Friday, May 01, 2015



Giuliani: Decades of Liberal Democrat Rule Haven't Helped Baltimore (To put it mildly)

Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said three decades of liberal Democrats running Baltimore have done little to help the plight of minorities.

Appearing Tuesday on Fox News Channel's "Hannity," Giuliani said he was able to bring communities such as Washington Heights back to prosperity after a riot in 1992 and a blackout in 1999.

"That community went from being very high crime community to being a good community," Giuliani said. "I would ask all those politicians you saw there talking about the terrible conditions, economic conditions, they have been in charge of Baltimore for the last 30 years. This is a Democratic city."

Democrat Martin O'Malley was the governor for eight years and mayor of Baltimore eight years before than, Giuliani noted.

"If those people are suffering from economic depravation, then what the heck have they done?," he asked. "What has (Rep.) Elijah Cummings done for his city? … What kind of economic development have they done?"

Democrats and left-leaning pundits have pointed to systemic racism and poverty for causing the boiling over of tensions in Baltimore and other cities as black men have died in police custody. The most recent was 25-year-old Freddie Gray in Baltimore, sparking protests and rioting.

Giuliani blamed the problems on "very left wing policies of dependency" and leaders who "don't do anything about the schools, let the teachers union push you around so you can't have vouchers, don't support charter schools, don't move people off welfare."

SOURCE





The old Nazi recipe  still works

The Scottish National Party is a Nazi party.  They are not going to gas or invade anyone but that is largely  because Scotland is a pipsqueak of a country compared to Germany. But they do have an enemy to demonize:  England.  And they have already done a fair bit of persecution of their largest minority: the English.

"Nazi" is a German abbreviation of "National Socialist" and those two things -- nationalism and socialism -- were what Hitler offered Germans.  It was a heady mix.  To the appeal of socialism ("we will look after you") Hitler added "We are the greatest".  Scotland does not claim to be the greatest but it does claim to be a lot better than England in various ways.  And it feeds on long-held Scottish beliefs that the English (Jews?) have been holding Scotland (Germany?) back.

There is vast and historic resentment of England in Scotland,  despite the fact that only English money keeps Scotland afloat.  The resentment goes back at least to the 14th century and the various wars between England and Scotland, which the English mostly won.  To many Scottish minds, those wars were only yesterday and they brand England as an oppressor.

So Scots have a strong national consciousness and sense of their Scottish identity.  They sing about it a lot. In that sense they are even more nationalist than were Weimar Germans.  Up until Hitler, most Germans felt first loyalty to their Land (State).  A Saxon, for instance, saw himself as a Saxon first before he saw himself as a German. It was actually Hitler who created a strong sense of National identity among Germans.

Hitler's magic formula can be summarized as Socialism+Nationalim = Popularity.  And, for better or worse, Hitler was very popular among Germans in the late '30s.  SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon is having the same success with that old formula.  She is very socialist, mocks the English often and is hugely popular in Scotland.  See below.  (Ed Miliband is the English Labour Party leader and the rather dim son of a Polish/Jewish Marxist theoretician so his politics are very Left.  But the SNP is even more Leftist).


Senior Labour figures have rounded on Ed Miliband over his "complacency" in Scotland as a new poll revealed that the SNP is on course to win every seat north of the border.

Henry McLeish, the former Scottish Labour leader and first minister, said that Mr Miliband had been kept in the dark by his own MPs about the scale of the disaster facing the party in Scotland.

The New Statesman, which has been described as the "bible of the left", said that the surge in support for the SNP has "definitively ended Mr Miliband's hopes of winning an absolute majority".

It warned that if he becomes Prime Minister he will be "reliant" on the support of the nationalists and his "greatest task" will be trying to stop Nicola Sturgeon's party from breaking up the Union.

The editorial said: "Even after the SNP’s victory in the 2011 Scottish Parliament election, which we predicted, he remained complacent over Labour’s decline in Scotland, where he is even less popular than David Cameron.

"It is the surge in support for the SNP, which has positioned itself to the left of Labour, that has definitively ended Mr Miliband’s hopes of winning an absolute majority.

"Should he become prime minister, he will now almost certainly be reliant on the support of a large nationalist bloc to govern."

It came as an Ipsos-Mori survey for STV News suggested that he SNP is on course to win an unprecedented clean sweep of all 59 Scottish seats, forcing some of Mr Miliband's closest allies out of office.

The poll, which suggested Labour's share of the vote is only marginally higher than the Conservatives, led to a bitter backlash from Labour MPs who said that Mr Miliband has become so "toxic" he has been told not to campaign in Scotland.

SOURCE

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If America sent the Hispanics home ...

IMMIGRATION RESTRICTIONISTS often claim that there are no "jobs Americans won't do," if only US borders would be secured against economic migrants who are willing to work hard for low pay and few benefits. If the fruit-and-vegetable industry couldn't rely on seasonal farmhands from Mexico and Central America, for example, growers would perforce offer the higher wages necessary to attract American citizens to pick the country's fresh produce. What alternative would they have? Let crops rot in the field?

In reality, agriculture is no more of a zero-sum industry than any other, and there is no fixed number of people it must employ.

That point is strikingly made by recent stories on the development of new technology poised to transform the nation's $2.5 billion strawberry business.

While most grain crops in the United States have long been cut and gathered by giant combine harvesters, growers of strawberries have continued to employ human workers to pick a crop too delicate to be left to mechanized equipment. That was "partly to avoid maladroit machines marring the blemish-free appearance of items that consumers see on store shelves," as The Wall Street Journal noted last Friday. No less important was the "trained discernment" needed to select only the ripe strawberries from plants that also have immature fruit not yet ready for picking.

From the standpoint of strawberry farmers, it doesn't much matter whether the dwindling of migrant labor is due to tougher border enforcement in the United States, better economic prospects in Mexico, or some other factor. The farmers' overriding concern is that the fruit must be harvested, and they can no longer rely on immigration flows to get the job done.

Nothing to do, then, but boost the pay and perks for strawberry-pickers until they're high enough to induce more US citizens to work in the fields?

Far from it: Strawberry growers have become increasingly committed to finding a technological solution. The Journal story describes the Agrobot — a prototype of a 14-arm automated harvester that couples vision sensors and advanced software in a device capable of "pluck[ing] ripe strawberries from below deep-green leaves, while mostly ignoring unripe fruit nearby."

The Agrobot is only one entrant in the race to revolutionize the strawberry industry. Another competitor is Harvest CROO Robotics. The Florida-based engineering team is at work on a high-tech harvester able not only to pick ripe fruit at the rate of one per second per mechanized arm, but also to run continuously for an entire day.

Strawberries and strawberry fields may be forever. But the strawberry industry, like every industry, changes. If those changes make it more productive, the whole economy stands to gain.

SOURCE

In Australia, most crops  are  picked using mechanization, including tomatoes

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Biblical Values -- or Vegas Values?

By Patrick J. Buchanan

Almost all of the declared and undeclared Republican candidates for 2016 could be found this weekend at one of two events, or both.

The first was organized by the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition, and held in Point of Grace Church in Waukee.

Dominated by Evangelical Christians, who were 60 percent of Republican caucus-goers in 2008 and 2012, the Point of Grace Church event drew no fewer than nine Republican hopefuls.

Ex-Gov. Mike Huckabee and ex-Sen. Rick Santorum, past winners of the Iowa caucuses, were there. So, too, were Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. Scott Walter. Cruz and Walker are sons of Christian preachers.

All nine GOP hopefuls espoused Judeo-Christian values, and all nine pledged unyielding opposition to same-sex marriage.

"At a forum before evangelical Christians," wrote The New York Times, "the Republican candidates told a cheering crowd that the fight over same-sex marriage would not end with a Supreme Court decision.

"Mr. Cruz said advocates of traditional marriage should 'fall to our knees and pray.'" Sen. Marco Rubio declared that the "institution of marriage as one man and one woman existed long before our laws existed."

Onward Christian soldiers!

At the second event, however, there was not a lot of kneeling and praying, and not much talk of same-sex marriage. For it was held in Sin City at the Venetian hotel-casino and home of Sheldon Adelson.

Having amassed a fortune of $29 billion from gambling dens in Macau and Vegas, the 81-year-old Adelson is among the richest men on earth. The event was the annual conclave of the Republican Jewish Coalition.

In Vegas, The Washington Post reports, "a crop of White House aspirants sought to outdo each other in opposition" to the Iran nuclear deal. "Ted Cruz declared that he 'intends to do everything possible to stop a bad Iran deal.' ... Indiana Gov. Mike Pence pledged that 'Israel's enemies are our enemies. Israel's cause is our cause.'"

Now, there is no conflict between being pro-Israel and anti-same-sex marriage. Yet there is still something jarring here.

What are candidates who profess Christian values doing in Sin City courting a casino mogul for millions in contributions, when that mogul compiled his immense fortune by exploiting the moral weakness of Christians and non-Christians alike?

Does not the Bible condemn gambling? Do Evangelical Christians not regard gambling as a vice, and a moral failing? Are not Christians supposed to practice what they preach?

Googling "Evangelicals" and "gambling" one comes across a compelling 2009 essay of Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention.

"The nationwide explosion of legal gambling may well be the most underrated dimension of America's moral crisis," writes Mohler.

"The Bible is clear on this issue. The entire enterprise of gambling is opposed to the moral worldview revealed in God's word. The basic impulse behind gambling is greed — a basic sin that is the father of many other evils. Greed, covetousness, and avarice are repeatedly addressed by Scripture ...

