Monday, March 30, 2015

Are people who distrust troublesome minorities wrong in the head?

I would have thought it obvious that people who TRUST troublesome minorities are wrong in the head -- but I am just  a cautious old conservative so I guess my views don't count in the fairytale world of Left-dominated academe.

The New York Times does push the view that  people who distrust troublesome minorities are wrong in the head.  But they do so amid such a flood of words that is difficult to pin down any clear claims.  I am referring to the article "The Brain’s Empathy Gap" of March 19, 2015.  It was so difficult to pin down any clear assertions in it that I initially gave up any attempt to write some sort of critique of it.  Answering it seemed like doing battle with a giant marshmallow.  So, initially, I simply referred readers to what the excellent Steve Sailer had to say about it.  I do think however that I have a few things to add to Steve's comments so I am going to tackle the challenge after all.

The article moves from stories about gypsies in Romania to a disquisition on brain scanning and then back to stories about gypsies in Romania. Romania is a poor country and Romanian gypsies are apparently the poorest of the poor.  And it's all caused by "discrimination", of course.  The jump between brain scans and  Romanian gypsies is rather startling -- but whatever floats your boat, I guess.

What the brain scans showed were some clear patterns but the article itself admits that interpreting such patterns is still speculative.  Here is a typical sentence from the article:

"And in both groups, a small region of the brain, the medial precuneus, which may be associated with the theory-of-mind network, responded more strongly"

And it also may be associated with airborne pork, I guess.  I have been writing about such scans for some time and, at least among Leftist writers, they seem to be little more that a Rorschach Ink Blot test:  What you see in the thing before you tells us more about you than it tells about the display before you.  The NYT writer, Jeneen Interlandi, who is said to be a frequent contributor to the NYT magazine, soldiers on anyhow and proceeds to interpret the brain scans. She relies on some work by Emile Bruneau  of MIT.  It was he who found the enigmatic patterns in brain scans.

It was however an anomaly in the brain scans that caused the excitement. Three Israeli peace activists showed scans similar to Arabs.  I can't imagine any Israeli being surprised by that but surprise it apparently did.  The article goes on quite rightly to concede that the non-random and tiny sample precludes any generalizations from the findings but then goes on to make some mushy generalizations anyhow

When we get back to the gypsies  there is a reasonably fair account of how the gypsies are in part the authors of their own problems.  Their high level of petty crime and their unsavoury lifestyle are repellent to other Romanians.  And the article admits that government programs designed to uplift the Gypsies have failed.  We also read however that "racial prejudice was thwarting efforts to assimilate the Roma" -- where "Roma" is the politically correct word for Gypsy.

And, despite all its admissions, the article ends with a claim that by studying people's brain scans we might somehow be able to see where all that nasty prejudice is coming from and stop it -- presumanbly by sending the people with "bad" brain scans to Siberia or some such.  That the main problem with gypsies is their known very low IQ is not of course mentioned.  Leftists often give me cause to point out pachyderms in rooms.

And a final point I would like to make is that in elite thinking both inside and outside traditional gypsy lands, gypsies have long been appreciated. Despite their general intellectual limitations, many gypsies are brilliant musicians and their music is a substantial source of income for them.  It is undoubtedly a rather eerie talent.  There have been accounts of gypsies graduating from high-level music schools without being able to read a note of staff notation.  They just memorize everything.

And in classical music circles, there have been many expressions of admiration for gypsies by reason of their musical talent.  In the most famous opera of all time -- "Carmen" -- the leading lady is a gypsy, and she is certainly portrayed with overall admiration.  And the gypsy lifestyle is also portrayed as admirable.  And another well-known opera is "La Boheme", where "Boheme" is a French term for a gypsy. And the "Bohemian" lady is treated sympathetically there too.  And in Lehar's operetta Zigeunerliebe, the gypsy lifestyle is again admired. And Kalman's operetta Graefin Maritza is one extended hymn of praise for gypsy music. And Kalman was a Hungarian -- and Hungary has a substantial population of Gypsies -- so it is unlikely that he had any illusions about them.

