Friday, April 20, 2018


Another Nail in the Coffin for Fish Oil Supplements

More people than ever take fish oil dietary supplements—around 8% of US adults in 2012 compared with around 5% five years earlier, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. But a recent meta-analysis of 10 large clinical trials came to a disappointing conclusion: The popular capsules do little to protect patients with heart disease. The findings are at odds with advice from the American Heart Association (AHA), including a 2017 science advisory recommendation to consider fish oil supplementation for patients with a recent myocardial infarction, or heart attack.

The new meta-analysis, published in JAMA Cardiology in January, looked at randomized trials of marine-derived omega-3 fatty acid supplements involving almost 78 000 participants with a history of coronary heart disease (66%), stroke (28%), or diabetes (37%). The trials lasted an average of 4.4 years and compared fish oil with placebo or no treatment in at least 500 participants.

All told, fish oil supplements did not reduce the risk of coronary heart disease deaths, nonfatal heart attacks, fatal or nonfatal strokes, revascularization procedures, or all-cause mortality among the full study population. The supplements also didn’t protect against major vascular events in any subgroups, including people with a history of heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, or statin use.

Parsing the effects of fish oil supplementation in prespecified disease subtypes and participant subgroups is something that wasn’t previously possible with the published data sets, said Robert Clarke, MD, a professor of epidemiology and public health medicine at the University of Oxford who led the review. Clarke’s coauthors included principal investigators from 9 out of 10 of the included trials, who provided unpublished data necessary for the meta-analysis.

“They looked every way they could to find out if there was a signal and nothing panned out,” said Lawrence J. Appel, MD, a coauthor of last year’s AHA advisory, who was not involved with the analysis.

The findings are just the latest to cast doubt on the usefulness of fish oil supplementation for major cardiovascular disease end points. Although early trials showed a substantial mortality benefit, the supplements haven’t lived up to their promise in later studies.

SOURCE 
https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2679051


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Another Crack in the ObamaCare Wall

Iowa is offering some alternatives for citizens priced out of ObamaCare. Leftists hate it. 

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has driven the ObamaCare-loving left crazy.

When incumbent Iowa Governor Terry Branstad resigned last May to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to China, Reynolds, who served as lieutenant governor since 2011, was appointed as Iowa’s 43rd chief executive and the first woman to serve as governor. This year she’s running for a full term in a state where average ObamaCare premiums have skyrocketed 57%, a reality Reynolds blames on the law’s regulations. “Many Iowans faced a choice of going broke or going without insurance,” she declared. “And that’s really not a real choice.”

Many Iowans apparently agreed. Approximately 26,000 of them who had previously purchased premiums on the individual market dropped out between 2017 and 2018 due to high prices, and another 20,000 were expected to follow suit this year.

Those dropouts were engendered by a familiar tale of woe. As Politico columnist Paul Denko explains, the state’s insurance market “imploded, with insurers fleeing the market because of big losses” over the past four years. That exodus left exactly one company, Medica, selling plans on the ObamaCare exchange in the state.

Last June, that reality initially caused Medica to seek a 43.5% premium increase, affecting about 14,000 Iowans. Two months later, Medica upped its request to 57%.

Last Monday Reynolds responded. She signed Senate File 2349, allowing the Iowa Farm Bureau to partner with Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield and offer self-funded “health benefit plans.” In addition, the law allows small businesses or self-employed people to band together and purchase “association health plans” (AHPs). Since these new types of coverage are not defined as health insurance, they are not subject to regulation by the Iowa Insurance Division, or ObamaCare mandates.

Timothy S. Jost, an emeritus professor at Washington and Lee University, illuminated what Iowa is doing. “It’s not a state saying we’re going to violate the ACA,” he explained. “It’s a state saying we’ve found a loophole in the ACA, and we’re going to use it.”

Loophole? Choice is more like it. And of the many things that make hysterical leftists hysterical, providing Americans with an alternative to ObamaCare — an odious concoction sold with an avalanche of lies to “stupid” Americans and passed in the dead of night without a single Republican vote — goes right to the top of the list.

Thus, pushback was inevitable. “This legislation will allow insurance companies to sell junk plans without proper oversight — precisely the kind of abuses the Affordable Care Act was designed to stop,” insisted Leslie Dach, chair of Protect Our Care, a pro-ObamaCare advocacy group.

Dach typifies the progressive mindset that misses the forest in search of the trees. For far too many Iowans, what Dach refers to as “junk plans” are better than no plans at all. An unidentified woman who witnessed the signing of the Iowa law addressed that inconvenient reality, noting that “there’s no reason a healthy 32-year-old should be paying more for health insurance than for her mortgage.”

Unfortunately there is, when one is forced to buy ObamaCare coverage that mandates 10 “essential benefits” including maternity care, mental health and substance abuse treatments, and pediatric services — even if one is a male, substance abuse-free, or a non-adolescent.

It is precisely this one-size-fits-all approach to health care that has alienated many Americans. According to the IRS, more than six million households chose to pay the ObamaCare penalty in 2015, the majority of whom were low- and middle-income Americans the law was ostensibly supposed to help. Moreover, when the repeal of the individual mandate goes into effect in 2019, the Congressional Budget Office predicts four million Americans will decide to forgo insurance in 2019, and 13 million will drop coverage by 2027 — precipitating a 10% increase in ObamaCare premiums in every one of those years.

It doesn’t get much more abusive and unaffordable than that.

A spokesman for the Iowa Farm Bureau addressed that reality, explaining that plans “are currently being worked out between Wellmark and Farm Bureau,” specifically to provide “an option for folks who are currently priced out of the ACA.” And while Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen reveals the impact of the new plans on the states’ markets remains largely unknown, he concedes Iowa doesn’t currently “have a large number of young and healthy people in that ACA market.”

Make that young and healthy people who are absolutely necessary to keep ObamaCare costs down. And while such efforts might be well-intended, especially with regard to people with pre-existing conditions who cannot afford to pay higher prices that would otherwise be necessary to keep insurance markets stable — absent those younger and healthier Americans offsetting those costs — there are other perils rarely talked about, most of which center on personal responsibility.

While most Americans have no qualms whatsoever about helping those who have pre-existing conditions, or become ill through no fault of their own, that sympathetic mindset likely doesn’t extend to those who lead conspicuously unhealthy lifestyles, knowing their fellow Americans will help underwrite their insurance costs. That ObamaCare makes no distinction between the two is highly problematic.

Yet even more problematic would be the emergence of a “health police” mindset, whereby government mandates lifestyle choices, for the “greater good” of keeping premium prices down, in order to incentivize those who would otherwise quit such a system to remain in it.

The common denominator? The apparently fatal assumption that collectivist health care is superior to Americans making individual choices about what they want covered and what they don’t. Moreover, there are ways of protecting those with pre-existing conditions that don’t require subjecting every American to rapidly escalating health care costs.

Thus, when any plan that embraces choice is reflexively labeled “junk” by progressives, that characterization reveals a mindset far more concerned with controlling Americans than helping them.

In short, progressives seem determined to preserve ObamaCare, even if it fails the people it was supposed to help.

Iowa’s plan is hardly cutting edge. Tennessee’s Farm Bureau has offered non-ObamaCare insurance for years, and Iowa’s plan is partly modeled after it. Moreover, Governor Reynolds insists the law is a temporary response to Congress’ inability to address the nation’s health care problem.

Iowa Farm Bureau spokeswoman Laurie Johns echoed Reynold’s concerns. “What we know for sure is that Iowans have seen individual health insurance premiums shoot through the roof — some have seen as much as 300 percent increases over the last four years” she wrote, “and out of pocket costs for deductibles and co-pays are also up significantly.”

Is Congress the best place to address the nation’s health care? Americans might ask themselves if allowing states to formulate their own plans might be a better way to go for the simplest of reasons: 50 chances to get it right beats one chance by a mile. And shouldn’t getting it right for individual Americans — as opposed to insurance companies or government bureaucracies — be the only thing that matters?

For Americans who need affordable health care, the answer is obvious. For those with a greater interest in protecting the Big Insurance, Big Pharma, Big Bureaucracy status quo?

Not so much

SOURCE 

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FCC Chair Rips Dems’ Call for Investigation of Sinclair ‘Based on the Content of Its News Coverage’/b>

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai chided Democrats requesting an investigation of Sinclair Broadcasting by reminding them of the true meaning of the First Amendment.

In their April 11 letter, the Democrat senators, joined by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) who caucuses with them, asked Pai to investigate pulling Sinclair’s broadcast license due to conservative views expressed on its stations, The Daily Signal reports:

“[A] group of senators wrote a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, demanding that he investigate Sinclair and possibly pull its broadcasting license because it constitutes a threat to the freedom of the press protected by the First Amendment.”

Pai responded, calling out the Democrats for “requesting that the commission investigate a broadcaster based on the content of its news coverage” – and saying he wouldn’t be part of such an anti-First Amendment effort:

“Thank you for your letter requesting that the Commission investigate a broadcaster based on the content of its news coverage and promotion of that coverage. In light of my commitment to protecting the First Amendment and freedom of the press, I must respectfully decline.”

“I have repeatedly made clear that the FCC does not have the authority to revoke a license of a broadcast station based on the content of a particular newscast.”

Pai warned them that attacking a broadcaster based on their dislike of its content is a “chilling” threat to free speech in America:

“I understand that you disliked or disagreed with the content of particular broadcasts, but I can hardly think of an action more chilling of free speech than the federal government investigating a broadcast station because of disagreement with its news coverage or promotion of that coverage.”

