Friday, October 25, 2019

Elizabeth Warren needs some serious policy repairs

On an issue as significant as health care, vague assurances aren’t enough

Elizabeth Warren didn’t spend long leading the Democratic presidential race before being forced to pull in for a policy pit stop. The serious problem that needs attention: Her adopted health care plan. That is, the single-payer scheme that Democratic socialist Bernie Sanders has offered up.

For Warren, the policy issue right now is, how do you pay for a plan credibly estimated to cost $34 trillion over 10 years? As Sanders himself has acknowledged, that’s exceedingly difficult to do without hitting some members of the middle class with higher taxes.

Warren has tried to steer around that blazing hazard by saying that she won’t sign into law a government-run health care plan that doesn’t lower overall costs for middle class families. That’s another way of saying, yes, your federal taxes may go up, but because you will no longer pay insurance premiums or out-of-pocket health-care expenses, your total costs will be lower.

But on something this significant, vague assurances aren’t enough. So why doesn’t the woman with the plenitude of plans already have a financing framework? Because it’s hard to develop one that doesn’t put an “I’ll-tax-the-middle-class” bullseye on her back.

That’s hardly the only problem with single-payer, or “Medicare for All,” by its folksier name. Another: Voters’ natural preference to choose for themselves rather than be forced off their private insurance and into a government-dictated plan. Running on the latter approach is akin to dressing up as a piñata — and handing the GOP a general election club.

“The Republicans will run ads warning the voters that the Democrats are going to take away their health insurance,” says Phil Johnston, former New England regional administrator of Health and Human Services and a fervent Warren supporter. “We have seen that movie before.”

Johnston is talking about the insurance-industry-funded attack on the health care plan Hillary Clinton designed back during husband Bill’s first term; the Clintons’ effort eventually foundered. We also saw the damage Democrats suffered with President Obama’s assurance that “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it,” which didn’t prove to be true for those whose plans failed to meet the Affordable Care Act’s minimum standards.

Political optimists expect voters to sort through the health care financing debate and conclude single-payer will be a better deal overall. Hmm. Remember the poll from 2017 showing that, almost seven years after it became law, 35 percent of Americans didn’t realize Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act were the same thing?

Which is to say, health care policy and politics are complex, and many voters don’t do complexity well.

Now consider some Kaiser Family Foundation polling. Adding a Medicare-like public option for the Affordable Care Act is supported by three-quarters of Americans. Medicare for All earns a bare majority of 51 percent — and when people learn it would mean eliminating private insurance, 58 percent then say they would oppose such a plan.

There’s another poorly understood policy matter lurking here. In arguing that single-payer would allow the United States to reduce its health care spending to a European-like percentage of gross domestic product, its advocates are assuming the government would compel doctors and hospitals to accept payments significantly lower than they would otherwise get.

Problem: The prices private insurers pay in effect cross-subsidize Medicare (and Medicaid), whose rates are at least 10 percent lower than provider costs. Using Medicare rates would push some marginal hospitals into financial jeopardy.

And put a squeeze on physicians’ income. No one will weep for highly paid specialists, but primary care physicians aren’t making a killing. Expect single-payer to incur fierce opposition from those who went into serious debt to earn a medical degree.

“Nobody is more lefty than I am, but I think a public option should be the Democrats’ position,” says Johnston. Another highly credentialed lefty, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, is essentially arguing the same thing.



Acting OMB Director Russ Vought: Trump keeps promise to tame bureaucracy that runs roughshod over Americans

White House Budget Office acting director Russ Vought breaks down President Trump's spending plan

When President Trump took office in 2017, he promised the American people that he would clean up Washington’s regulatory overreach. He pledged to make government accountable to the people. And he has made good on his promises by driving the largest deregulation effort since President Reagan took office over 30 years ago.

This has supported an unprecedented economic comeback—with over 6.4 million jobs created since President Trump’s election, the lowest unemployment rate in half of a century, and nearly 2.5 million people raising themselves out of poverty since 2016.

This week, the president will build on his success by signing two Executive Orders that will level the playing field for American families and small businesses and shine a light on the Federal bureaucracy that runs roughshod over American citizens.

President Trump’s “Transparency and Fairness” Executive Order protects Americans against secret or unlawful bureaucratic interpretations of rules and guards against unfair or unexpected penalties for non-compliance. American families and entrepreneurs are not the enemy, and it is long past time D.C. stopped treating them as such.

Take this example: After one family started construction on a home in a subdivision in Idaho, the Environmental Protection Agency declared their property a federally protected wetland. The government ordered the family to restore the land or face a daily fine of up to $75,000. The family’s request for a hearing was rejected and the agency claimed its order could not even be challenged in court.

They were denied due process and threatened with fines of millions of dollars. This is not only un-American; it just does not make sense. American families and small businesses should not need law degrees to live their daily lives. They should be afforded the opportunity to understand and comply with a rule, and to have their side of the story considered by the agency, not get hauled into court with a costly surprise lawsuit.

Americans should expect that government of, by, and for the people will respect those very same people. This administration is committed to making government agencies transparent and accountable to the taxpayers. It is not only the right thing to do—it is a big boost to the economy, too.

President Trump’s “Bringing Guidance out of the Darkness” Executive Order stops agencies from skirting the laws that let the American public provide input on government rules that can limit their freedom. Too many agencies have found it easier to impose costly and excessive mandates through informal interpretations buried on their websites instead of going through the regular public review process Congress requires for agency rules.

Put simply, large government agencies often allow political agendas to improperly influence their interpretation of the law and how it applies to you. Worse still, they deny you a seat at the table when they do it.

These “guidance” documents and materials bypass the basic rights of Americans to have input into rules that impact their livelihoods. Rogue agencies have for too long used innocuous-sounding “guidance documents” to curtail the freedoms of American farmers, homeowners, and small businesses, to name only a few impacted groups.

In 2015, for example, the Department of Labor issued a blog post that reclassified many independent contractors as employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

This so-called guidance created confusion, raised costs, and drastically multiplied legal liability for businesses. But the agency did not give businesses or the independent contractors with whom they work the opportunity to provide comment. The agency forced them to comply or face serious reprisal. Thankfully, this ill-conceived guidance was rescinded by the Trump Administration in June 2017.

The Trump administration wants to prevent such abuses of authority from happening again. Americans should expect that government of, by, and for the people will respect those very same people. This administration is committed to making government agencies transparent and accountable to the taxpayers. It is not only the right thing to do—it is a big boost to the economy, too.

Deregulation has real-dollar consequences for American families. Government-wide regulatory reform actions will save the average American household $3,100 in coming years. And benefits are already being felt across the economy—the Trump administration reduced regulatory costs by $33 billion in its first two years alone. In stark contrast, the Obama-Biden administration *increased* regulatory costs by more than $245 billion during its first two years.

This is money that entrepreneurs and small businesses can use to create jobs, raise wages, and invest in important capital improvements. It is money that families can use on their priorities, whether that is buying a first home or saving for their children’s education.

Thanks to President Trump’s vision and leadership, this administration has been laser-focused on rolling back the abuses and high cost of the regulatory deep state.

From his first week in office, President Trump challenged the government to roll back two old regulations for every new one. In Fiscal Year 2017, we far surpassed his goal and rolled back 22 regulations for every new one. In FY 2018, we rolled back 12 rules for every new rule.

The impact of these two new Executive Orders will massively multiply the work President Trump has already done to drain the D.C. swamp.

President Trump is not only returning control over the government to the people and state and local governments, he is revitalizing the economy so Americans from all walks of life, and from every state, have the opportunity to prosper. He is making the federal government work for Americans again.




IRAQ REBUFFS: Iraq says U.S. forces withdrawing from Syria have no approval to stay (Reuters)

TRUDEAU'S POTPOURRI: Canada's Justin Trudeau wins second term but loses majority (Associated Press)

NETANYAHU YIELDS: Israel's long-standing Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has said he cannot form a government, handing the opportunity to his political rival (BBC News)

DOUBLE STANDARDS: Democrat congresswoman allegedly has affair with young female staffer. Media completely ignores. (The Daily Wire)

HIGH-COURT SHOWDOWN: Manhattan DA, Trump lawyers strike deal to speed fight over Trump tax returns to Supreme Court (NBC News)

PARKLAND SHOOTING FALLOUT: Florida Senate committee upholds Sheriff Scott Israel suspension (The Daily Caller)

POLICY: Why LBJ's Great Society gets a failing grade in improving education (The Daily Signal)

POLICY: A tuition-free, purpose-driven, coat-and-tie trade school (American Enterprise Institute)

MIDDLE EAST PUZZLEMENT: The Associated Press reports that "Defense Secretary Mark Esper says he is discussing an option that would keep a small residual U.S. military force in northeast Syria." Furthermore, "While Trump has insisted he's bringing home Americans from 'endless wars' in the Mideast, Esper said all U.S. troops leaving Syria will go to western Iraq."

