Friday, August 2, 2019

More Fake Happy News About Jobs


More Fake Happy News About Jobs

Paul Craig Roberts

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the US economy created 148,000 new private sector jobs during July.  The jobs number does not translate into employed people as increasingly Americans hold two or more jobs.  For example, the BLS reports that from June to July the number of multiple job holders rose by 233,000 which is 85,000 more than the 148,000 new private sector jobs.  What we are seeing is not more people employed, but more multiple job holders. Since May the number of multiple job holders has increased by 534,000. 

The claim of a falling rate of unemployment over the past decade is inconsistent with the rising labor force participation rate. Normally, when employment prospects are good the labor force participation rate increases.  To explain away the inconsistency, economists claim that the decline in the labor force participation rate reflects the increased retirements of the baby boomer generation.  However, the  BLS reported that the labor force participation rate for older workers of retirement age surged to the highest level in 7 years.  

So, what is really going on?  The answer is that retired people, thanks to the Federal Reserve’s low to zero interest rate over the last decade, cannot live on their pensions and their savings.  They have to take part-time jobs to make ends meet.  Younger people, however, cannot form independent households on the basis of part-time jobs, and as they have no pension income to supplement the meager pay of a part-time job, have dropped out of the work force.  

The reason the reported unemployment rate is low is that the millions who have dropped out of the labor force because they cannot find life-sustainable employment are not counted as unemployed.  What do these people do?  They live with parents or grandparents and they work cash jobs house sitting, walking dogs, cutting grass, and various handiman jobs.

There are many problems with the payroll jobs report, and always are.  For example, the July report finds 16,000 new manufacturing jobs, but the manufacturing index weakened for the fourth consecutive month. How do manufacturing jobs rise when manufacturing activity declines?

Another anomality is the collapse of seven trucking companies this year.  if the economy is so good, why has demand declined for transportation to move goods from producers to warehouses and from warehouses to retail outlets?

Americans live in a world in which explanations are controlled. The facts are whatever serves the interests of the ruling elites. Identity Politics serves to keep Americans disunited.  We hear far more about “white supremacy” and “misogyny” than we hear about the agendas that control our existence.

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The Empire Is Coming for Tulsi Gabbard — Strategic Culture

Covington teens sue 'most egregious high-profile individuals' for defamation - Personal Liberty®

Killing 20 Babies a Year and Infecting Tens of Thousands: Measles? No – Whooping Cough – Spread by Vaccinated

The FTC's Settlement With Equifax Is Such A Joke, The FTC Is Now Begging You Not To Ask For A Cash Settlement


Last week there was a bit of news as the FTC released a proposed settlement between the FTC and Equifax over the data brokers' massive security breach that came to light nearly two years ago. We had already noted that the FTC's way of dealing with Equifax seemed particularly tone deaf, but it's getting worse. Much worse. As you may have heard, part of the "settlement" with Equifax is that you could sign up to get $125 from the company (or possibly more). It was either that or free credit monitoring. But, come on: everyone already has so many "free credit monitoring" services from previous breaches that this is a totally meaningless offer. It also costs nothing for Equifax.


Why Aren’t Mumps Outbreaks Considered “Epidemic” When There are Thousands More Cases of Mumps than Measles?

Merck Continues to Make Hundreds of Millions on Measles Vaccine – 58% Increase After 2019 Measles “Outbreak”

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

NY Fire Commissioners Demand New 9/11 Probe, Citing "Overwhelming Evidence of Pre-Planted Explosives"

NY Fire Commissioners Demand New 9/11 Probe, Citing "Overwhelming Evidence of Pre-Planted Explosives" 

Tulsi's Last Stand


It was already one of the most memorable moments of the Democratic presidential debates in this young election cycle. “Leaders as disparate as President Obama and President Trump have both said they want to end U.S. involvement in Afghanistan but it isn’t over for America,” observed moderator Rachel Maddow. “Why isn’t it over? Why can’t presidents of very different parties and very different temperaments get us out of there? And how could you?”

Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio responded with talking points that could have been ripped out of a George W. Bush speech circa 2004. “[T]he lesson that I’ve learned over the years is that you have to stay engaged in these situations,” he said, later adding, “Whether we’re talking about Central America, whether we’re talking about Iran, whether we’re talking about Afghanistan, we have got to be completely engaged.”

Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii was having none of it. “Is that what you will tell the parents of those two soldiers who were just killed in Afghanistan? Well, we just have to be engaged?” she asked a sputtering Ryan. “As a soldier, I will tell you that answer is unacceptable. We have to bring our troops home from Afghanistan.” Gabbard noted that she had joined the military to fight those who attacked us on 9/11, not to nation-build indefinitely in Afghanistan, and pointed out the perfidy of Saudi Arabia.

Some likened Gabbard’s rebuke of Ryan to the famous 2007 exchange between Ron Paul and Rudy Giuliani. Except Paul, then a relatively unknown congressman from Texas, was speaking truth to power against “America’s Mayor” and the national GOP frontrunner. Gabbard is polling at 0.8 percent in the national RealClearPolitics average, and was challenging someone at 0.3 percent.

Ryan’s asterisk candidacy is unsurprising. But Gabbard has been perhaps the most interesting Democrat running for president and Wednesday night could be her last stand. She gets to share the stage with frontrunner Joe Biden, like Hillary Clinton a vote for the Iraq war. There is no guarantee she will get another opportunity: the eligibility criteria for subsequent debates is more stringent and she has yet to qualify.

