Friday, January 17, 2020

Donald Trump signs 'phase one' of trade deal with China which ends escalation of his trade war

Donald Trump took a victory lap on Wednesday as he signed a trade deal with China at the White House as his impeachment sped towards the Senate on Capitol Hill.

He boasted to an audience of dignitaries that a new trade deal with China will bring 'a future of fair and reciprocal trade,' then complained about the 'impeachment hoax,' and praised a string of Republican senators who he needs to vote for his acquittal.

The president has long complained about a massive trade deficit between Washington and Beijing. He pledged during the 2016 campaign to come down hard on China.

'We are righting the wrongs of the past,' he said Wednesday, observing that 'our negotiations were tough, honest, open and respectful.'

'This is the biggest deal anyone's ever seen,' he said, because 'China has 1.5 billion people.'

The president spent nearly a half-hour acknowledging business leaders and lawmakers who crowded into the East Room to watch. And he noted that some House members might have to leave early in order to vote on a motion to send articles of impeachment to the U.S. Senate.

Some of the congressmen may have a vote—it's on the impeachment hoax—so if you want, you go out and vote. ... It's not going to matter because it's gone very well. But I'd rather have you voting than sitting here listening to me introduce you, okay?' he said with a grin. 'They have a hoax going on over there. Let's take care of it.' 

Trump was not accompanied by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who sent Vice Premier Liu He in his place. Xi's absence left some with the impression that Washington wants the deal more than Beijing does.

The president announced that he will 'be going back to China in the not-too-distant future to reciprocate,' but it's unclear what he would be reciprocating for.

Vice President Mike Pence said the deal would guarantee $40-50 billion in Chinese purchases of American agriculture products.

And Trump said China will stop forcing American companies to share proprietary technologies with Chinese partners. 'You don't have to give up anything anymore. Just be strong,' he said to business leaders in the room.

The White House's guests included top executives from UPS, Boeing, AIG, JP Morgan Chase, Mastercard, VISA, Citibank, Honeywell, Dow Chemical, eBay and Ford Motor Company; casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who aims to see markets opened to him in China; television commentator Lou Dobbs; and Trump's ambassador in Beijing, Terry Branstad.

Branstad, a longtime Iowa governor before coming to Washington, got the job because of his deep ties to global agriculture.

While Wall Street will carefully examine the fine print, the trade deal will allow businesses around the globe to breathe a sigh of relief.

After a nearly two-year battle, the signing could give Trump an election-year boost as well. Still, tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars in imports remain in place, leaving many Americans to foot the bill.

Reporters covering the East Room event on Wednesday wore White House credentials with no date printed on them. That unusual feature suggests Trump's trade negotiators weren't certain whether the event would happen as scheduled.

The 'phase one' agreement—which includes pledges from China to beef up purchases of American crops and other exports—also comes just as Trump faces an impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate, giving him a victory to trumpet at least in the short term.

The easing of US-China trade frictions has boosted stock markets worldwide in recent weeks, as it takes the threat of new tariffs off the table for now.

And Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Trump's negotiating stance led to a 'fully enforceable deal' which could bring additional tariffs.

If China fails to abide by the agreement, 'the president has the ability to put on additional tariffs,' Mnuchin said on CNBC Wednesday as part of a media blitz promoting the new pact.

However, the most difficult issues remain to be dealt with in 'phase two' negotiations, including massive subsidies for state industry and forced technology transfer.

But Mnuchin said the deal puts pressure on Beijing to stay at the negotiating table and make further commitments, including on cyber-security and other services to win relief from the tariffs that remain in place.

'In phase two there will be additional roll backs,' Mnuchin said. 'This gives China a big incentive to get back to the table and agree to the additional issues that are still unresolved.'

Still, elements of the deal the administration has touted as achievements effectively take the relationship between the two powers back to where it was before Trump took office.

'The US-China phase-one deal is essentially a trade truce, with large state-directed purchases attached,' economist Mary Lovely said in an analysis. Even so, 'The truce is good news for the U.S. and the world economy.'

Still, the trade expert with the Peterson Institute for International Economics, cautioned that 'we will continue to see the impact of this in slower investment and higher business costs.'

After announcing the deal December 13, the U.S. canceled a damaging round of new tariffs that were due to kick in two days later and promised to slash in half the 15 percent tariffs on $120 billion imposed September 1 on consumer goods like clothing.

Mnuchin dismissed a Bloomberg report that the initial agreement could include provisions to roll back more tariffs on China after the election.

'The tariffs will stay in place until there is a phase two. If the president gets phase two quickly, he will consider releasing tariffs. If not, there won't be any tariff relief,' Mnuchin said Tuesday on Bloomberg TV. 'It has nothing to do with the election or anything else.'

Washington said Beijing agreed to import, over two years, $200 billion of U.S. products above the levels in 2017, before Trump launched his offensive.

Trump has repeatedly touted the trade pact as a boon for American farmers, saying China will buy $40 to $50 billion in agricultural goods.

U.S. farmers were hit hard by the tariff war—notably on soybeans which saw exports to China plunge to just $3 billion from more than $12 billion in 2017. The Trump administration paid out $28 billion in aid to farmers in the last two years.

But many economists question whether they have the capacity to meet that demand.

And Lovely raised a question about the wisdom on relying so heavily on the Chinese market.

'It also means Chinese retaliation could be reinstated, dampening farmers' willingness to invest to meet the very hard export targets in the deal.'

U.S. and Chinese officials say the agreement includes protections for intellectual property and addresses financial services and foreign exchange while including a provision for dispute resolution, which Mnuchin said will be binding for the first time.



Sally Pipes: Bernie's 'Medicare-for-all' misinformation — learn these facts before this week's debate

"The plan is nuts, it's absolutely mind-boggling," says Charles Payne discussing Bernie's proposal to raise taxes on anyone earning $29,000 plus a year

Sen. Bernie Sanders has launched a new misinformation campaign on "Medicare-for-all" in advance of this week's Democratic presidential debate.

Last week, advisers to his campaign released a study trumpeting the supposed savings "Medicare-for-all" would bring. Days prior, Sanders refused to say how much his "Medicare-for-all" plan would cost. "I don't give a number and I'll tell you why," he told the Washington Post. "It's such a huge number and it's so complicated that if I gave a number you and 50 other people would go through it and say, 'Oh . . ."

That number is huge all right — as much as $40 trillion over its first decade, as Sanders himself has admitted. The human costs would be even higher, in the form of lengthy waits for critical care.

Paying for "Medicare-for-all" would require a host of new taxes. Before he "forgot" how much it would cost, Sanders proposed funding his plan with everything from a new 4 percent tax on every American household to a new 7.5 percent payroll tax. He claims Americans would pay less for health care, even with these new taxes.

That's unlikely. An analysis from Emory University professor Kenneth E. Thorpe found that 70 percent of working, privately insured households would pay more for health insurance under "Medicare-for-all" than they currently do.

To get a sense of the crippling tax burden "Medicare-for-all" would impose on Americans, look to other countries with health care systems where the government is the dominant or sole provider of health coverage. In 2019, the average Canadian family of four paid over $13,000 in taxes just for their health care, according to research from the Fraser Institute, a Vancouver-based think tank.

That health care tax bill has risen more than 65 percent since 1997. For childless couples, the cost of publicly funded health coverage has risen nearly 75 percent in the same period.

"Medicare-for-all" would require an even bigger tax burden than does Canada's system. Sanders envisions taxpayer-funded coverage of prescription drugs, long-term care, dental and vision care — none of which is covered by our northern neighbor's single-payer system.

Some 4.5 million people in the United Kingdom were waiting for specialist treatment as of March 2019 — an increase of 40 percent over the last five years.