HILLARY'S MALFEASANCE: State Department concludes Clinton email review, says it found nearly 600 security violations (The Daily Wire)

ILLEGAL-IMMIGRANT PROSECUTIONS: Record 110,000 illegal border crossers and smugglers prosecuted in 2019 fiscal year (Washington Examiner)

BOEING'S IMBROGLIO WORSENS: FAA asks Boeing why it hid test pilot's discovery of "egregious" 737 Max issues (USA Today)

WICKED BEDFELLOWS: "Russia and Turkey have agreed to ensure Kurdish forces withdraw from areas close to Syria's border with Turkey and to launch joint patrols, in a deal hailed as 'historic' by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan." (Agence France-Presse)

COLLUSION DELUSION: "Do-nothing Congress": Pelosi, Democrats produce more subpoenas than laws (The Washington Times)

NINTH CIRCUS: Ninth Circuit upholds block on birth-control exemption for religious employers (National Review)

NURTURING COMPETITION: Senate Republican Josh Hawley introduces bipartisan bill empowering users to withdraw their data from social-media giants (National Review)

MEANWHILE... For the first time, there are fewer wealthy Americans than Chinese (CBS News)

HOT AIR: California governor who wanted higher gas prices wants investigation of high gas prices (Associated Press)

CONCESSION: "The Hong Kong government on Wednesday withdrew the controversial extradition bill that sparked months of violent protests, but that is only one of the five demands that continue to drive protesters to the streets." (Fox News)


AOC on the Turkey problem


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  (Personal).  My annual picture page is here


Thursday, October 24, 2019

The Principles of Conservatism

The Heritage Foundation has issued what it sees as the principles of American conservatism today.  Below is their list of 14  points:

The federal government exists to preserve life, liberty and property, and it is instituted to protect the rights of individuals according to natural law. Among these rights are the sanctity of life; the freedom of speech, religion, the press, and assembly; the right to bear arms; the right of individuals to be treated equally and justly under the law; and to enjoy the fruits of ones labor.

The federal government’s powers are limited to those named in the Constitution and should be exercised solely to protect the rights of its citizens. As Thomas Jefferson said, “The government closest to the people serves the people best.” Powers not delegated to the federal government, nor prohibited by the Constitution, are reserved to the states or to the people.

Judges should interpret and apply our laws and the Constitution based on their original meaning, not upon judges’ personal and political predispositions.

Individuals and families—not government—make the best decisions regarding their and their children’s health, education, jobs, and welfare.

The family is the essential foundation of civil society, and traditional marriage serves as the cornerstone of the family.
The federal deficit and debt must not place unreasonable financial burdens on future generations.

Tax policies should raise only the minimum revenue necessary to fund constitutionally appropriate functions of government.
America’s economy and the prosperity of individual citizens are best served by a system of free enterprise, with special emphasis on economic freedom, private property rights, and the rule of law. This system is best sustained by policies promoting free trade and deregulation, and opposing government interventions in the economy that distort markets and impair innovation.

Regulations must not breach constitutional principles of limited government and the separation of powers.

America must be a welcoming nation—one that promotes patriotic assimilation and is governed by laws that are fair, humane, and enforced to protect its citizens.

Justice requires an efficient, fair, and effective criminal justice system—one that gives defendants adequate due process and requires an appropriate degree of criminal intent to merit punishment.

International agreements and international organizations should not infringe on American’s constitutional rights, nor should they diminish American sovereignty.

America is strongest when our policies protect our national interests, preserve our alliances of free peoples, vigorously counter threats to our security, and advance prosperity through economic freedom at home and abroad.

The best way to ensure peace is through a strong national defense.


It seems a fair list but it should be acknowledged that it is an expression of conservatism in a particular time and place.

The idea that one's country MUST welcome immigrants would certainly not get universal assent among conservatives.  Conservatives in Britain and Europe quite commonly claim that their country is "full up".

And conservatives outside America have some ideas that would not be much reflected in America.  British conservatives, for instance, see an important constitutional role for the monarchy, a view with only eccentric support in America.

And conservatives of the fairly recent past saw the gold standard as the proper basis of the currency -- also a view having only eccentric support today.

So rather than the label "principles", it would be more accurate to describe the list above as "current expressions" of conservatism.  Conservatisn is a cautious psychological disposition, not an ideology


Why the Right Fails to Change Culture

Larry Schweikart Gets it:

No one in conservative circles denies we are getting crushed in the culture wars. Yes, key conservatives have been banned from major social media. Yes, Facebook, Twitter, Google are biased. But the broader question should be, “Why were conservatives relegated to predominantly social media in the first place?” Why are there virtually no conservative television shows? Why is Fox (other than One America News Network—which has trouble getting in major delivery packages) the only “conservative” news network, and even then, one whose “conservatism” is fading rapidly? Why are there no conservative graphic novels?

Of course, Andrew Breitbart was the John the Baptist of this element of our culture. The creation of (at first) Drudge Report, then later Breitbart News, was essential to broadening a conservative alternative. But it wasn’t nearly sufficient.

So what has been the problem? Since A Patriot’s History of the United States came in 2004, I have been working to move that story into video form, which brought me into contact with Andrew, then, through Andrew, to a host of other Hollywood Conservatives. Yes, there are quite a few. One well-known actor told me, “When you go on a production site, at lunch time all the trucks where the stage construction workers and set designers are having lunch have Rush Limbaugh on. But if the director comes by, they turn it down.” Another director told me of a conversation two of his producer friends had with an Amazon Prime executive as they pitched their children’s show. “We don’t take material from white males,” they were instructed. “The era of Aryan supremacy is dead.” Realize these two men had several successes in the field already, and possessed a track record of profits.

Without turning into a “poor me” sob story, I can only report from my own efforts. I think however, they are quite representative of the experiences of others.

When I first began taking the idea of turning Patriot’s History into video form to conservative organizations in 2005, I thought the rationale was obvious. Video was the future for young people, who have essentially stopped reading. Virtually all new learning is occurring on phones and digital devices, not from books. My own theory was that younger people could be hooked on a short video (under four minutes), but that anything longer would, at least initially, turn them off. However, if captivated by a short video, kids will watch a longer (15 minute) video, and if that satisfies then, they will log into one hour videos or longer.

Prager U. caught onto the first part of my formula relatively quickly. Their four-minute videos are masterpieces of hard-hitting, well-scripted commentary with a minimum of production added. Prager’s reach is immense. I have done two videos for Prager U. (“America’s Socialist Origins” and “Religious Toleration”) and each has had over a million views. Bigger name personalities than I, such as Ben Shapiro, can draw over five times that many views.

Prager’s work is incredible and provides key issue discussions for the “skulls full of mush” who are today’s youth. It does suffer, however, from two weaknesses. First, because the videos draw from diverse conservative voices who in general support each other’s fundamental assumptions, the gaps between each are enormous and the small differences between, say, a monetarist and an Art Laffer Trump supporter can be confusing to the point of fraying all commonalities. This is why college classes are usually taught by one professor, and why team teaching tends to break down without rigid control.

The other weakness of Prager U. videos is that they are, by design, focused on a niche market, namely those people interested in short takes on a particular issue. Again, without minimizing in the least the tremendous value of addressing this niche market, it does not take the place of thousands of hours of more subtle brainwashing on the part of what passes for “entertainment.” And it’s not just movies and television, but music and graphic novels as well.

Indeed, I would argue that the single most cost-efficient vehicle for conservatives is graphic novels, because for a couple of hundred thousand dollars, one can fund the storyboard for a movie. Everything from “Watchmen” to “300" came from graphic novels, because they present a visual story for a producer and director -- and they have become easy sources for movies. By financing three to four solid (and popular) graphic novels, conservative money-men would be financing the next generation of film as well.

But beyond that, conservatives must fight their way back into Hollywood. This is where the real struggle begins. As I began my “tour” of conservative think tanks, I was asking for what (in Hollywood terms) was a catering budget—about $450,000 per episode to make a six-hour series based on A Patriot’s History. The intent was to have the impact of Milton Friedman’s “Free to Choose” series from the 1970s—but with history instead of economics—but with a newer, higher production level product that would be similar to the “Sons of Liberty” or “John Adams,” both of which were considered successes. I had enlisted solid Hollywood talent, from a director who had worked with Tom Selleck and Jon Voight, to the top cameramen in the industry, to casting editors. All were willing to work below scale to meet the budget. Grammy winning Christian artist Michael W. Smith had agreed to provide what turned out to be a powerful and moving score.

