Friday, April 19, 2013

Margaret Thatcher funeral procession: How applause drowned out the jeers

The woman who saved Britain was applauded by her people

It seemed to come out of nowhere. No one knew who’d started it – perhaps it was purely instinctual. But as the hearse came into view, the crowds found themselves breaking into applause – applause that followed the hearse all the way along the route, until it drew up at the church of St Clement Danes. Then, once the coffin had been loaded on to the gun carriage, and the horses moved off, the applause started again – and followed the procession all the way to St Paul’s.

Down the roads it spread and spread, gently rippling, a long impromptu chain of respect and appreciation.

The applause wasn’t rowdy; there were no whoops or whistles. It was steady, warm, dignified. But it was also, somehow, determined. At Ludgate Circus, protesters began to boo and jeer – only to find the rest of the crowd applauding all the more loudly to drown them out.

It has often been said that Baroness Thatcher appealed to the silent majority. They weren’t silent now.

Ever since the news of her death last Monday, we have been told one thing above all else about the former Prime Minister: that she was divisive. Well, maybe she was. But you wouldn’t necessarily have known it yesterday along the route of her funeral procession. From Westminster to St Paul’s, mourners crammed the pavements, in places standing 12 deep.

In the build-up there’d been rumours of violent protests: lumps of coal, symbolising the fury of the miners, would be thrown at her coffin.

In the event, all that was thrown was roses.

Some estimates put the number of people on the streets at 100,000. A low figure, perhaps, if compared with a major Royal occasion; the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge is thought to have attracted a million. But this was for a Prime Minister, and on a working day.

On the pavements of the Strand, outside St Clement Danes – the church of the RAF – there was barely room to breathe. Behind the barriers, the crowd had been swelling for over an hour before the hearse was due to arrive. Men climbed railings to see above the massed heads. Children clambered on to the bench of the bus shelter. Office balconies thronged. People shifted restlessly, desperate for a view.

Many people wore suits or dark dress; some were in bowler hats and tweed. One man had brought his pet Chihuahua, Cindy; even she was in black, clad in a tiny coat with “Good night” inscribed across it.

All along the barriers and around the church stood police, hundreds of police. On first glance an intimidating sight, but the effect was somehow softened by the fact that every one of them was wearing spotless white gloves, like magicians’. In front of the church loomed the statue of Sir Arthur “Bomber” Harris, chief of RAF Bomber Command in the Second World War. Glaring sternly, hands folded behind his back, he seemed to be wearing a look that said anyone intent on violence would have him to answer to.

The hearse arrived to applause. Then, as the coffin was carried into the church by the bearer party, there rose a sea of arms, as each mourner struggled to establish a clear view for his or her cameraphone.

While the service was under way inside, the crowds stood silent. A breeze fluttered through their hair. Raindrops dabbed their cheeks.

Then there sounded the dolorous clang of the bell. The coffin was carried out of the church and placed on the gun carriage. And, as the procession began – to the pound, pound, pound of a cloth-muffled drum – there was applause once more.

I glanced at the elderly woman standing alongside me. Her face was a mask of tears.

After the procession had moved on, many people stayed where they were, reflecting on what they’d seen. “It was wonderful,” said Richard Barnes, 69, a retired farmer. “From all the stories this week you’d have thought there’d be twice as many protesters as supporters – but it’s been nothing like it. I saw one [anti-Thatcher] placard across the road, and that’s it.”

He’d have seen more protesters further along the route – but not many. Some turned their backs on the procession. Some brandished placards, attacking the cost of the funeral. Some waved milk bottles, as a reminder of the old taunt, “Maggie Thatcher, milk snatcher”. Some shouted, “Maggie, Maggie, Maggie, dead, dead, dead.” A few, bizarrely, squabbled with each other (“You’ve ruined this protest!”).

Baroness Thatcher’s enemies, fighting among themselves: it was like the 1980s all over again.

For each and every minute of the journey from St Clement Danes, a gun salute was fired. At last the procession came to a halt at St Paul’s. At 11am sharp, the 2,000 guests inside the cathedral – including the Queen, the Prime Minister, and Lady Thatcher’s children, Sir Mark and Carol Thatcher – rose as one. Lady Thatcher’s grandchildren – Michael, 24, and Amanda, 19 – walked ahead of the coffin.

Following the first hymn, He Who Would Valiant Be, Amanda Thatcher gave a reading, from Ephesians 6 10-18. How young she looked up there, tiny and alone. To begin with, her voice cracked and quavered – but she did not let the occasion, or the emotion, overcome her. “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil,” she read, voice strengthening with every line. Her words echoed through the huge, booming silence.

The second reading came from David Cameron, John 14 1-6 (“I am the way, the truth and the life”). He read steadily and solemnly. His wife Samantha, wearing a pussy-bow blouse in tribute to Lady Thatcher, watched him from the pews.

The address was given by The Bishop of London, the Rt Rev Richard Chartres. It was well judged, well written, well spoken. “After the storm of a life lived in the heat of political controversy,” he said, “there is a great calm. The storm of conflicting opinions centres on the Mrs Thatcher who became a symbolic figure – even an ‘ism’. Today the remains of the real Margaret Hilda Thatcher are here at her funeral service. Lying here, she is one of us.”

The television camera cut to George Osborne, the Chancellor. Down his cheeks, tears glistened.

Out in Ludgate Hill, while all this was going on, a small group of the most dedicated admirers gathered round a portable radio. Clutching printed copies of the order of service, they sang along to every hymn.

After the prayers, the choir in St Paul’s sang In Paradisum, from the Requiem Mass by Gabriel Fauré; then the congregation joined them for the patriotic hymn I Vow to Thee, My Country. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, gave the blessing. “Support us, O Lord, all the day long of this troublous life,” he intoned, “until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes, the busy world is hushed, the fever of life is over and our work is done. Then, Lord, in your mercy grant us a safe lodging, a holy rest, and peace at the last.”

Finally, as the Queen looked on, the coffin was carried out of the cathedral by the bearer party.

Then, something remarkable. As the coffin was borne down the steps into the light of the day, the crowds outside gave three cheers. Like the applause that had followed the coffin on its journey to St Paul’s, the cheers were spontaneous.

As much as appreciation, they may have been an expression of relief – relief that a day that had been threatened by protest and violence had instead passed with dignity. A respectful procession followed by a moving service. No hysteria, no hyperbole. Of course there had been pomp and pageantry: the uniforms, the military bands, the towering grandeur of St Paul’s. But in its own way the occasion was understated – or as close to understated as a ceremonial funeral can be.

In late afternoon, when the hearse arrived at Mortlake Crematorium in south-west London, it was met, for one final time, with mourners’ quiet applause.

This was a day, in short, of tributes untarnished. A day when, to a far greater degree than expected, abuse was overcome by respect, violence by decency, and hatred by love.



A new Iron Lady?

She may be only 20-years-old, but Baroness Thatcher's granddaughter captivated mourners on Wednesday as she delivered a flawless reading at the former prime minister's funeral.

Amanda Thatcher, a US college student, appeared unfazed as she gave a lesson from Ephesians which called on the righteous to "put on the whole armour of God".

Her deeply felt delivery put her firmly on the world stage before a global television audience of millions.

She later told an MP that she had not felt nervous, adding: "It's sort of in the blood."

The other lesson was read by David Cameron, the Prime Minister.

Mourners including Boris Johnson and Sir Malcolm Rifkind were unanimous in their praise of Ms Thatcher afterwards.

"I thought she read absolutely beautifully and she has that attractive mid-Atlantic accent," said Dame Mary Archer, the wife of Lord Archer, the former Conservative Party deputy chairman. "She was splendid."

Ms Thatcher and her brother, Michael, 24, are the children of Sir Mark Thatcher and his first wife, Diane Beckett.

They live with their mother in Dallas, Texas, where, according to her high school reports, Ms Thatcher is a talented sportswoman who excels in athletics and was voted "most likely to change the world" by her peers.

She and her brother are dedicated evangelical Christians, and were Baroness Thatcher's "greatest delight" in later life. They sat in the front row of St Paul's between their father and stepmother.

Before the service, they preceded Lady Thatcher's coffin into the cathedral, carrying cushions bearing the insignias of the Order of the Garter and the Order of Merit.

Wearing a black coat and dress, a wide-brimmed hat and pearls, Ms Thatcher then read from Ephesians 6: 10-18. The passage calls on Christians to stand against the "wiles of the devil": "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."

A family friend said: "She and her brother are both committed Christians and it gives them an inner confidence. They know they believe."

Lady Thatcher adored her grandchildren, telling an interviewer in the late 1990s: "When my daughter-in-law sends me photographs of the grandchildren, apart from seeing them in the flesh, that is the greatest pleasure I have in the whole year, far exceeding everything else."

Michael, an accomplished American football player at high school, studied at Texas A&M University, and has recently worked for a Republican-aligned political organisation that aims to "educate and empower the Hispanic community with conservative values".