"Gambling is a direct attack on the work ethic presented by Scripture. ... Gambling corrupts the culture, polluting everything it touches. ... Why are Christians so silent on this issue? ... The silence and complacency of the Christian Church must end."

In defense of their courtship of Adelson, Republicans say that gambling is now legal. Yet, so is prostitution and marijuana in some precincts, and abortion and homosexuality are constitutional rights.

Would Christian conservatives accept campaign contributions from men who grew rich running abortion mills, or bathhouses for homosexuals, or from selling pot, or from Planned Parenthood?

Reportedly, Adelson contributed $92 million in 2012, to the campaigns of Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and other Republicans. And he is poised to spend more for a Republican president in 2016.

A tiny fraction of that $92 million, in attack ads, could break a candidate to whom Adelson is opposed. A large fraction could make credible a candidate who would otherwise be an also-ran who would not survive the first primary.

With that kind of money on offer, the temptation to tailor one's views to accommodate Adelson is great. But it is a temptation.

In this tale of two cities this weekend, Waukee and Vegas, we may be witnessing a shift in moral power in the Grand Old Party.

SOURCE

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Baltimore in a vicious spiral

According to a notice by the Baltimore Police Department, there is a credible threat that the Black Guerilla Family, Bloods, Crips and other gangs entered into an agreement to attack police and coordinate looting. Furthermore, some of Baltimore’s outlaw elements may want to take the violence outside the city, targeting white police officers. The West Virginia Intelligence Fusion Center released a memo warning police officers that they might be the target of gang violence. Remember: The man who killed New York City Police Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos earlier this year was associated with the Black Guerilla Family gang in Baltimore.

And what about the man whose death sparked the rioting? The Baltimore Sun has attempted to piece together a timeline of the arrest of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, looking to discover how he sustained the injuries that led to his death. Like Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, Gray has been made out to be a martyr at the altar of police brutality, but he was no angel. Gray’s rap sheet includes at least 18 arrests for various offenses. Baltimore police have not shed any light on why Gray was arrested earlier this month, stating only that he was carrying a knife, which was actually discovered after he was arrested.

It can be said that Gray was not a model citizen; however, the Baltimore Police Department is not a model law enforcement agency. The local police department has some problems of its own. A lengthy investigation in 2014 by the Baltimore Sun uncovered numerous incidents of police brutality and resultant civil suits that cost the city $5.7 million over three years.

As with civil unrest in Ferguson, Oakland, CA, and other cities around the country, a terrible pattern is playing out in Baltimore, and it looks something like this: In an effort to reclaim the city from criminals and gangs, police have on occasion gone beyond their mandate and sometimes been guilty of the very crimes they attempt to stop. The community, which should welcome and feel protected by the police, instead fear and loathe them because of injustices, either real or perceived. The situation can fester for years until an incident, oftentimes the shooting or death of someone in police custody, pops the top off a pressure cooker.

Not all those arrested are victims, and not all cops are criminals. Far from it. Yet, the media, ever in pursuit of a story, will report any angle that feeds the story. Sometimes facts are optional. Race hustlers like Al Sharpton and na├»ve liberals like Stephanie Rawlings-Blake don’t help the situation. Cooler heads must prevail and examine the root causes of these issues; otherwise Baltimore will be just another name on a sad and growing list of cities tearing themselves apart.

SOURCE

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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. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)

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Thursday, April 30, 2015



Did expectation of kid glove treatment encourage the Baltimore rioters?

“I wanted to give space to those who wished to destroy,” that is how Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake described her policy Saturday at a press conference. Her words, which effectively told police to stand down as those gathered to protest the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray smashed store windows, looted 7-Elevens and forced attendees at a Baltimore Oriole-Boston Red Sox baseball game to remain in the stadium because it wasn’t safe outside.

At a press conference on April 25 the mayor said, "“I made it very clear that I work with the police and instructed them to do everything that they could to make sure that the protesters were able to exercise their right to free speech. It’s a very delicate balancing act."

The resulting violence escalated as flyers were distributed describing how the city was going to have a "purge" Monday styled after the movie of the same name where all laws were suspended for one night.

When the men and women who put their lives on the line to protect the people and property of a community know that their elected boss believes that the lawbreakers are justified in creating mayhem, it destroys the resolve to provide that security.

On Monday alone, seven police officers were injured with one reportedly "unresponsive." Looting is occurred in broad daylight with cars being torched and bottles, rocks and other large objects being hurled at officers at close range.

It all started on Saturday night when protests turned to violent riots in the area of the tourist heavy Inner Harbor area.  Matt Boyle, a reporter for Breitbart News ended up being in the perimeter of the melee while going to attend a ballgame between the Boston Red Sox and the hometown Orioles. Boyle's live tweets of his observations of the mayhem described a dangerous, out-of-control situation that made him fear for his safety.

Boyle's later report described police standing passively by while a family trying to drive through the streets by Camden Yards found their car surrounded, windows smashed, passenger door pried open with the female passenger screaming in terror as the police observed. Fortunately, the attackers realized they were separated from the pack and chose to discontinue their assault without doing further harm.

The thin veneer of safety that is required for outsiders to venture into a place as a tourist was shredded by Mayor Rawlings-Blake's pronouncement that her citizens lives and property were not worth protecting from a violent mob. A mob set loose under the guise of protesting the tragic death of a black man at the hands of Baltimore police,which decided that it was going to attack Camden Yards and destroy businesses and threaten lives.

The Inner Harbor in Baltimore is the jewel of the Charm City’s attempt at rejuvenation, and has been a vibrant tourist destination for more than twenty years.  Orioles Park at Camden Yards is renowned as one of the most beautiful in the major leagues and has become a preferred travel destination for visiting fans.  Just down the street, Baltimore Arena stages top level plays like Wicked, along with concerts and other events that draw tourist dollars to the City.

Rawlings-Blake’s decision puts a knife to the throats of these sites as tourist destinations.

What's perhaps even worse is that the mayor's "giving space to those who wished to destroy" legitimized the actions of the rioters and encouraged an escalation effectively telling rioter and police officer alike that the city does not have either law enforcement's or the law-abiding citizen's backs as the confrontation continues to grow.

When the men and women who put their lives on the line to protect the people and property of a community know that their elected boss believes that the lawbreakers are justified in creating mayhem, it destroys the resolve to provide that security.

When the people know that the police have been told to stand down anarchy is sure to follow.  Then the law-abiding will lock their doors and imprison themselves while the lawless run free. And when tourists or those who live outside a city feel that it is unsafe to enjoy the entertainment provided in that town, they stay away.

While each of us can pray that sanity is restored to the streets of Maryland's largest city, it is not hard to see the damage that has been done to an economy that was resurrected by the tourist destinations on Baltimore's Chesapeake Bay harbor. Tourist destinations that just may be tainted for the foreseeable future with the devastating reputation of being unsafe.

And all because a mayor provided a not so subtle OK to the street criminals to destroy not only the city's buildings, but its good name and allowed them to rip at the fabric of civilization and the illusion of security it provides.

Now we are left to wonder who is going to spend a hot summer evening watching the Orioles play the Milwaukee Brewers if they know that they take their lives in their hands just walking to their cars to get home?

SOURCE

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Obama Joked at Nerd Prom While Baltimore Rioted



Once again, Hollywood celebrities and DC politicians gathered in Washington Saturday for the White House Correspondents' Dinner — AKA nerd prom. It’s an opportunity for Nancy Pelosi to rub shoulders with the likes of Jane Fonda and for Barack Obama to further his agenda and take down political opponents by dishing out punch lines. This year, the dinner only showed how out of touch the two institutions are with the rest of the nation, because while attendees were slurping down Foraged Wild Mushroom Ragout and Seared Alaskan Halibut protests became violent in Baltimore over the death of Freddie Gray, who died because of injuries he received while in police custody.

While the baseball game at Baltimore’s Camden Yards went into lockdown because of protests outside, three big television networks — CNN, MSNBC and CSPAN — kept their cameras trained on the White House Correspondents' Dinner because Obama was going to start his jokes soon. Never mind that the latest chapter in the debate over modern day policing was being punctuated by vandalized police cars and smashed storefronts an hour away.

Obama was once again selling the tired issue of “climate change,” trying to make it matter to everyday Americans. “I am determined to make the most of every moment I have left,” Obama said. “After the midterm elections, my advisors asked me, ‘Mr. President, do you have a bucket list?’ And I said, ‘Well, I have something that rhymes with bucket list.’ Take executive action on immigration? Bucket. New climate regulations? Bucket. It’s the right thing to do.” But as executive editor of the Washington Free Beacon Sonny Bunch pointed out in a piece titled “This Is Why They Hate Us,” no one except those inside the Beltway care about nerd prom.

SOURCE

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Study Finds Significant Economic Effects of Immigration Surge

A new study from the Congressional Research Service discovered an interesting interrelation between depressed middle class incomes and increased immigration.

The Washington Examiner reports that in 1945 the foreign-born population of the United States stood at 10,971,146, but by 1970 it slid to 9,740,000 for a net loss of 1,231,146 foreigners. At the same time, says the CRS, “The reported income of the bottom 90% of tax filers in the United States increased from an average of $18,418 in 1945 to $33,621 in 1970 for an aggregate change of $15,202 or a percent increase of 82.5% over this 25 year period.” In contrast, from 1970 to 2013, the foreign-born population blossomed from 9,740,000 to 41,348,066, a 324.5% increase.

