Friday, July 24, 2015

Will Trump trump them all?

Donald Trump has surged to the top of the Republican presidential field on the strength of his unpredictable and unforgiving rhetoric toward his own GOP running mates.

Now the question for the other candidates is how to avoid letting Trump turn the first Republican debate on August 6 into yet another platform that he dominates, which could let him consolidate his lead even more.

Trump's ability to climb the ladder has shocked not only his Republican foes, but also those in the media, who are now struggling to figure out how Trump will factor in the debate that many other candidates are hoping can be less about Trump, and more about them for a change.

One major issue is whether Trump, who is quick to interrupt and publicly insult any critic as a "loser" or "idiot," will adhere to traditional (though loosely defined) presidential debate decorum. Some say it just won't happen.

Washington Post politics blogger Chris Cillizza wrote in June that the "lack of rule-following" by Trump "will ensure that Trump is a big part of any story written of the debates or any other forum where multiple presidential candidates are present." He called Trump the "car-accident candidate."

It's possible that the debate moderators can control Trump. Fox anchors Chris Wallace, Bret Baier and Megyn Kelly, all seasoned TV anchors, are confirmed to moderate the debate.

But some implied it's going to be a difficult job.  "I mean, that's going to be up to Fox," said ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl, who was recently cut off by President Obama when he attempted to ask a Trump-related question. "They've got the first debate. But clearly [Trump] will be in that debate. He's a declared candidate. And he's leading in several of the polls. You can't really ignore him, can you?"

In a column for the Independent Journalism Review, Republican strategist Rick Wilson, a Trump detractor, said the real estate maven "is a man who loves the snide ad hominem" and is almost certain to engage in personal attacks on the debate stage.

An aide to one of the leading Republican presidential campaigns, speaking on condition of anonymity, questioned whether the debate would be all about Trump taking on his current main rival: Jeb Bush.

"Jeb Bush has been Trump's top target and it will be interesting to see how Bush handles the sharp attacks on the debate stage," she said. "Will Jeb Bush be in a position to have to respond to all of Donald Trump's lines of attack?"

Since announcing his candidacy in June, Trump headlines have saturated almost every news cycle, starting with his controversial comment about many illegal immigrants being "rapists," and his more recent off-the-cuff remark that seemed to question John McCain's status as a "war hero."

On Tuesday, Ohio Gov. John Kasich became the 16th Republican to jump into the race. The announcement was almost completely overshadowed by a news conference by Trump, during which he held up a piece of paper that showed the cell phone number for Lindsey Graham, another GOP presidential candidate who has called Trump a "jackass."  "He doesn't seem like a very bright guy," Trump said of Graham.

The media's attention to Trump has been to the detriment of other lesser-known candidates like Carly Fiorina, who have tried increasing their own profiles as to have a shot at a place in the first debate.



More Leftist racism

 Martin O’Malley was booed off the stage at Netroots Nation 2015 because he said “All lives matter.” He was booed off the stage because he didn’t say “Black lives matter.” Saying that all lives matter is actually considered offensive to some because it apparently symbolizes white supremacy or something.

However, all lives matter. Every last one. Whether it be the unborn child that Planned Parenthood wants to treat as an old car that is only as valuable as the parts that can be salvaged to the black person who is unjustifiably killed while in police custody to a white person who is killed by an illegal immigrant (one who has been in trouble with the law several times) to the Marines killed in a terror attack on our home soil. Every one of these lives matters, no matter what the militant Left would have you believe.

There are times when minority lives are tragically cut short. There are times when white lives are tragically cut short. Are we supposed to treat one as more important as the other? Was the entire movement not to create equality among the races? Or will I simply be accused of exercising white privilege simply because I am naive enough to think we should all be treated equally under the law?

This movement that proclaims “Black Lives Matter” and shouts down anyone who says “All Lives Matter” are simply reacting to a status quo that, under Barack Obama, they assumed would be abolished. However, the fact is that the conditions under which we all live in, but especially the black community, have gotten exponentially worse. Communities are more divided than ever along racial lines, but no one is willing to address the fact that it is under the Democratic Party’s rule that they have gotten so.



Victims of Illegal Aliens Testify to Senate

Five families came to Capitol Hill Tuesday to tell lawmakers how the nation’s immigration policies led to the death of their loved ones, and the Left can only play a political game. The father of Kathryn Steinle, the woman who was murdered in July by a five-time deported illegal immigrant, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, along with four other families. “Everywhere Kate went throughout the world, she shined the light of a good citizen from the United States of America,” Jim Steinle said in his written statement. “Unfortunately, due to the unjointed [sic] laws and basic incompetence of the government, the US has suffered a self-inflicted wound in the murder of our daughter by the hands of a person that should have never been on the streets of this country.”

The hearing coincided with a bill the committee’s chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley, introduced that would strip state or local jurisdictions of federal law enforcement grants if they continue sanctuary city policies. Furthermore, the law would require a minimum five-year jail sentence for any illegal immigrant who was previously deported but still returned.

But the Left is rallying against the effort to fix the problem. “Good policies are made over time,” wrote a coalition of leftist immigration groups to Congress. Ranking member on the Judiciary Committee Sen. Patrick Leahy rebutted the families' testimonies by writing, “We must resist the urge to hastily adopt legislation that has the unintended consequence of making us less safe.” In other words, collateral damage is okay in the pursuit of Obama’s immigration vision.



What the Greeks Can Learn from the Irish

The Greeks have been on a wild roller coaster ride with more downs than ups. Voters earlier this month celebrated passage of a referendum denouncing fiscal austerity, only to see Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras agree to a financial bailout with conditions that voters would have rejected. Unfortunately, confusion surrounds Greece’s ailment and its cure. What it needs isn’t austerity per se. What it needs are free-market reforms like the ones that revived Ireland’s economy in the late 1980s and 1990s, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Benjamin W. Powell.

In the Ireland of 1986, government accounted for 55 percent of the spending in the economy, compared to 52 percent in Greece today. And like Greece, Ireland’s total debt exceeded the value of its final output. But in 1987, Ireland’s government got serious about reversing course. It began making significant spending cuts in healthcare, schooling, and agriculture; cut back onerous business regulations; and even abolished entire government agencies. In the 1990s, the island nation began enacting tax cuts without increasing the public debt. The economy has since attracted workers from other corners of the European Union.

“Ireland’s courageous reforms and the economic growth that accompanied them fundamentally transformed the economy by significantly reducing the burden of government,” Powell writes. “Greece could make a similar transformation if it had the political will to do it.”



Antisemitic former General wants to Toss ‘Disloyal’ Americans Into Camps

Wesley Clark was in overall command of NATO forces during the Yugoslav intervention.  He ordered a British general under his command to attack a Russian contingent who arrived without notice.  Fortunately General Sir Peter de la Billiere just laughed.  How such a lamebrain as Clark slimed his way to a senior post is a mystery -- but his Democrat sympathies probably helped.  Another thing that is probably in his favour among the Left is his derogatory comment about "New York money people". Any guesses about who they might be?