The huge Democratic field has been a bust. Of the more than 20 declared presidential candidates, only seven are polling at 2 percent or more in the national averages. Two more – Senators Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar – are polling at least that well in Iowa. Only four candidates are consistently polling in the double digits: Biden, who recovered from his early debate stumbles and remains comfortably in the lead; Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who has nevertheless mostly failed to recapture his 2016 magic; Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who seems ascendant; and Senator Kamala Harris of California, potentially the main threat to Biden’s rock-solid black support.

Low-polling candidates have still managed to have an impact. Some, like former secretary of housing and urban development Julian Castro, have helped coax contenders likelier to win the nomination to the left on immigration. We’ve thus seen Democrats raise their hands in support of decriminalizing illegal border crossings in the midst of a migrant crisis not entirely of the Trump administration’s making, expanding Medicare to cover everyone even at the expense of private health insurance, and ensuring that “everyone” includes illegal immigrants. Transgender abortions, also at taxpayer expense, have come up too.

Gabbard has so far been unable to penetrate this madness despite being young (she’s 38), attractive, telegenic, a military veteran, a woman of color, and an articulate, passionate opponent of the regime change wars that have brought our country so much pain. While reliably progressive, she has occasionally reached across the political divide on issues like religious liberty and Big Tech censorship, a potent combination that could prove more responsive to Trump voters’ concerns than what we’ve heard from her neocon lite interlocutor from Youngstown. 

“None of this seems to matter in a Democratic Party that cares more about wokeness than war. In fact, Gabbard’s conservative fans – The View brought up Ann Coulter – are often held against her, as is her failure to go all in on Trump-Russia. Ninety-five Democrats stand ready to impeach Trump over mean tweets with nary a peep over the near-bombing of Iran or the active thwarting of Congress’s will on Yemen. 

That’s not to say that no one else running is sound on foreign policy – Bernie has realist advisers and it took real courage for Warren to back Trump’s abortive withdrawals from Afghanistan and Syria – and it required a Democratic House to advance the bipartisan Yemen resolution. But none of them are basing their campaigns on it in the same way Gabbard has. Nor do any of them better represent our military veterans’ sharp turn against forever war, arguably the most important public opinion trend of our time.

Liberals remain skeptical of Gabbard’s turn away from social conservatism (which admittedly went far beyond sincerely opposing gay marriage while Barack Obama was merely pretending to do so), which she attributes to “aloha.” In meeting with Bashar al-Assad, she hurt her credibility as a foe of the Syria intervention, failing to realize that doves are held to a higher standard on these matters than hawks.

A saner Democratic Party might realize the chances are far greater that their nominee will be a covert hawk rather than a secret right-winger. Only time will tell if vestiges of that party still exist.


This article has been republished with the permission of The American Conservative. 

[Image Credit: Flickr-Gage Skidmore, BY SA 2.0]


Hacking Homo Sapiens


“Live your best life” is one of those sayings that people like to pass around like a verbal head cold. No one is sure who started it, but they’re all too eager to pass the phrase on anyway. What’s never addressed is what “your best life” looks like.

Never fear, Elon Musk is here. He recently announced that his company Neuralink has created a new brain-interface device. Musk laid out a common vision for our best lives by declaring that:

“We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile. ”

“Live your best life”? More like “live your Borg life!”

Jokes and pop-culture thumbsuckery aside, such technological terrors lie (hopefully) far from Musk’s mind. According to the Scientific American, Musk’s immediate goal for the new device is to allow “people with quadriplegia to control a computer or smartphone using just their thoughts.”

Scientific American continues, “Musk’s vision is much more ambitious than that: he seeks to enable humans to ‘merge’ with AI, giving people superhuman intelligence.” Put another way, Musk wants us to have miniaturized C-3POs melded onto our cerebral cortexes.

Now, much like the time I discovered a colony of grasshoppers living in my dresser, a few things jump out at me.

First and foremost, whenever talk of human enhancement rears its ugly metallic head, clichéd responses ring out as surely as gunshots at a hillbilly happy hour. Skeptics react like they’ve just swallowed their grandmother’s dentures, and the true believers’ faces light up like preschoolers given unlimited access to an Oreo factory.

Yet for those of us outside the loop, the question arises as to why any normal person would want scientists to stick pieces of silicone into our very non-silicone craniums.

In theory, it’s to make us better. As Yuval Harari argues in his book Homo Deus (sequel to the runaway hit Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind), “upgrading” humans is the next logical step of evolution, making us smarter and more productive. Or as MIT Technology Review notes, “technology [like interfacing with AI] could allow people to make themselves ‘better than well.’”

But here’s the other thing I realized: is being smarter, more productive, or even telepathic, actually better?

It seems that equating “better” with being smarter or richer is an assumption on the part of technophiles like Musk or Harari. Not that those things are necessarily bad, but I cannot help but feel it’s a tad narrowminded.

As economist Joseph Schumpeter noted, though the modern age is swamped with technological “betterment,” there is no data to suggest that people are living happier or more fulfilled lives.

So perhaps the path to better lives lie not (as Musk would have us believe) through Borgification, but rather through what emperor/philosopher Marcus Aurelius termed “good fortune.” Aurelius did not mean that betterment results from chance or luck, or even a clairvoyant fortune teller. Rather, Aurelius asserted that “true good fortune is what you make for yourself … good character, good intentions, and good actions.”