SOURCE

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Socialism explained



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

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

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Thursday, April 19, 2018


Were Hebrews Ever Slaves in Ancient Egypt? Yes

A summary of the Archaeological evidence from Israel

Every Passover, Jews retell the story about the Hebrews' flight from slavery in Egypt and their miraculous escape across the Red Sea, giving birth to the nation of Israel. The colorful story has also been retold by Hollywood time and again, shaping the modern generation's understanding of the Israelite bondage in Egypt.

But if ancient Egypt had slaves from the region known today as Israel, were they really Israelites?

There is no direct evidence that people worshipping Yahweh sojourned in ancient Egypt, let alone during the time the Exodus is believed to have happened. There is indirect evidence that at least some did. What's for sure is that thousands of years ago, Egypt was crawling with Semitic-speaking peoples.

Throughout antiquity, Egypt was known as the breadbasket of the world. The annual flooding of the Nile produced rich harvests, and when famine hit neighboring lands, starving peoples often made their way to the fruitful soils of Egypt. The archaeological record clearly shows that at least some of these peoples were of Semitic origin, coming from Canaan specifically and the Levant in general.

In fact, the histories of both the Egyptian upper kingdom (ruled from Thebes in southern Egypt) and the lower kingdom (ruled from Avaris in the north), and Canaan were intimately tied together.

Starting over 4,000 years ago, Semites began crossing the deserts from Palestine into Egypt. The tomb of the high priest Khnumhotep II of the 20th century BCE even shows a scene of Semitic traders bringing offerings to the dead

Some of these Semites came to Egypt as traders and immigrants. Others were prisoners of war, and yet others were sold into slavery by their own people. A papyrus mentions a wealthy Egyptian lord whose 77 slaves included 48 of Semitic origin.

In fact, by the late Middle Kingdom era, around 3700 years ago, Canaanites had actually achieved absolute power, in the form of a line of Canaanite pharaohs ruling the Lower Kingdom, coexisting with the Egyptian-ruled Upper Kingdom. (These Canaanite pharaohs included the mysterious "Yaqub," whose existence is attested by 27 scarabs found in Egypt, Canaan and Nubia and a famous one found at Shikmona, by Haifa.) The biblical tradition of the patriarch Jacob settling in Egypt could well derive from this time.

The coming of the Hyksos

In time, the Canaanite leaders were themselves ousted by the Hyksos, a mysterious group who settled in Egypt some time before 1650 BCE, and who came to rule the Lower Kingdom from the city of Avaris. Controversy remains, but it is increasingly agreed that the Hyksos originated from northern Levant - Lebanon or Syria.

Some scholars believe the Semitic traders shown in the mural on Khnumhotep II's tomb are actually Hyksos.

Under the Hyksos' wing, the Canaanite population in the delta grew and waxed stronger, as shown by findings in ancient Avaris (Tell el-Dab'a). The Canaanite presence is attested by pottery that was Canaanite in form and chemically derived from Palestine. The dominant religious burial practices in Avaris at the time were also Canaanite.

Eventually, the Hyksos in their turn would be vanquished. After a 30-year blood feud, the kings of Thebe, led by Ahmose I (1539 BCE–1514 BCE) prevailed, capturing Avaris and uniting the Lower and Upper kingdoms into a single polity, the "New Kingdom". The Hyksos were driven out of Egypt through the Sinai into southern Canaan.

The Roman-era Jewish historian Josephus for one identifies the Hyksos with the Israelites. He cites the 3rd-century Egyptian scribe and priest Manetho, who wrote that after their expulsion, the Hyksos wandered in the desert before establishing Jerusalem.

Some scholars suspect that Exodus is based on distant Semitic memories of the expulsion of the Hyksos. Others are dubious about Manethos' history, which was penned centuries after the actual event.

Also, the Hyksos were expelled monarchs of Egypt, not slaves. Ultimately, they are not a very likely source for the Haggadah story. Yet another school thinks the Exodus happened hundreds of years later, during the time of the New Kingdom – and some suspect there were multiple expulsions and events that merged, over the millennia, into the Passover story.

Ahmose not only expelled the Hyksos. He united ancient Egypt and began the process of expanding its empire to stretch over Canaan and Syria too.

Egyptian scribes of Ahmose I and Thutmoses III wrote boastfully of campaigns in the Levant, resulting in captured prisoners being enslaved in Egypt. Various descriptions perfectly match scenes in the Passover Haggadah.

The setting described in Exodus could be Egypt's East Delta, where the Nile floods every year. The area has no source of stone, and mud-brick structures repeatedly "melted" back into the mud and silt. Even stone temples have hardly survived here. Physical evidence of slaves working there isn't likely to have survived.

But a leather scroll dating to the time of Ramesses II (1303 BCE-1213 BCE) describes a close account of brick-making apparently by enslaved prisoners of the wars in Canaan and Syria, which sounds very much like the biblical account. The scroll describes 40 taskmasters, each with a daily target of 2,000 bricks (see Exodus 5:6).

Other Egyptian papyruses (Anastasi III & IV) discuss using straws in mud bricks, as mentioned in Exodus 5:7: "You must not gather straw to give to the people to make bricks as formerly. Let themsleves go and gather straw for themselves".

The tomb of vizier Rekhmire, ca. 1450 BCE, famously shows foreign slaves making bricks for the workshop-storeplace of the Temple of Amun at Karnak in Thebes and for a building ramp. They are labeled "captures brought-off by His Majesty for work at the Temple of Amun". Semites and Nubians are shown fetching and mixing mud and water, striking out bricks from molds, leaving them to dry and measuring their amount, under the watchful eyes of Egyptian overseers, each with a rod. The images bear out descriptions in Ex. 1:11-14; 5:1-21. (They made their life bitter with hard labor, as they worked with clay mortar and bricks and in very form of slavery in the field - Exodus 1:14a)

Also, the biblical description of how Hebrew slaves suffered under the lash is borne out by the Egyptian papyrus Bologna 1094, telling how two workers fled their taskmaster because he beat them. So it seems the biblical descriptions of Egyptian slavery are accurate.

Conclusively, Semitic slaves there were. However, critics argue there's no archaeological evidence of a Semitic tribe worshiping Yahweh in Egypt.

Because of the muddy conditions of the East Delta, almost no papyri have survived – but those that did, may provide further clues in the search for the lost Israelites.

The papyrus Anastasi VI from around 3200 years ago describes how the Egyptian authorities allowed a group of Semitic nomads from Edom who worshiped Yahweh to pass the border-fortress in the region of Tjeku (Wadi Tumilat) and proceed with their livestock to the lakes of Pithom.

Shortly afterwards, the Israelites enter world history with the Merenptah stele, which bears the first mention of an entity called Israel in Canaan. It is robustly dated at 1210 BCE, i.e., as of writing, 3226 years ago.

These Yahweh worshippers were in ancient Egypt well after the Exodus is supposed to have happened. Members of the Yahweh cult may have existed there earlier, but there is no solid evidence for that. There are, however, indications.

According to the scribe Manetho, the founder of monotheism was Osarisph, who later adopted name Moses, and led his followers out of Egypt in Akhenaten's reign. Akhenaten was the heretic Pharaoh who abolished polytheism and replaced it with monotheism, worshiping only the sun disc, Aten.

In 1987, a team of French archaeologists discovered the tomb of a man named Aper-el or Aperia (his name is spelled both ways in Egyptian inscriptions), commander of the charioteers and vizier to Ahmenotep II and to his son Akhenaten.

The vizier's name ending in -el could well be related to the Hebraic god Elohim; and the ending Aper-Ia could be indicative of Ya, short for Yahweh. This interpretation supports the argument that Hebrews were present in Egypt during the 18th dynasty starting 3600 years ago (1543-1292 BCE).

The famed British Egyptologist Sir Matthew Flinders Petrie holds the reverse view: that Akhenaten was the catalysis for the monotheistic views of the Hebrews, and that the Exodus happened in the 19th dynasty (1292-1189, around 3300 years ago).

So did the Exodus happen? Ask Hatshepsut

Ex. 12:37 says 600,000 men on foot, beside children went out from Egypt. That extrapolates to around two million people making the exodus (extrapolated from Numbers 1:46) .

If around 2 million people left Egypt, when the entire population has been estimated at around 3 to 4.5 million, it would have been noticed, and would have resounded in Egyptian records.

Note that Herodotus claims that a million Persians invaded Greece in 480 BCE. The numbers were undoubtedly exaggerated, as in most ancient records. But nobody claims the invasion of Greece never happened.

That said, as the Egyptologist Kenneth Kitchen points out, the Hebrew word for thousand, eleph, can mean different things depending upon context. It can even denote a group/clan or a leader/chief. Elsewhere in the bible, "eleph" could not possibly mean "a thousand. For example: 1 Kings 20:30 mentions a wall falling in Aphek that killed 27,000 men. If we translate eleph as leader, the text more sensibly says that 27 officers were killed by the falling wall. Bv that logic, some scholars propose that the Exodus actually consisted of about 20,000 people.

The absence of evidence of a sojourn in the wilderness proves nothing. A Semitic group in flight wouldn't have left direct evidence: They would not have built cities, built monuments or done anything but leave footprints in the desert sand.

Yet more support for the Haggadah may lie in an interesting poem copied onto a papyrus dating to the 13th century BCE (although original is believed to be much older), called the "Admonitions of Impuwer or the Lord of All").

