Monday, November 24, 2014

In case you were wondering ...

Taking low-dose aspirin to prevent heart disease does not help  -- even if you are in an "at risk" category.  A short excerpt from the latest research report below.  The results could not have been more negative:

Low-Dose Aspirin for Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Events in Japanese Patients 60 Years or Older With Atherosclerotic Risk Factors: A Randomized Clinical Trial

The study was terminated early by the data monitoring committee after a median follow-up of 5.02 years (interquartile range, 4.55-5.33) based on likely futility. In both the aspirin and no aspirin groups, 56 fatal events occurred.


Once-daily, low-dose aspirin did not significantly reduce the risk of the composite outcome of cardiovascular death, nonfatal stroke, and nonfatal myocardial infarction among Japanese patients 60 years or older with atherosclerotic risk factors.

JAMA, Nov. 17


Wealthy Are Indeed Paying Their 'Fair Share'

For years, the leftist mantra when it came to taxes was basically "soak the rich." The statement was always couched in the belief that the wealthy could afford it. But the so-called rich were never paying an amount these do-gooders (who, in a lot of cases, rarely paid income tax because they lived off a family trust fund) determined was the proper tithe to the state. Barack Obama called it the "Buffett Rule," believing the proper amount the top 1% should be paying is 30 cents on the dollar.

So according to new figures released by the Congressional Budget Office, we should be in taxpayer nirvana - the top 1% now pays 24% of all taxes. Moreover, a further dissection of the numbers to account for government wealth transfers shows that the entire burden of paying for the government falls squarely on the shoulders of the richest one-quarter or so of taxpayers.

Mark J. Perry writes for the American Enterprise Institute, "In fact, the richest 20% of Americans by income aren't just paying a share of federal taxes that would be considered `fair' - it goes way beyond `fair' - they're shouldering almost 100% of the entire federal tax burden of transfer payments and all other non-financed government spending."



South Africa update

A report entitled "The ANC's hybrid regime, civil rights and risks to business" has just been issued. The author is Dr. Heinrich Matthee, a political risk analyst to internatinal companies and an Associate of the Africa Studies Centre, Leiden (Netherlands). The report was written for South African Monitor

The report comes to the following conclusions:

1. There has been a major change in foreign media reporting on the Zuma government in the one-party-dominant state of South Africa. It is epitomized by The Economist's call in May 2014: "Time to ditch the ANC".

2. Under the rule of president Jacob Zuma, South Africa has moved from a flawed democracy to a hybrid regime. The fracas in Parliament on 13 November 2014, with riot police removing an opposition politician, and Zuma's opaque nuclear deal with Russia, are just the latest signals in this regard.

3. The locus of politics is no longer parliament and elections, but a field of power where non-democratic and democratic elements interact. These elements include: an unaccountable presidentialism; the securitization of politics and political assassinations; weak democratic checks on the executive; extending the ANC's power in a one-partydominant state through state patronage and pro-ANC crony capitalists.

4. Factional competition over positions and resources is intensifying in the ANC, its allies and breakaway factions, like the Economic Freedom Fighters and NUMSA trade union. These dynamics will result in shifts, uncertainty and discretionary decisions in economic policy-making. They will also result in militant strikes, political tensions and protests, and local political assassinations.

5. High levels of state debt and the ANC's own funding problems are driving a search for sources of income. The ANC has "eaten the state". Higher taxes, new licence conditions and more beneficiation requirements are now likely in the next five years.

6. The ANC government is proceeding with several initiatives and legislation that will weaken property rights and increase government intervention in the economy. Sectors like minerals and energy, the security industry, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals and agriculture will be most exposed. The ANC could become more dependent on foreign patrons like Russia and China.

7. Political competition and factionalism over positions and resources will intensify in the run-up to the local elections in 2016, the ANC's leadership succession in 2017, and the national elections in 2019.

Via email from AfriForum


A perfect storm brewing for Israel

Across every border Israel shares with its Arab neighbors, within its own borders, and far removed from them, a formidable range of threats - from damaging economic sanctions and international isolation, through murderous terrorist attacks, jihadi insurgency and domestic insurrection, to the specter of weapons of mass destruction and a nuclear Iran - is coalescing with disturbing speed into a multi-faceted menace that jeopardizes the survival of the Jewish nation-state to a degree arguably unprecedented since its inception.

Successive governments have consistently misread the battlefield, and misled by the seductive deception of political correctness, they have embraced misguided policy principles, wildly at odds with the dictates of political realities.

To understand this rather harsh condemnation, it is first necessary to realize that, in principle, there exist two archetypal and antithetical contexts of conflict - in the first of which a policy of compromise and concession may well be appropriate, and another, in which such a course is disastrously inappropriate.

In the first of such contexts, one's adversary interprets any concession as a genuine conciliatory initiative, and feels obliged to respond with a counter-concession. In this context, the process will move toward some amicable resolution of the conflict by a series of concessions and counter-concessions.

In the alternate conflictual context, however, one's adversary does not interpret concessionary initiatives as conciliatory gestures, made in good faith, but as an indication of vulnerability and weakness, made under duress, portending defeat.

Such initiatives will not elicit any reciprocal conciliatory gesture, but rather demands for further concessions.