As opposed to the “better” life offered by Musk and others of a cyborgic future where we will merge with AI in a communion almost as wonderous as that of chocolate and peanut butter, Aurelius (and other ancient philosophers) argued that the best life is to possess “good character,” and “to live each day is if it were your last, without frenzy, without apathy, without pretense.”

Compared to Musk’s spectacular visions of human enhancement, Aurelius’s exhortations to pursue good character possesses all the sexiness of a stodgy stockbroker. But is the promise of a better life that Aurelius offers far more actionable (and affordable) for the average person than Musk’s vision of a cybernetic future?


[Image Credit: Flickr-Steve Jurvetson, CC BY 2.0]


The Other Crisis in Psychology


In July 2019, Christopher Ferguson published an article in Quillette on the replication crisis in psychology. As an academic psychologist, I appreciated his clear and concise discussion of some of the difficult issues facing psychology’s growth as a science, including publication bias and the sensationalizing of weak effects. I believe a related, but perhaps less-recognized, illness plagues psychology and related disciplines (including the health sciences, family studies, sociology, and education). That illness is the conflation of correlation with causation, and the latest research suggests that scientists, and not lay people and the media, are the underlying culprits.

Correlation and Causation

We have probably all heard the cliché “Correlation is not causation.” Of the criteria for documenting that one variable causes a change in another variable, correlation is just the first of three.

That is, the first criterion for documenting that one variable causes a change in another variable is evidence that the two variables covary together: as one goes up, the other tends to, too (a positive correlation; for example, students who score high on the SAT tend to also have a higher GPA in college),1 or as one variable goes up, the other tends to go down (a negative correlation; for example, people who have a stronger interest in working with people vs. things are less likely to major in inorganic disciplines such as computer science and physics).

The second criterion is that of temporal precedence: the presumed cause must come before the presumed effect. For example, people who are spanked during childhood tend to score lower on IQ tests during adolescence.2 Descriptions of temporal precedence tend to evoke cause and effect interpretations. For example, in the context of spanking and IQ, it is tempting to infer that spanking causes lower IQ. However, temporal precedence is necessary but not sufficient for inferring causality. As Steven Pinker described in The Blank Slate, if you set two alarms when you go to bed, one for 6:00am and the other for 6:15am, and the first alarm reliably goes off before the second alarm, you will have evidence of systematic covariance and temporal precedence, but that doesn’t mean that the first alarm caused the second alarm to go off. Likewise, spanking in childhood occurs before the measurement of IQ in adolescence, but that doesn’t provide evidence that spanking causes lower IQ. The tendency to infer causality from temporal precedence appears to underly belief in the well-refuted myth that vaccines cause autism3: Because vaccines are given before symptoms of autism reveal themselves, people are quick to mistakenly assume that the vaccines cause autism. By this logic, everything from crawling to walking is a cause of autism.

The third criterion is of utmost importance. To infer causality, researchers must address potential confounding variables—variables other than the presumed cause that could account for the association between the presumed cause and effect. In the case of spanking and IQ, for example, one can entertain all kinds of potential (and non-mutually exclusive) confounds: living in a high-stress, poverty-stricken environment could lead to both being spanked and suboptimal development of cognitive ability; lower parental IQ could be accounting for both the use of corporal punishment and children’s lower IQ scores; pre-existing low IQ scores in children could lead to both being spanked and continued lower IQ scores into adolescence; etc. To make the case for a specific cause (such as spanking), the cause must be isolated and then, via random assignment, imposed upon some individuals and not others (or varying levels of the cause must be imposed on different groups of individuals). Generally, this is accomplished through experimental design that includes manipulation of the presumed cause followed by measurement of the variable that is predicted to be affected by the manipulation.

No ethical researcher plans on randomly assigning parents to engage in varying degrees of corporal punishment to assess its isolated effects on children’s IQ. But other questions about humans can be tackled with experiments. For example, researchers who want to test the hypothesis that playing violent games increases aggression have used experimental designs4 in which some individuals are randomly assigned to play a violent video game for a specified period of time and others are assigned to play a similarly arousing but non-violent video game; after imposing the manipulation, individuals’ aggression is measured.

A controlled experiment—in which a specific causal variable is manipulated by the researcher, participants are randomly assigned to experience different levels of that manipulated variable, everything else is held constant, and the effects of that manipulation are then measured objectively—is the “gold standard” for documenting causality. Notably, documenting that a variable has a causal impact on another variable does not mean that it determines that other variable. In the case of violent video games and aggression, there may be evidence that exposure to violent video games has short-term influence on aggressive thoughts,5 but exposure to violent video games doesn’t determine how aggressive people are; it is just one of many variables that influence aggression.

Perhaps the distinction between correlation and causation makes perfect sense to you. Lucky you, because you are not in the majority. The tendency to conflate correlation and causation is well-known and discussed widely in books on logical thinking (such as Keith Stanovich’s What Intelligence Tests Miss: The Psychology of Rational Thought) and biases in thinking (such as Michael Shermer’s Why People Believe Weird Things).

Several years ago, my students and I published systematic evidence that the tendency to conflate correlation with causation occurs regardless of how educated people are. In one study, for example, we gave a group of community adults a hypothetical research vignette that described a correlational study of students’ self-esteem and academic performance, in which both variables were measured (observed) and neither was manipulated. To another group of participants, we gave a hypothetical research vignette that described an experimental study in which students’ self-esteem was manipulated (that is, by random assignment some students received self-esteem promoting messages and some students did not) and then the students’ academic performance was measured. For both groups of participants, the research vignette concluded with a statement that the study revealed a positive correlation between self-esteem and academic performance. Then, we asked the participants what inferences they could draw from the finding.