The average household in the United Kingdom pays over 5,000 pounds a year to fund the National Health System — a 75 percent increase from two decades ago. A pair of British think tanks estimate that every British household will have to shell out an additional 2,000 pounds per year to keep the NHS running as the country ages.

Despite the massive tax increases it would require, advocates say "Medicare-for-all" would lower overall health care costs. A recent study co-authored by advisers to Sanders' campaign argues that single-payer systems save money by eliminating the administrative costs associated with private insurers. The authors claim the United States would have saved over $600 billion in 2017 alone if it had cut administrative spending to Canadian levels.

But the study doesn't consider the administrative costs associated with collecting taxes. Under "Medicare-for-all," those costs would almost certainly increase for government, employers and individual citizens alike.

The study also glosses over the fact that most of the administrative savings generated by "Medicare-for-all" would come from putting hundreds of thousands of people currently employed in the health sector out of work.

And then there's the disruption "Medicare-for-all" would foist upon patients. Government-dominated systems the world over do not provide unfettered access to free, high-quality health care. They respond to the impossible task of treating an unlimited number of patients with limited resources by rationing care. That results in long wait times.

Some 4.5 million people in the United Kingdom were waiting for specialist treatment as of March 2019 — an increase of 40 percent over the last five years. More than 11 million Britons waited more than three weeks for an appointment with a general practitioner, according to the most recent government data. Nearly 3 percent of the Canadian population was on a wait list for treatment last year.

These wait times add to the cost of "free" health care. Absence and reduced productivity of sick workers cost the United Kingdom around 23 billion pounds each year.

The truth about "Medicare-for-all" is ugly. Americans watching the debate this week must not fall prey to the falsehoods on health care that will no doubt be flowing from the candidates' mouths.




WITH LAWMAKERS LIKE THESE, WHO NEEDS ENEMIES? Democrats block a vote to support Iran protesters (The Daily Caller)

THE ART OF THE DEAL: Britain, France, Germany suddenly harden toward Iran after killing of Soleimani (The Daily Wire)

SO ABOUT THOSE BERNIE GULAGS... Federal judge upholds Trump family-separation policy (Hot Air)

OBSTRUCTION: House Democrats launch investigation into Trump's "Remain in Mexico" program (The Daily Caller)

IRONY: The 2020 Census has no citizenship question — but offers assistance in 58 foreign languages (

NEW BUDGET BUSTER: Warren promises to cancel student-loan debt using executive powers (Politico)

POLICY: Why the European Union just admitted the Iran deal is dead (Washington Examiner)


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, January 16, 2020

Trump to Transfer $7.2 Billion for Border Wall

President Donald Trump will transfer another $7.2 billion from Pentagon accounts in 2020 to build the promised border wall, according to the Washington Post.

The paper reported January 13 that the president would use his national emergency powers to: divert an additional $7.2 billion in Pentagon funding for border wall construction this year, five times what Congress authorized him to spend on the project in the 2020 budget, according to internal planning figures obtained by The Washington Post.

The Pentagon funds would be extracted, for the second year in a row, from military construction projects and counternarcotics funding. According to the plans, the funding would give the government enough money to complete [a total of] approximately 885 miles of new fencing by spring 2022, far more than the 509 miles the administration has slated for the U.S. border with Mexico.

The pending transfer, if not blocked by Congress or the courts, would bump up his border wall spending to $18.4 billion.

So far, Trump’s deputies have built a little over 100 miles of upgraded “wall system” and are in the process of planning and building another 350 miles.

Chad Wolf, the acting chief of the Department of Homeland Security, admitted last week that the agency will not meet the president’s target of 450 miles by election day. “I can tell you right now that we remain confident that we are on track to [reach] 400, 450 miles that are either completed or under construction by the end of 2020,” Wolf told attendees at a January 10 press conference in Yuma, Arizona.

Pro-migration groups, including advocates for cheap labor, are funding lawsuits to block Trump’s border policies. But a federal appeals court released $3.6 billion in border wall funding on January 8 that had been blocked by a lawsuit. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans lifted the curbs while the Department of Justice prepares to appeal a lower judge’s decision to block the spending because of the lawsuit.

Officials say the border wall helps agents reduce illegal migration and shrink the transfer of drugs into Americans’ communities and young people.

The drug problem is especially bad in the towns that were damaged by the federal government’s support for free trade and the cheap labor stimulus for Wall Street. Breitbart News reported December 30:

The study by acclaimed researchers, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, notes that American communities that experienced an auto plant closure within the last five years saw a much greater rate of opioid deaths than communities whose auto plants have remained open — confirming that towns and small cities that have been hit by job-killing free trade have suffered more in the opioid crisis.

The researchers note:

“US manufacturing counties that experienced an automotive assembly plant closure were compared with counties in which automotive plants remained open from 1999 to 2016. Automotive assembly plant closures were associated with a statistically significant increase in county-level opioid overdose mortality rates among adults aged 18 to 65 years.”

Trump has also used diplomacy to build a series of legal agreements with Mexico and Central American countries that may allow border officials to return nearly all migrants to Central America, without allowing them to file for asylum, even if they traveled from Africa or India. The legal agreements will help bump up wages for blue-collar Americans — but will do little to raise white-collar salaries.



Crenshaw Answers Warren's 'Disingenuous' Question About Soleimani

At a campaign rally last week in Dover, New Hampshire, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) told her audience that she couldn't think of a good reason why President Trump ordered the recent deadly airstrike on Iranian terror leader Qasem Soleimani.

"Why not a month ago?" she asked. "Why not a month from now?" She ventured a guess and concluded that it was pure politics.

"One of the questions I raised just right after this came out, does this have anything to do with the fact that Donald Trump is right on the eve of an impeachment hearing?" she asked.

Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) had a better answer: "Okay Elizabeth Warren, I've got an answer for you," Crenshaw said on Fox News. "The reason why now is that Soleimani just orchestrated an attack on our embassy, killed an American citizen, and we had very good intel from the CIA, from the DNI, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. They said it was the best intel they've ever seen. That there was an imminent attack coming within days." "So Elizabeth Warren, that is why," he added for emphasis.

We know Warren didn't miss the news about the attack on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. Iran-backed militia members and supporters tried to force their way in to the compound last month, and it wasn't until President Trump sent in reinforcements that the mob retreated.

But Warren isn't the only Democrat pointing fingers at the president for Iran's aggression. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) claimed that the president's "saber-rattling" is to blame for the downing of a Ukrainian airliner that had just taken off from Tehran last week. All 176 people onboard perished. Iran admitted it had shot down the Ukrainian plane, albeit "unintentionally."

“If what is being projected is true, this is yet another example of collateral damage from the actions that have been taken in a provocative way by the president of the United States," Speier charged. "That's such a disgusting and deplorable accusation," Crenshaw said on Fox.

Soleimani is responsible not only for helping to plot the attack on the U.S. embassy, but other strikes on coalition bases in Iraq, some of which have killed U.S. contractors.

Still, Sen. Warren has had a heck of a time even calling Soleimani a terrorist. She got halfway there on "The View," but felt the need to some more context to her answer and left us even more confused.

At Warren's recent campaign rally in Dover, an angry attendee accused her of "siding with terrorists."



The liberal media likes to focus on how many House Republicans are retiring. Somehow this is supposed to make Republicans feel defeated and hopeless

In this context, I was startled recently to hear Congresswoman Elise Stefanik say 2020 was going to be the year of the House Republican woman. She went on to assert that there was a historic record being set for Republican women filing to run for the House.

I checked in with Chairman Tom Emmer at the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) and found that, if anything, Stefanik had understated the momentum of new recruits.

With House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and the leadership team going all out, the House Republicans are setting a remarkably encouraging series of records.

