Monday, February 24, 2014

Does dislike of homosexuality give you heart attacks?

An academic study has just emerged which says that it does. "Homophobia is bad for your health" is the intended message.  And the study itself is a refreshing piece of work that uses representative data, extensive controls, careful analysis and cautious wording.  It is far better than most academic journal articles I read.  So its conclusions should settle the matter?

Sadly, No.  The study is a correlational one so warrants no conclusions about cause.  Whether attitudes to homosexuals CAUSED the heart attacks or whether something associated with such attitudes caused the attacks is not known.  And the authors acknowledged that.  They suggest that certain health variables could be the "guilty" third factor.

And the elephant in the room there (I seem to be a master elephant detector) is of course IQ.  Unless they are motivated by fundamentalist religious convictions, anybody who admits to anti-homosexual attitudes these days has to be either dumb or very brave.  And bravery in the matter seems very rare. Homosexuals are sacred these days.  And low IQ people do have worse health.

And the correlation between health and attitudes is weak anyway so other factors could very well be involved.

And there are some signs that all is not well with the results anyway.  Both religiosity and conservatism showed negligible  correlations with "antigay" attitudes  --  where we would expect both of those to be strong predictors.  So the conclusions of the study are very dubious indeed.  I suspect that the underlying data was not robust enough to support the weight that the authors put on it.

The study is: Mark L. Hatzenbuehler, Anna Bellatorre, and Peter Muennig.  "Anti-Gay Prejudice and All-Cause Mortality Among Heterosexuals in the United States". American Journal of Public Health: February 2014, Vol. 104, No. 2, pp. 332-337.

Despite its inconclusiveness, it will no doubt be quoted joyously and uncritically for many years to come.  People who can believe that women and men are really the same will believe anything.


A Dutch police State?

I have just heard that Toine Manders, Head of of the Dutch Libertarian Party, was arrested at the end of January. He has apparently not been charged with any offence, but is being held in isolation, and his detention has been extended to or by a further 90 days.

The reason informally given for his arrest is his involvement in a company that helps Dutch entrepreneurs avoid their local corporation taxes by registering in England.

I have no further information. I am, of course, very disturbed by this news. Whatever a government does to one libertarian may be taken as an attack on all libertarians. I will follow this case to the best of my ability, and will follow up this post with further information.



The first Fuehrer

He was even MORE brutal than Hitler... so why do we still romanticise Napoleon?

BOOK REVIEW of: "Napoleon: Soldier Of Destiny", by Michael Broers

Review By Roger Lewis

Because the 18th century is far in the past - ships were under sail not steam; there were few paved roads and no railways yet; troops rode or marched - people can romanticise Napoleon in ways they can’t when it comes to Hitler, who is likely to remain our Number One bogeyman for some time yet.

Chaplin and Kubrick planned to make admiring films about Napoleon. Cagney wanted to play him. Brando did play him - as a brave and brooding hero with, as Michael Broers describes his subject, ‘seething impatience and energy lurking under the cool, authoritative exterior’.

Napoleon’s thoughts and emotions were set to music by Beethoven in the Eroica Symphony. Hazlitt and Sir Walter Scott wrote admiring portraits.

As Broers outlines in this judicious and magisterial biography, however, Napoleon, who died 70 years before Hitler was born, was a kind of proto-Fuhrer, his public pronouncements having a ‘messianic tone’ that was ‘spine-chilling’.

Declaiming before the vanquished citizens of Egypt, for example, Napoleon said: ‘It is well you should know that all human efforts against me are useless, for all I undertake must succeed.’ You can easily imagine that translated into German and being yelled over the loudspeakers of the Reich.

Napoleon, like Hitler, also knew that occupied territories could only be retained ‘by brute force’. His policy, when arriving in a new spot, was ‘to burn a village’. Massacring a local population was an unequivocal ‘manifestation of his will’.

Napoleon encouraged the brutality of his soldiers, as this was ‘a clear sign of their devotion to duty’. Defeated towns and cities were turned over to his men in reward, ‘for a 24-hour spree of rape, looting and murder ... He did little to curb the desecration of churches, monasteries or even convents’.

Venice was stripped of its treasures, for instance, and ‘wagonloads of Renaissance masterpieces flooded into France’, including the bronze horses from St Mark’s Square.

Like Hitler, who rose from the confusions of Weimar and the ashes of World War I, Napoleon, born in 1769, was a child of the French Revolution, seizing ‘every chance that came his way in the midst of the most dangerous, uncertain times the western world had ever known’.

Having been raised in Ajaccio, Corsica, he was a model pupil at a military academy, which ‘inculcated in him his frugality, his aversion to ease and his iron self-discipline’. As a junior artillery officer at Toulon, he ‘displayed exceptional ability’, firing on British ships in the harbour. Admiral Hood had to order an evacuation.

Promoted to brigadier-general, ‘Napoleon was forced to be menacing and authoritative by circumstances’, says the ever-objective Broers, who then finds his subject in the Vendée, hunting down peasant and royalist rebels.

Napoleon rose to his new responsibilities ‘and quite obviously relished them’, particularly when he was despatched to command ‘the under-fed, virtually unpaid’ mob that constituted the French army in Italy.

Napoleon ordered supplies and reinforcements. Though he was always guilty of plundering and extortion, so too did he desire a reformation of military efficiency - and he was rewarded with victories against the Austrians on the plains of northern Italy. Indeed, after the Battle of Arcola, ‘I believed myself to be a superior man’, Napoleon, allegedly just 5ft 2in, said modestly.

