Sunday, March 31, 2024

'Israel Alone': What The Economist unwittingly gets right about the Jewish state

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Jeff Jacoby writes below with feeling and I share that feeling. Israel is of great emotional signifiance to me too. I am a Gentile Zionist if that is possible. That has been so since my childhood. I instinctively admire defeating the odds and I see Israel as precious and heroic. Its aloneness is heroic

ON THE cover of the current issue of The Economist is an Israeli flag, covered in grime, being whipped by a sandstorm in a deserted land. The flag tilts precariously, and could fall over at any time. Above it, in heavy capital letters, are two ominous words: "Israel Alone."

The Economist has long been sharply critical of Israel, and its lead essay contains familiar fare. If Israel doesn't replace its government, the magazine warns, it could be facing "the bleakest trajectory of its 75-year existence." It acknowledges that Israel was justified in going to war against Hamas in October but scorns the "dire leadership" of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It concedes that there is no Palestinian partner with whom Israel could make peace, yet it urges Israel to do so anyway, by accepting a cease-fire and pursuing that tired old chimera, a two-state solution. The Economist admits Washington shouldn't try "to force Israel out of Gaza while Hamas could still regroup." It is sure that "a struggle for Israel's future awaits," of which "the battle in Gaza is just the start."

But is Israel alone?

If "alone" means Israel has no allies in the world, then it certainly is not alone.

Some officials who expressed strong solidarity with Israel immediately after the ghastly killings and abductions of Oct. 7 — President Biden and Senate majority leader Charles Schumer, for example — have, it is true, cooled their support in recent weeks, mostly under pressure from the political left, where anti-Israel animus runs deep. The United States refused to veto a United Nations Security Council resolution Monday calling for a temporary cease-fire in Gaza. The Canadian government announced that it would halt all arms sales to Israel.

Nevertheless, Israel retains plenty of defenders. Grass-roots support for the Jewish state in the United States remains solid. Among large swaths of the population — Republicans, evangelical Christians, and Americans 65 and older — it runs especially strong. Foreign leaders, such as British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, have been at pains to emphasize that their endorsement of a Gaza cease-fire does not lessen their solidarity with Israel as it fights a ruthless enemy. "In these dark hours my country stands by the people of Israel," Scholz said in Jerusalem this month. "Israel has the right to defend itself against the terror of Hamas."

Yet at a more profound level, The Economist's cover message is indisputably true. Israel has loyal friends of inestimable value. But ultimately the Jewish state stands alone because ultimately the Jewish people stand alone. For more than 3,000 years, almost everywhere Jews lived, they sooner or later found themselves isolated, demonized, ghettoized, dispossessed, or exterminated. Again and again they were compelled to wear symbols identifying them as Jewish. Again and again they were expelled en masse from countries where they had lived for generations. Again and again they were persecuted as heretics, barred from joining guilds, and forbidden to own land.

The pioneers of modern Zionism were convinced that only in a country of their own could Jews finally achieve the normality denied them for so long — the normality other peoples take for granted.

But they were wrong.

Israel has never been regarded as a "normal" country. Alone among the 193 members of the United Nations, it is the only one whose very right to exist is under constant assault. Jerusalem is the only capital city in the world where the vast majority of governments refuse to locate their embassies. Every other nation belongs to larger blocs of countries with which it shares historic, ethnic, linguistic, or religious bonds — they are Nordic, Francophone, Muslim, Slavic, African, Arabic, Latino, Buddhist. Only Israel stands alone.

In territory and population, the Jewish state is tiny, yet the passions it arouses — bottomless hatred from some, heartfelt admiration from others — are of an intensity worthy of a superpower. The same has always been true of the Jewish people. Their numbers are minuscule, just two-10ths of 1 percent of the human race. "Properly the Jew ought hardly to be heard of," wrote Mark Twain in a famous essay, "but he is heard of, has always been heard of."

What The Economist proclaims on its cover, the Biblical prophet Balaam, a non-Jew, proclaimed in the Book of Numbers. Attempting to execrate the Israelites, he intoned: "Lo, it is a people that dwells alone / And shall not be reckoned among the nations." In that singular description — a people that dwells alone — is encapsulated an essential reality of the long, long history of the Jews. Sometimes for better, sometimes for worse, the Jewish people — and the reborn Jewish state — are fundamentally alone, unlike the "normal" peoples and nations with whom they share the planet. Israel can never be just another country, like Belgium or Thailand. The Jewish state is alone; and that is both its blessing and its curse.


Psychologist who turned the investing world on its head

I had never heared of Kahneman before I read the article below but my investing followed very simiar precepts to his. I looked for a good track record and modest dividends. And I not only made a lot of money on the stockmarket but I actually hung onto it as well -- which is much rarer. But I too am a psychologist

Daniel Kahneman explained investors to themselves. A psychologist at Princeton University and winner of the Nobel Prize in economics, Kahneman died on March 27, age 90.

Before the pioneering work done by Kahneman and his research partner, Amos Tversky, who died in 1996, economists had assumed that people were “rational,” meaning we are self-interested, use all available information to make unbiased decisions, and our preferences are consistent.

Kahneman and Tversky showed that’s nonsense. Their findings, directly or indirectly, inspired change across the business world, including the redesign of organ-donation programs and improvements in planning for multibillion-dollar infrastructure projects.

Kahneman was a pioneer of what became known as behavioural economics, although he always saw himself as a psychologist. Investors who take Kahneman and Tversky’s lessons to heart can minimise fees, losses and regrets. Kahneman may well have had more influence on investing than anyone else who wasn’t a professional investor.

I first met Danny, as everyone called him, at a conference on behavioural economics in 1996. For years, as an investing journalist, I had wondered: Why are smart people so stupid about money?

About five minutes into Danny’s presentation, I realised he had the answers – not only to that question, but to nearly every mystery of financial behaviour.

Why do we sell our winners too soon and hang onto our losers too long? Why don’t we realise that most hot streaks are just luck? Why do we say we have a high tolerance for risk and then suffer the torments of the damned when the market falls? Why do we ignore the odds when we know they’re stacked against us?

Danny paced softly back and forth at the front of the room, his blue-green eyes sparkling with amusement as he documented these behaviours and demolished conventional economic theory.

For decades, he and Tversky had conducted experiments, almost childlike in their simplicity, to see how people really think and behave.

No, Danny said, money lost isn’t the same as money gained. Losses are more than twice as painful as gains. He asked the conference attendees: If you’d lose $100 on a coin toss if it came up tails, how much would you have to win on heads before you’d take the bet? Most of us said $200 or more.

No, people don’t incorporate all available information. We think short streaks in a random process enable us to predict what comes next. We think jackpots happen more often than they do, making us overconfident. We think disasters are more common than they are, making us suckers for schemes that purport to protect us.

Ask people if they want to take a risk with an 80% chance of success, and most say yes. Ask instead if they’d incur the same risk with a 20% chance of failure, and many say no.

Noting that the stocks people sell outperform the ones they buy, Danny joked that “the cost of having an idea is 4%.” I wasn’t just struck by his insights; I was stricken by them. I immediately bought all three of the books he had edited. For days, I sat in a windowless room, reading feverishly, red pen in hand, scribbling notes, underlining entire paragraphs, peppering the margins with arrows and exclamation points.

In 2001, a year before Danny won the Nobel, I wrote a long profile of him. “The most important question to ask before making a decision,” he told me, “is ‘What is the base rate?’” He meant you should begin every major decision by figuring out the objective odds of success, given the historical range of outcomes in similar situations.


As Federal Government Collapses, States Offer Solutions

The increasingly obvious incompetence of President Joe Biden is clearly a serious problem, yet many people see it as a one-off, easily solved if the Democrats can find a way to jettison him and run somebody else this fall, or if the Republicans can defeat him and win control of both houses of Congress.

Unfortunately, the rolling disaster that is our current federal government is much more than that. It is the inevitable outcome of a widespread, thorough rejection of the plain meaning of the nation’s founding documents. Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s complaint that adhering to the First Amendment would “hamstring” the federal government is emblematic of this mentality.

The inexorable rise of Progressive politics since the end of the nineteenth century has steadily intensified the centralization of power in the federal government and a small class of people not subject to popular elections, authorized by a political Uniparty devoted to continual expansion of executive rule. This has created a regime that asserts a right to infinite authority.

The nation’s founding documents, by contrast, established the principle of federalism, in which authority over all matters not explicitly assigned to the federal government belongs to the states and the people. Progressivism reversed this, and now here we are. More than a century of unconstitutional actions in Washington, DC has evoked increasing opposition not only in public opinion but also, significantly, from state governments.

Among the most vivid examples of this reaction against the central government is the increasing interest in nullification of federal laws and regulations, in which states declare that federal decisions will not be enforced within their borders.

The states began this movement in recent years by ignoring federal marijuana laws. This was an insufficiently appreciated change in attitudes.

If there is one thing nearly every political faction in the United States has agreed on for the past two centuries, it is that nullification threatens the credibility and stability of the national government by undermining its authority. Chasing votes, campaign money, and potential tax revenue from cannabis sales, however, numerous states legalized or decriminalized possession, and then sales, of marijuana. The federal government stood aside and let it happen. The Obama administration, in particular, cooperated in this nullification of federal law.

