Friday, October 10, 2014

Mending Medicare Advantage

Last month the Department of Health and Human Services announced that enrollment in Medicare Advantage had reached an all-time high. This admission put the White House in an awkward position: On the one hand, Medicare Advantage is one part of the U.S. healthcare system that enjoys popular support, enabling approximately 16 million seniors to bypass traditional Medicare and instead obtain subsidized coverage through approved private insurers. On the other hand, for the past two years the Obama administration has had to back off from its threats to cut the reimbursements it pays insurers who participate in the program. The reason? President Obama might like to cut Medicare Advantage, but he knows that doing so would anger an important segment of the voting public.

“The political blowback President Obama would suffer from cutting Medicare Advantage too much would be significant,” writes health-policy expert John R. Graham, a senior fellow at the Independent Institute, in an op-ed for the Daily Caller. “Medicare Advantage (MA) plans are popular for many reasons. Most importantly, they provide better care than traditional Medicare (TM).” Graham cites a recent study by two respected economists, Joseph Newhouse and Thomas McGuire, who found that MA plans “appear to offer higher value than TM” and that government policy should “move more beneficiaries into MA.”

Newhouse and McGuire’s recommendation has irritated many in the health-policy community, who complain that the government overpays Medicare Advantage plans by 6 percent and that fraud is common. Graham responds to the “fraud” criticism by noting that fraud in traditional Medicare is likely a much bigger problem. As to the “overpayment” claim, Graham urges policymakers to combat this problem by offering an alternative to business as usual: Instead of giving premium subsidies to private insurers, give it to the patients enrolled in Medicare Advantage. “As a modest first step, Medicare should give some Medicare Advantage subsidies to seniors directly, through health savings accounts, instead of handing the taxpayers’ entire contribution to insurance companies.”



Amazon’s “Dark Side” Is a Bright Spot for Workers and Consumers

Jim Hightower is an old-fashioned Texas progressive, who, if memory serves, once ran unsuccessfully for the governorship of that state. He may be a great polemicist—see “The Dark Side of Amazon”—but he does not know the first thing about how markets work and how, like Wal-Mart, is a benefactor of consumers nationwide and worldwide.

Before the advent of Wal-Mart, rural America was a retail desert. Small shops, limited product availability and, yes, “hometown service”. But the prices of most items were high because the only alternative to shopping locally was to drive to the nearest city or order through the Sears or JC Penney catalog and depend on timely delivery by the US mail in, it was to be hoped, an undamaged package. The downside of local retail shops (limited options and high prices) fell most heavily on low-income households, which may not have had an automobile or could not afford to take time off work to shop at larger urban retailers or even at local merchants, which typically closed at 5 p.m. Wal-Mart solved both problems in one fell swoop.

Sure, local retailers suffered losses of business and some were forced into bankruptcy, but consumers (the only group whose welfare matters in a free market economy) won big-time. Amazon has generated benefits for consumers many times larger than Sam Walton ever dreamt of.

But what about the jobs that disappeared in local retail outlets as Amazon and Wal-Mart drove costs (and prices) down by inventing markedly more efficient distribution networks and negotiating lower prices with manufacturers and other suppliers on behalf of millions of consumers with little bargaining power of their own? An economic system’s chief purpose is to create prosperity (wealth), not jobs. Creating jobs—at the point of a gun, as Josef Stalin proved, or as FDR did by drafting millions of men to shoulder arms against the Axis powers—is easy; creating wealth is not. Prosperity materializes only if existing resources (land, labor and capital) can be utilized more efficiently, squeezing out “waste” and redundancy so that resources can be released from current employments and redirected by alert entrepreneurs to the production of new products that consumers may not even know they want (an iPhone ten years ago, for example) until they become available.

Hightower bemoans the working conditions in Amazon’s warehouses, a few of which literally become sweatshops during hot summer months. I am willing to bet, however, that if the people employed in one of Amazon’s “dehumanizing hives” (his phrase) were asked whether they wanted to quit their jobs, not one hand would be raised, especially so in an economy with an unemployment rate still hovering around six percent and a rate of underemployment twice that figure.

Hightower, like many before him, claims that Amazon’s ability to avoid collecting sales taxes on orders shipped out of state from the company’s Washington state headquarters or from its warehouses located around the United States gives Amazon a tax subsidy ranging “from about 4 to more than 10 percent.” That subsidy, which actually ranges from zero to more than 10 percent (four U.S. states—Delaware, New Hampshire, Montana and Oregon—impose no local or state sales taxes at all), supposedly confers a significant competitive disadvantage on brick-and-mortar retailers, who must remit sales tax receipts to the appropriate state tax authority.

But in making that claim, Hightower ignores taxes paid by FedEx and UPS, which deliver Amazon’s packages to customers’ doorsteps. Those delivery services pay, among others, state and local gasoline taxes and corporate income taxes; their employees pay state and local personal income taxes and spend some of their disposable incomes at local grocery stores and other retail outlets, purchases on which sales taxes are due. So, too, do the owners and employees of Amazon’s warehouses.

Amazon relies increasingly on the U.S. Postal Service to deliver packages to customers’ homes or places of business, especially in rural areas, a relationship that must have been seen by the beleaguered USPS as something like a lifeline thrown to someone going underwater for the third time.

It is true that, like Wal-Mart, Amazon has benefited from tax breaks (“incentives”) offered by local and state governments to lure companies to one particular geographic location rather than another. Handed out to encourage local economic development and the jobs and tax receipts associated with it, such corporate “incentives” are a national scandal, squandering taxpayers’ hard-earned money for dubious benefits. But neither Wal-Mart nor Amazon should be blamed for accepting such incentives, which are offered by politicians who want to claim credit at reelection time for attracting high-profile corporations to their home districts or states. Consumers, by and large, don’t care about the points of origin of their orders, as long as they are delivered when expected, whether from Toledo or Timbuktu.

It is someone ironic, but understandable, that Wal-Mart has joined the chorus demanding that Congress put an end to the sales-tax-free Internet retail environment. Wal-Mart has a physical presence in virtually every state and thus is obliged to collect sales taxes on almost everything it sells. Wal-Mart, of course, would benefit itself by erasing one of Amazon’s competitive advantages. But consumers would be harmed, not only by seeing prices rise by the amount of sales tax Amazon collects and then remits to the treasuries of its customers’ places of residence. Even more seriously, expunging the virtual border between the more than 3,000 separate taxing jurisdictions throughout the United States would mute the interjurisdictional tax-rate competition that makes it politically costly for any one of them to jack up its sales tax rate.

Competition can seem to be ruthless to someone who loses a small business or gets fired from a retail job, but the benefits to consumers swamp the harm done to producers. Already, Amazon is facing threats from Uber and other web-based delivery services that will pick up and deliver orders from local retailers in hours, not one or two days. Amazon could respond by getting permission from government regulators to deliver packages via drones. No one knows what the next new thing will be, but the answer cannot be found by hamstringing Amazon or any other large retailer, but by allowing free and open competition to flourish.

But a mercantilist, anti-market mindset is exactly what one would expect from a progressive defender of the Empire against Sam Walton, Jeff Bezos, and innovative rebels like them.



Dr. Emanuel's death wish

by Jeff Jacoby

THE ELDERLY are such a pain, aren't they? Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel thinks so. Half of those older than 80 have "functional limitations," the prominent health policy analyst and key ObamaCare architect writes in the October issue of The Atlantic. One in three Americans 85 and up has Alzheimer's. Old people are more likely to be disabled, or at least "faltering and declining." They lose their creative mojo. They don't "contribute to work, society, the world." Instead of being regarded as "vibrant and engaged," they grow "feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic."

Especially disagreeable are old parents, who can be so irritating: "They set expectations, render judgments, impose their opinions, interfere, and are generally a looming presence for even adult children," Emanuel complains. By living too long, parents blow their chance to impart "the right memories" to their kids. Nothing could be worse, he insists, than being remembered not as we were in our prime, but as old and decrepit — "stooped and sluggish, forgetful and repetitive, constantly asking, 'What did she say?'" To leave behind memories of our frailty "is the ultimate tragedy."

And that, declares Emanuel, is "Why I Hope to Die at 75."

In his 5,000-word Atlantic essay, Emanuel — who heads the Department of Medical Ethics & Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania, and has an appointment at National Institutes of Health— announces that once he reaches 75, he will decline nearly all medical treatment. No more flu shots, no colonoscopies or other screenings, no pacemakers or surgery. "If I develop cancer, I will refuse treatment," he writes. He won't even take antibiotics to cure pneumonia or an infection, preferring instead to be carried off by the "quick and relatively painless" death untreated infection usually leads to.

