Friday, May 30, 2014

Was Elliot Rodger a schizophrenic?

Ann Coulter says so below but I am not so sure.  Delusions are the hallmark of the schizophrenic and we see no evidence of that.  I am more inclined to say that he had a personality disorder.  But that he was severely psychologically disturbed is clear

Mass murder at a sunny college campus in a beach town would normally be considered "newsy," but Elliot Rodger's massacre at the University of California-Santa Barbara last Friday is getting surprisingly little press.

This is not a good case for liberals: The killer was an immigrant, a person of color, and the majority of his casualties resulted from attacks with a car or knife. It makes as much sense to rant about the NRA as to blame the Auto Club of America or the National Knife Collectors Association.

Rather, what we have is yet another mass murder committed by a schizophrenic -- just like those of Seung-Hui Cho, Jared Loughner, James Holmes and Adam Lanza.

Yes, they all used guns. Also, they were all males. They were all college-aged. They all had hair. Those are not distinctive characteristics.

When the last five mass murderers share something that only 1 percent of the population has, I think we've found the relevant common denominator.

Rodger had been seeing therapists since he was 8 years old. Just last year, his psychiatrist, Dr. Charles Sophy, prescribed him Risperidone, an anti-psychotic. But after looking up what Risperidone was for -- schizophrenia -- Rodger decided "it was the absolute wrong thing for me to take" and never did.

See, that's the thing about schizophrenics -- they don't think they're sick. They think the lava lamp that's talking to them is sick.

Rodger's "manifesto" reads like Nikolai Gogol's "Diary of a Madman" -- generally recognized as the first description of schizophrenia, except it's a little repetitive and not well-written, no matter what that "tech guru" says.

I'm one of the few who have read all 141 pages. It is a tale of increasing delusions, paranoia, hallucinations and wild, grandiose self-assessments. In other words, it is a slightly less whiny version of Obama's first inaugural address. (How many pages does your manifesto have to be before we can force you to take your medication?)

Rodger says of himself:

-- "I saw myself as a highly intelligent and magnificent person who is meant for great things."

-- "Becoming a multimillionaire at a young age is what I am meant for."

-- "I am like a god."

-- "This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and the planet began to heal."

(No -- wait ... Last one was Obama.)

Rodger saw every female as a "tall, hot blonde" -- and, this being California, that's at a campus that's only 50 percent white. He viewed all couples as his sworn enemies causing his suffering.

Although Rodger loved driving his car, he "soon learned the hard way" not to drive on Friday and Saturday nights, where he "frequently saw bands of teenagers roaming the streets." They "had pretty girls beside them," probably on their way to "get drunk and have sex and do all sorts of fun pleasurable things that I've never had the chance to do. Damn them all!"

At Santa Barbara City College, he dropped his sociology class on the first day of school "because there was this extremely hot blonde girl in the class with her brute of a boyfriend." Rodger couldn't even sit through the whole first class with them, merely for being a couple.

Santa Monica Pier was out for him, too: "I saw young couples everywhere. ... Life was too unfair to me." On a trip to England, he refused to leave his hotel room so he wouldn't have to see men walking with their girlfriends.

The "cruelty" of women apparently consisted of the failure of any "tall, hot blondes" to approach Rodger and ask for sex. He would walk around for hours "in the desperate hope that I might possibly cross paths with some pretty girl who would be attracted to me."

But only once, in the entire 141-page manifesto, does Rodger attempt to speak to a girl himself. She's a total stranger walking past him on a bridge, and he musters up the courage to say "hi." He claims she "kept on walking" and said nothing. She probably didn't hear him. But he called her a "foul bitch" and went to a bathroom to cry for an hour.

Although Rodger repeatedly denounces the world and everyone in it for "cruelty and injustice," he was the bully more often than the bullied, especially as time went on, and his rage increased.

He sees an Asian guy talking to a white girl at a party, decides he'd been "insulted enough," and roughly bumped the Asian aside."How could an ugly Asian attract the attention of a white girl, while a beautiful Eurasian like myself never had any attention from them? I thought with rage."

Even after this unprovoked assault, the couple was nice to him, telling him he was drunk and should have some water. He stormed out of the party, but returned to "spitefully insult" the Asian.

Then he climbed up on a balcony at the party, and when some college kids joined him, he began insulting them and tried to push the girls off a 10-foot ledge.

He hectors his mother to marry "any wealthy man" because it would "be a way out of my miserable and insignificant life." He tells her "she should sacrifice her well-being for the sake of my happiness."

When flying first class, he says, "I took great satisfaction as I passed by all of the other people who flew economy, giving all of the younger passengers a cocky little smirk whenever they looked at me."

Meanwhile, in 141 pages, the worst thing anyone ever did to him was not say "hi" back.

His claims that couples all over were "making out" or "passionately kissing" are probably hallucinatory. In the Starbucks line? At family dinners? They were probably holding hands and Rodger hallucinated something resembling a live sex act.

Thus, he writes that a couple in a Starbucks line were "kissing passionately ... rubbing their bodies together and tongue kissing in front of everyone." Livid, Rodger followed them to their car and threw his hot coffee on them. Utterly self-pitying, he says: "I cursed the world for condemning me to such suffering." Then he spent five days alone in his room.

Another couple Rodger says were kissing "passionately" in the food court outside Domino's pizza enraged him so much he followed them in his car and "splashed my iced tea all over them" -- to fight "against the injustice."

But the story that sounds the most like Gogol's Poprishchin hearing two dogs talking in Russian is Rodger's allegation that his stepmother bragged to him that his stepbrother, Jazz -- her own 6-year-old son! -- "would be a success with girls and probably lose his virginity early."

I know Moroccan cultural mores are different, but I'm calling "auditory hallucination" on that one.

A family friend, Simon Astaire, described Rodger's flat affect, common to schizophrenics, saying he "couldn't look at you straight in the eye and looked at your feet. It was unbearable."

It's hard to feel sorry for a mass murderer, but it was cruel to Elliot Rodger to allow him to refuse medication and turn himself into a monster. It was beyond cruel to his innocent victims -- as well as the other victims of psychopathic killers. But liberals are more worried about "stigmatizing" the mentally ill than the occasional mass murder.



The social influences on Elliot Rodger

Jessica Valenti of the Guardian wants to head the idea of individual responsibility off at the pass, writing “According to his family, Rodger was seeking psychiatric treatment. But to dismiss this as a case of a lone "madman" would be a mistake.”

Why? Well, she continues, “It not only stigmatizes the mentally ill – who are much more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of it – but glosses over the role that misogyny and gun culture play (and just how foreseeable violence like this is) in a sexist society. After all, while it is unclear what role Rodger's reportedly poor mental health played in the alleged crime, the role of misogyny is obvious.”

Obvious, is it?

Yes, the mentally ill are a high percentage of the victims of violence. But when it comes perpetrators of mass killings, they’re pretty much it. Not too many well-adjusted, friendly, functioning people committing them. It’s the equivalent of the kindergarten-level progressive claim that it’s Islamophibic to point out the fact that while very few Muslims are terrorists, most suicide bombers are believers in Islam. (Say that too loudly and Arianna Huffington’s head implodes.) It’s an inconvenient fact to progressives, who would rather spend their time drawing moral equivalence between history’s greatest monsters and the Tea Party, but their dislike of a fact doesn’t make it any less of one.

She continues, “Rodger, like most young American men, was taught that he was entitled to sex and female attention… He believed this so fully that he described women's apathy toward him as an "injustice" and a "crime".

The fact that 4 of his 6 victims were male, and the general insanity of his 107,000 word “manifesto” touched on any number of subjects aside, notice the words she put in quotation marks? Couple them with Rodger’s own words from one his YouTube videos, “College is the time when everyone experiences those things such as sex and fun and pleasure, but in those years I've had to rot in loneliness, it's not fair … I don't know why you girls aren't attracted to me but I will punish you all for it.” (Emphasis added.)

Elliot Rodger saw himself as a victim of “injustice,” of a “crime.” His life, which was one of privilege, was “not fair.” These are his words, his thoughts. Where have we heard them before?

The concept of life being unfair and the need to seek “justice” to fix it is the very heart of progressivism. Nothing is your fault, it’s society’s. You’re just a victim.

We are raising a generation of participation trophy winning, everyone is special believing, all thoughts are valid, there are no wrong answers, high self-esteem having, if it feels good do it, you can’t judge monsters. These monsters have never been told there are lines you do not cross, you don’t always get your way, someone will be better than you even at the things you are great at, and you’re going to have to bust your ass to get what you want, and then only maybe will you.

Many of the generation coming of age now are simply not equipped to deal with failure, be it in not getting a job or a date, or anything in between. They don’t know how to deal with even small failures because they’ve been insulated from reality by the progressive Lake Wobegon-esque “everyone is special” philosophy that has people looking for an explanation of their shortcomings externally.

It creates a large pool of voters for them – people seeking external relief from government for their problems and the problems of others – but it also spawns monsters ill-suited to the realities of adulthood. That some on the edge snap when faced with what used to be routine growing pains, rites of passage, should not come as a surprise.

Progressives aren’t interested in the consequences of their actions, they don’t reflect on results, all that matters is intentions. The “War on Poverty” has made poverty worse, and nearly inescapable, but they meant well. The VA provides “free health care” to veterans, just as long as they don’t have serious health issues, then they die waiting. They are spending more than every before on education because they care, but fewer and fewer children are learning the basics.

Everyone is special, above average, a perfect little snowflake just as capable of anything as everyone else is. Only we’re not. People are individuals with different skills and abilities and, most importantly, motivation. You could be the smartest person in the world, but if your plan for life involves waiting tables until someone comes along, recognizes that fact and offers to pay you a lot of money to simply be brilliant, you’re going to be an old waiter.

