democrats are at least Stalinists in the economic sense, and they can always adopt the one-partyism and militarism later.

Yet to return to my original point about the effect these coarse terms are having on the public discourse, particularly for the media and the Democrats: All the media and the Democrats achieve, it seems to me, is enraging Trump, who resorts to his Twitter account and fires off a volley that leaves the media and the Democrats the worse for wear. The fact is that Trump is better at it than they are, and he usually amuses. The media and the Democrats never do. Hitler was not funny. Nor was communism. Donald’s “fake news” has caught on, and everyone knows who authored the term, along with “Crooked Hillary” and “Pocahontas” and “Crazy Bernie” and all the rest.

When the race really gets under way, what will Trump make of poor old Joe Biden, the gaffable one (I shall take credit for that one)? Biden was caught red-handed, as they say, filching from a speech by Neil Kinnock of Britain’s Labour Party. Kinnock is not even an American. Already Trump has dispatched Beto O'Rourke with his notice of the former congressman’s “hand movement.” “Is he crazy?” Trump said. He had only a few hours to come up with that one. Well done, Donald! Beto has yet to recover. There will be two dozen more Democratic candidates who bite the dust before Trump finishes off the final Democratic candidate. Will the candidate be the one from South Bend, or is there another would-be John F. Kennedy out there? It is going to be vastly amusing.

As I say, it is destructive language from both sides, but from one side it is at least amusing. I noticed this when I first met Trump in 2013. He is very entertaining. I can well imagine him, long after he is out of office, relaxing with friends and watching old tapes of himself up against the Republican gang in 2016, and then against Hillary, agelastic Hillary. She thought she could beat him, and after she lost she plotted with her friends in the intelligence community to run him out of office. She, a life-long liberal, threw in with certain chieftains of the FBI and the CIA (and presumably others) to turn these institutions against the American people in an election. They were the kind of liberals who were always haranguing us against the police power of the state. But they were the first in American history to turn the intelligence community against us. Clinton has been a malign force in American politics since her early days. I am glad she turned her back on Goldwaterism.

These next months will be interesting.



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, June 10, 2019

Trump Suspends Tariffs On Mexico Following Deal On Migrants

President Donald Trump has announced an immigration reform deal with the Mexican government which likely will allow border officials to end the catch-and-release of Central American migrants.

Ending catch-and-release is a huge win for Americans and Trump because it means border officials now have a legal alternative to the catch-and-release rules which allow migrants to legally enter the United States if they bring children and claim asylum.

Those catch-and-release rules set by Congress and the courts also allow the migrants to get work permits before their asylum court hearings, which are now backlogged for two or more years.

Instead of catch-and-release, the migrants can be returned to Mexico until their asylum claims can be heard by a judge.

The “joint declaration” was outlined in a State Department message:

… those [migrants] crossing the U.S. Southern Border to seek asylum will be rapidly returned to Mexico where they may await the adjudication of their [US.] asylum claims.

In response, Mexico will authorize the entrance of all of those individuals for humanitarian reasons, in compliance with its international obligations, while they await the adjudication of their asylum claims. Mexico will also offer jobs, healthcare, and education according to its principles.

The United States commits to work to accelerate the adjudication of asylum claims and to conclude removal proceeding as expeditiously as possible.....

Both parties also agree that, in the event the measure adopted do not have the expected results, they will take further actions.

Mexico’s agreement to offer jobs and healthcare to the migrants will weaken lawsuits by pro-migration U.S. groups that oppose the deal.

In exchange, the U.S will also work with Mexico to spur regional economic development.

Mexico also promised to step up police enforcement against the cartels’ labor trafficking from Central America into the United States:

Mexico will take unprecedented steps to increase enforcement to curb irregular migration, to include the deployment of its National Guard throughout Mexico, giving priority to its southern border.

The promise of extra enforcement is vague, and far less important to U.S. border security than the return of migrants to Mexico.

