Friday, March 31, 2017

Mitch McConnell has got balls after all

The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote to send Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court nomination to the full Senate next Monday, and Gorsuch will be confirmed on Friday – period, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told a news conference on Tuesday.

“I repeat, we're going to get Judge Gorsuch confirmed.” McConnell said the vote will give Democrats the “opportunity” to invoke cloture. “We’ll see where that ends,” he added.

McConnell said it will be up to Democrats to determine how the confirmation process goes. (If no Democrat is willing to confirm Gorsuch, Republicans could change Senate rules to allow him to be confirmed with 51 votes instead of 60.)

Judge Gorsuch, as you know, is extraordinarily well qualified. It's almost amusing to watch our Democratic friends try to come up with some rationale for opposition.



Trump Reversing Record Number of Regulations

President signs four more Congressional Review Act rollbacks, bringing total number to seven…or six more than all his predecessors combined

President Donald Trump's big moves today on energy/climate policy  are far from his only deregulatory heaves this week. On Monday, for example, the president signed into law four regulatory rollbacks presented to him via the Congressional Review Act (CRA), or three more than were enacted between 1996-2016 combined.

The previously obscure CRA gives Congress 60 working days to reverse any new regulation added to the Federal Register. (That's congressional working days, so in fact the 115th Congress has had the ability to pick off any unwanted Obama-administration reg enacted after mid-June of last year.) The only successful deployment of the CRA prior to Trump came in March 2001, when President George W. Bush signed out of existence a controversial November 2000 Clinton administration rule requiring employers to prevent ergonomic injuries in the workplace. The unified Republican Congress of 2015–2016 presented five CRA rollbacks to President Barack Obama, and he vetoed each one.

President Trump now has seven CRA notches on his belt, and more coming his way. The latest, as summarized by USA Today:

* The "Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces" rule, which barred companies from receiving federal contracts if they had a history of violating wage, labor or workplace safety laws. That regulation, derided by critics as the "blacklisting" rule, was already held up in court. [...]

* A Bureau of Land Management rule known as "Planning 2.0," that gave the federal government a bigger role in land use decisions. The rule was opposed by the energy industry.

* Two regulations on measuring school performance and teacher training under the Every Student Succeeds Act, a law Obama signed in 2015 with bipartisan support.

The other three CRA reversals so far have been a Security and Exchange Commission rule requiring publicly traded resource-extraction companies to disclose payments made to foreign governments, a Department of Interior framework governing stream runoff of coal mining operations, and a Social Security Administration policy (covered by Scott Shackford here) to share the names of people it classifies as having a mental illness with the federal gun database in order to deny them access to weapons.

Other Trump deregulatory activity has included:

* His January 30 executive order requiring agencies to identify two existing regulations to kill each time they promulgate a new one.

* His February 24 executive order instructing each agency to appoint a Regulatory Reform Officer, who will head up a task force that suggests regulations to euthanize.

* His appointment to the Supreme Court of Neil Gorsuch, a judge most famous for his criticism of excessive deference to regulators.

* His appointments to the Cabinet critics of and reformers to the departments they now head, including Education's Betsy DeVos, Energy's Rick Perry, Transportation's Elaine Chao, and Health and Human Service's Tom Price.

* His nomination of drug-approval-process critic Scott Gottlieb to head up the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and his three paragraphs in the State of the Union Address talking up FDA reform.

* His appointment to head up the Federal Communications Commission regulation skeptic Ajit Pai.

There is no doubt that the early Trump presidency has made deregulation a priority. It remains to be seen how much Congress will share that appetite.



Free Market Health Care

John Stossel
President Trump and Paul Ryan tried to improve Obamacare. They failed.

Trump then tweeted, “ObamaCare will explode and we will all get together and piece together a great healthcare plan for THE PEOPLE. Do not worry!”

But I do worry.  Trump is right when he says that Obamacare will explode.  The law mandates benefits and offers subsidies to more people. Insurers must cover things like:

—Birth control.

—Alcohol counseling.

—Depression screening.

—Diet counseling.

—Tobacco use screening.

—Breastfeeding counseling.

Some people want those things, but mandating them for everyone drives up costs. It was folly to pretend it wouldn’t.

Insisting that lots of things be paid for by someone else is a recipe for financial explosion. Medicare works that way, too.

When I first qualified for it, I was amazed to find that no one even mentioned cost. It was just, “Have this test!” “See this doctor!”

I liked it. It’s great not to think about costs. But that’s why Medicare will explode, too. There’s no way that, in its current form, it will be around to fund younger people’s care.

Someone else paying changes our behavior. We don’t shop around. We don’t ask, “Do I really need that test?” “Is there a place where it’s cheaper?”

Hospitals and doctors don’t try very hard to do things cheaply.  Imagine if you had “grocery insurance.” You’d buy expensive foods; supermarkets would never have sales. Everyone would spend more.

Insurance coverage — third-party payment — is revered by the media and socialists (redundant?) but is a terrible way to pay for things.

Today, seven in eight health care dollars are paid by Medicare, Medicaid or private insurance companies. Because there’s no real health care market, costs rose 467 percent over the last three decades.

By contrast, prices fell in the few medical areas not covered by insurance, like plastic surgery and LASIK eye care. Patients shop around, forcing health providers to compete.  The National Center for Policy Analysis found that from 1999 to 2011 the price of traditional LASIK eye surgery dropped from over $2,100 to about $1,700.

Obamacare pretended government controls could accomplish the same thing, but they couldn’t.

The sickest people were quickest to sign up. Insurance companies then raised rates to cover their costs. When regulators objected, many insurers just quit Obamacare. This month Humana announced it’ll leave 11 states. Voters will probably blame Republicans.

Insurance is meant for catastrophic health events, surprises that cost more than most people can afford. That does not include birth control and diet counseling.

The solution is to reduce, not increase, government’s control. We should buy medical care the way we buy cars and computers — with our own money.

Our employers don’t pay for our food, clothing and shelter; they shouldn’t pay for our health care. They certainly shouldn’t get a tax break for buying insurance while individuals don’t.

Give tax deductions to people who buy their own high-deductible insurance. Give tax benefits to medical savings accounts. (Obamacare penalizes them.)

Allow insurers to sell across state lines. Current law forbids that, driving up costs and leaving people with fewer choices.

What about the other “solution” — Bernie Sanders' proposal of single-payer health care for all? Sanders claims other countries “provide universal health care … while saving money.”

But that’s not true. Well, other countries do spend less. But they get less. What modern health care they do get, they get because they freeload off our innovation. Our free market provides most of the world’s new medical devices and medicines.

Also, “single-payer” care leads to rationing.  Here’s a headline from Britain’s Daily Mail: “Another NHS horror story from Wales: Dying elderly cancer patient left ‘screaming in pain’ … for nine hours.”

Britain’s official goal is to treat people four months after diagnosis. Four months! That’s only the “goal.” They don’t even meet that standard.

Bernie Sanders' plan has been tried, and it’s no cure. If it were done to meet American expectations, it would be ludicrously expensive. In 2011, clueless progressives in Bernie’s home state of Vermont voted in “universal care.” But they quickly dumped it when they figured out what it would cost. Didn’t Bernie notice?

It’s time to have government do less.



Trump has abolished pro-union rule

President Trump repealed the so-called “blacklisting rule” Monday that required federal contractors to disclose labor violations.  Federal government agencies are now prohibited from issuing a similar regulation. The regulation stems from a 2014 Executive Order that established excessive reporting requirements on federal contractors.

In short, the Blacklisting rule requires contractors who bid on federal contracts over $500,000 to report alleged, as well as actual labor violations over the last three years. Reported violations can be used to block a company’s bid.

The Blacklisting rule does far more harm than good. The government couldn’t produce an official estimate of its benefits (because of a lack of data supplied by agencies), but found more than $400 million in costs to the government and employers in the first two years of the rule. In addition, the rule adds a burden of 2.1 million hours of paperwork on the regulated community.

Besides imposing huge costs with unknown benefits, the regulation forces federal contractors to disclose alleged violations of wrongdoing, not actual labor violations. It is absurd that government regulations would disqualify federal contractors from a bid for allegations and not only real violations.

But it is plainly obvious why the rule was constructed to include alleged violations—to ease union organizing. As noted in a letter of support for the Blacklisting CRA from the Competitive Enterprise Institute:

In turn, this may provide incentive to labor unions, in the midst of organizing campaigns, to file frivolous labor-related charges against companies that bid on federal contractors in order to extract favorable union election conditions, like greater access to the workplace or card-check election.