Consider these numbers: The total number of Republicans filed for House seats so far is 928, according to Federal Elections Commission (FEC) figures – or 188 more than the total at the same time in 2010 (740). The year 2010 matters because it was the last time Nancy Pelosi was kicked out of the majority and Speaker John Boehner led the House GOP to its biggest gain in modern times – with his “where are the jobs” slogan. In fact, in 2010 the House GOP gained 63 seats for a majority of 242 Republicans.

The House Republican recruiting surge is also tremendously widespread. So far, I am told that Republican candidates are running in 380 congressional districts (compared with 341 districts at this point in 2010).

Importantly, women and minority candidates have surged. This is an area which has historically been a Republican weakness. In Texas alone, there are at least 30 Republican women candidates. So far, 186 women are seeking to become House Republicans in total. The previous record was 133 women running for the House as Republicans. And filing is still open in a number of states, so the number will almost certainly increase.

I am told by the NRCC there are also 146 Republican candidates from minority communities. Furthermore, 188 veterans are running for the House as Republicans.


I will write more details about women and minority candidates in future columns. However, I think it is important to note a profound change underway in financing Republican campaigns.

The Democrats had an enormous advantage in the 2018 election because they had built an online donation system called ActBlue. ActBlue had been founded in 2004 to enable small-dollar donors to easily and efficiently help Democratic candidates all over the country.

When the online system was powered by the intensity of anti-Trump emotions, there was a flood of targetable money for Democratic candidates. Activists from all over the country could conveniently go online, identify the campaigns they wanted to help, and quickly send the money.

In the 2018 cycle, this system raised $1.8 billion over the two-year period. When this scale of small-donor involvement was combined with massive donors like Michael Bloomberg (who spent $5 million on ads in the last two weeks in some elections) the Democrats’ money advantage was enormous. This helps explain the Republican House defeats.

The threat posed by the ActBlue system was reinforced in 2019 when it raised more than $1 billion for the Democrats.

Republican leaders realized they had to match or exceed the small-dollar system the Democrats had invented. They developed a competitive model called WinRed.

The intensity of support for President Trump – combined with growing anger over the Democrats’ investigation and impeachment strategy – has made WinRed a success much faster than anyone expected.

In its first two quarters, WinRed raised $101 million. Its effectiveness is growing rapidly.  It raised $31 million in its first quarter of existence and more than doubled that in the second quarter with $70 million (fourth quarter of 2019). In fact, WinRed raised more in its first 190 days than ActBlue raised in its first five years.

The impact of the Democrats’ overreach on impeachment has been amazing. WinRed pages that mentioned “impeach” or “impeachment” raised 300 percent more than any other page.

In fact, the growing impact of WinRed can be seen in Stefanik’s experience. After her remarkable defense of President Trump on the House Intelligence Committee, she mentioned people could donate at WinRed on Fox News. In two hours, $500,000 was donated from across the country.

The combination of great recruiting, the development of WinRed as a system for engaging grassroots Republicans in races across the country, the intensity of Trump’s support, and the self-destruction of the Democrats are combining to create a new, dynamic, aggressive House Republican Party.

If retirements are the story of the past, then recruitment is the story of the future. This is the story on which Leader McCarthy and his team are focused.

I suspect it’s the story that will make him Speaker McCarthy in January 2021.




AT LONG LAST: House prepares to vote Wednesday to transmit Trump impeachment articles to the Senate, where it will be disposed of (CNBC)

BROKERING: U.S. drops designation of China as currency manipulator ahead of trade agreement (National Review)

THE TRUTH ABOUT POVERTY: Child poverty in the U.S. is at an all-time low, and saying otherwise does not help American families (Institute for Family Studies)

DRAMATIC IMPROVEMENT: Stocks are up 495% in the past decade — here's why you probably aren't (MarketWatch)

TERRORISM IN THE HOMELAND: NAS Pensacola shooting was an "act of terrorism," Attorney General William Barr says; U.S. to expel 21 Saudi nationals in training program (Fox News)

SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT: According to Fox News, "Barr says DOJ was consulted before Soleimani strike as Trump goes on defensive." The Leftmedia spin regarding Trump's comments is a distinction without a difference, and it's meant to make it look like this was a conspiracy to kill some innocent Iranian without justification.

PREEMPTION: Here's a setup story from The New York Times to undermine anything about the Bidens and Burisma so that if something emerges on Joe, it can be written off as "Russian meddling": "Russians Hacked Ukrainian Gas Company at Center of Impeachment."

DEZINFORMATSIYA: TV's Trump news: three-fourths impeachment and 93% negative (NewsBusters)

FOR THE RECORD: Hillary Clinton vindicated on corruption charges? Hardly. (Issues & Insights)

POLICY: Obama's midnight regulations, lawsuits still hamper the U.S. economy (Issues & Insights)

POLICY: The why and how of market-driven medical care (RealClearPolicy)


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, January 15, 2020

Democrats Always Choose America’s Enemies Over America

Here’s an idea that our Democrat politician friends might want to try if they want to stop being back-stabbing garbage people. It’s kind of a radical notion and a little outside the box, but here goes: How about, just once, you stop sucking-up to the foreign bastards who are attacking our country and take America’s side?

Maybe you should not back and excuse the gay-hanging, women-stoning, airline-downing, Obama check-cashing, Israel-threatening, American-murdering cultists ruling Iran. Just a thought.

It’s kind of crazy, but it just might work.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking what your man-bunned grad student TA taught you, that “Hey, America sucks and these foreigners have a good point about America’s history of imperialism and general badness.” Well, this is a stupid thing to think and you Democrats should stop thinking it. Instead, you should stand with your own country all the time, no matter what.

I know siding with America will infuriate a huge part of your base, since America-hating leftist pieces of Schiff are a key Democrat constituency, but you should try courageously standing up to the trash that forms the foundation of your reeking party instead of collaborating with those fifth columnist communists.  It’s called “character.” Get some.

Yes, I know it’s a proud Democrat tradition stemming back to when your party started, and then ensured the communists won, the Vietnam War. During the last decades of the Cold War, which the Republicans won, you sided with the Russians – for you younger Democrats, Russians only became bad to Democrats sometime in 2016. Still today, if there is a Third World USA-hating potentate or terrorist leader, that dirtbag can count on you. Say, does your vintage Che tee still fit?

But this act is getting old, like your leading presidential candidates.

Perhaps in your blue city/faculty lounge circles, concepts like “patriotism,” “loyalty” and “not allying yourself with communist and Islamist butchers” are character defects that, if you drones had the capacity to breed, you would attempt to breed out of the pack. But here in America, we like them. And we prefer Americans who side with America.

I know you don’t like Donald Trump. You have a right not to like Donald Trump. And if you feel it necessary, because you want to fix the skyrocketing stock market and rock-bottom unemployment problems he caused, you can campaign against Donald Trump and support his opponents, whether it be the senile pappy of the promiscuous crack connoisseur, or the fake Indian, or the crusty communist, or that insufferable little weasel who is mayor of the Indiana equivalent of Barstow. That is your right as an American. But you are total garbage if you choose to side with our enemies because you don’t like the guy who the American people elected over your objection.

Donald Trump is your president. Let me say that again. Donald Trump is your president.

He is the President of the United States of America. You don’t have to like that. You don’t have to like him. Feel free to run around the country shouting about how “He’s not my president!” But don’t ever side with our enemies because you are mad at him for crushing the Venezuela 2: The Quickening dreams of your idol Felonia Milhous von Pantsuit.