Life is as much what you do as it is what happens to you. To think otherwise, to be taught otherwise, is a disservice to humanity. It’s also very progressive.

That’s what I would point out to those looking to advance a political agenda on the graves of the 6 victims of Elliot Rodger.



Non-profit stands up to Obamacare

Thanks to Obamacare, the Media Research Center is being threatened with outrageous fines totaling $4.5 million per year, starting this May. That is more than $12,500 every day! These fines will put us out of business.

Our offense? We oppose the federal government's move to functionally revoke our Constitutional right of religious liberty demanding that we subsidize contraception, abortifacients, and sterilizations.

We have carefully explored our options and determined that we only have one viable alternative: legal action.  We have filed suit in federal court to force the government to certify our exemption from Obamacare's unethical and unconstitutional mandates.

The initial hearing in our lawsuit against the Obama Administration's Health and Human Services department is scheduled for June 6.

The MRC is leading the way: we are the first non-profit organization to take this type of action. This will be a seminal case in the fight against this legislative overreach.

This lawsuit comes with known risks. We will be forced to incur significant legal expenses to defend ourselves—estimated at $150,000—but after exhausting our alternatives, our choice is clear: we must stand for liberty.

We only get one chance at this. A victory for us will be a victory for all who value religious liberty.

More here


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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Does WWI explain the Ukraine situation?

George Friedman thinks it does.  He looks at WWI, WWII and the cold war and manages to find similarities in them which he also believes apply to the Ukraine situation today.

Such vast simplifications are always popular.  They offer a shortcut to understanding.  But I think this one falls at the first hurdle.

Friedman's basic point is that nations feel threatened if they are bordered by other hostile nations.   That seems commonsense on the face of it but what defines "hostile"? We can see that Canada and Mexico do not feel threatened by the vastness of the USA on their borders because the USA is not hostile.  The USA is in fact probably the most benevolent nation the world has ever seen.  But in Europe it is not so clear. The Northern European countries, including Germany,  tended in history to be friendly with Britain. The Anglo-German defeat of Napoleon may be remembered.  But for Gneisenau, Napoleon would have won at Waterloo.

Yet in two world wars Britain and Germany fought one another.  So were Germany and Britain hostile or friendly to one-another?  From a 19th century perspective one would say friendly but from an early 20th century perspective, one would tend to say hostile.

But even there we have problems.  The German Kaiser was in fact part of the British Royal family and he spent a lot of time in their company.  He spoke perfect English and Queen Victoria died in his arms.  And after the death of the Queen, the British King, Edward VII was widely esteemed to be the only person who could calm the Kaiser down when he got angry. In a great loss for British diplomacy, however, Edward died in 1910.   And given the prominent role of the Kaiser in Germany, how can we say that Germany and Britain were hostile? They were not. They were family.   But they still fought a war.

So I think Friedman's thesis about national policy being dependant on borders is badly flawed.  One thing Britain and Germany did NOT have was a border!

What Friedman says is that after the defeat of the French at Sedan in 1870, the freshly united Germany was such a militarily powerful entity that the rest of Europe was in fear of it and German diplomacy had to deal  with the possibility that nervous neighbors would "gang up" on Germany and attack it from all sides in order to pre-empt a threat from Germany.  Friedman is not alone in that view.  None other than the German Chancellor of the day, Otto von Bismarck saw it similarly.  And Bismarck put into place two measures to deal with it.

The first was his own diplomacy.  By a bewildering series of diplomatic maneuvers, he kept everyone off balance and confused.  So nobody really knew where Germany stood and hence could not muster the clarity needed to initiate armed conflict.  So as long as Bismarck was in charge, Germany was safe.  But Bismarck resigned in 1890 and the diplomatic picture became much more stable after that.

But Bismarck's second measure remained in place and Friedman seems to have entirely overlooked its role.  Bismarck was from early on  protective of the integrity of Austria/Hungary, seeing it from early days as an important potential ally, first to Prussia and later to Germany as a whole.  And indeed it was.  It was a very large political entity on Germany's Southern border that had impressive armies at its disposal. Not all the troops concerned were of first quality but they were not alone in that and most did eventually perform quite well under Austrian leadership.

So, contrary to Friedman, Germany had no need to fear anyone.  The alliance of Germany with Austria was essentially uncrackable and no-one in their right mind would attack such powerful allies.  So Germany had no reason to anticipate war and no reason to prepare for it.  So a stable peace should have prevailed in Europe.  For over 40 years Germany had remained unthreatening and Germany had no need to feel threatened.

Unfortunately, there was someone who was NOT in his right mind.  The Russian Tsar knew fully well the close alliance between Austria and Germany but mobilized his vast armies against Austria nonetheless.  The Austrian leadership felt able to cope with that but Germany could not afford an Austrian failure so Germany mobilized too and the die was cast.

So I think it is fairly clear that a foolish Russian despot was the cause of WWI.  But to infer from that that a popular Russian leader is about to ignite a new conflagration would be reasoning of the shallowest kind.

But WHY did the Tsar mobilize?  Contrary to Friedman, it was not over any concern with his borders.  It was because of sentimental racism.  As many Russians did and still do, he saw the Serbs as racial and linguistic brethren to Russians --  and indeed they were and are. And since Austria and Serbia were in conflict, the Tsar intervened to protect little Serbia against big bully Austria.  It was a very ill-judged intervention -- leading the Tsar to lose both his throne and his life.

And once the armies were mobilized, a variety of factors ensured that there would be no turning back for any of the nations involved  -- but I have written at length on those factors elsewhere.  Borders don't come into it.

So what of Ukraine?  Mr Putin has no need to fear anyone, on his borders or not.  So what is motivating him?

It is very clear.  Russia is staring down the barrel of a demographic disaster.  The birthrate is so low that the Russian population is steadily shrinking.  So Mr Putin wants to regather all Russians into Russia to postpone the disaster.  And because he values Russian lives he has proceeded with great caution.

There was no invasion of Crimea and there has been no invasion of Western Ukraine.  Mr Putin cleverly relied on Russian sentimentality for him to be INVITED by the Crimean parliament to take them into his fold.  And he is clearly waiting for the same thing to happen in Western Ukraine.  Russia will expand but by largely peaceful means only.

The same thing happened in the Russian bits of Georgia.  They had declared their independence of Georgia and were well on their way to an engagement with Russia when the Georgians invaded and endeavoured to reassert their control.  Faced with a blocking of a peaceful constitutional evolution, Putin kicked the Georgians out by military force.  But it was not Putin who initiated the military action and the action ceased once its very limited aims had been achieved.

So let the Eastern Europeans reorganize themselves as best they can.  They will only be a threat if the West tries to meddle in the process.

Just a footnote on Crimea:  The received Western view seems to be that the independence vote in Crimea was a put-up job, a fraud, a fake.  It was not.  There were many international observers present who warranted it as fair.  See here.


Jonah Goldberg is less sanguine about Vladimir Vladimirovich

Vladimir Putin, with the aid of his vast propaganda machinery, has convinced many Russians that the interim government in Ukraine is expressly Nazi and fascist. And while there were some neo-Nazi goons among the protesters who brought down the corrupt government of Victor Yanukovich, and there are definitely ultranationalists among the coalition resisting Moscow, it's simply a transparent lie that the current government is fascist.

That hasn't stopped some left-wing writers and crackpots in the West from buying the Russian claim that the United States is in cahoots with a "fascist junta" in Ukraine.

This is a very old story. Josef Stalin championed the idea that all of his political opponents should be dubbed fascists, including many of his fellow Bolsheviks, such as Leon Trotsky (whom Stalin had assassinated), and much of the Red Army's officer corps (whom he had executed) and countless Ukrainians (whom he had liquidated). Stalin insisted that even mentioning the man-made Ukrainian famine -- i.e., Stalin-made -- was evidence you were an agent of the Nazis.

Under Stalin's "theory of social fascism," any socialist, social democratic or progressive group or party not loyal to him had to be called fascist. Hence, for a while Moscow insisted that FDR and even Norman Thomas (head of the Socialist Party of America) were fascists.

Ultimately, communist propagandists and their allied intellectuals would reflexively blame fascism for everything, regardless of the facts. That's what prompted George Orwell to remark that "the word fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies 'something not desirable.'"

It's been fascinating to watch as Putin, an ex-KGB man, revives this trope, particularly given that his own behavior is so generically fascistic. Putin is a corporatist (the economic doctrine of fascism). He's a dictatorial, charismatic leader who bends church, business, labor and media to the needs of a centralized state under a thoroughly nationalist banner. As Cathy Young writes for RealClearPolitics, Putin is nurturing his own cadres of ultra-right goons in Ukraine and elsewhere.

Of course, Russia's propaganda campaign hinges on more than the use and abuse of the "F-word." It's been lying about all manner of things, manipulating events on the ground and doctoring images on the airwaves.

It would be nice if this revival of KGB-style deceit caused some soul-searching in the West about other lies and distortions disseminated by the Soviets.

We get the word "disinformation" from the Russian "Dezinformatsiya," the name of the KGB division charged with propagating deliberate lies around the world. They were very good at it.

To be sure, we have our homegrown nuts, but the Soviets fertilized and cultivated the crop at every opportunity. Immediately after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the Soviets went into overdrive nurturing "independent" writers such as former German communist Joachim Joesten. His "Oswald: Assassin or Fall Guy?" was the first book on the murder, appearing before the Warren Commission issued its findings. Joesten "discovered" that Kennedy was killed by the CIA, of course.

When the Mitrokhin archives -- the files of a defector KGB librarian -- were opened in the 1990s, we learned that Joesten was funded by the KGB. These and similar efforts have distorted the way we talk about the Kennedy assassination and, subtly, our society. You could say that Oliver Stone is like the proverbial Japanese soldier who doesn't know the war is over. Stone's movie "JFK" was a natural extension of the KGB line (right down to the smear that J. Edgar Hoover was a transvestite).