I was not surprised at the first response from Heritage Foundation, which was simply, “We don’t do videos.” This pretty much ended all discussion. “What do you fund?” I asked. “We fund panel discussions, speakers, white papers.” “Do you realize,” I countered, “that none of those will reach youths, let alone significantly influence them?” I received a blank stare. Finally, the person I spoke with said again, “Well, we just don’t do videos.” Going in, I had expected that we would not meet with success immediately, but that at last one of the conservative organizations would understand that the print medium and speakers’ series were leaving them behind.

Was I wrong.

Over the next several years, I met with virtually all of the conservative organizations and think tanks. Almost to a word, they repeated the “We-don’t-do-video” response I got at Heritage. By the time I had made the rounds (over several years), I learned that Heritage had in fact started a web-based side that included video, but it still was far from the “John Adams” level of impacting youth. My final, most depressing, meeting, was with the head of student outreach for the Koch Brothers foundation. Once again, I laid out the numbers, the challenge, and our approach. Once again, I heard, “Koch doesn’t do videos.” Again I asked what they did. “Well we are trying to start chapters on every university to bring in speakers like Ann Coulter and Ben Shapiro.” “OK,” I replied, “have you watched the news in the past two years? Do you realize that many colleges already won’t even let them speak, or demand such outrageous security deposits that they are effectively banned? Do you know that a Christian college, Grand Canyon College in Phoenix, cancelled Shapiro because of complaints by leftists?” (Later they reversed course on this and he appeared). In exasperation, I asked, “Do you realize that in five years you may not be able to book a conservative on any major campus?” His answer shocked me. “I think you’re right.”

“SO?” I thought I had won.

“We just talked about this at a board meeting,” he said, almost sighing in resignation. “We don’t do videos.”

My little experiences are nothing compared to those in Hollywood who are conservative directors and producers, some of them B-list, some A-list. One acquaintance had five different film projects fail to get sufficient investment to make, all in a period of a few years. He is more or less out of the industry now. In 2016, Clint Eastwood and Tom Hanks—an Academy Award winning director and one of the most bankable stars in the business—told a Sundance audience that “Sully” was turned down by every studio until Ratpack Dune (with Trump’s Treasury Secretary Steven Mnunchin) finally funded it. “Sully” was hardly a “conservative” movie. It’s main values were cooperation, heroism, and humility.

So what’s the problem? One of the biggest problems is that “our” monied men see the world in vastly different terms than those on the left with money. Lefitsts are willing to hurl money into project after project, hoping for a profit, but understanding that even if their films don’t make a penny, sooner or later kids watch them. There were no fewer than five anti-Iraq war movies that failed to recover their budgets (in real terms, after accounting for advertising). Yet they kept coming out. In the space of five years, we have had an ongoing series (“Madame Secretary”) offering a Hillary stand-in; had a series slamming Fox’s Roger Ailes; had “The Circus” on the 2016 campaign featuring anti-Trump zealots as “journalists”; “The Post,” where heroic reporters battle Richard Nixon; and had a movie on a villainous Dick Cheney. Yet it is something of a myth that conservative movies don’t sell: “Darkest Hour” grossed $150 million worldwide on a $30 million budget; a badly flawed “Dunkirk” still managed three Academy Awards and a worldwide gross of $526 million, and “Chernobyl,” the 2019 miniseries, was widely praised despite its clear damning depiction of communism.

While a few of these manage to poke through the rock-hard leftist surface, most simply aren’t made. Consider the fact that not one major film depicting the life and/or challenges of Ronald Reagan has been made. A picture about Ronald Reagan, with Dennis Quaid attached to play Reagan, has languished for over a year. Pretty soon, Quaid will be too old to play the Gipper. At least one other Reagan script, somewhat more imaginary—but positive nonetheless—has yet to gain financial traction. Reagan’s life in Hollywood alone would make terrific storytelling, from the threats to have acid thrown in his face for his role as head of SAG to his epic battles with the communists inside the Screen Actor’s Guild (which he won). But from the filmmakers and financiers in Hollywood? Crickets.

It is time our side gets it. Easy for me to say—I’m not a billionaire. But until a number of people of substance make up their minds that no matter what the cost, we need to take back the culture, they will continue to fight delaying actions at the ballot box.



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  (Personal).  My annual picture page is here


Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Rand Paul Makes The Case Against Socialism

As self-proclaimed “democratic socialists” continue to rant and rave against capitalism, the need for principled, liberty-minded leaders is more imperative now than ever. Rather than being assailed from without by communist foreign powers, American liberalism — defined by its belief in the power of personal liberty and economic freedom – is being infiltrated from within.

Fortunately, the battle for the soul of America is not yet lost. Though few and far between, there still remain dedicated men and women willing to wade into the intellectual fog-of-war that is American politics and stand resolutely for those our nation’s founding principles. Chief among these champions for liberty is Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

In his latest book, “The Case Against Socialism,” Paul — in typical fashion — refuses to pull any punches. Rather than kowtow to the prevailing winds of revisionism seeking to paint world history in broad, red strokes, Paul directly challenges proponents of new-wave socialism like Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). What’s more, he unabashedly demolishes the Oliver Stone-esque perception that socialism “really isn’t that bad.”

Before even concluding the introduction, Paul jumps straight to the heart of the matter, informing the reader that “[t]his is the story of an evil well documented and yet somehow still enticing … of socialism in all its drab and dreary machinelike destruction of individual thought, creativity, and ambition.” He continues, “This is the story of socialism in all its violence, bloodshed, and tyranny. It is a cautionary tale of how America has so far eluded the siren call of something for nothing … but also of how close we still are to succumbing to socialism.”

To begin his unvarnished look into the history of socialism, Paul wastes no time in attacking the misinformed “Hollywood socialists” who praise the likes of Hugo Chavez, Nicolás Maduro, and Fidel Castro. He reminds us that, not very long ago, important American figures like Noam Chomsky and then-Representative Bernie Sanders praised the election of Hugo Chavez, pointing to poverty statistics as evidence of socialism’s virtue.

Yet, as history has consistently proven time and time again, the fruits of socialism quickly give way to oppressive violence, food shortages, and utter devastation. Contrary to what “democratic” socialists in Congress might have you believe, in the words of Venezuelan professor Daniel Lahoud; “I have known the reality of the failure of socialism in my own flesh. And as I live in Venezuela, I want to show that this is an absolute failure always and everywhere.”

Simply pointing out the failures of despotic socialist regimes is not sufficient for Paul to fully discredit socialism. For this, he addresses the common misconception of Scandinavian socialism. Countries like Denmark, Sweden, and Norway are often used as props that American socialists can point to as evidence of socialism’s success. Unfortunately for them, this assertion falls flat once it gets beyond a sound bite. So strong is this misconception that the Prime Minister of Denmark reprimanded Sanders “and asked him to stop insulting his country as ‘socialist.’”

According to Paul, the apparent successes of Scandinavian socialism are leftover byproducts from pre-socialist policies. For example, longitudinal analysis of Sweden’s economic development shows consistently strong growth from the 1870s until the rise of socialism in Sweden in the 1970s.

Since then, Sweden has seen massive increases in government spending as a percentage of GDP that correlates with a faltering economy as a direct result of socialist policies. In deriding the left’s obsession with Scandinavia, Paul correctly points out that Scandinavian countries have been moving further away from socialism as they have begun to feel the long term effects of such policies.

Socialism is a scourge on the human condition. Time and time again, elites and intellectuals have sought to remold society only to fail miserably. What’s more, the centralized planning of men like Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot resulted in some of the worst atrocities in human history. Yet, democratic socialists in Congress continue to believe that things will be different this time. This time socialism will work. Such a belief is not only foolhardy and ill-informed but downright dangerous. To make matters worse, this notion is once again being promoted from the ivory tower by political elites and intellectuals, not everyday Americans.

In an essay published in 1967, “The Intellectuals and Socialism,” Friedrich Hayek tackled a similar rise of socialist intellectualism in the United States; pointing out that the move towards socialism has always started with the elites and intellectuals. At the conclusion of this essay, Hayek cuts to the heart of the issue:

“We must make the building of a free society once more an intellectual adventure, a deed of courage … We need intellectual leaders who are willing to work for an ideal, however small may be the prospects of its early realization. They must be men who are willing to stick to principles and to fight for their full realization, however remote.”

