Monday, May 21, 2012

Another amazing example of the power of genetics

IDENTICAL twins Craig and Brenton Gurney, 38, were inseparable as children, shared a bedroom until they were 22, and have played in the same soccer team since they were five. They even ended up marrying women named Nicole. "We've always been really, really close," Brenton says.

If extrasensory perception exists between twins it was Craig who was the intuitive one. From 2700 kilometres away he once divined when his brother had a life-threatening mystery rash, and when he had dislocated a shoulder.

So the story of the Gurney twins is even more remarkable because it was Brenton who started getting the persistent headaches. It was Brenton who persuaded hale and hearty Craig to join a study of twins (looking into mental health and resilience) because it included an MRI scan.

The MRI test picked up no abnormalities in Brenton's brain. But Craig, who never suffers headaches, got the shock news: a massive and rare tumour in the base of his skull.

"I was hoping they had mixed up the MRI results and got the wrong twin," Brenton says.

When Craig underwent a complex 10½ hour operation to remove a 4.2-centimetre tumour, his wife and family in the waiting room cast meaningful looks at Brenton as if he were a barometer on his brother's progress.

"It was unspoken but everyone was looking at me," says Brenton, who had no sixth sense about the events transpiring on the operating table.

A year since the operation at Westmead Private Hospital, and following two months of intensive radiation therapy, Craig says: "Ultimately Brenton saved my life."

The twins - Brenton from West Pennant Hills, Craig from nearby Mount Colah - have participated in twin studies since their mother registered them with the Australian Twin Registry soon after birth.



America really is polarizing politically

The article below is from a Leftist source but its statement of the facts seems accurate. The writer sees gridlock as the likely outcome but that could be no bad thing. Better no new legislation than bad legislation

The working assumption of many political commentators in Washington is that politics is more polarized than it has been in decades and that it’s the Republican Party’s rightward drift that’s to blame. The evidence bears this out—in part. But it also suggests a more complex story.

First, the electorate has polarized. Over the past two decades, the public’s ideological self-description has changed significantly. In 1992, when Bill Clinton campaigned for president as a reform-minded New Democrat, fully 43 percent of adults thought of themselves as moderate, compared to 36 percent conservative and 17 percent liberal. As the 2012 election got underway, the picture looked quite different. Moderates had declined by 8 points, to 35 percent, while conservatives and liberals had each gained 4 points, to 40 and 21 percent respectively.

As Alan Abramowitz has recently shown, a similar shift occurred among voters in presidential elections. In 1972, fully 71 percent placed themselves at or near the ideological midpoint, compared to 29 percent at or near the extremes. By 2008, the share of the electorate at or near the mid-point had fallen by 17 points—to 54 percent—while the share at the extremes rose to 46 percent.

Second, the parties have sorted themselves out along ideological lines. Since 2000, the share of Republicans calling themselves moderate or liberal has fallen from 37 to 27 percent, while the conservative share of Democrats has fallen from 25 to 20 percent. Republicans are more conservative than they used to be, and Democrats are more liberal. Conservatives have increased their share of the Republican Party by 9 points; liberals have increased their Democratic share by 10 points.

Over a longer period, Republicans have changed somewhat more than Democrats. Between 1972 and 2008, Abramowitz finds, Republican voters shifted rightward by 0.7 points on a seven-point scale, from 4.7 to 5.4. (On this scale, 1 means extremely liberal, while 7 means extremely conservative.) Meanwhile, Democratic voters shifted to the left by 0.5 points, from 3.7 to 3.2. Among Republican voters, the percentage of conservatives rose from 55 to 78 percent, while liberal voters among Democrats rose from 38 to 55 percent. Among party activists—the kinds of people who dominate grassroots organizations and presidential primaries and caucuses, the gulf between the parties has become even more pronounced.

The gap between voters and all adults—the former being more conservative—reflects age differentials in ideological commitment. Today, there a direct correlation: the older the person, on average the more conservative. And because older adults vote at much higher rates than young adults, the electorate is even more conservative than the population as a whole.