In the 1980s, the Soviets deployed vast resources to propagate the lie that the U.S. created AIDS as part of a biological warfare program. In the first six months of 1987, some 40 newspapers in developing countries ran the story.

It's impossible to know how much of the anti-American narrative contains KGB DNA. Howard Zinn and I.F. Stone would not have been conservative cheerleaders even if the Soviet Union never existed. But Putin's war on the truth in Ukraine is simply the latest battle in a very old war.


Jonah's claim that Putin has been "lying about all manner of things" is lamentably unspecific


Lessons from Putin?

 We're living in a period that arguably represents the pinnacle of flash dominating substance. Saying the right things can get a politician elected to office -- or even awarded a pre-emptive Nobel Peace Prize before he can get around to reigniting the Cold War and racking up snafus in international diplomacy. A great many modern-day celebrities achieve fame by being present on television in some capacity while being shoved down the throat of the collective public through publicity efforts, rather than by using actual talent to gain access to a public platform.

But what if a politician could leverage both substance and style effectively?

If there's any politician on the international stage who has mastered the ability to approximate leadership via superficial trappings until the context arises to transition into a substantial leadership posture, it's Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In the offseason, when there isn't much going on politically, he doesn't exhaust the public with needless Fidel Castro-style speeches or hyperactivity. Instead, he simply drags around a cameraman while he performs various acts of manliness, from fishing to swimming. The resulting images are sufficiently close on a psychological and visceral level to that of a strong leader, albeit in the absence of the context to really prove his meddle. In this phase, Putin is no different from the star quarterback benching his body weight in the gym during the offseason. While there are some people for whom that's sufficient, the exceptional mastery comes from being able to score a touchdown when the opportunity presents itself. It's the transition from image to action where our most charismatic leaders often fail.

When conflict materialized in Ukraine, Putin put away the photo-shoot trappings and shifted into a higher gear with decisive actions and blunt, unequivocating talk that wasn't read off a teleprompter.

Regardless of what one might think of Putin's politics, he has succeeded in exploiting human psychological tendencies -- whether domestic or international -- by transitioning seamlessly between style and substance in near-perfect accordance with context.

Until other leaders understand this inherent psychology, we in the West will continue to get a revolving door of underwhelming fops and loudmouth jerks, punctuated by the occasional political unicorn: an authentic leader who can act and speak the part.



No Evidence of a STEM Worker Shortage

New study examines government data

 While employers argue that there are not enough workers with science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) degrees, a new analysis of government data by the Center for Immigration Studies finds no evidence that a general shortage of such workers exists. Consistent with most research on the subject, the findings show that the country has more than twice as many people with STEM degrees as there are STEM jobs. Also consistent with most other research on the subject, we find only modest levels of wage growth for such workers for more than a decade. Both employment and wage data indicate STEM workers are not in short supply in the United States.

View the entire report at:

"By allowing in many more immigrants than the STEM labor market can absorb, Congress is almost certainly holding down wage growth, crowding natives out of these jobs, and reducing the incentive for Americans to undertake the challenging course work necessary for a STEM career," said Dr. Steven Camarota, the Center's Director of Research and co-author of the report. "This may be a great situation for employers, but it is hard to see how this is in the best long-term interest of the American people."

Press release


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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Will the great antioxidant myth finally die?

I no longer update my Health blog so I thought I might put up here occasionally any major news on the health front.  And the report below is a dambuster.  I noted previously here that faith in resveratrol has been knocked on the head.  Now antioxidants generally are under attack.  One of the great myths about diet may now be dead or gasping.  There have actually been dissident reports about antioxidants for years but the current one below has got heavy publicity

Think antioxidants will make you live longer? Think again: We spend millions on them but now researchers say supplements may make our bodies age FASTER

We all want to stay as healthy and young-looking as possible, which is why millions of us dutifully take antioxidant supplements such as vitamins C, E and beta-carotene, as well as splashing out on costly antioxidant 'superfoods' such as blueberries.

For years we've swallowed the line from scientists that antioxidants could slow the rate at which our cells - and therefore our bodies - age.

The theory is that antioxidants reduce the 'oxidising' damage caused by free radicals - corrosive molecules produced by our bodies as we process oxygen, and which we also breathe in from polluted air and smoking.

It is thought that when these free radicals attack proteins and lipids (fats in the cells), it breaks down the cell membrane and damages the DNA inside. This in turn may cause cancerous mutations, as well as making the cells age more rapidly. Free-radical damage to brain cells is also believed to cause the sort of drops in cognitive functioning associated with ageing.

In Britain, we spend œ175?million a year on antioxidant supplements - but a new study suggests we might be wasting our money. Not only do free radicals not cause ageing, say researchers at McGill University in Canada, but taking antioxidant pills may actually make our bodies age faster- making them a short cut to an early grave. So what is going on?

When free radicals interact with the cells, proteins and DNA in the body, they can cause damage by interfering with their chemical structure. Until now, it has been believed that, as a result, we inevitably suffer the ravages of ageing, from normal physical ageing to diseases such as cancer.

But the Canadian study, published in the respected journal Cell, says the opposite. Researchers found that free radicals can make our cells live longer.

This happens by altering a mechanism called apoptosis. This is a process by which damaged cells are instructed to commit suicide in a variety of situations, such as to avoid becoming cancerous when their DNA has mutated dangerously, or to kill off viruses that have invaded the cell.

The scientists have found that free radicals can stimulate this 'suicide mechanism' to do something completely different in healthy cells - bolstering  their defences and increasing their lifespan.

Siegfried Hekimi, professor of biology at McGill University, who led the study, says: 'The so-called free-radical theory of ageing is incorrect. We have turned this theory on its head.'

Professor Hekimi says that when he raised levels of free radicals in nematode worms (these simple roundworms are used because their nervous system performs many of the same functions as higher organisms), he got the creatures to live 'a substantially longer life'.

His study reinforces suspicions raised by other scientists. Last year, for example, researchers at the Multimedica Cardiovascular Research Institute in Italy warned that our bodies need the stress caused by free radicals to stimulate them to fight infectious disease and to properly regulate vital bodily functions such as our cardiovascular system.

The Milan-based researchers had surveyed all previous research evidence and concluded in The International Journal of Biochemistry and Cell Biology: 'Increasing the levels of antioxidants in our bodies may harm our health. Balanced levels of antioxidants are important for our cardiovascular system and for healthy ageing.'

The theory behind this idea is called hormesis - which may be more described as 'what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger'.

Scientists believe our bodies have evolved an array of defence mechanisms for surviving tough environments, but that these systems are not switched on unless we are challenged. And that is where free radicals come in.

The problem with antioxidants is that they may neutralise this 'protective' effect. It may also  help explain why antioxidant pills have been found to produce some unexpectedly harmful results.

For instance, laboratory studies have shown how high doses of antioxidants such as N-acetyl cysteine - a popular antioxidant supplement - may promote the spread of breast cancer cells.

Meanwhile, the antioxidants beta carotene and vitamin A have been linked to an increased risk of death from lung cancer and lung disease.

The precise reasons for this remain uncertain. However, some studies, such as one performed in 2009 by Harvard Medical School and published in the prestigious science journal, Nature, have indicated that the high-dose supplements may, ironically, help rogue cancer cells survive and multiply - by shutting down the free radicals and their stimulation of the body's  self-repair mechanisms.

Here, it is important to point out the antioxidants derived from the food we eat are important. The amount we consume in this way is much lower than the quantities found in supplements. At these lower levels they are thought to provide a protective effect.

But recent research findings about free radicals may be a disappointment to the legions of us who take antioxidants in the hope they will extend our lifespans and keep us looking youthful.

However, according to Helen Bond, of the British Dietetic Association, the answer was never to be found in a bottle.

'Whether or not there are benefits from antioxidant vitamins, the best way to get them is from a diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables,' she says. 'You get important vitamins, many of which have antioxidant properties, but you also get all the other benefits that come from eating whole foods.

'Vitamin supplements may be of use to young children, elderly people and pregnant women, but for the rest of the population it is far better to focus on diet, and spend money on fresh, wholesome food instead.'



Is American Democracy Another God that Failed?

Pat Buchanan

On Memorial Day weekend, scores of thousands of bikers arrived here for their annual Rolling Thunder tribute to America's veterans, especially those lost in our wars or left behind.

But this year the tribute has been sullied by a squalid scandal in the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Sick vets seeking medical care at the Phoenix VA hospital were put on waiting lists, but never got to see a doctor. Dozens died. Then waiting lists were altered to make it appear that VA staffers had not failed in their duty to provide the vets access to care in the required 14 days. Some vets suffered for months before dying.

There is truly something rotten in the state.

But, rest assured, this scandal of deceit, dishonor and betrayal is not going to go away soon.

For unlike Benghazi and the IRS scandals, the major media are looking into how widespread was this practice of denying care to vets and doctoring waiting lists to lie about what was done, and not done, at the VA hospitals. And as this is both an easily understood and deeply emotional issue, the public is fully engaged.

Our commander in chief wisely used his weekend to visit our troops in Afghanistan. But between Memorial Day and June 6, when the president speaks at Normandy on the 70th anniversary of D-Day, this metastasizing scandal is going to bleed his administration.

And this crisis gripping the second largest Cabinet department underscores a larger truth.

The core belief of liberalism, the political philosophy that has guided the Democratic Party since FDR's New Deal -- that competent, caring, compassionate government is the instrument best suited to addressing America's social disorders -- is being fatally undermined.

The VA hospitals are supposed to represent the best in quality care for those we owe the most. They are America's example to the world of government-run health care and a single-payer system that liberals have championed for decades.

Does anyone still believe that universal health care modeled on the VA is what we want for America?