The siblings were born in America but spent much of their childhood in South Africa. They lived in a large house in Cape Town, where Michael played cricket and Amanda had riding lessons.

But after Sir Mark was arrested in 2004 for involvement in an attempted coup in Equatorial Guinea, his wife moved back to Dallas with the children. The couple later divorced and both remarried.

The move, however, cut the children off from their father, who was barred from the US because of a conviction over the coup.

The 12-year-old Amanda reportedly wrote to President George W. Bush asking him to intervene. "You know how you feel about your daughters," she asked. "I want my daddy back in America."  She did not receive a reply.

By last night hundreds of people on Twitter, the social media website, had praised her "captivating" and "pitch perfect" reading.

Nigel Evans, the Conservative MP for Ribble Valley, said: "If she had been speaking at just a family funeral people can break down and cry but her composure was perfect."



Obama Administration SLASHED Budget for Domestic Bombing Prevention

Barack Obama's administration has cut the budget nearly in half for preventing domestic bombings, MailOnline can reveal.

Under President George W. Bush, the Department of Homeland Security had $20 million allocated for preventing the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) by terrorists working inside the United States. The current White House has cut that funding down to $11 million.

That assessment comes from Robert Liscouski, a former Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection, in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15 that killed three Americans and injured at least 173 others.

He told MailOnline that the Obama-era DHS is, on the whole, about as well-positioned as it was during the Bush administration to handle the aftermath of the April 15 bombings in Boston, 'but the Obama administration has continued to cut the budget for offices such as the Office for Bombing Prevention from $20 million started under Bush, to $11 million today.'



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

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)


Thursday, April 18, 2013

"No, not Boston"‏

I donate at times to MDA, the Israeli version of the Red Cross -- so I am on their mailing list.  I received the following email (under the above heading) from them

Last night, Israelis observed the end of Yom HaZikaron, commemorating the thousands who've died fighting to defend the Jewish State, which is followed at sundown by Yom HaAtzma'ut, the celebration of Israel's independence. Our celebrations for this holiday were tempered, however, when we were confronted with news footage reminiscent of what we saw here in Israel on a nearly weekly basis about a dozen years ago. Only this time the carnage wasn't in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, or Haifa, but Boston, the very city where America's bid for independence began nearly 240 years ago.

Even for Israelis, who live amid the sectarian violence of the Middle East, the footage was particularly shocking. Once again, an international sporting event bringing people together from around the world in pursuit of peaceful competition has been marred by the politics of hatred, a reminder of our own ordeal during the Munich Olympics 40 years ago. And for this latest bombing to happen in America, which has always been for Israelis a symbol of peaceful coexistence between people, is particularly distressing.

We were heartened, however, to see the exemplary work of Boston's paramedics and emergency services personnel, who risked their own safety to treat the wounded, pushing aside thoughts of when yet another device might explode. And we were touched to see bystanders assisting the wounded, many of them strangers, in the aftermath of the bombings, just as Israelis did when the bombs went off here.

Our thoughts are with the people of Boston, and all Americans, in this time of sadness and uncertainty. And, like you, we find ourselves hoping that this tragedy is "only" the work of a lone lunatic, and not a larger movement of some hate group.

We have a personal connection with the head of Homeland Security for Massachusetts and Magen David Adom has offered to assist the Boston emergency medical response community in any way we can. This includes offering them additional training in responding to mass-casualty trauma events, a skill we lead the world in because of our own vast experience in coping with terrorism.

Our thoughts are with all Americans at this time. And just as the American community has always been there for Israel, we will assist our American colleagues in any way we can.


We need to accept inequality

To begin: The country desperately needs to embrace an uncompromising elitism, this being simply the belief that the better is preferable to the worse. Somehow America has gotten this simple principle (if I may employ the Latin phrase) bass-ackward. In the things of civilization, we worship the lame, the halt, the dim-witted, and the proven unable. How smart is this?

In correction, I will first raise the voting age to thirty. The present practice of allowing children of eighteen to wield the ballot is transparent madness. The excessively young are callow, uninformed, and lacking experience of the things they affect with the votes. Hormonal turbulence and an eigtht-grade education—about what a high-school diploma is worth these days—do not recommend them as fit to stir the pots of governance. If you are parent to teenagers, you will see the unwisdom of letting our tender sprouts decide anything beyond their choice of godawful music.

When the Teen-Vote Amendment was being pondered, the argument was made that since eighteen years was sufficient to die in Vietnam, it was sufficient for suffrage. This is like saying that because a five-year-old can die in a traffic accident, he should have a driver’s license. Youth is a serviceable substitute for stupidity. We regularly outgrow youth and, occasionally, stupidity. We should give future voters the chance.

By the age of thirty, most people have experience of life as it is actually lived, perhaps of parenthood, of making a living and of the shocks the flesh is heir to. I grant that my laudable policy runs against the cult of brainless youth which is thought the apotheosis of democracy. Good. This opposition constitutes near-perfect proof of its advisability.  As a rule, any idea that you cannot utter without losing your job is a good idea.

My second contribution to enlightened government will be to reinstate the literacy test as a requirement for voting. It is not evident why an inability to read qualifies one to influence policy regarding, war, schooling, and the intricacies of national finance. The situation is dire. In Detroit, for example, the rate of functional illiteracy has been measured at some fifty percent. If half of the population cannot read at all, most of the rest don’t read much. In most cases this will mean never having willingly read a book. I don’t want these running a country. Or a car wash.

The objection will be raised that to require literacy will be to disenfranchise various minorities. The solution is for the various minorities to learn to read.

However, in my humble (but infallible) opinion, the bare ability to read is hardly grounds for participation in government. For that matter, neither is the possession of an alleged college education. Survey after survey has shown that, with exceptions to be sure, college graduates do not know in what century the Civil War was fought or what countries engaged in World War One, cannot name the three departments of the federal government, list three cities in Mexico, or find Japan, or for that matter Africa, on an outline map of the world. The universities in America have become a profitable fraud, and should be prosecuted under the RICO act. (I will consider this happy prospect in a future column.)

My solution to this measureless ignorance will be to require potential voters to sit for the Graduate Record Exam and score modestly on it. Why is it thought that people who hardly know what they are voting about will do it wisely? I repeatedly see that about half of the public believes that Iraq was responsible for dropping those buildings in New York. Here we have categorical proof that half the population should not be allowed within rifle shot of a voting booth.

Actually, while spilling forth these my luminous policies, the thought comes that it might be reasonable to limit the franchise of those of IQ 130 or higher: roughly Mensa intelligence, the top two percent. This will outrage those of us who do not meet this standard. But why? If I need brain surgery, I want it done by someone who can do it better than I could do it myself. Why should this principle not apply to government? Do we not hire plumbers because they plumb better than we do?

Registration of voters by IQ  strikes me as a good idea if only for its value as amusement. Think what it would do for campaigns. No longer would election be possible by orating endlessly of The American People, and The American Dream, twelve times per teleprompter screen. I love to imagine: “Yes, Mr. Bush. You are against evil, doubtless because it is a very short word. But what consequences do you see of de-Baathification in light of the doctrinal divides of the eighth century?”

Now, the US being a profoundly anti-intellectual society, my admirable plan will be objected to on grounds that Americans don’t want to be ruled by pointy-headed intellectuals at Harvard. Let us think about this. An intellectual is one who deals in ideas. He is not necessarily of high intelligence, nor necessarily right. The majority of the highly intelligent aren’t intellectuals, and they are not clustered in ivory towers. They are doctors, engineers, scientists, soldiers, and businessmen. They are geographically dispersed and politically all over the map. And they would be a hell of a lot harder to herd by the imbecile-ranchers and con men of Washington.

Of course the distaste for intellectuals means distaste only for those intellectuals with whom one disagrees. Conservatives love Rush Limbaugh and detest Rachel Madow, while liberals take exactly the opposite position. Both Limbaugh and Madow are intellectuals.

However, a major current in American political life is resentment of one’s superiors. It isn’t universal, but it’s there. Thus the whole edifice of fiat egalitarianism: the insistence that all children should go to college when most haven’t the brains, putting students in advanced-placement courses on grounds of race and sex instead of ability, the desire to abolish grades, the insistence that intelligence doesn’t exist and that all people and groups have the same amount of it. Me, I’m happy to let those smarter than I am invent things for me. If the world had waited for me to come up with Newtonian mechanics, it would still be waiting.



How to Lie With Statistics: A Recent Example

A recent post by Chuck Marr on a Huffington Post blog provides a nice demonstration of how to use true facts to support a false claim. It contains a series of charts with information on taxes, mostly federal. One of them is labeled: "Bush Tax Cuts Heavily Tilted to the Top," and shows that the percentage increase in after-tax income as a result of the tax cuts was almost three times as large for taxpayers with incomes of more than a million dollars as for those with incomes of $40,000-$50,000.