You spent the last three years babbling like idiots about “traitors” and “treachery.” Well, head docs call that “projection.” You are siding with the enemy in a war against the United States. And yeah, Iran has been at war with the United States for 40 years, ever since your peanut-farming, half-wit fellow Dem handed over the keys to the country to a bunch of Seventh Century Pennywises. The least you could do is show a little respect to the people trying to clean up your party’s mess.

Your party’s latest triumph is blaming Donald Trump because these drooling morons shot down a passenger airliner the night they launched missiles at our American soldiers. What the hell is wrong with you? Are you sick? Are you stupid? Are you huffing that funny powder you found in Hunter Biden’s medicine cabinet? What would ever have possessed you to start making excuses for people trying to kill Americans?

There’s a term in the military for people like you: “Blue Falcons.” It derives from the initials “BF.” The initial “B” is for “Buddy.” I’m not going to spell out what the “F’ is for. But you’re Blue Falcons if you sided with Iran’s mullahs against your own country because you got the sadz that mean old Trump is president and not Stumbles McMyturn.

You know, this Soleimani guy, before Donald Trump turned him into a wet bag of disarticulated chunks, murdered over 600 Americans and who knows how many more foreigners. It’s okay to say that he’s bad, and that smearing him across a Baghdad boulevard was pretty damn awesome. Hell, it’s mandatory. You should break out the champagne to celebrate his close encounter of the Hellfire kind. But you won’t. You can’t.

I understand this when it comes to that ridiculous AOC and her brother-curious grifter pal Illin’ Omar. I expect nothing from them except treachery. But a lot of Democrats have spent time in positions of power in Washington or otherwise have some credentials that might lead one to expect that they might resist the radical #resist nitwits. Some of them even served in uniform – Audie Buttigieg never shuts up about his adventures in the Squid Force. They should know better, and they should tell the morons in the Squad and the rest of their America-hating pals to shut their collaboration holes.

But that won’t happen. And it’s a disgrace.

Among the Democrat voters, there are patriots, including those who have served our country with honor and who continue serving today. Those Dem voters are disgusted with you and, if I was cynical, and I am totally cynical, I would issue them a heartfelt invitation to join the Republican Party, where people who love America are welcome. Walk away, Democrat patriots. Welcome to the GOP.

Regardless, you don’t take our disagreements outside of the country. You don’t fight in front of foreigners. And you don’t ever take the enemy’s side. These are just basic, threshold requirements to call yourself a “patriot.” Unless you don’t want to be a patriot. You Democrats who don’t, at least be honest and just come right out and admit that you hate America. And the rest of you should admit that you are just too weak to stand up for it.



Conservatives should stop blindly defending law enforcement, the clergy, and Big Business and examine the moral order of institutions

By Richard McCarty

It is time for fine-brush conservatism. For too long, broad-brush conservatism has defended certain institutions — including law enforcement, the clergy, and Big Business — to the hilt without demanding too many facts. To be clear, these are institutions worthy of vigorous defense, but it is not enough to just signal support. To defend society, bad actors must be rooted out. There is a moral order of institutions serving the nation that cannot be ignored and must be vigorously enforced in order for there to be prosperity.

Rather than defend people based on who they purport to represent, we should choose whom we defend based on their individual character and actions. By doing this, Republicans and conservatives should gain more respect in their communities and should find more support for their policies and politicians who are doing it right.

For starters, Republicans can no longer afford to reflexively defend every law enforcement officer assuming that they must have had a good reason for their actions. Yes, we want officers to go home safely at the end of their shift, and, yes, we want them to solve crimes; but we also want them to only use deadly force as a last resort, and we want them to respect our Constitutional rights. By blindly defending law enforcement, Republicans appear hopelessly out-of-touch. Whenever there is an officer-involved shooting, Republicans should demand a full, independent investigation. Law enforcement officers have tough and important jobs, but the bad apples and the incompetent officers must be weeded out — for our protection and the good of the other officers.

In addition, Republicans should stop blindly defending the clergy. In the past, the faithful — many of whom are conservative — have defended corrupt religious leaders or failed to hold them accountable as they have abused their positions. Most likely this was done out of fear that bad press would harm their faith or cause people to lose their faith in God. In the short-term, membership at a particular house of worship might fall after a scandal. But what is far worse is when the public finally finds out that religious leaders have committed serious crimes and that precious little was done to make it stop even after the crimes were discovered. That is far more likely to shake people’s faith rather than the crimes of a single individual. Fortunately, in recent years, we have largely seen a reversal of this view, and now more people of faith are demanding answers as well as personnel and policy changes.

Republicans should also stop automatically defending Big Business. These days, Big Business is incredibly powerful, is not opposed to selling the country out for a fast buck, and is only too happy to fund the abortion lobby, radical environmentalists, and socialists. Here are few examples of indefensible corporate behavior:

A profitable Fortune 500 company closes a factory in Wisconsin and ships the jobs to China;

A failed corporate CEO is handsomely rewarded on his way out the door;

A multibillion-dollar company lays off hundreds of American employees and requires them to train their foreign replacements who just arrived in the country on their H-1B visas; and

A gigantic corporation intentionally overworks its employees and gives them too little time to eat or take bathroom breaks.

Not only should we not defend these actions, we should blast these companies for their lack of patriotism and decency. At the end of the day, we need to remember that greed at the expense of the nation is not good, and it should be discouraged.

Some currently defending the disgraceful actions of Big Business probably do so, not because they agree with the behavior, but, rather, because they believe that they must defend this behavior or socialism will advance.

These people have it exactly backward. By defending outrageous behavior, these conservatives push people toward the socialists; instead of halting socialism, they are fueling it. On the other hand, by refusing to defend corporate America’s bad behavior, conservatives just might be able to help rein in some of the most egregious behavior; and when there are fewer instances of corporations taking advantage of customers or workers, there should be less interest in the left’s “solutions” — like 90 percent tax rates, maximum wages, and more unions.

In recent years, Republicans have overextended themselves blindly defending institutions without assessing the value they bring to improving and extending traditions. Without examining the moral order of our society, we fail to offer firm prescriptions to the issues we face. This situation is untenable, and it is time pull back the defensive lines and let the bad actors we have foolishly been sheltering finally face the consequences of their actions.

When you think about it, it is rather odd that a party that values the individual and deemphasizes group membership would defend people based on their institutional line of work. In other words, our criteria for choosing whom to defend is not consistent with our values. This must change.




"THE SUPREME LEADER IS A MURDERER": Iran opens fire on demonstrators. Protesters chant: "Our enemy is right here; they lie to us that it's America." (The Daily Wire)

DESPICABLE: No Senate Democrats support measure praising military for killing Soleimani. All GOP senators supported same resolution about Bin Laden during Obama years. (The Daily Wire)

NO HIDING IT: Iran admits it "unintentionally" shot down Ukrainian jetliner (The Washington Times)

BOOKER OUT: Cory Booker drops out of the presidential race (NBC News)

NO CAPITULATING: Taiwan's president reelected as voters back tough China stance (CNBC)

POLITICAL THEATER: House Democrats block hazardous-substance measure to protect unborn children (The Washington Free Beacon)

TAKING ON UNIONS: Trump administration rolls back Obama-era "joint employer" rule (Washington Examiner)

SORRY NOT SORRY: FBI director apologizes to FISA court — not Carter Page — for warrant application abuses (The Daily Wire)

RECIPROCITY UNDER FIRE: Virginia gun proposal puts concealed-carry agreements with other states in jeopardy (Washington Examiner)

BRAINWASHED: Shocking number of young Americans say other countries are better than the U.S. (The Daily Wire)

POLICY: The FISA court is complicit in the FBI abuses it's raising Cain over (The Federalist)

SATIRE: "The View" audience applauds Hitler after revelation he never voted for Trump (The Babylon Bee)


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, January 14, 2020

The Democrat’s Hatred of President Trump and America Itself Is Appalling

Over the last three years, these lunatics have tried to fake it, but their mask is off. We have watched them express outright hate for the Founding Fathers, the police, law and order, the rule of law, the Constitution, election results, and, most recently, the electoral college.  When I thought they had reached their wits ends, they put the pedal to the metal with their recent reaction to the killing of Iran’s top military General Qasem Soleimani.