Looking around, America's public sector appears to be everywhere in crisis.

Before the VA scandal we had the rollout of Obamacare, the disastrous results of which were so unanticipated and adverse they could cost the Democratic Party control of the Senate in November.

Democrats point to Social Security and Medicare as the ideal of what a caring, compassionate and competent government can do.

But what has Big Government accomplished lately?

In the new century, we have fought our two longest wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Are the results worth the lost blood and treasure?

Or are the results of our interventions the reasons why Americans want to stay out of Syria and Ukraine?

Perhaps the largest of all government programs is education.

Yet despite the trillions of dollars plunged into public education at the local, state and federal levels from the Great Society to No Child Left Behind to Race to the Top, U.S. test scores continue to plummet in international competition and the gap between black and Hispanic and Asian and white continues to persist.

To bring up test scores, we have seen the dumbing down of tests and rampant cheating by principals and teachers erasing and changing answers for students in school districts including D.C. and Atlanta.

Corrupt conduct by those charged with instructing America's children in the moral superiority of democratic government.

Is not the charter school movement a vote of no confidence in a school system that was once the pride of the nation?

The sub-prime mortgage scandal, which almost plunged us into a second Great Depression, was a product of Big Government.

And despite five trillion in federal deficits under Obama, and a Fed policy of pumping endless trillions into the banks, U.S. growth in the first quarter flatlined, and has been anemic for years.

The bankruptcy of Detroit, the downgrades of public debt in Illinois, Puerto Rico and New Jersey -- were they not all caused by the political class that runs state governments?

Yes, there are well-run VA hospitals, outstanding public schools, and state and local governments that are magnets for business. And government has accomplished goals in which all of us take pride.

NASA put our astronauts on the moon. After Pearl Harbor, Washington led America to victory in less than four years. But lately government's failures seem to outnumber its successes.

Republicans rightly view with alarm demographic trends showing their core constituencies shrinking and the Democrats' rising.

But Democrats should also take heed. For declining confidence in government's ability to solve America's problems, which is likely to be translated into Republican gains in Congress this year, represents a declining faith in the Democratic idea that government is the answer.

In the last century, communism was The God That Failed.

It should be a cause for concern that in the new century the god that appears to be failing is American democracy.



Even European Socialists Apparently Get Tired of Big Government

And the EU is very big, ponderous and unresponsive

The European ruling class might have gotten their first glimpse at pitchforks and torches over the weekend when anti-EU parties made gains across the continent. That doesn’t mean the European Parliament is being quickly ushered to the guillotine; but the anti-EU victories can’t possibly be a comforting sight to the bureaucrats who have run Europe’s economy for the last decade. From Scotland to Greece, citizens seem to be growing increasingly weary of the European experiment. A Margaret Thatcher renaissance seems to have swept Europe over the weekend.

Breitbart London began their report on the political earthquake by quoting Charles de Gaulle. “Europe is France and Germany. Everything else is just the garnishes.” (Actually, that’s pretty modest for a Frenchman.) In that light, the anti-EU victories throughout the rest of socialist-land (Europe) seem somewhat insignificant… But, that doesn’t mean they are unworthy of mention.

For the first time in British history (and, let’s face it, that’s not exactly an insignificant stretch of time) a political party with no MPs in the House of Commons has come in first in a national election. Britain’s United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) trounced its left leaning competitors, and beat out many of the center right, Euro-friendly, adversaries. The Euro-skeptic party sailed to a surprising victory by campaigning against the centralization of government, and the disintegration of UK sovereignty. Nigel Farage encapsulated the revolutionary feeling of the victories by declaring that the “people’s army” was on the march against the ruling class… He should be careful. Parliament is likely to begin taxing his tea at any moment.

The populist right-wing parties of Europe also made strides in Austria and Greece. Even France (I’m looking your way de Gaulle) saw right wing parties pick up roughly 20 seats. In other words: More Euro-skeptics will be sent to the European Parliament… And, heck, not all of them will speak with an English accent.

The elections, however, are a disastrous omen for the bureaucracy loving admirers of centralized government. The success of Euro-skeptic parties across the continent basically articulate one uncomfortable fact for cheerleaders of big government: even European socialists can only handle so much “Utopia” before they start raging against the ruling elite.



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

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, May 27, 2014

Piketty is just another leftist crook

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

I have bought Thomas Piketty’s book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, and while I have posted many an item that takes issue with the books claims and conclusions concerning wealth inequality, I do plan on reading Piketty; his book has made quite the intellectual and cultural impact, and although I know what his basic arguments are, I want to be sure that I read the whole of the book to be fully aware of his claims.

But even before reading the book, one can conclude certain things about Piketty, as my previous blog posts indicate. And today, we learn that we may well be able to conclude one more thing still about Piketty, his research, and his arguments: They may be completely wrong. And yes, those words were worth emphasizing.

The Financial Times has engaged in exhaustive research regarding Piketty’s book, and it has found serious errors. Let us give the microphone to Chris Giles and Ferdinando Giugliano:

Thomas Piketty is in no doubt that data underpin the conclusions of his best selling economics book, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” .

He writes, in the introduction: “Compared with previous works, one reason why this book stands out is that I have made an effort to collect as complete and consistent a set of historical sources as possible in order to study the dynamics of income and wealth distribution over the long run”.

While the conclusions of his work, including his call for an international wealth tax, have stirred controversy among academics, commentators and policy makers, even his critics have generally praised the ambition and quality of the data presented in the text.

Reviewing the book this month, Lord Mervyn King, former governor of the Bank of England, said, “the principal weakness of the book is that the carefully assembled data do not live up to Piketty’s rhetoric about the nature of capitalism”.

The sense of diligence in Professor Piketty’s compilation of trends in wealth is bolstered by an online technical annex and spreadsheets containing the data, with sources.

An investigation by the Financial Times, however, has revealed many unexplained data entries and errors in the figures underlying some of the book’s key charts.

These are sufficiently serious to undermine Prof Piketty’s claim that the share of wealth owned by the richest in society has been rising and “the reason why wealth today is not as unequally distributed as in the past is simply that not enough time has passed since 1945”.

After referring back to the original data sources, the investigation found numerous mistakes in Prof Piketty’s work: simple fat-finger errors of transcription; suboptimal averaging techniques; multiple unexplained adjustments to the numbers; data entries with no sourcing, unexplained use of different time periods and inconsistent uses of source data.

Together, the flawed data produce long historical trends on wealth inequality that appear more comprehensive than the source data allows, providing spurious support to Prof Piketty’s conclusion that the “central contradiction of capitalism” is the inexorable concentration of wealth among the richest individuals.

Once the data are cleaned and simplified the European results do not show any tendency towards rising wealth inequality after 1970.

The US source data are also too inconsistent to draw a single long series. But when the individual sources are graphed, none of them supports the view that the wealth share of the top 1 per cent has increased in the past few decades. There is some evidence of a rise in the top 10 per cent wealth share since 1970.


Prof Piketty, 43, provides detailed sourcing for his estimates of wealth inequality in Europe and the US over the past 200 years. In his spreadsheets, however, there are transcription errors from the original sources and incorrect formulas. It also appears that some of the data are cherry-picked or constructed without an original source.

For example, once the FT cleaned up and simplified the data, the European numbers do not show any tendency towards rising wealth inequality after 1970. An independent specialist in measuring inequality shared the FT’s concerns.

And still more:

Two of Capital in the 21st Century’s central findings – that wealth inequality has begun to rise over the past 30 years and that the US obviously has a more unequal distribution of wealth than Europe – no longer seem to hold.

Without these results, it would be impossible to claim, as Piketty does in his conclusion, that “the central contradiction of capitalism” is the tendency for wealth to become more concentrated in the hands of the already rich and

“the reason why wealth today is not as unequally distributed as in the past is simply that not enough time has passed since 1945”.

This long post will outline the classes of data problems I have found in Chapter 10 of Piketty’s book, which deals with the inequality of capital ownership. I will then show why these problems matter for each one of the four countries prof Piketty studies – France, Sweden, UK and the US.

Finally, I will put all the revised data together to show that, based on the sources Piketty cites, the conclusions that (a) wealth inequality rose after 1980 and (b) wealth inequality in the US is larger than in Europe no longer seem to hold.

Read the whole thing. Read this, this, and oh, yes, this as well, and note that the last link makes the following entirely accurate statement about what the gravamen of the Financial Times’s charges against Piketty is:

Giles says there are clear examples of some “fat finger” mistranscriptions and compares the situation to omissions found in Reinhart’s and Rogoff’s data on debt levels and growth.

But while the two Harvard professors’ errors seemed to have been unintended, Giles levels a more serious critique: that Piketty actively manipulated his data.

His most damning claim: Piketty altered U.K. data to show that wealth distribution there is worse off than it appears to be.

Piketty says the share of income going to the top 10% never fell lower than 60%, and since the end of the 1970s has returned to 70%, a level not seen in 70 years.

But the data Piketty himself cites shows the top 10% share of wealth is no greater than 50%, and may be as low as 42%.

Giles writes: “This appears to be the result of swapping between data sources, not following the source notes, misinterpreting the more recent data and exaggerating increases in wealth inequality.“

Below is the chart. The right-most portion of Piketty’s blue trend line showing the share of wealth owned by the top 10% of Britons ends up well above what’s suggested by the data, in red, that Piketty himself cites.

Meanwhile, just one official data point for the top 1% share of wealth aligns with Piketty’s blue line. But Giles said the source of that data said it was not suitable for the kind of calculation Piketty is trying to make.

“Prof. Piketty ends his series taking at face value the level of the HMRC data, despite HMRC saying clearly the data is not suited for that purpose, nor is it consistent with the old Inland Revenue Series which Prof. Piketty uses for earlier years. This latter point is also clearly stated in the notes to the source data.”