What it does not mention, but what one can see from other charts on the page, is that high income taxpayers pay in federal taxes about three times as large a fraction of their income as middle income tax payers. So if the tax cuts reduced everyone's taxes by the same percentage, the result would have been almost exactly what the chart shows. Indeed, the author could have made his claim even more striking by pointing out that taxpayers near the bottom of the income distribution got nothing out of the tax cuts—and neglecting to mention that the reason was that they were not paying any taxes.

Another somewhat misleading chart shows that it is possible for a middle income family with relatively little investment income to pay a higher tax rate than a high income family whose income is mostly from investments. It is clear if you read carefully that the author is not claiming this situation is typical--an earlier chart shows that, on average, high income families pay a much higher rate than middle income families. But the author does not mention that his calculation ignores corporate income tax, which arguably should be attributed to the owners of the corporations—the people receiving investment income.

A final problem, not of dishonest presentation but of the difficulty in adequately analyzing the effect of taxes, is that all of the charts show who pays taxes, not who actually bears the tax burden. It is easy enough to describe situations where the result of taxing the income of group A is partly a reduction of their after tax income, partly an increase in their before tax income, ultimately paid by those who consume the goods or services they produce. To put it in conventional terminology, it is not clear to what extent a tax on A is passed on to B. That problem applies to corporate income taxes as well—the reason for the word "arguably" in the previous paragraph.

One other chart has a different sort of problem. It shows taxes as a fraction of GDP for a range of countries, with the U.S. near the bottom. The author does not mention that the federal government for the past few years has been going largely on borrowed money—at one point almost half of total expenditure—hence that the chart badly misrepresents the more important question, which is what fraction of national income each government spends.



Fact-Free Crusades

 Thomas Sowell

Amid all the heated, emotional advocacy of gun control, have you ever heard even one person present convincing hard evidence that tighter gun control laws have in fact reduced murders?
Think about all the states, communities within states, as well as foreign countries, that have either tight gun control laws or loose or non-existent gun control laws. With so many variations and so many sources of evidence available, surely there would be some compelling evidence somewhere if tighter gun control laws actually reduced the murder rate.

And if tighter gun control laws don't actually reduce the murder rate, then why are we being stampeded toward such laws after every shooting that gets media attention?

Have the media outlets that you follow ever even mentioned that some studies have produced evidence that murder rates tend to be higher in places with tight gun control laws?

The dirty little secret is that gun control laws do not actually control guns. They disarm law-abiding citizens, making them more vulnerable to criminals, who remain armed in disregard of such laws.

In England, armed crimes skyrocketed as legal gun ownership almost vanished under increasingly severe gun control laws in the late 20th century. (See the book "Guns and Violence" by Joyce Lee Malcolm). But gun control has become one of those fact-free crusades, based on assumptions, emotions and rhetoric.

What almost no one talks about is that guns are used to defend lives as well as to take lives. In fact, many of the horrific killings that we see in the media were brought to an end when someone else with a gun showed up and put a stop to the slaughter.

The Cato Institute estimates upwards of 100,000 defensive uses of guns per year. Preventing law-abiding citizens from defending themselves can cost far more lives than are lost in the shooting episodes that the media publicize. The lives saved by guns are no less precious, just because the media pay no attention to them.

Many people who have never fired a gun in their lives, and never faced life-threatening dangers, nevertheless feel qualified to impose legal restrictions that can be fatal to others. And politicians eager to "do something" that gets them publicity know that the votes of the ignorant and the gullible are still votes.

Virtually nothing that is being proposed in current gun control legislation is likely to reduce murder rates.

Restricting the magazine capacity available to law-abiding citizens will not restrict the magazine capacity of people who are not law-abiding citizens. Such restrictions just mean that the law-abiding citizen is likely to run out of ammunition first.

Someone would have to be an incredible sharpshooter to fend off three home invaders with just seven shots at moving targets. But seven is the magic number of bullets allowed in a magazine under New York State's new gun control laws.

People who support such laws seem to blithely assume that they are limiting the damage that can be done by criminals or the mentally ill -- as if criminals or mad men care about such laws.

Banning so-called "assault weapons" is a farce, as well as a fraud, because there is no concrete definition of an assault weapon. That is why so many guns have to be specified by name in such bans -- and the ones specified to be banned are typically no more dangerous than others that are not specified.

Some people may think that "assault weapons" means automatic weapons. But automatic weapons were banned decades ago. Banning ugly-looking "assault weapons" may have aesthetic benefits, but it does not reduce the dangers to human life in the slightest. You are just as dead when killed by a very plain-looking gun.

One of the dangerous inconsistencies of many, if not most, gun control crusaders is that those who are most zealous to get guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens are often not nearly as concerned about keeping violent criminals behind bars.

Leniency toward criminals has long been part of the pattern of gun control zealots on both sides of the Atlantic. When the insatiable desire to crack down on law-abiding citizens with guns is combined with an attitude of leniency toward criminals, it can hardly be surprising when tighter gun control laws are accompanied by rising rates of crime, including murders.



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

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)


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The top 65 ways Israel is saving our planet

When 22-year-old Emmannuel Buso was pulled barely-alive from the rubble of a three-story building 10 days after an earthquake devastated the island of Haiti, the first faces he saw were those of the Israeli rescue workers who had flown across the world to save lives.

For Haji Edum, from Zanzibar, his life-saving moment came twice, when he was flown at age 15, and then again at 23, to Israel for open-heart surgery. He is just one of thousands of youngsters to receive emergency heart care from volunteer doctors in Israel.

War veterans suffering post-traumatic stress in the US; farmers in Senegal, India and China; young women in South Sudan; the wheelchair-bound in Africa; cardiac patients in Gaza and Iraq – all have received life-changing help and expertise from Israeli specialists.

Today we all know the story of Israel the startup nation. News of its technological prowess and incredible innovation has spread far and wide. But what many people don’t know is that Israel is exporting far more than just technology. It is also sharing its experience and skills in a whole range of humanitarian and environmental fields to help people everywhere live better, fuller and healthier lives.

Since Israel was founded in 1948, the country has set itself the goal of becoming a light unto the nations. In the early years of the state, despite austerity rationing, the Israeli government founded MASHAV, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Center for International Cooperation, as a vehicle to share Israel’s creative solutions with the rest of the developing world.

Israel remains true to that vision and every year, with little fanfare, and sometimes very little press attention, Israelis work long hours to find solutions and offer relief to some of the most pressing problems of our times.

From environmental breakthroughs that will help reduce greenhouse emissions, to technologies that can increase food production and save vital crops, to humanitarian aid missions in the wake of catastrophic natural disasters, Israelis are providing significant assistance.

To celebrate Israel’s 65th birthday, ISRAEL21c takes a look at some of the many creative and varied ways Israel is helping to enrich and improve our planet.

The list comes in no particular order, and is by no means exhaustive. There are hundreds, if not thousands, more worthy projects going on every day. If you’ve got a project worth hearing about, we’d be delighted if you include it in our comments section at the end.

1. An Israeli company is developing a toilet that needs no water, and generates its own power to turn solid waste (including toilet roll) into sterile and odorless fertilizer in 30 seconds. Liquid waste is sterilized and then used to flush the toilet. Developer Paulee CleanTec has been awarded a grant by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which reports that about 80 percent of human waste goes into rivers and streams untreated, and 1.1 billion people don’t use a toilet.

2. Fifty years ago, Lake Victoria carp was a significant part of the diet of Ugandan villagers. But when Nile perch was introduced to the lake, it decimated the carp population. Villagers had neither the equipment nor the expertise to catch the huge perch, and symptoms of protein deficiency started becoming apparent in their children.

Prof. Berta Sivan of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem came to the rescue with a multiyear project to help these African families. Using expertise developed in Israel, her project not only successfully spawned carp on Ugandan fish farms, but also provided training on how to dig and fill ponds and raise the small fish. Now local children have an abundant supply of protein.

3. About 50 percent of every grain and pulse harvest in the developing world is lost to pests and mold, but an Israeli scientist has developed a surprisingly simple and cheap way for African and Asian farmers to keep their grain market-fresh. International food technology consultant Prof. Shlomo Navarro invented huge bags, now marketed by US company GrainPro, which keep both water and air out. The bags are in use all over the developing world, including Africa and the Far East, and even in countries that don’t have diplomatic ties with Israel.

4. In January 2010, Israel won international praise for the speed and expertise with which it responded to a devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake in Haiti that killed 300,000 people, injured hundreds of thousands and laid waste to the poverty-stricken country.

A team of 240 Israeli doctors, nurses, rescue and relief workers arrived in Haiti just days after the quake, bringing medicines, communications and medical equipment. Israel Defense Forces (IDF) volunteers set up the country’s most advanced and well-equipped field hospital in the capital of Port-Au-Prince. Israeli search-and-rescue missions pulled survivors from the rubble, saving many Haitians, including a man trapped for 10 days.

The delegation included volunteers from IsraAID, the IDF, ZAKA, Magen David Adom (MADA), Tevel B’Tzedek, the Negev Institute, and Alyn Hospital. It was the largest Israeli civilian relief mission ever assembled, and was one of the biggest and most skilled on the island.