The case against socialism is simple; it has never worked and it never will work. No amount of flowery campaign speeches or enraged table-thumping will change this. For this reason, it is important that, in such a divisive time as this, we support those “who are willing to work for an ideal … [those] who are willing to stick to principles,” which are, the principles of liberty. It is just as important that we support those who are willing to stick up for the truth of history against the revisionism of political elites. Paul is each of these things, and I am proud to consider him such a strong ally in the battle against socialism.



How Trump’s New Executive Orders Protect the Public Against the Administrative State

Washington may be burning with talk of impeachment, but President Donald Trump is not fiddling.

He’s continuing to deliver valuable results on regulatory reform. On Oct. 9, he issued two executive orders (here and here) that protect the public—the people, their employers, and their communities—against unknown agency interpretations of the law that could cost them their money or their jobs, or that could land them in prison.

These new orders go beyond deregulation and cutting red tape. They help to secure individual liberty through the advancement of timeless, nonpartisan principles, such as fair notice, due process, transparency, accountability, and rigorous, analytical decision-making.

The orders are a win-win—a win for good government and a win for the American people.

The goal of the orders is to fix the regulatory process by returning it to its original design. The president isn’t burning down the house; he’s restoring it.

The orders start with a discussion of constitutional principles and the 73-year-old statute designed to protect them during the regulatory process (the Administrative Procedure Act).

The orders then note that agencies have at times circumvented those principles, with the results that the public doesn’t always receive the notice it needs, the opportunity to participate that it deserves, and the complete analysis (including an assessment of benefits, costs, and alternatives, including non-regulatory ones) that it wants.

People of good will across the philosophical or political spectrum agree on the problem and much of the solution. See, for example, recommendations from the Administrative Conference of the United States. The president’s new executive orders are important steps toward addressing this persistent problem.

One of those orders requires each agency to create a user-friendly database of all guidance documents that the agency has issued and intends to keep. All others must be rescinded.

The second order prohibits agencies from bringing enforcement actions against private parties for violating standards announced solely in guidance documents, not in acts of Congress or regulations issued through the Administrative Procedure Act notice-and-comment process.

Together, the two orders allow agencies to use guidance documents for their original purpose; namely, explaining what the agency does or thinks a law or regulation means—without putting the public at risk of being accused of violating a secret agency “law.”

What does that mean going forward? Significant new guidance will have to be proposed, not just issued. The public will have an opportunity to comment and object during that proposal period.

Agencies cannot issue “significant” guidance memoranda—generally, ones with economic effects of $100 million or more, ones that raise important legal or policy issues, or ones that create inconsistency with other government programs—until the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs within the White House’s Office of Management and Budget has the opportunity to review them.

The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs has long reviewed those memoranda under Executive Order 12866, but the new executive orders operate as a belt-and-suspenders measure to ensure that no significant guidance documents evade review.

They also give a private party an additional basis for challenging a government enforcement action due to an agency’s failure to comply with the new orders.

The orders complement other recent nonpartisan reforms. For example, they build on prior efforts to ensure that the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs can analyze rules (including guidance memoranda) to determine whether rules are “significant” for purposes of the Congressional Review Act.

They complement efforts to improve the quality of information used in regulatory decision-making and to incorporate the regulatory actions of the U.S. Treasury Department into the ordinary regulatory-review process at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

The Trump administration has successfully protected the public against regulatory overreach. According to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, the administration imposed, on net, zero new regulatory costs during its first two years.

The administration has met its two-for-one goals even by the very conservative standard of comparing significant regulatory actions with significant deregulatory actions.

Trump and Congress also nullified more than a dozen agency rules via the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to “fast track” the repeal of rules. Finally, at last count, the administration removed or delayed some 1,500 unnecessary new regulations that were in the pipeline. 

The president’s new executive orders are important additions to the substantive and procedural reforms already accomplished.

These actions aren’t about deregulation or cutting red tape, but are about reforming the regulatory process itself to make it fairer and more accountable to the people. These good government reforms are necessary, important, and worthy of celebration.



SCOTUS to Hear Case Challenging the Constitutionality of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Ever since it came into existence in 2011, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has been imperiled by its structure. Now, the Supreme Court is set to hear a case that challenges that structure and may force the agency to go out of business.

At issue is the unique independence of the head of the agency, who can only be removed  for “inefficiency, neglect of duty, or malfeasance in office.”

On the surface, this is a clear violation of the separation of powers. To constrain the executive's power arbitrarily was not something Congress can do.

The Trump administration has allowed the Justice Department to take the unusual position of arguing against a federal law -- something it rarely does.

Daily Caller:

“Vesting such power in a single person not answerable to the president represents a stark departure from the Constitution’s framework,” the Trump administration told the justices in  court filings.

In a short Friday order, the justices also asked the parties to address whether the contested removal provision can be severed from the rest of the Dodd-Frank law. That gives the justices a path to strike down the removal position without imperiling the landmark Dodd-Frank law.

The bureau may have stopped some predatory lending practices, but it has also put a stranglehold on credit availability for the middle class. Its mandate is "to regulate mortgage servicing, pay-day lending, and stop predatory scams."

The CFPB has severely damaged the payday lending industry, although many financial experts believe it should have been more tightly regulated in the first place. But the CFPB's rules have also negatively affected other lending institutions that service high-risk borrowers. There's such a thing as overkill and the CFPB does it regularly.

Since Trump became president, the Republicans have tried to roll back some of the more onerous rules. But until the agency is consigned to the dustbin of history, it will continue to micromanage the nation's financial institutions.

That's why this case could be a landmark decision that actually restrains the government.

The case now before the court involves a California law firm called Seila Law the bureau investigated for allegedly unscrupulous debt relief practices. In turn, the firm challenged the constitutionality of the bureau’s structure.
As a professor at Harvard Law School, [Sen. Elizabeth] Warren agitated for the creation of a consumer protection agency. Though former President Barack Obama tapped her to set up the agency following passage of Dodd-Frank, she was ultimately passed over for the directorship due to protracted opposition to her appointment in the Senate.

Like the CFPB, some federal agencies are chartered to operate with a degree of independence from the political branches. In the past, the Supreme Court has allowed independent multi-member panels like the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or investigatory independent counsels. The administration argues those precedents don’t apply here, however, because the CFPB director exercises executive power alone with no accountability to the president.

If there were a clearer example of government overreach, I haven't seen it. While it's likely that the provision in question will be struck down, how the agency as a whole fares is anyone's guess.



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  (Personal).  My annual picture page is here 


Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Image hosting blues

For years now there have been image hosting services that have  offered a convenient way of hosting images that you want to display on your blogs or other sites. I used Photobucket for a while, then Tinypic, then Imgur. Imgur was so convenient that it seems to have sent Tinypic out of business.  I used Tinypic mainly between 2006 and 2010.

As well as convenience, Imgur offered an explicit guarantee that an image hosted by them would remain there "forever".  Once posted there it would stay there. Given that for various reasons one could not always stay subscribed to the same ISP, that was particularly appealing.  One might chop and change the host for your blog, home page etc, but the availability of your images would remain unchanged.

But that has now come to an end,  Images hosted on both Tinypic and imgur are now no longer securely hosted,  In the case of Imgur, political correctness has raised its head. Images connected to forbidden topics are now de-hosted.  They are no longer where you put them.  So much for the offer of permanence. 

I must be one of the most incorrect people on the net.  I routinely put up scholarly comments about race, social class and IQ! That's three forbidden topics.  So it was to be expected that some of my pictures would vanish from where they were previously held. The social media generally are hostile to conservative content. And that now includes Imgur.

As long as you keep comprehensive backup files -- which I do -- there is no great drama in reposting deleted images elsewhere. It takes me only a couple of minutes per image to do so.  A rather objectionable feature of the current situation, however is that Imgur are not satisfied simply to dehost a picture but post instead of the deleted image a brightly colored and unpleasant-looking image whih presumably represents a troll.  It certainly motivates you to rehost your image pronto.

But here's the interesting thing: EVERY image ever hosted on Tinypic is now replaced by the same troll.  Imgur seems to have taken over what remains of Tinypic and proceeded to blow a raspberry at each and every one of Tinypic's former users. They seem to be penalizing anybody who once used Tinypic.  It is at least juvenile behaviour. Why they could not simply let Tinypic vanish into the night is a puzzle.