However, “The reported income of the bottom 90% of tax filers in the United States decreased from an average of $33,621 in 1970 to $30,980 in 2013 for an aggregate decline of $2,641 or a percent decline of 7.9% over this 43 year period.”

There’s no question high-skilled immigrants who go through the system legally contribute positive economic effects. The issue is that our basically open borders has allowed the population of unskilled illegal immigrants to swell, which undoubtedly strangles the overall economy. Border security must be Congress' top priority to fix the overarching issues affecting America’s middle class.

SOURCE

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Puffed-up Leftist Tyranny Punishes Dissenters

By Walter E. Williams

Forget for a moment the ever-failing economy, the implosion of our foreign policy coherence, and our virtually unilateral withdrawal in the war on terror under Barack Obama's presidency. If liberty lovers don't start fighting back soon, we'll forfeit our freedom of thought and religious expression under the assault of fascist leftist activists in our culture.

Let's just look at two of the many recent events that should have us very concerned. As you may have guessed, they revolve around the controversial matter of same-sex marriage. At the outset, let me say that this issue is no longer about same-sex marriage or gay rights; it is about our basic liberties.

First, we read via The New York Times that "Ian Reisner, one of the two gay hoteliers facing boycott calls for hosting an event for Senator Ted Cruz, who is adamantly opposed to same-sex marriage, apologized to the gay community for showing 'poor judgment.'"

What was Reisner's sin for which he is now openly flaying himself in faux repentance? He and his business partner allowed Sen. Cruz to participate in a "fireside chat" for about a dozen people, which was not even a fundraiser. But as soon as word got out, gay activists apparently mobilized in force through social media outlets and phone calls calling for boycotts of Reisner's properties.

An ostensibly shocked Reisner, in an effort to stanch the bleeding represented by more than 8,200 likes on a Facebook page calling for the boycott, apologized on Facebook. "I am shaken to my bones by the e-mails, texts, postings and phone calls of the past few days. I made a terrible mistake," wrote Reisner.

Yes, he made the unforgivable "mistake" of hosting an event for a presidential candidate who has different views on social issues than the fascist boycott organizers have — and he has himself, for that matter, seeing as he's a prominent figure in the gay rights community, according to the Times.

Supporters of same-sex marriage, as many used to predict would happen, are not content with their recent victories on the issue. They obviously want to punish anyone who dissents for any reason — including religious and conscience reasons — and also bludgeon those (such as Reisner) who even inadvertently assist those who dissent (such as Cruz).

Next, we should consider the horrendous ordeal of Aaron and Melissa Klein, who used to own Sweet Cakes by Melissa, a bakery they built from scratch in Sandy, Oregon, in 2013. When they respectfully declined, on religious grounds, the request of two women to bake a cake for their wedding, the happy couple filed a civil complaint against them for failing to provide them equal service in a place of public accommodation. You know, live and let live — the attitude the activists and their fellow liberal foxhole buddies told us they would have if they prevailed in their quest to legalize same-sex marriage.

A group of unspecified people — real or robotic constructs of social media legerdemain — went into battle. "They got together and harassed all of our vendors," Melissa said. The vendors, according to The Daily Signal, folded and took Sweet Cakes off their referral lists, resulting in a 65 to 70 percent reduction in the Kleins' annual income, forcing them to close the bakery. (The Kleins have five children, and Melissa is reduced to baking a few cakes a month at home. Aaron now has a job as a garbage collector.)

But that heartless result wasn't enough for the victors. They pursued their legal action against the Kleins with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, and last Friday, an administrative law judge with that agency recommended the Kleins be fined $135,000 for the damages caused to the happy — and now happily married — couple.

When I first heard about this, my jaw literally dropped, and that takes quite a bit in this upside-down, crazy world we've grown to understand we now inhabit.

Aaron Klein said: "This country should be able to tolerate diverse opinions. I never once have said that my fight is (to) stop what they call equality."

Sorry, Aaron, and I do mean I am profoundly sorry for the injustice that has been imposed on you, but these activists are not willing to tolerate diverse opinions. They don't care that you are not proactively trying to oppose their march for whatever it is they're marching for. It appears that the true quest of leftist gay activists — and not just gay activists but those of many other leftist causes in this country (e.g., "climate change") — is to wholly shut down and censor opposing opinions, whether thought or expressed, whether publicly or privately.

I repeat: The real fight on these types of issues in this nation is no longer about the underlying "rights" involved. It concerns the appalling mission of activists to marshal the coercive power of government and of commercial blackmail to compel other people to agree (and publicly say they agree) with their opinions on issues they deem important.

Isn't it ironic that the people who are pushing for these rights always wave banners of tolerance, love, compassion and liberty? More than ironic, it's outrageous. And fewer and fewer people of principle are standing up to this tyrannical bullying because, understandably, they don't want to put themselves in the crosshairs of this gestapo. But history tells us the logical conclusion of this story. Some socially liberal Republicans naively believe that this is only about the social issues themselves, but it's about liberty.

God help us.

SOURCE

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Consuming—Not Avoiding—Peanuts Leads to Fewer Peanut Allergies in Kids

I have been saying this for years.  Good to see it now in a mainstream medical journal

Anita Slomski



JAMA. 2015;313(16):1609. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.3853.

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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. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015


Obamacare has not shifted the politics of doctors much

Political orientation tends to be pretty fixed anyway.  Below is an excerpt from some survey research findings published by the AMA.  The findings are based on campaign contributions so there would seem to be a fair bit of room for slippage between what actually happened and what is reported.  The source article is: "The Political Alignment of US Physicians: An Update Including Campaign Contributions to the Congressional Midterm Elections in 2014". Note that the sample differs from election to election -- as some doctors retire and new doctors enter the workforce.  Given the ever-tightening Leftist stranglehold on American education, it is to be expected that new doctors will steadily become more Leftist.



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Ominous loss of traditional wisdom

Economic historian Martin Hutchinson below is being discreet in using the term "Copybook Headings" but "traditional wisdom" would be a plainer term for what he discusses

“The Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all” wrote Rudyard Kipling in 1919. He also made the point that there are frequent periods when those gods appear to be asleep. There are a number of copybook headings that sensible policymakers consistently followed before 2008, which have systematically been ignored since. They are about to wake and “with terror and slaughter return.”

Before 2008, various bad monetary, fiscal and regulatory policies were tried by various governments, but only occasionally was there a consensus on stuff that really didn’t work. In the 1930s, Britain under Neville Chamberlain was a notable dissenter from the proto-Keynesianism of the New Deal and its militarist version attempted by Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy. Thus Britain during the decade achieved notably better results than its competitors, a truth that was swamped by World War II, by the failure of Chamberlain’s foreign policy, and by clever propaganda from the British left conflating 1930s foreign policy with its economic policy and branding both as failures.

In the 1950s and 1960s, there was consensus among the major economies that tax rates above 90% were sensible at very high incomes. The entirely predictable and justifiable consequence of this was the rise in Swiss and other banking secrecy laws and tax haven bank accounts. In the 1960s and 1970s there was a consensus that inflation didn’t matter too much and that actuarially unsound welfare schemes could easily be paid for. This led to the stagflation of the 1970s and a 20-year reaction under Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and to a large extent Bill Clinton. In the early 2000s, there was a largely global consensus that low interest rates and the consequent housing bubble could be used to reflate after a stock market crash – and we all know how that ended.

Nevertheless, while the occasional copybook maxim has been flouted in the past, even on a more or less worldwide basis, the wholesale flouting of “the Gods of the Copybook Headings” since 2008 has been on a wholly different and epic scale.

For a start, the world was supposed to have learned again in 2008 the copybook maxim that overleverage is bad for you. Yet at least in the United States, that lesson appears to have been sadly missed. Total credit outstanding in U.S domestic non-financial sectors increased by 30% from 2007 to 2014, on Federal Reserve data, whereas nominal GDP increased by only 20%. In other words, the total of U.S. credit outstanding has increased half again as fast as output since the top peak of what had previously been thought the greatest credit bubble in history.

Of course, the distribution is different in 2014 from in 2007. Business credit outstanding increased only 19% from 2007 to 2014, slightly slower than GDP, as sluggish growth resulted in a dearth of capital investment and mild deleveraging, in spite of ultra-low interest rates and a spate of private equity deals. Frankly, that in itself is an indictment of Fed policy – if ultra-low rates do not produce higher capital investment by business, then what the hell is their purpose?

Households even deleveraged slightly between 2007 and 2014, with their overall debt decreasing by 2%. However while home mortgage debt decreased by 12% (mostly due to defaults and restructurings), other consumer debt increased by 27%, faster than GDP. Thus once the worst of recession had passed there was a reversal in overall consumer retrenchment. State and local government debt increased by 3%, much less than GDP, while Federal government debt increased by a huge 154% between 2007 and 2014.

Thus Fed policies had no effect on the debt markets other than encouraging consumers into further witless credit card, auto and student debt, while the gigantic Federal deficit left the U.S. economy as a whole with a higher total indebtedness to GDP ratio (238% versus 220%) than even at the height of the 2007 credit boom. The change in mix from home mortgage and corporate debt to more consumer credit and government debt is also hardly a sign of economic good health, as unproductive uses of credit have been favored over productive ones. With consumer non-mortgage leverage and total leverage in the economy sharply up, the Gods of the Copybook Headings will have their revenge at some point.