In the wake of the disaster, Israel continues to send aid and assistance, including educational projects, trauma programs, micro-financing, development and relief work, rebuilding of communities and schools, aid packages, empowerment for women, and medical assistance.

5. The invention of drip irrigation by Israeli Simcha Blass and its development by Netafim, and later Plastro and NaanDan Jain, has completely revolutionized agriculture across the world, enabling farmers to increase their yields with less water. Constantly upgraded Israeli drip-irrigation techniques are regularly shared with other countries through MASHAV, Israel’s Center for International Cooperation.

6. Tal-Ya Water Technologies has developed reusable plastic trays to collect dew from the air, reducing the water needed by crops or trees by up to 50 percent. The square serrated trays, made from non-PET recycled and recyclable plastic with UV filters and a limestone additive, surround each plant or tree. With overnight temperature change, dew forms on both surfaces of the Tal-Ya tray, which funnels the dew and condensation straight to the roots. If it rains, the trays – which are now on sale – heighten the effect of each millimeter of water 27 times over.

7. About 1.6 million children under the age of five die from untreated drinking water in developing nations every year. An Israeli company has developed a water purification system that delivers safe drinking water from almost any source, including contaminated water, seawater and even urine.

WaterSheer’s Sulis personal water purifier is a small 10-gram mouthpiece that attaches to the top of a water bottle. The company has also developed systems to treat large quantities of water.

Sulis has been used in Taiwan, Myanmar and Haiti, and will be part of contingency plans in case of disaster at the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.

8. Israel is building a model agricultural village in South Sudan to teach local farmers about Israeli agricultural methods and technologies to help the fledgling African nation thrive.

9. In plants in China, Italy and the United States, Israeli company Seambiotic is using algae to turn carbon dioxide emitted by power plants into fuel and nutraceuticals. The company’s algae ponds, which are nourished by power plant effluent and sunlight, generate 30 times more feedstock for biofuel than do crop alternatives. The algae are a good source of valuable nutraceuticals, especially popular in China and the East.

Seambiotic is also working with the US National Aviation and Space Administration (NASA) to develop a commercially feasible biofuel variety from algae that has a higher freezing point than biofuels from corn or sugarcane.

10. The lives of thousands of endangered animals in West and Central Africa are being saved thanks to the tireless efforts of Israeli law enforcement activist Ofir Drori, who founded the Last Great Ape Organization (LAGA) in Cameroon, the first wildlife law-enforcement NGO in Africa.

The organization helped propagate a zero-tolerance approach to illegal wildlife trafficking in Cameroon, which has resulted in hundreds of arrests and prosecutions. The model has been replicated throughout West and Central Africa in activities that go beyond nature conservation to the defense of human rights.

Much more HERE


Healthcare for the Poor: An Alternative to Obamacare

The Affordable Care Act is expected to add up to 16 million more Medicaid enrollees and will significantly expand eligibility for families with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. Initially, the federal government will pay 100 percent of the cost of the newly eligible, newly enrolled populations and 95 percent of costs through 2019. However, hidden costs will strain state budgets, and states will still find their share unaffordable.

The Cost of Enrolling the Already Eligible

An estimated 10 million to 13 million uninsured people are already eligible for Medicaid—but not enrolled. When the individual mandate to obtain health coverage takes effect in 2014, many states will find the cost of their Medicaid programs higher as a result.

For example, a decade after the new law’s implementation, Texas Medicaid rolls are predicted by the Texas Department of Health and Human Services to rise by 2.4 million people. Of these, only 1.5 million enrollees will be newly eligible, so a significant share of the cost for the remaining 9 million will have to be borne by the state.[1]

Low Medicaid Provider Payments

On the average, reimbursements for Medicaid providers are only about 59 percent of what a private insurer would pay for the same service, but as shown below, it varies from state-to-state.[2]

*    New York pays primary care physicians only about 29 percent of what private insurers pay for primary care.

*   The comparable figure in New Jersey is 33 percent.

*    California pays primary care providers 38 percent of what private insurers pay.

*   Texas reimburses primary care physicians for about 55 percent of what private insurers pay.

Low provider reimbursement rates make it more difficult for Medicaid enrollees to find physicians willing to treat them. Initially, the federal government will bear the cost of raising Medicaid provider fees to Medicare levels—but only for two years, 2014 and 2015. Then the rates will fall back to their previous levels, or the states will bear much of the cost of keeping Medicaid provider fees at a level necessary to ensure enough physicians are willing to participate in the program.

Lower Payment to Safety Net Hospitals

Disproportionate share hospital (DSH) payments are used to compensate hospitals that treat a disproportionate share of indigent and uninsured patients. The federal government distributes about $12 billion annually to offset part of the cost.

The ACA reduces DSH payments by about one-quarter, on average, through 2019. Beginning in 2018, annual reductions are about $5 billion per year. The federal government will initially deduct about three-quarters of hospitals’ historic allotment and then give back a portion of the funding reduction using complex formulas. The rationale is that as more patients have coverage, hospitals will have fewer uninsured patients. However, 23 million people will remain uninsured—some of whom may seek uncompensated care. States may have to bear some of the additional costs if their hospitals are to stay solvent.

Crowd Out of Private Insurance

Many of the newly insured under Medicaid will likely be those who previously had private coverage. Research dating back to the 1990s consistently confirms that when Medicaid eligibility is expanded, 50 percent to 75 percent of the newly enrolled are those who have dropped private coverage.[3]

A Better Solution: Give the States Control Over Medicaid

A good argument can be made for abolishing Medicaid. Given the freedom to spend the same money in other ways, state governments should be able to deliver more care and better care. Even if they decide to retain the basic structure of Medicaid, the states can implement a slew of reforms that will lower costs, improve quality and increase access to care.

The most straightforward solution is to give the states their share of Medicaid dollars with no strings attached except the requirement to spend the money on indigent care. The fairest allocation system is to let each state’s block grant reflect the proportion of the nationwide poverty population living in the state.



The joy of working longer hours in the Industrial Revolution

There's an interesting piece over at Bloomberg talking about those longer working hours that turned up with the Industrial Revolution. You know, the ones where the peasantry had to be whipped off the fields and into the factories so that the filthy capitalists could exploit them:
First, working-class writers put a very different spin on the increase in working hours that accompanied industrialization. The autobiographies make clear that in pre- industrial Britain, there simply wasn’t enough work to go around. As a result, few people were fully employed throughout the year. This gave them leisure time, but it also left most families eking out an uncomfortable living on the margins. The lack of consistent employment also forced workers to stay in positions that were unsuitable or grossly exploitative.

That the people suffering under such exploitation thought it was a good thing does rather change what should be our view of said exploitation. And it's also not clear precisely who had the power here:
Higher levels of employment also helped change the balance of power between master and laborer. So long as jobs remained scarce, workers, by necessity, obeyed their employers. The price of dissent or disobedience was unemployment. With more jobs, such subservience became less and less necessary. In the booming new industrial towns, workers could, and did, walk out on employers over relatively minor matters, confident that finding more work wouldn’t be difficult.

Or, as I might put it, the only thing worse than being exploited by a capitalist factory owner is not being exploited by a capitalist factory owner.

I will admit thought that I'm always very wary of people giving us pre-industrial working hours. There's a terrible tendency to only include paid working hours as working hours. And of course in a rural, largely subsistence, economy paid working hours are indeed few and far between. But that doesn't mean that each day isn't full of unrelenting labour: there's still the potato patch to dig, the firewood to be collected, the pigs to run for acorns, the cow to milk and muck out and so on. Indeed, when we get back to feudal times working hours seem to be measured as only the work that was done for the feudal lord. Which is obviously nonsense: that's the work that was done to pay the rent and pay the rent only. Think it through: one source tells us that villeins had 70 days a year holiday. Seriously? An animal keeping peasant has 70 days off a year? What the heck happens to all the animals?

But back to the effect of the industrial revolution: did it actually improve the lives of those sucked into the factories or not? Was Marx correct on the immiseration or not?

One very useful number that I've seen recently (offline, so no link) is the difference between farmhand wages in the North and the South. In the 1830s, 1840s, Somerset and Dorset were almost untouched by the new industries: farmhand wages were of the order of 8 shillings a week. Up north the entire countryside was littered with cotton mills and whippet flange factories. Farmhand wages were 16 to 18 shillings a week. The farmers had to pay double the wages to stop their labour going off to exploit the capitalists in the factories.

I'm still not entirely sure that the industrial revolution did lead to longer working hours. Longer paid working hours, most certainly yes, but really not sure about the combination of paid and subsistence hours. On the other hand I am absolutely certain that the factories improved the living conditions of those who worked in them. And I don't think us moderns quite understand the misery of a subsistence peasant lifestyle: if we did we'd understand a great deal better why people flocked to those factories and mines as they did.