It portrays a devastated Egypt haunted by plagues, droughts, violent uprisings – culminating in the escape of slaves with Egypt's wealth. In short, the Impuwer papyrus seems to be telling the story of Exodus from the Egyptian point of view, from a river of blood to the devastation of the livestock to darkness.

Also, the Egyptians were not above altering historical records when the truth proved to be embarrassing or went against their political interests. It was not the praxis of the pharaohs to advertise their failures on temple walls for all to see. When Thutmose III came to power, he tried to obliterate the memory of his predecessor, Hatshepsut. Her inscriptions were erased, her obelisks surrounded by a wall, and her monuments were forgotten. Her name does not appear in later annals.

Moreover, records of administration in the east Delta seem entirely gone.

Generally, the biblical writers interpreted actual history, rather than invent it. The ancients knew that propaganda based on real events was more effective than fairy tales. A chronicler might record that King A conquered a city and King B was defeated. A royal scribe might claim that King B offended a God and therefore was punished by the God, who allowed King A to seize his city. To the ancients, both versions would be equally true.

However many Egyptologists or archaeologists dance on the head of a pin, each will have his own perspective on the Exodus story. None will have any evidence beyond contextual evidence to support their theories.

The Exodus could be a distant Semitic memory of the expulsion of Hyksos, or small-scale exoduses by different tribes and groups of Semitic origin during various periods. Or it could be a fable.

Psychologically, though, why would scribes invent a tale about such a humble and humiliating beginning such as slavery? Nobody but the Jews describe their community's beginning in such lowly terms. Most people prefer to connect their leaders to heroic deeds or even to claim a direct lineage to Gods.

At the end of the day it the story of the Exodus is all matter of faith. This article does not aspire to prove the historicity of the Passover Haggadah, or that the Land of Israel was promised to slaves coming out of Egypt. It just proves that there were historical figures and events that could have inspired the Exodus account.

So as we lift our cups and recite the The coming out of Egypt, let us think about the story that has captured the imagination for millennia and remember that sometimes, truth is stranger then fiction; and think back on Aper-el, a Hebrew slave who did not disappear in the mud along with the Yahweh-worshiping nomads who settled in Egypt.

SOURCE

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

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

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018



Moscow has ‘irrefutable’ evidence chem attack in Syria’s Douma was staged – Russia’s envoy to OPCW

The Western allies have no investigative journalists on the ground in Syria while Russia does have people on the ground there, so this could be authoritative.

Canadian climate skeptic Stephen McIntyre reports:  I've collated, inspected, taken earliest observed time of #Douma hospital photos and videos. All come from two jihadists; nearly all from a single room during probably less than half hour with no casualties and no more than 30 individuals (mostly children/babies). Jihadi flash mob?

Moscow has “irrefutable proof” that the alleged chemical incident in Syria’s Douma was a “false-flag attack,” orchestrated by UK security services with support from the United States, the Russian envoy to the OPCW [Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons] said.

“We have not just a ‘high level of confidence,’ as our Western partners uniformly put it; we have irrefutable proof that there was no chemical attack in Douma on April 7,” Russia’s Ambassador to the Organization for the Prohibition of the Chemical Weapons Aleksandr Shulgin said at a special meeting of the UN chemical watchdog’s executive council. The diplomat added that the incident had been a “pre-planned false-flag attack by the British security services, which could have also been aided by their allies in Washington.”

“Things unfolded according to the pre-written scenario prepared by Washington. There’s no doubt, the Americans play ‘first fiddle’ in all of this,” Shulgin said, adding that “attack” was staged by “pseudo-humanitarian NGOs,” [White Helmets] which are under the patronage of the Syrian government’s foreign adversaries.

Russian radiological, chemical and biological-warfare units carefully examined the scene of the alleged attack mentioned in the NGOs’ reports immediately after the liberation of Douma from the militant groups, Shulgin said. He then drew attention to the fact that the Russian military specialists found “not a single piece of evidence” substantiating the claims about the alleged chemical attack. Instead, they found local witnesses who said that the video allegedly showing the aftermath of the perceived attack was in fact staged.

The timing of the attack was also bewildering, the Russian diplomat said, adding that the Syrian government had absolutely no reason to gas its own citizens when the city was already almost liberated from the militants. Under such circumstances, the accusations against Damascus look “absurd,” he said. “The senselessness of these claims is striking,” Shulgin added, referring to the statements of Western leaders.

The US and its allies are not interested in a real investigation into the alleged Douma attack, the Russian envoy to the OPCW said. Washington, London and Paris immediately pinned the blame for the incident on Damascus, and launched strikes against Syrian military and civilian facilities without waiting for the OPCW team even to start its investigation on the ground.

SOURCE

Note:  The strike was of no military significance anyway.  It was just expensive theatre

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Rethinking tariffs

The conventional free trade story misses a lot

Opponents of President Trump’s proposed tariffs obscure one important feature of them: they provide revenue for the Federal budget. President William McKinley financed the naval squadron that Admiral George Dewey sailed into Manila Bay to capture the Philippines entirely without an income tax. Looking at our budget today, he would be horrified by the trillion-dollar deficits but would point out that we had deliberately ignored several very substantial revenue sources, which could be used to alleviate the deficit problem. It is time we returned to McKinley-era budget policies, balancing both our tax system and the budget.

In McKinley’s era, both that of the McKinley tariff (1890) and his Presidency, Federal revenue was if anything excessive for the modest demands on the budget. The Congress of 1889-90, which raised tariffs through McKinley’s legislation, was known as the Billion-dollar Congress, because it was the first to spend that amount. However, its problem was not a budget deficit, but a surplus, which would grow larger as McKinley and the Republican Congress imposed a tariff more protectionist than the previous Democrat Grover Cleveland administration. Needless to say, that did not stay a problem for long. “God help the surplus” said James Tanner, head of the main Veterans association in 1889, and sure enough through larger veterans’ pensions the surplus was dissipated, producing a severe budget problem in the next downturn of the early 1890s.

The politicians of McKinley’s era found budget problems easy for two reasons. First, they did not have the huge overblown Federal government we have, with its ever-expanding programs and budget process that perpetually prevents us from eliminating any spending, however useless. This is our biggest problem; ever since left-wing Democrats “reformed” the budget process in 1974 spending has been out of control, with only the toughest, most committed Presidents such as Reagan and, surprisingly, Ford, able to rein it in a little, while weak sisters like the two Bushes are as profligate as any Democrat.

Our other problem, however, which McKinley would instantly spot, is that without tariffs the Federal tax base is too narrow. To get the revenue needed to run the Federal Leviathan, income taxes must be pushed to levels that are both politically unacceptable and economically disastrous. The British had the same problem, at a much lower level of government spending, during their free trade period after 1846. Lord Liverpool in Britain and McKinley in the U.S. knew that the necessary spending (in Liverpool’s case, including huge debt service after a major war) could be financed without doing too much damage, but that a substantial tariff was an essential component in doing this.

According to the latest Congressional Budget Office figures, the Federal budget deficit in the year to September 2020, without any recession having swollen it, will be $1,008 billion, or 4.6% of GDP of $22 trillion, with spending at 21.3% of GDP the main problem. That is unsustainable, especially as a recession must come sometime, and the baby boomers’ social security and Medicare costs are expected to continue increasing through at least 2030. Spending should be drastically reduced to balance the budget, but this is not going to happen anytime soon.

Tariffs, however, can make a big difference, because they flow into the federal government as revenue. This is the essential fallacy in the free trade thesis: free trade, especially unilateral free trade, increases trade, but at the cost of placing intolerable tax burdens on the domestic economy, especially domestic individual taxpayers, thereby weakening its competitiveness. Britain in the late nineteenth century, dissipating its industrial lead through unilateral free trade, is the classic example of what goes wrong.

U.S. imports will be around $250 billion per month in 2020, or $3 trillion in total. A low tariff of 10% on those imports, that figure being an average between zero on some imports and higher rates on others, will yield $300 billion annually (if imports decline because of the tariff, domestic production will correspondingly increase, raising tax revenues in other areas.) That’s 30% of the budget deficit covered, right there, at a tariff level that is very unlikely to damage world trade significantly. As I will shortly demonstrate, this is only one of the areas that have been unfairly exempted from tax; there will be more revenue to come. Still, solving even 30% of the problem is a good start.

Free traders claim that tariffs are universally bad for the economy. However, that does not appear to be true for the tariffs announced by Trump and his Chinese counterparts, which appear in combination to be highly beneficial to the United States. Trump’s tariffs target the tech sector, in particular areas where China has been stealing intellectual property. Reducing Chinese exports of these goods and increasing American companies’ global market share is clearly beneficial to the U.S.

China’s tariffs, on the other hand, target primarily U.S. agricultural commodities, presumably because China thinks the producers of these goods will exert the maximum political pressure on Trump and the Republicans. However, importing H2B visa or illegal immigrants at ultra-low wage rates and unpleasant working conditions in order to produce agricultural commodities that collect a subsidy from U.S. taxpayers before being exported at rock-bottom prices to China is utterly economically counterproductive in about six different ways – the welfare and social costs for the immigrants and their families, the subsidization of agriculture production and exports, you name it. So, the first round of proposed U.S. and Chinese tariffs are a win-win for the U.S., quite apart from the revenue for the Treasury.