Retired general and 2004 candidate for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination Wesley Clark has a suggestion for dealing with “radicalized” Americans: put them in camps.

The shocking statement was made Friday on MSNBC in a discussion of the terrorist attack by Mohammed Abdulazeez that killed five Marines in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It was not met with any questioning or challenge from host Thomas Roberts.

Clark was asked “how do we fix self-radicalized lone wolfs?” His response was, “In World War II, if someone supported Nazi Germany at the expense of the United States, we didn’t say that was freedom of speech, we put him in a camp, they were prisoners of war. So, if these people are radicalized and they don’t support the United States and they are disloyal to the United States as a matter of principle, fine. That’s their right. It’s our right and it’s our right and obligation to segregate them from the normal community for the duration of the conflict. And I think we’re gonna have to increasingly get tough on this.”

After his appearance spawned pushback from people fearing internment camps on Monday, Clark did not back down. General Clark did clarify that he never said the words “Muslim” or “internment,” however.

In fact, General Clark did not use those words, but a fair listening to what he did say does leave one with that impression. What he meant, if he didn’t mean internment camps, remains unknown.

General Clark was a progressive darling when he entered the 2004 Democratic Party presidential primary. As a retired general, Clark was viewed as a strong candidate against President George W. Bush in the midst of the Iraq war. He proved to be a lackluster candidate and quickly fizzled out, leading to the nomination of the current Secretary of State John Kerry.



Medical Monsters vs. Life-Giving Angels

Another week, another money-grubbing Planned Parenthood baby-parts harvester exposed.

In the second devastating installment of a three-year journalism investigation, the Center for Medical Progress on Monday released undercover video of another top abortion industry doctor haggling over the sale of “intact” unborn baby parts.

Last week, the Center for Medical Progress introduced us to wine-swilling Dr. Deborah Nucatola – a veritable Hannibal-ina Lecter who gushed about the growing demand for aborted baby hearts and livers as she jibed and imbibed.

This week’s clip features stone-faced, bespectacled Dr. Mary Gatter – an Ice Queen who chillingly negotiated $100-per-specimen price tags for organs she promised would be high quality as a result of “less crunchy” methods of dismembering innocent human life. Gatter, the medical director of the abortion empire’s Pasadena and San Gabriel offices in California, dryly joked that she wanted a “Lamborghini” for her troubles – after a prolonged session spouting obligatory talking points disclaiming a profit motive.

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Butcherhood, issued a feckless apology last week for the “tone” of Nucatola’s grisly business-lunch banter.

What will her excuse be for Gatter? Did the tone elves forget to fill her stocking, too?

The fundamental problem with these licensed medical providers, who greedily have turned the “primum non nocere” creed on its head under the guise of “reproductive services,” is not their defective tenor. It’s their defective souls.

With more barbaric video of the Planned Butcherhood racket undoubtedly yet to come, it is worth pausing from this avalanche of evil to remind the nation that there are thousands of miracle workers in the health care industry who value life and honor their professional oath to first do no harm.

I know this firsthand as the proud daughter of a neonatologist who dedicated his life to using his medical training to save lives, not destroy them. Nowhere is the sanctity of life more vividly illustrated than in a NICU. A father in Texas wrote me with his own personal story and wanted me to share his message:

“I read your piece (last week) regarding the monstrous doctor from Planned Parenthood. Though I have tried, I really cannot grasp the horror of the PP abattoirs or the blackness of the souls that labor within.

"I want to tell you about my family’s encounter with another place that is the antithesis of the Planned Parenthood slaughterhouse.

"My wife and I had the great misfortune three years ago of finding ourselves with two beautiful but tiny children in the Level 3 NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) at the Woman’s Hospital of Texas in Houston.

"Our beautiful daughter spent the first five months of her life there, and our brave son spent the entirety of his life there, all 44 days.

"I want to tell you this, because I want to tell you about a very bright light that shines in this world, but it shines behind the wall of privacy and quarantine that is a necessary function of NICU life. The six neonatologists and all of the amazing nurses who cared for our children are some of the finest, most decent, devoted and caring people I have ever encountered.

"They work tirelessly to save every life, to give every child in their care as much of a chance as possible, and they truly do care for the ‘least of these.’ They go to work every day in a place where, in spite of all their efforts, tiny children pass away in their care. They are people who deserve to have the veil lifted from their works.

"I am sharing this with you as answer to the final paragraph of your moving piece. You ask what kind of a country we live in? I want you to know that we also live in a country that God has truly blessed with these amazing souls and hundreds more like them: Dr. Alagappan Alagappan, Dr. Talat Ahmed, Dr. Salim Bharwani, Dr. William Caplan, Dr. Peter Haney and Dr. David Simchowitz.

"In the face of evil, it is easy to see only the darkness. There are lights burning still.”



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 and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

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


Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Nazi salute?

The 1930's photo below is said to show the Duke of Windsor, a British Royal, giving the Nazi salute.  What rubbish!  Like a lot of elite Brits in the 30s he did see Hitler's achievements in reviving Germany as admirable but what appears below is just a Royal wave.  The Nazi salute is straight-armed.  It is true that the salute can be given carelessly in a variety of ways that are not straight-armed but that does not prove that this was a Nazi salute.  If it did, all sorts of casual waves would have to be regarded as Nazi.  Only if the Duke were found to be giving a straight-armed salute could the Nazi accusation stick

UPDATE: A good comment from a reader:

"I agree that the Duke of Windsor is not giving the Nazi salute. If it were a Nazi salute, the Duke would be giving it as a greeting to Der Fuehrer, and if that were so, then all the other Nazis present would be giving it as well. It's just a wave to the crowd."



Gov. Brown Signs Law Ending Personal, Religious Exemptions to School Vaccine Requirements

Libertarians don't like compulsory medical treatment of any kind but in this instance the importance of "herd immunity"  in protecting newborns makes a purely libertarian stance difficult to maintain.  And most anti-vaxxers are not libertarians.  They are just egotistical "We know better" claimants who pay no regard to the balance of the evidence on the matter

Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed into law one of the nation’s strictest childhood vaccination requirements, approving a bill that generated multiple protests and controversy as it moved through the Legislature.

Senate Bill 277, authored by Sacramento pediatrician state Sen. Richard Pan and former Santa Monica-Malibu school board president state Sen. Ben Allen, eliminates parents’ ability to claim “personal belief” exemptions to schoolchildren’s vaccine requirements at both private and public schools in California.

Only medical exemptions, approved by a doctor, will be allowed under the law. A licensed physician will have to write a letter explaining the child’s medical circumstances that make immunization unsafe for that child.

Children who are not vaccinated must be home-schooled or participate in public school independent study. The law goes into effect July 1, 2016.

The bill was approved by the Assembly on a 46-31 vote Thursday; the amended version was approved by the state Senate, 24-14, Monday.

Brown acknowledged in a signing statement Tuesday that the bill had generated controversy, saying both sides expressed “their positions with eloquence and sincerity.”