Of course, if any of our Marxist inclined confreres were minded to actually find out about why people did so all they've got to do is buy a ticket to China and go ask the people in the factories there. "So, why did you live a life of rural idiocy and destitution to earn five times the wages making iPads?" would seem to be a useful start to such an interrogation.



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

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)


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Scandinavian names

I have always liked the sound of Scandinavian names.  They seem somehow impressive and important.  There is plenty of Norse ancestry among the English so maybe it is something to do with that.  Here are four Scandinavian names you might know.  Tell me what you think of them:  Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad.

They are of course the names of the ABBA band members, now rather elderly people.  I have always rather wondered why I have never heard criticism of ABBA from feminists.  Both "Mamma Mia" and "Waterloo" recount how a woman is captivated by a man that she cannot give up  -- surely the reverse of the feminist gospel. And in "Money, Money", the female singer aspires to marry a rich man!  And "Dancing Queen" is a simple little ballad about a teenager who loves dancing.  Again not quite a feminist priority.  So at least the best known ABBA songs seem quite conservative to me.

Something to remind you below.  Don't ogle the beautiful blonde Agnetha too much.


An Air Force of wimps?

Why don't they just fire all the men and make it an all-woman force?

The Air Force more than other military services has jumped enthusiastically on the Obama administration’s campaign to socially engineer the military through politically correct programs and policies.

A case in point comes to Inside the Ring in an email from the U.S. Transportation Command, known as Transcom, an Air Force-dominated command. The email revealed that the command is holding “self-awareness” seminars for troops aimed at boosting their “emotional intelligence quotient,” or EQ.

The effort is not sitting well with some of the more warrior-oriented Air Force members who are concerned that the service is being transformed into a military version of Federal Express or UPS. One officer joked: “This is still the armed forces of the United States, is it not? Lord help us.”

According to the email, EQ seminars are part of Transcom’s strategy “to develop customer-focused professionals.”

“Each and every one of us is vital in transforming the command for the future, supporting those who count on us to deliver whatever they need on time, every time,” it says. “In order to maintain and retain great customer relationships, the EQ workshops help establish the necessary tools to do this and more.”

For those seeking better social skills, one upcoming EQ seminar, No. 401, is set for April 18 on “social awareness,” further described as: “Look outward to learn about and appreciate others. Pay attention to your surroundings.”

“EQ 401 explores body language, timing, greeting people by name and other skills to apply to your daily interactions,” the email says.

On April 25, the command will hold EQ 201 on self-awareness.

“An emotional journey, this seminar helps uncover the true essence of you,” the email says. “Facilitators provide a gateway to the inner truth and future path of your personal road map to your own emotional intelligence.”

Those interested were urged to contact Transcom’s Change Management Team.

Transcom spokesman Maj. Matthew Gregory said the EQ program is about communication and “trying to figure out what our customer needs.”

A former Pentagon official said that if Transcom is taking its people away from mission activities for this type of politically correct training, “the command is over strength and can afford cost-saving personnel cuts at this critical time.”

Other signs of political correctness included the Air Force’s removal in 2011 of a sign at storied Nellis Air Force Base that read “Home of the Fighter Pilot.”

The banner was removed over concerns it wasn’t “inclusive” and may have harmed the feelings of nonfighter pilots.

Also, late last year, the Air Combat Command went on one of the military’s more extensive searches to seize inappropriate materials of a sexual nature. The squadron-by-squadron shakedown came after a female sergeant filed a complaint alleging rampant harassment by superiors.

By mid-January, the command reported finding 17,790 offensive items 6,700 of which were of a personal nature stored on government computers.

“Of the remaining items,” the command said, “the majority of items were potentially offensive pictures, posters, calendars, magazines or graffiti located in common areas, offices and latrines. Identified items were documented and either removed or destroyed.”



Snob Rule

America’s ruling class appears to believe that its mission is to subjugate and bring to heel those outside the club – which means you and me. This motley crew – who would never be caught dead jamming to something as déclassé as Mötley Crüe – has always held the rest of the country in contempt. But now that contempt is the basis of policy, and this simply cannot continue.

Big trucks. Country music. Any music not on vinyl. These are just some of the rest of America’s failings. The people who built the country, who fought for it, who unashamedly stand when the Flag is carried past …these people, are an embarrassment and their voices must be silenced so as not to interfere in the glorious works of the ruling class.

Understand that the ruling class is not simply composed of liberal Democrats, though the values (or lack of same) of these Socialist Lite movers and shakers predominate. The NYC-DC conservanerd contingent – the fussy David Frums and David Brooks – are equally horrified by the values, beliefs and preferences of Americans outside their area codes. We even see “conservative” politicians enlist too. You stay in Washington or New York or Los Angeles long enough and the pressure grows to allow yourself to be assimilated, to start looking down on other Americans.

These are the kinds of people who think they get a say in the size of my soft drink because they know what’s good for me. They’re somehow more concerned with my health than I am. They’re smarter than me. They’re smarter than you. They’re smarter than everyone who doesn’t think, feel and believe exactly like them. And, well, we’re just too dumb to live our lives without their benevolent dictates.

This notion sprouts in the insular communities of affluent, over-educated urban dwellers. It grows in the big name universities that tell their students they are the elite – and then releases them back into the world with a degree, yet somehow dumber than when they walked in. And it is encouraged by a media that confuses having access to an electronic podium with having mental and moral virtue.

The same people who brought us Solyndra think we should heed their demands for more power to combat non-existent global warning. The same people who brought us $16 trillion in debt think we should fork over more money to them. The same people who brought us 50 million Americans on food stamps think we should defer to their better judgment about how to run society.

These people have no right to lecture anyone on anything. They have an unbroken track record of failure.

Yet they do lecture, and worse, they legislate with the same smarmy condescension. Just about every issue today is best examined through the prism of pompous jerks trying to tell the rest of us how to live. At the center of all of them is the same vindictive drive to dominate regular Americans, to attack and mock our values, to break our spirit and will to resist.

Didn’t we have a revolution about this kind of nonsense a couple of hundred years ago? Thank God the patriots of the Revolution bitterly clung to their guns and their religion or we’d be as far down the sewer pipe as Britain.

They are less interested in effective policy than in effective persecution. These clowns know their gun-banning campaign won’t stop either the rare psycho shooting spree or the tragic, everyday nightmare of the inner cities’ gang-fueled bloodbath. But these policies aren’t intended for criminals; they are intended for us, to show us who is boss, to acclimate us to the concept that our fundamental rights are up for review, and that we better behave or they will be totally withdrawn.

It’s couched in a sort of Bizarro World morality where up is down, right is wrong. They tell us that if you want to keep your guns, you want children to die. This includes those of us who wore the uniform of this country or of a first responder agency and put our lives on the line to protect children while the ruling class posers sipped lattes, giggled at Jon Stewart’s mugging, and experimented with metrosexuality.

Why won’t the liberals talk about mental health, guarding schools or, heaven forbid, the carnage in the inner cities that their cronies have controlled for decades? Because resolving those issues won’t hurt us. Their goal isn’t to stop the violence – if they cared about violence you would be as able to walk down the streets of Detroit or Washington or any other big liberal city as you are the heavily guarded enclaves of the ruling class. Their goal is to beat us down, to break us, to leave us disarmed, docile and disheartened.

It’s more than just contempt. They hate us.

They hate our bourgeois values, like faith, family and patriotism. They hate how we don’t acknowledge their mental and moral superiority. Most of all, they hate our unwillingness to yield to their commands.

That’s why the policies we support are never merely unwise but are always portrayed as evidence of our unrepentant evil. Unhappy about illegal aliens flowing over the border? No, that couldn’t possibly be because of the social chaos illegals cause – not that the establishment would know anything about that. No, their only experience with illegal immigration is cheap labor cleaning their mansions and watching their kids. They aren’t ranchers in Arizona who get murdered by the guys bringing the liberals’ drugs north. They aren’t priced out of the manual labor market by folks who will work for under minimum wage under the table. They aren’t getting rear-ended by some illegal without car insurance.

No, it’s gotta be that we’re horrible racists. That’s the only possible answer.

The new liberal love affair with militant atheism is another manifestation of the same phenomenon. Just a few years ago, it would be considered unbelievably rude to disrespect someone’s religion in public – and it still is, at least to those of us who weren’t figuratively raised by wolves. But now trashing religion, particularly that of devout Christians and Jews, is a cottage industry. Of course, religions that respond to criticism with beheadings are mysteriously exempt.

You see this manifest in policies like the Obamacare mandates where the liberals seem to be going out of their way to ensure that believers are forced to pay homage to the great god Government and violate their consciences. What reasonable, rational motive exists to force people who do not share the liberals’ views of contraception to subsidize policies that they consider evil?

None, of course. Even Sandra Fluke could afford the few bucks a month to get her pills at her local Wal-Mart. Maybe that’s the rub – maybe the idea that a special snowflake like Ms. Fluke might be forced to mingle with the unclean masses is the real problem.