I never thought I would see the day when Americans would be so full of hate toward their own country that they would rally around the terror-supporting nation of Iran. Seriously. Iran is the same country that took over the U.S. Embassy holding 52 American citizens hostage for 444 days. Iran is where they cheered in the streets as nearly 3000 Americans died in the 9-11 attacks on American soil. Iran is where “death to America” is routinely shouted. It’s the place where advocating for wiping the state of Israel off the map is commonplace. Iran continually threatens its neighbors while developing nuclear weapons for offensive purposes.

Need examples? A recent USA Today story reported that demonstrators hit the streets in Philadelphia, New York, and around the White House and that another 70 protests are scheduled. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar was outraged after hearing about the airstrike and even referred to him as a “foreign official.” That’s like referring to Osama Bin Laden and ISIS leader al-Baghdadi as foreign officials. Filmmaker Michael Moore sent a message to Iranian leader Khamenei advising him to “let me and millions of Americans fix this.” Also, cop-hating nitwit Colin Kaepernick referred to the US military as terrorists for carrying out the airstrike. How nice. These American-hating liberals mourned the loss of the murdering Soleimani, making him out to be a martyr for heaven sakes. Another story mentioned how NPR reporters covering Soleimani’s funeral referred to it as a “historic day” for the Tehran regime.

Now let’s compare the left’s perspective against what more reasonable American officials say about Soleimani. Pentagon reports refer to Soleimani as a “shadow commander” who was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans and their allies and that the strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attacks. Soleimani was involved in coordinating rocket attacks to maim and kill troops based in Iraq. Retired General David Petraeus called Soleimani the most significant Iranian adversary during his four years in Iraq and said his killing was impossible to overstate. Former Obama national security adviser Susan slipped up. She said that they weren’t presented with the opportunity to take out Soleimani, but if they had been, they would have considered it. I highly doubt that. Remember Obama’s famous red line in Syria moment.

Even Iranian dissidents had the good sense to celebrate the killing of Soleimani calling the event one step closer to the downfall of the regime in Tehran. They pointed out that he was both hated and feared in Iran and was responsible for the death of thousands of protestors in Tehran. But not the American left.

American foreign policy is always subject to debate in America. That aspect is what differentiates democracies from a dictatorship like Iran, where dissidents are imprisoned. When Americans disagreed with Obama’s foreign policy decisions, however, Obama sympathizers including the liberal media, quickly turned any dissent into an opportunity to call people racist for disagreeing with the first black President. However, Former Senator Joe Lieberman is sensible. Lieberman said, “President Trump’s order to take out Soleimani was morally, constitutionally and strategically correct and that it deserves more bipartisan support than the begrudging or negative reactions it has received thus far from my fellow Democrats.”

President Trump laid out the case for taking out Soleimani. He said Soleimani was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel. He said that the head of Iranians ruthless Quds Force himself facilitated horrific acts of terrorism in places like New Delhi, London, and inside the US. His camps trained killers responsible for the deaths of US service members. He was involved in a recent rocket attack that killed an American and severely injured other servicemen. And that he directed the violent assault on the US Embassy in Iraq.

One of the most solemn duties of the President of the United States is to protect the American people at home and abroad. Those aren’t just words a President utters when taking the oath of office. Trump personifies it. Most Americans, not on a partisan rant, appreciate it. 

Trump indeed had other options. But, he alone has to make the decision. It can be the most lonely spot a leader can find themselves in, but Trump signed up for this.

The position that America should not have defended itself using the policy of pre-emptive attack because of possible retaliation is what nations like Iran bolster to carry on their mischief in the region and around the world. We used that failed head in the sand policy prior to 9-11 when the system was blinking red that al Qaeda was planning an attack. A pre-emptive attack would have saved thousands of lives and injury not to mention the damage done to the US economy.

Iran is a menace and has been for a long time in the Middle East. Trump has chosen to deal with this threat and not hide from it. There is an added benefit to dealing forcefully with Iran. Kim Jong-un and North Korea are watching too.

So rather than wish that Soleimani rest in peace, I say may he rest in pieces. And to every other lunatic terrorist or nation that wants to kill Americans, wake up, you’re not dealing with Obama anymore. Trump has been clear from day one, and his correct decision to take out Soleimani proves once again that he keeps his promises.



Make presidential debates worth watching

by Jeff Jacoby

I HATE to be the bearer of bad news, but another Democratic presidential debate is coming. It's scheduled for 9 p.m. Tuesday at Drake University in Des Moines. I'm planning to watch, but only because I have to for work. You, on the other hand, are under no such obligation, and if you're like most Americans, you have no intention of tuning in.

In the first of these Democratic debates last June, the total TV audience (over two nights) topped 33 million. In the second debate, in July, the audience totaled 19.4 million. In the third, it was down to 14 million. It dropped again for the fourth, and for the fifth, and by the time candidates and moderators walked onto the stage at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles for the sixth of these affairs, the audience had dwindled to a mere 6.1 million. How low can it go?

Voters usually grow more, not less, interested as an election campaign unfolds, so by now vast multitudes should be avidly following every word of these debates. Instead, multitudes are doing the opposite, repelled by these tiresome, shallow, and predictable scrimmages. Presidential? That's the last thing they are. These gaudy TV events, with their high-tech gimcracks and game-show atmosphere, aren't forums for grappling seriously with genuine disagreements over policy. They're arenas for silly entertainment. Like WWE Wrestling, minus the gravitas, as someone once said.

The deficiencies of our televised debates are an old story. As far back as 1990, the late Walter Cronkite called them an "unconscionable fraud." If you've watched even one of these encounters, you know that they involve no actual debating. The candidates aren't interested in vigorously contending for competing policy differences. Their goals are to deploy their carefully honed talking points, to avoid stumbling into a gaffe, and — if the opportunity presents itself — to zing an opponent with an extemporaneous rebuttal carefully planned in advance.

Nowhere is it written that White House hopefuls must debate. Until Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy met in a CBS studio in Chicago in September 1960, no presidential candidates had ever faced off in that way. But if we are to have debates, they ought to be more than two hours of grandstanding soundbite theater. Their purpose should be not to see who can come up with the most memorable punchline or the sharpest opposition-research barb, but to give voters some insight into the thinking and substance of people who want to be president, and some insight into how they would conduct themselves in the highest office in the land.

How to do that? I offer four improvements:

1. Debate without moderators. If moderators weren't needed for the Constitutional convention debates in Philadelphia in 1787 or for the Lincoln-Douglas Senate debates in 1858, they certainly aren't needed for presidential candidates in 2020. Let two or more candidates sit down at a table with a single microphone and an agreed-upon topic, and have at it for 90 minutes, on air. Viewers could draw their own conclusions: Who drove the discussion? Whose arguments were persuasive? Who had facts and logic and their command? Who merely pontificated?

2. Discuss books. Great literature can shed light on challenging dilemmas and highlight the power of human character and motivation to resolve them. Why not invite candidates to read a classic work, then appear on camera to wrestle with the issues it raises? After studying Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, for example, they could analyze why Brutus feared Caesar's ambition, and whether his assassination was justified. They could take up Lord of the Flies, William Golding's 1954 masterpiece, and explore whether human beings instinctively seek peaceful cooperation, or gravitate to violence and domination. They could read Martin Luther King Jr.'s Letter from Birmingham Jail, and debate how a free society can recognize an unjust law and when civil disobedience is an appropriate strategy for changing such laws.