“The science is clear that vaccines dramatically protect children against a number of infectious and dangerous diseases,” Brown said. “While it’s true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community.”

Existing law allows unvaccinated children to attend school if their parents file a form claiming an exemption based personal beliefs — including religion. A law authored by Pan that went into effect in 2014 required that exemption-seeking parents talk to a health care provider about vaccination benefits and risks, or that they state their membership in a religion that prohibits them seeking medical care.

In fall of 2014, 2.54 percent of kindergarteners in California had personal belief exemptions on file, down from 3.15 percent the previous year, according to state data. Pan connected the drop in exemptions from 2013 to 2014 to the requirement that parents talk to licensed health care practitioner.

In 1998, only 0.77 percent of the state’s kindergarteners had a personal belief exemption, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The bill approved Tuesday by Brown was introduced after an outbreak of measles that began at Disneyland last year and sickened some 131 Californians. The legislation prompted protests by anti-vaccination parents, often clad in red.

Opponents include the group Californians for Vaccine Choice, whose members emphasize risks related to vaccination.

“The passage of any bill to repeal the personal belief exemption will create an even more hostile environment for California families who don’t agree with safety, efficacy, or necessity of every single dose of every single government mandated vaccine,” the group’s website states.

In a statement earlier this month, Dr. Pan said that the growth of opposition to vaccination was based in part on a now-retracted 1998 study that “falsified data to purport a link between autism and the measles vaccine.”

“Years of anti-science, anti-vaccine misinformation have taken its toll on immunization rates to the point that the public is now endanger,” Pan said in the statement.

Pan has emphasized “herd immunity” in many of his comments on the bill, saying that when immunization rates fall below 90 percent, those who cannot be vaccinated become at greater risk for infection, including infants and those with medical conditions that prevent them from being vaccinated.

A report from Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, released Tuesday, indicated that only 86 percent of the county’s kindergarteners were up to date with vaccinations in 2014, compared to 90 percent statewide.

The “West Service Planning Area” of the county — including largely wealthy areas such as Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Malibu, Pacific Palisades and Santa Monica — had the highest rate of personal belief exemptions, 6.4 percent, the report indicated.



Donald Trump is winning BECAUSE he never says sorry


 ‘It is a good rule in life never to apologize,’ said the great English author P.G. Wodehouse. ‘The right sort of people do not want apologies, and the wrong sort take a mean advantage of them.’

I think of this advice whenever I think about Donald Trump; a man for whom the words ‘I’m sorry’ are as unthinkable in his personal lexicon as ‘I surrender’ or ‘I’m broke’.

When Trump first entered the GOP candidate race, I predicted he would electrify the U.S. election and I warned his rivals they would underestimate him at their peril.

Here we are, four weeks later, and he’s topping the Republican polls.  Not just by a small margin, but by a gigantic Trump-ego-sized margin.  You can mock him, taunt him, berate him, but you can’t ignore him.

America is currently in the fevered grip of Trump mania and if you want to know why, then look no further than his point blank refusal to apologise to anyone for anything.

Every other politician, business leader or celebrity I know would have immediately, shame-facedly backtracked after he outrageously suggested that all Mexican illegal immigrants were ‘rapists’.

Not Trump.  Instead, he doubled-down on his comments, swiftly turned them into a wider national debate on the undeniably important issue of illegal immigration in the United States, and insisted he’d win the Latino vote at the election.

You don’t have to agree with him to recognise that this was a master-class in how to turn a potentially overwhelming, campaign-ending negative into a vote-winning positive.

Trump deployed the same tactic when he said Senator John McCain wasn’t a real war hero because he got captured. (Although he qualified this in the same sentence by saying he might be, he wasn’t sure…and then clearly said McCain WAS a hero, several times)

Daring to question the heroism of a man who by any yardstick is a true American war hero was an extraordinarily inflammatory thing to even imply.

I know John McCain well, and respect him enormously.  He once showed me the citation that hangs on his office wall in Washington, detailing his valour in Vietnam.  Tears filled his eyes as he recounted some of what happened to him.

There is no doubt; McCain was astoundingly brave, to his own physical and psychological detriment, and deserves every plaudit.

Trump, in my opinion, was wrong to doubt that heroism, and he probably knows it, which is why he corrected himself as soon as he’d said it.

But it was also wrong of McCain to say that Trump’s supporters are a bunch of ‘crazies’.  Trump sniped at him because McCain sniped first.

They used to be good friends. I know this because when I interviewed Trump for GQ just before the 2009 Election, he said: ‘I know John well, and I like him. We had dinner together recently.’

Now it’s open war between them, and I have to admit I’m rather enjoying it – as I suspect is every journalist in America.

After Trump’s comments, all hell predictably broke loose. He was condemned from all sides for his ‘outrageous’, ‘disgusting’ and ‘unpatriotic’ assault on America’s hero PoWs.  There were furious calls for him to quit the GOP race in disgrace.  He listened to them, and declined.

Politics is a rough old game and if you can’t stand the heat, then get out of the DC kitchen.

Trump is straight from the ‘smack ‘em in the eyeballs’ school of political fighting.  Not for him the niceties of polite to-ing and fro-ing, of calmly debating the issues and leaving it to the American people to decide who they like best.

The best-selling of Trump’s many best-selling books is entitled ‘Think Big And Kick Ass.’

This is a man with unshakable self-confidence and quite breath-taking bravado who takes a battering ram to every point he makes and every argument he has.

As McCain demands Trump apologises to every PoW veteran in America, Trump instead attacks McCain for letting down EVERY veteran, PoW or otherwise, in America with his supposed failed involvement in policies relating to the VA.

As with the Mexican immigrants ‘scandal’, Trump has switched the debate from an unacceptable, personally offensive quip to a far larger issue.  He’s done it by simply refusing to apologise.

And again, whether you agree with Trump or not, it’s hard not to admire his resolute strength and resilience under colossal fire.

America is crying out for leadership right now.  On the domestic and world stage, there’s a sense among many of the population that this once unassailable superpower is slipping behind.  President Obama is seen as weak in dealing with everyone from ISIS and Russia to China and OPEC.

Trump has tapped into that insecurity and nervousness by sounding ever more aggressive, dominant, and strong.

And it’s working. A lot of Americans love the way he speaks, behaves and takes his enemies down.  And they especially like the way he never says sorry. For anything.

That’s why he’s soaring in the polls, and that’s why I think he will continue to be a hugely significant presence in this GOP race.  Particularly as he has the wealth to go on as long as he chooses.

Whether he can win the GOP nomination or not remains to be seen, but I’d never bet against him.

I’m not an apologist for Trump, as some claim. Apart from anything else, if I were, he’d see that as weakness!

But I’ve known him a long time, I like the man personally, and it’s frankly a breath of fresh air in this ever more timid, turgid PC world of ours to see a political figure speak his mind, even at the risk of offending people, and brush off the inevitable indignant clamour for slavering apologies.

I’m sorry, but I’m glad Donald Trump never says sorry.