Or so he says.

Debate over the health resources consumed by America's elderly have been ongoing for decades. As a candidate for Massachusetts governor in 1990, Boston University's John Silber famously generated sparks when he replied to a question about the surging costs of medical care for the elderly by asserting: "When you've had a long life and you're ripe, then it's time to go." President Obama has suggested the same thing, albeit far more tactfully. In 2009 he cited his grandmother's hip-replacement surgery during her final illness, publicly questioning whether such costly procedures for the terminally ill are a "sustainable model" for health care.

Over the years Emanuel has energetically weighed in on these issues, but that's not the focus of his Atlantic essay. His argument is not about dollars and cents, it's about quality of life. Death is a loss, but "living too long is also a loss" — loss of vigor, of autonomy, of productivity, of smarts, of ambition. If we're to take him at his word, he cannot bear the thought of slowing down as he ages. He recoils from the way the old gradually learn to "accommodate [their] physical and mental limitations" — retiring from a profession, taking up hobbies, doing and daring less.

"As walking becomes harder and the pain of arthritis limits the fingers' mobility, life comes to center around sitting in the den reading or listening to books on tape and doing crossword puzzles." Emanuel, whose essay is accompanied by a picture of himself and two nephews on Mount Kilimanjaro, would rather die of pneumonia than live like that. He maintains he is "certainly not scorning or dismissing people who want to live on" despite the debilities of old age. But it's hard to take that disclaimer seriously, when the whole point of his essay is that a diminished life isn't worth prolonging.

He mocks Americans who exercise, do mental puzzles, and consume "various juice and protein concoctions" in their quest to live longer. "Manic desperation," he calls it. "Misguided." "Potentially destructive." That's not scorn?

Maybe Emanuel is merely being provocative. He acknowledges that 75 is an arbitrary age to designate as the boundary between a vibrant life and a feeble one. He admits there are "myriad people I know who are over 75 and doing quite well." At the start of his essay, he claims "I am sure of my position" — yet reserves the right, at the very end, to change his mind once he reaches his 75th birthday.

Emanuel is 57 now, which gives him 18 years to reconsider his death wish, and to learn, perhaps, that the declines of advanced age can be a blessing as well as a curse. To be able to accept the pains and impediments of mortality requires a measure of courage and dignity that few of us are blessed with — or can even imagine — in our prime. Emanuel's own father, now 87, has slowed down considerably. His career is over. His son describes him as "sluggish." And yet the old man describes himself as happy.

Emanuel may dread the prospect of ending up like his father. But he's still young, and not yet wise.




There are lots of good reasons to hope that the Democrats suffer a humiliating defeat in November, and this one is pretty far down the list. Still, it isn’t insignificant: as we have documented over and over, the Democrats, from the White House and Harry Reid on down, have run this year’s campaign largely against Charles and David Koch. It is rare for the Democratic Party to send out a fundraising email that fails to invoke the specter of the “Koch brothers,” who are treated essentially as bogeymen.

This is unprecedented in our history. Never before has a political party based a campaign on demonizing individual, private citizens who hold opposing beliefs and who exercise their First Amendment right to participate in the political process. In my view, it would be a very bad thing if attacks like those the Democrats have made against Charles and David Koch–which, frankly, border on the insane–were to become the norm.

On Chris Matthews’ Hardball, Howard Fineman of the Huffington Post criticized the campaign the Democrats have run this year, and said specifically that “campaigning against the Koch brothers is idiotic.”

I hope he proves to be right. If the Democrats get clobbered in November, their anti-Koch strategy will go down as a failure, and parties in the future will be unlikely to repeat it. If, on the other hand, the Democrats outperform expectations, they likely will conclude that their diversionary attack on the Kochs worked, and they are likely to try the same thing in the future, against the Kochs or others who disagree with them. Our politics are plenty dirty enough without giving the Democrats that sort of encouragement.



Walmart Nixes Insurance for 30,000

Another 30,000 employees are finding out they can’t keep their insurance plans, even if they like them. The Associated Press reports, “Wal-Mart Stores Inc. plans to eliminate health insurance coverage for some of its part-time U.S. employees in a move aimed at controlling rising health care costs of the nation’s largest private employer.” The terminations will be effective Jan. 1 and will affect 30,000 of the company’s workforce clocking in less than 30 hours a week. “The announcement follows similar decisions by Target, Home Depot and others to completely eliminate health insurance benefits for part-time employees,” the AP adds.

Senior vice president of benefits, Sally Welborn, defended the move, saying, “We are trying to balance the needs of (workers) as well as the costs of (workers) as well as the cost to Wal-Mart.” In other words, the retail giant is trying to keep its business afloat while also maintaining a profit margin – a tedious process every business owner faces that’s been made all the more difficult because of ObamaCare.

Then again, Walmart endorsed ObamaCare, only to turn around and do what leftists really wanted – put more people on the federal dole. Oh, and they’re offering health insurance advice, too.



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

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


Thursday, October 09, 2014

Lazy Google spiders

Google seems to have a very relaxed attitude to files that have been on the net for some time.  Once they have indexed a file, they seem never to look at it again.

I once had a site with a crowd called and I put a lot of my files up there.  Google duly noted that at the time.  A couple of years ago, however, deleted my account for reasons known only to them.  I was unfazed by that and simply put my files up elsewhere.  But if you do a search for any of the files Google still refers you to the long-gone page.  It amounts to a subtle form of censorship.

One would think that they would revisit every page at least once a year and take down references to pages no longer there.  There are a lot of those on the net.

My current home page is here  and you can access all my articles from there


MRC Ends Suit: Gov’t States It Isn't Enforcing Contraceptive Rule on Self-Certified Religious Group

The Media Research Center (MRC), a non-profit group that monitors liberal bias in the news media, announced today that it was ending its lawsuit to block the Obamacare contraceptive mandate because the organization is a self-certified religious entity and the federal government, through an Agreed Order of Dismissal, has affirmed “that it is not now enforcing, and has no plans to penalize or enforce the contraceptive mandate against the MRC,” reads a press release from the MRC.

“The Agreed Order of Dismissal is a major victory not only for the MRC, but any organization that believes in freedom of religion and the conscience rights of individuals to operate their enterprises free from the threat of government reprisal,” said MRC Founder and President Brent Bozell. “With this agreement, the MRC and its employees will continue to live and work according to our values and our firmly held belief that all human life is sacred.”

The regulation, issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, says that nearly all companies with more than 50 employees must offer health insurance that covers contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs, such as ella and Plan B, without co-payments.

The MRC, which has about 60 employees and is the parent organization of, says the contraceptive mandate violates its religious beliefs. Back in May, the non-profit group said, “For nearly three decades, the MRC has been the nation’s premier defender of pro-life views and Judeo-Christian values from attacks by the liberal media.”

Its president and other employees “practice and live by Judeo-Christian values, and believe abortion, whether through the actions of an abortionist or a drug, is the taking of innocent human life,” said the MRC.  “Under the First Amendment, the MRC and its employees have the right to practice and abide by their faith in their everyday lives including in the operations of their mission-oriented non-profit organization.”

Under the rules of the contraceptive mandate, churches, other “official” religious institutions, and “eligible organizations” are allowed to exempt themselves from the mandate through a “self-certification” process.

An employer can self-certify as an “eligible organization” if it opposes part or all of the mandate on religious grounds; operates as a non-profit; and holds itself out as a religious organization.

The MRC completed that “self-certification” but also filed suit against the HHS in April, asking the federal court for the Eastern District of Virginia to formally declare that the non-profit was exempt as an “eligible organization” because it is a religious group, a ruling that would also protect the MRC from crippling fines.

If an employer is not exempt from the contraceptive regulation, it must comply or face daily fines of $100 per employee.  For the MRC, that potentially amounts to $4,562,000 a year. But the Agreed Order of Dismissal, according to the Oct. 6 press statement, “confirms that there is no imminent threat to the MRC from the government and leaves the MRC free to reopen the suit should the government challenge the MRC’s self-declared exemption in the future.”



Government Should Target ‘Bad Guys,’ Not Entire Industries, Trade Group Says

A group representing businesses that speed monetary transactions between consumers has taken a legal stand against Operation Choke Point, the secretive Obama administration effort to financially starve industries that are politically out of favor.