Since then, states have become increasingly bold, culminating in Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s moves to guard the state’s border with Mexico in defiance of the president’s complaints and direct interference.

Now a bill before the Tennessee legislature, SB 2775, the Restoring State Sovereignty Through Nullification Act, would establish an explicit process for nullification. The legislation would allow a federal law or policy to be declared null and void by the governor, by any state court, or by a legislative vote triggered automatically by any individual member, a petition of the executive or legislative branches of any 10 local governing authorities, or any group of 2,000 registered voters, as columnist Daniel Horowitz notes at The Blaze.

Horowitz makes the case for this process by pointing out that federal supremacy applies only to laws that fit within the enumerated powers of the federal government, which is precisely what is under debate in questions of nullification, and that judicial supremacy is a “dangerous myth” because “an elected state or federal official cannot promulgate, fund, or enforce an edict of a court that violates the Constitution” without violating his or her oath to uphold the Constitution.

Thomas Jefferson summed up the case for nullification in his Kentucky Resolution of 1798, writing, “The government created by this compact was not made the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself; since that would have made its discretion, and not the Constitution, the measure of its powers,” Horowitz notes.

Nullification is in fact central to the conception of the U.S. government, which I have described previously as veto power for everyone. Under the Constitution, each branch of the national government has veto power over the actions of the other branches, through votes in Congress, presidential veto authority, and judicial review. In addition, the Ninth and Tenth Amendments extend that veto power to the states and the people, respectively.

The Constitution explicitly limits the power of the federal government and gives all three branches, plus the states and the people through the Bill of Rights, the authority and responsibility to see that the government stays within those boundaries.

Veto power over actions taken by the federal government belongs to each branch of that government, and to the states, and to the people. Unless all agree on any action by the federal government, that action does not have rightful force of law according to the Constitution.

Under the doctrines of unbridled federal and judicial supremacy, the U.S. government has taken on so much power that it can no longer perform its basic functions, let alone do all that it has promised. History shows that an excessive concentration of power leads to the decline of civilizations. The Congressional Budget Office just released a report stating the federal debt will soon reach record levels as a percentage of national economic output, undermining the economy and severely limiting policy choices. We are accelerating down the road to government collapse.

Now, duly elected state governments are rightly pushing for decentralization and a return to rule of law, asserting their prerogatives under the nation’s founding documents. This is the one positive outcome of all the destruction wrought by the current regime thus far.


LGBTQI+ intolerance prevalent among Australian air force chaplains, inquiry told

Hardly surprising in view of what the Bible says about homosexuality. Are Christian chaplains allowed to believe their Bibles when their Bibles tell them that homosexuality is an abomination to God? (Leviticus 20:13). Asking them to deny the word of God is a bit heavy

Some religious chaplains in the air force hold “unacceptable views about minority groups, women [and] LGBTQI+ persons”, posing a mental health risk to members, the royal commission into defence and veteran suicide has heard.

And part of a review commissioned by the defence department into the air force chaplaincy unit – quietly tabled as evidence to the royal commission – found tension between theology and values, “notably in relation to gender and LGBTI inclusion”.

“Some chaplains perceived other chaplains to be intolerant towards LGBTI people, women and those chaplains who express differing theological views,” the review found.

Collin Acton, a former director general of chaplaincy for the navy, said chaplains were members’ first port of call for mental health help, with other forms of help off base or harder to access.

The “vast majority [of ADF members] are ticking the ‘no religion’ box” and would be reluctant to seek support from chaplains, many of whom were ordained ministers, Acton said.

“A large portion of our workforce would prefer not to speak to a minister as their first port of call when they’re going through difficult times,” he said.

“They might be well-equipped to look after members of their own flock, but they’re under-equipped to look after the rest of the personnel.

“Religious ministers don’t sit down and have a conversation with someone about their worldview, they come with an agenda.”

Guardian Australia revealed last year that the Australian defence force as a whole has a disproportionately high number of pentecostal and evangelical chaplains. For example, there are 13 Australian Christian Churches (formerly known as Assemblies of God) chaplains for the 13 members that identify with that denomination.

Chaplains are also ADF members, so the ratio could be anywhere from one-to-one to 13-to-none, depending on how individuals identified themselves.

Meanwhile, there are five non-denominational Christian chaplains and 4,217 serving members who identify that way, a ratio of one-to-843.

In a commission hearing, the air force chief, Air Marshal Robert Chipman, said the review found there were “deep-rooted cultural challenges” within air force chaplaincy.

“And there was an unhealthy mix of theological beliefs … of a view that things that happen between chaplains should stay within chaplains,” he said.

“Both of those created conditions for an unhealthy culture to develop within chaplaincy branch and that had very significant impacts on the welfare of some of our chaplains.”

Commissioner Erin Longbottom put to Chipman that the review found “there was a conflict between faith-based values of chaplains within that branch and the requirements of a modern defence force”. Chipman agreed.

“We did find chaplains … from certain theological schools that had concerns with female chaplains or LGBTIQA chaplains and so those … beliefs that they bring as chaplains into our organisation did intersect unevenly with our Defence values,” he said.

Chipman also agreed that the review found “unacceptable views about minority groups, women, LGBTQI+ persons”.

“If there are chaplains practising in Defence that cannot abide by our values and behaviours, then they need to find somewhere else to be employed,” he said.

But Chipman said that in general the chaplains did a “phenomenal job” and “save lives every day”.

Guardian Australia has sought the air force chaplaincy review under freedom of information laws since September. The request was initially rejected because it would cause an unreasonable workload. Defence sought an extension to the deadline for a revised request to November. In February the request for “any reports or directives produced from the air force chaplaincy review” returned a directive about the implementation of the review but not the report itself.

But an executive summary of the report was provided to the royal commission.

It found there was “tension” reconciling “strong theological beliefs with Defence values”.

Chaplains dealt “‘in-house’ with unacceptable behaviour complaints within the branch” instead of through Defence processes, it found. Some complaints went without action or resolution.

“Others identified inappropriate behaviour which appeared to them to be condoned within the branch”, it found, while some chaplains said that “unacceptable or undesirable behaviour or comments falling short of unacceptable behaviour was excused within the branch where they were associated with views supported by a chaplain’s faith group but not otherwise consistent with Defence values and behaviour”.

In its submission to the royal commission, the Rationalist Society of Australia pointed to research that found almost 64% of ADF members – and 80% of new recruits – were not religious.

The society claimed chaplains viewed the position as missionary in nature and were “unable to provide non-judgmental care”, which the organisation said could stop personnel getting appropriate support.

“The religious-based nature of the capability opens the door to chaplains identifying problems as ‘sin’ and the solutions as requiring ‘repentance’.”

Acton was pivotal in a push to get a non-religious chaplains into the navy and has since pushed for secular reform despite a significant backlash from some opponents.

“I’m not saying get rid of religious chaplains, but they should be in proportion to the religious portion of our workforce,” he said.




Thursday, March 28, 2024

Scientists find the human brain has grown by whopping 7% since 1930... but there are signs IQs have gone backwards in recent years

This is an interesting paradox. There is a long-standing correlation of about 0.3 between brain size and IQ. So the findings are weakly contradictory. I think, however, that I may be able to give an outline of a solution to that puzzle.

I once hypthesized that better perinatal practices were reponsible for the average IQ gains that were observed in many countries during the 20th century

If my hypothesis is correct, the benefit of improved obstetric practice should level out once best delivery procedures became normal. And it was so. The growth in IQ scores did level out towards the end of the 20th century.

But we need to ask the old legal question "cui bono?". Which babies did it help most? Babies who were physically normal would be helped to survive with undamaged brains so brain damage due to delivery practices should be rare and hence lead to a rise in average IQ.

And the correlation between higher IQ and larger brains means that less pressure on the head during delivery (due to episiotomy, Caesarians, principally) would be particulary helpful to undamaged survival among individuals with big heads. So a major source of better and undamaged survival among high IQ individuals would be the safer delivery of big headed babies

But what about babies which had some congenital problem that only modern medicine saved from oblivion? In many cases the congenital problem would have affected the brain and Left us with an individual of lower IQ, much lower in some cases

So we have two populations with opposite effects from modernity. "Normals" who avoided damage so became brighter on average and another which survived against the odds and which was on the average of lower IQ. So what we find reported below is the averaging out of those two populations

A note of caution, however. It is much easier and more accurate to measure head size than it is to measure IQ, and the IQ gain reported is quite low and of no certain reliabiity. And in general the higher you go up the IQ scale the lower is the reliability of the differences. So much more segmentaion of the populations concerned would be needed to give any certainty about what is going on

Gen Z and Alpha may have a larger brain than people who were born 100 years ago, yet studies have indicated they also have the lowest IQs of previous generations.

Researchers at the University of California (UC) Davis Health studied different brain sizes of people born from the 1930 through 1970s, finding a 6.6 percent increased in brains among Gen X compared to the Silent Generation.

The team theorized that growth could be caused by external influences like health, social, cultural and educational outside factors and could reduce the risk of age-related dementia.

It comes as more recent studies have indicated that even younger generations' IQ scores have dropped in recent decades, which researchers have linked to an overreliance on phones and the internet.

