Saturday, November 28, 2015

Possible hiatus

I am about to go into hospital with severe abdominal pain

So my blogging may be interrupted

I do however have some stuff scheduled to go up on A WESTERN HEART over the next few days so that will continue


Friday, November 27, 2015


I think Thanksgiving is becoming an occasion mainly for conservatives.  Being grateful for our blessings is normal for conservatives (See here and here and here and here) whereas Leftists focus on problems.  And extreme Leftists of course say that the occasion celebrates a takeover of the territory of others by invaders and is therefore nothing to be celebrated.

Nonetheless, a lot of liberals do sit down with others to share a Thanksgiving meal. And where the gathering is politically mixed there can be tensions. The Boston Globe, writing from the heartland of self-righteousness, however, has a new twist on such dinner tensions.  They say:

"For years, the major Thanksgiving stressors have been set: politics and religion. But as a growing number of Americans go vegan, vegetarian, organic, local, grass-fed, free-range, wheat-free, or Paleo, a third flash point has been added — the divide between those who favor comfortable Thanksgiving fare and, well, food snobs."

And they go on to give examples of the real tensions that can cause.  So once again conservatives are blessed.  They may often have their own food beliefs but their appreciation of tradition would usually come to the fore -- so they would be very unlikely to make an issue of food disciplines on such a happy day.


Sorry, Bernie Sanders, FDR's New Deal Actually Prolonged the Great Depression

We are indoctrinated to believe that Roosevelt's New Deal saved the United States from the throes of the Great Depression. But, in 2004, two UCLA economists, Harold Cole and Lee Ohanian, destroyed that narrative. Cole and Ohanian explained that Roosevelt extreme intervention in the economy actually prolonged the depression by seven years.

"Why the Great Depression lasted so long has always been a great mystery, and because we never really knew the reason, we have always worried whether we would have another 10- to 15-year economic slump," Ohanian said in a 2004 release. "We found that a relapse isn't likely unless lawmakers gum up a recovery with ill-conceived stimulus policies."

"[Roosevelt] came up with a recovery package that would be unimaginable today, allowing businesses in every industry to collude without the threat of antitrust prosecution and workers to demand salaries about 25 percent above where they ought to have been, given market forces," Cole added. "The economy was poised for a beautiful recovery, but that recovery was stalled by these misguided policies."

Thomas Sowell has explained that the economy was on the path to recovery after the stock market crash of 1929. "[The unemployment rate] hit 9 percent in December — but then began a generally downward trend, subsiding to 6.3 percent in June 1930. Economic intervention by the Hoover administration interrupted the recovery and led to a deepening of the depression. Sowell views the protectionist Smoot-Hawley tariff, which was signed into law by President Herbert Hoover in 1930 against the advice of hundreds of economists, as the beginning of the worst of the downturn, though not the cause, and, similar to Cole and Ohanian, blames the extreme intervention of the Roosevelt administration for its severity.

The recovery from the Great Depression was tepid, to say the least. Unemployment jumped from 3.2 percent in 1929, the year the downturn began, to 24.9 percent in 1933, when it officially ended. There was a short period of robust economic growth from 1934 to 1936, but it did not last. The economy experienced another downturn in 1937, though not as severe as the Great Depression. Nevertheless, unemployment began rising once again, from 14.3 percent in 1937 to 19 percent the following year.

The Roosevelt administration, through the New Deal, effectively cartelized parts of the economy. "Just a few decades previously the federal government had passed anti-monopoly 'trust busting' laws like the Sherman Anti-Trust Act in order to combat anti-competitive collusion," writes Trevor Burrus. "During the New Deal, however, the government entirely changed course. What was once an unmitigated evil was seen as a necessary step on the road to recovery."

Ohanian cites the National Industrial Recovery Act and the National Labor Relations Act as a couple notable interventions in the economy that were hurdles to a quick recovery. "NIRA covered over 500 industries, ranging from autos and steel, to ladies hosiery and poultry production. Each industry created a code of “fair competition,” which spelled out what producers could and could not do, and which were designed to eliminate 'excessive competition' that FDR believed to be the source of the Depression," Ohanian explains. "These codes distorted the economy by artificially raising wages and prices, restricting output, and reducing productive capacity by placing quotas on industry investment in new plants and equipment." He notes that the policies at the heart of the NIRA continued even after the Supreme Court, in Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States (1935), struck it down.

The National Labor Relations Act was a boon to labor unions to the detriment of the broader economy. "The downturn of 1937-38 was preceded by large wage hikes that pushed wages well above their NIRA levels, following the Supreme Court’s 1937 decision that upheld the constitutionality of the National Labor Relations Act. These wage hikes led to further job loss, particularly in manufacturing," Ohanian notes. "The 'recession in a depression' thus was not the result of a reversal of New Deal policies, as argued by some, but rather a deepening of New Deal polices that raised wages even further above their competitive levels, and which further prevented the normal forces of supply and demand from restoring full employment."

Roosevelt's approach to agriculture was also particularly mindboggling. Through the Agriculture Adjustment Act, passed in 1933, the federal government paid farmers not to produce to raise crop prices. Still reeling from the effects of the depression, people could not afford food, and the federal government was paying farmers not to work, as well as destroying crops and slaughtering cattle and pigs to boost the price of meat. "While millions of Americans were going hungry, the government plowed under 10 million acres of crops, slaughtered 6 million pigs, and left fruit to rot. Production of milk, fruits, and other products was cartelized to boost prices under 'marketing orders' begun in 1937," Chris Edwards explained in a 2005 analysis of the depression. "These policies reduced employment and burdened families with higher prices."

According to the Congressional Research Service, between 1930 and 1940, there was a net increase of 382,000 workers and employment as a percentage of the population actually declined from 50.5 percent to 44.8 percent. The unemployment rate did not drop to pre-depression levels until after the United States entered World War II. Of course, the number of enlisted men, the vast majority of whom were conscripts, grew substantiallly, from 458,365 in 1940 to 12.2 million in 1945. This was a sizable chunk of the available labor force of the time, so the natural result was a drop in unemployment.



How the Left Thinks about the War on Terror

Here are some bad ideas implicit in most leftwing commentary on this topic.

1. If there are no boots on the ground, you’re not really at war.

Barack Obama said it over and over again – to our troops, to the American people, to the news media, to the world: “There will be no boots on the ground.” That was before he ordered boots on the ground in Iraq.

But why is that distinction so important? The implicit idea is that when we are dropping bombs, our planes are so high up the enemy can’t shoot them down. So no American ever gets shot or captured. We can kill them, but they can’t kill us. Voila. We can actually fight the bad guys without anyone on our side getting hurt.

Earth to Obama: When you are dropping bombs on people, you are at war. And the enemy will find ways to fight back. Look at what just happened in Paris.

2. If you don’t say what you are fighting against, you’re not really at war.

In the Democratic presidential debate last Saturday, Hillary Clinton was given ample opportunity to say we are fighting “radical Islam.” She demurred. President Obama never uses those words either.

But if we are not fighting “radical Islam,” what are we fighting? If you can’t identify what you are against, how do our soldiers know who to shoot at? How do we know whether we are winning or losing?

3. Killing is better than torture.

Think about the terrible ordeal Sen. John McCain went through as a prisoner of war. Ditto for Rep. Sam Johnson and other Americans who were tortured by their Vietnamese captors. Awful as all that was, does anyone think the world would be better off if McCain, Johnson and the others were killed rather than tortured?

Well, that is how Barack Obama thinks. He criticized George Bush for allowing three captives to be water boarded. He called it “torture” and apologized to the world. But Obama has no problem at all with killing people. As I previously reported, that is what our drones are doing day in and day out and the number of drone kills has spiked radically during the Obama years. In the president’s first five years in office, the C.I.A. made 330 drone strikes in Pakistan alone (a country we are not even at war with!), compared with 51 total drone strikes in four years of George W. Bush’s presidency.

Remember: Our drones are killing people who are not wearing uniforms. They are not shooting back at us. They are not in any traditional sense “combatants.” I’m sure that a lot of the people the Obama administration has killed deserved to die. But we don’t always know who we are killing. And we admit that bystanders, including children, are victims as well.