The charges are devastating, and there is plenty to back them up. And again, let’s be abundantly clear: The Financial Times is accusing Thomas Piketty of dishonesty, of making up his arguments, of actively trying to mislead readers and actively trying to mischaracterize inequality trends. This mischaracterization leads to policy prescriptions on Piketty’s part that are both entirely unrealistic in their design and implementation, and, more importantly, are wholly unsupported by the actual data on inequality. The main thrust of Thomas Piketty’s book is entirely undermined, and his arguments and conclusions are annihilated. It is hard to imagine a more comprehensive refutation.

Having established that Piketty’s conclusions are shredded and unbelievable, it is important now to note two things. The first is that the Financial Times–and Chris Giles and Ferdinando Giugliano in particular–deserve kudos for the scholarship and for shining a light on Piketty’s mistakes and dishonesty. For those who are wondering how journalism ought to be done, look no further than the example set down by Giles, Giugliano and the Financial Times in general. They have truly done excellent work. Would that more media outlets followed the example that Giles, Giugliano and the Financial Times have set.

The second thing we ought to note is that neither Giles, nor Giugliano, nor the Financial Times would have discovered that Piketty’s books is fundamentally flawed if they listened to Paul Krugman, who famously said on his blog that “if you think you’ve found an obvious hole, empirical or logical, in Piketty, you’re very probably wrong. He’s done his homework!” Yes, that was a real statement by Paul Krugman, and yes, it ought to haunt him for the rest of his life–and beyond. We now know that it is more accurate to say that Piketty fudged his homework.

I doubt that Krugman knew that Piketty’s conclusions were pretty much made up out of thin air–if he did, there is truly something rotten in the state of economics–but the point is that Krugman tried his damnedest to ensure that no one would take a critical eye to Piketty’s data and conclusions. It’s a good thing that the good people at the Financial Times were more intellectually honest and rigorous than Krugman would have wanted them to be, but it should scare us more than a little bit that a leading economist who won a Nobel Prize and who has a big megaphone provided to him by the New York Times was trying as hard as humanly possible to prevent good journalists and scholars from poking at Piketty’s data and arguments to see whether or not they passed the laugh test.

And of course, as of this writing, and with this scandal having fully erupted into public view, Krugman has nothing whatsoever to say about the debunking of Thomas Piketty–though of course, he has time to post a music video. Because, you know, priorities. As for Krugman’s Mini-Me, as of this writing, nothing on Brad DeLong’s eponymous blog (though again, music video!), and one thing on an alternative blog pointing to a graph prepared by Matthew Yglesias (of all people) that tries to pretend that there is nothing to see here, and that we should all just move along.

Sorry, but that dog won’t hunt. In light of the allegations against him, Thomas Piketty has a lot of explaining to do, and given the nature of the allegations and the detail which backs them up, it is hard to see how any amount of explaining will persuade anyone who isn’t already a hack that Piketty is in fact in the right.



Castro the commie hypocrite who lives like a billionaire: He's posed as a man of the people. But a new book reveals Cuba's leader has led a life of pampered hedonism and a fortune as big as the Queen's

A short boat trip from the coastal city of Cienfuegos, halfway along Cuba’s southern coast, is a secluded tropical island called Caya Piedra.

Surrounded by warm turquoise waters, with a picture-postcard quota of coconut trees, white sand beaches and unspoiled coral reefs, this two-mile-long Caribbean paradise is the private domain of a single, very wealthy man.

Locals call him El Comandante — The Commander — and he likes to dock at Caya Piedra aboard his luxury yacht, the Aquarama II, fitted out with cream-coloured leather and rare Angolan wood.

Invariably attended by an army of personal servants, who are kept on call 24/7 to serve chilled white wine and exotic shellfish, he and his friends while away the days by reading, scuba diving, and attempting to catch fish.

Celebrity guests who have enjoyed the lavish hospitality there include Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the Colombian novelist who died last month, and the late French underwater explorer, Jacques Cousteau.

Like everyone who visited, they were struck by the island’s stunning beauty and laid-back charms.

If a single cloud ever did mar the horizon, it was that, every so often, their multi-millionaire host would have to take a break from enjoying the high life in order to carry out the important business of running a country.

For the owner of Caya Piedra is none other than Fidel Alejandro Castro, the Left-wing dictator who seized power over Cuba in a communist coup 55 years ago.

Now 87, this self-styled ‘People’s Revolutionary’ — who handed power to his brother, Raul, in 2008 — on paper makes a strange laird for this prime piece of real estate.

He has, after all, spent decades cultivating his public image as an unassuming, hard-working man of the people.

Indeed, the Communist Party of Cuba styles Senor Castro as a cigar-chomping but otherwise modest military servant, devoted to advancing the public good in a country where the majority of the 11 million residents live in  abject poverty.

Propaganda is often far removed from reality, though. And as his yacht, private island and domestic staff demonstrate, this lifelong critic of the supposed excesses of capitalism does not always practise what he preaches.

In fact, Castro’s lifestyle turns out to be jaw-droppingly decadent — a revelation set out in eye-popping detail by his former bodyguard Juan Reinaldo Sanchez.

In a new, 338-page memoir, titled The Hidden Life Of Fidel Castro (published in France by Michel Lafon and co-authored by Axel Gyldén), Sanchez, an employee of 20 years’ standing, lifts the lid on the luxurious excesses enjoyed by the autocrat and his inner circle.

The book portrays a man obsessed with power and money, who styled himself as a hero of the working classes while living the opulent existence of a medieval potentate.

Unlike a gilded royal, however, the Cuban leader — whose British apologists have, by the by, included Ken Livingstone, Arthur Scargill and the late Tony Benn — managed to keep his life of luxury a closely guarded secret.

For that, like any good dictator, he can thank the agents of a security state every bit as oppressive as that forged by dictatorial chums in Zimbabwe, China and the old Soviet Union.

Sanchez was one of Castro’s security guards from 1977 to 1994, accompanying him on overseas trips to meet everybody from popes to U.S. presidents, and witnessing first hand his boss’s ability to exploit Cuba as a personal fiefdom.

Recalling, for example, a typical day spent spear fishing off Cayo Piedra, he says: ‘I can’t describe it any other way than comparing it with the royal hunts of Louis XV in the forests around Versailles.’

After Castro rose at midday, kneeling flunkeys would dress him in scuba-diving gear, before accompanying him to a gleaming motor boat.

There, manservants would be on hand to attend to his every whim, whether it was to pour his preferred iced whisky (12-year-old Chivas Regal), or prepare his favourite snack, a whole toasted langoustine.

Other colleagues would have risen at dawn to scour the waters surrounding the island for the best possible fishing spot.

As their master fished, security guards (including Sanchez) stood by with Kalashnikovs and harpoon guns to ward off over-inquisitive sharks and barracudas.

Decades of Stalinist industrialisation combined with mass tourism have left much of Cuba heavily polluted, but Cayo Piedra, south of the Bay of Pigs, where the CIA sponsored a failed invasion of the island in 1961, is described by Sanchez as a ‘Garden of Eden’.

The vast majority of Cubans have no idea of the existence of the private island, let alone that Castro owns it. Given the absence of a free Press in the country, they are unlikely ever to find out about it. Neither are they likely to be aware of the existence of other crown jewels in their former leader’s property portfolio, which, according to Sanchez, extends to 20 homes.

His palatial residences on the mainland include a Havana estate complete with rooftop bowling alley and indoor basketball court, and a coastal villa next to a private marina with pool, Jacuzzi and sauna.

Castro loved sport. His guards were required to make up ‘red and blue’ teams on the basketball court, writes Sanchez, adding: ‘Of course, everybody played for Fidel — there was no question of him losing a match. I remember one day, he gave me a black look because instead of passing to him, I shot to score a basket.’

To get to the most sinister of all Castro’s properties, you must drive west out of Havana to a former fishing village called Jaimanitas.

Here lies the so-called Unit 160, a fortress-like building in a complex known locally as Punto Cero, which is described as a classic dictator’s bunker.

As well as being an arms stash for Castro’s personal guard, it was the nerve centre for a range of covert activities, from torture to surveillance. Yet the property also had a facility dedicated to producing high-quality ice cream and sorbets for Castro, a ‘foodie’ who could not bear the totalitarian junk food still churned out for his proletariat.

After having been the subject, over the years, of more than 600 CIA assassination plots, Castro was obsessed with the fear of being poisoned, so made sure all of his food and drink was locally sourced.

His caution extended to having a personal cow, which supplied all the milk he drank.

Every drop of water he drank came from garden wells, while vegetables had to be organic. Free range chickens raced around Castro’s estates, while rich overseas friends regularly sent other food luxuries. Saddam Hussein, for example, would send cases of fig jam, while shipments of red wine arrived from Algeria.

The boot of Castro’s armoured Mercedes-Benz limousine always contained emergency supplies of these high-end foodstuffs, along with a small stash of weapons, to add to the Kalashnikov kept at Castro’s feet when he travelled, and by his bed when he slept.

Every single one of Castro’s fleet of personal Mercedes cars was stripped down and then rebuilt on arrival from Germany, to make sure it did not contain microphones or bombs.

Castro had five sons with his second wife, Dalia, but regularly met up with mistresses in a property close to Unit 160, which was dedicated to infidelity. In his younger days, he is believed to have had hundreds of secret lovers, and produced a total of at least nine children — facts which the state-run Cuban media are still not allowed to mention.

His lovers allegedly ranged from Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida to an unnamed, under-age nightclub dancer, who later revealed he had smoked throughout intercourse.

As he aged, Castro apparently became a regular user of Viagra.

When not satisfying his raging libido, Castro’s favourite pastimes, says Sanchez, included watching a five-hour long Russian version of Tolstoy’s War And Peace over and over again in a private cinema.