Brain size doesn't necessarily make people more intelligent, and research has suggested that their is only a slight relationship between the two.

Neuroscientists have found that extra brain mass actually accomplishes very little when it comes to intelligence, and instead it serves to allow people to store more lifetime memories, according to Psychology Today.

However, the latest findings could be a contributing factor to why younger generations have a lower risk for developing dementia or Alzheimer's.

The new study was conducted across 75 years and found the brain consistently grew by 6.6 percent for people in the 1970s compared to those born in the 1930s.

Today's generation's brains measure about 1,400 milliliters in volume, but the average brain volume for people born in the 1930s was 1,234 milliliters.

The researchers reported that factors like greater educational achievements and better management of medical issues might explain why people's brains have grown over the decades.

'The decade someone is born appears to impact brain size and potentially long-term brain health,' said Charles DeCarli, first author of the study and professor of neurology at the UC Davis Alzheimer's Disease Research Center.

Researchers looked at patterns of cardiovascular and other diseases of people born in the 1930s and introduced MRI tests (brain magnetic resonance imaging) of people of the second and third generations of the original 5,200 participants.

The MRIs were conducted between 1999 and 2019 on people born in the 1930s through the 1970s, consisting of more than 3,000 participants with an average age of 57 years old.

The area of the brain that grew the largest was the cortical surface area which controls motor activities and sensory information.

Scientists have uncovered hundreds of different and unique regions of the brain

They reported that the area increased by 15 percent in volume and the region of the brain involved in learning and memory, called the hippocampus, had also increased in size.

However, the number of people struck by Alzheimer's has decreased by 20 percent since the 1970s, according to a separate study, and researchers are now saying increased brain size may be the culprit.

'Larger brain structures like those observed in our study may reflect improved brain development and improved brain health,' DeCarli said.

'A larger brain structure represents a larger brain reserve and may buffer the late-life effects of age-related brain diseases like Alzheimer's and related dementias.'

The brain growth in younger generations could increase brain connectivity, the study said, which could lead to more accurate and efficient performances on tasks.

Yet, even as researchers report the brain is growing with each generation, Gen Z and Alpha's IQs have dropped by at least two points, according to studies in Finland, France, the UK and other countries.

A 2023 study reported that IQ scores in the US have also dropped, but did not specify the exact drop, adding that the decrease could be due to disruptions to in-person learning during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The researchers also said the rise in social media use could be at fault, as skills like verbal reasoning, visual problem solving and numerical series tests have all gone down.

Academic and science presenter professor Jim Al-Khalili previously told in 2022 that despite our ‘vastly increased scientific knowledge… the human brain hasn’t got bigger or more efficient or better than it was thousands of years ago.'

This is in direct contrast to the newest findings that the human brain is getting larger, but also raises the question of how cognitive development is increasing while gen Z and Alpha struggle to meet the same IQ levels as past generations.


The media gives us not the truth, but their propaganda


Why Product Safety Regulations Should Be Scrapped

A common objection to unfettered capitalism is that, left to their own devices, greedy industrialists would cut corners with product safety, resulting in tremendous harm to consumers. Dangerous products would flood the market, leading to a dystopia of preventable death and destruction.

Extreme hypotheticals are brought up the moment someone suggests a hands-off approach. Drugs would have life-threatening side effects, we are told, because Big Pharma would be trying to get away with minimal testing. Cars would become killing machines as companies scrap seatbelts and airbags to cut costs. And buildings would surely collapse all over the place, since companies would be using the cheapest materials available.

These fears are not merely hypothetical, either. History, we are told, is replete with examples where the laissez-faire approach was tried and led to predictably disastrous results. “Remember the thalidomide scandal?” one might say. “Remember all the traffic fatalities and building collapses?” “Do you not realize that almost all the safety regulations that exist today were created because free markets failed to ‘regulate themselves’?!”

Examples of tragic accidents are submitted to the court of public opinion one after another, each of them intended to indict unregulated capitalism for the tragedy. How, in the face of all this evidence, could anyone seriously advance the long-debunked idea of laissez-faire?

Well, here’s how.

The Parable of the Safety-First Standards

The first thing to understand about this discussion is that safer doesn’t necessarily mean better. There are trade-offs involved with almost every safety enhancement. To illustrate this point, I like to tell a story that I call the parable of the safety-first standards. It goes something like this.

A local politician is concerned about road fatalities in his town. Sure, car companies have some safety standards for their vehicles, but clearly these standards aren’t sufficient, because people are still dying in car crashes. “This is unacceptable,” he says to himself. “Car companies shouldn’t be allowed to sell death machines.”

Irate at the situation, he devises a plan to solve the problem. The next day, he presents legislation requiring every car company to adopt what he calls the “safety-first” standards, the name implying that he won’t settle for anything less than the highest levels of safety. The regulations go on for pages and pages detailing countless safety features that will now be required in all cars. “We already have a precedent for this in the form of mandatory seatbelts and airbags,” he notes. “Why should we stop there when people are still dying?”

The car companies, of course, are not particularly happy with the new regulations, but that doesn’t bother the politician. They were cutting corners on safety to make a buck, so pleasing them isn’t exactly his top priority. “People over profits,” he proclaims.

What he didn’t expect was pushback from a different set of constituents—drivers. The drivers were mighty pleased at first, to be sure…but then they saw the price tag. “The car companies are telling us that compliant cars will cost $500,000 and up,” they complain. “If these regulations are passed, 99% of us won’t be able to afford to drive at all.”

The politician is stumped. Here he was trying to help drivers, and now they are complaining! Don’t they care about their own safety?

Understanding their concerns, however, he tables an amendment the next day which reduces some of the stringent safety requirements. Compliant cars will now only cost $450,000.

The drivers keep complaining.

“That still leaves 98% of us unable to afford to drive,” they protest. “Please relax the requirements more.”

Reluctantly, the politician relaxes the regulations bit by bit, and every time he does, driving becomes affordable again for more and more people. But then he faces a conundrum: where to stop? People are priced out of the market because of seatbelt and airbag requirements, too. Should those also be dropped in the name of cost saving?

Absolutely not, he reasons. “There is a certain minimum safety standard that is necessary,” he says to himself. “And my experts and I are best positioned to evaluate what that standard should be. Anyone who is priced out of the market because of those regulations—it’s for their own good!”

Lessons from the Parable
What can we learn from the parable of the safety-first standards? For one, there is almost always a trade-off between safety and cost. Safer products means more expensive products, with very few exceptions. Fancy braking systems in cars, more testing for drugs, better materials for buildings…all of these cost more money.

Another key takeaway is that businesses are always making compromises regarding safety. Every product you buy could be safer. You can always create something with better materials, better experts, more testing, and more features. We could have cars with extremely high-tech safety systems, drugs that have undergone thousands of trials, and buildings made of titanium. But the reason we don’t make everything as safe as possible all the time is that it would be way too expensive, and people don’t want that—you don’t want that. You demonstrate this every time you buy a product that is less than the safest possible alternative.

Another thing we can see in the parable is that safety is a difference of degree, not kind. People often talk about products being “safe” or “dangerous” as if it’s a binary. But in reality, there is just a spectrum of compromises, with high safety and high cost on one end and low safety and low cost on the other end.

“That all makes sense,” you might say. “But doesn’t the politician in the parable have a point? Don’t we need to specify a certain minimum degree of safety to protect people?”

Well, that depends on your political philosophy. Clearly some degree of safety is important. But why should the government set one arbitrary standard for everyone? Why not let consumers make their own choices about how much safety they want to pay for, and let businesses cater to those choices?

It’s important to remember that people in different circumstances will have vastly different values when it comes to safety and cost. You might think it’s reckless to take a drug with fewer than 5,000 tests, but if someone else wants to take a drug with only 1,000 tests because it’s cheaper, who are you to stop them?

The question is not whether risk and reward should be weighed. Of course they should. The question is who should make that judgment: the government, or the individual?

The only justification for the government making the decision is the paternalistic one. Like the politician in the parable, those who would ban “dangerous” cost-safety compromises are effectively saying, “We are taking this option away from you for your own good.”

The nineteenth-century economist Frédéric Bastiat rightly scorned this haughty attitude. “If the natural tendencies of mankind are so bad that it is not safe to permit people to be free,” he wrote, “how is it that the tendencies of these organizers are always good? Do not the legislators and their appointed agents also belong to the human race? Or do they believe that they themselves are made of a finer clay than the rest of mankind?”

By imposing arbitrary safety standards on others, politicians and their supporters are effectively declaring themselves to be smarter and wiser than their fellow man. How else could they justify this blatant interference with free choice? “Apparently, then,” Bastiat continues, “the legislators and the organizers have received from Heaven an intelligence and virtue that place them beyond and above mankind; if so, let them show their titles to this superiority.”

The Case against Product Safety Regulations
Another problem with imposing minimum safety standards is that the “dangerous” options that are made illegal by these laws may very well represent the best cost-safety trade-off for many people, especially the less affluent. Ironically, then, the safety laws that are meant to protect consumers actually do a great deal of harm to consumers!

When cheaper options are taken away, people either have to pay an arm and a leg for their products or simply go without. The less-safe product would, in their judgment, be preferable to the expensive one. But the very product they believe would be best for their welfare is the one that—in the name of protecting their welfare—they are prohibited from purchasing.

