Friday, February 27, 2015



"The pirates of Penzance" as satire

And some surprising political implications

If the above title sounds very much like the title for a Ph.D. dissertation I suppose my academic background is to blame for that.  Unlike a Ph.D. dissertation, however, all I want to set down here are a few comments.

I first saw "Pirates" when I took my (then) teenage son to see a well-reviewed production of it here in Brisbane.  I am not at all a Gilbert & Sullivan devotee -- the profundity of Bach is my musical home -- but I know the G&S works as classics of entertainment. So I felt that I should help along my son's musical education.  I remember another occasion in that connection.  In his early teens I recommended Stravinsky to him but he said that he didn't like Stravinsky.  I said to him:  "Don't worry. You will". He came to me some years later and said:  "John, you were right.  I do like Stravinsky".

Anyway, you see far more of any Singspiel on DVD than you do in a theatre audience so I recently acquired a DVD of "Pirates". And, watching it, I did see that it had elements of satire. "Pirates" is not of course satire an sich.  It is simply the madcap humour of W.S. Gilbert ably abetted by the great musical abilities of Arthur Sullivan. I see it as a forerunner of other madcap British comedies such as those of  Mr. Bean,  the Goons and the Pythons.

What differentiates comedy and satire is of course that satire is humour targeted at someone as a form of criticism.  It is deliberately didactic.  But straight comedy can teach lessons too, if only in an incidental way.  And I see some of that in "Pirates".  Perhaps a surprising one that I see is in the song of the "modern major general", now a widely treasured bit of fun.  What Gilbert was doing in that song was referring to something that no Leftist would believe: That  British military officers  were and are often quite scholarly in various ways.  That's not at all universal but not infrequent either.  Even an RSM will often be a man of unexpected depths.  The Sergeant Major of my old army unit  was/is in fact a fan of Bach and Palestrina (nothing to do with Palestine).   And the only Wing Commander (airforce) I know is a voracious reader with a wide knowledge of history.

Captain Cook, the 18th century British discoverer of much in the Pacific is a very good example of a scholarly military man.  His discovery of the cure for scurvy alone ranks him as a distinguished scientist and his practice of quarantine was exemplary for the times.

But a much less well known but quite commendable 18th century military man with scientific interests was Watkin Tench,  an officer in His Majesty's Marine Forces.  He was posted to the new British colony in Australia in its very earliest days, then a hardship posting.  You could lose your life just getting there and back.  So he was no elite soldier and was actually from a rather humble background.  His interest was meteorology and he brought with him the latest Fahrenheit thermometer. He kept a meteorological diary that included  observations from his thermometer taken four times daily in a sheltered spot -- exemplary practice even today.

And his record of the Sydney summer of 1790 is particularly interesting.  It was very hot.  There were even bats and birds falling out of the trees from the heat.  And his thermometer readings tell us exactly how hot.  So we have both readings from a scientific instrument and behavioural observations that validate the readings:  Very hard to question.  And the solidity of his data is very useful in exposing the liars of Australia's current Bureau of Meteorology.  They have got the virus of Warmism in their heads and are always claiming that Australia in whole or in part is currently experiencing a "hottest" year.  And they exploit the fact that Sydney does occasionally have some very hot summers.  But Tench's data show that such summers go back a long way in Sydney  and hence cannot be attrributed to nonsense about the current CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. The only additions to atmospheric CO2 from the Australia of Tench's days would have been the product of breathing by various living creatures.  There was not even any reticulated electricity anywhere in Australia or anywhere else at that time.

So in the famous song of the modern Major General, Gilbert was simply doing an amusing exaggeration of a real phenomenon, a military man with scientific interests, probably one better known to the British public when Gilbert wrote around 100 years ago.

I actually find prophetic Gilbert's treatment of the police ("When the foeman bares his steel").  The police have always been greatly  respected in Britain -- though that must have eroded in the last two decades -- but Gilbert defies that.  He makes fun of the police and portrays them as cowards.  As a portrayal of modern British police forces that would not be too far astray.  Did Gilbert have some experience of police to lead him to the derogatory view he took of them? I suspect it. In Strange Justice and Political Correctness Watch you will certainly find a wealth of instances of reprehensible behavior by the British police of today.

And the other police song ("A Policeman's Lot Is not a Happy One") is also very modern, expressing sympathy for offenders and a reluctance to arrest them.  Gilbert is actually a rather good prophet.  Warmists eat your heart out!

And the pirate King's assertion that "compared with respectability, piracy is comparatively honest" is also refeshingly cynical.  Commenters on modern-day "crony capitalism" in America will nod approval. And the decision of the daughters to "talk about the weather" rather than pry is quintessentially British. And the homage to Queen Victoria was also an appropriate contemporary reference but greatly exaggerated, of course.  It too could be seen as mocking by a modern audience

And I must pay tribute to the performance (in the production I have) to the singing of Linda Ronstadt.  Better known as a popular singer she is also a superb soprano and greatly ornaments the role of the Major General's daughter Mabel.

FOOTNOTE:  I use the German word Singspiel above because there is no equivalent in English.  It means a "sung play" and refers to any musical performance (from Mozart's Zauberfloete ("Magic Flute") to Benatzky's beloved Im Weissen Roessl ("White Horse Inn")) that includes both spoken and sung dialogue.  A Hollywood musical such as "Showboat" is also a Singspiel.  English has a horde of words borrowed from other languages so it seems regrettable that a useful word like Singspiel has not been borrowed too.

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What Scott Walker Actually Said

Yes, believe it or not, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker actually spoke at some length at the dinner this past week where Rudy Giuliani charged that President Obama doesn’t love America. All the hullabaloo went to Giuliani, but in terms of the Republican presidential race, a number of Scott Walker’s pointed comments about policy and politicians are not to be missed.

First a word about the dinner itself, which was generously backed by John Catsimatidis. It was the second event sponsored by the Committee to Unleash American Prosperity, a new group founded by Arthur Laffer, Steve Moore, Steve Forbes and myself. Just as the Committee on the Present Danger – formed by Midge Decter, Norman Podhoretz, and Irving Kristol – worried about the decline in American foreign policy in the late 1970s, we are worried about the decline in American economic growth over the past 15 years.

Our view is simple: To maximize growth, jobs, opportunity and upward mobility, the U.S. must recapture the first principles of economic growth that were so successful in the 1960s, ‘80s and '90s. Namely, pro-growth policies should seek a low-rate, broad-based flat tax, limited government spending, the lightest possible economic regulations, sound money and free trade.

Since 2000, the U.S. economy has barely reached 2 percent growth per year. Over the prior 100 years, American growth averaged 3.4 percent annually. To get back to the long-run trend – which epitomizes the most powerful engine of free-market capitalist prosperity in the history of history – future growth over the next decade will have to average 4 percent annually.

To advance our policy goals, our committee (still in formation) will be interviewing all the Republican presidential candidates in the months ahead. A few weeks ago we had dinner with Texas governor Rick Perry. This week we welcomed Scott Walker.

In his opening, Governor Walker stressed growth, reform, and safety. During the question-and-answer period, he emphasized sweeping Reagan-like tax cuts. And he frequently referred to his successful efforts in Wisconsin to curb public-union power as a means of lowering tax burdens, increasing economic growth and reducing unemployment.

Noteworthy, Walker argued that when Reagan fired the PATCO air-traffic controllers over their illegal strike, he was sending a message of toughness to Democrats and unions at home as well as our Soviet enemies abroad. Similarly, Walker believes his stance against unions in Wisconsin would be a signal of toughness to Islamic jihadists and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

Walker was also highly critical of President Obama’s conduct in the war against radical Islamism, and said the U.S. must wage a stronger battle in the air and on the ground against ISIS.

He stressed the need for a positive Republican message in 2016, and bluntly criticized Mitt Romney for spending too much time on the pessimistic economic negatives emanating from Obama’s policy failures.

And in an unmistakable rip at both Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton, he called for a new generation and fresh faces to turn America back in the right direction.

More specifics: When asked about a sound-money policy, Walker said he was willing to sit down and learn. And on free trade, he needs a much clearer message. But in response to a question about solving middle-class income declines, he insisted that sweeping economic-growth policies aimed at all groups and categories, not just the so-called middle class, is the answer. He also aggressively defended his controversial University of Wisconsin budget cuts, arguing that they would slow tuition hikes and force professors to teach more.

Why did he leave Marquette before graduation? He saw a more attractive position at the Red Cross and wanted to start a political career. Yes, he nearly flunked French. But many folks think that’s a political plus. And as National Review editor Rich Lowry has written, 68 percent of Americans do not have a college degree. And many of us believe the time has come for a president without Ivy League credentials.

Can Walker win? Arthur Laffer has known him for years and says he has matured enormously from his days as Milwaukee county executive. Others say he is the only Republican candidate with a record of winning many different elections, from local office, to state assemblyman, to three gubernatorial races in four years.

Walker is a superb retail politician, a trait that will serve him well in the early primaries. He has an uncanny knack of maintaining direct eye contact. At the dinner, rather than rushing out for an early-morning TV call, he insisted on talking to every person in the large crowd surrounding him.