Hillary's Attacks on Tulsi Gabbard Appear to be Backfiring

Gabbard is a much more attractive personality than Clinton so it was always Gabbard who would be believed

Hillary Clinton's bizarre accusation that the Russians are "grooming" Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard for a third party run at the White House appears to be having the exact opposite effect she intended. “She’s the favorite of the Russians. They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far,” Clinton said on a recent podcast.

That comment has led to an outpouring of support for Gabbard and harsh criticism of Clinton. In fact, Gabbard, who is barely registering in polls, is now fundraising off of the comment.

The Hill:

"Hillary Clinton accused Tulsi Gabbard — a combat veteran, soldier and Major in the Army National Guard — of being 'groomed' to be a 'Russian asset,'" reads a fundraising email sent by Gabbard's campaign on Saturday. "Tulsi fights back and demands Hillary join the race and face her directly," it continues.

Gabbard in the email said Clinton "finally came out from behind the curtain yesterday, accusing me of being a Russian asset" while asking supporters to pitch in $25 to her campaign.

"If this a fight she wants to have, one that has implications for all of us and the future of our democracy, then I challenge her to come out from behind her proxies and powerful allies in the corporate media, and face me directly," Gabbard added.

Clinton didn't reply directly. Instead, she politely cancelled an appearance at "The Most Powerful Women" summit in Washington where Gabbard is scheduled to speak.


Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday backed out of  Fortune's Most Powerful Women Summit in Washington, D.C. because Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard and former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen are also scheduled to speak,  Fox News reported. Her team, however, said it was because of "scheduling conflicts."
I guess she prefers hiding behind her proxies.

All of this has led to a surprising turn of events. Tulsi Gabbard is rising in Iowa.


On Saturday, Gabbard found fans among the many Clinton skeptics across Iowa, where Clinton barely won the 2016 Democratic caucuses against Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
"What is this horrible thing that Hillary said about you?" one person asked Gabbard at a house party in West Branch.

Gabbard responded that "it revealed the truth that I have been experiencing for a long time now — which is that, because I have been trying to bring about an end to our country's long-held foreign policy of waging one regime-change war after the next . [sic] I am labeled as a traitor."

"This is a message that is being sent to every single American . [sic] who speaks out for peace," she said.

Donald Trump gleefully fanned the flames of Democratic discord by jumping into the fray with both feet.

"So now Crooked Hillary is at it again! She is calling Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard “a Russian favorite,” and Jill Stein “a Russian asset.” As you may have heard, I was called a big Russia lover also (actually, I do like Russian people. I like all people!). Hillary’s gone Crazy!"



Soak the rich with taxes and everyone will get clobbered

Not that long ago there was a broad political consensus that a fair and efficient tax system has a broad tax base and low tax rates. The grand bargain was no special interest loopholes and low tax rates to boost the economy and jobs. As recently as the 1980s, Democrats and Republicans joined together to pass a tax reform that lowered income tax rates to 28 percent, while eliminating deductions and carve outs. Nearly every Senate Democrat, including Ted Kennedy, Al Gore, Joe Biden, Bill Bradley, and Howard Metzenbaum, voted for this new system.

The tax reform worked. Economist Dale Jorgenson, then the chairman of the Harvard economics department, estimated that the net present value of the 1986 Tax Reform Act was well above $1 trillion to the economy because of lower tax rate penalties across the board. Politicians and the American voters had experienced the wreckage to the economy in the 1970s when tax rates stood as high as 70 percent.

The result was one of the worst decades for real middle class incomes since the Great Depression, skyrocketing unemployment, and a stock market that lost more than 60 percent of its value after inflation from 1968 to 1982. Working class Americans saw their retirement savings liquidated right before their eyes. High tax rates were not the only economic malady of that malaise decade, but they played a big part.

There was another practical reason for chopping tax rates down, as the rich found all sorts of clever and legal ways around paying those high tax rates. When the highest tax rate was between 70 percent and 90 percent, the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans paid less than 20 percent of the income tax burden. Today, with a tax rate of 37 percent, the rich pay almost 40 percent of the income tax burden. High tax rates failed to soak the rich because they sheltered their income from taxes.

After both the Kennedy and Reagan tax cuts, reported taxable income by those in the highest income tax bracket almost doubled in less than a decade. All of this recorded history has been lost among current liberal politicians and academics. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and many others are longing for a return to the era of punitive tax rates on the rich as a way to reduce income inequality. Economist Emmanuel Saez of the University of California argues we should go back to 70 percent tax rates since they worked so well the last time we imposed them.

In the 1950s and 1960s, when tax rates were as high as 90 percent, the economy was mostly prosperous. But the rich never paid those tax rates. Effective tax rates were actually much lower. This was also an era before the birth of the $2 trillion modern welfare and regulatory state and the taxes to pay for it. Medicare, Medicaid, and the payroll taxes to pay for them did not even exist back then in those glory days.

When President Kennedy cut the tax rate from 90 percent to 70 percent, the economy soared during the 1960s. Growth rates zoomed to 6 percent. When President Reagan chopped rates from 70 percent to 50 percent to 28 percent, the economy saw another burst of prosperity that former Wall Street Journal editor Robert Bartley dubbed the “seven fat years.”

The business tax cuts under President Trump have contributed to the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years and the biggest middle income gains in at least two decades. High tax rates did not work in the 1970s, but they will be even more harmful in the 21st century. What is different today from 50 years ago is globalization, with jobs, businesses, and investment capital flow to places in the world where after tax returns are highest. If we raise the income tax rate to above 50 percent, businesses and investment capital will flee to lower tax jurisdictions. Ask nations like France or Greece or Venezuela what happened to their economies when they devised new wealth tax systems to “soak the rich.”

Or look at the massive losses of people and income from high income tax states like New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Illinois, and even California. These states are bleeding wealth as residents relocate to low tax haven states like Tennessee, Arizona, Florida, Texas, and Utah. Does Senator Sanders really want to make us look like Connecticut, where localities are banning homeowners from posting “for sale” signs because the mad rush to leave is crushing real estate values?

An even worse idea is higher estate and wealth taxes. This has never worked. The United States has an estate tax of roughly 40 percent to extract money from the Bill Gates, Warren Buffets, and Tom Bradys of the country. However, it generates only about 1 percent of federal tax receipts and many studies find that the deadweight loss to the economy far exceeds the value of the tax collected. Even communist and socialist countries like Russia and Sweden have given up and repealed their estate taxes because they were harming their economies so noticeably.



Fake news or disinformation?

Journalism isn't just dead — it's decomposed.

When Chris Wallace — in all Deep State unctuousness — asked Mick Mulvaney on Fox News Sunday to comment on a "well-connected Republican" who allegedly told Wallace there was a 20 percent chance the GOP would vote to remove the president from office, he not only was aiding in that decomposition,  he was picking up a shovel and helping dig its grave.

Wallace didn't identify who this "well-connected Republican" is or what he actually said in context, just the tidbit the host wanted to tell us. What Wallace was doing was engaging in propaganda, creating a smear based on the flimsiest hearsay.

But, as we all know, he's not alone. This was only one of a myriad of cases and far from the worst. The employment of anonymous sources by media has been debated (and attacked) for years but since Trump was elected, their use has escalated into the stratosphere.  Barely a day goes by that we don't hear something from some "source close to someone or other" or a "person in position to know" about things we learn, sooner or later, to be lies or, at best, half truths. Other times we read "experts agree" or other such terms of non-art. What we are really getting are leaks that are supposedly illegal but almost never prosecuted.

Almost all of our leading newspapers and networks engage in this activity, some pretending to have checks and balances that are inscrutable from the outside and likely conveniently fudged from the inside. To name a few outlets that come immediately to mind, the New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal (in its front section), NBC, CBS, ABC and, of course, CNN are frequent culprits in this reliance on the anonymous. They do this repeatedly and win Pulitzers for the ensuing lies and misrepresentations. It's an old tradition, stemming back to the days when Walter Duranty lied about Stalin in the New York Times.

Trump made a mistake in labeling this "fake news." Besides being too colloquial, the term is too generic and allows for the possibility that in some cases at least this dishonesty may be an accident. People make mistakes, after all. Yes, but it's hardly ever true in these cases. It's usually quite deliberate deception. A much, much more accurate term would be disinformation, a technique frequently employed by intelligence agencies. It's a safe bet that many of these leaks arrived from ours. In that, our intelligence agencies were following in a grand tradition. The Soviets were experts at it. They wrote the book on disinformation.