The story thus far is one of moderate asymmetry: both parties have shifted away from the center, Republicans somewhat more so than Democrats. But a simple fact has accentuated the difference: Because there are twice as many self-styled conservatives as liberals, ideological sorting is bound to produce a more predominantly conservative than liberal party—even if the percentage-point shifts are comparable. As recently as 2000, moderates outnumbered liberals within the Democratic Party by 44 to 29 percent. Today, even after a sharp rise in the liberal share, liberals and moderates are essentially tied, 39 to 38. In 2000, conservatives already outnumbered moderates and liberals by 2 to 1 within the Republican Party, and now it’s 3 to 1. So while there is a liberal Pelosi wing and a moderate Hoyer wing in the House Democratic caucus, among House Republicans we find only shades of conservatism. (That is not to say that differences among Republicans don’t matter; just ask John Boehner.)

So far I’ve left out Independents, whose share of the electorate is large and rising. But bringing them in doesn’t change the story very much. To be sure, Independents are the only major classification still dominated by moderates (41 percent of the total). But just since Obama carried the independent vote in 2008, conservatives have increased their share by 5 points while moderates have fallen by the same amount. Independents are moving with the tide, not against it.

These numbers don’t tell the whole story, however. There’s another key development: above and beyond their ideological disagreements, conservatives and liberals have come to understand the practice of politics differently. In a survey taken right after the Republican sweep in the 2010 midterm elections, 47 percent of American said that it was more important to compromise in order to get things done, versus 27 percent who thought it was more important for leaders to stick to their beliefs even if little got done. Liberal Democrats weighed in on the side of compromise, 58 to 16, moderate Democrats by 64 to 17. But conservative Republicans (the overwhelming majority of their party) favored sticking to their beliefs by 45 to 26. Ten months later, after the debt ceiling fiasco, an outright majority of adults favored compromise, including 62 percent of Democrats and 63 percent of liberals. But pluralities of Republicans and conservatives continued to favor leaders who stuck to their beliefs.

Unlike most other Americans, conservatives seem to believe that compromise represents defeat. It would take a subtle historian to explain why. Perhaps they think that because so many forces are pushing in the direction of bigger and more intrusive government, compromise will alter the pace of change but not the direction. If so, a politics of intransigence represents their only hope; never mind the risks.

There is nothing wrong with a frank and honest debate between two visions of our country’s future. But for the foreseeable future, neither party can definitively defeat the other. The only alternative to reasonable compromise—the sooner the better—is a level of gridlock that would paralyze our economy and eviscerate what is left of our reputation. All of those contributing to our current era of polarization would be wise to take heed.



Two parties forever in the USA

by Jeff Jacoby

NEWS FLASH: The next president of the United States, like the last 29, will be a Republican or a Democrat.

That's not news, you say? But surely it must be. Haven't we been hearing for months from accomplished and influential people — people like former Disney CEO Michael Eisner, private-equity investor Peter Ackerman, and former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman — that the post-partisan hour was finally at hand? Weren't legions of Americans said to be ready to turn their backs on the old two-party system, with all its divisiveness and ideological rigidity? Haven't tens of millions of dollars been donated to Americans Elect, the widely praised anti-special-interest reform group intent on anointing a genuinely bipartisan ticket — a presidential candidate from one party and a vice-presidential running mate from the other — and setting up a three-way race for the White House in November?

All quite true. And all quite irrelevant. Americans Elect has plenty of money, an elegant web presence, and such organizational savvy that as of last week it had qualified for the November ballot in 29 states, including California, Michigan, and Ohio. But it is not going to break, or even shake, the Republican-Democratic lock on the White House.

Dismay over the American two-party system is nothing new. It's so old, in fact, that it predates the federal constitution. "There is nothing I dread so much as a division of the Republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader and converting measures in opposition to each other," wrote John Adams in 1780. His great rival Thomas Jefferson agreed: "If I could not go to heaven but with a political party, I would not go there at all." Yet all their anti-partisan pieties didn't keep Adams and Jefferson from competing vigorously against each other as nominees of the first two American political parties, the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans.