A second copybook maxim that has been neglected is that economic growth is not possible in the long term without productivity growth. Commentators often use Japan’s experience since 1990 as a dreadful example of what fate might await the West without monetary stimulus. However the Japanese post-1990 recession at least until 2009 was accompanied by decent productivity growth, within a couple of tenths of a percent of that in the United States and higher than in most of Europe.

On the other hand, in the U.S. and Britain in particular, productivity growth in the last few years has been far below at least post-World War II historical experience. The outright decline in U.S. productivity in the fourth quarter of 2014 was startling, and seems likely to lead to further spectacularly poor performances, as employment figures continue to behave much better than growth figures. Funny money and huge government deficits are distorting the global economy, pushing it further and further from an optimal allocation of resources. Productivity inevitably suffers.

A third copybook maxim that has been flouted in recent years, perhaps the most important, is that savings must be nurtured and savers protected. Middle-class savings are the basis of business formation, because they form the capital nexus of almost all start-up businesses (even “angels” have to get their money from somewhere.) Third-world countries expropriate savings, by looting, excessive taxation or uncontrolled inflation, and so stay poor. Weimar Germany wiped out savings through inflation, and so caused the political upheaval that produced the Third Reich. For seven years now, in almost all the Western world, savings have received risk-free rates of return below zero in real terms. This is decapitalizing the Western economies and must inevitably impoverish them in the long run, probably through a collapse in asset and share values once the bubble bursts.

In terms of policy, the copybook holds that fiscal and monetary policies should be balanced against one another. Certainly the current posture, with public sector deficits larger than ever before in peacetime human history over so long a period accompanied by real interest rates below zero for seven long years accompanied by money printing on an unprecedented scale, is so far outside the copybook recommendations that if Kipling’s poem has any validity at all, a record-breaking crash must follow.

Finally, the copybook would hold that regulations should be light and even-handed, with no political favoritism. The current posture in financial services, energy and healthcare is of regulations of unprecedented severity accompanied by exemptions that can be purchased for cash or favors. This was previously unknown in any advanced economy. Clement Attlee’s Britain had rationing and overregulation, for example, but was remarkably honest in their administration.

Certainly a society is unsustainable in which the largest U.S. reinsurance company, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, is exempt from the strictures of the “Systematically Important Financial Institution” morass while Buffett himself is a major friend and donor of the President’s party. The damage done by these regulations is exemplified by New York Governor Cuomo’s whimsical decision to ban fracking, condemning Binghamton to an unemployment hell worsened by the casinos which Cuomo apparently prefers as a development strategy.

Latin America and Africa, in which such arrangements are common, have never managed to become rich, unlike societies such as Singapore in which they are avoided. In U.S. history, the unhappy history of the railroads after the creation of the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1887 is clear evidence that heavy regulation can destroy industries on which it is imposed. Forcing heavy and distorted regulation onto almost half the economy, along with allowing ambitious prosecutors to launch bizarre lawsuits demanding prison sentences and billion-dollar fines for offenses either incomprehensible, trivial or normally both, is a surefire recipe for long-term economic failure.

The Gods of the Copybook Headings have never before been flouted to the extent and in so many ways as in the past seven years. Their revenge will be highly painful, the more so the longer that revenge is delayed.

SOURCE

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Obama To Working Americans: You’re Fired!

Michael Goodwin

The late Israeli statesman Abba Eban once said Palestinian leaders “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” He could have been talking about Barack Obama.

Given another chance to do what he claims he wants to do — “get stuff done” to help the “folks” — the president instead is giving most Americans the back of his hand. His post-election agenda is the same agenda he had before the public told him No, Hell No.

His plans are worse than wrong. They are destructive to the people he says he wants to help.

His top three items are immigration, climate change and the minimum wage. Each will penalize people who work for a living.

On immigration, his plan to legalize up to 5 million aliens with the stroke of a pen is certain to invite more illegals to come to America and put a drag on working-class wages.

The Swiss-cheese border will see another surge if he rewards those who came here illegally. Worse, giving millions of immigrants the legal right to work puts them in direct competition with Americans working at factories, farms and low- and semi-skilled jobs everywhere.

With most incomes stagnant or falling for more than a decade, suddenly adding millions of legal new workers to the labor pool will put more pressure on more pay checks. Americans already having trouble making ends meet will be worse off thanks to the president.

Their kids will take a hit, too, and already there are reports of classroom squeezes to make room for thousands of young refugees, including on Long Island. State officials say some schools might cancel sports teams to pay for the high cost of these new students, few of whom speak English.

SOURCE

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Will organic milk shrink your baby's brain?

There is no doubt that iodine deficiency has a disastrous effect on infant IQ so health freaks who avoid salt are already skating on thn ice -- since iodized table salt is the main source of iodine in a Western diet.  But health freaks are usually also devotees of everything "organic", so the warning below addresses a serious concern for them.  Their children are doubly at risk

Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers who drink organic milk may be putting their child’s health at risk, scientists claim.  They say it contains a third less iodine than normal milk – which could affect infant brain growth and intelligence later in life.

UHT longlife milk was also found to have similarly low levels of the mineral, academics from Reading University found.

Because milk is the main source of iodine in the British diet – providing 40 per cent of the average daily intake – switching to organic may have a significant impact on health, they warn.

Organic milk is often drunk for its supposed health benefits, with claims that it contains omega-3 fatty acids that are good for the heart. And in response to environmental and animal welfare concerns, the sector is growing.

But researchers said that because organic farmers do not give their cows as many artificial supplements the milk lacks iodine, which is important for the healthy development of babies in the womb and in their first months of life.

The mineral is thought to have a major impact on the formation of the brain, with repercussions for IQ and school success later in life.

SOURCE

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Why George W. Bush Let a Soldier's Mom Yell at Him

This article by Dana Perino, a GW Bush aide, has been much reproduced, so most readers here will probably have seen it already.  So I reproduce just one episode from it to encourage anybody who has not seen it to follow the link to the full story.  America did once have a genuine and decent man as its president.  He made frequent but low-key visits to wounded soldiers and the families of men who had been killed in the war

The soldier was intubated. The president talked quietly with the family at the foot of the patient's bed. I looked up at the ceiling so that I could hold back tears.

After he visited with them for a bit, the president turned to the military aide and said, "Okay, let's do the presentation." The wounded soldier was being awarded the Purple Heart, given to troops that suffer wounds in combat.

Everyone stood silently while the military aide in a low and steady voice presented the award. At the end of it, the Marine's little boy tugged on the president's jacket and asked, "What's a Purple Heart?"

The president got down on one knee and pulled the little boy closer to him. He said, "It's an award for your dad, because he is very brave and courageous, and because he loves his country so much. And I hope you know how much he loves you and your mom, too."

As he hugged the boy, there was a commotion from the medical staff as they moved toward the bed.  The Marine had just opened his eyes. I could see him from where I stood.  The CNO held the medical team back and said, "Hold on, guys. I think he wants the president."

The president jumped up and rushed over to the side of the bed. He cupped the Marine's face in his hands. They locked eyes, and after a couple of moments the president, without breaking eye contact, said to the military aide, "Read it again."

So we stood silently as the military aide presented the Marine with the award for a second time. The president had tears dripping from his eyes onto the Marine's face. As the presentation ended, the president rested his forehead on the Marine's for a moment.

Now everyone was crying, and for so many reasons: the sacrifice; the pain and suffering; the love of country; the belief in the mission; and the witnessing of a relationship between a soldier and his Commander in Chief that the rest of us could never fully grasp.

SOURCE

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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. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015



Hillary on the brink of collapse

I hope this is true.  She is an utter fraud and a scumbag but people can be gullible

A PASSAGE from Ernest  Hemingway fits the moment. In “The Sun Also  Rises,” one character asks,  “How did you go bankrupt?” and another responds: “Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.”

The exchange captures Hillary Clinton’s red alert. She’s been going politically bankrupt for a long time, and now faces the prospect of sudden collapse.

If she’s got a winning defence, she better be quick about it. The ghosts of scandals past are gaining on her and time is not on her side.

The compelling claims that she and Bill Clinton sold favours while she was Secretary of State for tens of millions of dollars for themselves and their foundation don’t need to meet the legal standard for bribery. She’s on political trial in a country where Clinton Fatigue alone could be a fatal verdict.

After 25 years of corner-cutting and dishonest behaviour, accumulation is her enemy. Each day threatens to deliver the straw that breaks the camel’s back. It may already have happened and we’re just waiting for public opinion to catch up to the facts.

Meanwhile, her Houdini skills are being tested big time.

Hillary’s one big advantage is obvious — she’s the only serious contender for the Democratic nomination, and she beats most GOP opponents in head-to-head match-ups. But everything else weighs against her, including momentum.

Start with the fact that the sizzling reports of corrupt deals are coming from major news organisations that reliably tilt left. With supposed friends making the case against her, the tired Clinton defence that the ­attacks are partisan hit jobs has been demolished.

And after digging up so much dirt, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Politico, Reuters, Bloomberg News and others are not likely to be content with stonewalling and half-truths, especially given her recent lies about missing e-mails. No wonder the Times editorial page called on her to provide “straightforward answers” to the accusations.

I don’t see how she can meet that test. The outlines of cozy relationships and key transactions are not in dispute. The only issue is whether the millions the Clintons got amount to a quid pro quo.