The question now is whether he can develop from a tough state-union buster to a national politician who can modernize Reagan’s policies while maintaining the Gipper’s upbeat message of optimism and growth.

SOURCE

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GAO: Medicare, Medicaid and Veterans Health Administration at High Risk for Fraud, Waste, Abuse

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has published its annual update of federal programs “that it identifies as high risk due to their greater vulnerabilities to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement...”

Healthcare programs feature high on the list. Medicare, the entitlement program for seniors, and Medicaid, the joint state-federal welfare program for low-income households, are longstanding members of the list; and the GAO notes that legislation will be required to fix them:

"We designated Medicare as a high-risk program in 1990 due to its size, complexity, and susceptibility to mismanagement and improper payments.

We designated Medicaid as a high-risk program in 2003 due to its size, growth, diversity of programs, and concerns about the adequacy of fiscal oversight."

So, that would be 25 years for Medicare and 12 years for Medicaid. Seen any progress? Unfortunately, the GAO recommends more top-down centralized control to fix the problems, instead of giving beneficiaries a financial interest in fixing the problems, as I proposed in a recent Washington Post column.

Remarkably, this is the first year that the Veterans Health Administration has made the list of high-risk programs. Much of the criticism is of the VHA’s misuse of new technology:

For example, we have reported on VA’s failed attempts to modernize its outpatient appointment scheduling system, which is about 30 years old. Among the problems cited by VA staff responsible for scheduling appointments are that the system requires them to use commands requiring many keystrokes and does not allow them to view multiple screens at once. Schedulers must open and close multiple screens to check a provider’s or a clinic’s full availability when scheduling a medical appointment, which is time-consuming and can lead to errors.

VA undertook an initiative to replace its scheduling system in 2000 but terminated the project after spending $127 million over 9 years, due to weaknesses in project management and a lack of effective oversight. The department has since renewed its efforts to replace its appointment scheduling system, including launching a contest for commercial software developers to propose solutions, but VA has not yet purchased or implemented a new system.

I have previously discussed that the electronic health records (EHRs) at the VHA and the Department of Defense cannot speak to each other. The GAO report discusses this in depth:

Further, as we have reported for more than a decade, VA and the DOD lack electronic health records systems that permit the efficient electronic exchange of patient health information as military servicemembers transition from DOD to VA health care systems.

One location where the delays in integrating VA’s and DOD’s electronic health records systems have been particularly burdensome for clinicians is at the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center (FHCC) in North Chicago, the first planned fully integrated federal health care center for use by both VA and DOD beneficiaries. We found in June 2012 that due to interoperability issues, the FHCC was employing five dedicated, full-time pharmacists and one pharmacy technician to conduct manual checks of patients’ VA and DOD health records to reconcile allergy information and identify possible interactions between drugs prescribed in VA and DOD systems.

Please note that the same federal government which, after over more than a decade, cannot effect interoperable health records between two of its own departments believes that it can do so for the entire country’s private doctors and hospitals.

SOURCE

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

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

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Thursday, February 26, 2015


The perennial crisis in US/Israeli relations

We are, again, in the midst of that periodic occurrence: a crisis in Israel/US relations. This one revolves around White House pique over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s acceptance of an invitation by House Speaker John Boehner to address the US Congress on Iran’s nuclear weapons program, an issue on which the White House and Jerusalem have been divided for some time.

But any remotely careful analysis of the US/Israel relationship will show that Jerusalem and the White House (but rarely the Congress and, by extension, the US electorate) have often clashed on issues deemed vital to Israel’s security and existence.

In fact, Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, declared Israel’s very independence in the face of strong opposition from US Secretary of state George Marshall.

Though personally favorable to Israel and quick to extend recognition to the new Jewish state when it emerged in May 1948, president Harry Truman imposed an arms embargo during Israel’s 1948-49 war of survival against six Arab nations. The embargo hurt Israel, which had few sources of weaponry, rather than the Arabs, who enjoyed many.

In 1956, Israel conquered the Sinai from the Egyptians, following six years of constant attacks by terrorist bands (fedayeen) sponsored by Egypt. Nonetheless, the Eisenhower administration insisted on Israel withdrawing completely from Sinai without any peace treaty or recognition demanded from Egypt and threatened Israel with sanctions if it failed to comply.

In 1967, Egypt imposed a blockade on Israel’s southern port at Eilat. Israeli foreign minister Abba Eban asked president Lyndon Johnson to honor U. commitments made in 1957 to ensure free passage of Israeli shipping and break the blockade. Johnson refused.

When Israel was attacked by Egypt and Syria in 1973 the US pressured Israel into ending the war prematurely when Israeli forces were on the road to Damascus and Cairo. This prevented Israel from achieving a more decisive military victory.

During the Carter administration, the US voted for UN Security Council resolutions calling on Israel to withdraw from Lebanon following an Israeli incursion in 1978 – despite the fact that Lebanon had been the launching pad for major terrorist attacks on Israel – and condemning Israel’s annexation of the eastern half of Jerusalem; both vitally important issues to Israel.

In 1981, prime minister Menachem Begin ordered the destruction of Saddam Hussein’s Osirak nuclear reactor.

This was condemned by the Reagan administration, even though a nuclear-armed Saddam would have posed a mortal threat to Israel.

Successive US administrations have opposed Israeli settlement in the territories conquered in 1967, leading to recurrent tensions and crises in the relationship. In 1992, the first Bush administration even withheld loan guarantees to Israel in protest against Israeli settlement policies.

During the Oslo peace process (1993-2000), the Clinton administration often pressured Israel to make one-sided concessions of territory, arms, assets and even the releasing of imprisoned Palestinian terrorists, while ignoring Palestinian failure to comply with its obligations to stop terrorism and end the incitement to hatred and murder that feeds it. Securing new agreements was preferred to holding Palestinians to past ones, as US chief negotiator Dennis Ross subsequently admitted.

The US has criticized Israel’s security fence and both president George W. Bush and secretary of state Colin Powell pressured Israel to curtail military incursions against terrorist strongholds, most notably during Israel’s offensive in Jenin in 2002. Despite US understanding that the Palestinian Authority has been a haven and launching pad for terrorists, the Bush administration pressed Israel to resume negotiations and make concessions to the PA .

So why the panic about the latest crisis? When the US president and Israel do not agree on a policy bearing on the existence and security of Israel, there is bound to be a crisis. Yet none of these crises ruptured the US/Israeli relationship; indeed, they often served as the unlikely preludes to a stronger relationship.

The US /Israeli relationship became truly strategic in the 1970s, only years after the crisis that led to the Six Day War. The early ructions between the two countries in the first years of the Reagan administration settled into an expanded and harmonious strategic relationship for its remainder.

President Barack Obama has sought to cast Netanyahu’s acceptance of an invitation to address Congress as a slap in the face. But it isn’t.

The issue is entirely a product of Obama’s policy on Iran, which engenders bipartisan concern in Israel. Put simply, President Obama seems willing to tolerate an Iranian nuclear weapons threshold capacity – but Israel is not. Of course there’s a crisis.

Obama was glad to have British Prime Minister David Cameron urging members of Congress last month in support of his Iran policy, but is peeved to have Netanyahu there critiquing it. In the end, however, the two countries are bound in an alliance by a range of common interests which even a major policy difference can only temporarily sour, but not sunder.

SOURCE

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Rereading "American Betrayal": Why Did Uncle Sam Keep Soviet Secret Agents in the U.S. government a Secret?

Could it be that many elite American Leftists volunteered their services to Russia because they liked the Soviets better than their own country?

Written by: Diana West

Attempts to explain the unhinged campaign (spearheaded, curiously, by ex-Communists) to save "court history" from the newly dusted-off, newly inter-connected evidence presented in "American Betrayal" have logically pointed to the arguments in the book that pull FDR from his pedestal and lift McCarthy from history's hell.

As I now record the audiobook, however, I am struck anew by other arguments mustered in the book that augur a change in the way we also regard Truman, Eisenhower and many more. Such arguments make the case for a seismic shift in our conception of the "American Century."

To be sure, that conception to date is based on drastically incomplete information. Chapter 6 of American Betrayal begins by showing that almost every US history book -- military, biography, diplomacy, etc. -- written post-Venona (1995) fails to incorporate the record of espionage relevant to the epic events and actors they purport to explicate. Among other things, this tells me it is incumbent on us to re-assess these events and actors by interweaving the mainly absent intelligence backstory into the familar tapestry of war and peace we all "know." This is the mechanism of American Betrayal.

Along the way, the behavior of the executive branch in particular in regard to the massive, secret Soviet-directed penetration of the halls of power that reached criticial mass under FDR demands new scrutiny. For example, take Truman's reaction to Whittaker Chambers 1948 testimony unmasking Alger HIss as a leading agent of the Soviet-directed, Communist conspiracy against the United States. Rather than crowning him with laurels, he sought to indict Chambers for perjury. Why?