The participants in the two groups were equally likely to conclude that self-esteem leads to academic success, even though participants who read about the correlational study should not have drawn that conclusion. Moreover, participants who read about the correlational study were similarly likely to draw an erroneous causal inference regardless of how educated they were! (The inference that self-esteem enhances academic performance, by the way, actually goes against the latest science, which shows quite clearly that if self-esteem and academic success are causally connected, it is academic success that precedes self-esteem, not the reverse!)6

The Language of Causality

As a likely manifestation of the human bias toward inferring cause and effect, there are far more ways to describe cause and effect associations than there are ways to describe non-causal associations. When my colleagues and I pored through several hundred journal articles in psychology, we found more than 100 different words and phrases that were used to denote cause-and-effect relationships. These are shown in the word cloud below, with the most commonly used words in large font.

There are probably hundreds of ways of denoting cause and effect relationships, and the reason this is important is that people don’t really know what does and does not qualify as causal language,7 nor (as I described above) do they recognize the conditions under which causal language is warranted. So, if a description of research findings uses causal language without justification, the reader is unlikely to realize it, and hence they will be misled without having a clue they are being misled.

Scholars have repeatedly blamed the media for inappropriate use of causal language. In 2016, when Brian Resnick of Vox asked famous psychologists and social scientists what journalists get wrong when writing about research, conflating correlation and causation topped the list. Indeed, unwarranted causal inferences abound in the media. A quick search on nearly any news site will reveal headlines like “How Student Alcohol Consumption Affects GPA”  and “Sincere Smiling Promotes Longevity” and “For Teens, Online Bullying Worsens Sleep and Depression,” all of which are causal claims made on the basis of non-causal (correlational) research with measured variables.

Recently, though, several studies have shown that unwarranted causal language begins with scientists themselves. For example, in medicine, one extensive review showed that over half of articles about correlational studies included cause and effect interpretations of the findings.8 And in education, a review of articles published in teaching and learning journals found that over a third of articles about correlational studies included causal statements.9 In psychology, my colleagues and I conducted two studies that reinforced the ubiquity of the problem. First, we reviewed a random sample of poster abstracts that had been accepted for presentation at an annual convention of the premier professional organization in psychology, the Association for Psychological Science. We were disappointed to find that over half of the abstracts that included cause and effect language did so without warrant (i.e., the research was correlational). Of course, poster presentations are held to a less rigorous standard than are formal talks or published journal articles, so in a follow-up study, we reviewed 660 articles from 11 different well-known journals in the discipline. Our findings replicated: over half of the articles with cause and effect language described studies that were actually correlational; in other words, the causal language was not warranted.

When I submitted our analysis of unwarranted causal language to a journal published by the Association for Psychological Science, the journal editor dismissed the submission, saying the human tendency to conflate correlation with causation is already well-known. Well, it may be a well-known bias, but it is obviously not easy to address if it is rampant in the poster presentations of one of psychology’s most popular professional conventions and just as prevalent in highly respected journals in the discipline. (We did proceed to publish our findings in a different journal whose editor asked us to submit to them.)

Failing to Consider Confounds

The failure to consider confounds and to erroneously infer causality from correlational data inhibits us from developing optimally effective solutions to the problems we face in society. Consider, for example, the massive variation among young children in their early language acquisition and subsequent school achievement. One of the most commonly referenced studies in early childhood development and education is Hart & Risley’s 1995 longitudinal study that demonstrated that children raised in low socioeconomic status homes had parents who spoke far fewer words to them than did children raised in high socioeconomic status homes, and these early differences in language experience predicted subsequent disparities between children in their vocabularies and school achievement.10 This link was interpreted as causal—that the verbal environment parents provide to their children is a key influence on their children’s verbal development—and it spurred many intensive and expensive programs that teach and support verbal interaction between parents and infants. However, Hart and Risley’s data were correlational. That is, the researchers did not manipulate the quantity and quality of verbal interactions that parents had with their young children; they did not randomly assign some parents to provide one form of language experience and other parents to provide another and then measure any change in children’s development as a result of the manipulation. To suggest that differences in early language experiences cause differences in children’s vocabularies and school achievement requires the elimination of confounds—that is, variables that could account for the correlation because they lead to both strong verbal interaction from parents and strong verbal ability in children.

Shared genetics is one potential confound. Parents of higher socioeconomic status tend to have higher cognitive ability than parents of lower socioeconomic status, and socioeconomic status and cognitive ability are both heritable.11 So, shared genes could be a third variable that influences both the quality of language experiences that parents provide and children’s verbal ability. To test this possibility, behavioral geneticists have taken advantage of “experiments of nature” in which some children are raised by their biological parents (sharing both genes and environment) and some children are raised by adoptive parents (sharing only environment). In typical families (like those in Hart and Risley’s study), how similar are children to their parents, with whom they share both genes and a rearing environment? In adoptive families, how similar are children to their parents, with whom they share only a rearing environment?