You can see the Moerbisch performance of Graefin Maritza online here. It's infinitely more entertaining than the NYT and the expressive Dagmar Schellenberger in the title role is a pleasure to watch and hear.  She is both a most accomplished soprano and a superb actress.

So I would argue that in elite European opinion at least there has been much favourable disposition towards gypsies.  That gypsies have been unable to parlay the favourable disposition towards them into any general uplift at all suggests that their own limitations are the problem  -- rather than something bad in the heads of others.


Are there at the moment worse enemies than Iran?

By Patrick J. Buchanan

The forces that do not want a U.S. nuclear deal with Iran, nor any U.S. detente with Iran, are impressive.

Among them are the Israelis and their powerful lobby AIPAC, the Saudis and their Sunni allies on the Persian Gulf, a near unanimity of Republicans and a plurality of Democrats in Congress.

Is there a case to be made for a truce in the venomous conflict that has gone on between us since the taking of U.S. hostages in 1979? Is there any common ground?

To both questions, President Obama and John Kerry believe the answer is yes. And they are not without an argument.

First, the alternative to a truce — breaking off of negotiations, doubling down on demands Iran dismantle all nuclear facilities, tougher sanctions — inevitably leads to war. And we all know it.

Yet Americans do not want another war in the Middle East, with a nation three times the size of Iraq, and its allies across the region.

Nor can Iran want such a war. Had the ayatollahs and mullahs wanted it, they could have had a war with the United States at any time in the third of a century since they seized power.

Yet as Ronald Reagan was taking the oath in 1981, our hostages were suddenly on their way home. With the accidental shoot-down of an Iranian Airbus by the cruiser Vincennes in 1988, the Ayatollah ended his war with Saddam Hussein, fearful the Americans were about to intervene on the side of Iraq.

Why Iran wants to avoid war is obvious. Given U.S. air, missile and naval power, and cyberwarfare capabilities, a war with the United States would do to Iran what we did to Iraq, smash it up, set it back decades, perhaps break up the country.

Some mullahs may be fanatics, but Iran is not run by fools.

Yet even if we have a mutual interest in avoiding a war, where is the common ground between us?

Let us begin with the Sunni terrorists of al-Qaida who brought down the twin towers, and the Islamic State that is beheading Christians, apostates, and nonbelievers, and intends to establish a Middle East caliphate where there are no Americans, no Christians, and no Shiites.

Americans and Iranians have a common goal of degrading and defeating them.

In the Syrian civil war, Iran and its Shiite allies in Hezbollah have prevented the fall of the Alawite regime of Bashar Assad.

For years, Iran has helped to keep the al-Nusra Front and ISIL out of Damascus.

When the Islamic State seized Mosul and most of Anbar, the Iranians helped to rally Shiite resistance to defend Baghdad, and are now assisting the Iraqi army in its effort to recapture Tikrit.

Until this week, the U.S. stayed out, as Shiite militias were mauled by fewer than 1,000 jihadis. Wednesday, however, we intervened with air power, thus exposing Iraq's reliance on us.

This does not contradict but rather reinforces the point. In the war to expel the Islamic State from Iraq, we and Iran are on the same side.

Does Iran wish to displace American influence in Baghdad?

Undeniably. But when we destroyed the Sunni Baathist regime of Saddam, disbanded his army and held elections, we greased the skids for a pro-Iranian Shiite regime. We can't walk that cat back.

Consider Yemen.

This week, the Saudis sent their air force against the Houthi rebels who had seized the capital of Sanaa, driven out the president, and have now driven south to Aden to take over half of the country.

Why is the Saudi air force attacking the Houthis?

The Houthis belong to a sect close to the Shiite and are supported by Iran. Yet the Houthis, who bear no love for us, began this war to expel al-Qaida from Yemen. And their hatred for ISIS is surely greater than it is for us or Israel, as, last week, 137 of their co-religionists were massacred in two mosque bombings in Sanaa. ISIS claimed credit.

In summary, though the Houthi rebels in Yemen, Shiite militia in Iraq, Iran, Hezbollah, and the Alawite regime of Assad may not love us, they look on al-Qaida and ISIS as mortal enemies. And, thus far, they alone have seemed willing to send troops to defeat them.