Starting in 1945, Truman began receiving numerous and weighty reports from the FBI on the Soviet penetration of the Roosevelt administration that named Hiss and White and Currie, among many others, so he was cognizant of the crisis in considerable detail.

Chapter 6 focuses on an important FDR aide, Lauchln Currie, who was publicly i.d.'d as a Soviet agent in Venona in the 1990s. Why do I highlight "publicly"? It is worth noting that 40 years prior to the public release of 2,900 Venona documents by the US government (there may be more that are unreleased; we don't know), Currie was already being investigated by the FBI as a Soviet agent -- and, among others, so reported to Truman. Indeed, Currie comes up on the government radar before that.

Currie was first identified internally in 1939 by Whittaker Chambers as a fellow traveller who helped the Communist Underground inside the US government; i.d.'d for the FDR administration by the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1941 as one of the 1,100-plus federal employees (also including Hiss and White) belonging to Soviet front organizations (and investigated by the FBI but the reports have "disappeared"); highlighted in 1944 as part of a Communist "fifth column" "boring from within" the FDR administration by GOP VP presidential candidate John Bricker; i'd.'d as a Soviet agent to the FBI (which alerted the Truman White House) in 1945 by ex-Communist Elizabeth Bentley; i'd.'d in open hearings as a Soviet agent by Bentley in 1948. (Tantalizingly, thirteen years later, future Sen. Ted Kenney met and dined  with Currie on a trip to Currie's post-America home of Colombia.)

Long before the public unveiling of Venona in 1995, however, codebreakers were also able to confirm Currie's activities on behalf on the Kremlin. At some point before 1995 -- as far back as 1950, as a matter of fact -- codebreakers confirmed that Soviet intelligence was working with Hiss and White and many other traitors to the United St. Why did We, the People, have to wait 45 more years to learn of this crucial confirmation? Why did Uncle Sam permit Americans to tear themselve apart for decades in a rancorous debate over people such as Hiss and White -- over whether Communist agents even existed in the first place -- when for so much of the time Uncle Sam knew the truth?

From American Betrayal, pp. 166-169:

"...It should be noted that a number of espionage prosecutions were secretly assisted by Venona, beginning with that of Soviet agent Judith Coplon, a young Justice Department analyst who in May 1949 became the first spy to be identified and arrested due to Venona revelations; Robert Soblen and Jack Soble followed. It was Venona clues that led to the linchpin conviction of British atomic spy Klaus Fuchs in 1950, and Venona decrypts “unmistakably identified Julius Rosenberg as the head of a Soviet spy ring and David Greenglass, his brother-in-law, as a Soviet source at the secret atomic bomb facility at Los Alamos, New Mexico,” Haynes and Klehr write.

“Unmistakably.” The word peals like a steel bell, cold, penetrating, and troubling. Venona decrypts unmistakably identified Julius Rosenberg . . . “Unmistakably”—and the U.S. government let that secret evidence sit in a vault as our citizens tore each other up over this case for decades? Exactly the same question goes for the Hiss case, the other split-view lodestar by which what became two distinct peoples took their bearings. The U.S. government knew the truth about Hiss and withheld it, too.

Why?

It’s worth noting that Hiss, unlike Coplon and the other atomic spies, was in no way prosecuted with the help of Venona. Indeed, Hiss was already in jail serving four years for perjury related to the lies he told Congress about Chambers before analysts deciphered his name in Venona. It was in the contentious aftermath of his imprisonment, however, during the battle over Hiss and White and Silvermaster and the rest on the one hand, and Bentley and Chambers on the other, that every scrap of information belonged in the center of the public square under bright lights, with Uncle Sam playing town crier:

Hear ye, Hear ye . . .

Instead Uncle Sam mumbled to himself and hid away the precious proof against the traitors, protecting the traitors against the soundings and probes of investigators hot on their trail. Let them grope and stagger blind, Uncle Sam said, let them sift through the good info and the bad, let them rely on their gut hunches to go on, let them fall back on their political courage until it gives out, let them get knocked down, smeared, destroyed. Let the country go to hell. Given what the executive branch knew and when it knew it, this was the greatest betrayal of all.

So, yes, M. Stanton Evans is right about the nation owing plaudits to Joe McCarthy, and more. We owe all of these intrepid public servants our undying gratitude. Sensing the massiveness of the assault on our republic—yes, a conspiracy so immense, to give McCarthy his due—they kept at it, seeking, hunting what their many detractors, many inside the government, never stopped screaming was a mythological beast, a figment, a “witch hunt.” It was just something “under the bed,” a silly “bugaboo,” which became the White House term of choice. ...

“The people are very much wrought up about the Communist bugaboo,” Harry S. Truman wrote in a letter to former Pennsylvania governor George H. Earle in 1947, in response to a very similar warning from Earle. Truman would switch to “red herring” when it came to the Hiss case in the 1948.

Bugaboo? Red herring? Alger Hiss was neither. He was a bona fide enemy of the American republic, but the U.S. government didn’t want anyone to know that, not even after Venona confirmed Hiss’s treason sometime in 1950, as the Schecters report. Why? Oliver Kirby recounted a revealing exchange with Defense Secretary James Forrestal two years earlier, in 1948, about disclosure in general. The way the Schecters tell it, “Kirby raised with Forrestal the idea of publicly releasing the news that American intelligence had broken the Soviet code.” The Soviets, aware American codebreakers were [beginning to] read them since 1945 (thanks to the treason of Drew Pearson’s meek little “Lock” Currie), would only be further inhibited by the announcement, Kirby argued. More important, “Kirby believed that revealing the full extent of Soviet penetration”— complete exposure—“would remove the issue from politics” and limit a “Red Panic” (Truman’s political concern) “because the cases would be acted upon and fully resolved.”

Call it the Sunshine Strategy. Forrestal nixed the notion in no uncertain terms. “Forget that. No. Hell, no”—that kind of thing. His reaction was not unlike what Kirby had already heard from the State Department when he attempted to bring Venona-fingered Communist infiltration to its attention. Or what he would later hear from Gen. Omar Bradley, who, Kirby said, would urge him not to brief other administration officials on Venona’s findings.

It begins to sound like a lot of other things. What George Racey Jordan heard in early 1944 when he went to the State Department wondering about whether he really should be “expediting” military secrets ASAP to Moscow. What U.S. Army Maj. John Van Vliet heard after expeditiously filing a report of his eyewitness assessment of Soviet responsibility for the Katyn Forest Massacre in May 1945. Or what German defense lawyer Alfred Seidl would hear at Nuremberg in 1946 when trying to introduce to the world evidence of the secret division of Europe that Stalin and Hitler had prearranged in the Nazi- Soviet Pact of 1939.

Sunshine was the last thing the powers that be—the powers that accommodated, the powers that served—wanted when it came to any aspect of Communist crime and deception. The Establishment wanted its shadows deep, dark and undisturbed. Maybe that was because too many of its members were in them. Maybe that was why they always argued against exposure because, the rationale went, it might upset the Soviets, might worsen relations, might play into the hands of the “hardliners.” These are variations on the same arguments, not at all incidentally, that we hear today to squelch the truth about Islam and its agents’ penetration of the U.S. government.

This Iron Curtain of secrecy left it to the Great Red Hunters to investigate the old-fashioned way, the hard way, the rough way, their suspicions more often than not, it now may be fearlessly declared, confirmed by evidence that just continues to mount to the skies. Evidence that condemns not just the agents of our destruction but our own government, too.

With Venona in a vault, the U.S. government became an agent of concealment, and thus, in effect, a part of the Communist conspiracy, despite itself (or perhaps not). The struggle that characterized what we know as the McCarthy Era, then, pit the forces of full disclosure and transparency—personified by Senator Joseph McCarthy—against the more powerful forces of deception and obfuscation, which included the Truman and Eisenhower White Houses. That’s not at all how we think about it, of course. We’re conditioned, Pavlov’s-dog-style, to invert the paradigm.  ...

SOURCE

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

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

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015


The latest Leftist scare

An NBER paper “Robots are us – Some Economics of Human Replacement” paints a grim picture of our robotic future, in which the robots undermine their customer base, making the vast majority of humanity redundant. As good academic-institution social democrats, the paper’s authors Seth G. Benzell, Laurence J. Kotlikoff, Guillermo LaGarda, and Jeffrey D. Sachs then suggest the solution lies in ever greater redistribution schemes.

Since I find their solution ideologically repugnant (and would loathe living in a world in which it had been implemented), I thought it worth examining their thesis, to determine whether, even if it is correct, there is a better way out of this ultimate human quandary.

The authors draw four conclusions. First, they expect a long-run decline in labor’s share of income. Second, they expect a highly cyclical robotized economy, with Kondratieff-like long waves. Third, they expect current output to depend increasingly on pure software investment, so that Silicon Valley will rule us all. Finally, they recommend more vigorous redistribution, without suggesting how that will restore wage rates, but simply to equalize the misery.