However, border officials face the practical problem of processing migrants for return to Mexico at a faster rate than the cartels can bus them up to the border. If the border agencies cannot keep pace with the cartels’ transport networks, they may be forced to release some migrants into the United States.

The compromise deal allows Mexico to dodge the escalating tariffs that Donald Trump promised, and it also means that Mexico does not have to formally declare itself a “safe third country.”

Trump and his deputies wanted Mexico to declare itself a safe third country because that would give U.S. border officials the permanent legal authority to reject migrants who cross through Mexico. But the Mexican government’s agreement to host the migrants before their U.S. court hearings provide similar legal authority to U.S. border agencies,

The deal means that border agencies will not have to release migrants into the United States prior to their asylum hearings.

The end of catch-and-release will likely wreck the cartels’ labor-trafficking business, which depends on migrants getting U.S. jobs to repay their smuggling debts. Few poor people in Honduras, El Salvador, or Guatemala will go into debt with the cartels, or mortgage their farms and homes to the cartels, once they know they will be forced to remain in Mexico prior to their asylum hearings.

The reduction of migration will also help stabilize the Central Americans countries, which is needed before foreign investors build farms or factories in those nations.

Under current rules, roughly one million Central Americans will walk through the border loopholes created and preserved by courts and Congress, and into Americans’ workplaces, neighborhoods, and schools during the 12 months prior to October.

Politically, a good deal for Trump is a bad deal for Democrats, who have campaigned during the last few days to prevent a deal that would slow the inflow of migrants.

Democrats oppose a deal, in part, because it reduces their bargaining power in the domestic fight against Trump to win amnesty for millions of illegals.



Socialism is Not Democratic

Nor is it compatible with the Constitution

By Charles C. W. Cooke

BACK in 2011, while covering Occupy Wall Street, I was accosted by a man wearing a large cardboard box. On this box, which he wore around his torso as might a child pretending to be a robot, he had scribbled down a theory that, at first glance, seemed more sophisticated than most that were on display. “Hey, man,” he said to me, “it’s up to us.” To explain, he turned around to reveal the other side of the box, which bore a single word: DEMOCRACY. Then, having paused for effect, he turned around again and pointed to the front, on which he had written down almost every single economic system that had been tried in human history: CAPITALISM, SOCIALISM, MERCANTILISM, AUTARKY, DISTRIBUTISM, FASCISM, FEUDALISM, POTLATCH, MUTUALISM, and so forth. “It’s up to us,” he said again. “It’s our democracy, and we can choose the economy we want.”

Further conversation revealed that he believed this quite literally. In his view, democracy was the sole nonnegotiable element of our political system, while everything else was up for grabs. If a majority wanted to nationalize the banks or abolish private property or bar all international trade or invade Brazil and harvest its resources, that was its prerogative.

As might be expected, he had a prediction and a predilection: Socialism, he explained, was both the most likely system to be adopted, because it catered to the “majority, not the 1 percent,” and the best, because it would fix all of America’s problems without any downsides. “It’s up to us.”

I have thought about this conversation frequently since then, because it highlights some of the core misconceptions held by socialism’s champions, which are, in no particular order, that the retention of a democratic system of government makes massive state intervention more acceptable, that “capitalism” is a “system” in the same way as is “socialism,” and that liberal democracy—and, in particular, America’s brilliant constitutional order—can survive the establishment of a socialist economy.

 Because I was there to write about the protests rather than to get into prolonged arguments, I listened and probed rather than disputed his contention. Had I been debating him, however, my rejoinder would have been a simple one: No, it’s not “up to us.” Or, at least, it’s not up to “us” in the way that my friend in the cardboard box was using the word “us.” As I write, ascendant elements within the American Left are engaged in a sustained attempt to reintroduce and rehabilitate the word “socialism,” in part by prepending to it a word that has a much better reputation and an infinitely better historical record: “democratic.” Voters should not be fooled by the rebranding, for there is no sense in which socialism can be made compatible with democracy as it is understood in the West.