The Third Party Payment Processors Association filed a legal brief Friday in support of a lawsuit that challenges the Justice Department initiative’s use of federal banking regulators to pressure banks into closing the accounts of a variety of enterprises.

“They’re using regulation-examining authorities to coerce banks into dropping relationships that are politically unfavorable,” said Marsha Jones, president of the trade association.

The lawsuit, filed by the payday lending industry, accuses three of the government’s main financial regulatory bodies—the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Federal Reserve Bank and the Office of the Comptroller of Currency—of abusing their examination authority.

Their intent, the suit says, is “to enforce a de facto boycott” of industries the Obama administration considers objectionable.

Operation Choke Point, coordinated by the Justice Department under Attorney General Eric Holder, works by wielding the implied threat of government audits and other investigations, critics say.

Jones told The Daily Signal the trade group wanted to speak out to prevent the Justice Department from persuading the public that it targets only disreputable enterprises such as pornography, Ponzi schemes or even payday lending:

This isn’t about [only] payday lending, this is about going after third-party payment processors because it’s faster and less costly and easier than going after the bad merchants directly.

A House report concluded that the Justice Department initiative purposefully pressures financial institutions into denying legal businesses access to the very banking system they need to survive—simply because the administration doesn’t like them.

A third-party payment processor is a business—such as PayPal or a payroll depositor—that processes payments for other companies or customers through an independent bank.

Payment processors play a vital role in the economy by easing or making possible monetary transactions among consumers, merchants and financial institutions, Jones said.

The Third Party Payment Processors Association, a 30-member group that formed in 2013, says its mission is to help processors and banks operate “efficiently and compliantly” within today’s government regulatory environment.

The Justice Department, which has declined to speak to The Daily Signal about Operation Choke Point, contends that the campaign’s goal is to combat unlawful, mass-market consumer fraud.

Jones says she not only is fine with that, she’s willing to help:

"Go after the bad guys—we’ll help you find them through creating best practices. But don’t use the components of the payment system to try to sweep entire industries out of business."

Pawn shops, payday lenders, gun sellers and payment processors are among the legal enterprises overtly targeted by regulators at Justice’s behest

The payday industry representatives filed their suit June 5 in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

They asked the court to set aside “certain informal guidance documents and other unlawful regulatory actions by FDIC, the [Federal Reserve] Board and OCC on the grounds that they exceed the agencies’ statutory authority.”

In July, after coming under congressional scrutiny, the FDIC took down online lists of “high risk” businesses, citing “misunderstandings” in which its guidance led to sudden decisions by banks to close accounts with established customers that fell under one or more of the listed categories.

Jones said industry experts believe the FDIC removed the lists simply as a “legal tactic,” so the regulatory agency could argue that the suit’s claims no longer apply.  Even so, Jones said, removing the “high risk list” isn’t enough to end Operation Choke Point.

Without a court ruling against the practice, she and other critics of the government program say, banks will continue shutting out “high risk” customers to avoid government scrutiny.  Otherwise, Jones said, silence “would basically be a nod to the regulators” that they have done nothing wrong.

“Operation Choke Point continues to be the greatest threat to consumer choice and freedom this country has ever seen,” said Brian Wise, senior adviser for the U.S. Consumer Coalition, a grassroots organization leading the fight against Choke Point.

In applauding the trade group’s friend-of-the court brief, Wise said he hopes the courts “uphold the standard of due process.”

The public, Wise said, should “demand that the administration, if they want to destroy an entire industry, do it through the legislative process [and] not through unilateral executive action.”



No Ebola Travel Ban: Dems Defend Obama Policy Through Silence

The UK’s Daily Mail reports that a teenager from West Africa who became sick while visiting Florida on holiday caused Jackson Memorial Hospital to go on high alert on Sunday amid fears that he may have the deadly Ebola virus.

This makes, by our count, the fourth Ebola “scare” since Liberian Thomas Duncan became the first person in the U.S. to be diagnosed with Ebola. All of these “scares” were due to allowing visitors, some of whom may have lied about their exposure to Ebola, into the United States from countries where the deadly virus is at epidemic proportions.

Yet, the Obama administration is not considering a ban on travelers from countries most affected by the deadly Ebola virus outbreak, the White House said on Monday.

"A travel ban is not something that we're currently considering," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters at a daily briefing. "We feel good about the measures that are already in place," he said according to Yahoo News.

Now here’s something from The Daily Mail report that should scare every voter in Florida.

The Florida Department of Health has requested 30 additional Ebola testing kits from the CDC to ensure that all of Florida’s public hospitals 'have the ability to test patients who county health officials and the CDC believe need to be tested for Ebola,' said Florida’s Governor Rick Scott.

The Daily Mail also reports that the Florida “Health Department also requested '100 units of additional high-level personal protective equipment to ensure the state is ready to backfill any county whose medical personnel develop a future need for these supplies.'”

In other words, due to Obama’s policy of keeping the border open to travelers from countries where the Ebola epidemic is raging, Floridians can expect MORE Ebola scares, not fewer, or better yet, no Ebola scares.

A normal American government would act immediately to eliminate the existential threat of this growing world epidemic, but the Obama administration is not a normal American government.

As we noted yesterday, the practical result of Obama’s immigration policies toward the sources of Ebola, whooping cough and Enterovirus 68 is a life or death threat to America’s children.

Through their silent support for Obama’s open borders policy Democrats are more than merely complicit in this existential threat to America’s national security – they are actively helping to advance it.

North Carolina Republican Senate candidate Thom Tillis is the only Republican Senate candidate we can find who has grasped that protecting Americans, and especially American children, from the looming health disaster of Obama’s lawless immigration policies is an important issue in the 2014 midterm election. Tillis demanded on Thursday a nationwide travel ban from the three hardest-hit Ebola hotspots: Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Tillis’ call for a travel ban shows that his campaign has grasped the political and policy implications of Obama’s disastrous failure to enforce our immigration and health security laws – it is time for the Republicans to drive the message home, close the deal with the “security Mom” vote and win the election.



It's happening


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

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


Wednesday, October 08, 2014

The terrible truth about cannabis: British expert's devastating 20-year study finally demolishes claims that smoking pot is harmless

A definitive 20-year study into the effects of long-term cannabis use has demolished the argument that the drug is safe.  Cannabis is highly addictive, causes mental health problems and opens the door to hard drugs, the study found.

The paper by Professor Wayne Hall, a drugs advisor to the World Health Organisation, builds a compelling case against those who deny the devastation cannabis wreaks on the brain. Professor Hall found:

    One in six teenagers who regularly smoke the drug become dependent on it,

    Cannabis doubles the risk of developing psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia,

    Cannabis users do worse at school. Heavy use in adolescence appears to impair intellectual development

    One in ten adults who regularly smoke the drug become dependent on it and those who use it are more likely to go on to use harder drugs,

    Driving after smoking cannabis doubles the risk of a car crash, a risk which increases substantially if the driver has also had a drink,

  Smoking it while pregnant reduces the baby’s birth weight.

Last night Professor Hall, a professor of addiction policy at King’s College London, dismissed the views of those who say that cannabis is harmless.  ‘If cannabis is not addictive then neither is heroin or alcohol,’ he said.

‘It is often harder to get people who are dependent on cannabis through withdrawal than for heroin – we just don’t know how to do it.’

Those who try to stop taking cannabis often suffer anxiety, insomnia, appetite disturbance and depression, he found. Even after treatment, less than half can stay off the drug for six months.

The paper states that teenagers and young adults are now as likely to take cannabis as they are to smoke cigarettes.

Professor Hall writes that it is impossible to take a fatal overdose of cannabis, making it less dangerous at first glance than heroin or cocaine. He also states that taking the drug while pregnant can reduce the weight of a baby, and long-term use raises the risk of cancer, bronchitis and heart attack.

But his main finding is that regular use, especially among teenagers, leads to long-term mental health problems and addiction.

‘The important point I am trying to make is that people can get into difficulties with cannabis use, particularly if they get into daily use over a longer period,’ he said. ‘There is no doubt that heavy users experience a withdrawal syndrome as with alcohol and heroin.

‘Rates of recovery from cannabis dependence among those seeking treatment are similar to those for alcohol.’

Mark Winstanley, of the charity Rethink Mental Illness, said: ‘Too often cannabis is wrongly seen as a safe drug, but as this review shows, there is a clear link with psychosis and schizophrenia, especially for teenagers.