Now Washington state is suing some flower shop whose owner has religious objections to decorating a gay wedding. Apparently, Seattle is so bereft of orchid peddlers that it must force its citizens to violate their most sacred spiritual beliefs by privileging flower arrangements over faith.

Such floral fascism isn’t wise policy. It’s vindictiveness written into the law.

This is wrong and un-American. It’s also leading to divisions within the nation that we have not seen in generations. Liberals used to talk about “tolerance,” but as with “civil rights” their enthusiasm for it faded when their power grew. Tolerance means not messing with others who choose to live their lives differently. But now tolerance has given way to persecution.

The growing stridency of the liberal establishment keeps pushing and pushing, forcing regular Americans back. But eventually, they will force the rest of us back against the wall, and that’s when things will get ugly. They have a choice for our society – do we splinter or do we come together? If they want the latter, the first step is to stop being snobs.




How much “civilization” does your tax money buy?: "Tax Day, April 15, is traditionally the time of year when liberals trot out that old Oliver Wendell Holmes chestnut: 'Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.' But what kind of 'civilization' are we paying for?" [And how much do we need to pay?]

Who’s afraid of natural rights?:  "Among philosophers the idea of natural rights is not very popular. And that is putting it mildly. But the grounds for this resistance are not clear to me. Sometimes people object to natural rights for reasons reminiscent of Bentham and Burke. Rights, they say, must be precise. They must be specified concretely. But we cannot rationally determine what natural rights we have or what they entitle us to. Therefore, there are no natural rights. I find the objection puzzling."

Privatize the TVA:  "Perhaps President Obama has been reading about Margaret Thatcher’s policy successes. He is apparently considering selling off the federal government’s Tennessee Valley Authority. This is a great idea. As this story notes, it would allow the struggling electric utility more flexibility in dealing with the many challenges it faces. While Democrats are often more socialistic on economic policy than Republicans ... This time around, Democratic President Obama may run into opposition from socialistic Republicans."

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


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

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)


Monday, April 15, 2013

How Thatcher changed this Soviet man's heart and mind

By Oleg Atbashian

It wasn't just Margaret Thatcher's steadfast economic and foreign policies that helped to defeat the Evil Empire and to bring down the Iron Curtain. She also changed hearts and minds — and this author, who grew up on the other side of the Iron Curtain, has a personal story to tell.

As many Soviet kids did in the 1970s and 1980s, I occasionally tuned my shortwave radio to Voice of America or the BBC Russian Service, hoping to hear their alternative take on world events and, if I was lucky, get the latest rock-music updates. One of the functions of the Iron Curtain was to keep us, the "builders of communism," blissfully unaware of the outside world. All our news had to be processed by the state-run media filter and approved by the formidable censorship apparatus.

In contrast, foreign Russian-language radio broadcasts, courtesy of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, gave us unfiltered news and commentary. These programs were to the Soviets then what Rush Limbaugh and Fox News are for many Americans today — a gasp of fresh air for some, enemy propaganda for others, and an object of demonization for the official state-run media.

Produced mostly by ex-Soviet exiles, these broadcasts never failed to satisfy my curiosity. The problem was that our government was mercilessly jamming their signal. I learned that this radio jamming was more costly than the actual broadcasting, but no expense was spared to maintain our ideological purity, paid for by our own tax rubles. Oh well, at least we knew the Motherland cared.

At times the broadcast quality was almost undecipherable: imagine trying to watch a movie while your neighbor mows his lawn. The noise occasionally trails off to the other end of the property, but mostly it hovers below your window, and you know that the lines you missed had to be the best.

A few times my friends and I tried to tape these programs simultaneously in our homes, so that later we could combine salvageable parts from two or more reels. That resulted in a much clearer compilation. We mostly did this for rock and roll programs, but political commentary would get into the mix as well — and it was just as fresh and exciting.

If we had ever been caught, we could have been easily expelled from our state-run schools (paid for by our tax rubles) and become marked for life as "politically unreliable." But we were too young and too reckless to think about it.

Whenever tuning to Voice of America or the BBC Russian Service produced nothing but the made-in-the-USSR rattling chatter, I would switch to English broadcasts. These were coming through clearly, mostly because the government couldn't jam every single frequency. They also helped me with my English studies.

Apart from music tapes, radio was my only source of authentic spoken English. The Iron Curtain made sure that even if a real English-speaking person were to visit my Ukrainian city, he or she would be supervised at all times by authorized personnel. Similarly, foreign travel for the "builders of communism" was out of the question: even if we could make it past the border alive, we would have no means to move around, since almost all of our earned income went to the government so it could provide us with our basic needs — such as, ensuring our ideological purity by jamming radio broadcasts for our own good.

   This vintage Soviet "Radiola" looks exactly like the one described in my story. It was once owned by my parents and had the most beautiful, organic sound. The wooden frame may well have been made at some old-fashioned piano factory. It made every jazz band sound like Glenn Miller. This is how I also heard Thatcher's voice for the first time, while trying to listen to the so-called "enemy voices."

One night — it had to be late 1982, when Margaret Thatcher was running for her first re-election — my shortwave radio caught a BBC broadcast of the Iron Lady's campaign speech.

To be sure, all my prior knowledge about Margaret Thatcher was limited to her unflattering portrayal in the official Soviet media. She busted the unions, privatized the economy, and was a sworn enemy of the USSR and socialism in general. In fact, the very moniker — the Iron Lady — was given to her by the Soviet Army newspaper Red Star in 1976, before she even became prime minister. Later I also learned that she readily took it on as her own, telling parliamentary constituents a week later that she was proud to wear a "Red Star" evening gown and to serve as "the Iron Lady of the Western world."

Listening to Thatcher speak confirmed everything the Soviet media was reporting about her, and more. In a deep, powerful voice, she accused her socialist opponents of destroying the British economy through nationalization and presented the proof of how privatizing it again was bringing the economy back to life. The free markets worked as expected, making Britain strong again. The diseased socialist welfare state had to go, to be replaced by a healthy competitive society.

To the average consumer of the Soviet state-run media, that didn't make any sense. When exactly had Britain become a socialist welfare state? That part never passed the Soviet media filter. Our media had made it explicitly clear that all Western nations, especially Britain and the United States, were officially governed by the ideology of anti-communism and unfettered capitalism. Their ruling classes had established the ultimate police states in order to protect the sanctity of private property — a criminal misconception which allowed the few rich, cigar-smoking, top-hat-wearing fat cats to brutally exploit the powerless masses.

So if everything had always been in private hands, what exactly did Thatcher privatize? And where did the free, cradle-to-grave government services come from?

Gradually, the news sank in: if Britain was indeed a socialist state, then everything we were told about the outside world was a lie. And not just any lie — it was an inconceivably monstrous, colossal lie, which our Communist Party and the media thoroughly maintained, apparently, to prevent us from asking these logical questions: if the Brits also had free, cradle-to-grave entitlements like we did, then why were we still fighting the Cold War? And what was the purpose of the Iron Curtain? Was it to stop us from collectively surrendering to the Brits, so that their socialist government could establish the same welfare state on our territory — only with more freedom and prosperity minus the Communist Party?

The next logical question would be this: if Great Britain wasn't yet as socialist as the Soviet Union, then didn't it mean that whatever freedom, prosperity, and working economy it had left were directly related to having less socialism? And if less socialism meant a freer, more productive, and more prosperous nation, then wouldn't it be beneficial to have as little socialism as possible? Or perhaps — here's a scary thought — to just get rid of socialism altogether?

And wasn't it exactly what Margaret Thatcher was doing as a prime minister?

What started with me listening out of curiosity ended up with a sudden realization that she was right on all points. I instantly became Thatcher's fan. The experience was inspiring. I remember how on the following day in school I described that speech to my friends, argued the prime minister's points, and even attempted a voice impression, emphasizing the confident manner in which the Iron Lady spoke. Never before had I heard a speaker so full of conviction.

I then began to suspect that all the unorthodox things the Soviet reporters attributed to Ronald Reagan — his radical positions on the economy and fighting the Cold War — might be true as well. The same reporters earlier described Jimmy Carter as an evil imperialist warmonger, so I initially doubted their coverage of Reagan. What government official would ever advocate for a smaller government? It seemed too fantastic to be true. But this time the media got it right — which, by my newly discovered standards, made Reagan a good man and a wise leader. It's those whom the Soviet media praised that were the real trouble.

After I moved to the United States years later, I also discovered Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, and Ludwig von Mises. But Thatcher was one of the earliest prominent guideposts in my intellectual journey, for which I am forever grateful.

Unlike the current U.S. president, Thatcher didn't have a well-oiled propagandistic social media organization in the style of OFA. Nor did the "progressive" world media advance and reverberate her message; that free service is reserved for the political left only. For Thatcher, it was quite the opposite.

And yet she exerted great influence over people. She did it merely by being who she was: informed, unwavering in the face of adversity, brave in defending the truth, and confident in her belief that the free markets are a force for good, while socialism is a force for evil. A few Western leaders may have agreed with her in private, but they didn't have the courage to say it openly in the twisted moral climate brought on their countries by the false promise of socialism.