On the face of it, that’s certainly what they look like. There are several deals we know of, and more could emerge, that put money in the Clintons’ pockets while helping businesses, including some loathsome international figures, make a killing. It is preposterous to argue that it’s all a coincidence.

Her position was further undercut when the family foundation announced it would refile five years of tax returns. In one three-year period, it omitted tens of millions in foreign contributions, reporting “zero” to the IRS. In another two-year period, it admitted to over­reporting government grants by more than $100 million.

A foundation aide described the errors as “typographical,” which is bizarre — and par for the Clinton course. To concede the errors during the firestorm must mean keeping them quiet was an even greater liability.

Sooner rather than later, Hillary will have to meet the press — but what can she possibly say to alter the storylines?

If history is a guide, she’ll insist she did nothing wrong, offer ambiguous answers to specific questions, take offence at persistent reporters and end by playing the victim. She’ll follow up with a fundraising pitch for money to keep “fighting for ­everyday Americans.”

To imagine that scenario is to realise it won’t fly, but I’m not sure what other options she has. She can’t tell the truth. It will sink her.

Nor can she credibly demand to be trusted, given her past. A recent Quinnipiac poll finds 54 per cent of Americans already say Clinton is not honest or trustworthy.

Swing-state surveys show similar lopsided findings and each new sordid revelation will deepen the trust deficit. At this point in her life, it would take a near-miracle to change people’s basic view of her.

Her best hope is that a missing ­ingredient remains missing — a Democrat who could take the nomination from her, the way Barack Obama did in 2008. None of those already in the race or committed to it — Martin O’Malley, Bernie Sanders, even Joe Biden — comes close to measuring up.

The only possible rival who does is Elizabeth Warren, the fire-breathing senator from Massachusetts. Gender aside, she is everything Hillary isn’t — an anti-Wall Street conviction populist with a record to match her rhetoric.

A movement to draft her started before Hillary hit the fan, so Warren would begin with a built-in constituency. So far, though, she insists she’s not running.  Then again, that also could change suddenly.

SOURCE

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House, Senate Leaders Continue Fight Against Ambush Union Elections

House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN), Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN), House Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee Chairman Phil Roe (R-TN), and Senate Employment and Workplace Safety Subcommittee Chairman Johnny Isakson (R-GA) today introduced legislation that will preserve long-standing union election procedures by safeguarding the right of workers to make informed decisions about union representation, ensuring the ability of employers to communicate with their employees, and protecting the privacy of workers and their families.

"Starting today, an ambush union election scheme will begin wreaking havoc on our nation's workplaces," said Chairman Kline. "Through his labor board, the president has endorsed new rules that will stifle employer free speech, cripple worker free choice, and jeopardize the privacy and safety of workers and their families. We promised that the fight against ambush elections wasn't over. That is why today I am pleased to join my House and Senate colleagues in introducing legislation that will rein in the board's unprecedented overreach, protect the rights of workers and employers, and preserve a fair union election process."

"The NLRB's ambush election rule forces a union election in a little as 11 days-before an employer and many employees even have a chance to figure out what is going on," said Sen. Alexander, chairman of the Senate labor committee. "Congress must act to stop this damaging rule, which sacrifices every employer's right to free speech and every worker's right to privacy-all for the sake of boosting organized labor."

"Unions and employers deserve a chance to make their case on unionizing," said Rep. Roe, "and employees deserve adequate time to consider the consequences of their decisions, but the ambush election rule unfairly rushes the decision-making process. The safeguards we are seeking to restore with these bills give employees the freedom to make an informed decision. It is unacceptable that the NLRB would force employers to disclose personal information, potentially opening the door for workers to be intimidated, threatened or coerced. Now, more than ever, we should be protecting the rights of workers, and my bill does just that by returning decision-making power to the employee and their families."

"The National Labor Relations Board continues to skew the playing field between management and labor," said Sen. Isakson. "I have been fighting against these unfair rulings by the NLRB since President Obama took office. This bill protects free speech and ensures that workers are afforded the opportunity to make informed decisions about their right to organize, while safeguarding their personal information and privacy. At a time when our economy and our middle class are trying to recover from a recession, the NLRB's ambush election policy is absolutely the wrong thing to do and I urge Congress to pass the Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act to restore a level playing field."

BACKGROUND: The NLRB's rule - which went into full effect April 14 - shortens the length of time in which a labor union certification election is held to as little as 11 days. In 2014, more than 95 percent of union certification elections occurred within 56 days. Furthermore, the median number of days from petition to election was 38 days. These numbers surpass the performance goals set by the NLRB itself. The rule gives employers essentially no time to communicate with their employees before a union election and undermines the ability of workers to make an informed decision. In addition, it forces employers to provide employees' personal information to union organizers without employees' consent.

SOURCE

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Five Years Later: ObamaCare Still Hurting America's Workplaces

From the House Committee on Education and the Workforce:

The Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions chaired by Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN) today held a hearing to explore the consequences of the president's health care law on the five year anniversary of its enactment.

"Health care reform should have been an opportunity to preserve and build on what works with commonsense, market-based reforms that would expand access to more affordable coverage," remarked Rep. Roe. "Instead, a costly government takeover of health care was imposed on the American people, and five years later the law continues wreaking havoc on families, businesses, and even schools. It's hard to recall a time when supporters of a law promised so much and delivered so little."

During the hearing, witnesses expressed continued concern with the negative impact of the law on the nation's workplaces, including:

* Reduced Hours for Workers - [ObamaCare's] definition of full-time employee is having an adverse impact on both employers and employees . According to [the Society for Human Resource Management] SHRM's March research survey, 20 percent of SHRM members' organizations have already reduced part-time hours to below 30 per week or are planning to do so in the following year to comply with the ACA. -  Sally Roberts, Director of Human Resources, Morris Communications Company
                   
* Uncertainty for Employers - For the past several years we have operated in a constant state of unknown . It seems as soon as we have some clarity on an issue, we come to realize that it was only a temporary extension or that we were guided in the wrong direction to begin with . [We] have no idea what to plan for because we don't know what changes to legislation or regulations will bring next year or beyond. - Skip Paal, Society of American Florists
                   
* Increased Health Care Costs - Although the [law] purports to lower health care costs for Americans, costs continue to rise for employers and employees alike. According to a recent survey, 77 percent of respondents said that their health care coverage costs increased from 2014 to 2015 . the [law's] current coverage requirements are increasing costs and restricting employer flexibility to offer a benefits package that best meets the needs of employees. - Sally Roberts, Director of Human Resources, Morris Communications Company
                       
* Loss of Existing Health Care Coverage - We are facing a troubling cycle in the world of employer sponsored care . Some employers will exit the system, but we believe that more will look to make serious changes in approach. These employer based changes typically include more cost-sharing components . the cost sharing then impacts the affordability of health care for employees, who will become unsatisfied with their employer sponsored care and look to Washington for answers. - Tevi Troy, President, American Health Policy Institute

"When it's all said and done - after all the broken promises, fewer jobs, lost wages, website glitches, and cancelled health care plans - 35 million individuals will still be without health insurance," concluded Rep. Roe. "The American people can no longer afford this costly mistake. It is time to move the country away from this government-run health care scheme and toward a more patient-centered health care system."

SOURCE

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Politicians, 'profiteers,' and public health

by Jeff Jacoby

NALOXONE ISN'T magic, but its power to rescue a heroin user from the brink of death can certainly seem miraculous. The anti-overdose drug, also known by the brand name Narcan, is easy to administer and has saved thousands of lives. First responders are often awestruck at how swiftly it can revive a dying addict.

"It's just incredible," the deputy fire chief of Revere, Mass., marveled in a public-radio interview last year. "There's somebody who's on the ground who's literally dead. They have no pulse. Sometimes they're blue, sometimes they're black. And you administer this stuff and sometimes in a minute or two or three, they're actually up and talking to you."

Free markets aren't magic either. Yet their ability to generate a life-saving drug like Naloxone, supplying quantities sufficient to make it widely available even when the need is great, can seem even more miraculous. That miracle is not enhanced when politicians rebuke the entrepreneurs who manufacture or distribute such wonder drugs for charging a price that the market will bear.

Politicians, for instance, like Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. She lists opiate abuse among her most urgent public concerns, yet is going out of her way to pick a fight with vendors who actually help make things better.

In recent years, drug overdoses have surpassed automobile accidents as the leading cause of death from injury in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control, opiate painkillers alone account for 16,000 fatalities annually; deaths involving heroin have increased fivefold since 2001.

Amid this grim crisis of opioid overdoses, Naloxone has been a godsend. While public-health experts debate the causes of the epidemic, officials nationwide have been moving rapidly to expand access to the drug. The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that 30 states and the District of Columbia have adopted a variety of measures to facilitate the use of Naloxone. Among those measures: allowing it to be administered by non-medical personnel, paying for police and firefighters to carry supplies of the drug, and permitting pharmacies to dispense Naloxone without a prescription.

Of course, with demand for the medication skyrocketing, the price has climbed as well. The workings of economics apply to pharmaceuticals just as they apply to housing, bourbon, iPhones, or tickets to NFL playoff games. When demand for a product or service rises, the price of that product or service can't help but rise in response. That is especially true when the growth in demand has come about quickly or in unexpectedly short order. Heroin overdose rates have increased markedly since 2010, and only in the last year or two has there has been such a strong push by state and local authorities to equip first responders — police officers, sheriffs, firefighters, and even civilian bystanders — with Naloxone kits.