Is that really more humane than water boarding?

4. Killing is better than capture.

Have you noticed that we are not capturing any bad guys these days? One reason why the population at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba keeps shrinking is that we don’t have any new captives to put there. The reason: the Obama administration doesn’t want prisoners.

This is terrible policy. Captives can be questioned. They can give up valuable information. Dead men can tell us nothing.

So why are we killing instead of capturing? Because of the next bad idea.

5. Captives have civil rights; people we kill do not.

Take Osama bin Laden. From what I can tell, the movie Zero Dark Thirtygot the facts pretty much right. Seal Team Six had no intention of bringing him back alive. They brought a body bag with them and they intended to fill it.

Bin Laden was not armed when they found him. He was not asked to surrender. He was not read his Miranda rights. There was no attempt whatsoever to take him prisoner. Our guys just went in and shot him. And then, with his body prone upon the floor, they shot him a couple of more times just to make sure he was dead.

So what about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed? He probably has more American blood on his hands than bin Laden, considering that he was closer to the scene of the crimes. For more than a decade lawyers have been arguing over what rights he does or doesn’t have. But why bother? Why don’t we just send some special ops guys down to Guantanamo and shoot him?

There seems to be no real answer. And things don’t get any clearer if you read the editorials in The New York Times. In fact, the very same editorial that lauded the assassination of bin Laden and quoted President Obama as saying “justice has been done” went on to complain about the detention of prisoners at Guantánamo.

Got that? Assassination: good. Detention: bad. What is it you don’t understand?

6. The president has the right to order people killed.

The act of ordering someone killed from the White House – someone not wearing a uniform and not in formal combat -- has gone on for some time. But it has really escalated under Barack Obama.

Last month, The New York Times published a lengthy article describing all of the legal opinions the president got before he ordered the bin Laden kill. I read the article several times and nowhere in it could I find any lawyer explicitly saying the president has the right to kill people. But nor did the article overtly admit that this is what really happened.

I don’t doubt for one moment that bin Laden deserved to die. Nor do I doubt the patriotism of the Special Forces. They risk their lives for you and me. They serve their country admirably.

But shouldn’t we acknowledge who the Special Forces are and what their role is? They are licensed to kill. That’s what they do. When they shoot, they don’t shoot to wound. They rarely take prisoners. As a general rule, they don’t leave any witnesses.

7. Killing people with robots isn’t really killing.

After the CIA killed an American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, in a 2011 drone strike in Yemen, a federal court ordered the Obama administration to release an internal memo justifying the act. As reported in The New York Times:

The main theory that the government says allows it to kill American citizens, if they pose a threat, is the “public authorities justification,” a legal concept that permits governments to take actions in emergency situations that would otherwise break the law. It’s why fire trucks can break the speed limit and police officers can fire at a threatening gunman.

Got that? If fire trucks can break the speed limit, why can’t the CIA kill a few Americans with drones? What’s more depressing than the memo is the Gray Lady’s tepid response to it:

Blithely accepting such assurances at face value is why these kinds of killings are so troubling, and why we have repeatedly urged that an outside party — such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court — provide an independent review when a citizen is targeted…. This memo should never have taken so long to be released, and more documents must be made public. The public is still in the dark on too many vital questions.

Before the government can zap you with a drone, the Times wants a court review. You won’t be present at the hearing, however.

8. Prisoners of war are not really prisoners of war if we’re really not at war.

From the beginning of his presidency Barack Obama has promised civil libertarians on the left that he would close the Guantanamo prison. So far Congress has blocked him and in the struggle over what to do next the national news’s media has completely forgotten why Guantanamo was an issue in the first place.

The real issue is not where the prisoners are located. The issue is indefinite detention.

When German solders surrendered to the allies at the close of World War II or when they were captured on the battle field, no one thought they had any rights – other than the right not to be treated cruelly. And that has been true in every war. Combatants do not have the same rights ordinary criminals do. As for detention, victorious armies have always exercised the option to detain enemy soldiers as long as they are perceived as a threat.

Clearly the terrorists think they are in a war with us. They have said it over and over again. Yet the left in this country continues to insist that they be treated under the criminal law, with all the constitutional rights and privileges ordinary criminals enjoy.

The president of France says we are in a war. Why can’t the president of the United States acknowledge the same thing?



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (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 A WESTERN HEART.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Thursday, November 26, 2015

Leftists believe in nothing except their own power

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is a hyperfeminist, a lesbian activist. She hates patriarchies, especially old white men who tell women what to do.

But see a photo that she herself published, wearing a hijab [in white scarf] and sitting in the women's only section of an Ottawa mosque, like a good little subservient, submissive woman, obedient to sharia law!

Of course, if sharia law were really in effect, she’d be thrown off the top of an apartment block, or hanged from a crane, which is the usual death sentence for homosexuality under radical Islam.

This isn’t just a case of, anything for a vote. It’s an insight into her mind. She despises our western, Judeo-Christian culture. But she’s an obedient little girl when it comes to the most reactionary patriarchy in the world — radical Islam.



The America-Basher in Chief Rolls On

By David Limbaugh

How could America have twice elected a president who not only can't stand America but also won't perform his constitutional duty of defending it?

Even some former administration officials and rank-and-file Democrats are finally recognizing that there is something strange about a commander in chief who declines to listen to his advisers on terrorism, won't read their daily briefings and is uninterested in their threat assessments.

It's sad that so many refused to take Obama seriously when he promised to fundamentally transform America. It's inexcusable that the media and so many naive voters believed that his radical past and his ongoing affiliation with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's racist church were irrelevant. It's disgraceful that a man who pledged to unite America on race, gender and income groups has intentionally polarized us to a point not seen since the 1960s. It's contemptible that he has used his office to alienate citizens from law enforcement officials throughout the nation. It's abominable that he is systematically dismantling our defense capabilities and approaching foreign policy as if his actions and inactions had no more consequences than a chalkboard exercise by a clique of airheaded leftist professors in their faculty lounge.

Islamist terrorists are waging a global war against America and our allies, and the president won't even identify our enemy. He sees Christians, Republicans and conservatives as the real threat to America — the distorted version of America, that is, that he envisions. He continues to trash America on foreign soil at every opportunity.

I (and others) have long been saying that Obama is obsessed with apologizing for America. Many of us documented his world apology tour, whereby he deeply criticized this nation at every stop of his globe-trotting junket. Yet his shameless defenders say he was just building bridges and alliances. Talk about a bridge to nowhere.

I wonder whether these intellectually dishonest defenders will still deny that Obama is apologizing for America after hearing his words from Malaysia last week. Actually, I don't wonder. They'll love it. They are fellow America haters and have never been more ecstatic about a president — one who is finally using the immense power of the presidential office to tear this nation apart.

If you think my words are harsh, it's only because you are not talking to people all over this nation who are feeling and thinking exactly as I am. They are legion. They are fed up. They are not having any more of it.

At a town hall meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Friday, Obama denigrated the United States for its hypocrisy, its "growing inequality" and the inadequacies of our political system. A Martian traveler might well conclude that this man hasn't occupied the Oval Office for the past seven years. Why doesn't Obama just go on TV and confess that his entire presidency has been a failure — by his own regrettable benchmarks?

Concerning America's hypocrisy, he told his rapt audience that we have to have some humility and not tell other nations what to do because we don't have such a great track record ourselves. We've meddled in other nations' internal affairs, and we have problems in our own country. Here again, Obama forgets that he has been president and that he has improperly intermeddled with other nations, especially our reliable ally Israel. And problems in our own country? I know this is news to the utopian left, but every nation is always going to have problems.

He particularly lamented our "growing inequality" and even blames it for our divisive politics and cynicism — two conditions to which he has been the greatest contributor for years. What's that you said about hypocrisy, Mr. Obama?

But he gets the biggest prize for audaciously complaining about our political system, claiming that money is overwhelming ideas. Politicians are listening more to their wealthy contributors than to "ordinary people."

Well, that may be true as far as it goes. We conservatives are tired of the ruling class and the establishment elite and their incestuous lobbyists, but we don't believe that the left's proposals of suppressing speech are the solution. And if anyone's hands are dirty on this score, Obama's are.