The first conclusion we can draw from the study is a macroeconomic one. If higher savings rates would alleviate the problem of human immiseration through replacement by robots, then we must take steps to raise savings rates, a problem in the United States for the last two decades. As readers of this column will know, the best way to achieve this is to increase interest rates, pushing then substantially above inflation, ending the two decades (as of this month) during which rates have been kept artificially low by the Fed. The U.S. economy has already been substantially decapitalized through Fed policy, while outsourcing to cheaper wage areas has been encouraged by artificially low capital cost differentials between the U.S. and emerging markets. This alone is responsible for much of the decline in labor’s share of the U.S. economy that is noted and deplored by the authors.

The authors’ principal structural solution, more redistribution, would merely share the misery of lower living standards. It’s a wish shared generally on the left, where a “Minimum Living Wage” movement has gained considerable traction. This is especially foolish; if demand for labor has been reduced to unacceptable levels by robotization, then higher minimum wages, imposed on employers, will simply reduce the demand for labor further. If McDonalds workers must be paid $20 an hour, and robots are universally available and capable, then guess how long it will take to robotize McDonalds and put all those workers out of a job?

Both the authors and previous robo-pessimists back to Maynard Keynes in 1930 have suggested that the real problem caused by robotization would be one of insufficient work at any wage, requiring a mass extension of welfare provision, taxing the remaining few productive workers to provide subsistence for the unemployed masses, perhaps even a majority of the population – Silicon Valley calls this the “Universal Basic Income.” This is a true dystopia; with half or more of the population existing on welfare and having no purpose in life, the consumption of illegal substances would soar, as would radical movements and criminal activity.

The idea that the great mass of the population could be deployed in artistic activity is nonsense; the great majority of people have no significant talent for it, nor sufficient interest in it to make artistic activity the focus of their life. As my grandmother used to say, with absolute conviction, quoting Dr. Isaac Watts’ 1715 masterpiece “Divine Songs Attempted in Easy Language for the Use of Children:” Satan Finds Some Mischief Still For Idle Hands To Do.

The twin problems, of high minimum wages putting everybody out of work and high welfare benefits turning them into feckless criminals, can perhaps be mitigated in the U.S. by expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, which rewards work without increasing the costs of employment. However, since of all tax programs this is said to be the most subject to fraud, even this solution seems unlikely to be effective.

The political system’s natural response to the threat of robotic redundancy will be to make “job-destroying” robotization illegal. We can already see this at work with the Obama administration’s rule for the use of drones, which requires them to be flown only in the line of sight of the flyer, an obviously unworkable rule if any of the benefits of private sector drone use are to be realized. Similarly, it’s likely there will be attempts to prevent the adoption of self-driving cars and trucks, a development which might put truck drivers out of business but would be hugely beneficial to the economy as a whole. With those approaches, the pre-1896 rule that automobiles required a man in front with a red flag would have been maintained, and horse-drawn transportation would have been mandated on the grounds that otherwise there would be no employment for the unfortunate horses.

There are two technological solutions that are likely to eliminate the problem of robot-driven redundancies, provided regulators do not get in the way. One is the new field of “brain-computer interfaces” by which computers and human brains are able to interact directly, with brains sending signals that can be interpreted by clever software, and vice versa. There are currently a number of small enterprises producing early versions of these, without a great deal of corporate structure or venture capital funding; it is a little like the genesis of the PC industry in the mid-1970s.

As yet, devices have not been produced that can be easily monetized, and the market is tiny, but it seems likely that as more useful and effective brain-computer interface mechanisms are developed, the devices will come into general use, revolutionizing human capabilities. Given the nature of the products concerned, it is even possible that they will emerge before robotization has gone much further – the development of useable robots has after all been remarkably slow, compared to other developments in the tech sector. In any case, human brains equipped with direct sophisticated links into computers will be much more capable than humans alone – and will correspondingly be able to undertake much higher-level jobs, many of which are doubtless as yet unimaginable.

The other potential advance, even more prone to subversion by regulators, is direct genetic manipulation to improve the intellectual capabilities of mankind. Even in our current state, intelligent people are more capable of amusing themselves non-destructively than stupid ones. Should human capabilities be genetically enhanced significantly, then it likely that some people would be able to find new unimaginable sources of employment producing new unimaginable products and services, while even the lesser intellects would be able to enjoy Keynes’ 1930 dream of a 15-hour workweek followed by ample leisure enjoying the artistic, musical and creative output of mankind. If each person had sufficient intellectual resources, Satan would be thwarted and mass leisure would be no bad thing.

As usual, the free market has potential solutions to the problem of robot redundancy, if it is allowed to reach them. By improving human capabilities through machines that help humans to function, and by improving humans themselves through genetic engineering, we can ensure that human development keeps up with robotics, so that the human race’s potential is maximized, and robots become invaluable helpers in achieving that potential. By this means a long-term utopia is attainable, in which a more limited population of humans can lead lives both productive and leisured at very high standards of living, with their Downton Abbeys staffed by impeccably behaved robot servants.

“Robots are us” is a useful dystopia, showing us the nightmare of a society in which dead computer programmers embodied in robot software combine to reduce the life potentials of the living. Given the misguided tendencies of the world’s policymakers, it is even a likely dystopia. But it is not an inevitable one.

SOURCE

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How to prevent the deadly peanut allergy has finally made it into the mass media

I put this up on my health blog years ago.  Official advice was 180 degrees wrong

Most children at risk of developing peanut allergy can avoid it by eating food with traces of the nuts, researchers said yesterday.  Their study found that children who eat food containing peanuts three or more times a week from under the age of one rarely have reactions in later life.

Less than 1 per cent developed an allergy, compared with more than 17 per cent of youngsters whose diet was peanut-free.

It is the first major study to show that eating the nuts could reverse the huge rise in peanut allergy – the number of cases in children has doubled in 20 years.

The condition commonly causes breathing problems. Those affected most severely can have a life-threatening anaphylactic shock even when exposed only to a trace of peanuts in food. Until recently, parents were told to avoid exposing their children to peanuts until they were three – advice that has now been withdrawn.

Parents are also warned never to give young children whole peanuts because of the danger of choking.

Professor Gideon Lack, of King’s College London, who led the Learning Early About Peanut Allergy (LEAP) study, said it strongly backed up the importance of early exposure.  ‘This is an important clinical development and contravenes previous guidelines,’ he added.

The early introduction of peanut-containing foods was found to be safe because infants were not fed whole nuts. Instead they ate at least 6g a week of a peanut snack called Bamba [from Israel], distributed in three or more meals.

Professor Lack, who leads the children’s allergy service at Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospital trust, presented the findings at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology meeting in Houston yesterday.

SOURCE

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Fruit According to the Seeds



The Leftmedia have been asking a lot of questions of Republicans who have the audacity to confront the words and deeds of Barack Obama. Prompted by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's remarks about Obama's conspicuous lack of love for the country, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio and Bobby Jindal have all been pressed to answer the question of the week: "Does Barack Obama love America?"

First, let's state the obvious: The Leftmedia is an extension of the Democratic National Committee. Most mainstream journalists ascribe to the philosophy of the Left and serve to camouflage reality -- earning, for the purpose of this text, the distinction "presstitutes."

Once upon a time, professional journalists reported news and conveyed facts. Today's crop, however, is invested in protecting the incompetence and lies of Barack Obama. In part, that's due to their own failure to do the job exposing the anti-American and racially divisive orchard in which America's 44th president was grown.

Does Barack Obama love America?

If you love something, or even like something, you typically say nice things and demonstrate your affections toward that person or thing by your words and your actions. But Obama has never been one to convey a sense of patriotism.

If Obama loves or even likes our nation, why did he pronounce to a rabid crowd of supporters on Oct. 30, 2008, "We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America"?

If the Obamas love or even like America, why would Michelle Obama declare more than once as she traveled on the Obama campaign trail, "For the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country"?

Mrs. Obama likewise plainly demonstrated her husband's opinion of America on May 14, 2008: "We are going to have to change our conversation. We're going to have to change our traditions, our history. We're going to have to move into a different place as a nation."

All that change was based on the hope that American exceptionalism, individual success and equal opportunity would be destroyed and replaced by socialism in the form of wealth redistribution and a mammoth growth of the government.

As early as June 2009, Nile Gardiner of the Heritage Foundation complied a list of 10 apologies Obama made in his six-month tenure as "Leader of the Free World." These apologies covered American "arrogance," "dictates," our having gone "off course," and the "darker periods in our history."

The presstitutes vociferously denied that Obama had gone on an "Apology Tour." The evidence proves otherwise.

Back to the present, Giuliani said what many Americans were already thinking: "I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America." He has since clarified, elaborated on and defended those remarks.

The presstitutes of the Left soiled themselves in dismay, while the invertebrates on the Right echoed the Left's defense of Obama. But Giuliani's remarks follow six years of Obama's degradation of America. He has re-engineered vast swaths of our economy, nearly doubled the debt and undermined our national security in a vain attempt to appease and patronize our enemies. And no president has been more cravenly political.