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

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


Thursday, March 30, 2017

The False Compassion Of Liberalism


Last week on CNN I debated a liberal commentator who complained that the problem with President Donald Trump's budget blueprint is that it lacks "compassion" for the poor, for children and for the disabled.

This woman went on to ask me how I could defend a budget that would cut Meals on Wheels, after-school programs and special-education funding, because without the federal dollars, these vital services would go away.

This ideology — that government action is a sign of compassion — is upside-down and contrary to the Christian notion of charity.

We all, as individuals, can and should act compassionately and charitably. We can volunteer our time, energy and dollars to help the underprivileged. We can feed the hungry, house the homeless. Most of us feel a moral and ethical responsibility to do so — to "do unto others."

And we do fulfill that obligation more than the citizens of almost any other nation. International statistics show that Americans are the most charitable people in the world and the most likely to engage in volunteerism.

Whenever there is an international crisis — an earthquake, a flood, a war — Americans provide more assistance than the people of any other nation.

But government, by its nature, is not compassionate. It can't be. It is nothing other than a force. Government can only spend a dollar to help someone when it forcibly takes a dollar from someone else.

At its core, government welfare is predicated on a false compassion. This isn't to say that government should never take collective action to help people. But these actions are based on compulsion, not compassion.

If every so-called "patriotic millionaire" would simply donate half of their wealth to serving others we could solve so many of the social problems in this country without a penny of new debt or taxes.

My friend Arthur Brooks, the president of American Enterprise Institute, has noted in his fabulous book "Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism" that conservatives donate more than the self-proclaimed compassionate liberals.

The liberal creed seems to be: "We care so much about poor people, climate change, income inequality and protecting the environment (or whatever the cause of the day) that there is no limit to how much money should be taken out of other people's wallets to solve these problems."

Let's take Meals on Wheels. Is this a valuable program to get a nutritious lunch or dinner to infirmed senior citizens? Of course, yes.

Do we need the government to fund it? Of course not. I have participated in Meals on Wheels and other such programs, making sandwiches or delivering hot lunches. And many tens of thousands of others donate their time and money every day for this worthy cause.

Why is there any need for government here? The program works fine on its own. Turning this sort of charitable task over to government only makes people act less charitably on their own. It leads to an "I gave at the office" mentality, which leads to less generosity.

It also subjects these programs to federal rules and regulations that could cripple them. Why must the federal government be funding after-school programs, or any school programs, for that matter?

One of my favorite stories of American history dates back to the 19th century when Col. Davy Crockett, who fought at the Alamo, served in Congress. In a famous incident, Congress wanted to appropriate $100,000 to the widow of a distinguished naval officer.

Crockett took to the House floor and delivered his famous speech, relevant as ever: "We have the right, as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right to so appropriate a dollar of the public money. ... I am the poorest man on this floor. I cannot vote for this bill, but I will give one week's pay to the object, and if every member of Congress will do the same, it will amount to more than the bill asks."

Crockett was the only member of Congress who donated personally to the widow, while the members of Congress who pretended to be so caring and compassionate closed their wallets.

It all goes to show that liberal do-gooders were as hypocritical then as they are today.



Understanding Vladimir Vladimirovich

Putin did not come out of nowhere. Russian people not only tolerate him, they revere him. You can get a better idea of why he has ruled for 17 years if you remember that, within a few years of Communism’s fall, average life expectancy in Russia had fallen below that of Bangladesh. That is an ignominy that falls on Boris Yeltsin. Yeltsin’s reckless opportunism made him an indispensable foe of Communism in the late 1980s. But it made him an inadequate founding father for a modern state. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, whose writings about Communism give him some claim to be considered the greatest man of the twentieth century, believed the post-Communist leaders had made the country even worse. In the year 2000 Solzhenitsyn wrote: “As a result of the Yeltsin era, all the fundamental sectors of our political, economic, cultural, and moral life have been destroyed or looted. Will we continue looting and destroying Russia until nothing is left?” That was the year Putin came to power. He was the answer to Solzhenitsyn’s question.

There are two things Putin did that cemented the loyalty of Solzhenitsyn and other Russians—he restrained the billionaires who were looting the country, and he restored Russia’s standing abroad. Let us take them in turn.

Russia retains elements of a kleptocracy based on oligarchic control of natural resources. But we must remember that Putin inherited that kleptocracy. He did not found it. The transfer of Russia’s natural resources into the hands of KGB-connected Communists, who called themselves businessmen, was a tragic moment for Russia. It was also a shameful one for the West. Western political scientists provided the theft with ideological cover, presenting it as a “transition to capitalism.” Western corporations, including banks, provided the financing.

Let me stress the point. The oligarchs who turned Russia into an armed plutocracy within half a decade of the downfall in 1991 of Communism called themselves capitalists. But they were mostly men who had been groomed as the next generation of Communist nomenklatura­—people like Boris Berezovsky, Vladimir Gusinsky, and Mikhail Khodorkovsky. They were the people who understood the scope and nature of state assets, and they controlled the privatization programs. They had access to Western financing and they were willing to use violence and intimidation. So they took power just as they had planned to back when they were in Communist cadre school—but now as owners, not as bureaucrats. Since the state had owned everything under Communism, this was quite a payout. Yeltsin’s reign was built on these billionaires’ fortunes, and vice-versa.

Khodorkovsky has recently become a symbol of Putin’s misrule, because Putin jailed him for ten years. Khodorkovsky’s trial certainly didn’t meet Western standards. But Khodorkovsky’s was among the most obscene privatizations of all. In his recent biography of Putin, Steven Lee Myers, the former Moscow correspondent for the New York Times, calculates that Khodorkovsky and fellow investors paid $150 million in the 1990s for the main production unit of the oil company Yukos, which came to be valued at about $20 billion by 2004. In other words, they acquired a share of the essential commodity of Russia—its oil—for less than one percent of its value. Putin came to call these people “state-appointed billionaires.” He saw them as a conduit for looting Russia, and sought to restore to the country what had been stolen from it. He also saw that Russia needed to reclaim control of its vast reserves of oil and gas, on which much of Europe depended, because that was the only geopolitical lever it had left.

The other thing Putin did was restore the country’s position abroad. He arrived in power a decade after his country had suffered a Vietnam-like defeat in Afghanistan. Following that defeat, it had failed to halt a bloody Islamist uprising in Chechnya. And worst of all, it had been humiliated by the United States and NATO in the Serbian war of 1999, when the Clinton administration backed a nationalist and Islamist independence movement in Kosovo. This was the last war in which the United States would fight on the same side as Osama Bin Laden, and the U.S. used the opportunity to show Russia its lowly place in the international order, treating it as a nuisance and an afterthought. Putin became president a half a year after Yeltsin was maneuvered into allowing the dismemberment of Russia’s ally, Serbia, and as he entered office Putin said: “We will not tolerate any humiliation to the national pride of Russians, or any threat to the integrity of the country.”

The degradation of Russia’s position represented by the Serbian War is what Putin was alluding to when he famously described the collapse of the Soviet Union as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.” This statement is often misunderstood or mischaracterized: he did not mean by it any desire to return to Communism. But when Putin said he’d restore Russia’s strength, he meant it. He beat back the military advance of Islamist armies in Chechnya and Dagestan, and he took a hard line on terrorism—including a decision not to negotiate with hostage-takers, even in secret.

Much more HERE


Sanctuary City Crackdown Begins

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Monday that the Department of Justice would begin fighting against lawless “sanctuary cities” — jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration law. Sessions called “sanctuary” policies “dangerous” and promised the DOJ would act against offending local governments by both withholding upwards of $4.1 billion in grants as well as “claw back” federal funds. Sessions warned, “The Department of Justice will require that jurisdictions seeking or applying for DOJ grants to certify compliance with [U.S. Code 1373] as a condition of receiving those awards.”

Sessions highlighted the glaring contradiction espoused by those who, under the guise of protecting immigrants, support these lawless sanctuary policies: “Failure to deport aliens who are convicted of criminal offenses puts whole communities at risk, especially immigrant communities in the very sanctuary jurisdictions that seek to protect the perpetrators.” While all Americans suffer from the effects of unchecked illegal immigration, those communities most vulnerable to criminal aliens are legal immigrants. Sessions surmised that “countless Americans would be alive today … and countless loved ones would not be grieving today … if these polices of sanctuary cities were ended.”