More importantly, Obama has no credibility in complaining about politicians who fail to listen to the American people — whether or not because of money. No one listens less to the people than he does. No one is more self-assured with less justification than he is. The American people are aghast at his arrogant refusal to defend America and listen to his advisers, his insistence on bringing terrorist-imbedded refugees and immigrants into this nation, his bizarre assertion that global warming is a greater threat to this nation than Islamic terrorism, his endless lies on Obamacare, his constant slandering of this country, and on and on.

It will be a sheer joy when we have a new president, God willing, who genuinely loves this nation and sees it as a force for good throughout the world and begins to return it to that path. No, this nation is not over, but it needs to turn back to its founding principles and believe in itself again.



A new bureaucratic nightmare

As we observed in “Financial Crisis and Leviathan,” in its first 14 months the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a new federal agency, did little besides expanding an already bloated and wasteful government. The CFPB duplicates the work of existing regulators and worsens a crisis government played a major role in causing through programs such as the Carter-Era Community Reinvestment Act. Unfortunately, the damage does not stop there.

As the New York Times observes, the CFPB has been taking aim at the arbitration process, a longstanding way to resolve disputes outside of the court system. A new rule by the CFPB “which would prevent financial services companies from including class-action bans in consumer contracts, could in effect kill arbitration altogether.” Trouble is, as the Times notes, the CFPB is “empowered to issue rules without legislative approval, making them more difficult to defeat. Furthermore, unlike the Securities and Exchange Commission, which is overseen by a bipartisan commission, the consumer agency has a single head, appointed by the president.”

As Mother Jones explains, a recent television commercial, aired during a presidential debate, “paints the CFPB as a Kremlin-like bureaucratic nightmare,” with prime mover Elizabeth Warren “as the Stalinesque figure” on a red banner alongside CFPB boss Richard Cordray. Given the top-down autocratic structure of the CFPB, and the lack of legislative oversight, the Soviet imagery is not much of a stretch.



Will the "mob" do the job that Obama won't?

Good if they "rub out" Jihadis before they strike

It's a little known fact, but back in World War II, the government made a pact with la cosa nostra to protect America's ports from the Nazis. After suspected Nazi sabotage at our ports, the Roosevelt administration reached out to Jewish mobster Meyer Lansky and Charles "Lucky" Luciano in what came to be known as "Operation Underworld." The collaboration prevented another such incident from happening again during the War. Now, it seems like the mob is offering its protection once again:

The son of a New York mob boss has given Islamic State a stark warning, saying if they are planning any attacks in New York, they will have to contend with the Sicilian mafia. The notorious crime syndicate say they want to do their bit to protect locals.

Giovanni Gambino, the son of a key figure in the Gambino mob organization, says the mafia is in a much better position than security bodies, such as the FBI or Homeland Security, to give New Yorkers the protection they need.

“They often act too late, or fail to see a complete picture of what's happening due to a lack of ‘human intelligence,’” he said in an interview with NBC News, as cited by Reuters, adding that the mafia’s knowledge of individual movements and interaction with locals gives it the upper hand, even compared to the latest surveillance technologies.

Gambino, who is trying to carve out a career as a Hollywood screenwriter, says that, following the horrendous terror attacks in Paris on November 13, protection is more important than ever.

"The world is dangerous today, but people living in New York neighborhoods with Sicilian connections should feel safe," he said. "We make sure our friends and families are protected from extremists and terrorists, especially the brutal, psychopathic organization that calls itself the Islamic State,”
Organizations like the mafia first rose to prominence in the United States in large part because new citizens had to find ways to protect themselves when government couldn't. If the Obama Administration isn't up for the job, it's nice to see that someone else is.



Shiller’s Irrational Faith in Government Regulation

In a recent New York Times piece, economist Robert Shiller built an argument that was a non sequitur resting on two false premises. Specifically, Shiller argued:

(Premise 1:) Economics courses teach students that market outcomes are “Pareto optimal.”

(Premise 2:) In reality, market forces lead to systematic deception and manipulation of the public.

(Conclusion:) Therefore, we shouldn’t have blind reliance on unregulated markets, but instead we need sensible government oversight such as the kind that the FDA provides to the medical arena.

To repeat, Shiller’s conclusion doesn’t follow from his premises, but beyond that, his premises are false. So it’s a rather dubious argument, all around.

In the first place, outside of a few schools with faculty trained in Austrian economics, I think Shiller is quite mistaken when he argues, “Perhaps the most widely admired of all the economic theories taught in our universities is the notion that an unregulated competitive economy is optimal for everyone.” What percentage of economics professors teaching in the U.S. would endorse such a claim? I’m guessing it’s about 5 percent.

Second, it is not true that market forces leave the public helpless in the face of deception. For example, Shiller says that grocery stores tried “no candy” checkout lanes decades ago but that “these efforts have largely failed.” Thus, Shiller thinks this is a good example of how the profit motive can lead companies to take measures (such as putting candy in checkout lines) that will not make their customers happy, in a certain sense.

Yet I can remember seeing “no candy” lanes in the not too-distant past, and so the efforts must not have failed that much. In any event, with the rise of self-checkout lanes, this is now a moot point. It’s quite easy for parents who are so inclined to avoid pushing their young whiny children past candy bars in even conventional grocery stores. Furthermore, the rise of health food stores has also given more options to parents who want to shop in such an environment. It wasn’t the aim of the people opening such stores to specifically solve the “we know parents will hate us for it but we want to make a buck” problem that Shiller brings up, but they did solve it nonetheless.

Finally and most important, it doesn’t really matter how much we think markets encourage honesty vs. duplicity in some absolute sense. All that matters is whether voluntary processes are more honest than coercive mechanisms imposed from Washington.

Yes, it is true that major companies that fund scientific research have an interest, but by the same token wouldn’t we expect government-funded research to yield outcomes that the political class desires?

And yes, it is true that mass-market commercial campaigns appeal to the baser motives and emotionally manipulate the public. But how does Shiller think political campaigns work, when the public periodically selects the government officials who will then (supposedly) tweak and improve the dishonest, manipulative marketplace?



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (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 A WESTERN HEART.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Progressives are deliberately attempting to remake America by importing whole populations that suit them better

And too bad if that harms the existing population in any way

In just over a week, the world endured three major Islamic terrorist attacks in Beirut, Paris and Mali. Be it the Islamic State or an al-Qaida offshoot, the current reality reveals that Barack Obama’s 2012 oft-stated campaign assertion that jihadis were “on the run” was as fraudulent as the commander in chief himself. In fact, there is only one thing more fraudulent than Obama, his equally feckless administration and the Democrat Party’s leading presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton. That would be the progressive ideology that animates all of them. And it’s about time every GOP candidate for president made that reality crystal clear.

Make no mistake: Progressivism has metastasized to the point where it is no longer tethered to common sense and common decency. Thus we have “safe-space revolutionaries” attempting to turn college campuses into speech-suppressing gulags where progressive orthodoxy must not be challenged. We have a Democrat Party totally embracing the rampant lawlessness associated with illegal aliens. And we have the insidious arrogance of a chief executive who insists that the Islamic State is “contained,” even as its increasing lethality becomes undeniable.

Attacking Obama or Clinton personally may be somewhat effective. Absent the larger ideological context, however, it is far too easy for progressives, with an ample assist from their media apparatchiks, to dismiss those attacks as bigoted, xenophobic, Islamophobic or a host of other epithets designed to end the conversation.

Republicans must illuminate the unmistakable nexus between unfettered immigration, open borders, sanctuary cities, the inability to call Islamic terror by its proper name, the desire to import improperly vetted “refugees” from terror hotspots, and the indoctrination occurring on college campuses. All of them are pieces of the same progressive jigsaw puzzle that must be put together so Americans can clearly see how determined the American Left is to fundamentally transform the nation.

In that context, it is no accident the Obama administration not only countenanced a two-year “surge” at our Southern border, but the deliberate dispersal of illegals throughout the entire country. Like the Syrians progressives would currently like to bring to America, they too were characterized as “refugees” fleeing crime and poverty in places like Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, despite the reality that crime and poverty have been endemic in those nations for decades. When those illegals gained entry, the CDC waived the disease-screening process required for legal immigrants, and the media dismissed as “coincidental” an outbreak of the EV-D68 virus that killed and crippled American children — an outbreak 300 times larger than the infection rate seen in the 33-year period from 1970 to 2003.