In fact, the answers to these questions were first documented in the 1920s12 and have replicated on multiple occasions by myriad researchers13: In biological families, children resemble their parents in vocabulary and verbal ability; in adoptive families, they do not. The key implication is that Hart and Risley’s finding of a link between parents’ verbal behavior and their children’s verbal ability does not warrant an inference that parents’ verbal behavior influences their children’s verbal ability. The link is better explained by shared genes, because the association only reveals itself when parents and children are genetic relatives. Stated another way, the findings imply that the type of parents who provide high-quality language experiences to their children differ systematically from those who provide lower-quality experiences; and children who evoke high-quality verbal reactions from their parents differ systematically from those who do not. Because developmental psychologists and educators continue to interpret correlational data like Hart and Risley’s as evidence of the causal impact of early language experiences on verbal ability, they continue to push interventions that, in the end, are likely to be relatively less effective than interventions that acknowledge and address both environmental and genetic differences between individuals and families.

Another domain in which conflation of correlation with causation may be leading us astray is with microaggressions. In the article that popularized this term, microaggressions were defined as “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color.”14 The term was initially applied in the context of race and ethnicity but is now applied much more broadly. One key finding from correlational research on microaggressions is that individuals who self-report being microaggressed against are more likely than others to struggle with mental health issues.15 The data are correlational, yet have been interpreted as causal: that is, that being microaggressed against causes mental health issues.16 As such, it is now common in both the academic and corporate world to offer or require employee training on the various phrases, words, and actions that might qualify as microaggressions. I am not suggesting that being microaggressed against does not actually have a negative effect on individuals’ well-being; the causal path is certainly plausible. However, the causal inference is not valid in the absence of true experimental research that imposes microaggressions on some individuals and not others, with subsequent measurement of pre-specified outcomes. To say otherwise is telling more than we know.

As Scott Lilienfeld pointed out in his article17 calling for more rigorous research on microaggressions, a glaring confound is the personality trait of negative emotionality (neuroticism): Individuals who are high in negative emotionality are particularly likely to perceive themselves as microaggressed against and individuals who are high in negative emotionality are susceptible to mental health issues. The possibility that negative emotionality underlies both experiencing microaggressions and mental health concerns is quite reasonable given that microaggressions have no precise definition but rather are defined entirely in terms of the listener’s interpretation. I propose that microaggression workshops, to the degree that they are motivated by unwarranted assumptions of the causal impact of microaggressions on mental health, might actually backfire by making at-risk individuals more likely to perceive themselves as microaggressed against.

Indeed, in research that my colleagues and I presented last year, when we primed college students with the note that “people say all kinds of things, and sometimes they say things that can be harmful without even realizing it,” the students who scored higher in negative emotionality subsequently rated ambiguous statements like “You should take up running” to be more harmful than did students who scored low in negative emotionality. As Lukianoff and Haidt argued in The Coddling of the American Mind, microaggression training may not be preparing people to engage with each other respectfully (as it presumably aspires to), but rather to look for opportunities to take offense in others’ words.

Psychology Can Do Better

In the same way that psychological scientists have responded to the replication crisis by holding ourselves accountable for engaging in more responsible research and data analysis practices, I hope that psychological scientists can work together to overcome our tendency to infer causality from correlational data. How we overcome this tendency may depend on why, how, when, and to whom it happens. It is possible that, just like anyone else, psychologists have a difficult time distinguishing between correlation and causation; if that is the case, we need to supplement our scientific training to include more pointed practice with causal language and criteria for demonstrating causality.

Another possibility is that psychological scientists recognize unwarranted causal inferences when evaluating others’ research but miss it in their own, perhaps because of ideological and self-serving biases. If that is the case, we need to encourage individuals with competing viewpoints to provide constructive review of each other’s research, with correlation versus causation front of mind. It is also posible that scientists use unwarranted causal language intentionally, in an effort to draw more attention to their work. Luckily, recent research suggests that engaging in such causal “spin” is unnecessary, because press releases that are crafted with causal language and press releases that are crafted with non-causal language are picked up by news outlets at similar rates.

Regardless, it is up to psychological scientists to hold one another—and themselves—to a higher standard of (1) recognizing a causal statement when they see it, and (2) identifying whether or not the three criteria have been met for making that causal statement. In the scientific pursuit of truth, psychology must do better.


April L. Bleske-Rechek earned her BA in Psychology and Spanish from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1996) and her PhD in Individual Differences and Evolutionary Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin (2001). She is currently a Psychology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.


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Trzaskowski, M., Harlaar, N., Arden, R., Krapohl, E., Rimfeld, K., McMillan, A.,…Plomin, R. (2014). Genetic influence on family socioeconomic status and children’s intelligence. Intelligence, 42, 83-88. doi:10.1016/j.intell.2013.11.002
12 Burks, B. S. (1928). The relative influence of nature and nurture upon mental development; a comparative study of foster parent-foster child resemblance and true parent-true child resemblance. Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education, Pt. I, 219-316.
13 Leahy, A. M. (1935). A study of adopted children as a method of investigating nature-nurture. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 30, 281-287. doi:10.1080/01621459.1935.10504170
Neiss, M., & Rowe, D. C. (2000). Parental education and child’s verbal IQ in adoptive and biological families in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Behavior Genetics, 30, 487-495.
Wadsworth, S. J., Corley, R. P., Hewitt, J. K., Plomin, R., & DeFries, J. C. (2002). Parent-offspring resemblance for reading performance at 7, 12 and 16 years of age in the Colorado Adoption Project. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 43, 769-774. doi:10.1111/1469-7610.00085
14 Sue, D. W., Capodilupo, C. M., Torino, G. C., Bucceri, J. M., Holder, A. M. B., Nadal, K. L., & Esquilin, M. (2007). Racial microaggressions in everyday life: Implications for clinical practice. American Psychologist, 62, 271-286. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.62.4.271
15 Nadal, K. L., Griffin, K. E., Wong, Y., Hamit, S., & Rasmus, M. (2014). The impact of racial microaggressions on mental health: Counseling implications for clients of color. Journal of Counseling & Development, 92, 57-66.  doi:10.1002/j.1556-6676.2014.00130.x
16 Note the causal language in the title of the article: Nadal, K. L., Griffin, K. E., Wong, Y., Hamit, S., & Rasmus, M. (2014). The impact of racial microaggressions on mental health: Counseling implications for clients of color. Journal of Counseling & Development, 92, 57-66.  doi:10.1002/j.1556-6676.2014.00130.x
17 Lilienfeld, S. (2017). Microaggressions: Strong claims, inadequate evidence. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 12, 138–169. doi:10.1177/1745691616659391