His next posting was to the Middle East. Though ‘Nelson made short work of the French fleet’ at the mouth of the Nile, Napoleon’s land army took Cairo and Jaffa. The spoils of war included a giraffe, which unfortunately died on the way to Paris. Napoleon, however, returned to France as First Consul - prior to crowning himself Emperor in 1804 at a three-hour ceremony in Notre Dame.

Napoleon wasn’t only a military tactician, he had a genius for manipulating committees and running bureaucracies. Though surrounded by the ‘dark culture of mutual denunciation and suspicion’ that marked the Terror, he outwitted enemies who wanted to send him to the guillotine, created the Bank of France, thus stabilising the economy, had coins minted embossed with his own face in profile, and busily and single-handedly ‘initiated all legislation and appointed and dismissed ministers’.

Exceptional ability: Napoleon Bonaparte as a young artillery officer

Exceptional ability: Napoleon Bonaparte as a young artillery officer

He devised the Legion of Honour (still in existence) because even Republicans love medals and ribbons, set up schools (still in existence) favouring science and technology, and his Civil Code (still in existence) abolished primogeniture and reformed inheritance laws.

Meanwhile, the Austrians and Italians were re-mustering, and it took the Battle of Marengo for France to become master of Italy, Switzerland and Germany.

Though no Tolstoy, Broers describes it well: ‘The big horses ridden by big men, wielding sabres at close quarters, wreaked carnage on the fragmented Austrian infantry ... Blood and dust mingled on the fields.’

Guns got so hot, they couldn’t be handled for re-loading ‘for fear of igniting the cartridges. There was nothing for it but to piss in the barrels to cool them’.

Napoleon, again like Hitler, knew he could never be master of Europe without defeating the British. He began to make preparations to cross the Channel, but his invasion failed because of his ignorance of the sea.

He had ‘no grasp of the inherent problems of tide, wind and bad weather’. He was such a megalomaniac, he believed he could control the waves.

Also, Nelson, though he lost his own life doing so, defeated the French fleet again, at Trafalgar. Not only that, the Russians were mobilising in the east, in alliance with Austria, and Napoleon had to get his army away from Boulogne and to the Rhine.



Principle and Power:  Conservatives versus Republicans

According to recent polling, a majority of people who voted for Barack Obama in 2012 regret voting for him. That does not mean they wish, instead, that they had voted for Mitt Romney. They just regret voting for Barack Obama.

With Democrats convincing themselves the only way to win 2014 is to accuse Republicans of fostering domestic violence because of their opposition to Obamacare, the Republican Party looks set for another wave election year. From sea to sea, the GOP will probably pick up seats. The Democrats are largely resigned to having no chance to take the House of Representatives. The Senate remains in play, but only barely.

Republicans will, when November comes, most likely control both houses of Congress and will most likely keep their hold on the majority of states, too. All this raises a question -- what does the Republican Party stand for?

Those who say the Republicans stand for limited government should cast an eye toward the Ryan-Murray spending plan. Authored in bipartisan fashion, the plan broke the sequestration spending limits Congress had put in place and raised taxes. Cast another eye toward the recent vote to raise the debt ceiling.

Republicans in Washington gave President Obama a blank check to increase the nation's debt until March of 2015. Republicans in the Senate, led by Sens. Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn, shut down Sen. Ted Cruz's effort to block the debt ceiling increase.

For those who say the Republicans stand for local control and states' rights, cast your eye to Congressman Eric Cantor, the House Republican leader. He has given a series of speeches and suggested a number of policies premised on Washington helping the middle class. The whole of the Republican Party seems convinced that Washington, instead of leaving America alone, can rock us till we fall asleep, place bandaids on our scraped-up knees, and spoon feed us in high chairs.

In fact, the party of limited government, individual responsibility and traditional values listens more and more to billionaire and multimillionaire donors who are convinced what is good for Wall Street is good for Main Street. Consequently, the GOP's uniting principles seem to be that it can control the government leviathan better than the Democrats. Republicans have decided to settle for campaign claims of technocratic proficiency with subsidies for Wall Street.

Most Americans hold Washington in contempt. They do not want to vote for a party that believes the problem is not government itself, but just Democrats in charge of it. Americans want Washington to leave them alone. They are as tired of our black-robed judicial masters decreeing one-size-fits-all amorality as they are of elected officials finding new ways to reward their large donors with the middle-class tax dollars.

Americans also do not want to just be anti-Obama. Right now, the Republican Party, when not collaborating to grow the size and scope of the federal leviathan, runs on anti-Obama rhetoric. Conservatives like Mike Lee, the Republican Senator from Utah, have put forward tax reform packages and other legislation that favors the middle class. Republican leaders have ignored him, choosing to pound their chests about Barack Obama, the socialist, while giving him a blank check to increase the national debt.

Conservatism remains about limited government, taking responsibility for yourself and stabilizing values. Republicans in Washington and their talking-head friends in the media talk about these things. They talk about getting Washington out of our lives. But the Republican proposals pushed by the Republican leaders differ greatly from their rhetoric.

Is it any wonder Americans hate Washington and conservatives hate their own Republican Party? The Republicans look like they are on course to win big this November. But if they do not put to practice their conservative preaching, voters will again reject them. On the other hand, if Republican voters fight in primaries and replace the existing Republican faces in Washington with fresh faces and fresh ideas, perhaps they can reconcile their principles with the power of a party finally ready to lead again.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

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