At worst, socialism eats democracy and is swiftly transmuted into tyranny and deprivation. At best—and I use that word loosely—socialism stamps out individual agency, places civil society into a straitjacket of uniform size, and turns representative government into a chimera.

The U.S. Constitution may as a technical matter be silent on most economic questions, but it is crystal clear on the appropriate role of government. And the government that it permits is incompatible with, and insufficient to sustain, socialism. This is deliberate. In the United States, and beyond, we do not think about our democracy in purely procedural terms. While majority rule on certain political questions is indeed deemed imperative, we nevertheless reject the notion that majorities may do whatever they wish, we demand that our institutions leave room for civil society and for individuals, and we insist upon a broad presumption of liberty that extends across all areas of human activity.

It is reasonably well understood in this country that to place the word “democratic” in front of, say, “speech restrictions” or “warrantless searches” or “juryless criminal prosecutions” would be in no way to legitimize those things or to make them more compatible with the preservation of a free society. It is less well understood that to place the word “democratic” in front of “socialism” is an equally fruitless endeavor—and for the same reasons.

To those whose conception of “democracy” is limited entirely to the question of “Who won the most votes?” this may seem paradoxical. To those familiar with the precepts beneath the Anglo-American tradition, however, it should be quite obvious. Just as the individual right to free speech is widely comprehended as part of what we mean by “democracy” rather than as an unacceptable abridgment of majority rule, so the individual rights protected in property and by markets are necessary to the maintenance of a democratic order—in this, deeper, sense of the word.

In the West, choosing to trade with a person in another country is, itself, a democratic act. Electing to start a company in your garage, with no need for another’s imprimatur, is, itself, a democratic act. Banding together to establish a cooperative is, itself, a democratic act. Selecting the vendor from which you source your goods and services—and choosing what to buy from it—is, itself, a democratic act. Keeping the lion’s share of the fruits of your labor is, itself, a democratic act.

When governments step in with their bayonets and say “No!” they are, in effect, keeping your choices off the ballot. Properly understood, the attempt to draw a hard line between “democracy” and “economics” is not only a fool’s game but a game that socialists do not in fact play themselves. Ugo Okere, a self-described “democratic socialist” who ran for the Chicago City Council earlier this year, was recently praised in Jacobin magazine for explaining that “democratic socialism, to me, is about democratic control of every single facet of our life.”

That’s one way of putting it, certainly. Another is “tyranny.” Or, if you prefer, democratic tyranny. Alexis de Tocqueville observed that “the health of a democratic society may be measured by the quality of functions performed by private citizens.” Lose those functions in America, and you lose democracy in America, too.

And then there is the question of socialism’s substantive record, which is so extraordinarily disastrous that it renders my friend-in-the-box’s theoretical argument useless even on its own terms. It is, in a strictly technical sense, “up to us” whether we choose to, say, smash ourselves repeatedly in the face with a hammer, but that is neither here nor there given that nobody in his right mind would elect to smash himself in the face with a hammer. We should avoid socialism with a similar diligence—and for similar reasons.

History has shown us that socialism exhibits three core defects from which it cannot escape and which its champions cannot avoid. The first is what Hayek termed “the knowledge problem.” This holds that all economic actors make errors based on imperfect knowledge but that a decentralized economy will suffer less from this, partly because the decision-makers are closer to the information they need, and partly because each actor does not wield total control over everything but is only one part of a larger puzzle. The second problem is that, because socialism eliminates both private property and supply and demand, it eliminates rational incentives and, thereby, rational calculation.

The third problem is that socialism, following Marx’s dialectical theory of history, lends itself to a theory of inevitability or preordination that leaves no room for dissent, and that leads in consequence to the elevation of a political class that responds to failure by searching for wreckers and dissenters to punish.