Bad news for a lot of old folk

Millions of Britons who take vitamin D and calcium pills to prevent bone thinning may be wasting their time, scientists warn today.  There is little evidence the supplements prevent fractures – and they may even cause harm through kidney complications and strokes.

Researchers say the benefits of the pills may have been hugely overplayed by their manufacturers. Around a third of men and just under half of women take supplements including vitamin D and calcium, and many get them on prescription from their GP.

The pills are thought to prevent osteoporosis, the bone-thinning condition that occurs in middle age which is particularly common in women after the menopause.

Calcium is a naturally occurring mineral which helps strengthen the bones while vitamin D is thought to help the body absorb it. But several major studies published in the last decade have found no evidence that adults taking these pills are any less likely to suffer bone fractures.

Researchers say most get enough calcium in their diets anyway, mainly from dairy products, while vitamin D may not actually help our bodies absorb it. In an editorial in the BMJ Open online journal, academics from New Zealand also highlight evidence that supplements increase the risk of strokes, kidney stones and heart attacks.

They say over-65s ‘should not have been recommended’ to take daily vitamin D supplements to prevent osteoporosis under Government guidelines in the UK and elsewhere.

Professor Andrew Grey and Professor Mark Bolland, of the Department of Medicine in the University of Auckland, point out that evidence has emerged since 2002 that such supplements ‘do not reduce the risk of fracture and may result in harm’.

A separate BMJ Open article by researchers at Queen Mary, University of London, calls for the public to be made aware of the ‘lack of evidence’ that vitamin D does them any good. They found the number of prescriptions for vitamin D in one East London health trust had increased ten-fold in the past five years.



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 and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

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


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A Nobel prize for an ignoble deal?

by Jeff Jacoby

MOMENTS AFTER it was announced that the United States and its allies had reached a nuclear deal with Iran, the drums began beating for a Nobel Peace Prize. Carl Bildt, the former Swedish prime minister, tweeted happily: "I think the work of the Nobel Committee ... this year just got much easier." On Wednesday, a director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, an influential think tank with ties to the Nobel organization, recommended that the 2016 prize be awarded to Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

The Vienna deal is a capitulation to one of the worst regimes on Earth. Far from requiring the Iranians to dismantle their illicit nuclear program, the accord leaves almost all of it intact. In exchange for little more than a promise to delay its development of nuclear warheads, Tehran is rewarded with $150 billion in sanctions relief and, within a few years, the lifting of the UN embargo on conventional weapons and missile sales. The Islamic Republic is the world's foremost state sponsor of terrorism, yet nothing in the agreement requires any change in its notorious behavior. And despite the regime's long record of treaty violations and deceit, the deal enables it to stall for almost a month before complying with a demand for access by inspectors — hardly the "anytime, anywhere, 24/7" inspections that the Obama administration had claimed it would insist on.

The White House wanted to sign a deal; Iran's rulers wanted to ensure their path to the bomb and nuclear legitimacy. Both got what they wanted. The consequences will be a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, more Iranian terrorism and subversion, and a greater likelihood of war.

A Nobel peace prize — for that?

It wouldn't be the first time.

The Obama/Kerry willingness to concede anything for a nuclear deal with Iran has been likened to Neville Chamberlain's infamous Munich agreement with Adolf Hitler in 1938. Then too shameless capitulation was hailed as a triumph of peacemaking and diplomacy. Chamberlain was cheered as a hero in the press and on the street, and he won a resounding vote of confidence in Parliament. He was widely nominated for the Nobel peace prize, including by a dozen members of the Swedish parliament. Who knows — he might have received it, had Hitler waited just a little longer before invading Czechoslovakia.

All too often the Nobel Committee has seen fit to bestow its prestigious honor on men who negotiated "peace" accords that ended up undermining peace. In 1973, the prize was awarded to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and North Vietnam's Le Duc Tho, lead negotiators of the Paris Peace Accords that purported to end the Vietnam War. In reality the Accords paved the way for US withdrawal, effectively abandoning South Vietnam to defeat and brutal occupation by the communist North.

The Locarno treaties of 1925, now largely forgotten, settled Germany's borders with Western Europe, and were extravagantly portrayed as guaranteeing that Germany would never again violate the peace. "France and Germany Ban War Forever," cheered The New York Times, and the Nobel Committee, intoxicated with the "spirit of Locarno," awarded peace prizes to the French, British, and German foreign ministers who negotiated the deal. Yet the treaties deliberately left Germany's eastern borders open to "revision." In essence, one Polish leader remarked bitterly, "Germany was officially asked to attack the east, in return for peace in the west." The promised peace was a mere bubble. The war Locarno facilitated would prove all too bloodily real.

The Nobel Peace Prize for the Oslo Accords — presented in 1994 to Yasser Arafat, Yitzhak Rabin, and Shimon Peres — was another blunder that looks even worse in retrospect. A peace prize for Arafat, an arch-terrorist and hatemonger who devoted his life to the destruction of peace? It was as contemptible a choice as the Nobel Committee has ever made. Of course, there's always next year.



The Health Benefits of a Soda Tax Are Far Less Than Claimed

By William Shughart II

Imposing a tax on sugary drinks is bad policy. It doesn’t solve the health problems it purports to address, creates new problems and leads to waste in the public sector. Just because the idea has gained traction among voters does not make it defensible.

First and foremost, taxing sugary drinks does not reduce purchases enough to matter. Numerous studies find that consumption is persistent, despite higher taxes. That means health benefits will be vanishingly small. Proponents point to a recent soda tax in Mexico that supposedly reduced consumption, but that study has not been peer-reviewed—the finding was announced in a news conference, supported only by PowerPoint slides.

Taxes too low?

One important reason taxes don’t cut consumption much is that the taxes are often set too low to affect behavior. Why not set them higher? That introduces other problems. Set taxes high enough, and underground markets will arise, as they have for cigarettes in New York City.

Black markets aren’t the only way that people skirt high taxes. When a product becomes more expensive in one area, they simply go across the border and buy it in a neighboring spot where it’s cheaper. That’s likely why some retailers in Berkeley, Calif., which recently implemented a new soft-drink tax, did not initially pass the tax on to customers, and thus paid it out of their own pockets, according to some early reports. They feared losing business to stores in nearby cities if they charge customers the full price.

There are other reasons to reject soda taxes. Evidence is mounting that drinking diet soft drinks may be as bad as—or even worse than—sugary drinks. The human body apparently reacts the same way to artificial sweeteners as it does to “real” sugars. The pancreas pumps out insulin, but zero-calorie artificial sweeteners do not produce the energy rush that curbs appetites and satisfies cravings for sweetness. Yet these drinks aren’t subject to taxes on sugary beverages.

Squandered cash

Beyond that, there’s the matter of how these taxes are used. Selective taxes on sugary drinks and other modern “sins” (junk food, fast food) are revenue engines for the public sector. But the evidence suggests very little of the revenue ends up actually improving health outcomes. And the burden of paying for these measures falls most heavily on low-income households; budget constraints narrow the range of food choices open to them.