If one concedes to the demands, instead of enjoying a convergent process that leads toward peaceable resolution of differences, a divergent process will lead either to capitulation or to large-scale violence. In other words, once one side realizes that its adversary is acting in bad faith and can only be restrained by force; or the other side realizes it has extracted all the concessions it can by non-coercive means - meaning that further gains could only be won by force - problems worsen for the party seeking bilateral satisfaction.

If one happens to be in a situation that approximates the second context, but adopts a policy suited for the first, disaster is inevitable.

Sadly, for more than two decades, this is precisely what Israeli governments - with varying degrees of myopic zeal and/or reluctant resignation - have done. Unless robust and resolute remedial measures are undertaken without delay, such disaster is inevitable.

There can be little doubt that the Arab-Israeli conflict resembles the second context far more closely than the first. After all, every gut-wrenching concession Israel has made since the early 1990s has failed to produce any conciliatory response from its Arab adversaries. All it finds is greater intransigence and more obdurate insistence on further appeasement.

Because of excessive restraint and inadequate resolve, Israel is inexorably descending into an abysmal position, depicted with forceful eloquence by Winston Churchill, in the sober caveat he articulated in the first volume of his epic series on World War II, aptly titled The Gathering Storm.

He warned: "If you will not fight for right when you can easily win without bloodshed; if you will not fight when your victory is sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. There may even be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves."

Although many will wish to deny it, this is the situation that could well emerge for the Jews of Israel if the policy of ruinous restraint continues. If they forfeit national sovereignty, now under unprecedented international assault, while they may not become "slaves," Israelis could well be relegated to infidel dhimmi status in their own homeland.

Israel's past military and economic successes have been so stunning that they have obscured the true precariousness of Jewish political independence in the region.

For those who have been lulled into a false sense of complacency by highly visible signs of strength and vigor - such as mushrooming high-rises and modernistic freeways - the somber assessment of the inherent asymmetry of the conflict and the fragility of Jewish national existence made by Yigal Allon in the prestigious publication Foreign Affairs should be a salutary reminder.

Considered by many the epitome of moderate statesmanship, Allon cautioned: "... a military defeat of Israel would mean the physical extinction of a large part of its population and the political elimination of the Jewish state. ... the Arab states can permit themselves a series of military defeats while Israel cannot afford to lose a single war. Nor does this reflect a [finite, hence bearable] historical trauma in any sense.  To lose a single war is to lose everything...."

The bitter fruits of Israeli restraint, retreat and reticence abound in every direction and on every front.

In some cases they are close to full ripeness, in others, to less so - so far. In some cases disaster is close at hand, in others it has been avoided - or rather, delayed - more by propitious good fortune than by prudent good judgment.

It was only by the grace of God - or good fortune, depending on one's proclivities - that, during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza earlier this year, Hezbollah was preoccupied with the civil war in Syria. Consequently, it could not open up a second front and bring the full weight of this arsenal (and those tunnels) to bear on Israel, which could have overwhelmed the protective capacity of the Iron Dome defense system.

Slightly to the east, the breathtaking barbarity of the Syrian civil war rages on, bringing the daunting prospect of a common border with Islamic State and/or al-Qaida affiliates, and underscoring how imbecilic it would have been to relinquish the Golan to the murderous Assad regime, in the forlorn hope of trading land-for-peace.

Along Israel's eastern border, with the ascendancy of Islamist elements in Jordan, the Hashemite monarchy is looking increasingly wobbly. This tenuous situation is exacerbated by the hordes of refugees (reportedly over 600,000) fleeing the brutality in Syria, presumably infiltrated by Islamist agitators, who are placing unbearable strains on Jordan's social and economic resources, and undermining the stability of the regime. With the possibility of the monarchy being replaced by radical Muslim elements, or even remaining as a puppet regime controlled by them, the notion of territorial concessions in Judea-Samaria, which adjoins the kingdom to the West, becomes even more dangerously delusional than before.

Even if some flimsy deal were struck with the largely irrelevant and unrepresentative Mahmoud Abbas, the responsible assumption must be that he would be replaced, post haste, by more extremist forces such as Hamas (as per the Gaza precedent) - or worse.

Israel would be faced with the perilous prospect of a vast, unbroken stretch of Islamist-controlled territory, from the eastern approaches of Greater Tel Aviv to Jordan's current border with Iraq, and beyond - into areas under the iron rule of Islamic State.

In Sinai as well, the outlook is bleak, with the peninsula falling under the sway of jihadist elements which the Egyptian army is finding increasingly difficult to curb.

One of the most dangerous militant groups active in Sinai, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, recently pledged allegiance to Islamic State, a link likely to afford it more money, weapons and recruits to fight the government in Cairo.

All this savagery will inevitably press on Israel's long southern border stretching from Gaza to the Red Sea. If rocket attacks on Eilat continue, tourism to the city will cease and it will lose its principal source of income, without which its very existence is in grave doubt.

As daunting as the preceding catalogue of dangers is, it is hardly an exhaustive list of the perils facing the Jewish state today. Not a word has been mentioned about the possibility of a third intifada on the part of the Palestinians in Judea-Samaria or a renewed conflagration in Gaza. Perhaps the gravest threat of all is the prospect of insurrection and revolt by the Arab citizens of Israel - if they sense weakness and vacillation on the part of the Jews.

What is called for today is not a repetition of reticent restraint, but the demonstration of ruthless resolve.


There is a  new  lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.


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

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