In his book Power and Market, Murray Rothbard uses the example of medical licensing to illustrate how safety and quality regulations cause harm:

It may very well be, for example, that a certain number of years’ attendance at a certain type of school turns out the best quality of doctors…But by prohibiting the practice of medicine by people who do not meet these requirements, the government is injuring consumers who would buy the services of the outlawed competitors…Consumers are prevented from choosing lower-quality treatment of minor ills, in exchange for a lower price, and are also prevented from patronizing doctors who have a different theory of medicine from that sanctioned by the state-approved medical schools.

The same goes for all other arbitrary standards. When the government mandates standards for drug testing, safety features in cars, or building codes, it is taking away all the cheaper options—options that some consumers may very well have preferred if they had been allowed to take them.

Now, it’s true that in the absence of safety laws some people would make compromises that seem reckless to us. For example, a fellow might commission a $1,000 house that is riddled with cheap materials, is constantly on the verge of collapsing, and is basically the definition of “not up to code.”

But before rushing to criminalize this act of production, we need to consider the impact such a ban would have. Clearly, the person commissioning this house feels like it’s his best option given his circumstances. Perhaps he is extremely poor, and this is all he can afford. Perhaps his only other option is being out on the street. If this is the case, how is it helping him to take away his best option? Just as banning sweatshops only hurts the poor, so too banning shoddy buildings only restricts the options of those who are down on their luck. The choice they face is between a cheap building and no building at all. Insisting on expensive safety standards guarantees they will be left with no building.

To be clear, I’m not saying every cost-safety compromise is praiseworthy. Some compromises should really not be made, even if the person making them thinks it’s a good idea. But even when we disagree, there are good reasons to keep the government out of it. For one, as mentioned above, forcing our opinions on others is rather conceited. What’s more, the people actually involved in any given circumstance are often much better situated to evaluate the relevant trade-offs than are government bureaucrats. One-size-fits-all systems inevitably impose the wrong decision in some contexts, even if it would be the right decision in other contexts. A $1,000 low-safety house might be a bad trade-off for someone well-off, but it could be a life-saver for someone in need.


Top scientists call for an end to daylight saving time: Experts warn clock change fuels a rise in cancer, traffic accidents and sleep issues

I am rather sympathetic to this. I live in a State that has always resisted daylight saving, mainly because we have here a lot of influential farmers, and farmers loathe daylight saving. But I am glad of it. I don't like people messing around with my clocks. The fact that I have a lot of clocks may be a factor. I have 5 clocks in my bedroom alone. Apologies for being eccentric but at least I always know the time

With the clocks set to go forward this Sunday, many of us will be dreading losing an hour of sleep.

And if you think putting the clocks forward each is a literal waste of time, you are not alone.

Top sleep scientists say that shifting the day by just an hour can have massive consequences and claim it should be ditched entirely.

From increasing cancer rates to making car accidents more likely, daylight savings can do a lot more harm than just ruining your lie-in.

Dr Eva Winnebeck, lecturer in Chronobiology at the University of Surrey, told MailOnline: 'Chronobiologists warn against the clock change to Daylight Saving Time – each spring or even permanently.'

Problems linked with daylight savings time
Putting the clocks forward each year has been associated with:

In the UK, daylight savings time was first introduced in 1916 as a wartime effort to save electricity and provide more daylight hours for making ammunition.

Yet while Britons are no longer churning out tank shells, in the Spring and Autumn each year we still move our clocks one hour forward or backwards.

The argument is that, as the days get longer, shifting our days forward gives people more sunlight hours during their working days.

Proponents of this measure cite everything from lower crime rates in the evening to fewer deer being hit by cars as potential upsides.

However, many scientists say that the change is not only inconvenient, but is also actively harmful to our health.

The biggest and most obvious impact of the change is that we lose an hour of sleep the night the clocks go forward, and have to go to bed an hour earlier the next day.

For the vast majority of people, this will result in nothing more than feeling more tired than usual and the issue should resolve within a few days.

But having an entire nation of people suddenly all become slightly sleep-deprived is bound to have some consequences.

One study found an increase in 'cyberloafing' - the act of spending more of the work day making unrelated searchers online - on the Monday after the clocks go forward.

Another study published in 2016 even found that judges in the US tend to give defendants sentences that are about five per cent harsher on 'sleepy Monday' following the clock change.

More worryingly, it has also been suggested that the risk of fatal traffic accidents increases by about six per cent following the Spring daylight savings time transition.

Estimates suggest that about 28 fatal accidents could be avoided in the US every year if daylight savings were abolished.

Dr Winnebeck said: 'The spring clock change, where we fast forward our clocks by 1 hour, is the clock change that is usually most disruptive to our health and wellbeing.

'Sleep loss can have many negative consequences - and with the clock change it affects millions of people at the same time!'

Having our sleep disrupted in this way can also have knock-on effects on our overall health.

Dr Megan Crawford, a sleep researcher from the University of Strathclyde and member of the British Sleep Society, told MailOnline: 'There's an increased risk of cardiovascular events, increased risk of suicidal behaviours... and increased mortality in the days after switching our clocks: those are all linked to the loss of that one hour of sleep.'

Dr Crawford says the British Sleep Society believes that standard time should be reinstated and used all year round due to the 'short-term impact of the clock change, the potential impact across the summer, and the detrimental impact of potential permanent daylight saving times.'

Our bodies have a kind of internal clock called our circadian rhythm, which determines when we eat, when we sleep, when we are most active, and when our brains are at their best.

While the solar day is 24 hours long, the body's rhythm tends to be just a little bit longer.

This means that someone who lived in the dark would naturally wake up a little bit later each day as their biological clock comes out of sync with the solar day.

Humans are only able to keep our body clocks in line thanks to an initial dose of bright morning sun every day.

'We rely on a cue of bright light to bring them into line with the normal 24-hour solar cycle,' said Dr Sophie Bostock, a sleep scientist and founder of The Sleep Scientist.

'If we don't get that cue first thing in the morning, then we're lagging.'

Since daylight savings time gives us fewer hours of light in the morning, lots of people miss that initial bump of daylight that helps realign our body clocks.

Dr Bostock said: 'From a circadian rhythm perspective, there is definitely a case for ditching daylight savings time.'

There is now a growing, if somewhat contested, body of evidence that this mismatch between the sun and our bodies can have severe long-term health impacts.

The main issue with testing how daylight savings affects us in the long-term is that we don't have a lot of data from times when we did not observe daylight savings time.

Dr Crawford sad: 'The best data we can draw on comes from health differences in individuals who live on different sides of a time zone, with poorer health in those who live on the western side.

'This is because the mismatch between the sun time and our clocks is greatest [in the West].

Studies have shown that those living in the West of a time zone have higher risks of leukaemia, stomach cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer, and more.

Those in the west also experience lower life expectancy, higher rates of obesity, amd diabetes, and even lower income.

Since this mismatch is very similar to those experienced when the clocks go forward, some scientists say daylight savings might be having a similar impact.

Yet some scientists say the damage to our health might be even more direct.

Dr Rachel Edgar, a molecular virologist from Imperial College London, told MailOnline that these kinds of disruptions could even make us more susceptible to illness.

Dr Edgar says: 'Evidence from different animal models suggests that disruption to our circadian rhythms increases the severity of different infectious diseases, such as influenza A or herpes virus.'

While she adds that more research is needed to see if this is the case in humans, she notes that 'body clocks can impact both virus replication and immune responses to these infections'.

She concludes: 'There is a broad consensus from scientists who work on circadian rhythms and sleep that any advantages of daylight saving time are outweighed by potential negative effects on our health and well-being.'




Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Russia could launch a large-scale attack on the West as soon as 2026, classified German intelligence documents have reportedly revealed

I am tired of reading scare reports like this. They are patent nonsense. Ukraine has destroyed almost all of Russia's tanks and half of its airforce so what is Russia going to attack with? They could rebuild but that would just be repeating a mistake. If it cannot defeat Ukraine who can it defeat? The war in Ukraine has revealed that Russia is a paper tiger

German spooks are said to have recently observed a “significant intensification of Russian arms”.

The classified report, seen by Business Insider, reportedly suggests Russia is preparing for a large-scale conflict with the West.

The reorganisation of Russia’s army, troop movements, and missile deployments in the west of the country are among the signs said to be identified in the document, The Sun reported.

The outlet said: “Analysis by German intelligence services is currently circulating in the German government.

“According to this, a significant intensification of Russian arms production is being observed, which could lead to Russia doubling its military power in the next five years compared to today, especially in conventional weapons.”

The projections reportedly led intelligence services to conclude that an attack on NATO territory could “no longer be ruled out” from 2026.

NATO officials were said to be concerned about Russia’s growing military capabilities but did not believe, necessarily, that it meant the West will be dragged into war with Russia, Business Insider reports.

An American intelligence assessment found it might take Russia five to eight years to restore its military strength to what it was before Putin’s disastrous invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

The report has not yet been made public by German spies, the outlet noted.

Vladimir Putin this week warned he is prepared to launch nuclear weapons if he feels the West is threatening Russia’s sovereignty.

He declared weapons “exist in order to use them” in his most chilling World War Three threat yet.