What’s more, wasteful rent seeking by advocates and adversaries of a selective tax can swamp its social benefits, if any. Suppose that a proposed tax is expected to raise $1 million in revenue over the medium term. Producers and retailers of soft drinks will be willing to spend up to $1 million to block the tax from being enacted; groups supporting programs financed by the revenue also will spend money to pass the tax. So, if $1 million (or more) is invested in lobbying, that sum is transformed into a social cost, which must be added to the already-heavy burden that every tax creates.

The argument that taxing sugary drinks helps to promote healthy lifestyles deflects attention from their actual effects. We don’t normally expect politicians to be truthful. But if they want to impose these taxes, they should be honest enough to admit that they will not end obesity or diabetes, but rather will generate more of other peoples’ money for profligate state governments to spend.



The CSA and Symbols: Learning from History

Since a crazed, hate-filled and cowardly gunman killed nine black Christians in Charleston, South Carolina, the PC police have been in attack mode on anything associated with the Confederate States of America. The South Carolina General Assembly quickly voted to removed the Battle Flag from a Confederate Soldiers’ Memorial on the State House grounds. Now, critics want to destroy a massive carving on Stone Mountain outside of Atlanta featuring Confederate heroes Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. Some are even demanding the rethinking of events associated with Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, and others because they were slave owners.

Ben Hallman at the Huffington Post tells us how we are supposed to think: “The Confederacy was the most vile and harmful political invention in United States history. It was founded on the explicit principle that slavery is the ‘natural and normal condition’ of black people, and that they should be ruthlessly exploited to the benefit of their white masters.” Hallman and others see Confederacy as synonymous with slavery and racism, and tell us to despise all things Confederate. His is a very simplistic view of history.

Slavery was a horrible institution that most of us, thankfully, cannot begin understand. But if we are going to remove symbols and emblems associated with it, we better look at the Stars and Stripes before hunting down anything with the initials CSA. Slavery, of course, existed in the United States from colonial times until ratification of the 13th Amendment. Twelve presidents owned slaves at one time or another, including George Washington and U.S. Grant. Actually, slavery existed longer in the Union than the CSA, since the Emancipation Proclamation did not apply to slaveholding states remaining loyal to the Union. For a good study on the war, causes, and effects, see Robert Higgs, “The Bloody Hinge of American History.” For anyone interested in the growth of the federal government under Lincoln and the Republicans, see Joseph R. Stromberg, “Civil War and the American Political Economy.” For a scholarly argument that war was not necessary to gain emancipation, see Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, Emancipating the Slaves, Enslaving Free Men. A review of the book can be found here.

Of course, the Stars and Stripes has also presided over many horrific acts and policies dealing with removal of American Indians, imprisonment of Japanese Americans in WWII, and the torturing of prisoners at Gitmo. Such examples are abundant.

If we want to hold the USA and CSA to our modern standards and sensibilities, both will be found lacking. But in both the CSA and the USA we can find men and ideas worth studying and considering. Libertarians have long realized this. For example, Professor Randall Holcombe points to many provisions of the Confederate Constitution that limited government power and that would serve us well today. Robert E. Lee rightly remains internationally respected as a brilliant tactician, a gentleman, and man of honor. The Independent Institute has long championed William Lloyd Garrison, his demands for the abolition of slavery, and his contributions to liberty.

Bottom line: We need to pause before we banish all symbols of our past that don’t comport with modern thinking. Our history has rough edges and embarrassments we don’t want to repeat. But there’s plenty to learn from great men of the North and the South, the Blue and the Gray.



Government’s Burden on Young Americans

The Independent Institute’s Love Gov videos offer an amusing look at the raw deal government policies give to America’s youth. In the videos, sometimes government tempts young people into bad deals, such as student loans, and other times it offers them little choice but to take bad deals, as with health insurance. But the videos understate the magnitude of forced transfers from younger Americans to elders.

Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid make up 60% of the federal budget, and those programs are transfers from the taxpayers who fund them to recipients. Social Security and Medicare are only for older Americans, and a major share of Medicaid also goes to older Americans. Younger Americans pay the taxes; older Americans get the benefits.

Things are getting worse for young Americans. As Jonathan Gruber noted, it is because of “the stupidity of the American voter” that Obamacare charges artificially higher premiums to younger people so that older people can have lower premiums.

So sure, government tempts young people to take out excessive student loans, to take on home mortgages beyond their abilities to afford them, and do other irresponsible things, but government also forces even the most responsible American youth to sacrifice some of their own well-being to support older Americans.

Government does many things. One is: it systematically plunders American youth for the benefit of older Americans. Is this fair? Ironically, programs that support the old at the expense of the young are more politically popular among the young than the old.



Obama Acts to Head Off Crime Spree of ... the Elderly?

If there’s a singular purpose for Barack Obama and his cadres its limiting access to guns in as many ways as possible. The latest attempt is a push to prohibit Social Security recipients from owning firearms if they are judged mentally incompetent.

First let’s stipulate that nobody wants people who are mentally incompetent owning or using guns without at least some restrictions. But the question is the standard used. The Social Security Administration has never before participated in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, but, if the SSA begins using the same standards as the Department of Veterans Affairs, at least four million beneficiaries could see their gun rights eliminated by a bureaucrat.

We don’t want the government defining or deciding mental competence with standards that have nothing to do with crime. And especially not this administration. Indeed, given the Obama administration’s track record of disdain for American veterans — both through the bureaucratic shenanigans at the VA and in targeting veterans in DHS reports about extremism — it won’t be long before veterans are barred from owning firearms, or, conversely, their benefits are restricted if they’re gun owners.  Indeed, many veterans have already been judged “incompetent” when that’s clearly not the case. Now prohibitions could extend to the average Social Security recipient.

We’re forced to ask what problem Obama thinks he’s trying to solve. Our nation has not been under assault by senior citizens or veterans. It has been under attack from Islamic jihadists, and that’s the one thing Obama seems most reticent to address.



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 and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

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


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Who are the haters?

My attention has just been drawn to what I gather is a popular 2012 rant on Daily Kos:  "An open letter to the people who hate Obama more than they love America".   It is very amusing indeed.  I have often observed that if you want to know what is true about Leftists, you just have to look at what they say about conservatives.  They can't imagine that conservatives do not share their hostile emotions. They "project" onto others what is true of themselves.

So what are conservatives accused of in the article?  Hate.

The writer goes through a whole range of current conservative ideas and policies and asserts that they are motivated by hate.  No reasoning or evidence for each assertion is offered.  It is supposed to be self-evident, apparently.  And to the writer and other Leftists it presumably is.  That it could be otherwise motivated they are not capable of considering and they live anyway in a little mental bubble from which conservative discourse is zealously excluded.  They figuratively (and sometimes literally) run away from hearing conservative arguments.

Take just the first assertion of the rant:  "You hate gay people".  A typical Leftist sweeping assertion devoid of any nuance.  All the conservatives I know are essentially indifferent to homosexuals, though some think that homosexual marriage is destructive of social order.  So the writer is quite simply wrong.