Worse still, because socialists view all questions, including moral questions, through a class lens, these searches tend to be deemed morally positive—bound, one day, to be regarded by History as Necessary. Together, these defects lead to misery, poverty, corruption, ignorance, authoritarianism, desperation, exodus, and death.

Ironically enough, they also lead to socialism’s exhibiting a record of failure in precisely the areas where it is supposed to excel. Despite the promises in the brochure, socialism has been terrible at helping the poor; it has been terrible at helping women advance; it has been terrible for civil liberties; it been terrible at helping the environment; it has been terrible at attracting immigrants; it has been terrible at tolerating and protecting minorities; it has been terrible at fostering technology, architecture, and art; it has been terrible at producing agriculture; and, worst of all, it has been terrible at sharing power and resources—indeed, it has done precisely the opposite, creating new “ruling classes” that are far less adept, far less responsive, and far less responsible than the ones they replaced.

It has become something of a running joke that, whenever socialism’s history is highlighted, its diehard advocates insist that “that wasn’t real socialism.” This defense is frustrating. But it is also instructive, in that it is an admission that, like perpetual motion, socialism has never been realized in the world. The U.S. Constitution has survived for so long because it was built upon the understanding that man is imperfect and always will be, because it accepts that selfishness is ineradicable and so must be harnessed, because it acknowledges that power corrupts as much in our era as it ever did, and because it makes provisions for the fact that disunity is inevitable in any free society.

Capitalism, too, has survived because it is built on truth rather than myths. Socialism, by contrast, has failed each and every time it has been tried because it is predicated upon precisely the opposite—that is, precisely the wrong—assumptions.

One would have imagined that, at some point, “That wasn’t real socialism. . .” would have been followed by “. . . and real socialism can’t exist because man isn’t perfectible, selfishness is ineradicable, power has needed restraining since the dawn of time, and political unity is a dangerous and undesirable myth.”

 Alas, no such recognition has yet been forthcoming. In the 20th century, Communism killed at least 100 million people—by democide, by famine, by central planning, by war—and yet it is still acceptable to say in public that it was a “nice idea.” In the post-war period, “democratic” socialism ravaged the economies of the West like a virus and required a counterrevolution to remove, and yet it remains sufficiently seductive to a slice of the public as to present a threat to the American order.

Today, the states that have actively rejected socialism are growing fast (India, Poland, the former East Germany) while those that fell prey to the temptation are either moribund (Greece), tyrannies (China), or international pariahs (Cuba and North Korea)—and yet there is still a solipsistic cottage industry dedicated to blaming their successes and failures on decisions made by the United States.

The damn thing is ineradicable. And so we get Venezuela. That Hugo Chávez’s centrally planned “Bolivarian Revolution” has descended into dictatorship, repression, starvation, and crisis was apparently genuinely shocking to a good number of the people who write about politics for a living. Six years ago, upon Chávez’s death, the Guardian’s Simon Reid-Henry reflected the consensus view on the left by arguing that Chávez had shown “that the West’s ways aren’t always best” by “[refashioning] Venezuelan democracy in ways that he thought better addressed the country’s long-standing development issues.” His paper’s editorial board went one further, describing Chávez’s work as an “unfinished revolution.”

Predictably enough, this was in fact a correct characterization of Venezuela’s fate—just not in the way that the Guardian had anticipated. Five years after that edition went to print, Ricardo Hausmann, the former chief economist of the Inter-American Development Bank, was explaining that “Venezuela’s economic catastrophe dwarfs any in the history of the U.S., Western Europe or the rest of Latin America.”

Surprise! “The West’s ways aren’t always best”? The Venezuelan president is now a ruthless dictator who has cracked down on free speech, prohibited mass political protests, and confiscated firearms from anyone who has been even remotely critical of him. Thirteen percent of the country’s population has now fled, and those who have remained have been left so degraded by the government’s price controls that they have gone years without toilet paper, meat, and other basic necessities and have in consequence taken to eating zoo animals for sustenance and to scouring garbage bags for supplies.