Now the disinformation that is being put out is that Trump is on the rocks with Republicans. Mitt Romney may vote to impeach. Both The Washington Post and theWSJ have new stories warning of — or more properly "concern trolling" about — this disaffection. The word must be out. Chris Wallace was echoing the same narrative. The newly-minted NeverTrumper Matt Drudge is linking all this.

But is it true or is it disinfo? I'll go with the latter. In fact, given Trump's popularity with the Republican rank-and-file, it would be suicidal for incumbent Republican politicians to vote him out. They'd be out themselves at the next primary. And reporters at the WaPo and WSJ know that, unless they've been living under the proverbial rock or are willfully disregarding last week's Trump rally in Dallas that had more supporters standing outside the venue than any political candidate in recent memory has had inside. (I know--the polls say he's in trouble. Have you ever done a poll yourself? I have, several, for this website years ago, and learned some interesting things. Just as freedom of the press belongs to the man who owns one, the results of a poll belong to the man who sets it up, i. e. asks the questions.)

What our media is doing is lying unabashedly as it has been doing since the outset of the Russia probe. Every one of the respected outlets listed above repeatedly reported the existence or the imminent proof of Trump-Russia collusion based on anonymous leaks.  None of it ever happened. It would be interesting to know what percentage of those leaks came from members of intelligence agencies. I suspect it would be a scary number.



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  (Personal).  My annual picture page is here 


Monday, October 21, 2019

Amid rising anti-Semitism, the People of the Book rejoice with the Law

by Jeff Jacoby

ON OCTOBER 14, 1663, the English civil servant Samuel Pepys decided to pay a visit to the Jewish synagogue in London's Creechurch Lane. Jews were a novelty in Restoration England. They had been expelled from the realm nearly four centuries earlier, and it was only in 1656 that they had once again been permitted to live on English soil. Pepys, knowing nothing of Judaism, wasn't aware that his excursion happened to coincide with the most euphoric day in the Jewish calendar — the festival of Simchat Torah, or "rejoicing with the law."

What he saw bewildered him.

"But, Lord!" he recorded in his famous diary, "to see the disorder, laughing, sporting, and no attention, but confusion in all their service, more like brutes than people knowing the true God, would make a man forswear ever seeing them more and indeed I never did see so much, or could have imagined there had been any religion in the whole world so absurdly performed as this."

What Pepys had unwittingly walked in on was a celebration of the oldest love affair in history — the infatuation of the Jewish people with the Torah. In Judaism, there are no saints to adore or icons to venerate. Rather, there is a book to study and teach: the scroll of the law, the Torah given by God to Moses and the Israelites at Mount Sinai, the essential text with which Jews have engaged intellectually and been sustained emotionally for more than three millennia.

That book is "our most cherished possession," writes Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the noted British theologian and member of the House of Lords. "We stand in its presence as if it were a king. We dance with it as if it were a bride. We kiss it as if it were a friend. If, God forbid, one is damaged beyond repair, we mourn it as if it were a member of the family." If a Torah scroll is accidentally dropped, everyone who witnesses it is expected to fast in penance. When a synagogue is burned, whether by accident or by arson, there is an immediate, palpable anxiety to know whether the Torah scrolls were saved or lost.

Simchat Torah occurs on the last day of a three-week sequence of fall holidays. It follows Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year), Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), and Sukkot (the feast of Tabernacles). Unlike those holidays, however, Simchat Torah is not biblically ordained. It was not imposed by religious authorities from the top down, but grew organically from the bottom up. Its roots reach back 15 centuries to the ancient Jewish community of Babylonia, which formalized the practice of publicly reading the entire Torah — from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Deuteronomy — over the course of a year. The completion of the annual cycle became an occasion of joy, marked by singing and dancing around the synagogue with the Torah scrolls. Adults and children alike take part in the festivities. And as soon as the final verses of Deuteronomy are chanted from the end of one scroll, another is opened and the first chapter of Genesis is chanted: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." The Jewish engagement with the Torah never ends; as soon as we finish, we start again.

The "people of the book," Jews are called. The phrase comes from the Koran, where it appears 31 times — an apt emphasis, for no nation has ever been as closely identified with a book as have Jews with the Torah. Sacks notes that by the time Simchat Torah had spread throughout the Jewish world, Jews had lost everything that would seem indispensable to national survival: land, sovereignty, political freedom, a military. Yet they still had their book to study and teach and rejoice with. Somehow, through the centuries of wandering and exile, that was enough to keep Jewish peoplehood alive.

Three centuries after Pepys made his diary entry, another renowned writer encountered Jews celebrating Simchat Torah. In 1965, Elie Wiesel traveled to the Soviet Union, where Jews lived in fear and religion was repressed. And yet, he discovered, on one day of the year — Simchat Torah — throngs of young Jews streamed to the remaining synagogue in Moscow, bravely defying the KGB to openly celebrate their Jewishness.

For centuries, in communities all over the world, Jews have danced on Simchat Torah. Above: Solomon Alexander Hart's 1850 painting "The Feast of the Rejoicing of the Law at the Synagogue in Leghorn, Italy"

Wiesel was astonished.

"Where did they all come from?" he marveled. "Who told them that tens of thousands of boys and girls would gather here to sing and dance and rejoice in the joy of the Torah? They who barely know each other and know even less of Judaism — how did they know that? I spent hours among them, dazed and excited, agitated by an ancient dream." It was a harbinger of the coming struggle to save Soviet Jewry, which would eventually crack open the Iron Curtain and change the trajectory of the Cold War.

Simchat Torah returns this week amid a rising global tide of antisemitism. One year after the Tree of Life massacre in Pittsburgh and just days after the Yom Kippur shooting in Halle, Germany, Jews increasingly require police protection when they gather in prayer. Nevertheless, synagogues the world over will be filled anew with the same euphoria that so startled Pepys and amazed Wiesel. The People of the Book will once again rejoice with the Law, dancing with the scrolls that have been, for 33 centuries, the ultimate source of their identity and strength.



CIVIL WAR: Marianne Williamson and Bernie Sanders' Campaign Co-Chair Support Tulsi Gabbard

Three outside campaigns are joining forces against The Queen of Darkness. And it's quite a sight.

When Hillary Clinton launched a vicious attack against Democratic congresswoman and presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, she undoubtedly thought that doing so could destroy Tulsi's campaign... and possibly even her career. The reason for Hillary's hatred towards Tulsi was clear from the get-go. As Tulsi herself explained on Tucker Carlson Tonight, she is against everything Hillary represents. She's against regime-change wars. She's against a new arms race. She's an outsider -- a veteran -- rather than a career politician. What's more, she seems to be incorruptible and honest.

In other words, she's basically the anti-Hillary.

Although it was quite shocking to see just how viciously Hillary attacked Tulsi, there's some good news for the congresswoman/former soldier: other presidential candidates and/or their campaigns are publicly taking her side.

Here is Marianne Williamson, another outsider and Democratic presidential candidate who criticized her fellow liberals earlier for treating her less fairly than conservatives. And not only does Williamson clearly stand by Tulsi, she also blasts her own party in the process:

"The Democratic establishment has got to stop smearing women it finds inconvenient! The character assassination of women who don’t toe the party line will backfire," Williamson writes on Twitter. "Stay strong @TulsiGabbard. You deserve respect and you have mine."

This is quite a sight to behold. Democratic women are -- correctly and rightfully! -- pointing out that the supposed "feminism" of the Democratic Party is nothing but a sham. They aren't women-friendly, they're establishment-friendly. And "feminism" is nothing but a tool for them to get some extra votes. It isn't heartfelt, it isn't something they actually believe in.

Williamson isn't the only prominent Democratic outsider who is publicly taking a stand in favor of Tulsi. The same goes for Nina Turner, national co-chair of the Bernie Sanders campaign.

"Good morning Sister [Tulsi Gabbard]," Turner writes on Twitter. "I'm just catching up with the foolery that's going on. I'm SMDH [Shaking My Damn Head] hard. Four words: Keep. Your. Head. Up."

The surprise support from Turner and Williamson for Tulsi is very telling. They are all outsiders; they're all up against the same machine... and they've all experienced the same bullying Tulsi is experiencing now. Still, it requires courage for them to publicly take a stand.

I disagree strongly with most of their views with regard to politics, but I have to admit: you don't often see this kind of courage in politics. Good on you, ladies. Stay strong. Stand tall. And keep your head up. Don't let the Clinton Machine put you down.