‘The common view that smoking cannabis is nothing to get worked up about needs to be challenged more effectively. Instead of classifying and re-classifying, government time and money would be much better spent on educating young people about how smoking cannabis is essentially playing a very real game of Russian roulette with your mental health.’

Professor Hall last night declined to comment on the decriminalisation debate.

But in his paper, published in the journal Addiction, he wrote that the rise of medical treatment for cannabis ‘dependence syndrome’ had not been stopped by legalisation. The number of cannabis users seeking help to quit or control their cannabis use has increased during the past two decades in the United States, Europe and Australia,’ he wrote. ‘The same increase has occurred in the Netherlands, where cannabis use was decriminalised more than 40 years ago.’



Is the Democratic Party more peaceful?

The list below omits Bill Clinton's bombing of the Christian Serbs in defence of the Muslim Kosovars

There is a popular cliche in American politics that holds the Democratic politicians as more peaceful than the Republicans. NagasakibombSupporters would frame it as Democrats being diplomatic versus the Republican warhawks. Opponents would frame it as Democrats being “weak on defense” versus the Republicans who are “strong on national security.” But both supporters and opponents of the Democrats agree that they are more peace-loving than the Republicans. I mean, Barack Obama and Al Gore both have Nobel Peace Prizes!

Yet as with most of the conventional wisdom concerning U.S. politics, this bit of “everyone knows” is completely wrong. Here are some inconvenient truths to fit into the standard narrative:

==> Woodrow Wilson led the U.S. into World War I. His actions before U.S. entry were so belligerent that his Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan, actually resigned in protest. (Bryan wanted the U.S. to stay neutral, and thought Wilson’s policies were clearly pro-British and anti-German.)

==> Franklin D. Roosevelt enacted policies that were hardly neutral and after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, led the U.S. into World II. FDR was in office to oversee the Manhattan Project. After FDR’s death he was succeeded by Harry Truman, the only political ruler in human history to order atomic weapons to be used against civilians.

==> John F. Kennedy in 1961 told a NYT reporter, “Now we have a problem making our power credible and Vietnam looks like the place.” While (Republican) Dwight Eisenhower had sent 900 advisors to South Vietnam, by the time of his assassination in November 1963 Kennedy had sent 16,000 military personnel.

==> Under Lyndon B. Johnson, U.S. forces in Vietnam went from 16,000 in late 1963 to 550,000 by early 1968. LBJ also approved “carpet bombing” campaigns. For example, Operation Rolling Thunder from 1965-68 involved more than 1 million sorties and 750,000 tons of bombs.

==> In August 1998 Bill Clinton launched dozens of cruise missiles at targets in the Sudan and Afghanistan, a move described in the NYT this way: “With about 75 missiles timed to explode simultaneously in unsuspecting countries on two continents, the operation was the most formidable U.S. military assault ever against a private sponsor of terrorism.” Cynics claimed the timing and boldness of the operation was to take the Monica Lewinsky scandal off the front pages. (Clinton’s grand jury testimony and nationally televised admission of guilt had occurred earlier in the month.)

==> And of course, President Obama has only escalated the “global war on terror” that mushroomed under his predecessor. His actions have been so opposite to what his supporters had hoped that we’ve got this yard sign:

So in conclusion, no, the Democrats are not the party of peace



No, America isn’t Communist. It’s only 70% Communist

“The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workers of the world, unite!”

Most people remember Karl Marx’s most potent points and phrases, and the mountain of corpses his disciples left behind, especially in the 20th century. However, most forget or don’t even know the specific policies that Marx advocated.

Within his 1848 Communist Manifesto, Marx outlined a list of ten short-term demands. These, he thought, would be the precursor to the ideal stateless, classless communist society.

Ironically in today’s world, Marx’s demands look pretty much mainstream. That is because nearly every single item on the list has been implemented to varying degrees in the United States.

Think that couldn’t be possible in the Land of the Free? Just take a look. Topping Marx’s list is the abolition of private property. True, private property exists, but only until the state wants to take it. With its powers of eminent domain, the government can and does confiscate people’s property when it wants for public use. Your property isn’t unconditionally yours. Just think of property taxes, for example. If it’s actually YOUR private property, then why would you need to pay tax on it? And why do they have the authority to take it from you if you don’t pay?

Likewise, while we haven’t seen the complete abolition of inheritance (another Marx demand), the government can take up to 40% of your estate when you die. So ultimately your estate is not your own. You don’t get to control what happens to your wealth and possessions when you die. It’s just a matter of proportion.

Marx also demanded the centralization of transportation and communication. Check, and check. Try broadcasting over the airwaves in the Land of the Free without a license and special permission. Practically the entire electromagnetic spectrum is tightly controlled by the state, centralized by a handful of government agencies. Same with the network of roads and highways. Because, after all, without government, who would build the roads…

Another point of Marx is state-guided agricultural production and combination of agriculture and manufacturing. And the Land of the Free does not disappoint. Though its activities may not be as prominent in the news, the US Department of Agriculture is easily one of the busiest government departments. With a budget of $146 billion a year, and much more for subsidies, USDA tirelessly works to dictate every major and miniscule activity in the sector.

Next on the list, is equal liability of all to labor. If you have at any point wondered, as I have, why politicians are always pushing jobs for the sake of jobs, rather than value and wealth creation—now you know why. Between minimum wage laws and the constant stream of legislation that promises jobs for all, it is clear that politicians have wholly internalized this Marxian ideal.

Now, you might think that this is just a fluke, just a coincidence that some US policies resemble what’s on Marx’s list of demands. But then you see these demands, which have not only been fully implemented in the US already, but are thoroughly entrenched in the national psyche:

First, there’s free education for all children, to enable the uniformity of thought. Check.

Then there’s a heavy progressive income tax. Yep, I’m pretty sure you’re familiar with this one, which has actually become so mainstream, that to have any system other than this would be considered revolutionary. Check.

Third, is the confiscation of the property of emigrants (expatriates) and rebels. Between the IRS bullying of political opposition groups and the imposition of exit taxes for those that renounce their citizenship, the United States is firmly set up to discourage dissent and escape. Check.

And last but not least, the centralization of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank. Check. Remember, Karl Marx thought central banking was a great idea—the same guy who thought that individual success and private property were evil.

Think about that the next time the Federal Reserve comes up with a plan to help businesses and fix the economy. So now you know, America isn't communist. It's only about 70% communist. No reason to worry.



That Leftist lack of consistency again


The Income Inequality Diversion

Politicians such as Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio cashed in on growing concerns about income inequality by employing the rhetoric of redistribution. But such rhetoric fundamentally misconstrues the realities of the knowledge economy. Consider: If politicians were to tax away the income gains accrued over the past 35 years by the wealthiest 1 percent of American households and give that money to the other 99 percent, the latter would have $7,105 more per year. But that sum is no match for the income gains that a family headed by two college graduates enjoyed over the same period compared to a family headed by two high-school grads: $30,000.

“In other words, not going to college appears to be four times more important than anything that could be gained by taxing the rich for people in the lower half of the income distribution,” writes Independent Institute Senior Fellow John C. Goodman. A college degree helps, but even more important are the self-discipline and self-control that one can gain by pursuing academic excellence.

Such character traits are by no means exclusive to college graduates, of course, as the list of billionaires who never finished college indicates. But rather than delve into the relationship between an enterprising mindset and economic success, redistributionists would rather bemoan income inequality. Why? “That answer seems pretty clear,” Goodman continues. “Because they don’t want to talk about Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, bailouts, debt, the stimulus, the rotten cronyism of energy policy, denial of education to poor and minorities, the abject failure of their policies to help poor and middle class people, and especially sclerotic growth.”



How to LIMIT the US Courts

Over the past 70 years, most States have passed Laws involving Abortion and Gay Marriage and The Death Penalty.

However, in many cases, un-elected, often highly partisan US federal judges have unilaterally destroyed many of these Laws.

Fortunately, the Founders of our country anticipated this deranged SPECTACLE. Article III of the US Constitution says that Congress can limit the jurisdiction of the US federal courts with a simple majority vote.

BOTTOM-LINE: A simple majority in Congress can remove all legislation involving ABORTION and MARRIAGE and THE DEATH PENALTY from the terrifying jurisdiction of our US federal courts.