Another important point Sessions made was the fact that his order is based upon the policies put in place by the Obama administration last year — policies it subsequently failed to follow through on. Sessions is simply doing his job as attorney general in applying the Rule of Law.

Predictably, leftist leaders from these sanctuary cities and immigrant groups voiced their consternation and intent to rebel. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio stated, “We won’t back down from protecting New Yorkers from terror … or from an overzealous administration fixated on xenophobia and needless division.”

Irrespective of the deluded sentiments expressed by these leftist leaders, the reality is that sanctuary cities provide no sanctuary from crime. Among numerous examples, the 2015 murder of Kate Steinle by a five-time deported criminal alien in San Francisco and the recent rape of a 14-year-old high schooler by illegal aliens in Maryland attest to that. Thankfully, for legal immigrants as well as native-born citizens, America now has an attorney general who believes in the Rule of Law and intends to apply it.



The religion of peace


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

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


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

What Georgia Could Teach Trump About How to Drain the Swamp

If the Trump administration wants to “dismantle the administrative state,” it might examine state-based efforts to tame the bureaucracy—the oldest being that of Georgia, where a Democratic governor moved state employees away from stringent civil service protections that blocked accountability.

“Who gets cut out of the picture when you protect the civil servant? The average citizen dealing with a bunch of bureaucrats,” Joe Tanner says.

In 1996, then-Gov. Zell Miller signed the Merit System Reform Act, a bill that initially encountered opposition from state employee associations and lawmakers.

Joe Tanner, who was chairman of the state’s Commission on Privatization of State Services during the Miller administration, recalled obtaining one file about hiring a state maintenance worker that was 6 inches thick. A file regarding firing another state maintenance worker for repeatedly not showing up for work was 12 inches thick.

After state Sen. Thurbert Baker, a Democrat, showed the two stacks on the Senate floor, the bill sailed to passage. The state Senate vote was 40-8, the House 141-35.

It worked beautifully to transform state government because people knew they had to get to work, even if they had a little sniffle. A lot of people will say, ‘You have to protect the civil servants.’ Who gets cut out of the picture when you protect the civil servant? The average citizen dealing with a bunch of bureaucrats.

The Georgia law ensured all state employees hired after July 1, 1996, would be at-will employees, but grandfathered in civil service protections for all of the existing employees.

The “at-will” designation means employers may fire employees without going through a long appeals process, which public sector employees rely on.

By 2012, over 88 percent of Georgia state employees were working on an at-will basis, hires and pay had actually increased, as did communication between employees and supervisors. The result of Georgia’s reform was not a decimation of the civil service, but instead, a more flexible and responsive system that adapted as the needs of the agency changed over time.



Trumping the State Department

Reining in the budget and activities of this bloated bureaucracy is essential

Scot Faulkner

President Trump’s budgetary assault on the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is long overdue.  He is forcing a rethinking that will benefit America and the world.

The State Department is one of the most bloated of federal bureaucracies.  Front line consular officers, many just starting their careers at State, actually help Americans abroad. However, there are also countless “Hallway Ambassadors” who aimlessly roam from irrelevant meeting to obscure policy forum, killing time and our tax dollars.

Legions of these taxpayer funded drones fill the State Department.  Some are reemployed retirees who travel to overseas missions conducting “inspections” to justify their additional salaries.

The American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) is to the State Department what the Teacher Unions are to public education.  It exists to protect tenure and to prevent any accountability or reduction among the State Department drones.

The Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance (AVC) is a uniquely harmful part of State.  This Bureau’s main mission has been to create photo ops of treaty signings.  The arms control treaties have usually been unenforceable with sworn enemies of America.  The Bureau’s agreements with the Soviet Union undermined U.S. security.  Its bureaucrats developed elaborate procedures for justifying the minimizing or overlooking of blatant treaty violations.  They are using this same play book for the Iranian Nuclear deal.

Headquarters waste and dysfunction are just the beginning of State Department ineffectiveness.  In the mid-1980’s, I viewed State Department field operations personally while serving as Director of the U.S. Peace Corps in Malawi.

The most egregious problem was the un-American culture that permeates career Foreign Service Officers.  Except for toasting America at the July 4th Embassy party each year, being pro-American is viewed as unprofessional. Long serving Americans would advise me that rising above nationalism and acting “world wise” was the mark of a seasoned diplomat.

Not only did these U.S. foreign bureaucrats avoid Americanism, they avoided the host country.  The Embassy team members spent their business and recreational time with diplomats from the other Embassies and with European expatriates living in Lilongwe, Malawi’s capital city.  Their only sojourns outside the capital were to Salima, the lakeside resort, or to the Ambassador’s vacation home on the Zomba Plateau.

As Country Director, I eliminated the chauffer-driven luxury car used by my predecessor and reallocated the chauffer to other duties.  At the wheel of a Nissan Patrol, I spent the majority of my time in the field with my seventy-five volunteers.  This meant absorbing in depth knowledge of Malawi and its people.

State Department versus reality was proven many times over.  The most blatant was the 1985 fuel shortage.  Malawi was land-locked.  The Mozambique Civil War closed off its closest ports.  A problematic network of rail lines brought goods, including gasoline, to Malawi via South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia.  My volunteers told me a Zimbabwean labor dispute was going to cause a five week disruption of fuel to Malawi.  I dutifully reported this to the Embassy Team.  They scoffed, assuring me that their British friend running Mobil-Malawi was telling them no disruption would occur.  I directed my staff to begin stockpiling gasoline.

The disruption occurred.  The Embassy team kept dismissing my reports and telling themselves the disruption would be short-lived.  By week four, the Embassy motor pool was without fuel.  Staff was delivering messages via bicycle.  By week five, the Ambassador asked to purchase fuel from the Peace Corps, which had remained fully operational.

The Embassy was blind-sided on an even more important issue.  Air Malawi announced it was going to purchase a new fleet of passenger jets along with a comprehensive parts and maintenance agreement.  At this point the State Department replaced the Embassy’s Commercial Attaché with a Hispanic who could barely speak English.  Instead of sending this person to Spanish-speaking Equatorial Guinea, they posted him to the most Anglophile country in Africa.  He was miserable and totally ineffective.

Alternatively, the German Ambassador moved about Malawi’s 28 regions, equaling my zeal for the field.  When Boeing’s sales team arrived they were given a proper, but cool reception.  The Fokker team arrived to a hero’s welcome and the multi-million dollar deal was signed shortly thereafter.  American business lost a huge contract.

USAID has spent over $1 trillion on overseas projects since its founding in 1961.  Empty buildings and rusting tractors are silent testaments to its failures.  What funds were not diverted to corrupt government officials went for unsustainable efforts, driven more by academic theories than practicality.

State Department and USAID need a fundamental review and a day of reckoning. This is fertile territory for President Trump and Secretary Tillerson to implant business principles and common sense.

 Via email


Law Takes a Holiday

Victor Davis Hanson
In the 1934 romantic movie “Death Takes a Holiday,” Death assumes human form for three days, and the world turns chaotic.

The same thing happens when the law goes on a vacation. Rules are unenforced or politicized. Citizens quickly lose faith in the legal system. Anarchy follows — ensuring that there can be neither prosperity nor security.

The United States is descending into such as abyss, as politics now seem to govern whether existing laws are enforced.

Sociologists in the 1980s found out that when even minor infractions were ignored — such as the breaking of windows, or vendors walking into the street to hawk wares to motorists in a traffic jam — misdemeanors then spiraled into felonies as lawbreakers become emboldened.

A federal law states that the president can by proclamation “suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.” Yet a federal judge ruled that president Trump cannot do what the law allows in temporarily suspending immigration from countries previously singled out by the Obama administration for their laxity in vetting their emigrants.

In the logic of his 43-page ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson seemed to strike down the travel ban based on his own subjective opinion of a president’s supposedly incorrect attitudes and past statements.

Some 500 “sanctuary” cities and counties have decided for political reasons that federal immigration law does not fully apply within their jurisdictions. They have done so with impunity, believing that illegal immigration is a winning political issue given changing demography. In a way, they have already legally seceded from the union and provided other cities with a model of how to ignore any federal law they do not like.

The law states that foreign nationals cannot enter and permanently reside in the United States without going through a checkpoint and in most cases obtaining a legal visa or green card. But immigration law has been all but ignored. Or it was redefined as not committing additional crimes while otherwise violating immigration law. Then the law was effectively watered down further to allow entering and residing illegally if not committing “serious” crimes. Now, the adjective “serious” is being redefined as something that does not lead to too many deportations.