The post The Other Crisis in Psychology appeared first on Quillette.


The Fix Was in from the Start for Hillary's 'Exoneration,' Immunity Agreements with Aides Suggest | Trending

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The Treasury Department is in desperate need of a sucker


Ten years ago, at the peak of the global financial crisis, the Board of Trustees which oversees Social Security in the United States issued a stark warning:

They projected that Social Security’s enormous trust funds would completely run out of money in 2039.

Naturally nobody paid attention. Back in 2009 the economy in shambles, so focusing on a future economic crisis that was more than three decades away was a low priority.

And for the past decade, the US government has continued to ignore its Social Security problem.

But it’s become much worse.

Ten years later, the Board of Trustees now projects that Social Security’s primary trust fund will run out money in 2034.

That’s five years earlier than they projected back in 2009. And it’s only 15 years away.

Now, 15 years might seem like a long time. But take a minute to grasp the magnitude of this problem:

According to the US government’s own estimates, Social Security and Medicare combined are underfunded by $100 TRILLION.

$100 trillion is literally more than FIVE TIMES the size of the entire US economy. And this giant fiscal chasm is actually growing.

The big problem for Social Security is that tax revenue is no longer enough.

Every worker who is legally employed in the United States currently pays roughly 15% of his/her wages each month to help fund Social Security and pay benefits to retirees.

But there are now so many people receiving Social Security benefits that all the payroll tax revenue is no longer enough.

Social Security also derives a portion of the income it needs to pay benefits from the investment returns on its $3 trillion worth of assets.

Problem is– Social Security is forbidden by law to invest in anything EXCEPT United States government bonds.

Most countries who have large Sovereign Wealth Funds or Pension Funds have the latitude to invest that capital in a variety of asset classes.

I personally know several national pension fund and sovereign wealth fund executives in Europe and Asia, and they typically buy a wide variety of assets– real estate, private equity, stocks, bonds, etc., with a target annualized return of between 6% to 8%.

(Norway’s sovereign wealth fund earned an average 7.6% between 2010 and 2017. And California’s state employee pension fund, CALPERS, earned 6.7% last year.)

But Social Security doesn’t have this investment freedom. Instead, Social Security is required BY LAW to invest in US government bonds, which yield less than 3%.

In fact Social Security’s investment return last year was 2.9%.

You’re probably starting to see the problem–

At the moment, Social Security is the #1 owner of US government debt, having spent years stockpiling $3 trillion of dollars worth of US Treasury bonds.

Month after month, as payroll tax revenues exceeded the total retirement benefits paid out, Social Security invested its surplus into government bonds.

But now that flow of money is about to reverse.

We know that Social Security’s payroll tax revenue is no longer sufficient to pay out benefits. There are simply too many retirees.

We also know that the 2.9% invest return is pitiful and not going to help at all.

This means that Social Security is about to start burning through the trust funds in order to meet its monthly benefit obligations.

The Board of Trustees has already acknowledged this fact. And they project the trust funds will be fully depleted in 15 years.

But it could likely come much sooner than that.

Before they can use the trust funds to cover their financial shortfall, Social Security will first have to convert its government bonds into cash.

Doing that will require that they either let the bonds mature (and demand the government to repay them in full). Or it will require them to dump tens of billions… hundreds of billions of dollars worth of bonds on the open market.

Either way, Uncle Sam loses its biggest lender. Instead of borrowing money from Social Security, the Treasury Department is going to have to pay Social Security back.

We’re talking $3 TRILLION. That’s not exactly pocket change. And it’s coming at a time when the US government is already losing more than $1 trillion per year.

The Congressional Budget Office already forecasts that the federal government will have to borrow $12.7 trillion in additional debt through the end of 2029.

Now, on top of that already-prodigious figure, the Treasury Department will have to find some sucker willing to lend an additional $3 trillion to repay Social Security… not to mention tens of trillions of dollars more down the road.

That’s extremely unlikely.

What’s far more likely is that the US government simply freezes the repayments to Social Security.

Maybe they pay back a trillion or two. But not the full amount. The rest of it would be frozen, which means that the trust funds would be effectively depleted MUCH earlier than expected.

Prudential, one of the largest financial institutions in the world, estimates that 86% of current retirees, 88% of baby boomers who are about to retire, and 71% of Gen-Xers, rely or expect to rely on Social Security when they retire.

But the Social Security trustees themselves tell us that the funds will run out of money in 15 years. And as I’ve just shown, it could happen a lot sooner than that.