What Thatcher showed to these men is that when one has no fear of speaking the truth and possesses enough moral conviction to push back, miracles happen. Britain's resurrection as an economic powerhouse was one of them.

Her message came through despite all the hostile efforts to jam it around the world, shattering not just the Western establishment's media filters, but the Iron Curtain itself.

It still resonates; if only today's leaders could listen.



The Great Grab Has Begun

An American Cyprus on the way

President Obama recently released his 2014 budget and, of course, everyone focused on the aspect of spending.  In fact, it was almost like the magician who diverts your attention to their right hand while the trick is being set-up with their left hand.

Much to the credit of the mainstream media, they found the little item — capping IRAs — on page-18 of the budget, which is a very good source of revenue with an estimated $9 billion over the next decade.

Yet, unfortunately, the media has once again missed the important point.  It’s not just IRAs, but also 401Ks, Roth IRAs, and perhaps even deferred compensation, municipal bonds, insurance policies, and annuities that will all be affected as evidenced by this excerpt from Obama’s budget: “Limit an individual’s total balance across tax-preferred accounts.”  This statement is so broad that it fully opens the door for governmental interpretation.

The mass media also focused on the fact that the cap was $3 million.  Yet, once again, this is not exactly the case.  The actual budget declares to “limit an individual’s total an amount sufficient to finance an annuity of not more than $205,000 per year.”  Given the current artificially low interest rates, the number needed in order to achieve such a cash flow is $3 million.

However, if interest rates rise, as most of the world assumes will happen eventually, then the $3 million instantly becomes a lot less.  And if hyperinflation hits, that $3 million could hypothetically be reduced to a mere pittance.  (It’s all relative.)

The final unanswered question (and even unasked question) is as follows: If it is determined (sounds like a new official government department is needed — Obama job creation) that your lifetime savings of IRAs, 401Ks, Roth IRAs, municipal bonds, and even annuities, are all collectively over the government’s maximum amount, what happens?  Are you required to liquidate and pay taxes?  Or, does the government simply say, “Sorry, yours is mine, we need it, have a nice day.”

Didn’t the government say the exact same thing on April 5, 1933, the day FDR seized Americans’ gold?  At that time, at least the gold holder received something in return, approximately $20 per ounce.

Yet, only a few weeks later, those same previous gold owners watched as gold was revalued at $35 per ounce — an approximate 50% haircut.  Of course, the mass media accepts all of this, from 1933 to the present-day, as simply the government’s comprehensive understanding of the exact needs of the individual citizen.  It starts with taxes and ends with seizure.  But, of course, according to the mainstream media, it can’t happen here because we’re not that island country known as Cyprus — not yet, anyway.



The Obama budget

Charles Krauthammer

The cards laid down by the White House are quite unimpressive. The 2014 budget is tax-and-spend as usual. The actual deficit reduction over a decade is a minuscule $0.6 trillion — out of a total spending of $46.5 trillion. And every penny of this tiny reduction comes from tax hikes. Nothing from spending cuts, which all end up getting spent elsewhere.

Moreover, where’s the compromise? The Obama budget calls for not only more spending than the GOP’s, but more than the Democratic Senate’s as well. For just fiscal 2014, it even contains $160 billion more spending, and $128 billion more deficit, than if the budget — that Obama purports to be cutting — were left untouched!

True, President Obama has finally put on the table, in writing, an entitlement reform. This is good. But the spin, mindlessly echoed in the mainstream media, that this is some cosmic breakthrough is comical.

First, the proposal — “chained CPI,” a change in the way inflation is measured — is very small. It reduces Social Security by a quarter of a penny on the dollar — a $2,000 check reduced by a five-dollar bill.

Second, the change is merely technical. The White House itself admits that the result is simply a more accurate measure of inflation. It’s not really cutting anything. It merely eliminates an unintended overpayment.

Finally, the president made it clear that he doesn’t like this reform at all. It’s merely a gift to Republicans. This is odd. Why should a technical correction be a political favor to anyone? Is getting things right not a favor to the nation?

What the budget is crying out for is some entitlement reform that goes beyond the bare-minimum CPI revision that just about every deficit commission of the last 15 years has recommended as an obvious gimme. The other obvious reform is to raise the retirement/eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare to match longevity. These programs were meant to protect the elderly from destitution, not to subsidize almost one-third the adult life of every baby boomer.

Given the president’s distaste for even chained CPI, it’s hard to see him ever agreeing to a major reform on the retirement age. Nonetheless, the proposition deserves testing — through a major GOP concession on revenue.

By way of tax reform. The landmark 1986 Reagan-Tip O’Neill tax reform was revenue neutral. It closed tax loopholes and devoted the money to reduce tax rates. As I suggested last month, the GOP should offer Obama a major concession: a 50 percent solution in which only half the loophole money goes to reduce tax rates. The rest goes to the Treasury, to be spent or saved as Congress decides.



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

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)


Sunday, April 14, 2013


I have added quite a few entries to the sidebar here in recent weeks.  Those who have time to browse might find some new thoughts  that they like.


A Tale of ‘Government Investment’

As amateurs, the Wright brothers beat the taxpayer-funded brain trust in the race to flight

It was the early 20th century. America was in a race with the powers of the world to invent the first airplane. Much was at stake. Our leaders feared that the Germans, the British, and, if you can suspend your disbelief, the French might beat us to the punch, giving the winning country a huge advantage militarily and economically.

Who better to win the race for us, thought our leaders, than the best and brightest minds the government could buy? They chose Samuel Langley. You don’t know him, but in his day, Langley was a big deal. He had a big brain and lots of credentials. A renowned scientist and a professor of astronomy, he wrote books about aviation and was the head of the Smithsonian.

It was the kind of decision that well-intentioned bureaucrats would make throughout the century — and still make today. Give taxpayer money to the smartest guys in the room, the ones with lots of degrees. They’ll innovate and do good for us.

Langley did have some success with unmanned flight, using a catapult-like system to propel his machines into the air. On the basis of that limited success, the Department of War gave him $50,000 for two experiments, and he extracted a decent sum from the Smithsonian, too. That was real money back then. Today, bureaucrats wouldn’t stop to pick up $50,000 if it were lying on the street.

What did the citizens of the United States get for that “investment,” the kind we are making today in green energy? It was the Great Aerodrome, and on October 7, 1903, the aircraft developed by Langley’s team of experts was launched from a catapult on a houseboat in the Potomac River.

The crowds lined up, as did the press. As the aircraft accelerated and reached full speed, it was hurtled along a catapult toward a launch. A few scant seconds of sudden acceleration were followed by a sudden and shocking plunge into river. “It fell like a ton of mortar,” a reporter wrote.

The plane that couldn’t fly and the man flying it were somehow salvaged, and preparations were made for another flight. The project needed some tweaks, the experts told the world. On December 8, Langley and his team of brainiacs tried it again. This time, the airplane got caught up in the launching mechanism and dropped into the river.

Langley’s machine should have been called the Not So Great Aerodrome; it never got airborne. The media had a field day. “The Boston Herald suggested that Professor Langley ought to give up airplanes and try submarines,” Burt Folsom notes in a lecture in Hillsdale College’s series of online courses, “American Heritage.” The Brooklyn Eagle led its story with this quote from a now-forgotten congressman: “You tell Langley for me that the only thing he ever made fly was government money.”

The War Department, in its final report on the Langley project, concluded: “We are still far from the ultimate goal, and it would seem as if years of constant work and study by experts, together with the expenditure of thousands of dollars, would still be necessary before we can hope to produce an apparatus of practical utility on these lines.” Isn’t that just the kind of arrogance you’d expect from government bureaucrats? If their best minds can’t do it with our money, no one can.

On December 17, 1903, only nine days after Langley’s second failed experiment, two Ohio men did what the War Department, Langley, the Smithsonian, and all of that government investment could not. With $2,000 of their own money and little fanfare, the Wright brothers launched the first powered heavier-than-air machine to achieve controlled, sustained flight with a pilot aboard. From dunes four miles south of Kitty Hawk, N.C., the Wrights’ Flyer flew for 59 seconds, traveled 852 feet, and ushered in the era of modern aviation.

How did the Wright brothers succeed where Langley had failed?  Langley and his band of experts were working on the wrong problem and thought more money would solve it. James Tobin in his book To Conquer the Air: The Wright Brothers and The Great Race for Flight (2004) explained that they saw flight as a problem of power; the Wrights, as a problem of balance. That difference in perspective led to the development of two machines along very different paths: Langley’s, straight into the water and oblivion; the Wright brothers’, straight to the sky, and into history.

From the beginning of their work in aeronautics, the Wright brothers focused on developing a reliable method of pilot control. Their breakthrough was their conception of what is now called three-axis control, which enabled the pilot to steer the aircraft effectively and maintain its balance. This method became a standard in the industry and remains standard on fixed-wing aircraft.