The logical end is no immigration law at all — and open borders.

There is a federal law that forbids the IRS from unfairly targeting private groups or individuals on the basis of their politics. Lois Lerner, an IRS director, did just that but faced no legal consequences.

Perhaps Lerner’s exemption emboldened New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof to invite IRS employees via social media to unlawfully leak Donald Trump’s tax returns. Later, someone leaked Trump’s 2005 tax return to MSNBC.

There are statutes that prevent federal intelligence and investigatory agencies from leaking classified documents. No matter. For the last six months, the media has trafficked in reports that Trump is under some sort of investigation by government agencies for allegedly colluding with the Russians. That narrative is usually based on information from “unnamed sources” affiliated with the FBI, NSA or CIA. No one has been punished for such leaking.

The leakers apparently feel that prosecutors and the courts do not mind if someone’s privacy is illegally violated, as long as it is the privacy of someone they all loathe, like Donald Trump.

The logic seems also to be that we need only follow the laws that we like — and assume that law enforcement must make the necessary adjustments.

At this late date, a return to legality and respect for the law might seem extremist or revolutionary. For the federal government to demand that cities follow federal law or face cutoffs in federal funds might cause rioting.

Going after federal officials who leak classified documents to reporters would make those officials martyrs.

And to warn high-ranking IRS officials that they could likely go to prison for targeting groups based on their political beliefs might earn a prosecutor an unexpected IRS audit.

There is one common denominator in all these instances of attempted legal nullification: the liberal belief that laws should “progress” to reflect the supposedly superior political agenda of the left.

And if laws don’t progress? Then they can be safely ignored.

But when the law is what we say it is, or what we want it to be, there is no law. And when there is no law, there is not much left but something resembling Russia, Somalia or Venezuela.



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

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


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

When the Devil quotes scripture to his purposes

Jeff Jacoby writes below.  He is a fine fellow and I often quote him.  He was Anti-Trump but so were a lot of people.  So it's amusing to see a gap in his basic cultural knowledge.  He quotes Shakespeare below but seems unaware of the  Bible background that Shakespeare was referring to. It is in Luke 4:10-12, where the Devil tempts Jesus in the wilderness.  But Jeff is Jewish so a lack of familiarity with Christian scripture can readily be forgiven

"THE DEVIL can cite Scripture for his purpose," says the wealthy Antonio to his young friend Bassanio in Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice."

So can the politician, he might have added. And the party activist.

When the Trump administration released an outline recently of its forthcoming budget proposals, many on the left expressed dismay. The White House wants to reduce spending on the State Department, environmental programs, arts and broadcast subsidies, and housing initiatives, while significantly increasing outlays on defense, homeland security, and veterans' health care.

Cue the Scripture-citers.

Rachel Held Evans, a liberal Christian author, took to Twitter to decry proposed cuts to the Meals on Wheels program. "There are few things the Bible is unambiguously clear about," she tweeted, "but from Hebrew Scripture to Matt. 25, care for the poor & needy is one of them."

Nicholas Kristof used his New York Times column to craft a pastiche about Jesus and "Paul of Ryan," with the former speaking familiar lines from the New Testament — "Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of God," "From everyone who has been given much, much will be required" — while the latter disdainfully swats those teachings away. "Oh, come on, Jesus," the Ryan character sneers, "don't go socialist on me again."

On Monday, a story from the Religious News Service was headlined: "Trump's Budget Slashes Aid To The Poor. Would Jesus Have A Problem With That?" The piece recounted the "scriptural smackdown" pitting conservative blogger Erick Erickson against liberals condemning Trump's budget scheme as religiously "immoral" and downright "evil."

On a different tack, liberal activist Jay Michaelson weighed in with a bizarre biblical defense of the National Endowment for the Arts — God's appeal to the Israelites in Exodus 35 to donate precious metals, jewels, fabrics, and spices for the construction of the Tabernacle and its vessels. "Public art projects like the Tabernacle of the Israelites," writes Michaelson, demonstrate "what our civilization stands for" and why taxes should fund it.

Debating government spending is standard fare in Washington. Sanctimony is, too. But the posturing grows a little too pious when pundits and politicos, brandishing a line from the Bible, declare that Jesus would never reduce spending on X or that God must be in favor of budget hikes for Y — and imagine that that settles the debate.

Some of these Biblical invocations are just silly. The Tabernacle described in Exodus was not a "public art project," it was religious infrastructure used for priestly sacrifices and to house the Ark of the Covenant.

More importantly, the Bible is a sacred text, not a Cliffs Notes for federal budgeteers. No one can deny that Scripture is replete with exhortations to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and be compassionate to the downtrodden. But those injunctions are personal, not political. If they constitute a moral mandate, it is for the action of private individuals guided by conscience, not for government programs created by the state and collectively imposed through the pains and penalties of law.

I would never argue that American politics should be devoid of religious influence. This has always been a nation of Bible-readers and churchgoers. "In God We Trust" is the nation's motto. God appears four times in the Declaration of Independence. His blessing is entreated in every state constitution, and in countless presidential proclamations. It is altogether fitting and proper that religion has played so prominent a role in America's great social movements, from independence to abolition to equal rights.

But the nation's deep current of religious influence does not mean that public policy can be made by pointing to Bible verses. It is reasonable to read (for example) Jesus' words in Matthew 25 — "Whatever you do to the least of these, you do unto me" — as a reminder that the ethical test of any society is how it treats its most vulnerable members, and a call to each of us to extend a hand to those in need. It is not reasonable to claim that every faithful Christian must therefore endorse Meals on Wheels or defend public housing vouchers from budget cuts.

The temptation to quote the Bible for political purposes is bipartisan: Republicans and Democrats do it; conservatives and liberals do it. The impulse may be sincere. But flaunting a verse from Scripture to promote a political purpose ends up tarnishing the one without elevating the other.

By all means, study the Bible. Take its lessons to heart. Let those lessons guide how you live your life. Just don't confuse the word of God with a partisan political agenda.


Typical Leftist thuggery

They seize their right to demonstrate but want to deny it to others.  These are seriously bad people

A fight broke out on a Southern California beach on Saturday night as supporters of President Donald Trump clashed with counter-protesters who doused organizers with pepper spray.

The violence erupted when the "Make America Great Again" march of about 2,000 people at Bolsa Chica State Beach reached a group of about 30 counter-protesters.

The counter-protesters, dressed in black, created a wall to stop the rally. A masked man began spraying the irritant in the face of an organizer, said Capt. Kevin Pearsall of the California State Parks Police.

The masked counter-protester using the pepper spray attempted to flee the scene but was quickly detained by highway police.

Pearsall added that two additional male counter-protesters were arrested on suspicion of illegal use of pepper spray and a third female counter-protester was arrested on suspicion of assault and battery. Two people suffered minor injuries that didn't require medical attention, he said.



Thanks to Trump, Pruitt, Gorsuch, and Goodlatte, the Constitution Is Back in Business

America has begun the process of reclaiming the Constitution.

This week, the Senate is taking up the confirmation Judge Neil Gorsuch, one of many Trump nominees known for his dedication to constitutional government. This follows the Senate confirmation of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as head of the EPA — a federal agency he has sued not once, not twice, but fourteen times.

Pruitt’s appointment could not come at a better time. During the past eight years, the Obama administration has passed well over 25,000 regulations. These regulations cost taxpayers a whopping $890 billion, or about $15,000 a household. And of that $890 billion, the EPA is responsible for $344 billion — more than any other agency.

This kind of power goes directly against the framers’ original intent. These regulations are not openly promulgated on the floor of Congress by elected legislators who serve a set term. Instead, they are quietly passed by unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats.

Not only do they affect matters at the federal level, but they also impact states, regions and even other countries. When Obama signed the Paris Agreement last year, he did so entirely of his own accord and without the necessary ratification in the Senate. Shocking as this is, it’s only a symptom of the ongoing erosion of the Constitution’s separation of powers.

Administrator Pruitt has spent his career fighting against this erosion. He created a “federalism unit” in Oklahoma to defend the states against federal overreach and sued the federal government over the enactment of Obamacare. His confirmation is a strong first step towards restoring the vision of the Founding Fathers — but it is only a first step. If the Constitution is to be revitalized, the executive agencies must continue to concede their excess power and the other branches must step up and claim what is constitutionally theirs.