3. Workshop a crisis. How would a president react in an emergency? Obviously we can't be certain in advance, but candidates could be confronted with an unexpected scenario and forced to "respond" in real time: An Air Force fighter crashes over the Persian Gulf, and an Islamist terror group is taking credit. The "Big One" has struck along California's San Andreas fault, leaving Pomona and San Bernardino in ruins. Cyber-anarchists simultaneously paralyze Bank of America, Chase, and Capital One with a computer virus, unleashing havoc in financial markets and triggering a 1,000-point stock market selloff. What would the candidates do first? Whom would they reach out to? What information would they need? What choices would they face? What would they tell the nation?

4. Conduct formal debates. Real debate could have real value, if candidates were given sufficient time to make their case and rebut their rivals. Instead of the 45-second soundbites they're allowed now, with moderators skipping from question to question, a formal debate would require each participant to address at length a central proposition — e.g., "A wall should be built along the Mexican border" or "The $21 trillion national debt must be paid down." Candidates would be given a block of eight minutes each to make their case, plus two minutes for rebuttal after the others have spoken. The moderator's only role would be to keep time — no questions, no interruptions. Viewers would decide for themselves whose arguments seemed most thoughtful, prudent, realistic, and presidential.

Any of these variations would elevate the tone and deepen the content of the "debates" our candidates engage in now. American democracy deserves better than the spectacle of bickering, quibbling would-be presidents lined up like contestants on "Family Feud." After all, what is the point of debates that fewer and fewer voters want to watch?



Conway: Would Buttigieg Have Invited Soleimani Into the Wine Cave?

During a Saturday night interview with Fox News' Jesse Watters on "Watters World," White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway discussed Democrats continually defending Iranian Qud Force General Qasem Soleimani. She accurately described them as "apologists," the Daily Caller reported.

According to Conway, the 2020 Democrats had no idea what to think of President Donald Trump's order to kill Soleimani.

“I also think the 2020 crowd really didn’t know what to do with this because they’re stuck. Nobody cares what they say. Nobody pays attention to these town halls anymore," Conway explained. "They’re starting to feel the Bern again.

The guy who beat Hillary in 22 contests in the primary is raising all this money and is in it to stay and if you’re a socialist on economic policies, we know what your foreign policy is. They’re becoming apologists for the bad guys and that’s very disappointing.”

In a mocking way, she asked about Mayor Pete Buttigieg's "wine cave," a reference to Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D-MA) claim that the South Bend, Indiana mayor shmoozes rich people.

“[Pete] Buttigieg, what did he want the president to do?” the White House counselor asked. “Is he going to invite Soleimani into the wine cave? We think that we know where Soleimani is and belongs. We think [Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi is looking very lonely in hell and needed a roommate.”

Buttigieg has been an outspoken opponent of Trump's actions against Soleimani.



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, January 13, 2020

What explains the curious persistence of the Myers–Briggs personality test?

BOOK REVIEW of "What’s Your Type? The Strange History of Myers–Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing" by Merve Emre

Comments by Australian psychologist Nick Haslam below. Haslam is good at exposing the Myers Briggs nonsense but he is not equally good at examining his own assumptions

Standing at the end of a line, pressed up against the glass wall of a well-appointed meeting room, I asked myself the rueful question that all personality psychologists have posed at least once: why is the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator so damned popular? The smart, charismatic consultant facilitating this leadership course had given the questionnaire to his class and instructed us to line up according to our scores on extraversion–introversion. Far to my right on this spectrum of perkiness stood a colleague with a double-espresso personality; down this end, with no one to my left, I was decidedly decaf.

Let me get off my chest what’s wrong with the Myers–Briggs, or MBTI as it is known in the acronymphomaniac world of personality testing. The MBTI classifies people according to four binary distinctions: whether they are extraverts or introverts, intuitive or sensing types, thinkers or feelers, and judges or perceivers. Three of these distinctions rest on an archaic theory of personality typing proposed by Carl Jung, and the fourth was invented and grafted on by the test’s developers.

The four distinctions bear little relation to what decades of systematic research have taught us about the structure of personality. They are smeared unevenly over four of the five dimensions that most contemporary personality psychologists accept as fundamental, and completely ignore a fifth, which is associated with the tendency to experience negative emotions. The same effort to erase the dark side of personality is evident in the MBTI’s use of sanitising labels to obscure the negative aspects of its four distinctions. In large measure, being a thinking type amounts to being interpersonally disagreeable, and being a perceiving type to being impulsive and lacking in persistence. But in MBTI-world, all personality types are sunnily positive, a catalogue of our “differing gifts.”

The MBTI doesn’t only misrepresent the content of personality. It also gets the nature of personality fundamentally wrong. Despite masses of scientific evidence that human personality is not composed of types, its four distinctions are understood as crisp dichotomies that combine to yield sixteen discrete personality “types,” each with a four-letter acronym such as INTJ or ESFP. In reality, personality varies by degrees along a set of continuous dimensions, just like height, weight or blood pressure. In the face of mountains of research demonstrating that personality is malleable throughout the lifespan, proponents of the MBTI also argue that one’s type is inborn and unchanging. In short, the MBTI presents personality as a fixed essence whereas the science of personality shows it to be a continuous flux.

The MBTI also fails to meet the standard statistical requirements of psychological tests. Its items employ a problematic forced-choice format that requires people to decide which of two statements describes them better. Its scales lack coherence. The typology lacks re-test reliability, which means that people are commonly scored as having different types when they complete the measure on two separate occasions. Evidence that MBTI type correlates with real-world behaviour — known as predictive validity in the trade — is scant.

So why is a test with weak psychometric credentials, based on a musty theory of personality that gets the structure of human personality wrong, so enduringly popular? Arguably its weaknesses from a scientific standpoint are precisely what give it its appeal. Personality may not really form discrete types, but people relish the clarity of noun categories and binary oppositions. Personality may not really come in sixteen flavours, but MBTI types are sweet simplifications. Personality may be mutable, but people find reassurance in the idea that they have an unchanging true self. And the average person could not give two hoots about the statistical considerations that trouble test developers.

What matters to most people, at least those who complete the MBTI as an exercise in self-understanding rather than a compulsory workplace activity, is whether it offers accessible and palatable insight. And the MBTI undoubtedly provides that in spades. Its four-letter codes are readily grasped, its descriptions flatter our strengths, and the fact that its four distinctions bear some relationship to fundamental personality traits ensures that it offers a certain truthiness.

Although the shortcomings of the MBTI have been discussed within academic psychology for decades, a historical analysis has been lacking. Merve Emre’s fascinating new book fills that gap stylishly. Emre, a literature academic at Oxford, documents the genesis of the MBTI in the Jungian enthusiasms of Katharine Briggs and the more worldly ambitions of her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers. Despite the subtitle’s questionable reference to the “birth” of personality testing — the first test dates back almost another thirty years to the first world war — the book’s recounting of the origins of the instrument is colourful and revealing.

Katharine Briggs emerges as someone single-mindedly devoted to making sense of human individuality and using that sense to guide people in directions to which she believed them suited. As a young mother without training in psychology, she developed a system of personality typing that she used in an informal child guidance, or “baby training,” enterprise, later finding a resonance between her ideas and those expressed in Carl Jung’s Psychological Types, which was published in 1921. Jung became Katharine’s “personal God”: at one point she wrote a hymn to him (“Upward, upward, from primal scum / Individuation / Is our destination / Hoch, Heil, Hail to Dr Jung!”). Encouraged by her correspondence with the great man, and armed with 3ʺ x 5ʺ index cards, Katharine refined her classification system and compulsively typed everyone she encountered, from neighbourhood children to Adolf Hitler.