He even had an ‘official’ projectionist appointed by the Interior Ministry, to go with all his other staff, including three chauffeurs, personal medics, a butler and a photographer.

Two members of his team of bodyguards were specially selected because they had the same blood group as Castro, and so would be able to donate in an emergency.

A professional lookalike — Silvino Alvarez — wore a false beard when he stood in for Castro, attending engagements when the dictator fell ill, couldn’t be bothered to go himself, or was afraid of an assassination attempt.

Describing Castro as a ‘master of disinformation’, Sanchez says the hard-headed autocrat’s claim to be an enemy of Western values was  a charade.

While claiming to be a ‘modest’ state functionary on a parsimonious salary, Castro was in fact worth at least £100 million — excluding  his property assets. But he  became enraged if that wealth was ever reported.

When, in 2005 and 2006, Forbes named Castro as one of the world’s richest heads of state — on a par with the Queen of England and Prince Albert of Monaco — he accused the magazine of ‘infamy’ in a public tirade that raged against the alleged greed of countries such as Britain and the U.S.

As Cuba’s Chief of State, Head of Government, Prime Minister, First Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, he wanted to be known as the ‘Maximum Leader’, not a lazy, avaricious despot.

Sanchez, who is now 65, spent 17 years working for Castro before getting bored with the job and asking to be allowed to resign. Castro responded by accusing him of disloyalty and jailing him for two years between 1994 and 1996.

Today, Sanchez recalls how he once viewed the indisputably charismatic Castro as ‘a god’, admitting: ‘I would have died for him.’

But now he says the man he’d been brought up to admire became Cuba’s ‘master in the manner of a 19th-century landowner’.

‘For him, wealth was above all an instrument of power, of political survival, of personal protection,’ he now believes.

‘Fidel Castro also let it be known that the revolution gave him no rest, no time for pleasure and that he ignored, indeed despised, the bourgeois concept of holidays.  He lies.’

Following a decade of keeping his head down, Sanchez fled to the U.S. as an exile in 2008, where he now does occasional work as a security adviser in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Castro, meanwhile, handed over power to his brother, Raul, the same year, guaranteeing that in the absence of any legal opposition party in Cuba, the Castro dynasty will continue to flourish.

The original and most famous Castro is now a shadowy recluse who has all but disappeared from public view.

He continues to enjoy the best food and medical care, but otherwise leads a relatively uneventful life, his joie de vivre curtailed by  ill-health and age. And still his people regard him as the good communist he always insisted he was.


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, 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, May 26, 2014

The Dutch remember

They have much to remember

About six miles from Maastricht, in the Netherlands, lie buried 8,301 American soldiers who died in “Operation Market Garden” in the battles to liberate Holland in the fall-winter of 1944-45. Every one of the men buried in the cemetery, as well as those in the Canadian and British military cemeteries, has been adopted by a Dutch family who mind the grave, decorate it, and keep alive the memory of the soldier they have adopted. It is even the custom to keep a portrait of “their” American soldier in a place of honor in their home. Annually, on “Liberation Day,” memorial services are held for “the men who died to liberate Holland.” The day concludes with a concert. The final piece is always “Il Silenzio,” a memorial piece commissioned by the Dutch and first played in 1965 on the 20th anniversary of Holland’s liberation. It has been the concluding piece of the memorial concert ever since.

In 2008 the soloist was a 13-year-old Dutch girl, Melissa Venema, backed by André Rieu and his orchestra (the Royal Orchestra of the Netherlands). This beautiful concert piece is based upon the original version of taps and was written by Italian composer Nino Rossi.

Memorial Day 2014

Military service changes a person in deep and lasting ways that are often bittersweet. Those who serve honorably carry with them the satisfaction of having done their duty even amid the pain of a lasting injury or the loss of comrades in arms. Perhaps only those who have served or lost a loved one can fully appreciate the significance of Memorial Day. And if we are to honor those who gave their last, full measure, we must also honor and value the ideals that are inseparable from their sacrifice. Otherwise, our tribute is hypocrisy.

A couple of years ago a classmate of mine was taken aback by what I said about two friends who had died in their early fifties in the ’90s. I commented that I considered the two men fortunate in at least one sense: they had not lived to witness the current advanced stage of America’s social and politically-correct disintegration. Should the same be said of our honored war dead? How is it that as a country we still hold true to their ideals when President Obama issues proclamations designating June “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month”? Is this the post-modern replacement for “God, Country and Family”?

I doubt that those we honor this Memorial Day would be very pleased with what our country has and is becoming. Mourn both them and the America we’ve lost.

Dennis Sevakis
Former Captain USAF


The Great White Hope

I rarely read the NYT but the article below seems to have something in it

Three unlikely sources are providing qualified encouragement to Republicans who are either openly or covertly committed to a campaign strategy that focuses on white turnout, as opposed to seeking votes from Hispanics and African-Americans.

The first source of this qualified encouragement is an academic study — “More Diverse Yet Less Tolerant?” — that explores what happens to racial and ethnic attitudes when you present white voters with census findings that show that whites will be in the minority in the United States by 2042.

The second source is a related study by the same authors — “On the Precipice of a ‘Majority-Minority’ America” — that explores how the “salience of such racial demographic shifts affects White Americans’ political-party leanings and expressed political ideology.”

The third source is a survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, a nonprofit think tank. The survey measured the percentage of whites who are “bothered” by the “idea of” an “America where most of the people are not white.”

These studies present a challenge to those who have declared that the Republican Party must move away from the “white strategy” – formerly known as the “Southern Strategy.” That strategy has been the de facto Republican approach to elections since the mid-1960s. It was initially very successful, but over the past decade it has been effective only in low-turnout, midterm elections.

Now, partly in response to the Obama victories of 2008 and 2012, Resurgent Republic, a Republican organization that includes a segment of the party establishment and some of the party’s Bush-era elder statesmen, denounced the “white strategy” as “the route to political irrelevance in national elections. Mitt Romney won a landslide among white voters, defeating Barack Obama by 59 to 39 percent. In the process he won every large segment of white voters, often by double-digit margins: white men, white women, white Catholics, white Protestants, white old people, white young people. Yet that was not enough to craft a national majority. Republicans have run out of persuadable white voters. For the fifth time in the past six presidential elections, Republicans lost the popular vote. Trying to win a national election by gaining a larger and larger share of a smaller and smaller portion of the electorate is a losing political proposition.”

Maureen A. Craig, a doctoral candidate, and Jennifer A. Richeson, a professor of psychology, both at Northwestern, have written two papers that ask questions that are relevant to this internal party debate. The authors do not endorse such tactics but their work suggests that there are in fact ways to intensify white suspicion of and hostility toward minorities and immigrants. These tactics offer the potential to shift voters to the right, into the Republican column.

For their first paper, Craig and Richeson conducted a series of experiments that tested how whites respond to census data projecting that minorities will become the majority in the United States by 2042.

What did they uncover? That “exposure to the changing demographics evokes the expression of greater explicit and implicit racial bias.” One group of respondents was shown evidence of the demographic trends and another was not. Those who saw the evidence “expressed more negative attitudes toward Latinos, Blacks, and Asian-Americans” than participants who were not shown the evidence. The authors concluded that “rather than ushering in a more tolerant future, the increasing diversity of the nation may instead yield intergroup hostility.”

Craig and Richeson’s second study, “On the Precipice of a ‘Majority-Minority’ America,” published last month, is even more directly relevant to the strategic choices facing Republicans. The authors found that whites – whether they called themselves liberals, centrists or conservatives — all moved to the right when exposed to the information about the approaching minority status of whites. This “suggests that the increasing diversity of the nation may engender a widening partisan divide,” Craig and Richeson write.

These findings led the two authors to observe that the future of the contemporary Republican Party may not be as bleak as some say. “Whites may be increasingly likely and motivated to support conservative candidates and policies in response to the changing racial demographics,” they write. “These results suggest that presumptions of the decline of the Republican Party due to the very same changing racial demographics may be premature.”

Responding to my emailed questions, Craig wrote, “Overall, making this racial shift salient could bring more moderate White Americans into the Republican Party, as well as increase turnout among White Americans who already consider themselves Republicans."

The P.R.R.I. survey — conducted in 2013 of 1,028 respondents — was designed “to assess anxieties concerning the changing racial makeup of the country”; it was summarized in the May 2014 issue of The Atlantic by Robert Jones, the C.E.O. of P.R.R.I.

P.R.R.I. initially asked respondents a direct question: did they agree or disagree with the statement, “The idea of an America where most people are not white bothers me.” As you might expect, agreement was low, with just 13 percent saying they were bothered by the prospect of a majority-minority America. Then P.R.R.I. used a separate indirect technique to try to determine how many respondents were in fact disturbed by the growth of the minority population, but unwilling to admit it.

White respondents were divided into two demographically similar groups and then asked to describe how many of a list of short statements bothered them, but not to say exactly which ones, in what is known as a “list experiment.” One group was given three short statements unrelated to race and ethnicity, and the other group got the same three statements plus a fourth short statement which read: “An America that is not mostly white.”

This method allowed the institute to calculate the percentage of respondents who were actually bothered by the prospect of a white minority nation. The findings are striking.

While only 13 percent of whites say that they are bothered by the idea of an America in which most people are not white, the four-statement technique indicated that 31 percent are, in fact, bothered (to use the P.R.R.I. polling word). The survey also broke the respondents down into smaller demographic subcategories. The differences within some demographic subcategories of whites were substantial. Although 15 percent of born-again Protestants openly acknowledged that they were bothered by the prospect of a minority white population, the indirect technique shows that the actual number is 50 percent.

White Democrats, at 11 percent, were more circumspect than white Republicans, at 18 percent, when explicitly asked if they were bothered (see Figure 1). But the indirect response technique revealed another interesting fault line: The list experiment showed that a slightly higher percentage of white Democrats, 33 percent (compared to 30 percent of white Republicans), are bothered by the United States becoming a white minority nation.