This time we’re being assured that Syrians — who will also be dispersed to 180 different communities — have endured a serious vetting process, despite statements to the contrary by FBI Director James Comey, FBI Assistant Director Michael Steinbach and USCIS Associate Director for the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate Matthew Emrich. Yet just like it was with the illegals, anyone who dissents from admitting people who can’t be checked is not only a bigot, etc., but lacks “compassion.”

Compassion? How about compassion for Americans and their legitimate concerns? And how about credibility? Do the words, “If you like your doctor, etc.” or “We’ve seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful Internet video” ring a bell?

Even more to the point, how about taking responsibility for one’s policies? Does anyone seriously believe progressives would countenance putting illegal aliens and refugees in camps while they were processed and vetted? They know 48% of illegals skip their deportation hearings, and they know that terrorists might be embedded with refugees, because more than 100,000 Somali refugees have been allowed to emigrate to this nation — and more of them have left to fight with al-Shabaab and Islamic State terrorists than any other ethnic group. Yet is there the slightest doubt progressives would characterize such effective control of both groups as “inhumane?”

Perhaps they might have an ounce of credibility if every “compassionate” politician willing to accept Syrian refugees would pledge to resign immediately if even one of those refugees engages in terrorist activity.

But they won’t, any more than the phalanx of progressive politicians and law enforcement officials who should be fired or impeached for supporting the 340 sanctuary cities that operate with their blessings in open defiance of federal immigration law. Sanctuary cities that, in less than a year, released 9,295 alien offenders Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was seeking to deport. That group included 62% with “significant prior criminal histories or other public safety concerns,” and 58% with prior felony charges or convictions. Moreover, 2,320 were rearrested for new crimes within nine months.

The Obama administration doubled down on that insanity. In 2013 and 2014 ICE released more than 66,000 criminal aliens, with convictions including 414 kidnappings, more than 11,000 rapes or other sexual assaults and 395 homicides.

Tellingly, the same progressives who refuse to label the Islamic State and other terrorist groups “Islamic” also get indignant when the term “illegal aliens” is used. So much so that leftist media organizations like ABC and the Associated Press have actually banned the term completely. This puts them in perfect alignment with their speech-suppressing allies on college campuses and the 40% of Millennials overall who would support censoring speech that offends minorities.

In short, progressives are determined to control the narrative, even if it means undermining Rule of Law, endangering the nation and gutting the Constitution. Thus it becomes incumbent on Republicans to fight back with a narrative of their own in a manner just as hard-balled as their “by any means necessary” adversaries.

In that light, here’s a few questions they should ask during the presidential campaign:

What is the acceptable number of terrorist attacks Democrats are willing to abide to maintain open borders, lax refugee policies and the bankrupt concept of multiculturalism that insists “all cultures are equally viable?” We know the nearly 3,000 people killed on 9/11 was insufficient, as was the Fort Hood massacre, the Boston Marathon bombing and the plethora of failed terrorist attacks thwarted by vigorous law enforcement and dumb luck. What is an acceptable casualty rate along with “collateral damage” that apparently must be greater than the destruction of the World Trade Center?

How many murderers, rapists, pedophiles, aggravated assaulters, arsonists, etc. will progressives abide to maintain sanctuary cities? We know the aforementioned 11,000 rapes or other sexual assaults, 395 homicides and 2,320 re-arrests is an insufficient level of mayhem inflicted on innocent Americans to change progressive minds. Can Democrats explain how their self-professed “compassion” is reconciled with additional body counts and ruined lives?

Can progressives inform us as to how many additional words or phrases, historical artifacts or figures, works of literature or anything else that offends their sensibilities will be censored, torn down, or simply removed from the national ethos to preserve political correctness? What additional elements of American tradition, culture and history will be filtered through a progressive “blame America” lens that emphasizes our inherently genocidal racist, sexist, classist culture? Is there a limit to these demands, or do you intend to continue deconstructing our national identity until it no longer exists?

America is seething with frustration and downright anger. But unless Republicans are willing to forcibly attack the progressive message along with its likely messenger Hillary Clinton, the race will be reduced to personalities. If that happens, expect the same corrupt media that characterized Clinton’s performance at the Benghazi hearing as a “victory” — despite new evidence of lies — to be the deciding factor.

A bankrupt ideology with adherents more willing to preserve multiculturalism and political correctness than the lives of their fellow Americans is perched at the edge of the abyss. Push it over, Republicans. The fate of the nation may very well depend on it.



A good idea from Canada

With a lot of Americans concerned about the possibilty that ISIS terrorists will exploit Syria's refugee crisis as a means of exporting terror to foreign shores, one nation may have found a common sense solution. As the Daily Caller reports:

Canada’s Syrian refugee plan will be limited to women, children and families from now on after increased security concerns about single males.

Citing anonymous sources, CBC News reports that the terror attacks in Paris Nov. 13 have led the government to rethink its policy. Canada is working toward getting 25,000 Syrian refugees admitted by the end of the year and is screening applicants at a rate of 100 per day to meet the quota. The announcement of the revisions are expected to take place Tuesday.

The government has been silent about what the security screening process looks like and whether it takes place at camps in Europe or in Canada.

There's no telling whether or not this will work, but it's the sort of common sense, security based approach that the Obama administration has roundly rejected in a way that suggests they don't take our enemies seriously.



Attempts to intimidate conservative voters and donors

The privacy of the ballot box is being undermined

Texas state campaign finance regulators are pursuing enforcement actions seeking the names of donors to conservative organizations. With other state regulators in Democrat-run states, these speech regulators are coordinating their responses to free speech litigation and state legislation limiting their regulatory powers.

Other states, including California, are also attempting to obtain the names of donors from conservative groups.

State speech and campaign finance regulators in blue states, and in states with regulatory boards such as Wisconsin with a decidedly left-leaning bias, have been participating in an internet discussion group to enhance state speech regulation.

The list server is run by the state of Vermont. The address:  Emails obtained by PJ Media show extensive collaboration among bureaucrats in different states in their efforts to regulate political speech, particularly against conservatives.

Participation on the list has included government employees in at least the following states: California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New York City, New York, Texas, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.

There's a clear purpose here- voter intimidation. Up until Obama used the IRS to intimidate conservative groups, the most glaring example of state agencies using government power to quell activism was in the 1950s, when segregated Alabama demanded that the NAACP turn over its membership lists in exchange for operating in the state. The Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional then.

In that case, Justice John Marshall Harlan II noted that "Immunity from state scrutiny of petitioner's membership lists is here so related to the right of petitioner's members to pursue their lawful private interests privately and to associate freely with others in doing so as to come within the protection of the Fourteenth Amendment."

It was that privacy that allowed the organization to grow so strong, and doggedly pursue the civil rights reforms that helped bring about true equality under the law. Had the court ruled otherwise, those lists might have been used to intimidate and publicly shame those who privately supported the civil rights movement.

The IRS was successful in its attempt to limit conservative groups, but the public is now aware. With Hillary on the ballot, it seems that Democrats have found another way to stifle dissent.  It's good to see that conservatives are vigilant this time around.



Time Is Money—and Even More in Healthcare

Money is the most talked-about barrier to healthcare in the United States. But one of the least talked about—at least by its technical name—is often an even greater hindrance: rationing by waiting. In an important column in Forbes, Independent Institute Senior Fellow John C. Goodman offers a primer on what everyone wants to know about rationing by waiting but is too afraid to ask.

A recent survey by Merritt Hawkins, the nation’s leading physician research and consulting firm, found that the waiting time to see a primary care doctor in the United States is almost three weeks—and more than two months in Boston. Waiting times are getting longer, too. The most important reason is government policy: For decades, the federal government has suppressed the price system, both directly, through administered pricing, and indirectly, through the third-party payer maze. “When you suppress prices, you elevate the importance of non-price barriers,” Goodman writes.