Since his inauguration, President Trump has done just that. At the end of January, he signed an executive order that directs the agencies to repeal two regulations for every new one they pass. The order also prohibits the agencies from spending any more money this year on regulations unless they receive a direct mandate to do so from Congress or approval from the Office of Management and Budget. Such radical restrictions on regulation would have devastated Obama’s cabinet, but leaders like Pruitt will use them to effect change in a conscientious and constitutional way.

This week’s confirmation hearings mark Trump’s most significant step in restoring the Constitution: his selection of Judge Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court seat left empty after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia last year. Many have noted the similarities between the two. By and large, they both favor a strict and literalist interpretation of the Constitution. But Gorsuch takes it one step further than Scalia did: he openly opposes Chevron deference.

Chevron deference is the reason that the EPA has the kind of power that it does and could spend the kind of money it did. It is the result of a 1984 Supreme Court case Chevron USA v. the National Resources Defense Council. The court, in a remarkably self-defeating decision, ruled that the courts should defer to an agency’s interpretation of legislation or statutes. The result was that agencies were free to interpret any vagueness or ambiguity in legislation as they saw fit — without review from the courts.

Gorsuch opposes Chevron deference because of its blatant violation of the separation of powers. He has made no bones about his position: in his opinion in Gutierrez-Brizuela v. Lynch, when he argued, “There’s an elephant in the room with us today… Chevron… permit(s) executive bureaucracies to swallow huge amounts of core judicial and legislative power and concentrate federal power in a way that seems more than a little difficult to square with the Constitution of the framers’ design. Maybe the time has come to face the behemoth.”

The time has indeed come to face the behemoth — if the legislative branch can work up the courage to challenge it. The Senate has already shown its mettle in confirming Pruitt, another avowed enemy of agency overreach, to lead the most overreaching agency of all. Congress at large will have two more opportunities to confront Chevron in the months to come. The first is on March 20, when Gorsuch’s confirmation hearings will begin. Speedily confirming him will be another step towards regaining the power lost to the federal agencies in Chevron.

The second opportunity lies in a piece of legislation currently sitting on the floor of Congress. Introduced by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the Regulatory Accountability Act combines several pieces of previously passed legislation to roll back the power of the agencies. It forces agencies to adopt the least expensive rule and to publish electronically all the evidence (transcripts, exhibits, etc.) used in crafting a rule. It demands that agencies research and report on the effect their regulations will have on small businesses, which are often sunk before they start by the exorbitant legal fees necessary to deal with federal regulations. But most importantly, it overturns Chevron deference and restores the separation of powers that makes up the beating heart of our republic.

In the 1940s, with his artery-clogging alphabet soup of agencies, Franklin Delano Roosevelt expanded the size and scope of the federal government more than any other 20th century president. But he was aware of the health risks, and worried “that the practice of creating independent regulatory commissions, who perform administrative work in addition to judicial work, threatens to develop a ‘fourth branch’ of Government for which there is no sanction in the Constitution.”

The result was the Administrative Procedure Act, a 1946 piece of legislation that attempted to keep the agencies in check via judicial review. Whatever the act attempted to do has been undone by years of executive overreach that cripples American companies and crushes American citizens.

But no more. President Trump’s executive order explicitly mentioned the Administrative Procedures Act and commands the agencies to abide by it as they begin to slash old regulations. Between Trump’s surrender of executive power, Gorsuch’s appointment to the Supreme Court, and Congress’ passage of the Regulatory Accountability Act, the U.S. has the chance to return to the kind of government the founders imagined — namely, a three-branch government that genuinely promotes the general welfare without risking the blessings of liberties either for ourselves or for our posterity.



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

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


Monday, March 27, 2017

Teetotalling is bad for you

That's the basic conclusion of the research below. The findings are in fact fairly conventional.  Moderate drinkers get fewer strokes and heart attacks than either teetotallers or heavy drinkers.  The good old Golden Mean again.  All the associations were quite weak in absolute terms but are fairly high in the context of what one generally finds in medical research.  It is also interesting that the various subtypes of cardiovascular disease all seem to be alcohol influenced.  So the conclusion embodied in my heading above is reasonably safe.

What's amazing is the spin that "New Scientist" put on the findings.  Their conclusion is:

“This study suggests that sticking within alcohol guidelines may actually lower your risk of some heart conditions,” says Tracy Parker, of charity the British Heart Foundation, who was not involved in the study. “But it’s important to remember that the risks of drinking alcohol far outweigh any possible benefits. These findings are certainly no reason to start drinking alcohol if you don’t already.”

Which is actually the reverse of what the study found.  It's just do-gooder lying.  But when is lying doing good?  Far from "the risks of drinking alcohol outweighing any possible benefits", alcohol actually confers the benefit of helping you to live longer!  There were fewer "unheralded coronary deaths" [fatal heart attacks] among moderate drinkers.   That's a pretty good benefit.  The British Heart Foundation should fire the lying Tracy Parker.  She is a preacher of some Puritanical ideology, not a competent science commentator

Association between clinically recorded alcohol consumption and initial presentation of 12 cardiovascular diseases: population based cohort study using linked health records

Steven Bell et al.


Objectives: To investigate the association between alcohol consumption and cardiovascular disease at higher resolution by examining the initial lifetime presentation of 12 cardiac, cerebrovascular, abdominal, or peripheral vascular diseases among five categories of consumption.

Design: Population based cohort study of linked electronic health records covering primary care, hospital admissions, and mortality in 1997-2010 (median follow-up six years).

Setting: CALIBER (ClinicAl research using LInked Bespoke studies and Electronic health Records).

Participants: 1 937 360 adults (51% women), aged ≥30 who were free from cardiovascular disease at baseline.

Main outcome measures: 12 common symptomatic manifestations of cardiovascular disease, including chronic stable angina, unstable angina, acute myocardial infarction, unheralded coronary heart disease death, heart failure, sudden coronary death/cardiac arrest, transient ischaemic attack, ischaemic stroke, intracerebral and subarachnoid haemorrhage, peripheral arterial disease, and abdominal aortic aneurysm.

Results: 114 859 individuals received an incident cardiovascular diagnosis during follow-up. Non-drinking was associated with an increased risk of unstable angina (hazard ratio 1.33, 95% confidence interval 1.21 to 1.45), myocardial infarction (1.32, 1.24 to1.41), unheralded coronary death (1.56, 1.38 to 1.76), heart failure (1.24, 1.11 to 1.38), ischaemic stroke (1.12, 1.01 to 1.24), peripheral arterial disease (1.22, 1.13 to 1.32), and abdominal aortic aneurysm (1.32, 1.17 to 1.49) compared with moderate drinking (consumption within contemporaneous UK weekly/daily guidelines of 21/3 and 14/2 units for men and women, respectively). Heavy drinking (exceeding guidelines) conferred an increased risk of presenting with unheralded coronary death (1.21, 1.08 to 1.35), heart failure (1.22, 1.08 to 1.37), cardiac arrest (1.50, 1.26 to 1.77), transient ischaemic attack (1.11, 1.02 to 1.37), ischaemic stroke (1.33, 1.09 to 1.63), intracerebral haemorrhage (1.37, 1.16 to 1.62), and peripheral arterial disease (1.35; 1.23 to 1.48), but a lower risk of myocardial infarction (0.88, 0.79 to 1.00) or stable angina (0.93, 0.86 to 1.00).

Conclusions: Heterogeneous associations exist between level of alcohol consumption and the initial presentation of cardiovascular diseases. This has implications for counselling patients, public health communication, and clinical research, suggesting a more nuanced approach to the role of alcohol in prevention of cardiovascular disease is necessary.

BMJ 2017;356:j909


Time to Repeal the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act

America is the only major country in the world to have an extraterritorial tax system, demanding its expatriate citizens pay tax on their foreign earnings. For many years this rule was obeyed more in the breach than the observance, but in 2010 the Congress, looking for new sources of revenue to shore up America’s teetering finances, passed the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act – FATCA. This law has empowered the IRS to demand extraordinary compliance from expats and those who provide banking services for them, at home and abroad, to demonstrate their incomes and pay taxes on them.

The consequences have been devastating. Families have been broken up, passports cancelled, citizenships have been revoked, and dictators have been given a glimpse into dissidents’ finances. Expat Americans have found it increasingly difficult to find anyone willing to offer them banking services. FATCA amounts to a fine levied by the U.S. on any of its citizens who have the temerity to live abroad.