So it stands to reason that in Massachusetts, as in most other states, the price of Naloxone is up sharply. A 2-milliliter dose that used to cost the state $19.56 has more than doubled to $41.43. That's a sizeable increase, and it is putting a strain on public-safety and drug-treatment budgets.

The price spike may be unwelcome — no one likes to pay more for vital supplies — but it is hard to see anything unfair or unethical, let alone unlawful, about it. That hasn't stopped Healey from demanding that companies selling Naloxone in Massachusetts provide detailed explanations for the higher costs of the drug, and account for "any changes in prices over time" since the opioid crisis was declared a public emergency. Healey's spokesman insists the attorney general "isn't suggesting anything nefarious," and is simply conducting "a fact-finding mission." But the innuendo is all too obvious.

Healey has said she is just being "aggressive" and wants to be sure "that nobody is out there unnecessarily profiteering from a public health crisis." Yet who is the real "profiteer" here? The drug maker who responds to an unprecedented surge in demand for a critical medication by raising prices to ensure that inventories of the drugs aren't immediately depleted? Or the ambitious politician, who sees a chance to score political points by posing as a defender of the public against the very suppliers who are making available what the public needs?

Demand for Naloxone is way up; consequently the price of Naloxone is up. Eventually the price will fall, as new supplies come on line. In the meantime, thanks to the workings of the market, more lives are being saved.

SOURCE

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

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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. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)

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Monday, April 27, 2015



Israeli rescue team heads to Nepal

A Magen David Adom rescue team took off for Nepal on Sunday morning, and will set up a base of operations to assist earthquake victims.

The team, made up of doctors, paramedics, and headed by MDA head Eli Bin, took off from Sde Dov airport in Tel aviv, and was due to land at Kathmandu on Sunday evening.

It carries with it a range of medial equipment, medicines and baby food on a plane chartered for the mission.

Bin said members of the team would also arrive at the Chabad House in Kathmandu and provide assistance to hundreds of Israelis in the area who are unable to get in touch with their families back home.

MDA launched a donations drive on behalf of Nepal to assist hundreds of thousands of Nepalese citizens who have been left without a roof, food or water.

SOURCE





The Disgraceful Republican Cave-in on Loretta Lynch

Has the Left -- abetted by RINOs -- destroyed the rule of law in America?

Hillary Clinton didn't have such a bad week after all. Sure, she's reeling from the latest unseemly revelations about the Clinton Foundation family piggy bank. But they're only marginally worse than earlier unseemly revelations about the Clinton Foundation.

They are roughly on par with the revelations about how Mrs. Clinton obstructed Congress's Benghazi investigations by purging her unlawful private e-mail system, which was worse than her obstruction of the State Department's Benghazi investigation. Yet it may not have been as bad as the obstruction of justice that was a staple of her husband's administration.

Those obstructions, in turn, were on par with her husband's selling of a pardon to a fugitive fraudster on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List . . . which itself was not quite as bad as his awarding pardons to FALN terrorists - to ingratiate Hillary! with the New York Puerto Rican community (or at least the radicals therein) in preparation for her Senate campaign.

We could go on corruptio ad absurdum. But you get the point: Reeling is not so bad. Reeling is what Clintons do. The way they operate, it's what they have to do. They should change the Clinton Foundation's name to Reel Clear Politics.

But what difference, at this point, does it make? Not much. See, it wasn't that bad a week for Hillary because, even with all the reeling, there is a very good chance she will be the next president of the United States.

If that happens, we may remember this as the week that put her over the top. Or better, the week Republicans put her over the top, right after they got done putting Loretta Lynch over the top.

On Thursday morning, top Republican strategist Karl Rove proclaimed, "The dysfunctional Congress finally appears to be working again as the Founders intended." Just hours later, the GOP-controlled Senate confirmed as attorney general - i.e., as the chief federal law-enforcement officer of the United States - a lawyer who quite openly supports the systematic non-enforcement of federal law. In fact, Ms. Lynch also supports President Obama's blatantly unconstitutional usurpations of legislative authority, including most notoriously, of Congress's power to set the terms of lawful presence by aliens in our country.

Now, I happen to like Karl Rove - if you're looking for the Rove pi¤ata at the end of the Tea Party, you will not find it in my columns. But can someone as smart as he is really think Congress under Republican control is working as the Founders intended? The Founders intended Congress to rein in a president who behaved like a monarch. Anyone who has read the 1787 constitutional-convention debates knows they would have impeached and removed a president for a bare fraction of the malfeasance carried out by President Obama.

The Founders, moreover, thought oaths of office were serious business - having pledged their own lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to the cause of liberty against great odds and a great power that would have put them to death had the revolution failed. They therefore required (in Article II, Section 1) that the president take an oath to execute the laws faithfully, and to preserve, protect, and defend a Constitution that Mr. Obama takes less seriously than his NCAA brackets. Beyond that, the Founders mandated (in Article VI) that oaths to support the Constitution also be taken by senators and executive-branch officers, among others.

So, in what we're now to believe is a functional Congress, Loretta Lynch, the president's nominee for attorney general, testified without compunction that she endorses and intends to facilitate the president's lawlessness and constitutional violations. With that knowledge, senators then had to consider her nomination.

If oaths mean anything, she should never even have gotten a vote. To repeat, the position of attorney general exists to ensure that the laws are enforced and the Constitution preserved; plus, each senator has taken an oath to uphold the Constitution. So this was not a hard call.

Yet, Republicans were up to their now familiar shenanigans.

In October, while courting conservative support for the upcoming midterm election, Senator Mitch McConnell declaimed that any nominee to replace Eric Holder as "the nation's highest law-enforcement official" must, "as a condition of his or her confirmation," avoid "at all costs" Holder's penchant for putting "political and ideological commitments ahead of the rule of law" - including as it "relates to the president's acting unilaterally on immigration or anything else."

Turns out he was kidding.

Once the November election was safely won (including his own - McConnell won't face the voters again for six years), the majority leader swung into action, laboring behind the scenes to drum up support for Lynch. He not only whipped for Lynch from the shadows; by voting for her confirmation, he mocked any conservatives who'd been na‹ve enough to take his campaign rhetoric seriously.

In this he joined nine others on the roster of Republican senators who took an oath to uphold the Constitution then supported an attorney general who had vowed to undermine the Constitution: Orrin Hatch (Utah), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Susan Collins (Maine), Rob Portman (Ohio), Mark Kirk (Ill.), Thad Cochran (Miss.), Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), and Ron Johnson (Wis.).

That doesn't begin to quantify the perfidy, though. In order to get Lynch to the finish line, McConnell first had to break conservative opposition to allowing a final vote for her nomination. The majority leader thus twisted enough arms that 20 Republicans voted to end debate. This guaranteed that Lynch would not only get a final vote but would, in the end, prevail - Senators Hatch, Graham, Flake, Collins, and Kirk having already announced their intention to join all 46 Democrats in getting Lynch to the magic confirmation number of 51.

So, in addition to the aforementioned ten Republicans who said "aye" on the final vote to make Lynch attorney general, there are ten others who conspired in the GOP's now routine parliamentary deception: Vote in favor of ending debate, knowing that this will give Democrats ultimate victory, but cast a meaningless vote against the Democrats in the final tally in order to pose as staunch Obama opponents when schmoozing the saps back home. These ten - John Thune (S.D.), John Cornyn (Texas), Bob Corker (Tenn.), Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Pat Roberts (Kan.), Richard Burr (N.C.), Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), Cory Gardner (Col.), Mike Rounds (S.D.), and Thom Tillis (N.C.) - are just as willfully complicit in Lynch's confirmation and her imminent execution of Obama's lawlessness.

This is not a Senate back to regular order. It is a disgrace, one that leads to the farce's final act: On Monday, Loretta Lynch will ceremoniously take the oath to uphold the Constitution she has already told us she will undermine.

This is not about immigration, amnesty, health care, and the full spectrum of tough issues on which reasonable minds can differ. It is about the collapse of fundamental assumptions on which the rule of law rests. When solemn oaths are empty words, when missions such as "law enforcement" become self-parody, public contempt for Washington intensifies - in particular, on the political right, which wants to preserve the good society and constitutional order the rule of law sustains.

In 2012, Barack Obama was reelected despite hemorrhaging support. Obama drew three-and-a-half million fewer votes than he had in 2008. He is president today because, despite deep dissatisfaction with his tenure, millions of former Republican supporters were too vexed by the party's insipidness to believe voting would make a difference. They stayed home.

The GOP, it seems, is going to great lengths to convince them that they were right. It may be that, for an entrenched Beltway political class, the important thing is to stay entrenched: better to play ball with the "opposition" party than to represent a base that wants Washington - the political class's source of power - pared way back.

SOURCE

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Minimum Wage Backfire

McDonald's already moving to automate orders to reduce worker costs

If there's a silver lining for McDonald's in Tuesday's dreadful earnings report, it is that perhaps union activists will begin to understand that the fast-food chain cannot solve the problems of the Obama economy. The world's largest restaurant company reported a 30% decline in quarterly profits on a 5% drop in revenues. Problems under the golden arches were global-sales were weak in China, Europe and the United States.

So even one of the world's most ubiquitous consumer brands cannot print money at its pleasure. This may be news to liberal pressure groups that have lately been demanding that government order the chain known for cheap food to somehow pay higher wages.