Via email


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

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, October 07, 2014

Obama attacks freedom and demands apartheid

Israel's prime minister dismissed a recent White House rebuke of Israeli settlement construction, saying in comments broadcast on Sunday that the criticism goes 'against American values.'

The tough words by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened to deepen a rift with the White House over Israeli construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war and claimed by the Palestinians as parts of a future independent state.

A day earlier, an ultranationalist Jewish group said dozens of settlers would move into six apartment buildings purchased in the heart of a predominantly Arab neighborhood of east Jerusalem.

In a striking public rebuke last week, the Obama administration warned Israel that the new project would distance Israel from 'even its closest allies' and raise questions about its commitment to seeking peace with Palestinians.

In an interview broadcast Sunday on CBS's 'Face the Nation,' Netanyahu said he does not accept restrictions on where Jews could live, and said that Jerusalem's Arabs and Jews should be able to buy homes wherever they want.

He said he was 'baffled' by the American condemnation.  'It's against the American values. And it doesn't bode well for peace,' he said. 'The idea that we'd have this ethnic purification as a condition for peace, I think it's anti-peace.'



Dallas Ebola Patient Was Another Visa Mistake

Look up "likely visa overstay" in the dictionary, and you should find a picture of Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who is the first Ebola case diagnosed within the United States, and who is now being treated in a Dallas hospital.

This looks like another good case for the consular officers training manual of a non-immigrant visa that never should have been issued, but which could have serious public health consequences, not to mention monetary costs.

According to his Facebook page and other reports, Duncan is a 40-something, single, unemployed Liberian living in Ghana who applied sometime in the last year for a visa to visit his sister in the United States. It was reportedly his first time visiting this country.

That is six strikes against his application:

Liberian (5th highest overstay rate of any country in the world)
Living outside country of citizenship
First time traveler to the United States
Sister living in the United States.

Together, all these factors should have weighed very heavily against the issuance of a vistor's visa to Duncan. He clearly appears unqualified.

In 2013, more than 3,500 non-immigrant visas were issued to Liberians. This number has grown steadily since 2009, when just over 1,300 were issued. Most are issued to tourists and business travelers. A relatively high percentage do not return, but settle here illegally to join a well-established Liberian community (many of whom have won green cards in the visa lottery).

The federal government has yet to disclose the details of Duncan's immigration history, but it is fair to ask why he was issued a visa in the first place? More importantly, what steps are being taken to prevent others who may be infected from entering the country?

Using 2013 non-immigrant visa issuance statistics and information on visa validity periods, I estimate that there are about 5,000 people from Sierra Leone, 5,000 people from Guinea, and 3,500 people from Liberia who have valid non-immigrant visas to enter the United States.

The president and his immigration agencies have the authority and the responsibility to deny admission to any alien that has (or cannot establish to the government's satisfaction that he or she doesn't have) a communicable disease of public health significance, such as ebola. In the midst of this severe outbreak, the government should be setting up more robust screening protocols. Reportedly, travelers to the United States are simply being questioned about their contact with infected people and are checked for a fever. In contrast, three African countries (Namibia, Kenya, and Zambia) have banned travelers from the countries that are experiencing the outbreak (Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea).

In July, a member of Congress sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson suggesting that we bar entry to any foreign travelers who have visited the three Ebola-stricken countries within 90 days of seeking entry to the United States.

But, as with the threat from terrorism and from foreign criminal cartels, the Obama administration seems reluctant to use immigration controls even to protect the homeland.

From CIS


Record 61.8 million U.S. Residents Speak Foreign Language at Home

Spanish, Chinese & Arabic speakers grew most since 2010

Nearly 62 million U.S. residents now speak a language other than English at home - an all-time high. A new report by the Center for Immigration Studies, based on recently released data from the Census Bureau's 2013 American Community Survey, shows that one in five U.S. residents over age four speaks a foreign language at home. The number of foreign language speakers grew 2.2 million since 2010. This growth was driven almost entirely by an increase in Spanish, Chinese, and Arabic speakers.

"It is important to understand that the enormous growth in foreign language use reflects past policy decisions. Allowing in over one million new legal immigrants a year and to a lesser extent tolerating illegal immigration has important implication for preserving a common language," said Steven Camarota, the Center's Director of Research and co-author of the report. "For too long we have given little consider to whether continuing this level of immigration, mostly legal, hinder the assimilation of immigrants and their children."

View the entire report  here.  Among the findings:

  In 2013 a record 61.8 million all U.S. residents (native-born, legal immigrants, and illegal immigrants) spoke a language other than English at home.

  The number of foreign-language speakers increased 2.2 million between 2010 and 2013. It has grown by nearly 15 million (32 percent) since 2000 and by almost 30 million since 1990 (94 percent).

  The largest increases 2010 to 2013 were for speakers of Spanish (up 1.4 million, 4 percent growth), Chinese (up 220,000, 8 percent growth), Arabic (up 188,000, 22 percent growth), and Urdu (up 50,000, 13 percent growth). Urdu is the national language of Pakistan.

  Languages with more than a million speakers in 2013 were Spanish (38.4 million), Chinese (three million), Tagalog (1.6 million), Vietnamese (1.4 million), French (1.3 million), and Korean and Arabic (1.1million each). Tagalog is the national language of the Philippines.

  The percentage of the U.S. population speaking a language other than English at home was 21 percent in 2013, a slight increase over 2010. In 2000, the share was 18 percent; in 1990 it was 14 percent; it was 11 percent in 1980.

  Of the school age (5 to 17) nationally, more than one in five speaks a foreign language at home. It is 45 percent in California and roughly one in three students in Texas, Nevada and New York. But more surprisingly it is now one in seven students in Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Nebraska and Delaware; and one out of eight students in Kansas, Utah, Minnesota and Idaho.

  Many of those who speak a foreign language at home are not immigrants. Of the nearly 62 million foreign-language speakers, 44 percent (27.2 million) were born in the United States.

  Of those who speak a foreign language at home, 25.1 million (41 percent) told the Census Bureau that they speak English less than very well.

  States with the largest share of foreign-language speakers in 2013 include: California, 44 percent; New Mexico, 36 percent; Texas 35 percent; New Jersey, 30 percent; Nevada, 30 percent; New York, 30 percent; Florida, 27 percent; Arizona, 27 percent; Hawaii, 25 percent; Illinois, 23 percent; Massachusetts, 22 percent, Connecticut, 22 percent; and Rhode Island, 21 percent.

  States with the largest percentage increases in foreign-language speakers 2010 to 2013 were: North Dakota, up 13 percent; Oklahoma, up 11 percent; Nevada, up 10 percent, New Hampshire, up 8 percent; Idaho, up 8 percent, Georgia, up 7 percent; Washington, up 7 percent; Oregon, up 6 percent; Massachusetts, up 6 percent; Kentucky, up 6 percent; Maryland, up 5 percent; and North Carolina, up 5 percent.

  Taking a longer view, states with the largest percentage increase in foreign-language speakers 2000 to 2013 were: Nevada, up 85 percent; North Carolina, up 69 percent; Georgia, up 69 percent; Washington, up 60 percent; South Carolina, up 57 percent; Virginia, up 57 percent; Tennessee, up 54 percent; Arkansas, up 54 percent; Maryland, up 52 percent; Delaware, up 52 percent; Oklahoma, up 48 percent; Utah, up 47 percent; Idaho, up 47 percent; Nebraska, up 46 percent; Florida, up 46 percent; Alabama, up 43 percent; Texas, up 42 percent; Oregon, up 42 percent; and Kentucky, up 39 percent.

From CIS


U.S. Immigrant Population Hits Record 41.3 Million

Middle Eastern, Asian, and Caribbean Immigrants Lead Growth

 A new report by the Center for Immigration Studies finds that nearly one in six adults in the U.S. is foreign-born. The report, based on newly released Census Bureau data, also found that the nation's immigrant population (legal and illegal) grew by 1.4 million from July 2010 to July 2013. The immigrant population, referred to as the foreign-born by the Census Bureau, includes all those who were not U.S. citizens at birth, including illegal immigrants.

"The new data makes clear that while Latin America and the Caribbean are still a significant source of immigration, the growth is being driven in large part by immigration from Asia, the Middle East, and Africa," observed the Center's Director of Research and lead author of the report, Steven Camarota.

View the full report  here.  Among the findings from the new data:

  The nation's immigrant population (legal and illegal) hit a record 41.3 million in July 2013, an increase of 1.4 million since July 2010. Since 2000 the immigrant population is up 10.2 million.