It is time for the law to go, as a simple matter of justice. That’s why I signed this coalition letter along with 22 other leaders from think tanks, taxpayer groups, and grassroots organizations, calling for the repeal of FATCA. As the Center for Freedom and Prosperity, which organized the letter, says:

The letter makes 5 key points: 1) FATCA fails in its primary goal to catch wealthy tax cheats; 2) It ensnares innocent Americans with excessive reporting requirements and draconian penalties for the slightest oversights; 3) It makes U.S. citizens living and working abroad toxic assets in the eyes of both financial institutions and employers; 4) Its compliance costs far outstrip the revenue it collects; and 5) It encourages other nations and international organizations to pursue aggressive tax grabs that threaten American businesses and the global economy.

Dan Mitchell of the Cato Institute said, FATCA may be “the worst provision in the entire tax code.” He’s right. Moreover, if other governments start thinking FATCA is a good idea, we could start seeing large numbers of people in this nation of immigrants taxed by foreign powers. Extraterritoriality was a bad idea to begin with. It should end before it gets any worse.



Ted Cruz Exposes Dem Hypocrisy Over Criticizing Federal Judges

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) made an interesting observation on day three of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch's confirmation hearings. The Democrats, he said, have no right to criticize President Trump for his negative treatment of U.S. federal judges who defy his executive orders, when they have done nothing but impugn Judge Gorsuch’s integrity all week.

The senator offered an abbreviated list of the Democrats’ smear campaign against the judge.

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Cruz recalled, told Gorsuch he has a tendency to “choose corporate interests over people.”

He then reminded Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) that he told Gorsuch he was guilty of "rejecting families" and failing to defend their freedoms.

Other Democrats, I would add, have been trying to corner the judge into revealing his personal opinions on controversial issues like abortion and torture, despite his reiterating how inappropriate that would be to future litigants.

Later on, Sen. Ben. Sasse (R-NE) said there is a “danger in not condemning reckless attacks” considering most Americans don’t watch these hearings and will only see sensational headlines once the Senate Judiciary holds the vote on Gorsuch.



This reckless Russia-baiting must stop

And so this weekend, with the first deployment to Estonia of a prospective 800 UK troops, the NATO plan to ‘project… stability’ against Russia, agreed upon at a summit last July, continues to move up a gear. In total, NATO members will soon have deployed four battalions, consisting of nearly 4,000 troops, in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – that is, right along Russia’s western borders. This will be supplemented by the provision of hi-tech weaponry, vehicles and aircraft, and the construction in Romania and Poland of missile-defence systems.

The narrative justifying this display of military might has been repeated to thought-nullifying effect. UK defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon was the latest to rehearse this deadeningly familiar story, as he explained that the aim of the NATO plans is to ‘deter [Russian] aggression’. After all, that’s what Western political and media elites seem to think Russia is: an aggressor. We know this because that’s what we are constantly being told: that Russia is now in the grip of the imperialist delusions of Mad Vlad Putin; that it wants, in the words of US defence secretary James Mattis, to break the postwar global order; that it will stop at nothing to order the world according to Putin’s grand designs.

That’s why Russia supposedly semi-rigged the US elections, why it bombed Syria into Russian line, why it invaded Ukraine. Because it wants to dominate its enemies, and where its desire exceed its means, undermine and disorient them. As UK defence chief Mike Penning told parliament in October, it’s time ‘to look back to the old foe’ and defend ourselves.

Yet to see Russia as the aggressor, and the NATO-fronted West and its allies as the picked-upon, is a distortion of historical reality. For every cruise missile test by the Russians, there has been a ‘military training exercise’ by NATO – such as that in June, when NATO members embarked on the largest movement of foreign allied troops in Poland since the Second World War. For every annexation of former Russian territory in Ukraine, there has been a Western-backed coup to install a pro-EU premier. For every heavily highlighted sign of Russian aggression, there has been an accompanying, obscured, misrepresented act of Western aggression to prompt it.

In fact, since the end of the actual Cold War, the West, with NATO its institutional and organisational expression, has seemingly been set on antagonising Russia. Not deliberately, exactly, but almost as a byproduct of the West’s post-Cold War disorientation, its want of purpose – a want writ large in NATO itself, a remnant of the Cold War that has lived on in search of an enemy to justify its mission. And where better to look for this enemy than towards the ‘old foe’, as Penning tellingly called Russia.

That’s why after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and despite promises to the contrary, NATO actually became more pro-active, more expansionist, extending its membership eastwards towards the Russian border, taking in Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic. It was reaching out for a point, enemies against whom it could define itself. As then US president Bill Clinton insisted in 1997, in almost existential terms: ‘The bottom line is clear: expanding NATO will enhance our security. It is the right thing to do.’ Then, following the NATO invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the former Soviet satellite states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were admitted in 2004, followed by Croatia and Albania in 2009. A 2012 NATO strategy statement captures well its expansionist logic: ‘[NATO’s] goal of a Europe whole and free, and sharing common values, would be best served by the eventual integration of all European countries that so desire into Euro-Atlantic structures.’

In the West of course, NATO’s expansion is seen as benign and right. Every intervention in territories picked almost at random, from Kosovo to Afghanistan, Iraq to Libya, is presented and perceived as an intervention in the service of the good, the ethical (no matter the often terrible consequences). And every new member admitted, almost entirely from the old Eastern Bloc, is presented and perceived as an extension of peace and security. But it’s not difficult to see that from the perspective of Russia, the perspective of the Kremlin, NATO’s wars, its expansionism, might be seen as at least something approaching an act of aggression.

And now, incredibly, NATO is amassing troops on the Russian border. So while Fallon et al might try to paint Russia as the aggressor here, it doesn’t take an FSB agent to see a rather less West-flattering counter-narrative. This is why, following the announcement of NATO’s plans to deploy troops to its eastern frontier states, former Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev, a man well-versed in old-school Cold War diplomacy, declared: ‘[NATO’s rhetoric] screams of an intention practically to declare war on Russia. They only talk about defence, but in fact they are preparing an offensive.’

Yes, Russia has made its own moves. It did annex Crimea in the aftermath of the EU-backed, de facto coup in Ukraine in 2014. It is involved in the rebel-controlled eastern region of Ukraine. And Russian armed forces did help Assad’s Syrian regime roll back ISIS at great civilian cost. But these actions are not those of a power-crazed military aggressor — they’re those of a nation state with relatively clear strategic interests, chief among them being the protection of its borders, and beyond that, preserving regional stability. Russia is not so much driving conflicts as it is responding to them – responding to the West’s unravelling of the Middle East, responding to NATO and the EU’s various entreaties to the Baltic states, and responding, above all, to the transformation of Ukraine from a long-term ally into a EU-ified and NATO-encouraged antagonist.

Yet if NATO’s reckless sabre-rattling on the ground continues, Russia might really become what its Western antagonists presently only imagine it to be: a clear and present danger to the West.



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

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


Sunday, March 26, 2017

Obamacare:  My two cents

GOP congressmen are presently divided into two: One lot who want Obamacare completely repealed because of its huge costs and  reduction in access to health care for many.  The other lot fear that if they change too much they might lose the votes of those who currently benefit from Obamacare.  So the abolitionists won't vote for the wishy-washy Ryancare and the nervous nellies won't vote for abolition.  It looks like a stalemate.

But I think there may be a way out:  Vote for Obamacare to cease as of the end of this year and in the meanwhile work on one of the many replacements that have been proposed -- so that a new system begins when Obamacare finally expires.

Hope that a brand-new system might not sacrifice GOP votes lies in both the huge costs of Obamacare and the fact that  most people who have enrolled in health insurance for the first time have done so via the expanded access to Medicare and Medicaid that Obamacare enabled.  So follow up on that by taking the savings from an abolished Obamacare and putting them into expanded Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Long before Obama, America had extensive provisions to get healthcare to the poor and the old so Obamacare was to some extent a solution in search of a problem.  Where there was a problem was that many middle income families could not easily afford health insurance and got no government help with that.  But expanded eligibility for Medicaid should fix most of that problem -- leaving only those who are really well-off to pay their own way.

I can't see many lost votes under those circumstances. There must of course be a limit to another expansion of Medicaid so my proposal for that would be to limit it to what was saved by abolishing the Obamacare octopus.  Whole Obamacare agencies could go.