More HERE

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Poll: Young Americans Trust Trump More Than Media, Fed Gov’t to ‘Do The Right Thing’

A study of young Americans shows that, even though they skew Democrat, they trust President Donald Trump more than they trust the media to ‘Do the Right Thing” all, or most, of the time.

Neither fared particularly well with the 2,361 18-29 year-olds polled March 8-25, 2018 in the Harvard Kennedy Institute of Politics survey, comprised of 40% Democrats, 21% Republicans, 37% Independents/Unaffiliated (2% No Response).

While 22% trust Pres. Trump to “do the right thing” all or most of the time, only 16% trust the media to do so.

In fact, Trump is more trusted than either the federal government (21%) or Congress (17%) to do the right thing all or most of the time.

Of the 20 government and private sector entities young Americans were asked about, only Wall Street (12%) was considered less likely than the media to do the right thing.

SOURCE

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Feds To Audit Gov. Brown’s High-Speed Rail Fiasco

Tens of billions of dollars are being wasted on what should go down in history as “Brown’s Folly,” the utterly impractical plan to connect the Bay Area with the Los Angeles Basin via “high-speed rail” of the variety first developed in Japan in the 1960s – half a century ago.

Finally, a disinterested outside party – the U.S. Department of Transportation inspector general – will audit federal funding of the project.  Inspectors general are the heroes of federal spending and probity, as DOJ I.G. Horowitz is demonstrating in real time now. ABC reports:

"California’s high-speed rail project is facing an audit from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s as costs continue to climb.

The inspector general’s audit, announced Thursday, will examine the Federal Railroad Administration’s oversight of nearly $3.5 billion in federal grant money awarded to the project.

It comes as the plan to bring travelers between Los Angeles and San Francisco in less than three hours faces growing scrutiny.

A business plan released in March shows the state does not have the roughly $30 billion needed to complete the first phase of the project between the Central Valley and San Francisco.  The entire project, meanwhile, is expected to cost $77 billion.  State auditors are also conducting a review."

As faithful AT readers know, the project has repeatedly failed to deliver on promises, and there is no realistic prospect of ever completing it in the form that was promised to California taxpayers when they approved a huge bond issue ($9.95 billion) to “fund” it.

That funding is hopelessly inadequate, especially since the new estimate of $77 billion will certainly continue to escalate.

The game, as every disinterested observer of major California construction projects knows, is to bid low to capture contract and then discover contingencies that require amending the contract and escalating costs.

This process saw the total cost of constructing the new Eastern Span of the Bay Bridge rise from the early estimate of $1 billion to over $6 billion and, counting the cost of the bonds floated to pay for it, a genuine total of roughly $12 billion that must be repaid from tolls.

There are state audits as well for the high-speed rail project, which still has no plan to complete the new trackage into the L.A. Basin through dozens of miles of mountain tunnels, and into the Bay Area, where land acquisition prices make new tracks too expensive to contemplate.

SOURCE

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

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

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Tuesday, April 17, 2018



Why do you hate Israel? The question that hangs over the left, and which no one can answer

Brendan O'Neill below is principally talking about the British Left but to a lesser degree the same applies to the USA.  There's certainly plenty of Leftist hate of Israel on U.S. campuses

Why do you hate Israel more than any other nation? Why does Israel anger you more than any other nation does? Why do Israel’s military activities aggravate you and disturb your conscience and provoke you to outbursts of street protesting or Twitter-fury in a way that no other state’s military activities do? These are the questions that hang darkly over today’s so-called progressives. Which eat away at their self-professed moral authority, at their claims to be practitioners of fairness and equality. They are the questions to which no satisfactory answer has ever been given. So they niggle and fester, expertly avoided, or unconvincingly batted away, a black question mark over much of the modern left: why Israel?

The question has returned in recent days, following violent clashes on the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel. Like clockwork, with a predictability that now feels just mostly depressing, these clashes that resulted in the deaths of many protesting Palestinians magically awoke an anti-imperialist, anti-war instinct among Western observers that was notably, stubbornly, mysteriously dormant when Turkey recently laid waste to the Kurdish town of Afrin or during any of the recent Western-backed Saudi barbarism visited upon the benighted people of Yemen.

A member of the IDF raises his gun and suddenly the right-minded of the West switch off Spotify, take to Twitter, engage their emotional fury, and say: ‘NO.’ Their political lethargy lifts, their placards are dusted down, and they remember that war and violence are bad. They even go on to the streets, as people did in London and across Europe in recent days. This is evil, they declaim, and that question rises up again, silently, awkwardly, usually ignored: why is this evil but Turkey’s sponsored slaughter of hundreds of Kurdish civilians and fighters in Afrin was not? Why Israel?

Israeli activity doesn’t only elicit a response from these campaigners where Turkish or Saudi or Syrian activity does not – it always elicits a visceral response. The condemnation of Israel is furious and intense, the language used about it is dark, strikingly different to the language used about any other state that engages in military activity. Israel is never just wrong or heavy-handed or a country that ‘foolishly rushes to war’, as protesters would say about Tony Blair and Iraq, and very occasionally about Obama and Libya, and, if they were pressed for an opinion, would probably say about the Turks and the Saudis, too.

No, Israel is genocidal. It is a terrorist state, a rogue state, an apartheid state. It is mad, racist, ideological. It doesn’t do simple militarism – it does ‘bloodletting’; it derives some kind of pleasure from killing civilians, including children. As one observer said during the clashes at the Gaza border, Israel kills those whose only crime is to have been ‘born to non-Jewish mothers’. Israel hates. This Jewish State is the worst state, the most bloodthirsty state.

Following the deaths of 18 Palestinians on the Gaza border, Glenn Greenwald denounced Israel as an ‘apartheid, rogue, terrorist state’, like a man reaching for as many ways as possible to say ‘evil’. One left-wing group says Israel’s behaviour at the Gaza border confirms it is enforcing a ‘slow genocide’ on the Palestinians. The ‘scale of the bloodletting’ is horrifying, says one radical writer. Israel loves to draw blood. A writer for Al-Jazeera says the clashes are a reminder that Israel has turned Gaza into ‘the biggest concentration camp on the surface of the Earth’.

And that question, that unanswerable, or certainly unanswered, question, rises up once more: why is Gaza a concentration camp but Yemen, which has been subject to a barbaric sea, land and air blockade since 2015 that has resulted in devastating shortages of food and medicine, causing famine and the rampant spread of diseases like cholera, is not? By any measurement, the blockade on Yemen is worse than any restrictions that have been placed on Gaza. People in Gaza are not starving to death or contracting cholera in their tens of thousands, as Yemenis are. Yet Gaza is a concentration camp while Yemen, when they can be bothered to comment on it, is a war zone. Israel is agitated against, Saudi Arabia is not. Saudi Arabia makes war; Israel commits ‘genocide’, it builds ‘concentration camps’, it carries out ‘terrorism’. And they should know better, these Jews. That is the subtext, always: the victims of genocide turned genocidal maniacs.

Across the mainstream, Israeli activity is always treated differently. The Gaza clashes were frontpage news in a way that the worse horrors of Afrin just days and weeks earlier rarely were. Left-leaning politicians, including leaders of the UK Labour Party, tweet stern condemnations of Israel’s shootings on the Gaza border where they were silent, or at least more restrained, in relation to Turkey and the Kurds.

Academic and cultural institutions boycott Israel where they do not boycott Turkey, or China, or Russia, or America and Britain for that matter, which have done their fair share of bad things – ‘bloodletting’? – in the Middle East in recent years. That only Israel is boycotted by the self-styled guardians of the West’s moral conscience, by our cultural and academic elites, constantly communicates the idea that Israel is different. It is worse. It stands above every other state in terms of wickedness and hatred and war. BDS institutionalises the idea that Israel is alien among the nations, a pock among countries, the lowest, foulest state. It is a bleak irony that BDS activists holler ‘apartheid!’ or ‘racist!’ at Israel while subjecting Israel to a kind of cultural apartheid and contributing to the ugly view of this state, this Jewish state, as the maddest state, the state most deserving of your anger and even your hatred.

There have been attempts to answer that question, that looming question of ‘Why Israel?’, especially following recent controversies over the expression of anti-Semitic ideas in left-wing circles, including in Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. But the answers have been spectacularly unconvincing. Israel deserves Western campaigners’ special fury because it is backed by Western leaders, our leaders, they say. So is Turkey. And the Saudis. Israel’s repression of the Palestinians has been going on for a very long time and so it feels like a grave injustice we must address, they argue. And Turkey’s war against the Kurds hasn’t been going on for a long time? Israel punishes Palestinians culturally and politically and that makes it a special case, they claim, as they throw around terms like ‘apartheid’ to describe life in and between Israel and the Palestinian Territories and in the process distort the reality of what happens there.

But again there is Turkey, disrupting their thin, self-serving narrative. Turkey genuinely seeks to strip away the cultural heritage and language and aspiration to independence of the Kurds, and on that they say nothing, or certainly little. They don’t gather outside theatres in London when Turkish actors perform there. They don’t shout down Turkish violinists at the Proms. They don’t demand that Turkish academics and their books be expelled from American and British universities. No, only Israelis. Only them. Only those people.

There is no getting away from it: the thing that is really unique about Israel is how much they hate it. Israel stands out not because of what it does, but because of how they talk about what it does: as strange, bloody, vindictive, disruptive, genocidal, this ‘gang of thugs indoctrinated by an ideology that dehumanises children’, as the Al-Jazeera writer described Israel this week. Say it, why don’t you. They are fascists. The victims of fascism now practise fascism. This is the sentiment behind much of the myopic focus on Israel: that the Jews now do to others what people once did to them.