Even conservative Christians make a point of saying that they do NOT hate homosexuals, though they do believe that the Bible is clear that homosexuality is a sin leading to condemnation by God, and that they therefore should do nothing to encourage it.  Even the notorious Fred Phelps used to say "GOD hates fags".  He didn't say "I hate fags".  And, theologically and exegetically, he was perfectly correct.  My late sister was a homosexual yet I find  nothing to criticize in what conservatives really do say about homosexuals

And the rest of the assertions in the Daily Kos rant are equally at variance with the real situation.

The big omission in the article therefore is any discussion of the full range of relevant evidence and reasoning on any issue.  In typical Leftist fashion, the writer tells only half the story.  If he told the whole story about any of the issues his balloon of rage about them would largely deflate.

The whole rant is an amazing example of intellectual incompetence but that is no surprise.  Hostile emotions are what drive the Left, not evidence and reason.

I am not big on tooting my own trumpet but if you want to see an argument backed up by a host of facts and careful deductions, my three part exposition on the nature of Leftism is here, here and here.  It's much more voluminous than the Daily Kos piece but that's because it considers the issues with proper care. I see no point in bare assertions like the Daily Kos piece.


The Looming Reality of ObamaCare's Doctor Shortage

Doctors are walking away from ObamaCare, and they're not coming back

A new analysis finds that the health insurance plans offered on ObamaCare exchanges offer a choice of 34 percent fewer health care providers, on average, than plans offered on the private market. The report specifies that:

Specifically, the analysis finds that exchange plan networks include 42 percent fewer oncology and cardiology specialists; 32 percent fewer mental health and primary care providers; and 24 percent fewer hospitals. Importantly, care provided by out-of-network providers does not count toward the out-of-pocket limits put in place by the ACA.

This is not surprising. The decline in doctor availability has been a long-foreseen consequence of the Affordable Care Act. The Wall Street Journal reported that the number of doctors per capita is in decline for the first time in two generations, medical school admissions are down 6 percent, and the American Association of Medical Colleges has predicted a shortage of 160,000 physicians by 2025. The only people who didn’t see this coming are the ones who don’t understand that incentives matter.

One of the innumerable mistakes in the Affordable Care Act is the focus on the demand side of medicine, and specifically of insurance coverage. This is several steps removed from the actual problem that needs to be addressed: the cost and availability of health care. These variables fall fundamentally on the supply side of the equation. Lower barriers to entry in the medical profession would increase the number of doctors, and the resulting competition would drive prices down while simultaneously reducing wait times and making it easier to find a doctor.

By forcing more people to buy insurance plans, and regulating the pricing structure of these plans can charge, ObamaCare is driving more people towards doctors, while at the same time reducing doctors’ ability to get paid. Combined with other regulations in the law, like the costly requirement to digitize all medical records, is it any wonder that so many doctors are hanging up their stethoscopes - or failing to pick them up in the first place?

This new study reinforces what we already knew: ObamaCare has always been about insurance, not actual health care. But all the insurance in the world does no good if there are no doctors available to treat you.

The trend towards less choice that ObamaCare is forcing on consumers can only lead to higher prices and a lower quality of care. More long term, the implications of a health care system that disincentives people from becoming doctors is far more dire.



Boehner Endorses Sentencing Reform; Bill Clinton Apologizes for His Role in Mass Incarceration

Yesterday House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) agreed with President Obama that Congress should address overincarceration:

"I've long believed that there needs to be reform of the criminal justice system.... We've got a lot of people in prison, frankly, who really, in my view, really don't need to be there. It's expensive to house prisoners. Sometimes, frankly, some of these people are there for what I'll call flimsy reasons".

Boehner specifically expressed support for the SAFE Justice Act, which would make the shorter crack sentences enacted in 2010 retroactive, eliminate federal penalties for simple possession of drugs in jurisdictions subject to state law, reserve mandatory minimum sentences for high-level drug traffickers, clarify that gun-related mandatory minimums can run consecutively only "when the offender is a true recidivist," give judges more discretion in sentencing people based on their responses to "reverse stings," encourage more use of diversion and probation, and offer prisoners time reductions in exchange for their participation in job training and other programs aimed at reducing recidivism. That's a pretty impressive package of reforms, and I have to say I'm surprised to hear that Boehner is on board.

"John Boehner's support for justice reform shows that momentum is growing in Congress," says FreedomWorks CEO Adam Brandon. "Not only that, but it's one of the few issues that transcends party lines and we can actually get something done. For too long, lawmakers have enacted big-government mandates that leave us with a skyrocketing prison population, high costs, and broken families. The status quo is unsustainable."

Another sign of the times: While attending the NAACP convention in Philadelphia on Wednesday, former President Bill Clinton apologized for a law he used to brag about: the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994—or, as Vice President Joe Biden proudly calls it, "the 1994 Biden Crime Bill." Among other things, that bill made drug sentences harsher, subsidized a nationwide prison-building boom, and expanded the application of the federal death penalty. "I signed a bill that made the problem worse, and I want to admit it," Clinton said on Wednesday. "In that bill, there were longer sentences, and most of these people are in prison under state law, but the federal law set a trend. And that was overdone; we were wrong about that."

That mea culpa is notably stronger than the one Clinton offered in his preface to a collection of essays on criminal justice reform that the Brennan Center published last spring:

"By 1994, violent crime had tripled in years. Our communities were under assault. We acted to address a genuine national crisis. But much has changed since then. It's time to take a clear-eyed look at what worked, what didn't, and what produced unintended, long-lasting consequences. So many of these laws worked well, especially those that put more police on the streets. But too many laws were overly broad instead of appropriately tailored."

Clinton's wife—who, as you may have heard, is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination—has been similarly inclined to make excuses for the draconian penalties she and her husband used to support, although she did concede in 2008 that those policies contributed to "an unacceptable increase in incarceration." Esquire's Charles Pierce suggests that the former president is "clearing his triangulations out of the way so that Hillary Rodham Clinton has a clearer road through the new politics of her party."



Justice Reform: Something Bipartisan is Happening in Congress that Could Save Taxpayers Money and Keep Communities Safe

On July 14th and 15th the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a heavily attended hearings on justice reform. A common sentiment throughout the two-day event was gratitude for the truly bipartisan nature of the effort to restructure our justice system. Hopeful people are coming together from across party lines, as is rarely seen in Congress, to restore liberty and save billions in taxpayer dollars.

Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) opened the hearing by expressing concern at lacking employment opportunities for rehabilitated people, mandatory sentencing and mandatory minimum laws which incarcerate average citizens, the abuse of solitary confinement, and high rates of recidivism, or the number of people who return to prison after being released (up to 60% in some states).