Unions have made McDonald's a particular target of their campaign for a $15 an hour minimum wage and have even protested at corporate headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill. The pressure was enough to cause CEO Don Thompson this summer to capitulate and endorse President Obama's call to raise the federal minimum to $10.10 an hour from $7.25. Many states have already enacted wage floors above the federal minimum.

If higher wages force higher prices on the menu, will union-backed activist groups agree to compensate McDonald's franchisees for futures sales declines? We're guessing not. So we'll offer the chain some free consulting and suggest that with sales slipping lately, higher prices probably aren't the way to draw more customers. Alternatively, McDonald's could cut its beef costs by changing its popular burger to a fifth-of-a-pounder and hope nobody notices.

The McDonald's earnings report on Tuesday gave a hint at how the fast-food chain really plans to respond to its wage and profit pressure-automate. As many contributors to these pages have warned, forcing businesses to pay people out of proportion to the profits they generate will provide those businesses with a greater incentive to replace employees with machines.

By the third quarter of next year, McDonald's plans to introduce new technology in some markets "to make it easier for customers to order and pay for food digitally and to give people the ability to customize their orders," reports the Journal. Mr. Thompson, the CEO, said Tuesday that customers "want to personalize their meals" and "to enjoy eating in a contemporary, inviting atmosphere. And they want choices in how they order, choices in what they order and how they're served."

That is no doubt true, but it's also a convenient way for Mr. Thompson to justify a reduction in the chain's global workforce. It's also a way to send a message to franchisees about the best way to reduce their costs amid slow sales growth. In any event, consumers better get used to the idea of ordering their Big Macs on a touchscreen.

Entry-level fast-food jobs have never been intended to support an entire family. So-called quick-service restaurants provide opportunities to lots of young people with few skills and limited experience. Across all industries, about two-thirds of minimum-wage workers who stay employed get a raise in the first year.

Amid a historically slow economic recovery, 1970s labor-participation rates and stagnant middle-class incomes, we understand that people are frustrated. Harder to understand is how so many of our media brethren have been persuaded that suddenly it's the job of America's burger joints to provide everyone with good pay and benefits. The result of their agitation will be more jobs for machines and fewer for the least skilled workers.

SOURCE

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New Arizona law blocks Obamacare enforcement mechanism

A bill signed into law by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey creates significant roadblocks for implementation of the Affordable Care Act, leaving the federal program without an enforcement mechanism in the state.

Sponsored by Rep. Justin Olson and Rep. Vince Leach, HB2643 prohibits the state of Arizona from "from using any personnel or financial resources to enforce, administer or cooperate with the Affordable Care Act."

"If the federal government is going to enact a law, then the federal government needs to enforce that law," Olson said. "We're not going to do it."

The Senate approved HB2643 by a 16-10 vote with minutes remaining in the regular session. The House passed the legislation 34-24

PRACTICAL EFFECT

HB2643 not only blocks the state from setting up a state-run exchange, but also prohibits Arizona employees from helping residents enroll in a federally operated exchange.

The new law also bans "funding or aiding in the prosecution of any entity for a violation of the [federal health care] act." This will prohibit the Arizona Department of Insurance (DOI) from investigating or enforcing any of the federally mandated health insurance requirements in the PPACA.

Tenth Amendment Center national communications director Mike Maharrey said this will prove particularly problematic for the feds because state insurance departments and commissioners serve as the enforcement arm for insurance regulations in the states. When residents have issues with their mandated coverage in Arizona, they will have to call the feds.

"That's going to prove a bit problematic," Maharrey said. "Disputes about these mandates arise under federal, not state law. The federal Department of Health and Human Services can't commandeer the Arizona Department of Insurance to force it to investigate alleged violations of PPACA mandates. Congress passed a law and failed to establish any enforcement mechanism, unless you count IRS enforcement of the mandate penalty - or tax - or whatever they're calling it. I guess people can call the IRS with their insurance issues."

Additionally, the law expressly prohibits the state from "Limiting the availability of self?funded health insurance programs or the reinsurance or other products that are traditionally used with self?funded health insurance programs."

Self-insured health plans remain exempt from many of the taxes and mandates that Obamacare imposes on businesses and individuals. The NY Post called moving to these plans an "escape hatch." According to Jack Biltis at Forbes, "Moving to a partially self-funded (aka partially self-insured) plan allows an employer to overcome most of the burdensome regulations and taxes, potentially reducing insurance costs by 40 -80 percent."

Maharrey said the new Arizona law represents step toward doing what Congress won't - repealing the federal health care act.

"In Federalist 46, James Madison said states should refuse to cooperate with officers of the Union when the federal government passes `unwarrantable measures.' Obamacare is the epitome of unwarrantable. This tangle of regulations and mandates that seems to mostly benefit big insurance companies is a disaster of epic proportions and needs to be dismantled before it causes irreparable damage to the U.S. economy," he said. "Congress won't ever repeal it, but if enough states follow Arizona's lead, we can simply make the thing collapse under its own weight and open the door for a better approach to health care in America."

SOURCE

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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. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)

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Sunday, April 26, 2015



Explaining terrorism

Below is an excerpt from "The Metapolitics of Terrorist Radicalization" by British academic Roger Griffin.  As a former inhabitant of academe, I am well aware of the way little isolated worlds of discourse arise among academics that are virtually incomprehensible to outsiders. They largely have a private language -- rather reminiscent of how identical twins speak to one another in their early years.  And Griffin inhabits such a bubble. One feels that he couldn't speak plain English if he tried.

Since the topic he addresses is an important one, however, it would seem important to see if he actually has something useful to say.  I therefore offer below what I think is the most lucid part of his offering on the topic.

In case even that bit is too obscure, however, perhaps I should have a stab at summarizing it.  And one reason why I am summarizing something from the way-out-Left is that what he says does have a certain amount in common with what conservatives say.  So let me put in my own words what I think he is driving at:

We all have two problems:  We need to makes sense of our world and we need to be close to at least some other people. To begin with the first of those:

We very much seek to understand what is going on in our world and why.  Religion is the clearest example of that.  It answers the big "WHY?". And when there is no clear answer that does make us uncomfortable.  And in the modern world with its many competing theories about everything it is hard to find clear answers.  All answers are under challenge. So that is a problem

The second problem is that people need connections with one-another.  And an important form of connection is having language, customs, beliefs, remembered history, traditions, tastes and attitudes in common.  We call that culture.  And we get on best with others with whom we have a common culture.

But the modern world has so much change in it that culture is constantly being destroyed.  One half of politics is in fact devoted to change and that has some effect but the major source of change is technological progress.  Just look at how interpersonal interactions have been transformed quite recently by the arrival of social media.  And look at how books have become a niche product.  One Kindle machine can replace them all.

The area where the Left have been particularly successful in culture destruction has been the way they have severed our connections with our past.  Kids now graduate from school with virtually no knowledge of what happened before they were born.  The Leftist domination of education and the media ensures that. And the history we get from movies and the like is often a substantially false one.

Yet people have a strong need for connection with their past.  We see that most vividly among the children of adoption.  They routinely move heaven and earth to find out what they can about their natural parents.  Being cut off from your past is distressing.  The way older people often develop an interest in genealogy and family history is a related phenomenon.  Yet the Leftist attack on anything traditional means that much of our past is swept away.

And a frustrated need for connection with our past explains something that is happening in my town even as I write.  A vast parade is winding its way through the streets of Brisbane.  It is the ANZAC day parade.  ANZAC day is Australia's day of remembrance of our war dead.  And people are thronging the streets to watch it, even though it also continuously broadcast on TV.  And what is probably most interesting is that the commemorations get bigger year by year -- with not only the old but also the young taking part.  It is in no danger of dying out.

So why do the young people go?  Very few of them have known someone who died in war.  They go because ANZAC day is the one day of commemoration of our past that the Left have not been able to ridicule out of existence.  So ANZAC day is the big chance for young people to connect with the past and those who went before them.  It is their chance to connect with something less transitory than their own lives.  They can feel part of a larger whole.  They can feel belonging.

So ANZAC day is a way that people can cope with change.  The past and the present reach out hands to one-another then.

We live in a world that is constantly being dislocated but somehow we mostly manage to cope with it.  ANZAC day is a peculiarly Australian custom but other countries have their own traditions that perform a similar function of remembrance.

But there are some people -- marginal people -- who fail to cope adaptively with the lack of social anchors.  They find or invent new anchors that connect them to other people.  And adopting beliefs that unite them with other people is a mainstream way of doing that. Shared beliefs both provide answers and provide connections.

The oldest such unifying belief is antisemitism.  Saying that the Jews are responsible for all ills is something that many people have been able to agree on for centuries.  It gave a sense of meaning and a feeling of understanding.  I spent some years on an up-close study of Australian neo-Nazis and something that stands out from that study is the way they identified one another.  A fellow antisemite was always described as someone who "knows the score"  -- i.e. someone who was part of a specially knowing circle having rare insight into the influence that Jews wield.  So it is no surprise that antisemitism is also a major feature of Islamic agitation.  It helps them to make sense of their own chaotic and oppressive civilization and makes them part of an agreed culture.  Whatever is wrong is the fault of the Jews.

And Islam does have a very strong and pervasive culture of its own. It answers the need for connectedness very well.  So it is no wonder that it attracts people who need that.  For people who feel left out for some reason, Islam offers an alternative home.  So it attracts converts among both Africans and, mainly in England, redheads.