Tulsi Goes Nuclear on Hillary: 'Queen of Warmongers, Embodiment of Corruption'

As we reported yesterday, Hillary Clinton recently opened the attack on both Tulsi Gabbard and Jill Stein, accusing them of being Vladimir Putin's little puppets.

Sadly for Mrs. Clinton, Tulsi doesn't take such accusations lying down. Neither should she, of course. After all, unlike Hillary, Tulsi has actually served her country as a soldier. She has literally put her life on the line for America. Being accused of being a "Russian tool," then, is a very serious accusation in her eyes; one that she isn't willing to tolerate.

"Great! Thank you Hillary Clinton," Tulsi writes on Twitter. "You, the queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long, have finally come out from behind the curtain. From the day I announced my candidacy, there has been a concerted campaign to destroy my reputation. We wondered who was behind it and why. Now we know -- it was always you, through your proxies and powerful allies in the corporate media and war machine, afraid of the threat I pose."

Next, Tulsi correctly concludes that, from her perspective, the primary really is between her and Hillary. "Don't cowardly hide behind your proxies," she tells Hillary. "Join the race directly."

It is hard to exaggerate the evil that is Hillary "Corruption" Clinton. This woman is literally willing to destroy lives to further her own career -- of that of her allies. Note that I didn't write "friends," but "allies." A person with as rotten a heart as Hillary doesn't have friends.

Other politicians, who have at least something resembling a heart, often attack opponents for being weak or the exact opposite (an aggressive, out-of-control bugaboo). Such lines of attack don't go nearly far enough for The Queen of Darkness, however. Oh no, when she sets her eye on a prey, she goes in for the kill by accusing the victim of literally betraying America. She doesn't care one bit if that victim happens to be a retired soldier who saw her friends die on the battlefields of the Middle East. They stand in her way. That is enough for them to warrant destruction.

Thankfully, Tulsi is a veteran, which means that she's not exactly afraid to fight. She's right to point out the incredible corruption that is Hillary Clinton, and the American Empire-ideology she has been pushing through Americans' throats for so long. Sure, this is unlikely to make her more popular among her party's leaders, but it will almost certainly do wonders for her popularity among millennials and Gen Z. After all, if those two generations hate one thing, it's Clintonite politics.




ABC'S FAKE NEWS: "ABC News aired footage claiming to show a Turkish attack on a Syrian border town that was actually from a 2017 video of an American shooting range," The Washington Free Beacon reveals. Regardless of anyone's position on Trump's Syria policy, engineering a crisis is way beyond the pale.

WHO'D A THUNK IT? Target cuts workers' hours after vowing to raise minimum wage to $15 by 2020 (National Review)

HELPING THE LITTLE GUY: Blue-collar employment thriving under Trump — hits 50-year high (The New American)

SWING AND A MISS: Tribal chiefs urge Atlanta Braves to end the "tomahawk chop" (New York Post)

MORE DALLAS-AREA FALLOUT: Ex-Fort Worth police officer charged with murder after shooting black woman in her home; occurred less than two weeks after Amber Guyger's sentencing (USA Today)

SCHUMER THWARTED: Chuck Schumer's bid to rebuke Trump over Syria fails in Senate (The Washington Times)

FREE SPEECH: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says he fears "erosion of truth" but defends allowing politicians to lie in ads (The Washington Post)

SNUBBING NEARLY HALF THE UNION: San Francisco blacklists 22 states over pro-life laws (National Review)

TARIFF FALLOUT: China's GDP growth grinds to near 30-year low as tariffs hit production (Reuters)

"ABSURD, IMMORAL, AND OFFENSIVE": UN member states hand Venezuela's brutal Maduro regime a seat on the Human Rights Council (

POLICY: Why Mexico is cooperating with us on immigration (National Review)

SATIRE: Congress votes to protect Syria's border but not the U.S. border (Genesius Times) Satire or reality?


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  (Personal).  My annual picture page is here 


Sunday, October 20, 2019

Wealth taxes

Even her fellow Democrats are challenging Elizabeth Warren on how she will pay for her big spending proposals. Her answer to that relies very heavily on her proposed wealth tax. She clearly thinks it will be a goldmine. There have already been some good comments on why such a tax will be very destructive but I just want to set out the kernel arguments about why such a tax will raise little if anything.

For a start, great wealth is not usually held in the form of bank deposits. It is almost all in the form of real estate, shares and other tangible assets -- so liquidating even a small part of that would depress asset prices generally. And that will depress spending and investments across the board. It will affect the wealth of large sections of the population, leading to very negative feeling among job creators. Unemployment would shoot up and income tax receipts would be reduced.

And the second effect would be large scale emigration among the wealthy. Some nearby Caribbean islands are pleasant places to live in the sun and many have very low tax rates. To escape the tentacles of Uncle Sam, the emigrants would also have to renounce their American citizenship but many retirees do that already. And You only have to bring a few million with you to be granted residence in Australia or New Zealand and you can definitely drink the water there. And there is never any need to press 1 for English. A lot of rich people have well-appointed bolt-holes in NZ already.

And when the rich move out, they take their income taxes with them -- as well as escaping a wealth tax. And the rich pay a big proportion of income tax so, once again, tax revenue would FALL.

Even if she can't tax the departed rich Warren might have the bright idea of taxing any assets left behind in the USA. But that would lead to a mass liquidation of assets, with the proceeds of that going to purchase assets elsewhere.

High taxing Leftist governments have encountered that problem before and their response is to make the currency not convertible -- so you can't use greenbacks to buy (say) New Zealand dollars. But that drives away all foreign investments, which are a major source of jobs in America. So Warren's "clever" proposal would lead to lower revenues and higher unemployment.

She seems a smart sort of woman so she probably knows all that. As a Leftist, the thought of destroying American prosperity probably turns her on

Warren would apply a 2% tax on every dollar of net worth for households worth $50 million or more, and a 3% tax on every dollar of net worth beyond $1 billion.

According to tables in a recent paper by Saez and Zucman, this would apply to around $11 trillion of holdings this year, producing revenue of at least $220 billion.

Sanders’ “extreme wealth tax” would levy a 1% tax on the first dollar of net worth above $32 million. That tax would rise in increments, to 2% on net worth between $50 million to $250 million all the way up to 8% on wealth above $10 billion.

Sanders’ campaign estimated the plan, which would tax just the top 0.1% of U.S. households, would raise an estimated $4.35 trillion over the next decade.

Saez and Zucman say their research points to the wealth tax as an effective way to equalize the amount of tax paid by people with massive fortunes like investor Warren Buffett and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos with the middle-class, and then seed the proceeds through the economy.

Had the Warren proposal been in place since 1982, the share of wealth held by the top 400 would still have risen - but only to 2%. A higher tax rate of 10% on holdings above $1 billion, meanwhile, would have kept that group’s share of national wealth stable.

In more individual terms, the 3% rate on holdings above a billion would mean Bezos would be worth just $86 billion this year, versus $160 billion. At the bottom of the top 15, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson would have $18 billion, versus $35 billion.

A dozen European nations used to have wealth taxes but most have done away with them. France, one of the last, abolished its wealth tax in late 2017, after thousands of millionaires relocated to neighboring, lower-tax countries.

Saez and Zucman argue that Europe’s history with wealth taxes is not relevant to the United States because those countries set their wealth tax bar too low, and because it is easier to relocate within the continent for favorable tax laws.

The U.S. tax system, on the other hand, essentially taxes all citizens, no matter where they live.



The Totalitarian American Left


The left is becoming more unapologetically totalitarian every day. Every freedom-loving American should be alarmed.

From hounding conservatives out of restaurants to spitting on Trump supporters at rallies, from firing employees for politically incorrect statements to fining people for "misgendering" a person, the left is on a path toward absolutism.

Even some former and current leftists have recognized this intolerant trend and broken from their colleagues, lamenting their intolerance of opposing ideas and disturbing mission to suppress dissenting opinion.

Just the other day, three incidents typifying the left's authoritarianism popped out at me as I was surveying the morning news.

The Federalist reported that venues in three North American cities -- Toronto, Brooklyn, and Portland -- canceled screenings of a movie about Canadian psychologist and author Jordan Peterson because of leftist criticism. Peterson exploded onto the scene in recent years with his no-nonsense, brilliant, and clear-eyed critique of insane cultural trends, especially those concerning gender.

Peterson's book "12 Rules for Life" is wildly popular, and there are countless viral videos featuring his encounters with various leftist interviewers, panelists and audience members who have tried and failed to entrap him on a number of issues, and been reduced -- in every case -- to blundering, ineffectual bullies.