According to the Pharmaceutical Federation of Venezuela, the country is suffering through an 85 percent medicine shortage and a 90 percent shortage of basic medical supplies. The child-mortality rate has increased 140 percent. Ninety percent of Venezuelans now live in poverty. This year, the IMF predicts, inflation will hit 10 million percent. All this in a country with the world’s largest oil reserves— reserves greater than those of the United States by a factor of ten.

“It’s up to us.” One of the great advantages to living at the tail end of 6,000 years or so of human civilization is the chance we have been afforded to look back and learn from the lessons accrued by others without having to go through the pain of learning them for ourselves. History is a complicated thing, and should be treated as such, but there are nevertheless a few core rules by which we can live:

Do not inflict laws on others to which you would not subject yourself; ensure that you distribute power among several rival institutions, and, if possible, several geographical locations; never relinquish the right to free speech, the right to free conscience, the right to freedom of religion, the right to bear arms, or the right to a jury trial; insist on being represented by a parliament, and make sure that you prohibit that parliament from loaning its powers to a king, temporarily or permanently; do not ask people to give up more of their income than they are permitted to keep; and don’t, whatever you do, be seduced by socialists bearing promises. And if you are seduced, get out before it’s too late. You have nothing to lose but your chains.



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, June 09, 2019

Prosperity prolongs life

No wonder lifespans are so short in Russia after so many years of socialism.  Capitalism gives life.  Socialism gives death

The Intimate Link Between Income Levels and Life Expectancy: Global Evidence from 213 Years

Michael Jetter et al.


What is the main driver of life expectancy across societies and over time? This study aims to document a systematic and quantitatively sizeable relationship between income levels and life expectancy.

A panel data set of 197 countries over 213 years is analyzed with different regression methods. Robustness tests are provided.

By itself, GDP per capita explains more than 64 percent of the variation in life expectancy. The Preston curve prevails even when accounting for country‐ and time‐fixed effects, country‐specific time trends, and alternative explanatory variables such as health‐care expenditure, malaria prevalence, or political institutions. If anything, this link has become stronger over recent decades when data quality has improved. Results from instrumental variable estimations suggest this finding to be largely unaffected by reverse causality. Quantile regression results suggest the relationship between income and life expectancy to be persistent across different levels of life expectancy.

Income matters for life expectancy. If policymakers want to prolong people's lives, economic growth appears to be the pr



How to make the USPS lose even MORE money

The United States Postal Service is a chronic money loser and politicians have failed to trim its most wasteful services, such as Saturday delivery. For his part, Vermont socialist and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders wants to expand the USPS into banking.

As Sanders writes in a May 9 Medium commentary, “Today’s loan sharks wear expensive suits and work on Wall Street, where they make hundreds of millions of dollars in total compensation by charging sky-high fees and usurious interest rates, and head financial institutions like JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, and American Express.” For Sanders, “an important way to provide decent banking opportunities for low-income communities is to allow the U.S. Postal Service to engage in basic banking services.”

“What could possibly go wrong with that?” wonders Justin Haskins at Fox News. Haskins finds “no reason to believe the federal government is capable of effectively providing anyone with banking services, nor is there a dire need for such a costly new system.” For Haskins, this is “nothing more than a scheme to dramatically increase the size, power, and influence of the federal government,” and akin to “socialist banking.”

Sanders chose to spend his honeymoon in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Fellow “democratic socialist” Alexandria Ocasio Cortez is on record as saying that “capitalism will not always exist in the world.” The pair’s USPS banking plan, the “Loan Shark Prevention Act,” does expand the power of government, and under socialism, the government controls the commanding heights of the economy. To understand what that means in practice, see conditions in Cuba.

“The Cuban government announced Friday it is launching widespread rationing of chicken, eggs, rice, beans, soap, and other basic products in the face of a grave economic crisis,” explains a recent CBS News report. So it’s all about shortages, rationing, and perpetual poverty.