Where are the Turkish, Saudi, Kuwaiti or Qatari troops?

During World War II, the U.S. Navy and Merchant Marine shipped tanks, guns and munitions to a Soviet Union that was doing most of the fighting and suffering most of the casualties in the war against Hitler.

No matter all the "Uncle Joe" drivel at Tehran and Yalta, we were never true friends or allies, and shared nothing in common with the monster Stalin, save Hitler's defeat.

If President Nixon could toast Mao Zedong, can we not deal with Ayatollah Khamenei?



Congress Asserts Itself in Iran Dealings

As Barack Obama races headlong toward whatever nuclear deal he can get with Iran, Congress has repeatedly reminded the former college lecturer and “constitutional scholar” that the Constitution does not grant him divine powers – that he is not an emperor, but merely the head of the executive branch of government. That same Constitution charges the Senate to approve or reject foreign treaties through its advice and consent role. And the Congress as a whole is the sole authority for passing legislation, including the legislation that put U.S. sanctions in place against Iran in recent years. Obama’s disdain for our system of checks and balances is well documented, and his “trust me” approach to the Iran negotiations is simply more proof of it.

Finally, it appears that both congressional chambers and both parties have had enough. Three recent events demonstrate the legislative branch’s distrust of the executive when it comes to a deal with Iran.

First, it was 47 Republican senators and their open letter to Iran, making clear that any non-binding deal could be negated at a moment’s notice by a future president. Because of the letter’s 100% Republican backing, it was easy for Obama and his fellow travelers to dismiss its authors as partisans and even “traitors.” As we said at the time, the letter would have been better addressed to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue than to Iran, but it was a significant and perfectly legal warning shot all the same.

Then, earlier this week, 367 members of the House, from both sides of the aisle, signed a letter to Barack Obama reminding His Eminence that Congress enacted sanctions on Iran and any relief of those sanctions as part of a deal would require new legislation – not just a wave of his hand. With a veto-proof majority of House members signing this letter, it will be impossible to spin as partisan politics, although we fully expect Obama and his sycophants to try.

Finally, on Thursday, the Senate unanimously endorsed an amendment to its budget that would make it easier to restore sanctions if Iran is caught cheating again. We repeat, a unanimous, 100-0, un-spinnable, no wiggle-room vote of the entire Senate.

California’s Barbara Boxer, not generally known as a foreign policy hawk, endorsed the amendment, saying, “I hope we can all vote for this because it doesn’t do anything to cause disarray in the negotiations. What it says is if there is a deal and there’s a break-out by Iran, we’d have a very quick way to restore sanctions.” The vote was held by roll call at the insistence of Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and thus puts all 100 senators on record in favor of the amendment.

It’s unfortunate that the White House and Congress are having this food fight during such a critical moment in U.S. foreign policy, but Obama has only himself to blame. His treatment of Congress, his record of lies and his “we have to get a deal before we share the details” approach have finally exceeded the limits of congressional goodwill. It remains to be seen if Obama will press ahead anyway, but Congress has now drawn its own line in the sand. Let’s hope they stick to it.



Saudis Clean Up Obama's 'Success' in Yemen

Remember when Yemen was a model of success for Barack Obama’s foreign policy? That’s what he called it last September before the Yemeni government fell to Iranian backed rebels. Among other things, U.S. intelligence in the region is seriously compromised after having had to pull its personnel from the country. Undeterred by this dramatic change in events, however, Obama still insists Yemen is a great example of a “successful counterterrorism strategy.”

After learning earlier this month about Saudi Arabia’s efforts to counter Iran’s nuclear ambitions through a deal with South Korea, we now know the Saudis are countering Tehran on another front: They’re leading a counterattack against Iran’s Houthi proxies in Yemen.

On Wednesday, the kingdom made it official, leading a coalition of at least 10 allied nations with airstrikes against its southern neighbor, reserving ground troops as needed. The U.S. is playing a small role, with a Joint Planning Cell to provide military and intelligence support.



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