More than 225 years later, Americans by the millions follow the Adams/Jefferson pattern, lamenting partisanship in the abstract while sustaining it in practice.

In recent Gallup polls, more than half of respondents say the Republican and Democratic parties do such a poor job that the nation needs a third party. In an ABC News/Washington Post poll last November, voters by a 2-1 ratio responded favorably to the idea of an independent running for president against the major-party nominees. More than a few high-minded elites were certain the moment was ripe for a powerful centrist challenge to the long supremacy of Rs and Ds. "What did to books, what the blogosphere did to newspapers, [and] what the iPod did to music," gushed The New York Times's Thomas Friedman, "Americans Elect plans to do to the two-party duopoly that has dominated American political life — remove the barriers to real competition, flatten the incumbents, and let the people in."

But Americans Elect crashed and burned last week. Its much-hyped online primary process, touted as a way for any registered voter to take part in choosing a presidential ticket, achieved nothing. To survive the primary's first round, a candidate needed at least 10,000 clicks of support — hardly an insuperable bar in an organization that claims to have signed up more than 400,000 members. Yet no declared candidate came close. Former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer, the Americans Elect frontrunner, managed to attract just 6,281 supporters. (Boston University economist Laurence Kotlikoff finished fourth, with 2,023.)

Chalk up another win for that "two-party duopoly."

Americans may claim they long for an alternative. Pundits tell them that the parties have never been more polarized, that gridlock has reached crisis levels, and that the nation desperately requires politicians more interested in solving problems than in winning elections.

Yet the two-party system remains deeply rooted in our political life, and for good reason. The broad struggle between Republicans and Democrats reflects, however messily, the ancient tension between America's two profoundest political goals -- liberty and equality. Ideological purists can lament that there isn't a dime's worth of difference between the two parties, and for those who feel that way, there are always alternatives. Segregationist George Wallace, deficit hawk Ross Perot, Socialist Norman Thomas, Libertarian Ron Paul, consumerist scourge Ralph Nader -- all ran for president on third-party lines, and all attracted some passionate supporters (and in Wallace's case, even some electoral-college votes) along the way.

None, however, made any lasting change in America's political landscape. For the vast majority of voters, political competition still comes down to Republicans vs. Democrats. Just as well: For a nation so profoundly divided, two parties are enough.




AZ: Bennett seeks verification of Obama’s birthplace: "Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett says he's not a 'birther.' In fact, he says, he believes President Barack Obama was born in Hawaii. Yet the state's No.2 elected official has waded into the highly charged controversy, asking the island state to verify the president's birthplace to ensure Obama can appear on Arizona's Nov.6 ballot. In doing so, Bennett, who is co-chairman for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's Arizona campaign, has reignited the birther debate coast to coast."

Is the TSA good for anything?: "Most head-shaking coverage of the TSA focuses on headline-worthy feel-ups of children and senior citizens, humiliating treatment of travelers, theft of or damage to valuables by federal agents, and the like. ... the inevitable comeback from the Feinsteins of the world is that these are relatively minor and unavoidable tradeoffs for saved lives and property. When you dig a little deeper, though, it's clear that year after year, the Transportation Security Administration not only engaged in these abuses, it has proven itself to be spectacularly bad at implementing programs it rarely makes any effort to demonstrate actually accomplish a damned thing."

VA lawmaker: “Sodomy not a civil right”: "A Virginia lawmaker who recently led the fight to block an openly gay man from becoming a judge General District Court judge in Richmond insisted on Thursday that the move had nothing to do with the nominee’s sexual orientation, but he was concerned about 'bias' in cases between 'a homosexual and a heterosexual.'"

Serbia: Nationalist Nikolic wins presidential vote: "Serbian political parties are expected to start negotiations on the formation of a new government Monday after the surprise win of nationalist Tomislav Nikolic in presidential polls. Nikolic upset the odds to defeat incumbent Boris Tadic on Sunday but vowed to pursue his predecessor's drive for the Balkans nation to join the European Union."

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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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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