The consequences of price suppression—the scope of the non-price barriers to good healthcare—are felt throughout the healthcare system. “How long does it take you to make an appointment with a doctor? How many days or weeks must you wait before the visit takes place? How long does it take to get from your home or place of work to the doctor’s office and back again? How long do you have to wait once you get there? These are all non-price or non-market barriers to care,” Goodman continues. “And there is ample evidence that even for the poor these barriers are more important obstacles to care than the fee the doctor charges.”


There is a  new  lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- this time including thoughts about race and sport.


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (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 A WESTERN HEART.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

More evidence that happiness is dispositional

Implying that unhappiness is too. And Leftists are the unhappy people. The world is all wrong according to them.  But they can't help feeling that.  They were born miserable.  So they cannot be reasoned with.  They can only be combatted and defeated

From meditating and reading self-help books to finding true love, people have long been searching for the root of happiness. Now, scientists have discovered exactly where in the brain it can be found.

People who scored higher on contentment surveys had a bigger precuneus - a part of the brain normally associated with consciousness.

Psychologists found a combination of joyful feelings and the satisfaction of life coming together, were experienced in this part of the brain. They said this is what constitutes the subjective experience of being 'happy'.

Until now, the mechanism behind how happiness emerges in the brain remained unclear. Understanding that mechanism, according to the researchers, will be a huge asset for quantifying levels of happiness objectively.

Dr Wataru Sato, a cognitive psychologist at Kyoto University, said: 'Over history, many eminent scholars like Aristotle have contemplated what happiness is. 'I'm very happy that we now know more about what it means to be happy.

The study scanned the brains of research participants with MRI.  They then completed a survey that asked how happy they are generally, how intensely they feel emotions, and how satisfied they are with their lives.

People feel emotions in different ways; for instance, some people feel happiness more intensely than others when they receive compliments, the study found.

Their analysis revealed that those who scored higher on the happiness surveys had more grey matter mass in the precuneus.  The precuneus is found in the superior parietal lobule at the top, back of the brain.

In other words, people whose brain is larger in this area feel happiness more intensely, feel sadness less intensely, and are more able to find meaning in life.



Despite Obama's Claims, We Are Not Able to Properly Screen Syrian Refugees

There is truly a war taking place throughout the world. Radical Islam is at war with Western civilization that is not currently part of its caliphate. Though the Obama administration is out to convince you that there’s no war, or that climate change is our country’s biggest threat, the bloodbath in Paris proves the contrary without doubt. Though we are not engaged in defending ourselves fully, the one-sided war goes on, allowing our enemy to get stronger and more radical.

America is now faced with a stinging reality, one that threatens the very heart of our national security. President Obama has instructed his administration to bring tens of thousands of Syrian refugees into our country without any real standard of document authentication or actual database of information that would allow us to effectively vet these people.

We have been told repeatedly by this administration that these refugees entering the United States have been vetted, and that we are simply providing aid to the vetted moderate Muslim Syrian refugees. However, FBI Director Comey revealed a different story in a House Judiciary Committee Hearing recently.

When pressed about a fingerprint database, he stated that it will be "challenging" to vet those Syrian refugees who have "never crossed our radar screen."

Think about that: no data, and no way to authenticate people or documents through a Syrian government the Obama administration has been trying to overthrow.

With the slaughtering of innocent lives at the hands of Islamic radical terrorists worldwide, we should be extremely alarmed at the thought of tens of thousands of improperly vetted refugees entering America.

It is the federal government’s job to ensure our safety and to address our vulnerabilities to danger, including our sanctuary cities. While these "safe havens" are designed to make people illegally here feel secure, they are also harboring violent cartels and providing cover for dangerous terrorists, and ISIS intends to take advantage of the sanctuary. This week, they threatened to spill American blood in a sanctuary city called Washington, D.C. There’s surely nothing more unpleasant than having someone make you feel like an unwanted refugee while you are cutting someone’s head off.

In sanctuary cities, various groups actually instruct Muslim immigrants not to talk to law enforcement. In fact, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation trial, plastered a poster on its website which stated "Don’t Talk to the FBI," and urged Muslims to "Build a Wall of Resistance" between them and the authorities.

Of course, CAIR’s input is always welcome at the White House.

The UN Refugee Agency’s own data from January through September of 2015 said 72% of the refugees from the Mediterranean countries were men. Yet the UN data also indicates that of all the other 43 million refugees in the world, about 91% are women and children.

ISIS has stated plainly that they would embed jihadi warriors into those refugees. News reports say two of the bombers in Paris were Syrian refugees.

Despite what President Obama stated mere hours before the Paris terrorist attack, ISIS is not "contained." Anyone with a TV witnessed this fact last Friday night. He also is adamant that the terrorists are not Islamic.

However, a renowned Islamic scholar and expert, who reportedly has a B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in Islamic studies from the Islamic University of Baghdad, believes and has stated that ISIS is indeed Islamic. That expert’s name is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, otherwise known as the leader of ISIS.

You choose who to believe: the world-renowned, Islamic-degreed expert, or our politician-in-chief.

In this war being waged against Western civilization by Islamic jihad, it is imperative that we realize we are in a war, and that it is not a criminal justice matter. In war, you don’t simply "bring people to justice" as the president keeps vowing without doing; you destroy the enemy and his will.

President Obama tried to assuage us during his Turkish press conference regarding his strategies that work by saying “we will double down on those.” We were taught in elementary math that anything times zero is still zero. It won’t matter if this president doubles or quadruples his non-existent strategy. ISIS will not be defeated by this president’s half-hearted criminal justice effort against this ruthless enemy, as it takes territories and heads.

Until President Obama and his echo-chamber sycophants are willing to name our enemy, now in all 50 states, the loser will be us. And with no honest strategy to defeat these jihadis, this administration simply cannot be trusted to properly vet these refugees. Another large-scale terrorist tragedy will be the inevitable result, whether sooner or later.

It is time to stop ridiculing those of us who have been sounding the alarm about radical Islam, and instead to work together to stop them and their terrorist atrocities. Providing a safe haven for refugees in their own home regions should be a priority. The fact that the vast majority of the refugees are men and are so anxious to come to Western civilization raises a question: have these fighting-age men fled their homes, leaving women and children to fight ISIS alone, or is there an ulterior motive for their coming?



Hillary is totally divorced from reality

Yesterday, while Paris was just cleaning up its second Muslim terrorist attack and just hours before Muslim terrorists stormed a hotel in Mali, releasing hostages who would recite Koranic verses, a Democratic frontrunner for President had this to say:

"Let’s be clear: Islam is not our adversary. Muslims are peaceful and tolerant people and have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism."

That candidate? Hillary Clinton, stepping down from her throne to tell all of us to remind all us right-wing simpletons that Islam is a religion of peace. You see, ivory tower, limousine liberals like Clinton think that ordinary Americans take every terrorist attack as an opportunity to string up the nearest Muslim. They think we can't differentiate, and so they offer hyperbolic pap like this as a means of overcompensating.

It is obvious to anyone that not all Muslims are terrorist, but it is just as obvious that Islam has a pretty big terrorist problem, in that those who kill innocent civilians in its name are carrying out an active Holy War. Any American with two eyes can see this, but it challenges Hillary's nutty worldview. It's a world view that's all well and good if you're the typical 70 something grandmother with that says cute old fashioned things and forgets things sometimes, but it's incredibly problematic if you want to run the country.



Maine Doubles Down on Welfare Reform Despite Media Backlash

Mary Mayhew, commissioner of Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services, knows her politics aren’t always popular.

“I can’t stress enough what an attack campaign it has been from the media for four and a half years,” Mayhew said Thursday at an anti-poverty forum in Washington, D.C., hosted by The Heritage Foundation.

Then there are the more personalized critiques: “There is a poet, or he calls himself a poet, and he sends me poems all the time,” she added. “They are not nice poems.”

Mayhew claims that detractors—who mostly take issue with welfare reforms enacted by Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, since his election in 2011—have gone so far as to call her “Commissioner Evil,” and her and LePage’s policies a “War on the Poor.”

The irony, according to Mayhew, lies in the fact that her and LePage’s efforts actually aim to empower Maine’s poorest citizens. She says a third of the state is on welfare.