Even though actually they don’t. Even though they do nothing that bears even the remotest resemblance to the Nazis’ effort to exterminate the Jews. And yet on anti-Israel demos, placards compare Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto, people implore the Jews to remember their own suffering, Israeli flags with swastikas on them are held up. This is not anti-imperialist, it is anti-Jewish; it is the gravest insult to say that Jews or the Jewish State are the new Nazis, and they know it is a grave insult.

The treatment of Israel as uniquely colonialist, as an exemplar of racism, as the commissioner of the kind of crimes against humanity we thought we had left in the darkest moments of the 20th century, really captures what motors today’s intense fury with Israel above all other nations: it has been turned into a whipping boy for the sins of Western history, a punch-bag for those who feel shame or discomfort with the political and military excesses of their own nations’ pasts and who now register that shame and discomfort by raging against what they view, hyperbolically, as a lingering expression of that past: Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians.

They heap every horror of the past on to Israel, hence their denunciation of it as ideological, racist, imperialistic, even genocidal – in their eyes, and courtesy of their campaigning, Israel comes to symbolise the crimes of yesteryear. So when 18 Palestinians are killed, it is not simply a tragedy, it is not simply excessive, it is certainly not something that requires serious, nuanced discussion, including about the role of Hamas in organising such protests in order to shore up international sympathy for Palestinian victimhood. No, it is an act that reminds us of the entire history of colonialism and racial chauvinism and of concentration camps and genocide, because this is what Israel now reminds people of; they project their post-colonial guilt and scepticism about the Western project on to this tiny state in the Middle East.

The rage against Israel is actually more therapeutic than political. It is not about seriously addressing the reality of life and conflict in the Middle East, but rather is driven by the narrow needs of Western observers and activists for an entity they can fume against in order to give release to their own sense of historical and political disorientation. But the impact of this therapeutic rage, this almost primal-scream therapy against Israel, is dire. It contributes to the growing conspiratorial view that certain people, you know who they are, have a uniquely disruptive influence on international affairs, political life, and everyday safety and security.

‘It isn’t anti-Semitic to criticise Israel’, observers say, and they are absolutely right. Every nation state must be open to criticism and protest. But if you only criticise Israel, or you criticise Israel disproportionately to every other state, and if your criticism of Israel is loaded with Holocaust imagery and talk of bloodletting, and if you boycott Israel and no other nation, and if you flatter the dark imaginings of the far right and Islamists and conspiracy theorists by fretting over a super powerful Israel Lobby, and if the sight of an Israeli violinist is too much for you to stomach, then, I’m sorry, that has the hallmarks of anti-Semitism.

SOURCE 

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Trump Overhauls Medicaid, Food Stamps and Public Housing in Landmark Executive Order

This is change conservatives can really believe in. While much of the mainstream media was occupied with analyzing Monday’s FBI raid on President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, the president himself was making a different kind of history earlier this week by overhauling the country’s welfare programs to make able-bodied recipients work or risk losing their benefits.

In an executive order signed Tuesday, Trump imposed a 90-day deadline for all federal agencies that administer aid programs to review their work requirements and come up with ways to make them stronger.

As Investor’s Business Daily noted, the federal government has plenty of examples of states that have cut their welfare rolls and put recipients back to work by imposing work requirements.

Alabama, Arkansas and Kentucky are among the states that have decided that making work a requirement for public aid is good for the public coffers as well as the recipient.

Trump’s executive order is titled “Reducing Poverty in America by Promoting Opportunity and Economic Mobility” and that pretty sell sums up the rationale. It states in part (emphasis added):

“The federal government should do everything within its authority to empower individuals by providing opportunities for work, including by investing in federal programs that are effective at moving people into the workforce and out of poverty.  It must examine federal policies and programs to ensure that they are consistent with principles that are central to the American spirit — work, free enterprise, and safeguarding human and economic resources.  For those policies or programs that are not succeeding in those respects, it is our duty to either improve or eliminate them.”

Basically, welfare that simply prolongs dependency by families across generations is bad for the families involved, it’s bad for the American spirit, and it’s bad for a system of government that depends on the informed choices of the governed.

In a nutshell, individuals who work for their own living are individuals who can be functioning parts of a democracy. Of course, poor people on welfare have the right to vote. But they might be a little more careful how public dollars are spent if they were actually contributing to them.

While the executive order went largely unreported by the mainstream media — FBI raids on the president’s lawyer are so much sexier than substantive policy changes — the measure is a sign of just how adept the still-young Trump administration is becoming at handling the twin responsibilities of foreign policy challenges and domestic policy reforms.

While facing a crisis in Syria that ultimately culminated (for the moment) in Friday’s missile strikes in conjunction with Britain and France, Trump still had time to issue an executive order overhauling key elements of the welfare state.

On social media, many liberals — as they always do — cried about the unfairness of making public assistance recipients work for their benefits. But for many conservatives, the action was yet another step in the direction of dumping the Barack Obama legacy of swelling the country’s food-stamp rolls.

Of course, liberals are screaming, because the power of liberal government in a democracy grows with every citizen who is dependent on the government.

That’s why liberals love public employees — they’re dependent on the government, too — and welfare recipients.

Since Trump took office, he has made it clear he doesn’t feel obligated to grow the federal bureaucracy, and with this latest executive order, he’s taking a concrete step to reduce the number of Americans who depend on the government for their daily bread.

Cutting federal payrolls. Cutting the welfare rolls.

After eight years of Obama swelling both, that’s definitely change a conservative can believe in.

SOURCE 

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

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

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Monday, April 16, 2018


Trump and the White Helmets

Churchill once described the Soviet Union as "a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma". The same could be said of Syria at the moment.  Ascertaining what is actually going on there is very difficult and dogged with disinformation from several sources.  A major reason for that is the sheer danger of being there at all. So the Western media seem to have no-one on the ground there at all.  They are not going to risk the precious Leftist skins of their journalists just for the sake of the truth. They rely on feeds from Syria which are all likely to be compromised.

And that is where the White Helmets come in.  They masquerade as peace and humanitarian workers and have been adopted by the West.  It appears however that they are all old El Qaeda supporters.  Since nobody else was claiming to be peace workers, the Western authorities have done a Nelson and turned a blind eye to the dubious origins of the White Helmets. With Osama bin Laden dead and ISIS stealing their thunder, El Qaeda is a shadow of its former self but it has not gone away. And it is the White Helmets who are the sources principally relied on by the Western media for their news feeds out of Syria.

So it is entirely likely that Russia is right in claiming that the chemical weapon attacks in Syria were in fact a put-up job by the White Helmets. Who was in a position to question what the White Helmets said?  There seems little doubt that two chemical attacks did happen.  Nobody is questioning that.  The big issue is "Who dun it?".  Who was responsible for it?

You can work out the answer to that by looking at what nearly happened if Mr Trump had fallen for it.  The White Helmets very nearly started a war between the USA and Russia!   What rejoicing throughout Syria that would have generated!  So I think all logic is on the side of the Russian account.

And Trump was initially taken in.  But wise counsel obviously got to him and pointed out the difficulty of pinning responsibility for the deaths on anyone.  Trump then did a big backtrack and said that an American strike would happen "maybe never".  That was his response to the difficulty of assigning blame.  He was prepared to do nothing in the circumstances.

Then President Macron of France waded into the issue and strongly suggested that France would strike at Syria.  Macron claimed to have complete proof that Assad was responsible.  On what grounds?  Much flimsier grounds than he claimed.  I have read Macron's dossier and it is all "highly probable" claims -- guesswork in other words.

But Trump liked the idea of a joint French/British/American strike on Syria.  American relations with Britain and France have been under strain ever since Trump got into office and this was a great opportunity to restore co-operation and friendship. It was too good to miss

But what about the target?  Targeting any of the Russian/Syrian facilities in Syria would be just what El Qaeda wanted -- so the targets had to be non-military. So alleged centers of chemical weapon production and design were the perfect target. They would be good targets even if no gas attacks had occurred. Chemical weapons are just always BAD! No excuses needed for attacking them.

That Russia was not directly involved with those targets was shown by the fact that all of the cruise missiles appear to have gotten  through and no planes were lost.  Cruise missiles are SLOW -- about the same speed as a Boeing airliner -- and the feared Russian S-400 anti-aircraft battery could have slaughtered them. Obvious conclusion:  The S-400 was not deployed to protect those targets.  The S-400 appears to have been deployed to protect only the joint Russian/Syrian airbase near Latakia.

So the Syrian and Russian armed forces are intact and able to operate as before despite all the huffing and puffing about how evil they are.  Neither Mr Assad nor Mr Putin are likely to be too put out.

Conclusion:  The raid got big kudos for Trump from almost everybody -- at minimal cost and at only symbolic damage to Russia.  Mr Trump is a statesman for the ages. He navigated a brilliant path though a very dangerous challenge.

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Lavrov: Swiss lab says ‘BZ toxin’ used in Salisbury, not produced in Russia, was in US & UK service

The Skripal affair has always smelled.  The British government rushed to blame Russia (sorry for the pun) long before it had any evidence of Russian involvement in the poisoning.  And initially the British chemical weapons establishment at Porton Down said it could not tell where the chemical agent came from.  The alleged Novichok agent is an old one and there are quite a few derivatives of it that are used in a number of countries -- so certainty about blame was always going to be difficult.  Eventually, presumably under political pressure, Porton Down changed its mind and said the stuff definitely came from Russia.