My proposal is of course nowhere near ideal but something like it may at the moment be the only way of lifting the many Obamacare burdens.  Obamacare gave healthcare to some while taking it away from others.  My proposal should genuinely expand access to healthcare.


Jacob son of Moses sees some light

I think Yaacov Ben Moshe must be a nice guy.  He still seems to believe SOME things that Leftists say.  He seems to accept that the Left believes that "human nature is naturally good".  They don't believe that.  They have contempt for everyone but themselves.  They don't even believe that one-another are good.  After the Russian revolution, Lenin and Stalin killed off most of their  old Bolshevik comrades.  The "man is good" shtick is just good propaganda for the purpose of kicking away all the constraints and precautions of civilization.

Jacob also believes that there is a difference between liberalism and progressivism.  There was once but both names are just euphemisms for "Leftist" these days.  But he has some good points below nonetheless.  I too have often pointed out that the delusory Leftist quest to create a new Eden excuses all sorts of brutality. Olavo de Carvalho is good on that point

I was startled to find a quote from Mark Steyn that, in referring to the rape in Rockville on a Fox television program, "This is the depravity of the political class. They’re basically willing to offer up their own citizens, 14-year-old schoolgirls and sacrifice them on the altar of diversity and virtue signaling and the shameless political posturing.”

This remark echoed and reinforced a theme I have been exposing for some months now and has led me to a new conclusion about my the waxing trend toward Human Sacrifice in the world today.

To explain this conclusion I need to take a step back and explain from the beginning.

The left acts as though it believes that human nature is naturally good and left to their own devices, people will be happy and content in a “natural” state. They ascribe all that is painful and even evil in life to flaws in “society”, “organized religion”, “morality”, “the culture” or any other target that exerts control over human behavior. This blameless image of the individual seems soothing and comfortable but the result is, anything but comfort. It leads to the idea that “freeing” the human spirit from those controlling institutions and forces is the way to achieve peace, health, enlightenment and happiness. Wishing only to make life better and more equal for all, they set about dismantling or (at the least, arbitrarily refashioning) all the structures and values that have evolved to maintain health, peace and equilibrium.

Welcome to what the inverted logic of the left calls progress; they want to tear away the culture and safeguards and begin to replace them with socialism that resembles nothing so much as the egalitarian propertyless primitive hunter/gatherer groups in pre-tribal cultures. They want equality without considering that the outcome of equality is to bring all economic development to a standstill and redistribute wealth so that industrious and clever people earn no more than what the most indolent and incapable receive. They call this Progressivism.

This is what fuels the zeal of “Progressives”. They feel they know what is needed and are willing to force people to agree to their view of things- whether they like it or not. When reality becomes impossible to ignore and the progress leads to conflict, chaos and inequality (as it inevitably  does in the real world), it is either blamed on individuals who are not progressing (kuffirs, counter revolutionaries or enemies of the state as the case may be), or it is blamed on whatever “system” is still in place. Revolution, suppression and barbarity often ensue. Any idea that contradicts the romantic egalitarian principles is suppressed - made politically incorrect. All collectivist governments are leftist; and they are all to some degree quite literally, murderous, totalitarian and nihilistic.

The right, on the other hand, behaves as if they think that human nature, and indeed the larger natural world as a whole, is the source of chaos and evil as well as good and harmony. They acknowledge that society, religion and culture are all merely tools that have evolved to put the individual into a condition whereby he and the larger society can prosper and be safe. Different cultural systems may have more or less success in the attempt to control and channel whatever energy, chaos and evil exists into productive or, at least, harmless endeavors.

These opposite views of human nature and the nature of the world are the invisible but omnipresent forces that pit left wing and right wing against each other. There has been, a sort of compromise that was arrived at in Western Civilization. I refer to the particularly American brand of what I think of as Classical Western Liberalism- not to be confused with what is called Liberalism today. The founders of the United States were all liberals of some stripe in that they all believed in something that they called Liberty. This idea of human dignity and responsibility through Liberty found its expression in our revolution against tyranny and the nation that emerged from that revolution. Today,The Constitution of the United States stands alone in the history of humanity as the one concise system that has given rise to the freest, most prosperous in all human history.

So what is the difference between the liberals who founded our country and those who have inherited the name? There is confusion around the inexact application of the table “liberal” because there is a fundamental lack of understanding of where liberalism ends and progressivism begins.

The key difference between liberalism and progressivism is that progressivism requires the acceptance even the advocacy of human sacrifice as part of the “progress" toward the  “new (and improved) world” they imagine that they have the wisdom and mandate to force us all to “evolve into.

This sacrifice takes many forms. Among these are:

The acceptance of terroristic atrocities as “the new normal”

The refusal to take and steps to prevent rapes and murders by stopping illegal immigration (as in Rockville)

The willful ignorance of the connection between Islamic scripture and modern Jihad.

The abandonment of U.S. officials and employees to danger and death in order to insulate the higher officials - esp during political campaigns (eg Benghazi).

The swallowing up of private relationships that are central to well-being and happiness by stifling bureaucracies (Obamacare)

The insidious growth of a dual standard of justice in which progressive politicians and their administrative lackeys (eg, Lois Lerner)are less subject to media exposure, law enforcement investigation and prosecution when they harm and betray citizens.

The "New Man”, the Caliphate and the "perfected societies" of Mohammed, Marx, Lenin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot and all the other promised utopias that were really dystopian houses of horror had that one thing in common with our American Progressive movement. Stretching back to Wilson (supporter of the KKK and popularizer of the concept of the “living constitution”), Sanger (Eugenesist) and Roosevelt (socialist nationalizer of private business) and led more recently by Obama (Open borders enabler and Islamist apologist) and Clinton (all of the above and “what difference does it make now anyway?”).

Their Ultimate Sacrifice, if we do not stop them is The Constitution and our Republic.



The puzzle of Genesis 1:6-9

In my recent comments on Genesis chapter 1, I suggested that chapter 1 was not an original part of the Torah and should be recognized as deuterocanonical (apocryphal).  I did however add the rider that what Genesis 1 had to relate was probably based on something relatively ancient, such as a myth or oral tradition.

And I think Genesis 1:6-9 fairly reliably identifies part of what that source was.  It goes right back to the theology of ancient Sumer -- the first known human civilization, situated in what is now Southern Iraq.

Here is what 1:6-9 says in the New International Version:

"And God said, "Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water. So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. God called the vault "sky." And there was evening, and there was morning--the second day. And God said, "Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear." And it was so."

Wha?  Was the Genesis writer saying that there was a body of water ABOVE the sky as well as on the surface of the earth?  That is an extraordinary idea by modern scientific standards but it is precisely what the Sumerians believed.  The rains came down from above, didn't they?  So there must be another body of water way up above that the rains came from.  It was a fairly reasonable deduction given their complete ignorance of modern science.

There is nothing else in Genesis 1 that is starkly contrary to what we know today -- though it's a bit odd that birds were created before land animals.  It is more or less common sense and could have been made up by anyone.  But 6-9 is very distinctive and clearly of Sumerian and later of Babylonian origin.  The Babylonians borrowed a lot from Sumer, including the 7-day week.

The Sumerians and other early civilizations also had their own creation myths but there is absolutely no similarity to Genesis 1 in any of them.  It would seem, therefore, that the 7 day account of creation is mainly of ancient Israelite origin with Sumerian "wisdom" added in to give it authority.

Genesis 1 does read in a very orderly way so I surmise that it was in fact the work of one man.  When it was originally written is completely unknown. But its allusion to Sumerian/Babylonian thought could make it quite ancient.  Textual criticism does however enable us to trace the version that appears in the Bible to about the third century BC --JR.


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

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


Friday, March 24, 2017

Learning from the past

If the past is indeed a capable teacher, it would seem there is much to be learned from America’s industrial lions of the early 20th century – people like Andrew Mellon, Henry Ford, and Andrew Carnegie.

Most men today do not argue that as the 49th U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, Andrew Mellon knew more than his fair share about the philosophies and policies needed to stoke the engines of economic prosperity. It was Mellon, more than almost any other, who put the economic roar into the Roaring 20’s. And he did it by employing the business theories espoused by Adam Smith.

More than a century before, Smith – an economist, author, and philosopher – poured the concrete foundations for what would become classical free market economic theory.  In “The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression,” author Amity Shlaes quotes a passage from Andrew Mellon’s book that harkens back to Smith and rings forth to us today:

“Does anyone question that Mr. Ford has made more money by reducing the price of car and increasing his sales than he would have made by maintaining a high price and a greater profit per car, but selling less cars? The government is just a business.”