A number of experts question the long-term viability of a Republican strategy that relies disproportionately on white votes. I emailed Robert Jones of P.R.R.I., to see how much comfort he thought conservative Republicans could take from his organization’s study. Not much, Jones replied. “There are still considerable anxieties among whites about the changing makeup of the country,” he wrote, but “any Republican strategy that relies on tapping these anxieties has a limited success horizon, primarily because the white voters who hold these anxieties the strongest are older. In a midterm election, where the electorate is strongly influenced by older white voters, this could be a plausible strategy, but it carries significant risks for the Republican broader party brand in 2016.”

Jones provided me with a recent PowerPoint presentation he gave at Washington College in Maryland. Figure 2 breaks down the Obama and Romney 2012 coalitions by race and religion and “as you can see, Romney’s 2012 coalition looked pretty much like 70 year old America, while Obama’s coalition looked like 30 year old America.”

I also asked William Frey, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who specializes in demographic analysis, what his reaction was to the political implications of studies that reveal substantial white unease with the idea of a minority-majority nation. Frey argues that “a strategy that relies solely on increased white turnout is a losing Republican gambit.”

Frey said his own studies show that “demography is running against them” — Republicans —"faster than many seem to realize. In 2012, the white Republican margin of 20 points was the biggest since 1984 (Reagan-Mondale) and they still lost. It can be argued that Romney could have won with a significantly higher white turnout. But that won’t be the case for the Republican candidate in 2016.”

Frey noted that he had created a simulation model based on the projected numbers of white and nonwhite eligible voters in 2016. He then used turnout percentages for whites and minorities specifically chosen to be favorable to Republican prospects. “Even under this Republican ‘best case’ scenario, the Democratic candidate wins,” he wrote me. “To win future elections, Republicans need to win more minority votes.”

Sean Trende, a senior elections analyst for RealClearPolitics, who contends that boosting white turnout is in fact a viable Republican strategy — although his work is analytic, not prescriptive — pointed out to me that he continues to get pushback from both liberals and some Republican who disagree vehemently.

Referring to the idea that there is an emerging Democratic majority, Trende wrote in an email: “The consultants and politicians have mostly bought into the EDM theory, I think, which is why my series from last summer made the waves that it did. I think most people even on the GOP side hadn’t considered contrary arguments, to be perfectly honest,” adding, “It just boggles my mind.”

Some members of the Republican establishment may disagree with Trende, but in practical terms his views have the support of many, if not most, House Republicans, and the tacit backing of Republican primary voters. Both groups, for example, have shown little or no willingness to moderate anti-immigration positions.

The power of the immigration issue was demonstrated in the collapse of support for a possible presidential bid by Marco Rubio, freshman Senator from Florida. After he endorsed liberalized immigration reform, Rubio fell out of the front-runner spot and became an also-ran in polls of Republican primary voters.

In their calls for moderation on immigration and gay rights, Republicans leaders like Karl Rove and Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, appear to be pinning their election strategy on the conviction that conservative voters can be persuaded to subordinate an overt preoccupation with ethnic and racial issues in favor of a more muted social-cultural approach. Ultimately, those in the Rove-Priebus camp would like to persuade conservative voters to switch their focus to less divisive economic matters like an embrace of the free market.

For many on the right, the various elements of the contemporary conservative belief system – from abortion to gun rights, taxes to immigration, welfare to same-sex marriage – now form a coherent, interlocking whole. The trick for Republicans in their quest to maintain white majoritarian hegemony is to allow this fusion of issues to do its mobilizing work at a subliminal level, without triggering widespread resistance to explicit manifestations of bias and race prejudice.

Republican primary voters make up the most conservative bloc in the party. Focus group sessions conducted with white evangelical and Tea Party Republicans last summer by Quinlan Greenberg Rosner Research for the liberal advocacy group Democracy Corps found that participants “staunchly reject immigration reform. The whole notion is anathema.”

Comments made during the Quinlan Greenberg sessions illustrate the degree of preoccupation with immigration in this segment of the party. “One of the things the Democrats have done is to create a dependency class of loyal voters. That’s why they want all the illegal aliens legalized,” a Roanoke evangelical Republican declared. “Don’t come here and make me speak your language. Don’t fly your flag. You’re on American soil. You’re American. You come to our country, you need to learn our language,” added another. “Why should I put — press 1 if I want to speak in English? You know, everything — every politically correct machine out there says, ‘Press 1 for English. Press 2 for Spanish,’ ” said a third.

One of the prospective presidential candidates struggling to find the right language to bring the Republican center and the right together is Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida. Bush is following in the tradition of his father and brother who used “a thousand points of light” and “compassionate conservatism” to detoxify an ideology that might otherwise be seen as mean-spirited. Last month Bush told Fox News that an illegal border crossing “is not a felony. It’s an act of love, it’s an act of commitment to your family,” adding that “I think we need to kind of get beyond the harsh political rhetoric to a better place.”

Bush and his party have just over a year to get this argument into shape before the presidential campaign begins in earnest. The gulf that separates Republican primary voters and the moderates Republicans need to piece together a majority coalition poses the single largest challenge to conservative candidates and party leaders as the 2016 election approaches.

Whoever their nominee is, the Republican Party will face a high-wire act: maximizing turnout among whites holding patent or latent racial and ethnic prejudices; eliciting enthusiastic support among more moderate or libertarian conservatives to whom prejudice is alien; and finally picking up adequate support from minority voters themselves – those African-Americans, Hispanics and Asian-Americans who have often pushed Republicans over the finish line. In the last victorious Republican presidential campaign, George W. Bush won 32 percent of the minority vote, while carrying whites 58-41; in 2012, Romney was swamped by Obama, winning just under 20 percent of the minority vote while carrying whites by a near record 60-40.

Republican prospects of reversing negative trends among minority voters are not good. The party’s nominees have received a steadily declining share of the nonwhite electorate over the past three elections, just as the proportion of nonwhite voters in general elections has grown steadily. But it is going to take much more than Karl Rove’s columns and white papers issued by the Republican National Committee for the party to abandon a 50-year-old strategy that depends on tapping racial resentment in all of its forms, particularly when there is new research to suggest that this strategy is not entirely obsolete — precisely because the world is changing as quickly as it is.




We need the government to make sure your hummus is authentic!:  "One of the leading manufacturers of hummus in the United States wants the federal government to mandate what ingredients (and what proportion of them) are necessary to label your creamy chickpea spread as such. This is, of course, to protect the consumers, not the company, food spread magnate Sabra claims. If people go around eating things labeled hummus that aren't really hummus, all sorts of ... things ... could happen. Disappointed party guests, for example! What if you bring impure hummus to an office luncheon and everybody realizes it, including your boss? It could cost you your promotion!"  [/sarcasm]

GM Recalls More Cars:  "Government Motors has issued its 30th recall for the year, bringing the total number of vehicles now recalled to 15.4 million globally. "GM has recalled more cars this year than it has sold in several years combined," NPR's Renee Montagne said, "and it's only May." These recalls involve everything from bad welding in Cadillac Escalades preventing proper air bag deployment to the faulty ignition switch blamed for 13 deaths. GM was fined $35 million for that episode, a fraction of Toyota's $1.2 billion fine -- but then again, Toyota wasn't owned by the government.


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

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, May 25, 2014

An interesting fragment of WWII history

In most accounts of WWII, Hungary is dismissed as an ally of Hitler.  Hungarian-born George Friedman says it was not quite like that and that Hungary's leader at the time -- Admiral Horthy -- was actually a good guy

Adm. Miklos Horthy, a regent to a non-existent king and an admiral in the forgotten Austro-Hungarian navy, governed Hungary between 1920 and 1944. Horthy ruled a country that was small and weak. Its population was 9.3 million in 1940. Horthy's goal was to preserve its sovereignty in the face of the rising power of Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin. Caught between the two -- and by this I mean that both prized Hungary for its strategic position in the Carpathian Basin -- Hungary had few options. Horthy's strategy was to give what he must and as little as he had to in order to retain Hungary's sovereignty. Over time, he had to give more and more as the Germans became more desperate and as the Soviets drew nearer. He did not surrender his room to maneuver; it was taken from him. His experience is one that Hungary's current leadership appears to have studied.

Horthy's strategy meant a great deal to the Jews. He was likely no more anti-Semitic than any member of his class had to be. He might not hire a Jew, but he wasn't going to kill one. This was different from the new style of anti-Semitism introduced by Hitler, which required mass murder. A sneer would no longer do. In Poland and in other countries under German sway, the mass killings started early. In Hungary, Horthy's policy kept them at bay. Not perfectly, of course. Thousands were killed early on, and anti-Jewish laws were passed. But thousands are not hundreds of thousands or millions, and in that time and place it was a huge distinction. Hungary did not join Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union until months after it had started, and Jews, including my father and uncles, were organized in labor battalions, where casualties were appalling. But their wives and children remained home, had food and lived. Horthy conceded no more than he had to, but what he had to do he did. Some say it was opportunism, others mere cowardice of chance. Whatever it was, while it lasted, Hungary was not like Poland or even France. The Jews were not handed over to the Germans.

Horthy fell from his tightrope on March 19, 1944. Realizing Germany was losing the war, Horthy made peace overtures to the Soviets. They were coming anyway, so he might as well welcome them. Hitler, of course, discovered this and occupied Hungary, which was essential to the defense of Austria. In a complex maneuver involving kidnapping and blackmail -- even kidnapping one of Horthy's sons -- Hitler forced the Hungarian leader to form a new government consisting of Hungary's homegrown Nazis, the Arrow Cross Party. As with Vidkun Quisling in Norway and Philippe Petain in France, Hitler installed his eager puppets.