These concerns were echoed repeatedly by members and witnesses in attendance. Also addressed were statistics about astronomically high incarceration rates in the United States (the highest rate of any country). According to Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), nearly one in three Americans has an arrest record, one in nine black children has an incarcerated parent, and the number of people currently incarcerated is greater than the population of 36 of our 50 states. One statistic that elicited murmurs from the overflowing crowd said that a new prison in built in America every 10 days.

One startling issue that continued to come up throughout the hearing is the fact that many people accused of crimes are unaware that their actions are illegal. Brett L. Tolman, co-chair of White Collar Criminal Defense and Corporate Compliance Practice Group and witness at the hearing, told the room that there are over 300,000 regulations; they are absolutely impossible to keep track of, even for those who study criminal law. Furthermore, with increasing frequency, crimes are classified as federal offenses, meaning many nonviolent offenders are drawn into the federal system, sometimes without even knowing that they had committed a crime. In fact, it is estimated that the average American commits three felonies a day.

Each member and witness had specific concerns about the state of our justice system. Gov. Jack Markell (D-DE) testified about overcrowding in our prisons, saying that many of the prisoners (as many as 40% of inmates in women’s prisons in his state) are pre-trial, and have yet to be convicted of a crime.

“You guys are preaching to the choir,” joked Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC), in summary of a majority of the hearing. But simply because people are in agreement about serious problems in the justice system does not mean it will be easy to find a solution that effectively addresses problems while minimizing spending, and maximizing liberty and safety.

Booker lamented the ability to “take and seize the liberty of people to the extent that we have.”

Loss of liberty truly is the effect of over criminalization and federalization. We have created a system that dehumanizes people for nonviolent crimes and leaves good people at the mercy of harsh minimum sentences that are unfair and do not take into account the circumstances of the accused. It is big government in the courtroom.

Additionally, the prison system is fiscally unsustainable. The federal prison population has grown by almost 800 percent since 1980, rising from approximately 25,000 inmates to around 208,500 today. Funding for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, which consumes 25% of the Justice Department’s overall budget, has almost doubled since 2000. We must be smarter with our money. It is limited and not being put to good use.

Jason Pye, Director of Justice Reform at FreedomWorks, wrote last week that “[r]estoring common sense to sentencing and rehabilitating offenders through innovative and state-tested means to reduce their risks of going back to prison” results in significant savings that are highly appealing to conservatives and libertarians. Pye explained:

Texas, for example, implemented sensible prison and sentencing reforms, though with a small upfront cost, that focused on rehabilitation and treatment as alternatives to incarceration. By disrupting the cycle of crime through reducing offenders' chances of entering the system again, Texas closed prisons and scrapped plans to build new prisons. These reforms produced $3 billion in savings and contributed to reductions in crime and repeat offender rates.

Booker told the members of the committee to “embrace solutions we already see working,” referring to policies in place in states like Texas and Georgia which have taken measures to reform their justice systems.

Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) repented that Georgia has historically been called “tough on crime,” adding air quotes for emphasis, and asserted that “that toughness hasn’t worked.” He went on to express his pride in reformed state laws which have allowed Georgia, a traditionally Republican state, to lead the way for justice reform on the national level.

Throughout the hearing there was a strong show of support for the proposed Safe, Accountable, Fair, and Effective (SAFE) Justice Act by many, including Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), and Kevin Ring, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Families Against Mandatory Minimums, who was a witness at the hearing and had himself been incarcerated.

In an official FreedomWorks statement, Pye called the SAFE Justice Act a “bipartisan reform effort that would address both sentencing reform and prison reform,” explaining that it “takes a different approach to sentencing reform by limiting mandatory minimum drug sentences to the highest-level drug offenders, which is in line with Congress’s original intent for the law. The bill would also give prisoners time credits for completing rehabilitative programming.”

We all have something to be excited about. In the words of Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD), this was “a landmark hearing.” Hopefully, those who have come together from across the political spectrum will be able to create real, positive change.


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


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

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


Monday, July 20, 2015

Left becoming disillusioned with the EU supergovernment

Greece bailout: breaking the spell for Europe's Left-wing parties.  Big government finally seen as oppressive

The EU establishment henceforth faces what it has always feared: a political war on two fronts. It has long been fighting an expanding coalition of free marketeers, parliamentary souverainistes and anti-immigrant populists on the Right.

After the scorched earth treatment of Greece over the past five months - culminating in the vindictive decision to impose yet harsher terms on this crushed nation just days after its cri de coeur in a referendum - it has now lost its remaining emotional hold on the Left.

This has been coming for a long time. We conservatives have watched in disbelief as one Socialist party after another immolates itself on the altar of monetary union, defending a "bankers' ramp", as the old Left used to call it.

We have seen the Left apologise for 1930s' policies, and defend a pro-cyclical fiscal regime imposed on Europe by a handful of "Ordoliberal" reactionaries in the German finance ministry.

By a twist of fate, the Left has become the enforcer of an economic structure that has led to levels of unemployment once unthinkable for a post-war social democratic government with its own sovereign currency. It has found ways to justify a youth jobless rate still running at 42pc in Italy, 49pc in Spain and 50pc in Greece. It has acquiesced in the Long Slump of the past six years.

It meekly endorsed the EU Fiscal Compact, knowing that it imposes a legal requirement on eurozone states to slash public debt - by 1.5pc of GDP in France, 2pc in Spain and 3.5pc in Italy and Portugal - every year for the next two decades. This is a formula for permanent depression. It outlaws Keynesian economics, and Classical economics. It is a doomsday construct.

This is what they have defended, because until now they dared not question the sanctity of EMU.

And so the once mighty Dutch Labour Party has been reduced to a pitiful relic. The Spanish Socialist Workers' Party has lost its Left wing to the rebel Podemos movement, freshly victorious in Barcelona. Support for France's socialist leader, Francois Hollande, has been cut to 24pc in the polls, as the French working class defects to the Front National.

Yet finally, events in Greece have broken the spell.

"Progressives should be appalled by the European Union's ruination of Greece," wrote Owen Jones in The Guardian. The new term "Lexit" is gaining currency.

The voices of the Left are uneasy. Their instincts are to oppose everything that Ukip [anti-EU conservatives} stands for. "At first, only a few dipped their toes in the water; then others, hesitantly, followed their lead, all the time looking at each other for reassurance," Mr Jones wrote.

Yet the cruelty on display in Brussels has trumped all. Mr Jones runs through the names.  "Everything good about the EU is in retreat; everything bad is on the rampage," says George Monbiot. The EU is being portrayed "with some truth, as a cruel, fanatical and stupid institution", says Nick Cohen.

Variants of this debate are stirring across Europe. Luigi Zingales, an adviser to Italy's premier Matteo Renzi, has become a flaming eurosceptic.  "This European project is dead forever. If Europe is nothing but a bad version of the IMF, what is left of the European integration project?" he wrote as Greece capitulated.

Whether or not it was a "coup", as the Twitterati alleged, there is no doubt that Syriza was compelled by financial coercion to abandon its election promises. It must even repeal all "fiscal" laws passed since January.