Just five months ago, Obama stood at the United Nations and failed to praise America. Instead, he declared, "America has plenty of problems within its borders ... our own racial and ethnic tensions." It was an obvious attempt to morally equate the ginned up racial tension fueled by Al Sharpton and Eric Holder to the hotbed of terror driven by Islamic radicals. And for the elected leader of America to denigrate his own country before that disgraceful body of socialists, thugs and dictators is shameful.

At the National Prayer Breakfast, Obama attempted to justify his refusal to state the truth about radical Islamic ideology by equating 21st century beheadings and live burnings of Christians by Islamist radicals with the Crusades fought against warring Muslims in the 12th century.

In short, Obama proves he learned well during the 20 years he spent as a disciple of hate in the pews of Jeremiah "God d--- America" Wright's "church," where Black Liberation Theology is gospel and fiery hatred serves as the weekly sermon. (And Wright was only one of Obama's numerous anti-American friends and mentors.)

The apple, the tree and the orchard are all of the same blame-America-first species. And as Jesus once said, "You will recognize them by their fruits."

SOURCE

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

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

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015



Back to the 1930s

World War II was the most destructive war in history. What caused it?

The panic from the ongoing and worldwide Depression in the 1930s had empowered extremist movements the world over. Like-minded, violent dictators of otherwise quite different Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Imperial Japan and Communist Soviet Union all wanted to attack their neighbors.

Yet World War II could have been prevented had Western Europe united to deter Germany. Instead, France, Britain and the smaller European democracies appeased Hitler.

The United States turned isolationist. The Soviet Union collaborated with the Third Reich. And Italy and Japan eventually joined it.

The 1930s saw rampant anti-Semitism. Jews were blamed in fascist countries for the economic downturn. They were scapegoated in democracies for stirring up the fascists. The only safe havens for Jews from Europe were Jewish-settled Palestine and the United States.

Does all this sound depressingly familiar?

The aftershocks of the global financial meltdown of 2008 still paralyze the European Union while prompting all sorts of popular extremist movements and opportunistic terrorists.

After the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, America has turned inward. The Depression and the lingering unhappiness over World War I did the same to Americans in the 1930s.

Premodern monsters are on the move. The Islamic State is carving up Syria and Iraq to fashion a fascist caliphate.

Vladimir Putin gobbles up his neighbors in Ossetia, Crimea and eastern Ukraine, in crude imitation of the way Germany once swallowed Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland.

Theocratic Iran is turning Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon into a new Iranian version of Japan’s old Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.

The Western response to all this? Likewise, similar to the 1930s.

The NATO allies are terrified that Putin will next attack the NATO-member Baltic states – and that their own paralysis will mean the embarrassing end of the once-noble alliance.

The United States has now fled from four Middle Eastern countries. It forfeited its post-surge victory in Iraq. It was chased out of Libya after the killings of Americans in Benghazi. American red lines quickly turned pink in Syria. U.S. Marines just laid down their weapons and flew out of the closed American embassy in Yemen.

America has convinced its European partners to drop tough sanctions against Iran. In the manner of the Allies in 1938 at Munich, they prefer instead to charm Iran, in hopes it will stop making a nuclear bomb.

The Islamic State has used almost a year of unchallenged aggression to remake the map of the Middle East. President Obama had variously dismissed it as a jayvee team or merely akin to the problems that big-city mayors face.

Europeans pay out millions to ransom their citizens from radical Islamic hostage-beheaders. Americans handed over terrorist kingpins to get back a likely Army deserter.

Then we come to the return of the Jewish question. Seventy years after the end of the Holocaust, Jews are once again leaving France. They have learned that weak governments either will not or cannot protect them from Islamic terrorists.

In France, radical Islamists recently targeted a kosher market. In Denmark, they went after a synagogue. In South Africa, students demanded the expulsion of Jewish students from a university. A Jewish prosecutor who was investigating the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Argentina was found mysteriously murdered.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is being blamed for stoking Middle Eastern tensions. Who cares that he resides over the region’s only true democracy, one that is stable and protects human rights? Obama administration aides have called him a coward and worse. President Obama has dismissed the radical Islamists' targeting of Jews in France merely as “randomly shoot[ing] a bunch of folks in a deli.”

Putin, the Islamic State and Iran at first glance have as little in common as did Germany, Italy and Japan. But like the old Axis, they are all authoritarians that share a desire to attack their neighbors. And they all hate the West.

The grandchildren of those who appeased the dictators of the 1930s once again prefer in the short-term to turn a blind eye to the current fascists. And the grandchildren of the survivors of the Holocaust once again get blamed.

The 1930s should have taught us that aggressive autocrats do not have to like each other to share hatred of the West.

The 1930s should have demonstrated to us that old-time American isolationism and the same old European appeasement will not prevent but only guarantee a war.

And the 1930s should have reminded us that Jews are usually among the first – but not the last – to be targeted by terrorists, thugs and autocrats.

SOURCE

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Anecdotes in New Reagan Book Showcase His Unique Character

Lee Edwards

As someone who has studied and written about Ronald Reagan for more than four decades, I thought I knew the 40th president pretty well.

But a new book, “Reagan Remembered”, edited by former Amb. Gilbert A. Robinson, offers the personal and in many cases never before revealed recollections of 80 individuals, high and low, who worked in the Reagan administration.

Starting with Edwin A. Meese III, counselor to the president in the first term and U.S. attorney general in the second. These alumni confirm what a remarkable leader Reagan was—always focused on the big picture.

Meese reminds us of Reagan’s primary achievements: revitalizing the economy, rebuilding the nation’s defenses so that the Free World could win the Cold War, and reviving the spirit of the American people.

Don’t have time to read the Washington Post or New York Times? Then get The Morning Bell, an early morning edition of the day’s most important political news, conservative commentary and original reporting from a team committed to following the truth no matter where it leads.

In answer to the question, “How was one man able to accomplish so much?” Meese points to Reagan’s clarity of vision and his ability to get the most out of his cabinet-style governing.

He recalls that a jar of jelly beans always sat in the middle of the Cabinet table. Whenever the discussions over a controversial issue became too intense, the president would reach over, select a jelly bean, and pass the jar around the table. This invariably cooled tempers and restored “calmer reflection.”

Often described as the most powerful man in the world, Reagan was amazingly modest. Vice President George H. W. Bush remembers his visit to the Washington hospital after the 1981 attempted assassination of the president.

Ushered into his room, Bush saw that Reagan wasn’t in his bed and looked around. A familiar voice said “Hello, George” and the vice president turned to find Reagan on his hands and knees in the bathroom. “Are you all right, Mr. President?” Bush asked. A smiling Reagan explained that he had spilled some water on the floor and was wiping it up. “I don’t want the nurses to have to mop it up,” he said. “I’m enough of a nuisance to them as it is. Be with you in a second.” Bush writes, “That’s the sort of man Ronald Reagan was.”

Reagan being a man of his word was established again when he agreed to meet with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl at the cemetery in Bitburg. It was then discovered that members of the Nazi SS were buried at Bitburg, causing Nobel Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, among others, to demand a change in venue.

Secretary of State George Shultz tried to shift the meeting, but Kohl insisted on Bitburg. Having made a commitment, Reagan went to Bitburg, despite withering criticism by the media and the political opposition. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher subsequently told Shultz that “no other leader in the free world would have taken such a political beating at home in order to keep his word.”

For Reagan, politics was a means, not an end. In 1976 when he was locked in a tight battle with President Gerald Ford for the Republican presidential nomination, his Texas campaign manager arranged for Reagan to speak in the largest church in Houston. To his great surprise, Reagan turned down the opportunity.

The Texan argued that “thousands of conservative voters will see you and millions more will read about it. The venue couldn’t be more prestigious.” Reagan quietly replied, “I’m a very religious person, but I don’t wear it on my sleeve. And I never want to use religion for political purposes.” The event never took place.

Since his film acting days, when he helped stop the attempted communist takeover of the Hollywood trade unions, Reagan was an implacable anti-communist. In November 1978, he visited Berlin for the first time and stood before the infamous Berlin Wall.

His national security adviser Richard Allen recalls that suddenly Reagan’s hands clenched and his jaw set and he said in a low almost growling tone, “We’ve got to find a way to knock this thing down!” Less than a decade later, he again stood before the Berlin Wall and declared, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Two years later, the Wall came tumbling down and communism collapsed in Eastern and Central Europe.

He believed in doing the right thing and not caring who knew that he did it. Campaigning in North Carolina in 1976, he agreed to meet with a small group of blind children but without any reporters or cameras present. He talked with the children for a moment and then asked if they would like “to touch my face to get an idea of what I look like?”

Campaign aide and future presidential speechwriter Dana Rohrabacher remembers “these eight kids putting their fingers on his face. When they were finished they all had big hugs—and then we were off to the next stop.” Rohrabacher says, “Any candidate running for president I’ve ever met would give a million dollars to have a picture like that.” Not Ronald Reagan.

He was as quick-witted as anyone who ever occupied the White House. In 1983, in the course of a deep White House discussion about proposals to “freeze” the building of nuclear weapons, someone brought up the suggestion made by several U.S. senators—a “build-down” rather than a freeze.