The vote-by-phone tech trend is scaring the life out of security experts

With their playbook for pushing government boundaries as a guide, some Silicon Valley investors are nudging election officials toward an innovation that prominent coders and cryptographers warn is downright dangerous for democracy.

Voting by phone could be coming soon to an election near you.

As seasoned disruptors of the status quo, tech pioneers have proven persuasive in selling the idea, even as the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine specifically warn against any such experiment.

The fight over mobile voting pits technologists who warn about the risks of entrusting voting to apps and cellphones against others who see internet voting as the only hope for getting most Americans to consistently participate on Election Day.

“There are so many things that could go wrong,” said Marian Schneider, president of Verified Voting, a coalition of computer scientists and government transparency advocates pushing for more-secure elections. “It is an odd time for this to be gaining momentum.”

Behind the vote-by-phone push is a political operative who grew rich helping Uber elbow its way onto city streets and Bird populate the sidewalks with electric scooters, and who sees mobile voting as a potential cure for an ailing democracy.

Bradley Tusk is using the same tactics in this personal crusade that he used to advance tech startups. He has bet a significant share of the fortune he built off his equity stake in Uber that the gospel of mobile voting will spread so fast that most Americans will have the option of casting their ballots for president by phone as soon as 2028.

He has already persuaded the state of West Virginia and the City of Denver to start tinkering with voting by phone, and hopes to move quickly from there.

“What we learned at Uber is once the genie is out of the bottle, it can’t be put it back in,” said Tusk, a venture capitalist who managed former New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s reelection campaign before bouncing to Silicon Valley. In the tech world, he invests in startups that face political and regulatory hurdles, then helps knock those hurdles down by galvanizing the public’s appetite for game-changing innovations.

Tusk is certain participation in elections would surge if the technology were widely permitted, even though studies in some of the few places around the world that have tried the method revealed no big turnout boost. Although turnout for the 2018 midterm election was the highest in more than a century, it still brought out only about half of eligible Americans. And while turnout has gone up for presidential contests, it has dropped sharply for many state and local elections around the country.

The entrepreneur frames the fight as one pitting reformers against special interests invested in a low turnout that makes lawmakers unaccountable and easy to corrupt. He talks of the security concerns as if they are a sideshow. Sure, the scholars raising them are earnest, he said, but their approach to the challenge bewilders him. He likens them to people whose only solution to making a swimming pool safer is to fill it with concrete.

He and the executives at Boston-based Voatz, the company he is working with, say the way to make the technology more secure is to improve it through more pilot programs.

“Magic beans,” responds Josh Benaloh, a senior cryptographer at Microsoft, accusing backers who make claims for secure voting technology of peddling something that doesn’t exist. Benaloh sits on the National Academies committee that has warned against the technology.

This is a personal crusade for Tusk. He has refrained, he said, from investing in any of the start-up firms he recruits. His motivation comes from the dismay he developed over what he saw in politics, most notably when he was deputy governor in Illinois under Rod R. Blagojevich, who is serving 14 years in federal prison for corruption. Tusk detailed his disgust in a book he wrote in 2018 titled “The Fixer: My Adventures Saving Startups from Death by Politics.”

“I don’t see a world where the country can survive long term without something that fixes the dysfunction,” Tusk said. “Maybe this is that something.”

He’s meeting with election officials all over the country, offering to pay for pilot mobile voting programs out of his own pocket, as he did in West Virginia and Denver. Tusk is aiming to get 25 such pilots launched over the next few years, spending as much as $50 million. He is optimistic that a couple of states will work with him to allow voting by phone in the 2020 presidential primaries.

So far the pilot programs have been small. West Virginia used the Voatz app to offer mobile voting as an option to military personnel serving abroad in both the primary and general election in 2018. There were 144 votes cast in the state using it. Denver officials offered it as an option to several dozen voters in municipal elections in May. Tusk is confident that states that start dabbling in it will scale up quickly, and make the tech universally available in just a few election cycles.