Red hair is an accepted normal variation of hair color in most countries of Northern European origin but in England it is stigmatized -- probably because it is associated with the Scots and the Irish.  And the informal stigmatization of it is no mean thing.  Some redheads have been distressed enough to commit suicide.  So, again, marginality, disconnection from other people, is distressing and any possible solutions to the problem are eagerly sought.

So terrorism is a cry of both pain and anger -- pain at being poorly connected to other people and anger that most of the rest of the world does not share the beliefs that make sense of the world for the terrorist.

But, like much else, it is all a matter of degree: One has to feel REALLY alienated and REALLY dependent on a minority worldview to launch into terrorism.

And the role of social support is telling.  Homicidal and suicidal attacks by Muslims in the Western world are actually quite rare -- while they happen on a large scale more or less daily in the Islamic world.  If you are a Shi-ite among Shi-ites your loyalty to your particular belief system is enormously strengthened and can readily lead to the sacrifices ordained by that belief system when you confront Sunnis.  Social support is needed for Jihad as for much else.  Connectedness again rears its head.

In the West that degree of connectedness is absent but can be provided to a degree by the local mosque and living in a self-segregated Islamic bubble generally.

So, having identified the problem, how can we cope with it? It's rare for me to think that do-gooders actually do good but some  do-gooder approaches already underway are probably the only hope.  Drawing young Muslims into some sort of group activity could provide them with the fellowship they need and make them feel that the world is not too awful and worthy of destruction.

And Christian outreach could also play a part.  The more fundamentalist Christian groups such as Pentecostals and Jehovah's witnesses are good at outreach and provide a strong sense of fellowship to their members.  It's conceivable that they could draw in young Muslims who are searching for meaning and for social anchors. Let's hope for more Christian activity in that direction.

A probably more effective but unacceptable approach would be to apply to Muslims living in the Western world the sort of rules that are applied at present to Christians in Saudi Arabia -- ban Islamic literature, including Korans, and forbid any sort of Muslim gathering or meeting.  That should destroy the social support needed to develop Jihadis.

But the anger and dissatisfaction that drives Western Jihadis does not wholly come from within the Jihadi or even from his local mosque.  It comes from Western  Leftism.  Islamic teaching is intrinsically antagonistic to non-Muslims but Islam was fairly quiescent for a long time, with the Armenian genocide being the last twitch of it until recently. So why has it suddenly had a great eruption in recent years?  It was the influence of the Left.  It took the Left a long time to throw off patriotism, with JFK probably the last sincere patriot from the American Left in public life.  But once the dam was broken, the Leftist critique of modern Western life has been both scathing and extensive. And that gave new life to semi-somnolent Muslim rejection of Western ways.  The Leftist critique of Western civilization became incorporated into the Muslim critique and gave new life to it

And the Leftist really is in much the same boat as the Jihadi.  He finds his disconnectedness with his country and much else distressing and often expresses that as anger towards others. Conservatives all know the fury that Leftists evince in responding to any criticisms of their claims.  The fury is so great that if you publicly reject global warming or are critical of homosexualiy, you are likely to be forced out of your job.

And there have of course been Leftist terrorists -- particularly in Germany, Italy and Japan. The Red Army Faction, the Red Brigades and the Japanese Red Army were all alienated and deeply fanatical young people, quite like Jihadis in many ways.  Such groups are unlikely to re-emerge now because of the friendliness of the Left towards Muslims.  Murderously motivated young men and women of the Left these days would find it most convenient to join some Muslim cell.

Conservatives, by contrast, are under no such stresses and strains.  They feel connected with much around them. They feel connected with their family, their community, their churches and service organizations, military involvements and of course their country.  And they are proud of what their forebears have accomplished.  It is no wonder that in surveys of happiness conservatives always show up as much happier than Leftists

I expand on the importance of connectedness and the Leftist lack  of it here Below is an excerpt that shows how disconnected and marginal was one convert to Jihad:

The Islamic State recruiter cited as the inspiration of the alleged Anzac Day terror plot was an ­apprentice motor mechanic who was bullied and called “black boy”’ at school.

Before he was a high-profile member of Islamic State, Neil “Chris” Prakash was a paint-­sniffing, high-school dropout who was easily led by others and “scared of his own shadow”.

Throughout his teenage years, Prakash, whose mother was schizophrenic, lived off and on in the spare room of a friend’s house in a Melbourne bayside suburb, listening to rap music and tinkering with his prized Nissan Skyline.

His adopted family describe him as a social outcast who drifted from entry-level jobs to TAFE courses before his abrupt conversion to radical Islam.

“It was a complete shock,” said David, a father of four who ­befriended Prakash as a troubled teen. “The kid was so fragile, he was scared of his own shadow.”

SOURCE

And on a personal note, although my service in the Australian army was completely undistinguished, I am pleased to say that I have worn my country's uniform.  That is connectedness too


Culture imparts to individual lives a sense of purpose deriving from the certainty that they are ‘capable of transcending the natural boundaries of time and space, and in doing so, eluding death’.1 Threats to cultural integrity, whether endogenous or exogenous, can thus create the conditions for extreme violence. Assaults on the integrity or self-evidence of the nomos, for example, the challenge of radically conflicting conceptions of reality or insidious cultural colonization by another society or other ethnicities, ‘threaten to release the anxiety from which our conceptions shield us, thus undermining the promise of literal or symbolic immortality afforded by them’.2 This, the authors add, can lead to the response of ‘trying to annihilate’ those who embody divergent beliefs, an impulse fully enacted in ethnic cleansing (which frequently involves terrorism) and genocide (which cannot, since there is no third party to be terrorized by the killings).

A similar conclusion is arrived at by Jessica Stern in Holy Terror as the result of numerous in-depth interviews with ‘religious’ terrorists to establish patterns in their motivation:

Because the true faith is purportedly in jeopardy, emergency conditions prevail, and the killing of innocents becomes, in their view, religiously and morally permissible. The point of religious terrorism is to purify the world of these corrupting influences. But what lies beneath these views? Over time, I began to see that these grievances often mask a deeper kind of angst and a deeper kind of fear. Fear of a godless universe, of chaos, of loose rules and loneliness.3

Modernity, she realizes, ‘introduces a world where the potential future paths are so varied, so unknown, and the lack of authority so great that individuals seek assurance and comfort in the elimination of unsettling possibilities’.4

‘One-worlders, humanists, and promoters of human rights have created an engine of modernity that is stealing the identity of the oppressed’. Extremism is a response to ‘the vacuity in human consciousness’ brought about by modernity.5 In The Blood that Cries out from the Earth, James Jones stresses how modernization and globalization have failed to create a satisfying culture for millions in developing countries, such as Indonesia and the wider Islamic world generally, and has thus created a ‘spiritual vacuum’ which is the source of the appeal exerted by religious extremism.6

In the anomie of our postmodern, global society with its smorgasbord of options and lifestyles, a religious conversion provides clear norms, a preordained answer to the postmodern dilemma ‘who am I?’—and a sense of rootedness in a timeless tradition that transcends and feels more substantial than the ever-shifting kaleidoscope of contemporary communities of reference.7

It is significant that none of these authors distinguishes between the nomic crises emanating from the breakdown of an existing nomos and inspiring what we have termed Zealotic forms of defensive aggression, and the type of nomic crisis into which the denizens of modernity are born and which they sometimes go to extreme lengths to resolve by converting to violent forms of programmatic Modernism. Nevertheless, there is a significant degree of convergence between our approaches.

The fruitfulness of this line of inquiry into the roots of fanaticism is further reinforced by Eric Hoffer’s slim but ‘classic’ treatise on political and religious fanaticism, The True Believer, written in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War when the memories of the mass rallies of Hitler and Stalin were still vivid. This offers a number of insights into the intimate relationship between anomy and blind faith in mass movements and in their leaders—that apply just as well to the commitment of disaffected individuals to terrorist causes also.

For example, he writes that when ‘people who see their lives as irremediably spoiled’ convert to a movement ‘they are reborn to a new life in its close-knit collective body’.8 The drive to belong to a community of faith, secular or religious, which provides a sense of ultimate purpose missing from an atomized, anomic individual existence leads to the ‘selfish altruism’ described by Dipak Gupta as intrinsic to the terrorist persona, and epitomized in the members of the jihadi movement whose ‘acts of self-sacrifice transform them into god-like creatures, much beloved by God himself’.9

Hoffer goes so far as to relegate the importance of ideology to a secondary factor, stating ‘a rising mass movement attracts and holds a following not by its doctrine and promises, but by the refuge it offers from the anxieties, barrenness and meaninglessness of an individual existence’.10 He sees all forms of self-surrender to a political cause as ‘in essence a desperate clinging to something which might give worth and meaning to our futile, spoilt lives.’11

In the more clinical discourse of the post-9/11 social sciences, Arie Kruglanski endorses Hoffer’s assumption by arguing that extremist ideologies exert a particular fascination on individuals suffering from inner confusion and a troubled identity because they are formulated ‘in clear-cut definitive terms’ and offer a sense of ‘cognitive closure’.12

They thus provide an antidote to what we have called the liquid, liminoid quality of modernity. In an era where all certainties are in meltdown, extremism offers a protective shelter from what Walter Benjamin called ‘the storm of progress’. Kruglanski also contributed to an important multi-author paper which views ‘diverse instances of suicidal terrorism as attempts at significance restoration, significance gain, and prevention of significance loss.

More HERE

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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. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)

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