“How would that work?” the president asked. For every new modernized nuclear weapon the U.S. built, it was explained, we would retire two so that in time we would have many fewer weapons. “Well,” said the president without hesitation, “I have a proposal. For every senator they elect, let’s retire two.”

Secure in his own skin, he delighted in making fun of those who criticized him. His gubernatorial secretary Helene von Damm, who would later serve as U.S. ambassador to Switzerland, remembers that during the Vietnam protests, a bunch of hippies camped outside the state capitol in Sacramento. They carried a sign that said, “Make love, not war.” Gov. Reagan smiled and said, “I got a look at them and I am not sure they are capable of either.”

President Reagan knew his Constitution. Once, recalls special adviser Edward Rowny, when cabinet members were complaining that the president was spending too much on defense, he responded firmly: “As president of the United States my most important duty is to defend the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. If we lose our freedom, all is lost. Through a policy of peace through strength, everything is possible.”

Summing up the essential qualities of Reagan, Meese quotes British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery: “Leadership is the capacity and will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence.” The recollections of the 80 men and women in “Reagan Remembered” attest that Reagan was such a leader and possessed that kind of character.

SOURCE

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British artists shun Israel’s ‘blood money’ but accept Britain’s

More Leftist hypocrisy.  They have to be hypocritical because they in fact have no principles or beliefs.  So they pretend they do. All they have is hate.  And Jews are a classical outlet for that.  Karl Marx was such a great hater that he too hated Jews -- even though he was one

Seven hundred British creatives have signed a pledge saying they will never work in Israel or take the Israeli government’s filthy lucre so long as it continues to wage war in Gaza and kill Palestinians. So why, then, are they happy to take money from the British government, when the British government has in recent years bombed Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya and left a trail of destruction and line-up of corpses that make last year’s Israeli clashes in Gaza look like a tea party in comparison? Come on. There must be an answer to this question. What is it? Why shun Israel’s ‘blood money’ but accept Britain’s?

A quick glance at the list of 700 Israel-boycotters reveals numerous people who have built their careers on cash from the coffers of the Iraqi-killing, Afghanistan-repressing British government. There’s Ken Loach, recipient of monies from the government-backed UK Film Council, here chiming in with all the others to say he will ‘accept neither professional invitations to Israel, nor funding from any institutions linked to its government’. So, Ken, why are you happy to accept money from institutions linked to a government that has killed way more people in the Middle East than Israel has?

There’s Mike Leigh, who’s also been funded by the UK Film Council, and who threw a massive hissy fit in 2010 when the Film Council was wound down in its current form and reorganised. Ladies and gentlemen, the principled film-directing doyen of decent Hampsteadites, who makes angry public statements over two things: his implacable, principled refusal to take blood money from the Israeli killing machine and his fury at having his bloody money from the British killing machine taken away from him! What a guy!

Film director Peter Kosminsky is here, too, blathering on about not doing any work with Israeli government-linked institutions, yet he’s happy to sit on the Board of Directors of the British Film Institute which has been subsidised by… you guessed it: the government that bombed the hell out of Iraq and Afghanistan. There are too many more to mention: poet Benjamin Zephaniah, who’s worked with the Arts Council, which is funded by you-know-who; writer Bonnie Greer, who’s been an Arts Council playwright-in-residence despite the fact that the Arts Council receives millions of pounds every year from the government that killed thousands of Iraqis and Afghans… And on it goes. It would not be surprising to discover that the vast majority of creatives on this Israel-shunning list had, at some point, received money from the public purse in Britain, because that’s what creatives do these days.

So, that question again: why is it bad to have anything to do with institutions linked to the Israeli government because of that whole Gaza thing but fine and dandy to take money from institutions linked to the British government despite the Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya thing? Are Israel’s wars somehow worse than Britain’s? Is being killed by a solider from the Jewish State somehow worse than being killed by a soldier of the British state? Is Israel more evil than Britain? Is Israel’s money bloodier than British money? Come on. Give us answers. You criticise those who say that any protest or boycott against Israel is anti-Semitic, and I agree with you that there’s sometimes a kneejerk tendency to interpret every political protest against Israel’s actions as anti-Jewish in sentiment. But that might be because there’s such a glaring double standard in how Israel is judged and treated by radical Westerners, including you, in comparison to how the British government is judged and treated, or the French government, or the American government, none of which you are actively boycotting. So, help to offset this search for the ‘real reason’ for boycotts of Israel by giving us a straight answer to one of the great moral conundrums of our time: why are artists so allergic to working with a government whose army killed 2,000 people in Gaza last year yet will demand the right to spend the cash of a government whose army killed 150,000 people in Iraq?

SOURCE

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

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

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

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Monday, February 23, 2015


An interesting email from Ezra Levant:

Last week, the Sun News Network went off the air -- and along with it, my TV show. I lost my job.

I'll be fine. But what about all the ideas we fought for? What about the important stories we reported, that the mainstream media deliberately ignores?

Over the years, Sun News covered stories that no other media would do. Three quick examples:

1. We showed you the real problems with the Attawapiskat Indian reserve. The politically correct media blamed Stephen Harper and called Chief Theresa Spence a saint. We showed you the truth about the band's corruption.

2. We went to "Occupy Toronto" -- both by day and by night. Again, the mainstream media pretended it was a legitimate, grassroots, spontaneous protest against capitalism. We showed you it was as fake as a puppet show.

3. And we did the same a dozen times with anti-oilsands and anti-pipeline protesters -- proving them to be know-nothings, foreign lobbyists or just plain hoodlums. Whether it was in Hamilton, Ontario or Vancouver, B.C.

That's what we did when the Sun shone. But what can we do now that we're off the air? How will we get the word out about important stories?

Well, I have an idea. With a handful of former staff from Sun News, I've started a new TV station -- called www.TheRebel.media. As you can see, it's direct to the Internet. But for so many of our viewers, that's how they watched Sun News anyways.

It's not on TV, that's true. But in some ways it's better. We have none of the limits of a regularly scheduled TV show. We can produce content anytime, from anywhere, of any length in any form. And you can watch it anywhere too -- your computer, even your cell phone.

We've only been doing it for a few days -- we literally taped the first show from my living room on Monday! But we're already doing important journalism, picking up the fight where Sun News left off. Check out our first week's efforts, by clicking around at www.TheRebel.media. We're signing up even more journalistic talent this week.

And unlike my TV show that was on at a particular time, and only in Canada, www.TheRebel.media is available on demand, anytime, to everyone in the world. Imagine what we can do in the weeks and months ahead. That's the power of the Internet -- it's unlimited.

Will you consider signing up for this new channel, at www.TheRebel.media? It's free to register and easy to use. If you can point and click, you can enjoy it.

I promise you I will continue to fight for the causes we believe in -- and to show the stories the other guys don't want you to see.

If you believe in that too, join me at www.TheRebel.media.

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Democrats Are Wearing Blinders

Denying the radical Islamic nature of the terrorism perpetrated by al-Qaida and the Islamic State is at the heart of Barack Obama's foreign policy. But make no mistake: Obama's blinding Islamophilia is costing the U.S. big time.

Terrorism is "random," he says, and the Islamic State isn't Islamic. Twenty-one Christians beheaded by ISIL were merely "Egyptian citizens" -- as if religion had nothing to do with it -- but three Muslims killed by a leftist atheist in North Carolina were clearly targeted because of their faith. "No one in the United States of America should ever be targeted because of who they are, what they look like, or how they worship," Obama said, despite early evidence that such targeting wasn't the case anyway.

The White House began a three-day summit Tuesday focused on combating "violent extremism." One official explained the stance on ISIL: "We are not treating these people as part of a religion. We're treating them as terrorists." But addressing that summit, Joe Biden warned of right-wing extremists committing violence in the name of the Bible.

After all, Obama says not to get on your "high horse" because Christians are still guilty of the Crusades.

Meanwhile, Marie Harf, spokesperson for the Obama State Department, continued this pattern when she explained that ISIL's terrorism isn't so much religious as economic plight, and that all these angry [Muslim] men need is a little "middle-class economics." She pontificated, "We need in the medium to longer term to go after the root causes that lead people to join these groups, [including the] lack of opportunity for jobs. ... We can work with countries around the world to help improve their governance. We can help them build their economies so they can have job opportunities for these people."

We suppose if the jihadis were employed and still committed acts of terror, Harf would explain that away as "workplace violence."

In a better world, the U.S. would be unequivocally fighting evil instead of excusing it, and people like Marie Harf would be looking for "job opportunities" in the private sector.

Never mind that Obama abandoned Iraq, leaving a vacuum for ISIL to fill. And forget that his entire strategy for dealing with ISIL consists of a few airstrikes, or that his Authorization for Use of Military Force severely handicaps the fight. Faced with pushback over her foolish comments, Harf insisted, "No one should doubt our commitment" to defeating ISIL.

Well, let's ask Attorney General Eric Holder about that commitment. "We're not at a time of war," he informed us Tuesday. Tell that to the American military personnel flying sorties over ISIL territory and the soldiers still stationed in the region. And does Holder's pronouncement mean Congress can disregard Obama's AUMF request?