  The 41.3 million immigrant population (legal and illegal) in 2013 was double the number in 1990, nearly triple the number in 1980, and quadruple that in 1970, when it stood at 9.6 million.

  The sending regions with the largest increases from 2010 to 2013 were South Asia (up 373,000, 16 percent growth); East Asia (up 365,000, 5 percent growth); the Caribbean (up 223,000, 6 percent growth), the Middle East (up 208,000, 13 percent growth); and sub-Saharan Africa (up 177,000, 13 percent growth).

  The sending countries with the largest increases 2010 to 2013 were India (up 254,000, 14 percent growth); China (up 217,000, 10 percent growth); the Dominican Republic (up 112,000, 13 percent growth); Guatemala (up 71,000, 9 percent growth); Jamaica (up 55,000, 8 percent growth); Bangladesh (up 49,000, 32 percent growth); Saudi Arabia (up 44,000, 97 percent growth); Pakistan (up 43,000, 14 percent growth); and Iraq (up 41,000, 26 percent growth).

  Since the Great Recession in 2007, at least 7.5 million immigrants have settled in the country. New arrivals are offset by return-migration and deaths.

  As a share of the total population, immigrants (legal and illegal) comprised 13.1 percent of U.S. residents (about one out of every eight), the highest percentage in 93 years. As recently as 1980, 6.2 percent of the population was comprised of immigrants.

  Immigrants comprised 16 percent of the adult population (18-plus) in 2013, nearly one out of every six adults.

  Mexicans accounted for the largest immigrant population by far, with 11.6 million legal and illegal immigrants living in the United States in 2013. However, the number of Mexican immigrants in the country declined 1 percent from 2010 to 2013.

  The number of immigrants from Europe also declined.

  States where the number of immigrants grew the most since 2010 were Texas (up 227,240); California (up 160,771); Florida (up 140,019); New York (up 85,699); New Jersey (up 81,192); Massachusetts (up 62,591); Washington (up 57,402); Pennsylvania (up 57,091); Illinois (up 47,609); Arizona (up 39,647); Maryland (up 38,555); Virginia (up 37,844); North Carolina (up 30,289); Michigan (up 29,039); and Georgia (up 28,020).

  States with the largest percentage increase since 2010 were North Dakota (up 27 percent); West Virginia (up 17 percent); and Wyoming (up 14 percent). In South Dakota, Nebraska, and Idaho the immigrant population increased 10 percent. It grew 8 percent in New Hampshire, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania and 7 percent in Iowa, Delaware, and Minnesota.

From CIS


Executive Amnesty for Traffic Offenders?

Thousands of drunk drivers would be shielded from deportation

 A new report from the Center for Immigration Studies examines the potential public safety impact of an executive action to benefit alien traffic offenders, one of the several directives reportedly being considered by the Obama administration. Such a presidential directive would protect tens of thousands of illegal aliens from deportation each year. The analysis found that since 2004, 258,689 aliens whose most serious state or local conviction was a traffic offense were deported by ICE.

These individuals are not "harmless," as proponents of such a policy have suggested. An amnesty for those "convicted exclusively of traffic crimes" would include those convicted of drunk or drugged driving, vehicular homicide, carjacking, vehicular homicide, and joyriding.

More than half (57%) of deported traffic offenders were convicted of drunk or drugged driving. The number of illegal aliens deported after drunk or drugged driving convictions (as their most serious offense) numbered 22,740 in 2013.

View the full report here

More at CIS

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, 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, October 06, 2014

Understanding Obamacare

Here is the 2500-page Affordable Care Act condensed to only 4 sentences...This probably says it as clearly as possible while  still being able to be understood (Author unknown)

1) In order to insure the uninsured, we first have to un-insure the insured.

2) Next, we require the newly uninsured to be re-insured

3) To re-insure the newly uninsured, they are required to pay extra charges to be re-insured.

4) The extra charges are required so that the original insured, who became uninsured, and then became re-insured, can pay enough extra so that the original uninsured can be insured, free of charge to them.


Ebola Fumble: Obama Fails to Use Legal Power to Deny Entry

As the Ebola epidemic has spread through West Africa over the last several months, President Obama has not used legal powers he possesses to help prevent the deadly virus from entering the United States.

Federal law gives the president the power to issue a proclamation to seal the borders to any class of aliens who pose a threat to the United States. The law is broad enough that Obama could have issued a proclamation months ago denying entry to any foreign national from the countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea, Nigeria or Liberia. Under the law, such a proclamation could have also included any passport holder who visited those countries as evidenced by visas or entry/exit stamps on the passport.

Section 1182 (f) of the Immigration and Naturalization Act gives the president this power, which the Obama administration has refused to use even as Ebola threatens Americans. The law states:

Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.

This means that Obama could, in the time it takes to write out a few paragraphs, stop the flow of people into American communities who have been exposed to Ebola in West Africa.

As I previously reported, four direct flights from Ebola ravaged nations fly into the United States. (PJ link to “Air Ebola“.) Passport checks could be conducted prior to boarding aircraft bound for the United States from foreign destinations.



British treasurer rails against charities’ ‘anti-business’ agenda and urges firms to stand up for the free market
George Osborne yesterday attacked some charities for being anti-business as he urged firms to put their heads ‘above the parapet’ and stick up for the free market.

The Chancellor said that for the first time since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the principles of enterprise and business as a force for widespread prosperity were ‘up for grabs’.

Speaking to business leaders at the Institute of Directors’ annual convention, he called on firms to counter an anti-free market movement led by trade unions and some charities.

‘You have to get out there and put the business argument,’ he said. ‘Because there are plenty of pressure groups, plenty of trade unions and plenty of charities and the like, that will put the counter view.

‘It is, I know, a difficult decision sometimes to put your head above the parapet, but that is the only way we are going to win this argument for an enterprising, business, low-tax economy that delivers prosperity for the people and generations to come.

‘There is a big argument in our country about our future, about whether we are a country that is for business, for enterprise, for the free market.

‘For the first time since my adult life, that is up for grabs. That issue felt it had been resolved when the Berlin Wall fell.

‘Politicians like Tony Blair from the left felt like they had understood that free markets create the taxes to fund public services and the like.

‘That argument has gone and you saw it with the very stark contrast between the two political conferences in the last two weeks, so I would urge the business community not to sit on the sidelines of the political debate that is going to happen over the next seven months.

‘It doesn’t mean you have to endorse a party, a party like the Conservatives, but it does mean you have to get out there and put the business argument… that is the only way we are going to win this argument for an enterprise, business low-tax economy which deliver prosperity for generations to come.’



Democraphobia & the Demise of Democracy in Western Societies

Democraphobia has morphed into a powerful uniting force, drawing together all those who fear the democratic power of the mainstream.  This includes both ends of the political spectrum as well as minority groups in society who perceive their values to be significantly at odds with the values of the democratic mainstream.

The Demise of Democracy

Democracy and freedom are declining around the world. Democracy of course, is dependent upon the right to make an informed democratic choice between genuine political alternatives.

As James Allan points out, democracy is under serious attack in countries like Australia, the USA, and New Zealand:

“Democracy in Decline charts how democracy is being diluted and restricted in five of the world’s oldest democracies – the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. James Allan targets four main, interconnected causes of decline – judicial activism, the transformation and growth of international law, the development of supranational organisations, and the presence of undemocratic elites… Identifying tactics used by lawyers, judges, and international bureaucrats to deny that any decline has occurred, Allan looks ahead to further deterioration caused by attacks on free speech, intolerant worldviews, internationalisation through treaties and conventions, and illegal immigration.”

And Freedom House agrees, noting that “Authoritarian regimes moved to weaken “the elements of democratic governance that pose the most serious threats to repressive and corrupt rule: independent civil society groups, a free press, and the rule of law.” Democracy is no more than illusion as  leaders “suppress all opposition even while maintaining the outward trappings of legality and democratic process (though quietly and insistently dismantling or dominating institutions that guarantee real pluralism, including legislatures, the judiciary, police and security forces, the media, civil society, and even the economy).”