So it’s clear that a LOT of people will have their lives turned upside down.

Look, maybe I’m totally wrong.

Maybe the Treasury Department does find a sucker to bail out Social Security. Maybe that sucker is us. Bank deposits, managed IRAs, etc. are all fair game for Uncle Sam. They could seize anything they want.

But even if I’m totally wrong, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a Plan B… to take back control of your own retirement.




Sunday, July 28, 2019

As the Jeffrey Epstein Case Grows, Manhattan and DC Brace for Impact | Vanity Fair

What Progressives Hopefully Learned From Russiagate


The Robert Mueller hearing on Tuesday was widely regarded as a humiliating disaster, not just by critics of the establishment Russia narrative, but by mainstream Democratic pundits. We haven’t seen a US official look so befuddled and disorganized during a congressional hearing since that time John McCain started babbling gibberish at James Comey, and he had a tumor eating his brain.

“A frail old man, unable to remember things, stumbling, refusing to answer basic questions,” tweeted liberal documentary filmmaker Michael Moore after the circus had ended. “I said it in 2017 and Mueller confirmed it today — All you pundits and moderates and lame Dems who told the public to put their faith in the esteemed Robert Mueller — just STFU from now on.”

“Much as I hate to say it, this morning’s hearing was a disaster,” tweeted virulent Russiagater Laurence Tribe. “Far from breathing life into his damning report, the tired Robert Mueller sucked the life out of it. The effort to save democracy and the rule of law from this lawless president has been set back, not advanced.”

“On the optics, this was a disaster,” summarized NBC’s Chuck Todd.

As you’d expect, this widespread sentiment is shared by Trump himself, who told reporters after the hearing that “We had a very good day today.”

A frail old man, unable to remember things, stumbling, refusing to answer basic questions...I said it in 2017 and Mueller confirmed it today - All you pundits and moderates and lame Dems who told the public to put their faith in the esteemed Robert Mueller - just STFU from now on

 — @MMFlint

It is entirely possible that the Democrats and their allied media outlets handed Trump a re-election in 2020 with their nonstop fixation on a fact-free conspiracy theory that was doomed to failure, and many progressives have been pointing this out.

“This whole setup has done more damage to the Democrats’ chances of winning back the White House than anything that Trump could ever have dreamed up,” former MSNBC host Kristal Ball said after the hearing. “Think about all the time and the journalistic resources that could have been dedicated to stories that, I don’t know, that a broad swath of people might actually care about? Healthcare, wages, the teachers’ movement, whether we’re going to war with Iran?”

“It’s a self-soothing fantasy that makes people like Hillary Clinton and her allies feel better, but in reality all of this stood to help Trump, which is why from the very beginning I thought that this was such a disaster,” journalist Aaron Maté told CGTN America’s The Heat regarding the Russiagate conspiracy theory.

“It’s great to see more leftists & liberals recognizing that channelling the anti-Trump Resistance into a stupid conspiracy theory was a massive mistake, but for next time: let’s try harder to voice that when it’s actually happening for 2+ years, not after it finally collapses,” tweeted Maté, whose unparalleled reporting on the gaping plot holes in the Russiagate narrative won him an Izzy Award earlier this year.

It's great to see more leftists & liberals recognizing that channelling the anti-Trump Resistance into a stupid conspiracy theory was a massive mistake, but for next time: let's try harder to voice that when it's actually happening for 2+ years, not after it finally collapses.

 — @aaronjmate

Maté can reasonably be described as today’s leading authority on the Russiagate narrative and the arguments for and against it, and he is right not to only single out liberals in his criticism. It is true that there have been plenty of leftists and progressives who’ve continuously opposed Russiagate right from the get go, at least in part for the reasons Maté offers, but it is also true that it wasn’t just liberals who got lost in the conspiratorial haze of Trump-Russia hysteria.

I always get people on the left arguing with me about this, but it’s true. Being involved in progressive circles in 2017 was like watching a zombie apocalypse, with more and more leftists and Berners contracting the mind virus with every shrieking “bombshell” mass media Russiagate report. Maybe in your own small circle you didn’t see anyone succumb to the zombie outbreak, but everyone who interacted with a large and diverse cross-section of America’s true left in early-to-mid 2017 knows exactly what I’m talking about. Not everyone hopped on the Russiagate bandwagon, but many did, likely due in no small part to the fact that Bernie Sanders himself was continuously and forcefully pushing the collusion narrative on American progressives.

But it wasn’t even that they all necessarily bought into the propaganda. When Russiagate first started I pushed back against it hard on social media, especially on Facebook, and during that time I had a few Bernie people (who comprised a large percentage of my audience back then) admit to me that they knew the Russia stuff was probably fake, but they were helping to push it in the hope that it could hurt Trump. They didn’t honestly believe he’d get removed from office for Russian collusion, but they hoped that pushing for an investigation would help turn up impeachable evidence of corruption, or at least cause him political damage.

What do such people have to show for that strategy now? A new cold war reignited by a president who has been able to escalate world-threatening tensions against Russia with no resistance from his ostensible opposition whatsoever, and a 2020 election that now looks orders of magnitude harder to win than it ever should have been.

Trump just told @seanhannity that Putin was "very, very strong." I bet he was. How did it feel, big guy? This is the right-wing alpha?! Ha, ha, ha. Sad! Their leader just got cucked in front of the whole world. It was an absolute #Cucktastrophe. #Beta #Omega #TreasonSummit

 — @cenkuygur

There are a couple of lessons that I hope progressives have learned from all this.