Not exactly, since Holder's Justice Department has previously justified airstrikes -- even if they kill American citizens -- because we're at war.

As far as calling Islamic extremism what it is, Holder dismissed the idea: "Radical Islam, Islamic extremism -- I'm not sure an awful lot is gained by that." Though he did say, "If Fox [News] didn't talk about this, they would have nothing else to talk about, it seems to me." Radical Islam is far more than a right-wing talking point. It's reality, and Holder should check in some time.

Our nation is being led by men and women who are so Orwellian they insist up is down, hot is cold, and Islam is innocent but Christians are guilty. Such morally bankrupt lies and distortions are plainly dangerous to our future.

SOURCE

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Greek Leftists shafted by financial reality

Europe agrees to extend the bail-out—after Greece drops nearly all its demands. Now Syriza must answer to its voters.

BY EURO-ZONE standards it seemed a blessedly straightforward affair. At the relatively civilised hour of 8.30pm Friday night the Eurogroup of euro-zone finance ministers agreed to extend Greece’s second bail-out, which was due to expire on February 28th, by four months. A deal had hardly been assured. Two previous Eurogroups had ended rancorously, and a spat between the Greek and German governments on February 19th had soured the mood further. Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the group’s chairman, began yesterday by downplaying expectations.

But by the evening, after having successfully brokered discussions between the Greeks, the Germans and the European Commission, he was able to describe the outcome as “very positive”. (A recent acceleration in deposit outflows from Greek banks appears, in part, to have forced Athens’s hand.) The extension should unlock the funding Greece needs to stay afloat over the coming months and, at least for now, quiet talk of its departure from the euro.

That is the good news. But euro-pessimists never have to look hard to bolster their case. The doubts begin with the terms of last night’s deal. By Monday the Greek government must present a list of reforms it intends to carry out under the terms of the bail-out extension. The European Commission, European Central Bank and the IMF—once known as the “troika”, now renamed the “institutions” in a gesture to Greek semantic sensitivities—must give their assent. If they do not, said Yanis Varoufakis, Greece’s finance minister, “the deal is dead”. The arrangement does at least allow the Greeks to reclaim some authorship of their country’s policies, but in reality they are likely to have to make some painful concessions, over pension reform, for example. It will be a busy weekend in Athens.

But Mr Varoufakis’s government also has a rather different constituency to satisfy: opinion at home. Alexis Tsipras, the prime minister, was elected on a pledge to tear up Greece’s bail-outs and leave austerity behind. Mr Varoufakis has spent the last few weeks seeking a “bridging arrangement” as an explicit alternative to a bail-out extension.

It is difficult to square these promises with last night’s agreement. Greece has secured no change to the terms of its epic debt, which stands at over 175% of GDP. Its behaviour will continue to be supervised by the institutions formerly known as the troika. It is obliged to refrain from passing any measures that could undermine its fiscal targets; that appears to torpedo vast swathes of its election manifesto, which included all manner of spending pledges.

Hardline members of Mr Tsipras’s Syriza party will find all of this hard to swallow, as will Greeks who thought they had voted for rupture. “The Greeks certainly will have a difficult time explaining the deal to their voters,” was the ungracious verdict of Wolfgang Sch√§uble, Germany’s finance minister and Greece’s fiercest adversary in the talks of the last few weeks. Expect Mr Tsipras to make much of the few prizes Greece has been able to secure, including permission to run a slightly looser fiscal policy and, with luck, a decision from the European Central Bank to allow the use of Greek government debt as collateral.

Even assuming the wrinkles can be ironed out, Greece still faces an immediate funding squeeze. The bail-out funds can only be released after a “review” of the bail-out provisions; that, according to the agreement, will not happen before the end of April. And Greece was already under financial pressure. It must repay a maturing IMF bond worth €1.5 billion ($1.7 billion) in mid-March, and tax revenues have plummeted in recent weeks. The government has reached a €15 billion ceiling on T-bill issuance imposed by the troika, and there was no suggestion last night that it might be lifted. The next two months will be painful indeed.

SOURCE

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The great statin hoax is slowly unwinding

The benefits of taking statins have been exaggerated, two leading experts claim.  They say the cholesterol-lowering medicines – hailed as miracle drugs when they hit the market 20 years ago – are not as safe or effective at preventing heart attacks as patients have been led to believe.

Although they can dramatically cut cholesterol levels, they have ‘failed to substantially improve cardiovascular outcomes’, says an analysis of data in clinical trials.

It was carried out by Dr David Diamond, a professor of molecular pharmacology at the University of South Florida, and expert in cardiovascular disease Dr Uffe Ravnskov.

They say many studies touting statins’ efficacy have failed to note serious side effects. They also claim ‘statistical deception’ has been used to make inflated claims about their effectiveness, which has misled the public.

The two authors say in the analysis, published in the Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology: ‘The adverse effects suffered by people taking statins are more common than reported in the media and at medical conferences.

‘Increased rates of cancer, cataracts, diabetes, cognitive impairments and musculoskeletal disorders more than offset the modest cardiovascular benefits of statin treatment.’

They conclude: ‘There is a great appeal to the public to take a pill that offers the promise of a longer life and to live heart attack free.

‘The reality, however, is that statins actually produce only small beneficial effects on cardiovascular outcomes, and their adverse effects are far more substantial than is generally known.’

In July, NHS rationing body Nice said statins should be given to 17million patients, almost 40 per cent of the adult population.

The US experts say those who champion the medication have often presented data in a way that exaggerates the benefits.

‘Statin advocates have used statistical deception to create the illusion that statins are “wonder drugs,” when the reality is that their modest benefits are more than offset by their adverse effects’, they claim.

The analysis takes a critical look at the Jupiter Trial and the Anglo-Scandinavian Cardiac Outcomes Trial Lipid Lowering Arm (ASCOT-LLA).

It claims that in the Jupiter trial, the public and doctors were told of a 54 per cent reduction in heart attacks, when the actual reduction was less than 1 percentage point.

In the ASCOT-LLA study, the improvement in patient outcomes with Lipitor treatment was 1.1 percentage points, said the analysis.

But when this study was presented to the public, US advertisements transformed this into a 36 per cent cut in the risk of having a heart attack.

The inflated claims and playing down of the adverse effects have helped to boost enthusiasm for the cholesterol-lowering drugs among health care providers and the public, say the authors.

SOURCE

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The Faure Sanctus

I have been enjoying the marvellous Sanctus by Faure a fair bit lately so I thought I might put up a video link to it -- below -- in the hope that there might be a few of my readers who enjoy it as much as I do.



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

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

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Sunday, February 22, 2015



Why is the Diet of Worms not a diet of worms?

Forgive the riddle

The Diet of Worms of 1521 was of course one of the major turning points in the development of Western civilization.  It has nothing to do with either food or invertebrates.  How come?

The Diet of Worms (Reichstag zu Worms in German) was set up to try Martin Luther (1483 - 1546) for heresy.  He did appear there to defend his claims but when he saw the way the wind was blowing he escaped.  He was however very popular in his native Saxony and among his fans was his King, Frederick "The Wise".  So his King hid him in the old Wartburg castle until the heat had gone off the hunt for him.  So Luther became the first Protestant reformer not to lose his head.  Giordano Bruno (1548 – 1600), Savonarola (1452 - 1498) and Jan Hus (1369 - 1415) were not so lucky.

So why do we call the Reichstag zu Worms ("National assembly at Worms") the Diet of Worms?  The last part is easy.  Worms is a German city pronounced as "Vorms", where the "or" is pronounced as the "or" in "horse".  The name is ancient and goes back to the Latin.  It is just a coincidence that the name also means something in English.

"Diet" is more interesting.  The German word "Tag" can mean either "day" or "assembly", perhaps because early assemblies tended to last only one day.  But the language of scholarship at the time of the Reichstag zu Worms was Latin.  So the Reichstag zu Worms had to be translated into Latin if it was to be discussed at all.  And the Latin translators got it wrong. They translated the "Tag" in "Reichstag" as if it meant "day" rather than as if it meant "assembly".  And the Latin for "day" is "Dies" (Pronunciation varies but "dee-ayz" is common). So the assembly came to be called a "diet" as a variant of "dies".

And the usage stuck. An important gathering can to this day  be called a Diet.  The Japanese Diet, for instance is not rice and fish but the Japanese Parliament.

Footnote: I imagine some readers may object to my calling Luther "The first Protestant reformer not to lose his head".  What about Wycliffe (1320 - 1384)?  It is true that he was a severe critic of the church but he did not create a schism and was saying mass in his church until the end.  He died in his bed.

The church would certainly have liked to excommunicate him but, like Luther, he was popular, and people of all ranks, including the monarchy, protected him.  Any move against him got howled down.  He was a great man.

Another footnote: The mistranslation of "Tag" was not original to the Reichstag zu Worms. The names of much earlier assemblies had also been mistranslated into Latin that way.

And Latin in fact was affected by the mistranslation too.  People realized that it was more than a day that was being referred to so a new Latin word -- dieta -- arose in medieval times to mean a public meeting.