Katharine’s daughter Isabel Briggs Myers had a more pragmatic cast of mind but inherited her mother’s absorption in types. After writing two mystery novels, she developed an early version of the MBTI while working for America’s first corporate personality consultant in 1943. Soon after, she launched it as a small commercial proposition. In the late 1950s the questionnaire was picked up by the Educational Testing Service, an eminent test developer and publisher in Princeton, New Jersey, giving it a chance at mainstream success and respectability. After endless wrangling between Isabel and staff psychometricians, though, the ETS lost interest and cut its losses. Seeing the instrument as “little better than a horoscope,” ETS staff insisted on conducting the same validation research as any other test would undergo, but Isabel remained resistant and possessive. Eventually a new publisher released the MBTI as a self-scored test and it quickly became a staple of the US$2 billion personality assessment industry, especially beloved by personnel consultants.

As history goes, Emre’s book is compelling and well paced. It presents Katharine and Isabel as rounded characters and places them in a richly drawn cultural and historical context. But as an account of personality testing more generally, the book is flawed. Despite having chronicled the many ways in which the MBTI was a cuckoo in the nest of personality psychology — the product of obsessed amateurs, disparaged by the psychometric orthodoxy at the ETS, popularised rather than professionalised — Emre sees it as emblematic. An emblem it is not. Unlike most other major tests, its use is not restricted to trained professionals and its legacy is protected by an almost cultish organisation that forbade Emre access to most of the Briggs–Myers papers, despite their officially being open to the public. Unlike other tests, the MBTI doesn’t promote itself by appeal to a validating body of scientific evidence. To treat the MBTI as representative of contemporary personality testing is like presenting the primal scream as representative of modern psychotherapy.

Emre is on more solid ground when she describes the functions of workforce personality testing, using the MBTI as an example. Its key purpose in that domain — only one of several in which it is used, it must be said — is indeed to select people who are likely to perform better than others in particular lines of work. Ideally that rationale is backed by evidence that the tests are valid predictors of workplace performance. Whether this purpose is benign or sinister is open to debate. It can be viewed positively as the legitimate application of behavioural science to enhance the wellbeing of workers and the success of organisations, or negatively as a dystopian tool for creating human cogs for the corporate machine.

Emre favours the darker interpretation, writing that personality typing “conscripts people into bureaucratic hierarchies.” This charge is hyperbolic: even if one is critical of the use of the MBTI or other testing, it does not force people into any position against their will, it is not employed exclusively in bureaucratic organisations, and it is used at least as much to differentiate people horizontally according to their strengths as it is to stratify them in hierarchies. The very same charge could be made against any other approach to selecting or assigning people to organisational roles, including interviews, hiring quotas or old boy networks.

The key question has to be whether personality testing selects and assigns people to work roles in ways that are better or worse than its alternatives: whether it is fairer and more valid, efficient or desirable than some other preferred metric. Unless there are grounds for believing that personality tests are worse than these alternatives, to criticise them for conscripting people into bureaucratic hierarchies is merely to express hostility to bureaucratic hierarchies.

Emre also struggles to form a consistent view when she discusses personality testing’s relationship to individuality. At times she presents the MBTI as a tool that promotes individualism by claiming to clarify each person’s specialised strengths and aid in their quest for self-discovery. At others she describes it in over-heated terms as “liquidating” or “annihilating” the self, as if a questionnaire had the capacity to destroy the person’s uniqueness. Here she cites the work of German social theorist Theodor Adorno, fierce critic of commodification (and jazz), who proclaimed that personality tests undermine human individuality.

Emre never quite resolves these antithetical views, but the paradox is only apparent. Receiving a score on a personality test, or even being assigned to an MBTI “type” does not submerge individuality. It simply provides it with a partial description that other people may share. Being described as brunette, overweight, liberal or a typical Taurus does not undermine a person’s selfhood but merely qualifies it, and the same is true when someone is described as being an ENTP. MBTI types, for all their conceptual failings, don’t reduce personal identity to one of sixteen psychological clones. They simply offer people a language for capturing some aspects of their personal distinctiveness.

In passing, Adorno’s critique of the “reified consciousness” involved in personality testing has a certain irony to it. In one of his books he recalled being asked by an American colleague whether he was an extravert or an introvert, writing contemptuously that “it was as if she, as a living being, already thought according to the model of multiple-choice questionnaires.” A few years later, while conducting his influential studies of authoritarianism, Adorno proceeded to create his own multiple-choice personality questionnaire.

Another confusion arises in Emre’s discussion of personality typology. Remembering the horrors of the Holocaust, Adorno rightly condemned the practice of assigning people to categorical types. This is a legitimate criticism of the MBTI, whose proponents view personality types as discrete and unchanging facts of nature. (Emre writes that Isabel Briggs Myers was astonished to find that scores on the MBTI’s scales were distributed in a bell curve, not in the camel-humped way that type theory supposed.) Emre notes this criticism of typology but then mistakenly applies it to personality testing in general. In contrast to the MBTI, almost all personality tests are explicitly anti-typological. These tests assess differences between people along a continuum without invoking bogus categories, and they do not make ill-founded claims that their scores correspond to unchanging personal essences. By failing to recognise that typological thinking is a specific failing of the MBTI, Emre misses the extent to which major criticisms of that instrument do not tarnish personality testing as a whole.

To serious students of personality, the continuing success of the MBTI within the testing industry is a source of bafflement. Emre’s book does not diminish that dismay, but it helps to clarify why the instrument is the way it is. Despite its unpromising beginnings, she demonstrates that it has a powerful appeal, offering an intuitively attractive way to apprehend ourselves as a pattern of distinctive strengths. In Emre’s preferred Foucauldian terminology, the MBTI is an effective “technology of the self.” The fact that it is a rather Bronze Age technology is almost immaterial.



Texas governor to reject new refugees, first under Trump

HOUSTON — Texas will no longer accept the resettlement of new refugees, becoming the first state known to do so under a recent Trump administration order, Governor Greg Abbott said Friday.

Abbott’s announcement could have major implications for refugees coming to the United States.

Texas has large refugee populations in several of its cities and has long been a leader in settling refugees, taking in more than any other state during the 2018 governmental fiscal year, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Since the 2002 fiscal year, Texas has resettled an estimated 88,300 refugees, second only to California.

In a letter released Friday, Abbott wrote that Texas “has been left by Congress to deal with disproportionate migration issues resulting from a broken federal immigration system.” He added that Texas has done ‘‘more than its share.”



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, January 12, 2020

Contrary to what the media reports, middle class Americans are surging

By nearly every measure today, we are living in a magnificent time for the American economy. There is a booming stock market fueling trillions of dollars of wealth gains, record low unemployment, 3 percent to 5 percent wage gains, and seven million unfilled jobs. So the recent headline for a CBS report seemed to strain all credulity when it declared, “Two years after Trump tax cuts, middle class Americans are falling behind.” Huh?

This might be the most dishonest news story headline of recent times. As the author of columns that ran a few weeks ago in the Wall Street Journal and on these pages which clearly documented that the median household income, meaning the middle class, has gained about $5,000 of income in just three years, I knew this headline was fatuous. The undeniable success story of the American economy is the surge in middle class incomes since President Trump took office and his tax cuts took effect, with middle class incomes increasing at least five times faster than under President Obama.

So how in the world did CBS mangle the universally good news to come up with an opposite conclusion? It turns out that there is a classic head fake in the report. The middle class is “falling behind” only relative to the gains of the wealthiest 1 percent. Even though the middle class has had a bigger income boost under Trump than anytime in 20 years, the middle class is allegedly now suffering a decline since the rich saw even faster gains. This appears to be an intentional distortion of economic reality.