Horthy signed off on this. But that signature, as he pointed out, was meaningless. The Germans were there, they could do as they wanted, and his signature was a meaningless act that spared his sons' lives. My father said he understood him. He had no more power, except saving his sons. Without the power to control events, saving those lives cost nothing and gained something precious. In no way did it change what was going to happen during the next year in Hungary: the murder of more than half a million Jews and a bloodbath throughout the country as Soviet forces advanced and surrounded Budapest and as the Germans fought to their deaths.

My parents were grateful to Horthy. For them, without him, the Holocaust would have come to Hungary years earlier. He did not crush the Hungarian Nazis, but he kept them at bay. He did not turn on Hitler, but he kept him at bay. What Horthy did was the dirty work of decency. He made deals with devils to keep the worst things from happening. By March 1944, Horthy could no longer play the game. Hitler had ended it. His choice was between dead sons and the horror of the following year, or living sons and that same horror. From my parents' view, there was nothing more he could do, so he saved his sons. They believed Horthy's critics were unable to comprehend the choices he had.



How America Treats Illegal Aliens vs. Veterans


A government that fails to secure its borders is guilty of dereliction of duty. A government that fails to care for our men and women on the front lines is guilty of malpractice. A government that puts the needs of illegal aliens above U.S. veterans for political gain should be prosecuted for criminal neglect bordering on treason.

Compare, contrast, and weep:

In Sacramento, Calif., lawmakers are moving forward with a budget-busting plan to extend government-funded health insurance to at least 1.5 million illegal aliens.

In Los Angeles, federal bureaucrats callously canceled an estimated 40,000 diagnostic tests and treatments for American veterans with cancer and other illnesses to cover up a decade-long backlog.

In New York, doctors report that nearly 40 percent of their patients receiving kidney dialysis are illegal aliens. A survey of nephrologists in 44 states revealed that 65 percent of them treat illegal aliens with kidney disease.

In Memphis, a VA whistle-blower reported that his hospital was using contaminated kidney-dialysis machines to treat America's warriors. The same hospital previously had been investigated for chronic overcrowding at its emergency room, leading to six-hour waits or longer. Another watchdog probe found unconscionable delays in processing lab tests at the center. In addition, three patients died under negligent circumstances, and the hospital failed to enforce accountability measures.

In Arizona, illegal aliens incurred health-care costs totaling an estimated $700 million in 2009.

In Phoenix, at least 40 veterans died waiting for VA hospitals and clinics to treat them, while government officials created secret waiting lists to cook the books and deceive the public about deadly treatment delays.

At the University of California, Berkeley, UC president Janet Napolitano (former secretary of the Department of Homeland Security) has offered $5 million in financial aid to illegal-alien students. Across the country, 16 states offer in-state tuition discounts for illegal aliens: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, and Washington. In addition, the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education, the University of Hawaii Board of Regents, and the University of Michigan Board of Regents all approved their own illegal-alien tuition benefits.

In 2013, the nation's most selective colleges and universities had enrolled just 168 American veterans, down from 232 in 2011. Anti-war activists have waged war on military-recruitment offices at elite campuses for years. The huge influx of illegal aliens in state universities is shrinking the number of state-subsidized slots for vets.

In 2013, the Obama Department of Homeland Security released 36,007 known, convicted criminal illegal aliens, according to the Center for Immigration Studies. The catch-and-release beneficiaries include thugs convicted of homicide, sexual assault, kidnapping, and thousands of drunken- or drugged-driving crimes.

The same Department of Homeland Security issued a report in 2009 that identified returning combat veterans as worrisome terrorist and criminal threats to America.

In Washington, big-business and open-borders lobbyists are redoubling efforts to pass another massive illegal-alien amnesty to flood the U.S. job market with low-wage labor.

Across the country, men and women in uniform returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan have higher jobless rates than the civilian population. The unemployment rate for new veterans has spiked to its worst levels, nearing 15 percent. For veterans ages 24 and under, the jobless rate is a whopping 29.1 percent, compared with 17.6 percent nationally for the age group.

A Forbes columnist reported last year that an Air Force veteran was told, "We don't hire your kind."

And last December, Democrats led the charge to reduce cost-of-living increases in military pensions - while blocking GOP Alabama senator Jeff Sessions's efforts to close a $4.2 billion loophole that allows illegal aliens to collect child tax credits from the IRS, even if they pay no taxes. The fraudulent payments to illegal aliens would have offset the cuts to veterans' benefits.

America: medical and welfare welcome mat to the rest of the world, while leavings its best and bravest veterans to languish in hospital lounges, die waiting for appointments, and compete for jobs and educational opportunities against illegal border crossers, document fakers, visa violators, and deportation evaders. Shame on us.



Who gives the left so much power?


Traveling down I-95, headed home to Florida from visiting Mary and my parents in Maryland and West Virginia, I found myself yelling in frustration at my radio.  Rush Limbaugh asked: Who gives the left power to silence opposition, control speech, and get people fired or ordered into sensitivity training?  Rush rattled off numerous examples to prove his point, including a mere 50 leftist student protesters at Rutgers successfully forcing Condoleezza Rice to back down from giving their commencement speech.

Who gives the left such power?  I yelled, "We do!"

By the way, while in West Virginia, I attended Mary's dad's 82nd birthday party.  Many family members were in attendance.  We had a wonderful time of laughter and love.  I was the only black person.  There was not the slightest vibe of racial tension in the air.  I believe that such is the state of race relations among a majority of Americans, except for those who despicably promote racial division for personal and political gain (that is, Democrats).

Back to Rush's question.  Who gives the left so much power?  Much of the left's power comes from the mainstream media, which is mostly liberal and totally in sync with the Democratic Party's socialist/progressive agenda.  The MSM functions as the left's hit men, ready to high-tech lynch any and all challengers.

We cannot do much about that.  But we can control our response.  While I have written about this on countless occasions, my points bear repeating.  Stop allowing the left to set the rules of engagement, and stop helping them beat up on our challengers.

When people on our side (conservatives) misspeak, misquote a stat, or make a clumsy innocent comment, I will not sing in harmony with the left's choir, calling the conservative an idiot.  Nor will I submit to the left's demands that the targeted conservative be denounced.  To do so is, in essence, providing aid and comfort to our enemies.

Frustratingly, both sides of the political street expect conservatives to be as perfect as Jesus Christ.  Meanwhile, Democrats are permitted to make any cruel, evil, outrageous, or unsubstantiated claim necessary to further their cause.  Heck, Obama repeatedly told the American people a bald-faced lie to pass ObamaCare, for the most part without consequence.

While we function in a state of constant fear that a conservative may utter a single word for the left to take out of context to use against us, Democrats' rules of engagement allows them to boldly function from the position that no tactic is too low in their quest to defeat conservatives and implement the socialist/progressive agenda.  Therefore, Democrats consider lying to the American people, millions losing their health care, denying medical care to kids with cancer, and slandering millions of decent patriotic Americans in the Tea Party all fair game.

For example: remember when Congressional Black Caucus Rep. Andre Carson made the irresponsible, outrageous claim that the Tea Party would like to see blacks "hanging on a tree"?  Where was the pushback from the MSM?  Where were the calls for Democrats to denounce Rep. Carson?  Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson sent a fundraising email claiming that the T in "Tea Party" stands for the burning cross of the KKK.  Why did we not see the same pressure and 24/7 coverage the MSM applies to Republicans, demanding that Grayson apologize?  Where were the calls for Democrats to denounce him?

The MSM embraces the claims of Democrats, who have never attended a single Tea Party, that the rallies are the equivalent of KKK meetings.  As a black who has attended over 400 Tea Parties nationwide, the MSM rejects my on-the-scene eyewitness report to the contrary.

Remarkably, after five years without evidence proving their accusations, the Democrats and MSM have doubled down on their claim that the Tea Party, the Republican Party, and all opposition to Obama is motivated by racism.

Our side has been advised to surrender to the left's branding of us and implement our own Democrat-lite versions of the left's agenda to prove that we are not racist - usher in illegal immigration, denounce the repeal of ObamaCare, and exempt minorities from showing a photo ID to vote, to name a few.  So this is where we are - allowing Democrats and the MSM to dictate how we are allowed to fight, what we can and cannot say, and which battles we can take on.

And yet, we eagerly rush to blogs and media microphones to beat up on our courageous conservative freedom-fighters whenever they make a mistake.

Sarah Palin is a prime example.  Say what you will about Palin, but from day one, she has been an unwavering bold, strong, and committed voice, pushing back against the tyranny of the Obama regime.  Now, do you think I would ever help the left beat up on Sarah?  Borrowing a phase I heard my patriot brothers and sisters say while in New Jersey, "Forget about it!"

Then there is Cliven Bundy.  While Bundy may or may not have had all his legal ducks in a row, or known how to deal with a hostile media, I tip my hat to the man.  Bottom line: Bundy knew government was hijacking more and more of our freedoms, and he said, "No!"  That takes guts, folks, because history confirms that "freedom ain't free."  Bundy is paying a price that many are unwilling to pay.  Many sheepishly go along with the program (the government incrementally taking over every aspect of our lives) rather than risking an IRS audit or a bogus reason to be thrown in jail.

Who gives the left their power?  We do, every time we surrender.

While visiting in Maryland, I was blessed with another cherished chat with my dad, who just celebrated his 86th birthday.  His mind is as sharp as ever.  Praise God!  Dad is chaplain emeritus for the Baltimore City Fire Department.  He only speaks at special events.

Dad said he was called on the carpet by a department official after a recent event.  One highly offended individual at the event complained that dad ended his prayer with "in Jesus's name."

Dad told the official that he could no more deny Jesus than he could deny that he is black.  Note: Dad did not apologize, beg for forgiveness, or vow never to do it again.  The official let it go.

Who gives the left their power?  We do.



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

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)