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New anti-Nazi bill attacks campaign to boycott  Israel

Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) expresses its support for the new Congressional bill that will seek to battle efforts to boycott Israel by linking rejection of BDS to a trade agreement being negotiated with the European Union, the largest free trade deal in history.

The bill, "The United States-Israel Trade and Commercial Enhancement Act," enjoys bipartisan sponsorship, which backers hope will help it advance quickly through Congress.

Representatives Peter Roskam (R-IL) and Juan Vargas (D-CA), who co-sponsored the bipartisan legislation, believe it will “leverage ongoing trade negotiations to discourage prospective U.S. trade partners from engaging in economic discrimination against Israel.”

The bill’s sponsors drew parallels to laws passed by Congress in the 1970s regarding the Arab League boycott of Israel, and noted that more recent trade agreements with Bahrain and Oman included anti-boycott clauses.

Further, the bill will also establish the monitoring of BDS-related activities by requiring foreign companies traded on U.S. stock exchanges to disclose whether they have participated in, or have faced pressure to participate in, acts of economic discrimination against Israel. The legislation does not, however, establish any penalty for doing so.

The bill also contains statements reaffirming the economic relationship between the U.S. and Israel, including the “strategic importance of trade and commercial relations to the pursuit of sustainable peace and regional stability.”

The sentiments critical of boycotts by the bill’s sponsors are important, not just because they put Congress “on the record” against BDS as antithetical to the notion of free trade, but also because boycotts and divestment efforts undermine the possibilities for a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

Richard Cravatts, SPME’s president, said that “as academics interested in trying to rid campuses of the corrosive effects of the virulent BDS movement, we, of course, support any efforts by policy makers and others outside of academia to condemn boycotts divestment efforts and to take steps to neutralize some of their deleterious effects. If our policymakers take a reasoned and moral stand on the issue of boycotting and divesting from companies doing business with Israel, perhaps it will make it easier for those in higher education to follow that lead and start to neutralize the BDS campaign on campus.”

SOURCE

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It’s Called Recovery, but Where’s the Beef?

Many economists and other analysts have recognized that the recovery from the U.S. economy’s most recent contraction has been unusually weak—weaker, for example, than any other since World War II. But analysts have disagreed in characterizing the current recovery, which according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the semi-official arbiter of business-cycle chronology, began in mid-2009 after a contraction that had continued for ten quarters. Some aspects of the economy, such as real GDP and consumer spending, have recovered their pre-recession highs and continued to increase. The rate of unemployment has fallen by several percentage points from its high of more than 10 percent. Net private business investment, which took an especially steep tumble during the contraction, has regained much of its loss.

Some of the most-cited indexes of recovery, however, are ambiguous, at best. The rate of unemployment, for example, has fallen in large part because millions of potential workers have left the labor force. The employment/population ratio, which fell by about 5 percentage points during the contraction, has barely budged from its new, much lower plateau. A growing GDP, despite its near-universal acceptance as the best measure of economic growth, actually tells us little about changes in the public’s well-being. Some components of GDP, especially some of the elements that pertain to government spending, actually should be deducted from, rather than added to, the domestic product, inasmuch as the related government activities—military aggression abroad, domestic spying on the entire population, enforcement of counter-productive and even destructive regulations, prosecution and incarceration of people whose “crimes” have no victims—harm the public, rather than improving their welfare.

Arguably the best single, currently available measure of the entire public’s payoff from economic activity is real disposable income per capita. This is the average amount per annum that Americans receive in exchange for the use of their labor and other input services, after taxes, corrected for changes in the purchasing power of the dollar. As the chart below shows, this measure of economic well-being has scarcely increased at all since 2007.


Real Disposable Personal Income per Capita (chained 2009 dollars)

To give greater precision to one’s visual impressions, I have computed the average compound rate of growth of the variable in the succeeding stages of faster or slower growth visible in the chart. The results are as follows:

Period Average annual percentage rate of growth

1949–1961 2.2%
1961–1973 3.7%
1973–1983 1.3%
1983–1996 2.1%
1996–2007 2.4%
2007–2014 0.6%

These figures demonstrate that even though the rate of increase has varied substantially in the past, it has never remained so low as it has been in recent years. Even during the decade of so-called stagflation from the early 1970s to the early 1980s, real disposable income per capita grew more than twice as fast as it has grown in the past seven years. In the past, recessions were always followed by relatively brisk growth during the first several years of the ensuing recovery. Such has not been the case this time. Nor do forecasters anticipate any such surge of growth in the future. Might it be that the state’s burdens loaded onto the private producers of wealth—taxes, regulations, uncertainties, intrusions of all sorts, including demands for elaborate reports, asset seizures, and threats of felony prosecution for completely innocent and harmless actions—have finally become the “last straw” for these long-suffering camels?

However that may be, the current situation is clear enough. The U.S. economy, though not yet completely stagnant, has made little headway for more than seven years, and there is little reason to foresee any great change in this regard. Although some indexes of economic performance have recovered substantially since mid-2009, others have done so much less or not at all. And, without a doubt, the alleged recovery process has failed to deliver the “beef” that means the most to the people: substantial growth of real disposable personal income per capita.

SOURCE

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Some quick catch-ups

How to remove Superfish adware from your computer:  "We recently learned that PC manufacturer Lenovo is selling computers preinstalled with a dangerous piece of software, called Superfish, that uses a man-in-the-middle attack to break Windows' encrypted Web connections for the sake of advertising. (Here's a list of affected products.) Research from EFF's Decentralized SSL Observatory has seen many thousands of Superfish certificates that have all been signed with the same root certificate, showing that HTTPS security for at least Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Safari for Windows, on all of these Lenovo laptops, is now broken. Firefox users also have the problem, because Superfish also inserts its certificate into the Firefox root store."

Nigeria: Massive Boko Haram casualties in counter offensive:  "Hundreds of Boko Haram militants have been killed in a major offensive by Nigerian forces to recaptures key towns and cities from the control of Islamist fighters, officials said Wednesday. Defense spokesman Chris Olukolade said that many militants have been arrested and weapons and equipment seized in the operation that began at the start of this week."

Turkey, US sign deal to train, arm Syrian rebels:  "The U.S. Embassy in Ankara says that Turkey and the United States have signed an agreement to train and arm Syrian rebels fighting the Islamic State group. The two countries have been in talks about such a pact for several months. The deal was signed Thursday evening by U.S Ambassador John Bass and a senior Turkish foreign ministry official, said Embassy spokesman Joe Wierichs."

Obama  to permit sale of armed drones to other states:  "The Obama administration will permit the export of armed military drones to friendly nations and allies. The new policy, announced after a long internal review, is a significant step for U.S. arms policy as allied nations from Italy to Turkey to the Persian Gulf region clamor for the aircraft. It would also give a boost to U.S. defense firms scrambling to secure a greater share of a growing global drone market."

CA: “Superbug” linked to two deaths at LA hospital:  "Nearly 180 patients at UCLA's Ronald Reagan Medical Center may have been exposed to a drug-resistant bacteria that's already been linked to two deaths at the Los Angeles Hospital, health officials said. A spokeswoman for the UCLA Health Systems, Roxanne Yamaguchi, said Wednesday seven patients who were treated at the hospital were infected by carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae (CRE). She said the deadly superbug was a contributing factor in the death of two of those patients."

The most expensive ingredient in beer? Taxes:  "Whether you like craft beer brewed in small batches or the mass-produced variety, the most costly ingredient that goes into every pint of beer in the United States is taxes. With federal, state and local levies, taxes make up, on average, more than 40 percent of the cost of beer purchased in the United States. In an effort to reduce the excessive tax bite, two competing bills have been proposed this month on Capitol Hill, along with legislation at the state level. One of the proposed bills, the Small BREW Act, would, if passed, provide targeted federal excise-tax cuts for beer made by domestic brewers, with tax relief based on volume. This bipartisan bill would change the definition of a small brewer."

Rent control hurts the poor:  "If you thought rent control helped to provide affordable housing to the most needy and deserving among us you need a lesson in basic economics. That sounds a little harsh but one need look no further than New York City to see the damage rent control has done to low income real estate there. Since January 2014 zombie foreclosures jumped 54 percent -- to 16,777. Zombie foreclosures refers to homes abandoned by the owner or landlord and the banks and are now stuck in limbo. Some residents have decided to take matters into their own hands and take over the abandoned properties for themselves. But the question of whether or not they should be allowed to do so is, in my opinion, missing the point."

Wal-Mart plans to boost pay of U.S. workers:  "Wal-Mart Stores Inc. on Thursday said it plans to boost the pay of its U.S. employees above the federal minimum wage in a push to help entry-level workers and amid a national debate about income inequality. The retailer said it plans to pay its workers at least $9 an hour by the first half of the year, or $1.75 above the federal minimum wage, and $10 an hour by Feb. 1. The raises affect the company's 500,000 full-time and part-time associates at U.S. Wal-Mart stores and Sam's Clubs, or about a third of the company's 1.4 million U.S. workers." [Approval-seeking behavior]

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

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

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