Firstly, I hope progressives have learned that we’re never going to manipulate our way into progressive reform. Truth is the one and only weapon we have. Trying to use a deceitful narrative to manipulate toward a desired end is something establishment loyalists do, but if progressives try it it will bite us in the ass every single time. If we try to manipulate the establishment away, we’re pitting our fledgling manipulation skills against manipulators who have generations of mastery in that field under their belt. You’re never, ever going to manipulate desired ends out of an establishment that is teeming with master manipulators. Truth is the only way.

Secondly, I hope that progressives are beginning to see that you can’t collaborate with the establishment to defeat the establishment. The oligarchic empire isn’t going to cooperate in its own destruction. Believing that you were going to be able to use an empire lackey like Robert “Iraq has WMDs” Mueller to bring the Executive Branch of the US empire to its knees was very foolish. If there’s any strength left in what remains of America’s progressive movement to effect real change, that change will come solely from grassroots populism, and it will be met with extremely forceful opposition from the Democratic establishment. If what you’re doing isn’t giving Nancy Pelosi literal night terrors, it’s worthless.

The establishment narrative managers are not done trying to herd America’s political left back into the establishment fold. New attempts to manipulate the mind of the American progressive are being workshopped currently, and they will likely be more subtle and devious than Russiagate was. Here’s hoping progressives learn their lesson and grow from it enough to prevent the next manipulation from succeeding.


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Here’s What Happened When a Journalist Exposed a Pedo Sex Ring in Mexico


On July 23, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called for Mexican authorities to protect investigative reporter Lydia Cacho Ribeiro.

Two days prior, unidentified thugs broke into the journalist’s home, killed her two dogs, stole a laptop, audio recorder, three cameras, memory cards, and ten hard drives “containing information about sexual abuse cases the reporter was investigating,” according to the CPJ and Cacho. The attackers also damaged personal belongings including photographs. 

This is my personal response to the new attack we recieved at home. Thank you for your solidarity. We must focus on facts and evidence regarding the extent of impunity and how it empowers the mafias. #WeWillNorSurrenderToSilence #JournalismIsAlive

— Lydia Cacho (@lydiacachosi) July 25, 2019

It’s remarkable Cacho is still alive. In 1999, she was beaten and raped in retaliation for her investigations. Despite this, she continued to report on sex rings and the trafficking and murder of Mexican girls. 

In 2005, she published Los Demonios de Edén (“The Demons of Eden”), a book exposing a child sex trafficking ring involving politicians, government officials, and businessmen. Cacho was arrested and charged with defamation following the book’s publication. 

CPJ reported at the time:

The underlying defamation case is based on a complaint filed by Puebla-based clothes manufacturer José Camel Nacif Borge, the Mexican press said. In a book released in May titled, “The Demons of Eden,” Cacho described the activities of a child prostitution ring that she said operated with the complicity of local police and politicians. She alleged that Nacif had ties to an accused pedophile, which the businessman said damaged his reputation.

Borge is one of the wealthiest men in Mexico. Known as “El Rey de la Mezclilla” (the Denim King), he amassed his wealth by manufacturing clothing for  Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Chaps, Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch, and American Eagle Outfitters. An investigation by the Game Commission of Nevada looked into Borge’s links to drug smuggling and gun-running. 

Threats against Cacho’s life were serious enough to warrant protection by the federal police. In 2006, a transcript of telephone conversations between Borge and Mario Marín, then governor of the state of Puebla, was published by the Mexico City daily La Jornada. Borge and Marín discussed having Cacho arrested and thrown in jail where she would be beaten and abused. 

In November 2009 the Supreme Court of Mexico ruled that Chaco’s arrest on defamation charges did not violate her rights as a journalist. The ruling was made despite the fact at least 30 public officials, including Marín, had conspired to harass her, according to The New York Times. 

Por más que lo intenten no dejaré de investigar. El miedo no colonizará mi espíritu. Soy periodista, soy feminista y defensora de #DerechosHumanos el poder conlleva responsabilidad social. A los que me amenazan les digo: #AquíNadieSeRinde #Justicia #NiñezPrimero

— Lydia Cacho (@lydiacachosi) July 22, 2019

The Demons of Eden exposed a pedophile ring in Cancún. In the book, Cacho accuses 

a businessman, Jean Succar Kuri, of luring poor, under-age girls to his home and coercing them into having sex with him and his friends. She also mentioned a businessman from Puebla, Kamel Nacif, and said he was paying for Mr. Succar Kuri’s defense. (Mr. Succar Kuri, who is awaiting trial on child pornography and child molestation charges, maintains his innocence.)

Succar Kuri was convicted of child pornography and child sexual abuse and sentenced to 112 years in prison on August 31, 2011. 

The Epstein case exposed how the elite engages in pedophilia without serious consequence. Investigative journalists such as Conchita Sarnoff and Vicky Ward have yet to confront the sort of treatment suffered by Lydia Cacho and others for revealing details on the Epstein case, including the involvement of former president Bill Clinton. However, this may change if names other than celebrities and a former president and Israeli politician are made public. 

CBS46 reporter Ben Swann discovered what happens when you look too closely at the possibility the elite operate pedo sex rings. 

Although he made it clear “there is no proof here that there is a child sex ring being operated out of a D.C. pizza parlor,” he was suspended from the news network and his social media accounts and web page disappeared from the internet. 

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