I was relating all this to a friend who had been out of contact with the news for a couple of months.  I noted that the alleged Novichok had not in fact killed anyone and all those affected were making a good recovery.  He guffawed at that, saying:  "If Russia had done it they would be dead".  That is my conclusion too.

And how is it that Britain refuses to hand over to Russia any samples of the not-so-deadly agent?  What are they afraid  Russia might find?  Only the Americans and the Swiss have been given samples.  But the Swiss are people of considerable integrity and it seems that they have denied that any Novichok was present in the samples. So the whole coverup of Mrs May's rush to a mistaken judgment seems to be coming apart.  The poisoning seems to be some sort of amateur effort by parties unknown


The substance used on Sergei Skripal was an agent called BZ, according to Swiss state Spiez lab, the Russian foreign minister said. The toxin was never produced in Russia, but was in service in the US, UK, and other NATO states.

Sergei Skripal, a former Russian double agent, and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with an incapacitating toxin known as 3-Quinuclidinyl benzilate or BZ, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, citing the results of the examination conducted by a Swiss chemical lab that worked with the samples that London handed over to the Organisation for the Prohibition of the Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

The Swiss center sent the results to the OPCW. However, the UN chemical watchdog limited itself only to confirming the formula of the substance used to poison the Skripals in its final report without mentioning anything about the other facts presented in the Swiss document, the Russian foreign minister added. He went on to say that Moscow would ask the OPCW about its decision to not include any other information provided by the Swiss in its report.

Lavrov said that the Swiss center that assessed the samples is actually the Spiez Laboratory. This facility is a Swiss state research center controlled by the Swiss Federal Office for Civil Protection and, ultimately, by the country’s defense minister. The lab is also an internationally recognized center of excellence in the field of the nuclear, biological, and chemical protection and is one of the five centers permanently authorized by the OPCW.

The Russian foreign minister said that London refused to answer dozens of “very specific” questions asked by Moscow about the Salisbury case, as well as to provide any substantial evidence that could shed light on the incident. Instead, the UK accused Russia of failing to answer its own questions, he said, adding that, in fact, London did not ask any questions but wanted Moscow to admit that it was responsible for the delivery of the chemical agent to the UK.

The scandal erupted in early March, when former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found in critical condition in the town of Salisbury. Top UK officials almost immediately pinned the blame on Russia.

Moscow believes that the entire Skripal case lacks transparency and that the UK is in fact not interested in an independent inquiry. "We get the impression that the British government is deliberately pursuing the policy of destroying all possible evidence, classifying all remaining materials and making a transparent investigation impossible," the Russian ambassador to the UK, Alexander Yakovenko, said during a press conference on Friday.

SOURCE

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How Ignorant We Are

By Walter E. Williams

Here's a question for you: In 1950, would it have been possible for anyone to know all of the goods and services that we would have at our disposal 50 years later? For example, who would have thought that we'd have cellphones, Bluetooth technology, small powerful computers, LASIK and airplanes with 525-passenger seating capacity?

This list could be extended to include thousands of goods and services that could not have been thought of in 1950. In the face of this gross human ignorance, who should be in control of precursor goods and services? Seeing as it's impossible for anyone to predict the future, any kind of governmental regulation should be extremely light-handed, so as not to sabotage technological advancement.

Compounding our ignorance is the fact that much of what we think we know is not true. Scientometrics is the study of measuring and analyzing science, technology and innovation. It holds that many of the "facts" you know have a half-life of about 50 years. Let's look at a few examples.

You probably learned that Pluto is a planet. But since August 2006, Pluto has been considered a dwarf planet. It's just another object in the Kuiper belt.

Because dinosaurs were seen as members of the class Reptilia, they were thought to be coldblooded. But recent research suggests that dinosaurs were fast-metabolizing endotherms whose activities were unconstrained by temperature.

Years ago, experts argued that increased K-12 spending and lower pupil-teacher ratios would boost students' academic performance. It turned out that some of the worst academic performance has been at schools spending the most money and having the smallest class sizes. Washington, D.C., spends more than $29,000 per student every year, and the teacher-student ratio is 1-to-13; however, its students are among the nation's poorest-performing pupils.

At one time, astronomers considered the size limit for a star to be 150 times the mass of our sun. But recently, a star (R136a1) was discovered that is 265 times the mass of our sun and had a birth weight that was 320 times that of our sun.

If you graduated from medical school in 1950, about half of what you learned is either wrong or outdated. For an interesting story on all this, check out Reason magazine. Ignorance can be devastating. Say that you recently purchased a house. Was it the best deal you could have gotten? Was there some other house within your budget that would have needed fewer extensive repairs 10 years later and had more likable neighbors and a better and safer environment for your children? What about the person you married? Was there another person available to you who would have made for a more pleasing and compatible spouse?

Though these are important questions, the most intelligent answer you can give to all of them is: "I don't know." If you don't know, who should be in charge of making those decisions? Would you delegate the responsibility to Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Donald Trump, Ben Carson or some other national or state official?

You might say, "Stop it, Williams! Congressmen and other public officials are not making such monumental decisions affecting my life." Try this. Suppose you are a 22-year-old healthy person. Rather than be forced to spend $3,000 a year for health insurance and have $7,000 deducted from your salary for Social Security, you'd prefer investing that money to buy equipment to start a landscaping business. Which would be the best use of the $10,000 you earned — purchasing health insurance and paying into Social Security or starting up a landscaping business? More importantly, who would be better able to make that decision — you or members of the United States Congress?

The bottom line is that ignorance is omnipresent. The worst kind of ignorance is not knowing just how ignorant we are. That leads to the devastating pretense of knowledge that's part and parcel of the vision of intellectual elites and politicians.

SOURCE

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Federal Government Has Cut 21,000 Jobs Under Trump

The federal government cut an additional 1,000 jobs in March, bringing the total number of federal government jobs eliminated since President Donald Trump took office to 21,000, according to data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In December 2016, the month before Trump was inaugurated, the federal government employed 2,810,000. In March 2018, that was down to 2,789,000.

While the federal workforce has been downsizing since December 2016, the overall government workforce in the United States has been increasing—thanks to an increase in employment by local governments.

Total government employment in the country (including federal, state and local government employment) has climb by 20,000 since December 2016—rising from 22,306,000 that month to 22,326,000 this March.

Like the federal government, state governments have cut employment. In December 2016, state governments employed 5,145,000. In March 2018, they employed 5,113,000—a decline of 32,000. In March alone, state governments cut 1,000 jobs—dropping from 5,114,000 in February to 5,113,000 in March.

But state local governments increased their employees from 14,351,000 in December 2016 to 14,424,000 in March 2018—a climb of 73,000. From February to March, local government employment increased by 3,000, rising from 14,421,000 to 14,424,000.

SOURCE

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

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

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Sunday, April 15, 2018



'The View’ Pushes Panic That ‘Trump Could Turn America Into a Fascist Country’
 
These brainless old hens show vividly that they are just scratching around in the dust and have no clue about their subject.  Both Mussolini and Hitler were energetic socialists.  Where are Trump's socialist tendencies?  

It was Obama who tried to do an end-run around Congress with "a pen and a phone".  That pen and phone created a whole host of regulations -- which Trump is now busily abolishing.  So who is the Fascist again?

Once again we have that good ol' Leftist projection: Blaming on  others what is true of themselves. Freud would understand.

Note: To protect myself from the speech police, I should note that I don't claim the ladies ARE old hens.  Their behaviour just reminds me of old hens scratching for minutiae in the dirt


The women of The View, Tuesday, eagerly promoted the idea that a fascist Donald Trump might bring a dictatorial reign to America. Promoting ex-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s new book, the ABC show’s announcer panicked: “Why is former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright warning that President Trump could turn America into a fascist country?”

Previewing Albright’s appearance on the show, the announcer hyped: “Still ahead, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on why she says Donald Trump is the most anti-democratic president in American history.”

Co-host Sara Haines uncritically promoted the threat of fascism under Trump:

We want to talk about your book. So Fascism: A Warning. You write, “Some may view this book and its title as alarmist, good.” That's your quote. Coming from you, that should scare a lot of people. Are you actually afraid that America could become a fascist nation?

Trump has been president for over a year and the 2018 midterms are still scheduled for November 6, 2018. If you believe the media, the Republicans are headed for an electoral wipe out. So, it’s a little hard to see where the fascism comes in.

Albright vaguely explained how her book, which mentions Hitler and Mussolini, compares to current politics: “I'm worried about some of the steps that take place and the reason I wrote the book is really historical in terms of what happens in other countries.”

Joy Behar helpfully announced “attack on the press” and “lying” as examples of Trump’s connection to fascism. However, on January 5, 2016, Behar admitted that Ted Kennedy abandoning a woman to drown and Bill Clinton lying about sexual abuse don’t matter to her:

People have to understand, it's policy. Teddy Kennedy. Remember Chappaquiddick?.... A girl drowns and he abandons her and she drowned and women still voted for Teddy Kennedy. Why? Because he voted for women's rights. That's why. That's the bottom line of it in my opinion. I mean, I don't like either one of them, to tell you the truth, Teddy or Bill. They're both dogs as far as I'm concerned. But I still will vote for Bill Clinton because he votes in my favor.