“We have our own principles.

“We are ready to use weapons, including any weapons, including [nuclear], if we are talking about the existence of the Russian state, harming our sovereignty and independence.”

Leaked government documents were claimed by Ukrainian hackers to prove the tyrant is preparing for a major conflict.

The bombshell papers, seemingly signed by Putin, supposedly revealed his chilling plans to attack Europe if Ukraine is defeated.

Ukraine’s National Resistance Centre said its hackers intercepted the documents via email. [propaganda]


Young Women Favor Femininity Over Feminism, Survey Finds

A majority of young women say they prefer traditional femininity to radical feminism, an online survey has found.

The survey results also show that 82% of women ages 18 to 24 align themselves with “femininity” while only 50% say they consider themselves feminists.

In other results, 79% of the 800 young women surveyed agreed that stay-at-home mothers can be “just as successful as a woman who chooses to be in a professional field.” Large majorities said they agreed with the conservative position on various issues, even if they didn’t identify as conservative.

The online survey, steered by pollster and former Trump White House special assistant Kellyanne Conway and her company KAConsulting LLC, was commissioned by the Clare Boothe Luce Center for Conservative Women and conducted from Jan. 31 through Feb. 6.

Among all young women, the survey found, the top issue was abortion at 32%, followed by the economy and inflation (30%) and two issues that drew 24%: mental health issues and health care.

For 428 self-identified Republican women, which the Clare Boothe Luce Center called an oversample, the survey found that the economy was their most important issue, at 39%, followed by immigration and border security (25%) and three issues clustered at 18%: education, crime, energy and gas prices, and health care.

Among other results, 79% of young women said they agree with the statement that “releasing violent criminals without bail does not make a community safer.”

A total of 69% said they agree that “since fentanyl is the number one killer of 18- to 45-year-olds in the country, we should do all we can to secure our border to ensure drugs are not pouring over the border.”

Those surveyed also said they agreed with conservatives on school-related issues, with 74% agreeing that “every kid should have the opportunity to go to a school of their choice, regardless of their ZIP code.”

The nationwide survey found that 71% of the women said they agreed with the statement that “it is appropriate to have children wait until they are adults before having irreversible sex-change surgeries.”

In a press release, the Clare Boothe Luce Center said its survey stresses that “the beliefs and aspirations of young women often unify around conservative principles, particularly those centered on femininity and family values,” regardless of political affiliation.

Most women surveyed also said their mothers had the biggest influence on their lives, with 70% of Republicans agreeing as did 66% of everyone else.

This poll comes as American conservatives continue efforts to win over more female voters.

The official GOP response to President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address March 7 was given by Sen. Katie Britt, R-Ala., 42, who has two school-age children with her husband.


Married People More Likely to Be ‘Thriving’: Gallup Survey

A new Gallup survey has found that, over more than a decade, one variable has consistently predicted whether people described themselves as “thriving”: marriage. Married couples are more likely to be happy today, anticipate future happiness, and have a “strong and loving” relationship with their children than cohabiting partners.

Gallup classified respondents into one of three groups—“thriving,” “struggling,” or “suffering”—based on how they rated their home lives. Surveying data over 14 years, Gallup found that married couples consistently rated their current lives, and their likelihood of future happiness, better than those who lived together outside marriage or had a committed relationship without living together. The happiness differential ran into double digits.

“Within the U.S., it is clear that married adults rate their lives more highly than others and have done so for the past 15 years,” the survey, released last Friday, concluded. “From 2009 to 2023, married adults aged 25 to 50 were more likely to be thriving—by double-digit margins—than adults who have never married. The 16-percentage-point gap between married adults (61%) and those who have never married (45%) in 2023 is within the range of 10 to 24 points recorded since 2009.”

Marriage’s emotional bonus held true “for men and women across all major racial/ethnic groups” and “is not explained by other demographic characteristics—such as age, race/ethnicity or education.”

Gallup researchers found wedded couples less prone to communication breakdowns in their relationships. Married couples were half as likely (26%) to say they experienced two or more days in the last month where they or their partner felt so angry they could not speak to each other than those living together (46%) or dating exclusive (41%). Interestingly, living together outside marriage made people 12% more likely to argue than dating exclusively while living separately.

Lawfully wedded husbands and wives also experienced greater closeness with their children: 83% of married couples with children between the ages of three and 19 say they have a “strong and loving” relationship with their kids, compared with 69% in a domestic partnership, and 61% in a “non-domestic exclusive relationship.”

Marriage is also linked to another predictor of happiness: having children. “Marriage also increases the likelihood of having children and is associated with better relationships with those children,” write Gallup researchers, pointing to the group’s 2023 Familial and Adolescent Health Survey.

Married parents, and even divorced parents, say they have more affectionate relationships with their own children than those who were never married, the report discovered, in addition to finding that “married parents are significantly less likely than divorced or never-married parents to report that their child is frequently out of control.”

“Finally, ideologically conservative parents report higher-quality and more harmonious relationships with their children compared with liberal or moderate parents,” Gallup’s team noted.

The new Gallup research report speculates the likelihood of entering a permanent, lifelong, and (in Christianity) unbreakable union must “encourage greater partner selection, as well as greater investments and effort to develop and maintain a high-quality relationship.”

Although married people report higher levels of happiness regardless of their religious status, “[m]arried people are also more likely to practice a religion, and religious practice is also positively correlated with subjective wellbeing.”

Gallup’s research reinforces numerous other studies showing married people, parents, and Christians who actively practice their faith enjoy greater happiness, contentment, and quality of life than unmarried couples, agnostics, atheists, and “Nones”:

“Americans who have never married, are not religious, and have lower levels of formal education feel their lives have meaning less often than other Americans do,” according to the November 2023 American Enterprise Institute’s Survey Center on American Life. “Overall, religious Americans tend to believe their life is meaningful more often than do those who are not religious.”

Americans who believe in God and value marriage are more likely to be “very happy” than non-believers and single people, according to a Wall Street Journal-NORC poll taken last March.

Parents “with two children had a risk of suicide 70% less than their childless peers,” wrote Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and a fellow at the Institute of Family Studies, summarizing a Scandinavian study.

Americans who attended religious services regularly were 44% more likely to say they were “very happy” than those who never or rarely attended, found a 2019 Pew Research Center study.
Christians who read the Bible regularly rated a higher score on the Human Flourishing Index than non-practicing Christians or the religiously unaffiliated, found a American Bible Society report last June.

Active Christians and non-Christians diverged the most when it came to whether they felt their lives had “meaning & purpose.”

A Harvard study found childhood religious activities, such as prayer, paid great dividends later in life, even if the children subsequently left the faith. “[P]eople who attended weekly religious services or practiced daily prayer or meditation in their youth reported greater life satisfaction and positivity in their 20s—and were less likely to subsequently have depressive symptoms, smoke, use illicit drugs, or have a sexually transmitted infection—than people raised with less regular spiritual habits,” according to a summary of a 2018 study conducted by researchers from Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The “Handbook of Religion and Health” has “reviewed 326 articles on the relationship between health and measures of “religiosity and subjective well-being, happiness, or life satisfaction,” finding that 79% of those studies reported that religious people were happier, while only 1% reported that they were less happy (the rest found no or mixed findings),” reported Stephen Cranney, a nonresident fellow at Baylor University’s Institute for the Studies of Religion who teaches at The Catholic University of America.

Despite these robust findings, Americans are less likely to believe marriage and an active Christian life make people happy.

“The General Social Survey documented a decline between 1988 and 2012 in the percentage of U.S. adults who agreed that married people are generally happier than unmarried people,” Gallup notes in Friday’s survey.

Similarly, a Pew Research Center poll last September found 71% of Americans say a fulfilling job makes for a good life, while only 23% say being married (and 26% say having children) are “extremely important in order for people to live a fulfilling life.”

Instead, culture celebrates the LGBTQ movement, despite the well-attested links between transgenderism/same-sex sexual behavior and poor mental health outcomes:

“Female students, LGBQ+ students, and students who had any same-sex partners were more likely than their peers to experience poor mental health and suicidal thoughts and behaviors,” said a February 2023 report from the Biden administration’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Teenagers who identified as LGBTQ were twice as likely to report “poor mental health” as those who identified as heterosexual, three times as likely to have “seriously considered attempting suicide” or “made a suicide plan,” and 366.6% more likely to have attempted suicide, the CDC found.
“A higher prevalence of substance use and mental health issues has been well-documented among people who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (also referred to as sexual minorities) than among those who identify as heterosexual or straight,” noted a 2023 report from the Biden administration’s U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Women who have sex with members of both sexes (bisexuals) were six times as likely to have attempted suicide within the last year as women who identify as straight, and three times as likely to abuse opioid drugs. Bisexual men were three times as likely to have had a serious mental illness in the last year, SAMHSA found.

Two-thirds (67%) of Americans who identify as bisexual, and half (48%) of self-identified gays, said they felt “uncertain about who they were supposed to be” in the last year, as compared to about 1 out of 4 (29%) of those who identify as straight, the American Enterprise Institute’s survey found.


She gave up a career to be a full-time mother: How unsisterly!