“The welfare hurricane doesn’t just destroy one family; it destroys generations of them,” Tarren Bragdon, president and CEO of the Foundation for Government Accountability, said at the event Thursday. “This work is about giving children a better chance for a future.”

To illustrate that point, Mayhew told a story of one of her first days on the job as DHHS commissioner, spent touring a substance abuse treatment facility for adolescents:

I was taken aback by one of the youth who came up to me—it was actually several youth, who were just completely focused on whether I could help them get disability. These were 15-year-old, 16-year-old young men clearly battling addiction, but they had decided that the answer for them was to pursue disability. And, frankly, as we all look at that pathway, that truly is committing individuals to a lifetime of poverty.

Since LePage assumed the governorship, Maine has reduced enrollment in the state’s food stamp program by over 58,000; currently, according to Mayhew, there are 197,000 people on food stamps, down from a high of 255,663 in February 2012.

Mayhew says the decline is due to eliminating the waiver of the work requirement previously attached to food stamps, as also witnessed in Kansas. Under the new legislation, recipients would need to work 20 hours per week, volunteer for about an hour a day, or attend a class to receive food stamps past three months.

LePage and Mayhew have also rolled back Medicaid eligibility through a series of battles Mayhew called “fierce.”

With a population of roughly 1.3 million, Maine had 357,000 individuals receiving Medicaid benefits when LePage took office. Today, 287,000 people are on Medicaid, according to Mayhew.

“What we have done truly has taken the arguments to the public to underscore what has been lost as that program grew out of control, never mind that the resources that had to be devoted to Medicaid were being taken away from education, infrastructure, and reduced tax burden on the state of Maine,” Mayhew said.

In August, Maine DHHS announced they planned to redirect $3.24 million in welfare savings to fund home care services for elderly citizens as well as the Meals on Wheels program.

Lastly, Mayhew touched upon Maine’s efforts to retool the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card programs, stating that Maine had over 15,000 open TANF cases when LePage took office. That number is down to less than 5,000.

LePage’s and Mayhew’s policies, as Mayhew herself highlighted, have not been without controversy.

Earlier this week, amid an ongoing dispute over EBT cards being used to wire money abroad, critics accused the LePage administration of using last Friday’s terror attacks in Paris to justify reforms.

“This proposal is really an example of fear-mongering at its worst,” Robyn Merrill, executive director of Maine Equal Justice Partners, told MPBN News.

But Mayhew does not plan to back down—especially if it means reducing her own influence long-term, and shifting that responsibility to local non-profits.

“I can’t underscore enough that part of the issue is government is too big, my agency is too large, and people are trying to preserve their jobs,” she said.

“We have got to reduce the size and scope of these agencies if we are going to have communities really take on the responsibility of supporting these families and these individuals on those pathways [to independence].”



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (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 A WESTERN HEART.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Monday, November 23, 2015

Bible study aids

I have put up some comments on my Scripture Blog about the Bible study aids that I have found most useful -- in the hope that others might discover something there of use.


Social Conservatives Win at the Polls

Will Obama's excesses usher in a long period of conservative ascendancy?  The British Labour party's lurch Left delivered a big victory to the Conservatives in the recent British national election

Conservative principles and candidates have no chance, according to conventional wisdom. Democratic core groups -- minorities, single women, social liberals in favor of LGBT reforms -- keep increasing and cities keep growing. Liberal progressivism is ascendant in politics, and the era of the Republican Party is over.

Recent elections have blown this theory out of the water. Not only did the GOP take the U.S. House in 2010 and the U.S. Senate in 2014, but this year the GOP won again -- by championing strong conservative values, especially on social issues.

This Year’s Victories

As Molly Ball wrote in The Atlantic, "liberals are losing the culture wars." At the beginning of this month, liberal Democrats lost five issue-based elections that conventional wisdom says they should have won. Voters rejected recreational marijuana, a transgender “non-discrimination” law, so-called “sanctuary cities” for illegal immigrants, and gun-control candidates. Voters elected a Tea Party activist -- who publicly embraced Kim Davis -- as governor. Liberals took a shellacking.

Ohio voters rejected a ballot initiative to legalize medical and recreational marijuana by a 30-point margin. Governor John Kasich opposed the measure, saying the U.S. needs a coherent drug policy. “When you run around telling kids not to do drugs, young kids, and then they read that we might legalize marijuana, I just think that’s a mixed message,” Kasich said. Voters may have rejected the initiative’s production cartel, rather than legal marijuana, but in any case, weed is still off limits in Ohio.

Voters in Houston -- the most liberal city in Texas -- overwhelmingly defeated a non-discrimination ordinance that would grant “equal rights” to those who identify as transgender. In this city, where whites are less than a third of the population, 61 percent of voters opposed the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO).

As National Review’s Kevin Williamson put it, the ordinance would “have made the abolition of penis-bearing persons (we used to call them 'men') from the ladies’ locker room an official offense in the same category of wrongdoing as shoving Rosa Parks to the back of the bus.” Opponents said the law would lead to “men in women’s bathrooms,” and for some reason, no matter how HEROic this may seem, voters overwhelmingly rejected it.

San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, who defended the city’s “sanctuary city” policies -- not returning illegal immigrants to national immigration authorities -- was defeated by 31 points. Illegal immigration gained the national spotlight following the alleged murder of 32-year-old Kate Steinle by previously deported Mexican illegal immigrant Francisco Sanchez on July 1. This issue boosted Donald Trump early on, and has now returned to oust Mirkarimi.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s gun control group, Everytown for Gun Safety, targeted two GOP state senate candidates in Virginia. One did lose, but the other won, leaving the State Senate in Republican hands.

Finally, Matt Bevin, the Tea Party candidate who failed to defeat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in the 2014 GOP primary, won the Kentucky governorship by nearly 10 points. Bevin campaigned on phasing out the Obamacare Medicaid expansion, and championed social issues -- going so far as embracing Kim Davis, the county clerk who refused to violate her conscience by signing marriage licenses after the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage.

Voters Are More Conservative Than You Might Think

One night dealt huge losses to the transgender and gay marriage movements, the left’s embrace of illegal immigration, and Obamacare. Gun control again fell short, as did marijuana legalization. While liberals may poo-poo these results as the outcome of low voter turnout, they also illustrate a resounding backlash to an unpopular and overreaching president.

Kentucky, despite consistently voting for Republican presidential candidates, has only had one other Republican governor since the 1970s. Bevin’s Tea Party support illustrates a key theme of the last five years -- Obama has been terrible for his party.

Under President Obama, Democrats have lost over 900 state legislature seats, 12 governorships, 69 U.S. House seats, and 13 U.S. Senate seats. While some have argued that Democrats need not worry about losing all these elections, it may be wishful thinking to repeat the old mantra that the Democratic party has every advantage going into 2016.

Indeed, as Bloomberg View’s Megan McArdle argues, “parties are most vulnerable at precisely the moment when they feel themselves strongest.” McArdle recalls the 2004 elections -- when commentators speculated about a “permanent majority” for Republicans which had faltered in 2006 and clearly broken in 2008. Similarly, Obama’s impressive 2008 victory led the Democrats to overreach, giving birth to the Tea Party in 2010.

“The passage of Obamacare despite the fact that it was unpopular, despite the fact that no one in the opposition party wanted to touch it, despite the fact that the voters of Massachusetts sent a Republican to the Senate to vote against it, was hubris,” McArdle notes. “Did Democrats just accept that their goal of national health care was worth alienating voters and losing control of lower offices?” Perhaps unconsciously, that is exactly what they did.

In addition to the signature health care law, President Obama has overplayed his hand as chief executive in the immigration arena. Last week, a federal court ruled that Obama had misused his authority by providing work permits and protecting a huge swath of illegal immigrants from deportation. The president has requested a review by the Supreme Court.

Despite the historic wins of 2006 and 2008, and the argument that the Obama coalition will continue electing Democratic presidents going forward, McArdle argues that the current presidential candidates ought to be a warning sign for the party. “It should worry Democrats that their two leading contenders for the nomination are a self-proclaimed socialist and a center-left candidate with her roots in a much earlier, more bipartisan era,” she wrote.