The Rise and Rise of Democraphobia

Democraphobia, fear of democracy, or fear of the democratic power of the people, is a modern epidemic. According to Jeremy Rosen:

“Under the pretext of good relations, Western democracies are now scared to stand for their values. They have all but ceded the field of play out of fear. Democraphobia is not the fear of democracy, which exists in nondemocratic countries such as China or religiously dominated societies. Rather it is the even more craven fear of fighting for democracy. It is the political lust for power that is so strong that in pursuit of fundamentalist votes it betrays its own values……..With such cowardice now the norm, the values of free societies are being eroded. Democracy is feared because it insists on freedom, honesty, and fairness. But democracies themselves no longer stand for those values because they are frightened. They are frightened of their own values because they may have to fight for them and it is easier to give in and give up. That is why democraphobia is leading to the collapse of Western freedoms, just as lust for money has led to the collapse of Western finance. Recognizing the disease is the first step towards a cure.”

Democraphobia is in fact a powerful uniting force, drawing together all those who fear the democratic power of the people. This not only includes both ends of the political spectrum, whether socialistic democraphobia or libertarian democraphobia, but it may also include minority groups in society who perceive their values to be significantly at odds with the values of the democratic mainstream. As Will Wilkison points out regarding libertarian democraphobia:

“In any case, libertarians often display a confusing or confused reaction to democracy as it actually exists. The scheme laid out in most libertarian ideal theory is so distant from actual democratic practice that the whole existing system can seem by comparison a comprehensive injustice. When one’s ideal theory implies that politics is by its nature illegitimate and corrupt, one tends to develop a sharply disapproving attitude toward participation in politics. Lots of libertarians, for example, think it’s morally wrong to vote. (There are many structural reasons the Libertarian Party is hopeless, but here’s one reason libertarians tend to be at best half-hearted political activists.)………”

The results of democraphobia are rampant in Western politics. While our political leaders continue the illusion of democracy, every day we see their obsessive fears about the democratic powers of ordinary people. Legislative, electoral, and constitutional reforms are structured to stifle freedom and disenfranchise the people. And our politicians will readily jump into bed with any minority group who reject traditional  values in order to target their common enemy, the ordinary people.

Democraphobia is a morbid disease which is paralysing politicians and destroying our once great country. The people need to stand up for mainstream values, accept the democratic justification for those values and restore democracy



Government Agrees to Settlement for Raiding Reporter’s Home, Seizing Confidential Files

How one reporter turned a government raid on her home into a win for press freedom

An investigative reporter whose private files were illegally seized during a raid on her home will receive $50,000 as part of a settlement with the Department of Homeland Security.

Audrey Hudson, an award-winning journalist most recently at the Washington Times, told The Daily Signal she was awoken by her barking dog around 4:30 a.m. on Aug. 6, 2013, to discover armed government agents had descended on her property under the cover of darkness. The agents had a search warrant for her husband’s firearms. As they scoured the home, Hudson was read her Miranda rights.

While inside Hudson’s house, a U.S. Coast Guard agent confiscated documents that contained “confidential notes, draft articles, and other newsgathering materials” that Hudson never intended for anyone else to see. The documents included the identities of whistleblowers at the Department of Homeland Security. The Coast Guard is part of Homeland Security.

At the time, Hudson was investigating and reporting on Homeland Security, specifically its Federal Air Marshal Service and the Transportation Security Administration.

It wasn’t until weeks later that Hudson discovered the documents were missing—and even then only because a federal law-enforcement official told her she could pick up the files. Hudson notified the Washington Times, which took the government to court for violating the Privacy Protection Act.

This led to the settlement, which was first revealed by the Washington Times this week.

“The important thing about this settlement is that we did not let the government’s invasion of my privacy stand,” Hudson said. “We defended the rights of journalists to protect their sources from discovery by government security agencies, and that’s a victory for all journalists.”

The settlement required Homeland Security to pay $50,000 to Hudson, return the seized documents, promise that no copies had been made and any notes about them would be destroyed. In addition, it provides $25,000 to the Washington Times for attorney’s fees and requires the Coast Guard Investigative Service to initiate a review of and provide training on the federal Privacy Protection Act.

Hudson’s attorney, Mark Grannis of Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis LLP, hailed the settlement as a victory for press freedom.

“The government has bent over backwards to assure us that the seizure of Ms. Hudson’s notes was just an error of judgment, not part of any organized effort to identify her sources,” Grannis said. “We hope that by bringing this claim we have helped to raise awareness within the government that reporters’ notes are legally protected from seizure in all but the most exceptional cases.”




Leftist Israeli journalist Amira Hass went to talk about Israel being an apartheid state at the Palestinian Bir-Zeit university... And got booted for being Jewish!  Hurray for liberal logic!  She is well-named.  "Hass" is of course German/Yiddish for "hate".  Hating your country is what Leftists do.

It couldn't happen to a more deserving nest of crooks: "The New York Times plans to eliminate about 100 newsroom jobs, as well as a smaller number of positions from its editorial and business operations.  Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the newspaper’s publisher, and Mark Thompson, its chief executive, said that in addition to the job cuts, NYT Opinion, a mobile app dedicated to opinion content, was shutting down because it was not attracting enough subscribers.  The reductions, they said, were intended to safeguard the newspaper’s long-term profitability.  “The job losses are necessary to control our costs"


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

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, October 05, 2014

Another knock on the head for acupuncture

Placebo effect only -- and even that was temporary

Acupuncture for Chronic Knee Pain: A Randomized Clinical Trial

Rana S. Hinman et al.


There is debate about benefits of acupuncture for knee pain.

To determine the efficacy of laser and needle acupuncture for chronic knee pain.

Design, Setting, and Participants
Zelen-design clinical trial (randomization occurred before informed consent), in Victoria, Australia (February 2010-December 2012). Community volunteers (282 patients aged ≥50 years with chronic knee pain) were treated by family physician acupuncturists.

No acupuncture (control group, n = 71) and needle (n = 70), laser (n = 71), and sham laser (n = 70) acupuncture. Treatments were delivered for 12 weeks. Participants and acupuncturists were blinded to laser and sham laser acupuncture. Control participants were unaware of the trial.

Main Outcomes and Measures
Primary outcomes were average knee pain (numeric rating scale, 0 [no pain] to 10 [worst pain possible]; minimal clinically important difference [MCID], 1.8 units) and physical function (Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index, 0 [no difficulty] to 68 [extreme difficulty]; MCID, 6 units) at 12 weeks. Secondary outcomes included other pain and function measures, quality of life, global change, and 1-year follow-up. Analyses were by intention-to-treat using multiple imputation for missing outcome data.

At 12 weeks and 1 year, 26 (9%) and 50 (18%) participants were lost to follow-up, respectively. Analyses showed neither needle nor laser acupuncture significantly improved pain (mean difference; −0.4 units; 95% CI, −1.2 to 0.4, and −0.1; 95% CI, −0.9 to 0.7, respectively) or function (−1.7; 95% CI, −6.1 to 2.6, and 0.5; 95% CI, −3.4 to 4.4, respectively) compared with sham at 12 weeks. Compared with control, needle and laser acupuncture resulted in modest improvements in pain (−1.1; 95% CI, −1.8 to −0.4, and −0.8; 95% CI, −1.5 to −0.1, respectively) at 12 weeks, but not at 1 year. Needle acupuncture resulted in modest improvement in function compared with control at 12 weeks (−3.9; 95% CI, −7.7 to −0.2) but was not significantly different from sham (−1.7; 95% CI, −6.1 to 2.6) and was not maintained at 1 year. There were no differences for most secondary outcomes and no serious adverse events.

Conclusions and Relevance
In patients older than 50 years with moderate or severe chronic knee pain, neither laser nor needle acupuncture conferred benefit over sham for pain or function. Our findings do not support acupuncture for these patients.

JAMA. 2014;312(13):1313-1322. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.12660


Leftist whitewashing of Islam is just another episode of the Left whitewashing America's enemies

For logic-minded Americans still genuinely puzzled as to how it could be that our presidents and secretaries of state and generals and pundits keep hammering home the big lie that Islam has nothing to do with jihad, that the religion of conquest is a "religion of peace," I have a special warning. Such widespread, politics- and mass-media-driven brainwashing is nothing new.

Just as today's opinion-makers seek to divorce Islam from its impact -- for example, brutal conquest, forced conversion, religiously sanctioned sex slavery, beheadings -- past opinion-makers worked equally hard to divorce communism from its impact -- for example, brutal conquest, forced collectivization, concentration camps (Gulags), mass murder.