How did they see what others couldn’t? By chance or fate, the Wright brothers had mechanical skills perfectly suited to their success in aviation, and insight that came from their years of experience in their bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio. They understood that an unstable vehicle such as a flying machine could be controlled and balanced with practice. These were advantages that the government lacked, as did some of their fiercest competitors in the private sector, including Alexander Graham Bell.

That’s the thing about genius: It springs from the unlikeliest places.

The Wright brothers were also freed from the subsidy-induced waste that hinders many government-funded projects. Indeed, the limits on their financial resources actually helped them. They were compelled to spend wisely what little they had. As Milton Friedman once observed, few people spend other people’s money as carefully as they spend their own.

Since the Wright brothers couldn’t absorb the costs of repeated flight tests, they developed a wind tunnel to test aerodynamic designs. This saved them not only money but time. From those simulations they amassed data that they used to hone their aircraft designs. It proved easier to fix a problem on paper than to do what Langley did: rebuild planes that had no chance of flying.

Another (often overlooked) reason that using their own money gave the Wright brothers a competitive advantage: control. Indeed, they turned down investors, appreciating that when grantors give money, they usually attach conditions. All too often the course of development is altered to cater to the grantor’s expectations, even if they are dead wrong or just plain silly. Who dares bite the hand that feeds him? Many of the experiments the Wright brothers carried out might never have been green-lighted by a corporate or government bureaucracy.

Repeatedly, hobbyists and tinkerers beat big government and big companies when it comes to innovation. Small beats big, and people with less money and scantier resources come up with products and inventions that change industries — and the world. It was a young Bill Gates who challenged IBM’s lucrative mainframe business; the same holds true of the creators of Apple, Google, and Facebook.

As with so many great innovations in our own time, powered flight in America was propelled by amateurs. The Wright brothers found themselves in the flying business, writes Tobin, “in the sheer spirit of play, of hobbyists.”

Yet another advantage that they enjoyed was that they were interested in making a profit. To the inventor of the first manned flight would come riches, while the bicycle business, which had been a good one for them, was undergoing a consolidation. Profit margins were shrinking. The brothers eyed manned flight as a future source of profit.

Langley, on the other hand, was attempting to advance the public good. While men who, like Langley, make their living in academia and from government funding often mock the profit motive, it’s the world’s best-known mechanism for unleashing people’s capabilities for productivity, which lead to innovations and products that contribute to the public good.

Though the Wrights beat Langley and the Smithsonian, the race didn’t end there. Powerful interests vied for the patent to this revolutionary invention and, more important, for the credit for it. With Smithsonian approval, a well-known aviation expert modified Langley’s Aerodrome and in 1914 made some short flights designed to bypass the Wright brothers’ patent application and to vindicate the Smithsonian and its fearless leader, Samuel Langley.

That’s right. The Smithsonian’s brain trust couldn’t beat the bicycle-shop owners fair and square, so they used their power to steal the credit. And then they used their bully pulpit to rewrite history. In 1914, America’s most esteemed historical museum cooked the books and displayed the Smithsonian-funded Langley Aerodrome in its museum as the first manned aircraft heavier than air and capable of flight.

Orville Wright, who outlived his brother Wilbur, accused the Smithsonian of falsifying the historical record. So upset was he that he sent the 1903 Kitty Hawk Flyer, the plane that made aviation history, to a science museum in . . . London.

But truth is a stubborn thing. And in 1942, after much embarrassment, the Smithsonian recanted its false claims about the Aerodrome. The British museum returned the Wright brothers’ historic Flyer to America, and the Smithsonian put it on display in their Arts and Industries Building on December 17, 1948, 45 years to the day after the aircraft’s only flights. A grand government deception was at last foiled by facts and fate.



The totalitarianism of universal background checks

Finally, some sanity, and from a somewhat unexpected source. The ACLU is concerned about the civil liberties implications of the new Harry Reid Senate bill to establish so-called “universal background checks” for firearms purchases. The organization has tended toward silence on gun rights, but at least now it recognizes aspects of the problem with this terrible proposal.

Ever since Sandy Hook, the Obama administration and its progressive choir have demanded a new Assault Weapons Ban (AWB). Now it looks like that plan is toast. California Senator Dianne Feinstein blames gun owners and the NRA, and in a sense we should have expected all along that this proposal would get nowhere. Such a ban would mostly target “semi-automatic” rifles—which, despite all the hysterics, simply refers to any standard rifle that fires one round each time the trigger is pulled—that happen to have esthetic elements like the pistol grip that do not in fact add to the weapons’ lethality. This is the nonsensical standard used to ban some classes of weapons instrumentally identical to the ones banned in 1994.

The first AWB devastated the Democrats politically, and probably contributed as much as anything to the Republicans’ crushing victory in the 1994 congressional elections after forty years in the legislative minority. It also hurt Al Gore in his run against George W. Bush in 2000. The ban generally prohibited ordinary but scary looking rifles, which are used in about two percent of violent crimes committed with firearms. The law did not apply to, say, most of the weapons used at the Columbine school massacre in 1999. But it did interfere with Americans’ basic right to own what we can fairly call the modern version of the musket. Millions of Americans own such weapons like the AR-15, the most popular rifle and one targeted by the Democrats’ proposal for a new, robust AWB. These weapons are used for hunting, sport, and self-defense. They are not, despite all the misinformation to the contrary, repeating, military-style rifles.

In any event, the unpopularity of an AWB always doomed this proposal, especially under a Democratic president as distrusted on the right as Obama. The Republicans have the House and too many Democrats in the Senate are loyal to their gun-owning constituents.

So this whole time, the real threat to our firearms freedom has been these less debated, peripheral proposals—proposals that strip people the state deems “mentally ill” of the right to bear arms, proposals that violate the civil rights of released convicts, proposals to increase penalties for violations of current law, and, as disturbing as anything, proposals to institute “universal background checks.”

The gun restrictionists have pointed to polls showing more than 90% approval of such background checks, including among a vast majority of conservatives, Republicans, and gunowners. Liberty is always attacked on the margins, and most Americans don’t go to gun shows and so don’t see the big deal. Surely the state should know who is armed. Surely we don’t want people buying and selling guns freely.

But, in fact, universal background checks are arguably even more tyrannical than banning whole classes of weapons. Why should the government know who is armed? Why shouldn’t people be allowed to freely buy and sell private property without government permission? Half of Americans see background checks as the first step toward full registration then confiscation. Many fear that the new law would create records of these deals that would not immediately be destroyed, which could form databases or enable government in further nefarious purposes. The progressives have tended to regard any of these worries as paranoia, but it looks like the ACLU is now among the paranoid.

There is no need to discuss pure hypotheticals. There have been gun confiscations in the United States. After the Civil War, officials conducted confiscations to disarm American Indians and blacks became the target in the Jim Crow South. Confiscations followed Hurricane Katrina, along with the rest of the government’s martial law response.

Since many gun controllers openly say they want a total ban of certain kinds of firearms, or all firearms, why wouldn’t gunowners fear that registration will lead to confiscation? The U.S. president promised that he would not take away Americans’ rifles, then went ahead and proceeded to propose to do just that. Add all of this to the database growth, the warrantless wiretapping, the domestic surveillance drones, the frightening executive power grabs concerning detention, interrogation, and executions, and the overall militarization of policing that has unfolded thanks to the wars on drugs and terror

Of course, it should go without saying that when it comes to criminal enterprise, universal background checks are unenforceable. In a country with as many guns as there are people, criminals and the state will always get the weapons they want. Firearms are easier to manufacture than many illegal drugs, and we see how well the state has stamped those out. The rapid developments in 3-D printing makes it even crazier that we’d still be talking about gun control as anything but a threat to the liberty of the law abiding.




Every mass shooting over last 20 years has one thing in common … and it’s not guns:  "Nearly every mass shooting incident in the last twenty years, and multiple other instances of suicide and isolated shootings all share one thing in common, and its not the weapons used. The overwhelming evidence points to the signal largest common factor in all of these incidents is the fact that all of the perpetrators were either actively taking powerful psychotropic drugs or had been at some point in the immediate past before they committed their crimes." [Ban psychiatric drugs?]

The coming healthcare cuts for seniors and the disabled:  "Senior citizens are major losers in health reform. More than half the cost of the reform will be paid for by $523 billion of cuts in Medicare spending over the next ten years. Although there are some new benefits for seniors (mainly new drug coverage), the costs exceed the benefits by a factor of more than ten to one."

Screwing the troops:  "The delay and endless often senseless paperwork involved in getting anything is so great that it is easier for disabled vets just to do without or pay for it themselves one way or another. Remember, we are not talking welfare queens or entitlement parasites. These are guys badly hurt in Washington’s wars, brains scrambled by IEDs, legs still somewhere in Afghanistan. The vet’s only hope is to have smart, tenacious representation, preferably by a lawyer. Few have this. What it comes to is that, in practice, the benefits that are supposed to exist do not. This saves a lot of money. It doesn’t help the vet."


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

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)