So maybe her concerns about “fascism” ring a little hollow

More HERE

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Trump Derangement Syndrome is getting bad

Bill Kristol, in an attempt to stay relevant, has shown just how crazy he has become. Kristol is the founding director of Republicans for the Rule of Law, a group dedicated to protecting Special Council Robert Mueller. Kristol intends to run the ads during Fox and Friends in the hope of reaching the President. Kristol, like most establishment Republicans, want an endless investigation into President Trump in the hopes he will be impeached, and they can regain control of the party they believe belongs to them. Kristol and his ilk have proven they will stop at nothing to end the presidency of Trump, even if they have to spit on everything they’ve ever done in the past.

Mr. Kristol himself was once considered a standard bearer of conservativism but has caught a full-blown case of Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS). Symptoms include ignoring potential crimes and constitutional violations committed by those going after President Trump.

One of the more obvious examples of Kristol’s TDS was his mocking of the memo produced by the House Intelligence Committee, known as the Nunes memo. In a Twitter post, Kristol bashed the Nunes memo calling the information in the memo “embarrassing.” What most people found embarrassing was the idea the FBI and DOJ misled the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) and used a political opposition research document to spy on political opponents. Apparently, Kristol is okay with police state tactics as long as he is the beneficiary.

If Kristol and cohorts knew how to use google, they could easily find several instances in Mueller’s career where he acted less than honorable.

During the 1980s Robert Mueller was an assistant U.S. attorney then acting U.S. attorney in Boston. During this time, under his supervision, the FBI was running an informant one James “Whitey” Bulger. While under the protection of the FBI and DOJ, Bulger would expand his criminal empire. Also, during this time, Bulger divulged that four men convicted of murder in 1965 were innocent.

Did the FBI and DOJ look into the case to clear the innocent men? No, in fact, Muller wrote letters to parole and pardon boards to keep the men in prison after the FBI and DOJ knew of their innocence. The actions of the DOJ and FBI were so egregious, in 2007 a jury awarded more than $101 million in damages to the surviving men and their families, two of the men died in prison innocent of the crimes they were in prison for. Does this sound honorable?

What about the anthrax case? Hardly what one would call honorable service. According to Carl Cannon from Real Clear Politics, Robert Mueller zeroed in on one suspect, Steven Hatfill, while ignoring tips and evidence leading to the actual anthrax killer, Bruce Edwards Ivins. Carl Cannon stated, “the bureau was bullied into focusing on the government scientist by Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy (whose office, along with that of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, was targeted by an anthrax-laced letter) and was duped into focusing on Hatfill by two sources – a conspiracy-minded college professor with a political agenda who’d never met Hatfill and by Nicholas Kristof, who put his conspiracy theories in the paper while mocking the FBI for not arresting Hatfill.”

Hatfill had his life turned upside down for years with the full weight of the federal government bearing down on him. After years of legal torture, the DOJ would drop the case, exonerate Hatfill, and pay him a seven-figure legal settlement. But perhaps the most insulting aspect of the case is the Director of the FBI, Robert Mueller couldn’t be troubled to apologize to Hatfill for years of harassment.

Is this what Bill Kristol considers honorable? Leaving innocent men in jail and harassing innocent suspects for years and not even apologizing when you are proven wrong does not seem to fit on the honorable scale I know.

Mr. Kristol may have more credibility if he could answer one question, what crime is Mueller investigating? Mr. Kristol cannot answer that question, because he does not care. In his hatred of President Trump, the former Republican has adopted tactics that would make Joseph Stalin proud. Mr. Kristol is apparently adopting the motto of the Soviet Secret Police, “Show me the man and I’ll find you the crime.” Kristol and his latest group seem to take more after Stalin than Washington.

This is a challenge issued to all Bill Kristol and all former federal prosecutors serving in Congress that keep covering up for Mueller, explain why Robert Mueller leaving innocent men in jail is honorable. Explain why Mueller ruining an innocent man’s life in a politically motivated investigation is honorable. They can’t, and they won’t. All their latest stunt is doing is proving what many grassroots limited government conservatives knew all along, there is no difference between them and the Democrats.

SOURCE

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All is well in Trumpland

A Leftist reports

While progressives focus on the Robert Mueller Russia investigation, the constant churn in White House staff, tariffs that seem to be backfiring, and the president’s unwillingness to read his notes prior to a phone call with Vladmir Putin, all is well — mostly — in Trumpland.

In my ongoing research with 450 voters from across the political spectrum, 225 voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 election. Despite the drama and chaos surrounding our president, over 90 percent of those who voted for him tell me that they have no regrets about their choice. To them, hope and change is finally here: a president whose outrage matches theirs, who is committed daily to focusing on their key issues, and who is moving at record speed. Says Theresa from Virginia, “The establishment is turning out to be the Titanic — and the rogue captain is off on a speedboat.”

The predominant theme for Trump voters is the economy. Jeff, a Wall Street executive, sends me statistics weekly about improvements in the Dow Jones, unemployment rates, and consumer confidence. For most, however, it’s more about how those metrics are affecting both their psyches and their pocketbooks. Just as Hillary Clinton’s remark about “deplorables” was the nail in the coffin for her candidacy, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s remark about tax cuts producing “crumbs” for workers made over 80 percent of my voters recoil. “I would like Pelosi to take a look at my paycheck,” says Hope from Ohio. “Maybe an extra $252 every month isn’t much to her or to the liberal elites, but to me, it has been life-changing.” Hope says her neighbors feel the same way, and that one neighbor was moved to tears when she saw the difference in her take-home pay. Ron, a conservative from Mississippi, agrees. “Down here, there is a feeling of momentum. In our churches and even in our bars, people are talking about more business, more pay and less taxes. I know that there are other issues in the country, but when you are in debt and trying to feed your family, not much else matters.”

People often ask me how Trump supporters can ignore the chaos in the White House, the character flaws, and the lying. It’s mostly because over half of Americans can’t make ends meet; people report how they pay more than half of their income in rent, avoid going to the doctor because they can’t afford the copayment, and lie awake at night worrying about whether they can pay utility bills. Says Stan, of West Virginia, who took on an extra evening job temporarily so that his family could travel to his niece’s wedding: “I am so tired that I barely know what those kids in Parkland are marching for.”

Trump supporters are troubled by the president’s behavior, but it doesn’t surprise them. Says Kenny from Louisiana, “I think Trump lies daily, and by that I mean, he’s a classic salesman. Everything is millions and billions, smooth and the best. He won’t be negative about anything. Do I think he has stuff in the closet that he doesn’t want out and may lie about? Yes. I couldn’t care less. He never preached he was a saint and then all of the sudden we found out he had horns. We all knew this and accepted it.”

“Trump was not my first, second, or third choice in the GOP pool,” says Lucinda from Kentucky. “I think he needs to quit tweeting and quit responding to personal attacks from the media and celebrities. He just needs to tweet about what he is doing for the country. To me, he is very immature, but performance-wise, he’s doing a great job.” Lucinda and others have a list of what they see as the president’s accomplishments: more than 2 million jobs created, the elimination of unnecessary regulations, reduced illegal immigration, the decline in the threat of ISIS, and the renegotiation of unfair trade agreements.

Adds Britta from Michigan, “Whenever we are appalled about Trump’s sexual misconduct, let’s remember that he is not the first sexual predator to occupy the Oval Office.”

Interestingly, two-thirds of Trump supporters tell me they believe that Mueller should be allowed to continue his investigation. Most believe that the special counsel’s effort is a very expensive “witch hunt,” but they believe that the optics of firing Mueller would mean that Trump has something to hide.

Translation: We like the economy, we like the progress, we don’t like the man very much.

When I ask Trump supporters about the Democrats, most no longer know what the party stands for. Some see a party that doesn’t represent them: They believe that the Democrats cater to the very rich (“celebrities, football players, and Ivy Leaguers”) or the very poor — but not to them. Or, they observe a party obsessed with racial and gender issues above all else. Phil, from Florida, responded by sending me a comic strip, showing a TV announcer: “Tonight we skip the tremendous growing economy and go straight to a bad word Trump said.”

Here’s the irony. Trump supporters tell me they are open to voting for people from either party whose priorities are close to theirs. They are especially interested in candidates “with good values” who care about helping them prosper. Says Jonas from New Mexico, “I just cannot see myself voting for a liberal Democrat who hates guns and loves abortion, like some of the leaders in Congress — but I can certainly get excited about some new, more reasonable leader who wants to help my children realize the American Dream.” This is partially why moderate Democratic candidates, like Doug Jones of Alabama and Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania, are succeeding. They are getting support both from progressives and from moderate Republicans, including those who voted for the President.

As the Democrats search for the soul of their party, these nuances make all the difference. Although the president lies, Trump supporters believe almost all politicians lie; although they don’t like the president’s style, they overlook it in support of priorities that matter to them; although they cringe at the president’s words, they support him because of what they feel he has accomplished. And, although they would never vote for someone on the far left, they are open to someone – Republican or Democrat – whom they believe has their back.

Until then, that brash, nasty guy remains their champion.

SOURCE

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

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

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Friday, April 13, 2018



The swamp is a huge drag on us all

Matt Ridley

While the world economy continues to grow at more than 3 per cent a year, mature economies, from Europe to Japan, are coagulating, unable to push economic growth above sluggish. The reason is that we have more and more vested interests against innovation in the private as well as the public sector.