Eva Mendes has revealed that she and Ryan Gosling had somewhat of a 'non-verbal agreement' when it came to her giving up acting and being a 'full-time mom' to their two young daughters.

Eva, 50, and Ryan, 43, are parents to Esmeralda Amada, nine, and Amada Lee, seven, and while the Canadian actor has continued to make movies since welcoming his children, Eva has taken a backseat and hasn't starred in a film for a decade now.

During an appearance on Today on Tuesday morning, Eva was asked what it was like going from acting to being a full-time parent, to which she replied: 'It was like a no brainer. I'm so lucky, and I was like, if I can have this time with my children... and I still worked, I just didn't act because acting takes you on locations, it takes you away.'

Referring to her partner of 13 years, Eva continued: 'It was almost just like a non-verbal agreement that it was like, "Okay he's going to work and I'm going to work, I'm just going to work here."'

Eva and Ryan met one another when they starred alongside each other in the 2012 film The Place Beyond the Pines, and she explained that she 'pretty much stopped acting after that.'

'I have never experienced anything like that. The way he works, his commitment to his craft, how he wants to make everything as best as it can be, and that means making his costars as best as they can be. But unfortunately - or fortunately - there is only one Ryan!' she said.

Eva went on to share her thoughts on Ryan's memorable performance of the hit Barbie song I'm Just Ken at this year's Academy Awards, which saw him take to the stage with Mark Ronson and Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash.

'He went and he did his job. He just happens to be really good at his job, and he did it and he came home,' she said, before explaining her hilarious Instagram post in which she told Ryan to 'come home' to 'put the kids to bed.'

'Because that's what it's about,' she said. 'You go, you do your job the best you can and then you come home.'

Ryan recently revealed how Eva and their two daughters gave him helpful 'tips' for his performance at the 96th Oscars.

During an interview at SXSW film festival in Austin, Texas, earlier this month he told People: 'It was great. It was so fun because they came to the dress rehearsal the day before and so they were in the front row.'

'They gave me some tips and some notes, all great notes,' the La La Land star added.

'It was great,' Gosling told the outlet as he gushed about Mendes, 50, and their daughters Esmeralda, nine, and Amada, seven; seen on stage at the 2024 Oscars

'They are such a huge part of this for me... it was my girls' interest in Barbie and disinterest in Ken that got me into this in the first place. It was beautiful to have them there at the end.'

However, Eva was noticeably absent from the Oscars red carpet - with Ryan opting to take his sister, Mandi, as his plus one instead.

Eva previously spoke about the reason why she doesn't do red carpet events with Ryan when she posted footage from 2012's Place Beyond The Pines.

She wrote: 'Magic is Real. We did not meet on set. The magic started way before, but here's a little magic captured on camera.'

A fan commented: 'Eva, I want to be honest [with you], but I hope Barbie will get through the Awards Season just to see you [with] Ryan. I know I'm selfish and probably a dreamer, but I will never stop to dream about it!! (sic).'

To which she responded: 'You're the best! What a cool comment; thank you. But we don't do those things together... Like these photos I've been posting, I'm only comfortable posting because it's already out there.'




Tuesday, March 26, 2024

For whom do I write and why?

There would seem to be three possible audiences. Leftists are the least likely one. Leftists have deeply entrenched views that are very important to them. Their self-esteem depends on their beliefs so they zealously avoid contradiction. They try to get contrary information censored so they will never hear it. So they would read something by me only if they came across it by accident and would mentally blot it out

A more promising audience is middle-of-the-roaders -- swinging voters. And I think that is realistic to some degree. But my outspoken conservatism probably defeats that objective to some extent A person more polite about Leftist nonsense would probably be more persuasive to that group.

So I mainly write to reinforce the beliefs of people who already tend conservative. Leftist thinking bombards us from all angles so I like to offer an antidote and alternative to that. Leftist claims do often appear to be reasonable at first sight and I like to show just where and why they are not -- so that those who are uncomfortable with Leftist claims will see in detail why such claims fail. I offer food for alternative thought.

My son tells me that I am wasting my time. He says that events will pan out in their own way driven by large forces and that there is nothing we can do to derail the inevitable train of events. It was a similar train of thought when a young journalist some years back asked aristocratic British Prime Minister Harold MacMillan what could upset his government in the next few weeks. MacMillan replied: "Events, dear boy, events".

I am a drop in the bucket theorist. One drop or one person can have a negligible effect but lots of drops can fill the bucket. I think that many conservative voices combined can have a useful effect in causing bad policies to be abandoned. Some Biden policies have at least been watered down and it seems to me that many voices opposing them have done that. So I hope to be one of such voices and to encourage other such voices.

I have at least had the satisfaction of being proved right on occasions. When Covid arrived, I saw that it was almost entirely only the elderly who were dying with it so thought that under-65s should be left alone by governments so that the economy and society could function normally. I saw all the restrictions imposed in the name of controlling the pandemic as pointless and harmful. Many people are now coming around to that view. And the country that did as I thought best -- Sweden -- ended up with the lowest level of excess deaths in Europe during the period concerned. So those who read what I write can sometimes get ahead of the game in their thinking. I feel that is worthwhile.


Nassau County executive Bruce Blakeman swamped with support for trans athlete ban

The Long Island county’s executive, Bruce Blakeman, has received more than 500 emails and 700 phone calls, with over 80% supporting the trans athlete ban at competitive sporting events at Nassau’s ballfields and sports facilities, according to his office’s correspondence unit.

The controversial ban also has generated tens of thousands of comments, mainly positive, on social media.

“I am a gay woman who also coaches women’s sports and I am so incredibly grateful for Mr. Blakeman who is protecting all that we have fought for decades to earn a place in sports. It’s wild to me that this isn’t a COMMON SENSE cause, but people fear retaliation/cancel culture,” wrote A. Shields of Port Washington in Nassau.

Former Olympic rower Valerie McClain said, “As a 2 time Olympian and retired female executive, I want to thank you for protecting girls and women in sports.

“Sports teaches so many leadership skills that girls would not be exposed to if not for participation, least of all FAIRNESS.”

A transgender woman from California, Nicole Standard, told Blakeman that she supports the ban, too.

“I myself am MTF [male to female] Post Op Trans and I support your action to keep biological males from competing in women’s sports. For someone like myself to compete in `Women’s Sports’ would be like an `abled bodied athlete’ identifying as `handicapped,’ then competing in `Special Olympics,’ ” Standard wrote.

“I’m embarrassed by any hate you may get from your ‘correct/sane sports policies,’ ” she said.

In a publicity coup, Blakeman’s edict was also backed by one of the world’s most famous transgender people, Caitlyn Jenner, who won the Olympic gold medal in the 1976 decathlon as the former Bruce Jenner. Jenner appeared alongside Blakeman at a press conference last week.

Biological female athletes applauded Blakeman, too.

“I took a risk and decided to write about how biological men should NOT be allowed in women’s sports because of the proven biological differences, the unfairness, and so much more,” said a local high-school female student. “I know it was probably a tough decision to actually go through with banning transgenders from our sports but I can’t tell you how thankful I am that you did.

“I am from Suffolk County but it makes me feel confident that our society will be able to look past the media and actually realize how transgenders in our sports is hurting us more than helping. Thank you so much Sir. Have a GREAT day!!!” she said.

Blakeman’s trans ban is opposed by state Attorney General Letitia James, who sent him a “cease and desist” order, claiming the policy discriminates against trans athletes and violates the state’s human-rights and civil-rights laws. The New York Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in a bid to overturn the edict on those grounds.

Blakeman countersued AG James in federal court, insisting the trans ban is legal because it protects the rights of biological women.

The issue is a hot-button one both nationally and elsewhere locally.

Manhattan’s largest neighborhood school board district last week approved a resolution that could lead to a local ban on transgender athletes in girls’ sports.

Community Education Council District 2, which serves Manhattan from the Lower East Side to the Upper East Side, passed the controversial measure in an 8-3 vote that demands the city’s Department of Education allow a public review of its policy allowing transgender girls to play female sports.

The resolution is advisory and could be rejected by Mayor Eric Adams, schools Chancellor David Banks and the citywide Panel for Educational Policy, which has the final say.


Dutch darts players quit national women's team over transgender teammate

Darts players Anca Zijlstra and Aileen de Graaf have announced their departure from the Dutch women's darts team because they refuse to team up with trans woman Noa-Lynn van Leuven.

Zijlstra announced she was quitting the team in a post on Facebook.

"The moment you're embarrassed to be a part of the Dutch Team, because a biological man is playing in the women's team, it's time to go," she wrote.

"I have tried to accept this, but I can not condone or justify this.

"I think that with sports there has to be an equal and level playing field which is to be used and accepted in good faith. After all, we have worked so hard to be relevant and competitive in this sport."

De Graaf, who was also on the Dutch national team, commented on the post, announcing her departure too.

"At some point you have to make decisions if something goes against your feelings," she wrote.

"You have to do what feels right for you. Hence my decision to also leave the Dutch team."

Van Leuven told Dutch national broadcaster NOS the controversy had taken an emotional toll.


Canada is the country to watch for conservatives

Pierre Poilievre is the gambler’s choice to become Canada’s next Prime Minister and he is becoming an international political superstar in the process. With Justin Trudeau’s government looking worse by the week, Canadians are buying into Poilievre’s blend of traditional conservative principles and economic populist flavour.