 If you haven't partaken of these videos, you owe it to yourself to witness one arrogant leftist after another being gobsmacked by the simple weapon of unadulterated logic. These videos are irresistibly contagious and imminently satisfying for those longing to see intellectually defenseless, virtue-signaling finger waggers brought to their knees through the medium of polite debate.

Peterson, you see, won't kowtow to the leftists' demand that we embrace the tenets of gender ideology, which teaches that gender is less about biology and more about personal identification. He refuses to support laws that criminalize one's failure to use a person's preferred pronouns, such as "they" instead of "she."

Peterson has the temerity to say that men and women are biologically different, and that gender is not a fluid, human construct. That doesn't sit well with the left, which not only insists that we accept its cockeyed ideas as normal but also advocates imposing them on us by force of law.

Can you get your mind around the irony of the left banning a movie about Peterson because he's dangerous? Who is more dangerous: a person who peaceably expresses an opinion that happens to be supported by thousands of years of human experience and common sense, or those who try to ban his voice or even a movie about it? This is "1984"-level scary, and it's getting worse by the hour.

Jordan Peterson and Dave Rubin Ditch Patreon Over SPLC, Credit Card Censorship

On what possible grounds is the left arguing that Peterson's views are dangerous? He doesn't advocate violence; he isn't a rabble-rouser or revolutionary. He simply states his opinion instead of genuflecting to the despotic left.

But they claim that if Peterson's views are openly expressed, he might convince other people that he's right, and that could lead to the proliferation of conservative thought. Peterson's "conservative perspectives on feminism and gender," according to an opinion piece in The New York Times, "are very popular among young men and often are a path to more extreme content and ideologies." Think about this. Conservative speech is dangerous because it is a slippery slope to the adoption of conservative ideas? This must be satire. Do these clueless cranks know how ridiculous they sound?

Again, who is more extreme and dangerous: Jordan Peterson, who advocates the silencing of no one and expresses mainstream opinions, or leftists, who are actively trying to censor Peterson?

Please don't make the reckless mistake of dismissing this crusade against Peterson as exceptional. This is the left's pattern, and it is becoming more aggressive all the time.

The second and third incidents I came across are further proof that the left is increasingly Stalinist. In the most recent Democratic presidential debate, Sen. Kamala Harris pushed for the suspension of President Trump's Twitter, speciously alleging that he is trying to obstruct justice and intimidate and threaten witnesses. You see, the left always has some urgent rationale to smother conservative speech -- whether it's to prevent the incitement of violence or obstruction of justice. But it just wants to shut us up.

Those who would silence the other side are the very definition of dangerous. Don't take Harris' musings lightly, even if she is mostly posturing to gin up more support from the Trump-hating Democratic base. It is instructive that efforts to muzzle speech almost always come from the left, not the right, because the left is insecure about the popularity of its kooky ideas.

The third incident involved demagogue and former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, who said in a CNN forum on LGBT issues that churches and religious organizations should lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage. If I have to explain how outrageous this is, the country is in even greater danger than I imagined.

I found these examples in 15 minutes of reading this week. They are everywhere. America was founded on the idea of claiming and preserving our God-given liberties. The illiberal left, which believes our rights and freedoms come from government, is hell-bent on destroying our liberties and forcibly imposing its thoughts and ideas on all of us.

God save us.



Why They Hate Tulsi Gabbard

She's the only decent candidate they've got, as far as I can see. She actually seems susceptable to reason 

Note to Democrats: If you want to win your party’s presidential nomination in 2020, make sure you march as far to the left as possible — preferably off the cliff.

These days, any politician who doesn’t embrace the most radical elements of the Left’s agenda is disparaged and denounced. Democrats and their media brethren have been doing this to Donald Trump since he became a Republican, and now they’re going after one of their own.

Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat presidential candidate, Hawaii congresswoman, National Guard major, Samoan American, and Hindu is being portrayed as — get this — a Russian ally and a bedfellow of white nationalists. Why? Because she’s taken old-school Democrat stances on issues of foreign policy, drugs, and abortion.

That’s how far left the Democrat Party has moved.

Gabbard’s views on a range of issues certainly aren’t to be mistaken for Reagan-style conservatism. But compared to the rest of the Democrat field, she’s as American as Normal Rockwell. And this has apparently caused the media to smear Gabbard as a politician more at home on the alt-right than in the Democrat Party.

Swallow your drink first, but Hillary Clinton likewise chimed in, “I think they’ve got their eye on someone who’s currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third-party candidate. She’s the favorite of the Russians. They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far.”

Gabbard called such smears “completely despicable.”

Earlier this month, The New York Times lamented, “On podcasts and online videos, in interviews and Twitter feeds, alt-right internet stars, white nationalists, libertarian activists and some of the biggest boosters of Mr. Trump heap praise on Ms. Gabbard. They like the Hawaiian congresswoman’s isolationist foreign policy views. They like her support for drug decriminalization. They like what she sees as censorship by big technology platforms.”

Wait a minute. Haven’t Democrats always been big supporters of drug decriminalization? When did that become a right-wing issue? And leftists have proudly marched against every U.S. military endeavor since Vietnam, but now we’re supposed to believe they’re foreign-policy hawks ready to defend American interventionism abroad?

Of course, it’s not about principle. It’s all about President Trump. Whatever he supports, Democrats must reflexively oppose.

“Regime change wars are just fine with most 2020 Democrats, so long as it allows them to oppose Trump,” Jack Hunter writes at the Washington Examiner. “The president’s recent policy in Syria is not unlike the anti-regime change stance Obama promoted as a candidate in 2008. The Obama-Biden ticket won the White House by opposing Bush’s regime change war in Iraq and promising not to repeat that mistake (although they eventually did).”

Republicans aren’t going to storm Gabbard’s Capitol Hill office and ask her to switch parties, but there’s a dose of decency and common sense in what she says. And she’s not afraid to step out of line, which is no doubt why Trump supporters often like what she has to say. In fact, that characteristic is part of why Trump was elected in 2016. Like the president, Gabbard marches to the beat of her own drummer.

Reason’s Robby Soave writes of Gabbard’s Libertarian appeal, “Indeed, Gabbard was the only candidate on the stage Tuesday night to advocate a unilateral, immediate end to the disastrous policy of intervening in every conflict in the Middle East with the goal of changing the regimes. As she wisely noted, such schemes have backfired in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, and likely would have backfired in Syria if undertaken there as well. Refreshingly, Gabbard called out both parties and the mainstream media for their complicity in the U.S.‘s foolish foreign policy interventionism.”

But she didn’t stop there. During the Ohio debate, Gabbard took a position that’s certainly to the left of most Republicans but still considered unacceptable by every other Democrat candidate. Responding to a question about states restricting abortion, Gabbard replied, “There should be some restrictions in place. I support codifying Roe v. Wade — while making sure that, during the third trimester, abortion is not an option unless the life or severe health consequences of a woman are at risk.”

Uh-oh, Tulsi. There goes the nomination.

In the minds of Democrats, taking the wrong stance on the military or drug enforcement is bad enough, but utter anything other than prostrate praise for the holy sacrament of “choice,” including government-funded abortion-on-demand, and you’re toast as a viable Democrat political candidate.

It’s sad to see one of our two major political parties destroy anyone who dares challenge their status quo. In the end, Tulsi Gabbard doesn’t have a chance of securing her party’s nomination, but her campaign has served America well by reminding the rest of us just how extreme the Democrat Party has become. And that’s good news for Trump in 2020



Mexico has deported over 300 Indian nationals to New Delhi, the National Migration Institute (INM) said late on Wednesday, in what it described as an unprecedented transatlantic deportation

The 310 men and one woman that INM said were in Mexico illegally were sent on a chartered flight, accompanied by federal immigration agents and Mexico’s National Guard.

The people had been scattered in eight states around the country, INM said, including in southern Mexico where many Indian migrants enter the country, hoping to transit to the U.S. border.

“It is unprecedented in INM’s history - in either form or the number of people - for a transatlantic air transport like the one carried out on this day,” INM said in a statement.

The Mexican government in June struck a deal with the United States, vowing to significantly curb U.S.-bound migration in exchange for averting U.S. tariffs on Mexican exports.

Caitlyn Yates, a research coordinator at IBI Consultants who has studied increasing numbers of U.S.-bound Asian and African migrants arriving in Mexico, said the backlog of migrants in southern Mexico has grown as officials have stopped issuing permits for them to cross the country.

“This type of deportation in Mexico is the first of its kind but likely to continue,” Yates said.



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  (Personal).  My annual picture page is here