Continuing prosperity depends on enough people putting money and effort into what the economist Joseph Schumpeter called creative destruction. The normal state of human affairs is what The jurist Sir Henry Maine called a “status” society, in which income is assigned to individuals by authority. The shift to a “contract” society, in which people negotiate their own rewards, was an aberration and it’s fading. I am writing this from Amsterdam and am reminded we caught the idea off the Dutch, whose impudent prosperity so annoyed the ultimate status king, Louis XIV.

In most western economies, it is once again more rewarding to invest your time and effort in extracting nuggets of status wealth, rather than creating new contract wealth, and it has got worse since the great recession, as zombie firms kept alive by low interest rates prevent the recycling of capital into new ideas. A new book by two economists, Brink Lindsey and Steven Teles, called The Captured Economy: How the Powerful Enrich Themselves, Slow Down Growth, and Increase Inequality, argues that “rent-seeking” behaviour — the technical term for extracting nuggets — explains the slow growth and rising inequality in the US.

They make the case that, in four areas, there is ever more opportunity to live off “rents” from artificial scarcity created by government regulation: financial services, intellectual property, occupational licensing and land use planning: “The rents enjoyed through government favouritism not only misallocate resources in the short term but they also discourage dynamism and growth over the long term.”

Here, too, hidden subsidies ensure that financial services are a lucrative closed shop; patents and copyrights reward the entertainment and pharmaceutical industries with monopolies known as blockbusters; occupational licensing gives those with requisite letters after their name ever more monopoly earning power; and planning laws drive up the prices of properties. Such rent seeking redistributes wealth regressively — that is to say, upwards — by creating barriers to entry and rewarding the haves at the expense of the have-nots. True, the tax and benefit system then redistributes income back downwards just enough to prevent post-tax income inequality from rising. But government is taking back from the rich in tax that which it has given to them in monopoly.

As an author, my future grandchildren will earn (modest) royalties from my books thanks to lobbying by American corporations to extend copyright to an absurd 70 years after I am dead. Yet there is no evidence that patents and copyrights incentivise innovation, except in a very few cases. Indeed, say Lindsey and Teles, the evidence suggests that “rents that now accrue to movie studios, record companies, software producers, pharmaceutical firms, and other [intellectual property] holders amount to a significant drag on innovation and growth, the very opposite of IP law’s stated purpose.”

[Thomas Babington Macaulay MP summarised an early attempt to extend copyright in a debate thus: "The principle of copyright is this. It is a tax on readers for the purpose of giving a bounty to writers. The tax is an exceedingly bad one; it is a tax on one of the most innocent and most salutary of human pleasures; and never let us forget, that a tax on innocent pleasures is a premium on vicious pleasures." A correspondent sends me the following details of this appalling saga: "Someone noted that there is a divergence in copyright term in the European Union.

All the then member states protect works for the life of the author plus fifty years while West Germany alone protects works for the life of the author plus seventy years. Immediately the copyright publishers suggested this as something in need of harmonisation. But instead of harmonising down to the norm, all the member states were lobbied to harmonise up to the unique German standard. As a result, Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf" which was going out of copyright in 1995 was suddenly revived and protected as a copyrighted work throughout the European Union.

Gilbert and Sullivan operettas whose copyright had been controlled by the stultifying hand of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company found themselves in a position to once again stop anyone else performing Gilbert and Sullivan works or creating anything based upon them. It is not surprising that, following a brief flowering of new creativity when the Gilbert and Sullivan copyrights initially expired (e.g. Joseph Papp's production of Pirates on Broadway and the West End stage), since their revival by the European Union harmonisation legislation their use have become effectively moribund. A generation of young people are growing up without knowing anything about Gilbert and Sullivan - an art form which, it can be argued, gave birth to the modern American and British musical theatre."]

As for occupational licensing, Professor Len Shackleton of the University of Buckingham argues that it is mostly a racket to exploit consumers. After centuries of farriers shoeing horses, uniquely in Europe in 1975 a private members bill gave the Farriers Registration Council the right to prosecute those who shod horses without its qualification.

Then there are energy prices. Lobbying by renewable energy interests has resulted in a system in which hefty additions are made to people’s energy bills to reward investors in wind, solar and even carbon dioxide-belching biomass plants. The rewards go mostly to the rich; the costs fall disproportionately on the poor, for whom energy bills are a big part of their budgets.

An example of how crony capitalism stifles innovation: Dyson found that the EU energy levels standards for vacuum cleaners were rigged in favour of German manufacturers. The European courts rebuffed Dyson’s attempts to challenge the rules, but Dyson won on appeal and then used freedom of information requests to uncover examples of correspondence between a group of German manufacturers and the EU, while representations by European consumer groups were ignored.

So deeply have most businesses become embedded in government cronyism that it is hard to draw the line between private, public and charitable entities these days. Is BAE Systems or Carillion really a private enterprise any more than Oxford University, Oxfam, Oxfordshire county council or the NHS? All are heavily dependent on government contracts, favours or subsidies; all are closely regulated; all have well-paid senior managers extracting rent with little risk, and thickets of middle-ranking bureaucrats incentivised to resist change. Disruptive start-ups are rare as pandas; the vast majority work for corporate brontosaurs.

Capitalism and the free market are opposites, not synonyms. Some in the Tory party grasp this. Launching Freer, a new initiative to remind the party of the importance of freedom, two new MPs, Luke Graham and Lee Rowley, not only lambast fossilised socialism and anachronistic unions, but also boardrooms “peppered with oligarchical and monopolist cartels”.

One of the most insightful books of recent years was The Innovation Illusion by Fredrik Erixon and Bj√∂rn Weigel, which argues that big companies increasingly spend their profits not on innovation but on share buybacks and other “rents”. Far from swashbuckling enterprise, much big business is “increasingly hesitant to invest and innovate”. Like Kodak and Nokia they resist having to reinvent themselves even unto death. Microsoft “was too afraid of destroying the value of Windows” to go where software was heading.

As a result, globalisation, far from being a spur to change, is an increasingly conservative force. “In several sectors, the growing influence of large and global firms has increasingly had the effect of slowing down market dynamism and reducing the spirit of corporate experimentation”.

The real cause of Trump-Brexit disaffection is not too much change, but too little. We need to “radically reduce the restrictive effect of precautionary regulation” and promote a new regulatory culture based on permissionless innovation, Erixon and Weigel say. “Western economies have developed a near obsession with precautions that simply cannot be married to a culture of experimentation”. Amen.

SOURCE

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Trump Signs Executive Order Pushing Work for Welfare

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Tuesday that aims to add and strengthen work requirements for public assistance and other welfare programs.

The order, signed in private, promotes "common-sense reforms" that policy adviser Andrew Bremberg said would reduce dependence on government programs.

"Part of President Trump's effort to create a booming American economy includes moving Americans from welfare to work and supporting and encouraging others to support common-sense reforms that restore American prosperity and help them reclaim their independence," he said.

The order focuses on looking for ways to strengthen existing work requirements and exploring new requirements for benefits such as food stamps, cash and housing assistance programs.

Trump has long accused beneficiaries of abusing government assistance programs and has claimed many who have no intention of working make more in benefits than those with jobs.

"I know people that work three jobs and they live next to somebody who doesn't work at all. And the person who is not working at all and has no intention of working at all is making more money and doing better than the person that's working his and her ass off," Trump said in November. During the campaign, he pledged that, under a Trump administration, families "trapped in welfare" would be "provided with jobs and opportunity."

Most people who use the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, who are able to hold jobs do work, but they don't earn enough to pay for food and cover other expenses. According to 2015 data from the Department of Agriculture, 44 percent of the total households using the SNAP program had someone in the family earning money.

The administration has made several moves pushing work for Medicaid recipients and those who use the SNAP program.

In January, officials announced that states would be able to impose work requirements for Medicaid. And they've proposed tightening the existing requirement that able-bodied adults who want to receive SNAP benefits for more than three months at a time must work in some capacity.

The proposal would raise the age limit for recipients who are exempt from the requirement and restrict the ability of states to offer waivers. The Department of Agriculture has been soliciting public comment on the issue.

The administration has also been exploring more stringent work requirements for those who receive assistance under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, as well as minimum weekly work hours for those who receive housing assistance.

The order gives various Cabinet secretaries 90 days to review the programs their agencies offer, and recommend possible changes.

Advocates argue that, while encouraging people to work is fundamentally a good thing, imposing strict requirements on already vulnerable populations, particularly when coupled with an aggressive effort to slash funding and shrink public assistance programs, could be disastrous for those in need.

Such requirements could have dire consequences for those already experiencing barriers to finding, and keeping, a job, including single mothers who can't afford child care, people who lack access to transportation and those who suffer from mental illness.

Rebecca Vallas, vice president of the Poverty to Prosperity Program at the Center for American Progress, said Trump's executive order served to reinforce myths about poverty in the U.S.

"By using dog-whistle terms like 'welfare,' Trump's trying to paint people who turn to Medicaid, SNAP, and other public programs as Reagan's mythical 'welfare queen' -- so we don't notice that he's coming after the entire working and middle class," Vallas tweeted.

The White House had once identified overhauling the welfare system as one of its top two legislative priorities for 2018, along with a major investment in infrastructure. But GOP leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, told the president there was little chance of passing anything that needs Democrats' votes.

Trump appeared to agree as he huddled with GOP leaders at the Camp David presidential retreat in January.

"It's a subject that's very dear to our heart," Trump said then. "We'll try and do something in a bipartisan way. Otherwise, we'll be holding it for a little bit later."

SOURCE

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

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

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