If polling trends hold, Poilievre’s Conservative Party will win the next election with a super-majority not witnessed since the 1980s. How could stereotypically progressive Canada become the home of a revitalised conservatism?

Context is a major part of it. Trudeau’s progressive government has presided over a toxic stew of lagging productivity, across-the-board inflation, and paycheques that have not kept up.

Even if wages have modestly risen in the past year, and the rise of inflation has slowed, it is not enough to dull the indignity of a young couple forking over almost 50 AUD for a greasy fast-food meal. The dispiriting cost of living remains a fact that Trudeau’s own Cabinet ministers will acknowledge.

Monthly payments for new automobiles are historically bruising, and above all, the middle-class dream of owning property requires a considerable fortune. The latter is made worse by exorbitant monthly rents making it nearly impossible to properly save for a down-payment.

For Australian readers, perhaps this sounds familiar.

Instead of changing course, Trudeau’s government seems intent on tripling down on its ambitious and aimless social democratic agenda. More than shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic, they’re stacking as many as possible and hoping the ship will stay afloat.

Trudeau is not the root cause of all these problems, but his government’s policies have done little to soften them, let alone fix them. His supporters have settled on a strategy of telling Canadians that they’re actually doing very well despite everything, and should be glad about it.

Unsurprisingly, Canadians appear far more enthusiastic for Poilievre’s stridently different alternative. That alternative is certainly not the mouldy, religiously pro-business rhetoric of the 1980s, reheated and re-served ad nauseam for 40 years.

The formula of Poilievre’s appeal is contained in a book titled Right Here, Right Now, published in 2018. It was written by his old boss Stephen Harper, Canada’s former Conservative Prime Minister. One of Harper’s main points is a call for conservatives to stake out the middle ground between traditional political principles and full-blown populism.

‘Reform conservatism to address the issues that are driving the populist upheaval,’ urged Harper in the book. ‘That is to say, adapt conservatism to the practical concerns, interests, and aspirations of working and middle-class people.’

Someone on Poilievre’s team has certainly read the book many times. The recommendations of Right Here, Right Now are clearly reflected in Poilievre’s agenda, like his plan to restore affordable, or perhaps less unaffordable, housing to Canada.

Poilievre has pledged to slash the taxes and red tape that discourage the building of new housing. He had also promised to punish municipalities that block new housing starts, and to sell federally-owned buildings for conversion into affordable units.

In effect, Poilievre is pledging to thumb the eyes of those who constrict market forces, and to cheapen and streamline the process of building new homes. This is fully aligned with traditional faith in the market by presenting a tailored, market-oriented solution, rather than merely repeating your uncle’s conservative ramblings.

Poilievre has promised to tie federal funding for municipalities to their yearly housing starts. Any municipality that misses the annual target of increasing the local housing supply by 15 per cent will have their funding clawed back, while those exceeding the 15 per cent will receive a bonus.

There is palpable anger in Canada over the housing market’s brutality. Promising accountability for the ‘gatekeepers’ who helped cause the housing crisis satisfies a justified and populist anger.

Critics of Poilievre have slammed the plan as poorly conceived, but Canadians appear to like that the Conservatives have hatched a bold plan in the first place.

After Poilievre’s populist and popular rhetoric on housing Trudeau’s government released their own affordability plan, but there is no doubt that Poilievre has led the debate. The increasingly unpopular government has not escaped the perception that they are playing catch up with the Conservatives on affordability.

On the topic of affordability, Canadians pay some of the highest cellular phone bills in the world, to the tune of over AUD 50 per month on average. Canada’s telecommunications giants have bathed in a warm protectionist bath since 1994, resulting in no more than three major carriers on the Canadian market.

With near-criminally high cell phone bills, Poilievre has promised to open the market for more competition so Canadians can enjoy more dynamic and diverse pricing. Do not expect Canada’s artificially enriched telecommunications giants to be an ally of Poilievre’s Conservatives.

For the corporate world, their formerly automatic alliance with the centre-right has been shattered. Florida governor Ron DeSantis is feuding with Disney, and the London financial establishment fiercely opposed the Tory-led Brexit.

In an address to the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade earlier this month, Poilievre slammed corporate lobbyists in the national capital who sucked up the Trudeau government and never pushed back against its policies.

Poilievre declared that natural resource giants would have to justify any attention paid to it under a future Conservative government. He praised his Vancouver audience for being productive and worthy economic players, unlike their Ottawa counterparts.

It may surprise many that a conservative politician would establish that kind of relationship with big business. Nonetheless, is it not keeping with free-enterprise principles to demand that companies demonstrate their economic value before getting special attention?

In Right Here, Right Now, Stephen Harper wrote that conservatives need to adapt to a changed world.

‘This does not mean changing our core beliefs. It means applying them in ways that are relevant now. It means shifting from the macroeconomic issues of more than 30 years ago to the challenges emerging today,’ wrote Harper.

Poilievre is applying this to his Conservative Party, even if it still must win the next federal election. Even so, he is disproving that conservatism must reform itself to appeal to Guardian subscribers, be the slavish voice of the corporate world, or abandon its principles altogether in favour of right-wing authoritarianism.

For those in Australia and elsewhere wondering how to push back against their progressive political rivals, Canada is the country to watch.




Monday, March 25, 2024

I was wrong

I was having a chat with my son about Christianity recently. We were both religious in our early years but are now atheists. We have however had enough contact with Christianity for us both to regard it as "a good thing". More precisely, we agree that in our present time of all values and rules being seriously challenged, Christianity provides guidelines for behaviour that can guide us safely through the large and small decisions of modern life

I certainly experienced that personally. I was 17 in 1960 and the 60s was another era of all values being challenged and all customs questioned. It was a great era of drug and alcohol abuse and sexual promiscuity -- "free love". Many young people went off the rails in that era and were permanently damaged in various ways. I particularly member the vagueness of mind and speech of pot-heads.

But I was by that time already firmly ensconced in a very evangelical form of Christianity that demanded adherence to Biblical standards of behaviour. And I enjoyed it! I knew who and where I was and what to do and not do. I had certaintly and fellowship. It is still a warm memory. And to this day I do try to live a Christian life, even if I no longer share the religion behind it.

So I came out of the 60s in the army, with a degree, in good health, with substantial savings and with no addictions. I was of course teetotal. And there were various female persons whose company I enjoyed. I became an atheist at around 19 years of age but by then Christianity had been good to me when I needed it.

My fundamentalist background still influenced my thinking in some ways, however. In particular, the Church of England has always had a weird fascination for me. It is about as opposite to Christianity as I had known and practiced it as could be. It had the form of a Christian church but seemed an empty shell by my standards. What kept such a strange institution going?

In particular, their permissiveness towards homosexuality seemed simply anti-Christian to me. There are such strong and repeated condemnations of it in the Bible that I had to regard the C of E as a pretend church, a pretend form of Christianity, with a higher value for "bells and smells" than for the Bible. Central Christian doctrines of redemptoion and salvation were mentioned by them only in passing and then with some embarrasment. Someone once said that all you need to be an Anglican is to have good taste and that seemed to sum it up to me

But I now think I was too hasty. My son pointed out to me that attitude to homosexuality is only the tiniest part of the Christian message and that in other ways the C of E and other mainstream churches did still preach a lot of the Christian message. They have helped keep some awareness of Christianity alive. In particular they actually took the Christian message to homosexuals. So even in a diluted form, receiving the Christian message did create an awareness of a set of guidelines that could offer a way through the totally challenged values in modern life. I now see the C of E as missionaries -- missionaries to non-Christians and wobbly Christians. I now think they do a good work and can even forgive their "bells and smells"


Is reform of government spending bloat possible?

By Theodore Dalrymple

President Javier Milei of Argentina has had a certain degree of success already with his radical economic policies: That is, if certain macroeconomic statistics are a sign of success. Inflation, though still very high, has declined somewhat. The budget has been in surplus for the last two months. The official exchange rate for the peso is beginning to approximate its rate on the open market, something that has not happened for a long time.

But for how long? It remains to be seen whether these successes can be maintained, for there are problems ahead both economic and political. Argentina has for decades stubbornly pursued such disastrous economic policies that any rectification is now bound to be painful and to result in at least temporary hardship for many. People who are already hard up will not take kindly to sacrifices for the sake of a supposed and still uncertain long-term advantage (no one can eat a balanced budget), and when people are living precariously, they cling to any tiny privileges or subsidies as the shipwrecked cling to whatever floating object they can find, and never mind that the grant of those privileges or subsidies caused the problem in the first place.

Those who organized the disaster will take advantage of the inevitable discontent arising from efforts to overcome it, for if there is one thing that they are skilled in, it is demagoguery. Everything about them is demagogic, from their reading of history to their opposition to any kind of real change. Their aim is the preservation of their power and their hold over the people at all costs; Mr. Milei is a real threat to them and they are not going to surrender easily. Moreover, it is likely that Mr. Milei will himself make terrible mistakes, because all powerful people do so before long. His decision, albeit quickly reversed, to accept a huge augmentation in his pay while so many Argentinians are growing poorer was a very foolish error.