“The technology can be perfected, but people have to look at this,” said Mike Queen, deputy chief of staff to West Virginia’s secretary of state. At a national gathering of secretaries of state this month in Santa Fe, West Virginia will be urging other states to launch their own pilot programs.

That prospect alarms some of the nation’s most prominent election-security thinkers, who see in Tusk a formidable adversary with an intimidating public relations tool kit. They say he and other promoters for the projects are misleading election officials about how secure the systems are.

“There is wide agreement among computer security experts that this is problematic,” said David Dill, a professor emeritus in computer science at Stanford. “It disturbs me that officials are getting enthusiastic about this voting technology without talking to the people who have the expertise to evaluate its security.”

The National Academies report warns that the risks of this and other forms of internet voting are “more significant than the benefits.”

“Secure Internet voting will likely not be feasible in the near future,” the report said.

The report specifically disputes claims by firms like Voatz that say their system is secure because it sends votes over a blockchain. The technology leverages a network of potentially thousands of independent computers with their own security systems, aiming to diffuse risk. Promoters of such voting say hackers could not alter an election without penetrating thousands of independent security systems.

That argument is in dispute.

“Anybody who is promoting blockchain voting either doesn’t understand blockchains, doesn’t understand voting, or is being dishonest,” said Benaloh, the Microsoft cryptographer. He was speaking at a panel earlier last month at Columbia University that also included West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner.

Cryptographers tick off a list of reasons blockchain technology used for such things as trading Bitcoin won’t work for protecting American election systems, which foreign agents already see as ripe for attack. The cryptographers warn that the app could be breached and stealthily redesigned to rig votes, that malware spread onto voters’ phones could make the system go haywire, that blockchains themselves introduce new security vulnerabilities.

Spreading voting out over the internet, computer experts at America’s most prominent research universities caution, also makes it impossible to create a reliable backup paper trail that election officials can use to audit results.

Blockchains “don’t solve any of the problems,” Benaloh said. “They actually introduce new ones, and make things worse.”

Voatz is refusing to open up its code to unaffiliated programmers and cryptographers like Benaloh and Dill for stress testing of vulnerabilities, citing trade secrets. But its chief executive, Nimit Sawhney, bristles at their critiques, saying they reflect “a misunderstanding of how we use the blockchain.”

The stakes are high. The lead investor behind Voatz is the venture arm of, which states its mission is to “change the world by advancing blockchain technology.”

West Virginia officials say they are taking it slowly. They have no plans right now to expand beyond overseas military personnel, saying those are voters who could otherwise be disenfranchised, and that the state’s audit showed the Voatz technology was effective in enabling them to vote securely.

But Tusk believes the technology will spread quickly.

“Once we prove this is a thing that works and people can do it, I think there will be real demand for it,” he said.

And he has learned well how to inject the pitch into popular discussion.

Recently, the idea of voting by phone emerged as a subplot on the popular Showtime drama “Billions.” The plot twist came after Tusk had dinner with one of the show’s creators. In the show, security concerns scarcely register as a legitimate barrier. The foil is a corrupt Washington politician motivated by anything but the public good.

What did Tusk think of the way the show framed his battle?

“It was great,” he said.



Desperate Dems Trying to revive Watergate
Destroying Trump is the only policy they care about

At this point, the vast majority of Americans are sick and tired of rehashing the news from 2016. Well, Democrats — the “progressives” always yammering about being on “the right side of history” — are about to ensure that we rehash the news of 1972.

In hearings set for Monday, June 10, House Democrats plan to make quite the spectacle of beginning to review Robert Mueller’s report by calling as their first witness John Dean, the former White House counsel … to President Richard Nixon. As National Review notes, “Dean served as the star witness in the Watergate impeachment trial and ultimately pled guilty to obstruction of justice in 1973.”