Free market economic theories have just as much to teach us in the Twenty-first Century as they did in the Twentieth during Mellon’s day and the Eighteenth Century of Smith. You don’t have to be an economic genius to grasp Mellon’s principles: lower taxes allow business to expand. When a business expands, it hires, it produces things, it essentially puts money in the pockets of its people.

Intuitively, Americans know this. We love a bargain; lower prices equal more sales. And so, when we transfer these ideas to the behemoth now known as the American economy, we can and should expect positive results.

This week a new health care plan comes before Congress. It may not be perfect, but it’s obvious to all that the old one was crumbling before our very eyes – and in a very short time.

As well, a new budget is put before lawmakers. Yes, there are cuts involved. But anyone who is in debt up to their ears knows that at some point the belt must be tightened. And right now, the United States of America has unimaginable debt.  The gross U.S. federal government debt is estimated to be $20.1 trillion, at the end of the fiscal year 2017.

I’m not advocating on behalf of either of these pieces of legislation. But I am saying we should look at what has worked for us in the past. The American economy is the proverbial Titanic. It will take a long time to turn it around, but heaven forbid we don’t see the iceberg ahead and at the very least try and avoid it.

So, if all politics is personal, my family member and I may not agree how to turn the ship around, but we both instinctively know that we are not headed in the right direction. The only question then becomes: Do we turn right or left to avoid hitting that wall of ice?



The Misplaced Compassion of 'Sanctuary Cities'

Once again the Left’s engagement in fantasy instead of fact leaves rationale people shaking their heads in utter disbelief. A mere four days after two criminal aliens were arrested for brutally raping a 14-year-old girl in a Rockville, Maryland high school, the state legislature passed a bill declaring Maryland to be a “sanctuary state,” affording illegal aliens more protections from deportation. As Mark Alexander noted last week, the “sanctuary” charade certainly makes these places safer for criminal aliens. Maryland’s Republican governor Larry Hogan, who promised to veto the bill, angrily responded to the crime and called for Montgomery County to “immediately and fully cooperate with all federal authorities” as they investigate the “heinous crime.”

To add insult to injury, it has been learned that one of the illegals had been previously detained in Texas for illegally entering the country, but was subsequently released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Obviously he should never have been released.

This past Monday, the Department of Homeland Security released a list, which is by no means exhaustive, of “jurisdictions that have enacted polices which limit cooperation with ICE.” A majority of the jurisdictions were located in Texas, but not surprisingly Montgomery County, Maryland, was also included on the list. Donald Trump has been working to expose just how big the problem of lawless local governments aiding and abetting of illegal aliens has become.

Denying the growing illegal alien crime epidemic will only create more suffering for law-abiding citizens. Lawlessness unchecked leads only to greater and more severe criminal acts, as the Rockville rape case attests. The great fallacy preached by many on the Left is the insistence that to be the truly compassionate one must ignore “lower-level” lawlessness. The assumption being that a nation committed to the Rule of Law is inherently socially unjust.

Leftists continue to double down and ignore the genuine plight of the innocent victims who have been begging for protection and the enforcement of the law. Where is that great “compassion” from the Left for law-abiding American citizens?



The New Democratic Party

Where is the Democratic party? The party of political giants like FDR, LBJ and JFK is missing in action along with the letters that defined its heroes. This is now the party of Obama, Schumer, Pelosi - a facsimile of the past and a party without direction and policy guidelines.

America needs a two-party system. Differences are desirable within a Constitutional framework. Parties have served the nation well; albeit exceptions abound.

However, in my opinion, the nation has entered a new phase in party history. The Democratic party has become the party of NO. It stands against Trump, but it offers almost nothing of substance. A party that was the incubator of ideas is now bereft of them. More importantly, the Democratic party is intent on using any method in its quiver to hurt Republican counterparts. Politics may not be bean bag, but it wasn't a bloodsport until recently. Now Democrats view Republicans as the "enemy" and, of course, enemies must be defeated.

There was a time when Republicans were merely "foes" and "rivals." Those days have passed. Now lies, character assassination and personal vindictiveness are fair play. Anything goes in a world where winning is all that counts. What this means, of course, is that partisanship makes it far more difficult to govern.

During the 2012 campaign Senator Harry Reid said Mitt Romney did not pay his taxes. This claim was a bald faced lie. In fact, Mr. Reid admitted as much. Yet he also claimed this tactic was acceptable. For Reid, it shows something about political verve. What it shows is that lying is okay as long as it undermines the enemy.

This is the path to a political nightmare in which crushing the opposition is all that counts. But politics is not Vince Lombardi football; the opposition stays in the halls of Congress, continues to play a role and may be needed to get legislation passed even after electoral defeat. How can a modicum of cooperation be engendered in the present environment? Moreover, Democratic leadership has made up its mind that the present anti Trump strategy will be to resist. Tom Perez and Keith Ellison, the two newly named heads of the Democratic National Committee, have made it clear that they will resist this president even before a political offer is made. This is the politics of preemption. Reject even those offers that might benefit your party and could benefit the country.

It is instructive that two of the most radical voices in the Democratic party now represent its leadership. So far in the hard core left direction have Democrats gone that Mr. Ellison who once supported Reverend Farrakhan and who routinely made anti-Israel and - some would contend - anti-Semitic comments is supported by Senator Charles Schumer, a self-described moderate and a booster of Israeli-American relations. Schumer can read the handwriting on the wall. The party is in thrall to the hard left leaving in the dust an organization that was thoughtful and largely pragmatic.

This is the new Democratic party, one that shuns pragmatism and embraces ideology. In fact, the former head of the Democratic National Committee at the last party convention could not distinguish between socialism and Democratic positions. Alas, few Democrats can - the party is ensconced in the febrile left with little room for any other position.

What this means is that the Democratic party is working vigorously to be a marginal organization operating at the fringes of politics. Winston Churchill understood why this movement to the left is bound to fail by noting: "Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery."



"Racist" Trump to appoint Indian Appeals court judge

The White House announced Tuesday that Trump intended to nominate U.S. District Judge Amul R. Thapar to serve as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit.

Thapar, son of Indian-American immigrants and a former federal prosecutor, now serves as a federal judge in the Eastern District of Kentucky. Bush appointed him in 2008.

The announcement for a nomination comes as Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, is going through his confirmation hearings in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Appeals court judges can be nearly as important as Supreme Court judges since the high court is limited in the number of cases it accepts.

There are 19 appellate court vacancies across the United States that Trump could fill, and 96 on federal district courts, according to Elizabeth Slattery, a legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation.

There are also two vacancies on the U.S. Court of International Trade and six on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. There are a total of 677 authorized district judgeships and 179 total court of appeals judgeships.

“This is a great sign that President Trump takes lower courts seriously,” Slattery told The Daily Signal. “The last administration did not make lower court judges a priority, and that ended up being good for conservatives because it has left Trump with a lot of opportunities. There was a lot of thought that the president would wait until the Gorsuch nomination reached its conclusion.”

Given his position on the Trump campaign’s Supreme Court list of 21 names, this could be grooming Thapar for the Supreme Court, said Curt Levey, president of the Committee for Justice, a conservative legal group, and a senior legal fellow for FreedomWorks.

“Everyone on that list was ranked somewhere from good to great as far as being a constitutionalist,” Levey told The Daily Signal. “Certainly if he is qualified to be on the Supreme Court, he is qualified to be on an appeals court. He would be the first Indian-American on the Supreme Court. There is no better way to give him credentials.”

Thapar began his legal career in private practice. He clerked for Judge S. Arthur Spiegel on the District Court for the Southern District of Ohio and then with Judge Nathaniel R. Jones of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, to which Trump has selected Thapar to serve on. Thapar received his bachelor’s degree from Boston College in 1991 and his Juris Doctor from the University of California, Berkeley.



Trump was ‘wire-tapped’ after all

Devin Nunes, the Republican Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, revealed overnight that some of the US President’s personal communications had been caught up in “incidental” surveillance involving a foreign power in the months after the election.

Nunes said the information, which he said was obtained from a source he did not identify, was collected legally in November, December and January — from the November 8 election to Trump’s January 20 inauguration — but the names of some Trump officials involved had been “unmasked” and the communications “widely disseminated” within spy agencies.


And the Donks are now in full hate-speech mode against Rep. Nunes


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

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