But Argentina is far from the only country in dire straits. The problems both of Britain and France strongly resemble those of Argentina, though perhaps they are not (yet) so dramatic. But they too find themselves in a situation in which reform is desperately needed. Indeed, they are in Argentina’s bind: Reform is imperative; reform is impossible.

Reform is imperative for economic reasons. The governments of both countries have undertaken obligations that they cannot meet out of their own resources and increasingly must resort to borrowing to meet some other way. In a recent article in the newspaper Le Figaro, the former candidate for the French presidency, Eric Zemmour, pointed out that the French budget for the police, armed forces, and administration of justice combined now constitutes between them only a very small proportion of the whole state budget, as if the maintenance of the country’s peace, internal and external, were but some kind of minor task for the state, an afterthought, something that it can afford to attend to only once the demand for children’s creches or free abortions has been met. And unfortunately, servicing the debt that has been contracted in the meantime largely to pay for all the creches, abortions, etcetera, is likely to become the single largest call on government expenditure.

The situation in Britain is even worse, because of the greater incompetence and corruption of its public service than that of France, combined latterly with increasing costs and inefficiencies imposed by obedience to politically correct goals.

But reform is impossible because so many people have now become dependent on the state, either directly because the state pays them to do nothing, or because they are employed by the state, or because the enterprise or business for which they work is employed by the state, such that the difference between the public and the private sector is increasingly blurred. When I look around me, for example, I see a neighbor, the owner of a prosperous private consultancy whose business is helping people to obtain subsidies from various levels of government. I came across another consultancy whose business was to assist local government in reducing their payment of taxes that the central government imposes on their suppliers.

It follows that attempts to reduce government expenditure, imperatively necessary for financial reasons, would, if carried out, cause genuine hardship or discomfort to many. And if there is one thing that a modern democracy promises its members, it is increasing comfort, or at the very least the avoidance of discomfort. It would not be very difficult to trigger social discontent and violence on a large scale.

There is a kind of dialectic at work here: First, the government makes people dependent on it; then the government becomes dependent on the people whom it has made dependent on it. From this infernal cycle, it is not easy to escape. The former head of the European Commission, Mr. Jean-Claude Juncker, once said, of European politicians, “We all know what to do, but we don’t know how to get re-elected once we have done it.”

Mr. Milei came to power with a clear majority because the situation in Argentina was so bad that it was obvious to a large proportion of the population that something in the country had to change, and change drastically. But if 55 percent of Argentinians voted for him, 45 percent did not; and while psephologists might consider this a very large difference, I do not think it would take very much for it to melt away and reverse. After all, euphoria has more in common with despair and anger than with good sense. Most of us live in the short term and are reluctant enough to make sacrifices for our own good, let alone for the good of others.

People in Britain and France should pay close attention to what is happening in Argentina, for it is a laboratory for their own future. There are differences of course; the French economy, for example, has already in effect been dollarized by its adherence to a currency that it does not control, the euro.

Incidentally, I saw an unintentionally funny line in an article about Argentina’s proposed dollarization. It would, it said, halt Argentina’s addiction to the money printing machine. Ha! Try telling that to an American monetarist!


Fitness organization pays a price for letting gender-confused men into its women's locker rooms

But only a sharp drop-off in their female membership is likely to change their minds

At Planet Fitness, you can exercise everything but your right to privacy.

That’s the message customers are taking to heart after an Alaskan woman had her membership revoked for complaining about a man in the women’s locker room.

The gym is a “no judgment zone,” Patricia Silva was told. Well, it’s about to become a profit-free zone, too, thanks to angry Americans who are putting the company’s stock in a $400 million free-fall.

In a perfect snapshot of where corporate wokeness will lead these days, the media is reporting that within five days of Silva’s story hitting social media, Planet Fitness lost almost a half-billion dollars in value—crashing 7.8% in less than a week. “The company’s value dropped from $5.3 billion on March 14 to $4.9 billion on March 19,” reports show, “and its shares are down by 13.59% compared to a month ago.”

Despite the pushback, the business stubbornly stuck by the mixed-sex policy, insisting that it doesn’t matter if members felt uncomfortable. “This discomfort,” the company’s operational manual argues, “is not a reason to deny access to the transgender member.”

In a video she took from the Fairbanks location, Silva said, “I just came out of Planet Fitness. There is a man shaving in the women’s bathroom,” viewers find out later after she posts a picture.

“I love him in Christ,” she makes clear. “He is a spiritual being having a human experience. He doesn’t like his gender so he wants to be a woman, but I’m not comfortable with him shaving in my bathroom. I just thought I’d say it out loud.”

When Silva confronted the man in the restroom, he replied, “Well, I’m LGB … .” She interrupted, “But you’re a man invading my space!” She ultimately walked away and went to the front desk. “‘Are you aware that there is a MAN shaving in the women’s bathroom?’” she asked. “‘ … I’m not OK with that.’ The two men standing at the desk, put their heads down and their tails between their legs!” Silva recounted. “As I was walking out the door … at my back, a woman shouts, ‘It’s a girl!’ … I shouted back, ‘It’s a man!’”

Silva was especially irate that a young girl, who “could have been 12 years old,” was exposed to the same man. She stood in the same room in a towel and “kind of freaked out.”

The next day, she posted on Facebook that she got a call from Planet Fitness “announcing that they have chosen to cancel my membership rather than protect [young] girls and women … that enter the women’s locker room from men with a penis. … Despicable.”

And yet, even now, flooded with complaints and nationwide criticism, the company stands by its decision, telling Libs of TikTok that the staff will “work with members and employees to address this discomfort [sharing facilities with transgender members] and to foster a climate of understanding consistent with the ‘Judgment Free’ character of Planet Fitness.”

Then, doubling down, the business vowed to continue calling trans-identifying customers by their preferred pronouns and “other terms consistent with their self-reported gender identity, if reasonably known to the Planet Fitness staff.”

None of this should come as a surprise, since the company has a long and unflattering past of siding with trans activists over women who feel victimized by their male presence. In 2015, Yvette Cormier, a member of a Michigan branch, had the exact same experience—well before the movement had risen to the public prominence it has now.


Gay conversion banned in NSW after all-night debate

It seems that most talk is unaffected by this bill so that is good but some more active therapy offered by non-psychologists will clearly be banned. That clearly affects the offerings of certain church-based groups.

What is unclear is if qualified pychologists are allowed to offer more than talk. Are active therapies such as behaviour therapy allowed? Such therapies can be very effective. Restrictions on proven active therapy are unfair to the minority who WANT all available help towards normalizing their feelings. Not all homosexuals are happy about the way they are

Gay conversion practices will be banned in NSW after the state’s parliament passed new laws following a marathon debate that stretched into the early hours of Friday morning.

Bleary-eyed members of the upper house supported Labor’s Conversion Practices Ban bill just after 6.30am on Friday after debate kicked off at 11pm on Thursday with a number of attempted amendments from the Coalition, the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party and the Greens.

However, the government had stressed it would not be changing its bill and when it returned to the lower house just before 7am, NSW Attorney-General Michael Daley said, “history is made”.

“Our friends in the LBTQ+ community deserve that history,” Daley told parliament, thanking MPs for the “respectful way in which this debate has been conducted”.

The ban, which was the focus of months-long discussions between the government, LGBTQ advocacy groups and religious organisations, will outlaw practices that attempt to change or suppress a person’s sexual identity, following a 12-month introduction period. It will also be illegal to take someone outside of NSW to undergo conversion therapies.

NSW follows Victoria and the ACT, where conversion therapy has already been outlawed.

The bill has some exceptions for religious groups, meaning, for example, it is still legal to give a religious sermon that preaches against homosexuality or pray with someone experiencing same-sex attraction.

Exemptions are also given to registered psychologists and families, with conversations in those settings still legal under the bill.

NSW Premier Chris Minns said he was comfortable with the exemptions. “The exemptions relate to medical professionals and counsellors, those that are governed by a professional association … There [are] also exemptions for families because we recognise parents are primarily responsible for raising their kids and they need to be able to have honest conversations with their children,” he said on 2GB on Friday morning.

Independent MP Alex Greenwich, who withdrew his own version of a bill to ban the practice last year to work with the government on its own legislation, celebrated the news outside Parliament on Friday morning.

“NSW is waking up as a safer place for LGBTQ people today,” he said, adding that the bill sends “a really clear message that LGBTQ people are loved, are beautiful, and now, any futile attempts to change who we are is against the law”.

Equality Australia chief executive Anna Brown said the passing of this legislation shows that governments shouldn’t be afraid of pursuing LGBTQ reform.

“This is a historic day and this law will save lives,” she said, saying conversion practices are “alive and well in NSW”, with people aged in their 20s coming forward as victims of these practices in recent years.

Teddy Cook, the director of community health at ACON and a survivor of conversion practices, praised the legislation for being inclusive of transgender Australians.

“We truly wake up today with more pride and more euphoria than the state has perhaps ever experienced,” he said.

“As a proud trans man, I wake up here after a huge night knowing that this state is telling us loud and clear that we are perfect.”

Announcing the news outside Parliament on Friday morning, Penny Sharpe, the leader of the government in the upper house, said the passing of the bill was “a very long time coming”.

“It’s been many years of advocacy for many people,” she said.