Why are Democrats pulling what appears to be a totally irrelevant stunt? Because they clearly want to draw parallels between the drive to impeach President Donald Trump and the scandal that eventually forced Nixon’s resignation. “This is Trump’s Watergate,” they tell us. Dean himself called the Mueller report “more damning” than anything produced by the Senate in the ‘70s on Nixon, and he insisted regarding Trump’s actions that “this is clear obstruction.”

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler declared, “While the White House continues to cover up and stonewall, and to prevent the American people from knowing the truth, we will continue to move forward with our investigation.”

The truth is, what Democrats in concert with Barack Obama’s “Justice” Department did with the fake dossier is much more significant and a much greater assault on freedom and free elections than anything Nixon ever did.

Even The Washington Post’s Watergate-era liberal, Bob Woodward, has called for an investigation into the FBI and CIA’s reliance on the Christopher Steele dossier. “I think it was the CIA pushing this,” he said. “Real intelligence experts looked at this and said, 'No, this is not intelligence; this is garbage,’ and they took it out. … The idea that they would include something like that in one of the great stellar intelligence assessments, as Mueller also found out, is highly questionable.”

Nevertheless, Mueller may be done, but the Democrats’ MAGA obstruction continues and will continue through at least November 2020.



Did Votes By Noncitizens Cost Trump The 2016 Popular Vote? Sure Looks That Way

This article from 2017 deserves a re-run.  Very little has been done about the problems it raises

Election 2016: Late in 2016, we created a stir by suggesting that Donald Trump was likely right when he claimed that millions of noncitizens had illegally voted in the U.S. election. Now, a study by a New Jersey think tank provides new evidence that that's what happened.

Last November, just weeks after his Electoral College win that gave him the presidency, then President-elect Donald Trump tweeted, "In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally."

The reaction was angry and swift, with the left accusing him of being an "internet troll" and of hatching a "Twitter-born conspiracy theory."

At the time, we noted that a group called True The Vote, an online anti-voter-fraud website, had claimed that illegals had cast three million votes last year. The media and left-wing groups immediately portrayed True The Vote as a fringe group with little credibility.

The only problem is, a study in 2014 in the online Electoral Studies Journal made a quite similar claim: In the 2008 and 2010 elections, they said, as many as 2.8 million illegal noncitizen votes were cast, "enough to change meaningful election outcomes including Electoral College votes and congressional elections," said the study, authored by Jesse T. Richman and Gushan A. Chattha, both of Old Dominion University, and David C. Earnest of George Mason University.

The bombshell was this: "Noncitizen votes likely gave Senate Democrats the pivotal 60th vote needed to overcome filibusters in order to pass health care reform and other Obama administration priorities in the 111th Congress."

It got little coverage in the mainstream media, and what coverage it did get was almost entirely dismissive.

Now comes a new study by Just Facts, a libertarian/conservative think tank, that used data from a large Harvard/You.Gov study that every two years samples tens of thousands of voters, including some who admit they are noncitizens and thus can't vote legally.

The findings are eye-opening. In 2008, as many as 5.7 million noncitizens voted in the election. In 2012, as many as 3.6 million voted, the study said.

In 2016, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that there were 21.0 million adult noncitizens in the U.S., up from 19.4 million in 2008. It is therefore highly likely that millions of noncitizens cast votes in 2016.

And it was no accident. Democrats had extensive get-out-the-vote campaigns in areas heavily populated by illegal aliens. As far back as 2008, Obama made sure that those who wanted to vote knew it was safe, announcing that election records would not be cross-checked with immigration databases.

And last year, the Obama White House supported a court injunction that kept Kansas, Alabama and Georgia from requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote. The message was sent, loud and clear: If you're a noncitizen or here illegally, don't be afraid. You're free to vote. No one will stop you.

We don't know the exact number of illegal votes. No one does. But the data that are available suggest that the number of illegal votes was substantial — probably in the millions, as Trump said — and likely had a significant impact on the election's outcome.



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)