It worked. Unlike Nazism, communism has never been judged guilty or even held responsible for the carnage and suffering it has caused. On the contrary, it remains a source of "liberal" statist ideas such as Obamacare. My book "American Betrayal" delves deeply into this dangerous double standard. In short, it not only enables collectivist policies to strangle our remnant republic, but also explains why American students can find a drink called Leninade, emblazoned with a hammer and sickle, for sale on a college campus. It is also why silkscreens of Warhol's Chairman Mao, history's top mass murderer, are sought-after items for the homes of the wealthy.

There are no such trendy portraits of Hitler, and who would want them? Who would want to swig a bottle of Hitlerpop, decorated with a swastika? So, why Leninade? Not only does the stench of death not follow the Communist murder-cult, the brand lives.

Barring a groundswell of common sense, I predict that Islam, the brand, will most likely remain separate in the public mind from the violence and repression it causes and has caused for more than a millennium. That's certainly the direction leaders from both political parties have been relentlessly herding us in for over a decade, insisting against all reason -- against all sacred Islamic texts -- that "Islam is peace."

This means that not only must we contend with this cycle of expansionist jihad -- a recurrence that should be familiar from Islamic history were it, too, not subject to whitewash -- we must simultaneously withstand a campaign of lies designed to subvert our understanding of how Islam, in fact, has everything to do with beheadings and other violence both in the Islamic world and in the West.

And yes, such whitewashing has happened before. Stalin's Red Army occupied half of Europe at the end of World War II, but Americans were told they had won the war and that "Uncle Joe" was a great guy. Then there is the whitewash of the transformation the Cold War wrought at home, where agents, agents of influence, fellow travelers, and dupes worked to advance Moscow's will just as Soviet tanks (and agents, too) imposed it abroad. The conventional wisdom, however, set forth by academics, historians, think tank analysts, journalists, filmmakers (whether "liberal" or "conservative"), remains suspended in the amber of the "Red Scare," the 1950s period during which anti-Communist "witch-hunters" searched for "Reds under the bed," allegedly in vain. Never mind that many hundreds of American traitors had infiltrated the federal government in previous decades. The important thing, says the conventional wisdom, is not to connect the dots and examine whether these proxies for Stalin influenced the "American Century."

That, of course, is exactly what "American Betrayal" does, thus enraging all keepers of conventional wisdom. No matter. The more I continue to learn about the extensive penetration by Stalin's secret agents into the federal government over the two decades that FDR and then Harry Truman held the Oval Office, the clearer it is that the American ship of state had too many hands loyal to the USSR pushing at the rudder, influencing, to varying degrees, the direction of U.S. policy and strategy, even if not especially during World War II.

Such is the once-hidden history that comes into closer focus since the U.S. and Russian governments released some subset of their vast secret archives -- intelligence documents, FBI files and the like. Reigning "court historians" keep looking the other way, hoping Americans never notice the big picture: that FDR presided over the biggest national security disaster in U.S. history, the massive infiltration of the U.S. government by agents of a foreign power.

Ken Burns' new PBS documentary, "The Roosevelts," typifies this blackout. For example, take the series' treatment of the Yalta Conference, the final meeting of the so-called Big Three wartime leaders. Old news footage shows the conference table, from Stalin to FDR to Churchill. The camera also shows a man who sure looks like Soviet military intelligence agent and U.S. State Department official Alger Hiss. Next to him is top White House aide and, according to some experts, Soviet agent or asset Harry Hopkins. Both men are seated behind the dupe-ish secretary of state Edward Stettinius.

Does Burns inform viewers of the identities of these notorious figures seemingly "boring from within" before the viewer's eyes? Does he note the existence of scholarship confirming covert agent Hiss' outspoken role at the conference, and evidence that he may have exerted influence over deliberations on China policy, war reparations including German slave labor, and other vital issues in the USSR's favor? Is there any mention of the troubling questions about Hopkins' single-mindedly pro-Soviet stance that caused George C. Marshall to describe "Hopkins' job with the president" as being "to represent the Russian interests"?

Silence. Or rather, Burnsian chatter about the big secret of Yalta being FDR's grave health -- something obvious to anyone who looked at him. The series' ultimate mission is accomplished, however. A re-gilded FDR is burnished to a starry sheen, blinding a worshipful audience.

Is that what history is for?



Boycotts on Israel -- update

Boycott-related pressures have continued to increase from Europe. New European Union regulations designed to pressure Israeli communities in the West Bank have gone into effect. These do not ban Israeli agricultural products directly but do not recognize veterinary inspection by Israeli monitors, thus disqualifying them from the European market. Poultry products have already been affected, but regulations on dairy and fish products have been delayed.

Ostensibly the European Union seeks to separate all Israeli products originating inside the 1967 borders of Israel from those originating across the Green Line. It is likely this rationale masks the effort for using economic pressure to force desired outcomes in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

A more explicit boycott threat regarding Israeli-Palestinian negotiations has come from Danish Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard. In an interview he stated “If nothing happens at the peace negotiations this time, and if we don’t see a new reaction pattern from Israel, then we will discuss new steps, including a change in our trade relations with Israel.” Lidegaar also called for the blockade of Gaza to be lifted and for “illegal settlements” to be dismantled.

Danish Trade Minister Mogens Jensen disagreed with Lidegaard, stating “You can use sanctions when there is international approval for doing so… I don’t think that it makes sense for Denmark to go it alone, because then it will have no effect. And I don’t feel that I can say there is a need for sanctions yet.”

Outside of the European Union and European governments, the record for BDS remains mined. The Dutch pension fund ABP, for example, recently announced that it would not divest from Israeli banks, despite a plea to do so from Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

As usual, however, trade unions generally remain BDS supporters. One recent development saw Britain’s Trade Union Congress (TUC) passing a resolution condemning Israel over the Gaza war and calling for Britain “to end immediately arms trading with Israel including all military-industrial collaboration. The TUC should, working with the relevant unions, press those companies involved in supporting Israel’s military to cease to do so.” The resolution also called for “the suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement until the rights of the Palestinians are established” and for corporations and pension funds to shift investments away from the “Occupied Territories.”

Several commentators have suggested that the resolution represents not only a success for BDS activists in the United Kingdom but a dramatic failure for pro-peace advocates in the British labor movement and for Israeli diplomacy. The impact of the call on the Labour Party remains unclear.

In contrast, in a speech to the Holocaust Education Trust Conservative Party chief whip, Michael Gove, criticized Israel boycott calls and noted “the conflation of anti-Israeli agitation and straightforward antisemitism.”

Reports now suggest that the SodaStream company, located across the Green Line north of Jerusalem and which was the subject of intense BDS pressure, may be relocating to an industrial area of the Negev. Company management has stated that the move, if it occurs, will be prompted by Israeli tax incentives and not BDS. Some 900 Palestinians are currently employed by SodaStream.



After 9 years of politically motivated prosecution, Tom DeLay Found Not Guilty by State’s Highest Court

Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was found not guilty today by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. This is the highest appellate court in Texas for criminal cases and thus brings DeLay’s political persecution to an end.

The court upheld the ruling last year from the Texas 3rd Court of Appeals. That decision tossed out the convictions on money laundering and conspiracy charges. At that time Justice Melissa Goodwin wrote “The fundamental problem with the state's case was its failure to prove proceeds of criminal activity,” according to a September 19th report on Breitbart News.

In a phone conversation with Breitbart Texas, Tom DeLay said, "I am elated that I can now get on with my life. After nine long years I am finally free. I give all the credit for this verdict to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and my attorney Brian Wice."

DeLay said they thought the decision might be posted by the court today and he was on the phone with his attorney when the decision was posted. "We were elated and joyful when we heard the news even though it has been nine long years."

DeLay said he has not felt the burden of this ordeal because of his faith. "I don't know how someone could go through this without Christ," he said.

On June 18th, Breitbart Texas legal analyst Lana Shadwick reported the Travis County District Attorney’s Office was appealing the 3rd Court of Appeals decision to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

"The Delay case should never have survived a motion for directed verdict.” Shadwick said today in reference to the Court’s ruling. “The trial court judge should have never submitted the case to the jury. Any time the appellate court, as it did here, finds as a matter of law that there is insufficient evidence to sustain the verdict, there was no evidence for the jury to decide under the law." Shadwick has served the State of Texas as a judge, a prosecutor and an appellate prosecutor.

"Tom and I are gratified and elated but not surprised by our overwhelming victory today in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals,” DeLay’s attorney, Brian Wice said in a phone conversation with Breitbart Texas. “The Court concluded that the rule of law matters more in the end than a partisan prosecution's attempts to criminalize our system of politics."



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