Why Conservatism Won

The electorate may not be as liberal as Democrats believe. When Obama won his resounding victory in 2008, he ran as a moderate on social issues. He did not yet support same-sex marriage -- a position he subsequently “evolved” into. In 2012, he won re-election, but with a smaller margin of the popular vote and the electoral college.

Perhaps most telling, socially liberal overreach has failed at the ballot box, not just this year, but last year as well. Abortion starling Wendy Davis suffered a severe defeat in the Texas gubernatorial election last year, as did Senator Mark Udall who campaigned on the tired talking point of the Republican “War on Women.” Bevin’s victory and the loss of the transgender ballot initiative in Houston merely solidify a trend against progressive overreach.

Hillary Clinton seems to have missed the lesson. Rather than realize the failure of Obama’s overreach, she is doubling down on the same leftist policies that propelled Bevin to victory, and Udall and Davis to defeat.

In a country with record gun sales for six months in a row, and where the NRA’s approval rating is a record 58 percent, Hillary chose to make gun control a centerpiece of her campaign. After the voters of Houston -- of all places! -- rejected a transgender initiative, Clinton continues to back similar laws.

As Democrats lurch left, the GOP scores electoral victories. After the recent election, Republicans will have “total control” of 24 states, holding the governorship and a majority in the state legislature. Out of 50 states, 33 now have Republican governors. Out of 99 state legislatures, 67 belong to the GOP.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, conservatism wins at the ballot box, especially after liberals overreach. Republicans need to learn this going into 2016. A strong conservative message will give Americans a true choice next November -- and the GOP may just like what it sees.



A Pattern of Executive Overreach

Recently, the Justice Department announced it would not be indicting anyone for his or her role in the most serious domestic political scandal since the Nixon years.

Starting in 2010, the IRS, under pressure from congressional Democrats and the White House, engaged in blatant ideologically motivated discrimination against conservative organizations applying for non-profit status.

That the most feared bureaucracy in Washington was making decisions based on illegal political criteria should send a chill down the spine of any American who cares about the First Amendment and the rule of law.

Yet the Department of Justice has refused to indict even IRS official Lois Lerner, who invoked her Fifth Amendment right to silence to avoid incriminating herself in testimony before Congress.

Unfortunately, the failure to prosecute anyone responsible for abusing the IRS’s authority reflects the Obama administration’s broader contempt for the Constitution and the rule of law.

Consider just a few examples:

Going to war in Libya in blatant violation of the War Powers Resolution, and in defiance of the legal advice of the president’s own lawyers, based on the ridiculous theory that bombing the heck out of Libya did not constitute “hostilities” under the law

Appointing so-called policy czars to high-level positions to avoid constitutionally-required confirmation hearings

Modifying, delaying, and ignoring various provisions of Obamacare in violation of the law itself

Attacking private citizens for engaging in constitutionally protected speech

Issuing draconian regulations regarding sexual assault on campus not through formal, lawful regulation but through an informal, and unreviewable, “dear colleague” letter

Ignoring 100 years of legal rulings and the plain text of the Constitution and trying to get a vote in Congress for the D.C. delegate

Trying to enact massive immigration reform via an executive order demanding that the Department of Homeland Security both refuse to enforce existing immigration law, and provide work permits to millions of people residing in the U.S. illegally

Imposing common core standards on the states via administrative fiat

Ignoring bankruptcy law and arranging Chrysler’s bankruptcy to benefit labor unions at the expense of bondholders

Trying to strip churches and other religious bodies of their constitutional right to choose their clergy free from government involvement.

More generally, the president has abandoned any pretense of trying to work with Congress, as the Constitution’s separation of powers requires. He prefers instead to govern by unilateral executive fiat, even when there is little or no legal authority supporting his power to do so.

Presidents trying stretch their power as far as they can is hardly news. What is news, however, is that top Obama administration officials, including the president himself, see this not as something to be ashamed of, but as a desirable way of governing, something to brag about rather than do surreptitiously.

Obama behaves as if there is some inherent virtue in a president governing by decree and whim, as if promoting progressive political ends at the expense of the rule of law is proper not simply as a desperate last resort but as a matter of principle.

After all, Obama says, democracy is unduly “messy” and “complicated.” “We can’t wait,” the president intones, as he ignores the separation of powers again and again, ruling instead through executive order.

“Law is politics,” and only politics, according to a mantra popular on the legal left, and therefore the law should not be an independent constraint to doing the right thing politically. Obama seems to agree.

As Obama’s lawlessness has received increased attention from Congress, the (conservative) media, and the general public, the president has been defiant, even petulant. When confronted by allegations of lawlessness, Obama takes no responsibility, and doesn’t even bother to defend the legality of his actions.

Harry S. Truman famously said “the buck stops here.” Obama responds to serious concerns about his administration’s lawlessness with a derisive “so sue me.”

As George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley writes, Obama “acts as if anything a court has not expressly forbidden is permissible.” And in many situations, no one has legal standing to challenge the president’s actions in court—which means that no judge can stop the administration’s lawbreaking.

So sue me? If only we could.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (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 A WESTERN HEART.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Psychologizing Jihadis

I reproduce below the introduction to a long article in the Left-leaning "New Scientist" which is reasonably scholarly but which ignores what Jihadis say, and, indeed, what the Koran says.

It looks at the functioning of brain regions and finds only very equivocal evidence for the view that  Jihadis have different brains.  So they then resort to discussing Jihadis in a group  dynamics context.  In an academic way they draw the familiar conclusion that the Jihadis "just got in with a bad crowd".  And they firmly reject the conclusion that Jihadis are evil.  And they do eventually conclude that Jihadis are not psychologically  abnormal.

But is getting in with a bad crowd sufficient to explain the extraordinarily evil behaviour that we get from (say) ISIS? Their behavior is a long way away from the civilized norms in which most of the Jihadis have grown up, so surely needs detailed explanation.  And similar behaviour by the Nazis also needs to be explained.  But what does explain it?  The article below offers next to nothing towards such an explanation.

But the explanation is no mystery at all. Nazis, Jihadis and their ilk have in fact been keen to explain themselves to us.  Given their assumptions, what they do is perfectly rational.  What they do, they do in expectation of a great reward.  It is very similar to what happens in a field we know well: capitalism.  If the expected reward is great, some people will take all sorts of risks to get it.  Why does anybody start up a business when he knows (or should know) that around 90% of new businesses go broke within a year?  Because he expects to make a "killing".  Note the parallelism.  The businessman's "killing" simply means a lot of money.  Great profits are expected.

So Nazis and Jihadis do what they do because they expect a large reward from it.  Normal rules can be disregarded because of the magnitude of the reward.  So what is that reward?  The article below puts it well when it notes that "Young people need a dream. Appeals for moderation will never be attractive to youth, yearning for adventure, for glory, for significance”.  Not all Nazis and Jihadis have of course been young but it does seem to be mainly young people who have flocked to such movements.

And Islam in fact offers rewards of that sort to young and old.  The aim of Jihad is to subjugate the world to Islam. So that offers adventure, glory and significance to anyone who participates.

Nazism offered similar heroic visions.  Nazis  fought for Führer, Volk (race) and Vaterland (homeland).  Their ideals were Courage, Honor, and Loyalty. The "Nazizeit" was a immensely exciting era for Germany.  The song of the Hitler youth below may give you some sense of it. The translations are good but do not match the power of the original German

Music is very powerful emotionally and Nazis had the unparalleled German talent for music at their disposal.  The German lands are home to the timeless music of Bach, Handel, Mozart and Beethoven.  And that does matter.

And for Jihadis too there are many rewards. As well as the worldly rewards mentioned above, there is religion. It is easy for us to mock it but don't forget that most of the world is  religious.  Jihadis really believe what the Koran tells them: That if they die in battle fighting the infidel they will pop off straight to heaven and be waited on there forever after by seventy beautiful women. And, given the puritanical nature of Islam, that may be the only sort of woman many of them will ever get. So, at the risk of putting it too frivolously, Islam has great sex appeal!