Even more misleading is that CBS based its figures on a Congressional Budget Office estimate of what will happen with incomes over the next two years. The Congressional Budget Office also projected three years ago that gross domestic product might be some $600 billion below what it actually is today. This is not exactly an agency with a stellar record at predicting things. Even the CBS figures contradict the headline because the story claims incomes are up at least $4,000 per household for the middle class, adjusted for inflation under Trump. That compares with a $1,000 per household gain in incomes under Obama over eight years.

One critical conclusion of the CBS report is that “income for middle class Americans is growing more slowly than for both top earners and the poor.” But this is only because the tight labor market under Trump has brought about sizable wage gains for those at the bottom. The lowest quintile of Americans have seen some of the biggest percentage gains in income, according to an analysis done by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

Can someone please explain how these gains for those at the bottom of the income ladder are a bad thing? These complaints are coming from the same voices on the left who obsess about income inequality, which is now declining by some measures. The biggest story of the economy has been upward mobility. The middle class is not falling behind, it is getting richer. Meanwhile, the tax cuts have reduced liabilities each year for the average family with children by about $2,000 a year. Overall median household family incomes have risen by almost 8 percent in just three years under Trump, compared to almost no gains throughout the previous 16 years.

None of this even includes the dramatic increase in middle class wealth during the Trump boom with the stock market up more than 50 percent since his election. This means the 150 million or so Americans in homes with 401(k) plans and other stock holdings are wealthier than they were in 2016. MarketWatch seems to think a roaring stock market only helps the poor. But by the way, the folks who get crushed during a downturn are always the poor and the middle class, as we learned in 2008 and 2009.

Ultimately, there is no truth to the CBS statement that the middle class is falling behind or that the tax cuts under Trump have not worked to raise incomes. Most families are doing much better financially, with 76 percent rating the economy as “pretty good” or “great,” according to CNN. This is what prosperity looks like, and this tide of growth is lifting nearly all boats.



In America, the remembered past is Biblical -- and Trump is at home with that

New Essay at Claremont Review of Books: 'Time Out of Joint'

What makes America different from the Old World? It's easy to draw up a list of doctrinal differences, but not so easy to pin down a uniquely American way of understanding ourselves and the world. We really are different, I argue, in a new review-essay at Claremont Review of Books. I take to task the great historian of the First World War, Christopher Clark, for attempting to identify Donald Trump with wicked reactionary movements of Europe's past. To refute Clark's smear, I delve deeply into American identity.

Claremont (usually behind a paywall) generously has made my essay available here:

Here's an excerpt from my new essay:

The unchanging past of European old-world society does not know time, but only “once upon a time.” Generations come and go, but life remains the same, and the past is identical to the future, blending into a perpetual present. But American time-consciousness leaves this old-world mentality behind and looks forward. This is neatly captured in one of our foundational stories, Washington Irving’s “Rip van Winkle.” Rip goes to sleep in the temporality of “once upon a time”—in Novalis’s enchanted world. He awakes after the American Revolution in a new temporality, in the clear light of the modern world.

* * *

But this American forward motion is not the utopian progressivism that Clark wants to identify with liberalism. Clark’s simple juxtaposition of progressive linear time and the changeless present of traditional society utterly fails to understand American temporality. America does not march toward the end of history, because its founders felt keenly Saint Augustine’s distinction between the heavenly city and the earthly city.

The American journey does not proceed toward the earthly paradise of the progressives, but to a vanishing-point on the horizon. That is why the most impassioned religion can cohabit here with the rule of reason. The American eschaton is not immanent, but beyond the horizon. The American avatar of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim is Huckleberry Finn, who, in true American fashion, concludes his journey by starting a new one, lighting out to the new territory ahead of the others.

Sadly, Clark’s application of the Continental philosophy of time is reductionist and impoverished. That is his fault rather than that of the philosophers. Heidegger’s older contemporary, the great Jewish theologian Franz Rosenzweig, asserted in 1921 that the Biblical concept of time was the normative case. “Revelation is the first thing to set its mark firmly into the middle of time; only after Revelation do we have an immovable Before and Afterward,” he wrote in The Star of Redemption (1921). “Then there is a reckoning of time independent of the reckoner and the place of reckoning, valid for all the places of the world.”

Rosenzweig never visited the United States or commented on its national character, but his intuition that the Biblical reckoning of time is “valid for all the places of the world” rings true by reference to America in one way and the United Kingdom in another. Biblical time is metaphysically different from the eternal present of primitive society: it begins with the irruption of the one Creator God into history, which sets a marker for past and future, as Rosenzweig observed.

* * *

In Heidegger’s construct, we absorb by mere repetition the heritage that fate has apportioned us. To be entschlossen, or decisive, means to Heidegger submitting ourselves to this fate.

America by contrast adopted the heritage of Israel in an act of religious imagination. The Puritan “errand in the wilderness” with its vision of a new “city upon a hill” adopts the history of Israel as America’s spiritual history, the foundation for a new covenant. That is why America’s remembrance transcends the mere repetition of accumulated habits and experience and becomes instead what Lincoln called “[t]he mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone.”

America looks back, not to a distant past of pagan legends, but to a Biblical history which it has chosen for the backdrop of its journey into a bright and glorious future.

In Germany, by contrast, the reconstruction of the past took a tragic direction that Novalis and the Christian Romantics failed to anticipate. Neo-pagans like Richard Wagner succeeded in mining the legendary past for a German identity founded upon race. This became the “national nervous fever” that Friedrich Nietzsche denounced in 1886 in Beyond Good and Evil: “the anti-French folly, the anti-Semitic folly, the anti-Polish folly, the Christian-romantic folly, the Wagnerian folly, the Teutonic folly, the Prussian folly…and whatever else these little obscurations of the German spirit and conscience may be called.”

The crux of Clark’s argument appears in his chapter on Hitler, which “builds a case for the distinctiveness of National Socialist temporality.” Hitler sought “to establish an ever more perfect identity with the remote past, out of whose still uncontaminated timbers the house of the future would have to be built. In the ‘longing for a common [German] fatherland,’ Hitler wrote, there lies ‘a well that never dries.’”

Clark indulges in a lengthy peroration on the Nazis’ fascination with what he calls “the remote past,” including archeological investigation of Teutonic prehistory, cataloguing of folk customs, and other efforts to promote a culture of German racial identity. The reader well may ask whether the Nazis’ amateurish evocation of the mythic German past had anything like the impact of Wagner’s operas, especially the “Ring” tetralogy derived from 13th-century epic sagas in the Nibelungenlied and the Scandinavian Eddas.

* * *

In Clark’s carnival-mirror comparison, Trump’s campaign rhetoric about restoring American greatness and reclaiming American manufacturing jobs evokes the same regression to a mythical past that beguiled the Nazis—as if the American steel industry, which in 1948 employed ten times more workers than it does today, were the equivalent of Nibelheim or Valhalla. That is a feverish instance of what Leo Strauss mocked as “reductio ad Hitlerum.”

To say that Trump has rough edges is an understatement, but it is nonsensical to identify “Make America Great Again” with the Nazi revival of the pagan past. America has no pagan past to revive. It was founded as a Christian nation with a Biblical culture, albeit low-church Protestant and antinomian.

Trump was the overwhelming choice of evangelical Protestants in the primaries and won the highest proportion of the evangelical vote on record. Evangelicals supported Trump rather than one of their own, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, because they sought not a national pastor but the sort of rough man who would lead them in battle against the Philistines—a Jephthah or Saul rather than an Elijah. In a country whose founders held to the Calvinist doctrine of total depravity, rallying behind a sinner is not the least bit incongruous or un-Christian, much less Hitlerian.




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