And one thing that Jihadis and Nazis have in common is that both have taught adherents that they are special and superior by virtue of their beliefs.  Being a member of a master race or master religion obviously feels good.  The Nazis were not however looking to an afterlife.  They thought that once they had conquered the vast lands to their East, each German could become a gentleman farmer with serfs to do his bidding.  Most of Europe was once organized on feudal lines like that so it was not an unrealistic  dream.  That was not the whole of the Nazi incentive system but I have written about that in much detail elsewhere.

So where does that leave us with the Jihadis?  It leaves us where we are with the Nazis. You cannot appease them, you cannot change them, you cannot buy them off, you cannot deter them, you cannot talk them out of it.  The rewards that lure them are too great for any of that.  You can only destroy them.

And destroying them will be unlikely to be possible without destroying much of their support system, which is the whole Muslim world.  To adapt a saying by Mao Tse Tung, the Jihadis are fish who swim in the sea of their people so the sea may have to be drained to eradicate them.  Many Muslims may have to die from bombing etc. if a serious attempt to eradicate the Jihadis is made.  And, if that seems too harsh, do note that exactly that is happening right now in the lands occupied by ISIS.  Does anybody seriously think that it is only Jihadis who are dying in the bombing campaigns?  Most of the dead will simply be people from the sea in which the Jihadis swim.

So if a nuclear device were dropped on the ISIS headquarters of Raqqa, it would just do at once what is already happening gradually -- but would also be an unambiguous sign to the Jihadis that their Jihad cannot succeed.  In 1945, nukes tore the heart out of the Bushido warriors of Japan, real tough guys. They should have a similar impact on the slime of ISIS, or what remains of them

And President Trump might just do it.


Now to look at what "New Statesman says

WHY would an apparently normal young adult drop out of college and turn up some time later in a video performing a cold-blooded execution in the name of jihad? It’s a conundrum we have been forced to ponder ever since a group calling itself ISIS declared war on infidels. But 70 years ago we were asking something similar of guards in Nazi concentration camps – and, sadly, there have been plenty of opportunities to ponder the matter in between.

What turns an ordinary person into a killer? The idea that a civilised human being might be capable of barbaric acts is so alien that we often blame our animal instincts – the older, “primitive” areas of the brain taking over and subverting their more rational counterparts. But fresh thinking turns this long-standing explanation on its head. It suggests that people perform brutal acts because the “higher”, more evolved, brain overreaches. The set of brain changes involved has been dubbed Syndrome E – with E standing for evil.

In a world where ideological killings are rife, new insights into this problem are sorely needed. But reframing evil as a disease is controversial. Some believe it could provide justification for heinous acts or hand extreme organisations a recipe for radicalising more young people. Others argue that it denies the reality that we all have the potential for evil within us. Proponents, however, say that if evil really is a pathology, then society ought to try to diagnose susceptible individuals and reduce contagion. And if we can do that, perhaps we can put radicalisation into reverse, too.

Following the second world war, the behaviour of guards in Nazi concentration camps became the subject of study, with some researchers seeing them as willing, ideologically driven executioners, others as mindlessly obeying orders. The debate was reignited in the mid-1990s in the wake of the Rwandan genocide and the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia. In 1996, The Lancet carried an editorial pointing out that no one was addressing evil from a biological point of view. Neurosurgeon Itzhak Fried, at the University of California, Los Angeles, decided to rise to the challenge.

In a paper published in 1997, he argued that the transformation of non-violent individuals into repetitive killers is characterised by a set of symptoms that suggests a common condition, which he called Syndrome E (see “Seven symptoms of evil“). He suggested that this is the result of “cognitive fracture”, which occurs when a higher brain region, the prefrontal cortex (PFC) – involved in rational thought and decision-making – stops paying attention to signals from more primitive brain regions and goes into overdrive.

“The set of brain changes has been dubbed Syndrome E – with E standing for evil”

The idea captured people’s imaginations, says Fried, because it suggested that you could start to define and describe this basic flaw in the human condition. “Just as a constellation of symptoms such as fever and a cough may signify pneumonia, defining the constellation of symptoms that signify this syndrome may mean that you could recognise it in the early stages.” But it was a theory in search of evidence. Neuroscience has come a long way since then, so Fried organised a conference in Paris earlier this year to revisit the concept.

At the most fundamental level, understanding why people kill is about understanding decision-making, and neuroscientists at the conference homed in on this. Fried’s theory starts with the assumption that people normally have a natural aversion to harming others. If he is correct, the higher brain overrides this instinct in people with Syndrome E. How might that occur?



Trump Reveals Plan to Defeat ISIS

In a new radio ad, Donald Trump outlines his plan to defeat ISIS:

    "The tragic attacks in Paris prove once again that America needs to get tough on radical Islamic terrorism. President Obama and other politicans have consistantly failed us. Just hours before the attacks in Paris, President Obama said ISIS had been contained. It is amazing that the United States could have a president who is so out of touch. It is also dangerous.

Obama has no strategy to defeat ISIS and now he is preparing to let hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria into the United States. I will stop illegal immigration. We will build a wall on the southern border, and yes, I will also quickly and decisively bomb the hell out of ISIS.

We'll make the military so strong, no one and I mean no one, will mess with us. If I win, we will not have to listen to the politicans who are losing the war on terrorism, we will make America safe, and we will make America great again.

Unlike President Obama, Trump makes no bones about calling the problem- radical Islam- out by name. It's this plain spoken certitude that has made him the favorite of GOP voters.



FRC’s Tony Perkins: ‘The President and the Left, They Hate America’

Commenting on the debate over whether to allow Syrian refugees into the United States in the wake of the Paris attacks by the Islamic State, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said sharia law is a problem constitutionally, that President Barack Obama is promoting “Islam in this country,” and that “the president and the left, they hate America.”

He also noted that while Obama is “lecturing Americans about compassion and kindness” for the Syrians, “where are all the Islamic relief organizations lining up to help these people?”

“They’re not,” he said. It’s “crickets.”

After fielding a caller’s question about the refugees on his radio program, Washington Watch with Tony Perkins, on Tuesday, Perkins explained the conflict between religious freedom and sharia (Islamic) law.

“We have religious freedom -- I get this question people want to give to you: Do you believe in religious freedom, then you should allow Islam in,” said Perkins.  “Well, I believe in religious freedom, as the Founders did, and religious freedom is in the context of ordered liberty. “

“The Christian faith, the Jewish faith, the orthodox religions that have been here in this country have not sought to overturn our government – because it’s a faith, it’s religion,” he said.  “It is not a political, economic, judicial system, military system as Islam is. And, as these people themselves are saying, they see it as incompatible with the Constitution.”

“They want -- a majority would want sharia law,” Perkins.  “That’s a problem.”

He continued, “It’s interesting, you know, the president lecturing Americans about compassion and kindness. Where are all the Islamic relief organizations lining up to help these people? Crickets.  They’re not.”

“But notice how Christian nations open their doors to everybody, how we’re welcoming to the hurting, to the poor, to the helpless,” said Perkins.  “It’s those values that make us what we are. But it’s those values that are changed when you have no cogent immigration system, no means of controlling and assimilating people into the country so they become American, and America doesn’t become something else.”

“You see, the president and the left, they hate America,” he said.  “They deny the whole idea of American exceptionalism, the ideals of America. That’s foreign to them. They deny what makes us exceptional and so therefore they want to change it. Look, people on the left want to argue, but look at it, just look at the facts.  They’re all right there, very clear.”

In another segment of the show, Tony Perkins stressed that President Obama has an obligation to protect America from its enemies but it is unclear whether Obama actually sees that as a top priority.

“[A]s I said earlier, the president has an obligation to protect Americans from all enemies foreign and domestic,” said Perkins.  “And we’ve seen time and time again where the governors are actually doing what the president should be doing.”

“But the president has the orientation of a community organizer, not a president of the United States,” he said.

“Think about this for a moment, I’ve been in politics, I understand the dynamics,” Perkins continued.  “But let’s say you get something similar to what happened in Paris were to happen in someone’s state given what we now know. The political repercussions of that would be huge.”

“Of course, the president doesn’t care,” said Perkins.  “He’s on his way out. And he’s doing everything he can to, I think, to promote Islam in this country.”



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