Without rehearsing 15 years of Greek controversy, let me just say that the country's crisis is a collective responsibility of the creditors, the EMU elites, the Greek oligarchy and, ultimately, of a jejune Alexis Tsipras.

The Troika bail-out in 2010 was intended to save the euro and European banks at a time when there were no defences against contagion. Greece was not saved. It was sacrificed. The roots of the "Greek Spring" can be traced to this original sin.

The EMU creditors never acknowledged their own guilt. They never made an honest attempt to negotiate with Syriza, even on matters of common ground. They demanded that the austerity terms of the prior Memorandum be enforced to the letter, hiding behind Pharisaical talk of rules.

Let us not forget that the European Central Bank brought about the final collapse by freezing emergency liquidity to the Greek banks, forcing Syriza to shut the lenders' doors, impose capital controls and halt imports.

It was a political decision - dressed up with technical flammery - and was arguably illegal. It is very hard to reconcile with the ECB's treaty duty to uphold financial stability. One plain fact is clear: technocrats brought an elected government to its knees.

We all know what the game was. Germany and its allies were determined to make an example of Syriza to discourage voters in any other country from daring to buck the system.

I doubt that this will work, even on its own narrow terms. Podemos remains defiant. It has accused the EU institutions and the Spanish government of committing an "act of terrorism".

It is, in any case, a double-edged strategy. Costas Lapavitsas, a Syriza MP, said the salient message of the past five months is that no radical government can pursue sovereign policies as long as it is at the mercy of a central bank able to switch off liquidity.

"It is now perfectly clear that the only way out of this is to break free of monetary union," he said.



The Most Glaring Flaws in Obama's Iran Deal

The Obama administration's nuclear agreement with Iran has major flaws that could dangerously undermine the long-term national security interests of the United States and its allies.

Although the administration entered the negotiations pledging to cut off all pathways to a nuclear weapon, the agreement amounts to little more than a diplomatic speed bump that will delay, but not permanently halt, Iran's drive for a nuclear weapons capability.

The agreement in effect legitimizes Iran as a nuclear threshold state.

Once key restrictions on uranium enrichment expire in 10 to 15 years, Iran will have the option to develop an industrial scale enrichment program that will make it easier for it to sprint cross that threshold.

The Daily Signal is the multimedia news organization of The Heritage Foundation.  We'll respect your inbox and keep you informed.

Iran used red lines and deadlines to wear down the administration, which played a strong hand weakly.

The administration undermined its own bargaining position by making it clear that it wanted a nuclear agreement more than Tehran seems to have wanted one, despite the fact that Tehran needed an agreement more for economic reasons.

The administration's downplaying of the military option and front-loading of sanctions relief early in the negotiations reduced Iranian incentives to make concessions.

This gave the Iranians bargaining leverage they have used shrewdly.

Iran dug in its heels on key red lines proclaimed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, while the administration's red lines gradually became blurred pink lines.

Iran's nuclear infrastructure is left largely intact. Centrifuges will be mothballed but not dismantled.

Iran's illicit nuclear facilities Natanz and Fordow, whose operations were supposed to be shut down under multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions, have now been legitimized, despite the fact that they were built covertly in violation of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.

Iran is essentially rewarded for cheating under the agreement. It gained a better deal on uranium enrichment than Washington has offered to its own allies.

Taiwan, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates were denied enrichment arrangements that Iran now has pocketed.

Instead of dismantling Iran's nuclear infrastructure, the agreement dismantles the sanctions that brought Tehran to the negotiating table in the first place.

This fact is not lost on our allies, friends and "frenemies" in the region.  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who understandably sees Iran's potential nuclear threat as an existential issue, denounced the deal as "a historic mistake."

Sunni Arab states threatened by Iran are likely to hedge their bets and take out insurance by working to expand their own nuclear options.  Saudi Arabia already has let it be known that it will demand the same concessions on uranium enrichment that Iran received.

The Saudis have begun negotiations to buy French nuclear reactors and this civilian program could become the foundation for a weapons program down the line.

Other Arab states and Turkey are likely to tee up their own nuclear programs as a prudent counterweight to offset to Iran's expanding nuclear potential, after some of the restrictions on its uranium enrichment program automatically sunset.

The end result could be accelerated nuclear proliferation and a possible nuclear arms race in the most volatile region in the world.

Another major problem is verification of Iranian compliance. The administration's initial insistence on "anytime/anywhere" inspections was downgraded to "sometimes/some places."

Iran has up to 14 days to weigh the requests of International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors. If it decides to object, its objections would be relayed to an arbitration committee that would have 7 days to rule. If it rules against Iran, Tehran would have another 3 days to arrange an inspection.

This gives Iran up to 24 days to move, hide or destroy materials sought by inspectors. This is far from a foolproof system, particularly in light of Iran's long history of cheating.

Sanctions relief is another potential headache. Tehran would benefit by the release of about $150 billion of its money frozen in overseas accounts. Ultimately the Iranian economy would be boosted by tens of billions of dollars more through a surge of oil revenues as oil sanctions are lifted.

This could help Iran reshape the regional balance of power and establish hegemony over Iraq, Yemen, important oil resources and oil supply routes.

Much of this money will go to fund the Assad regime, Hezbollah, Yemeni Houthi rebels, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other terrorist groups funded by Iran.

This would rapidly lead to escalation of the wars, shadow wars and civil wars already taking place around the Middle East.

The dangers posed by Iran's enhanced ability to finance global terrorism would be compounded by the administration's last minute capitulation on the U.N. arms embargo, which will be gradually eased if Iran remains in compliance with the agreement.

This would allow Iran to upgrade its conventional weapons through imports from foreign suppliers and enable it to more easily arm its foreign allies and surrogates.

The bottom line is that the Obama administration now has signed an agreement that will expand Iran's power and influence, strain U.S. relations with its regional friends, weaken long-standing non-proliferation goals on restricting access to sensitive nuclear technologies and contribute to the evolution of a multi-polar nuclear Middle East.



Wisconsin Supreme Court halts illegal  raids on conservatives

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has effectively killed the "John Doe" case which led to home raids and intimidation of a wide range of Wisconsin conservative activists.

Here is the key finding, which completely shreds both the legal theories and motives of the prosecutors, completely vindicates the targets, and praises those who fought back legally against prosecutorial misconduct:

"133 Our lengthy discussion of these three cases can be distilled into a few simple, but important, points. It is utterly clear that the special prosecutor has employed theories of law that do not exist in order to investigate citizens who were wholly innocent of any wrongdoing. In other words, the special prosecutor was the instigator of a "perfect storm" of wrongs that was visited upon the innocent Unnamed Movants and those who dared to associate with them. It is fortunate, indeed, for every other citizen of this great State who is interested in the protection of fundamental liberties that the special prosecutor chose as his targets innocent citizens who had both the will and the means to fight the unlimited resources of an unjust prosecution. Further, these brave individuals played a crucial role in presenting this court with an opportunity to re-endorse its commitment to upholding the fundamental right of each and every citizen to engage in lawful political activity and to do so free from the fear of the tyrannical retribution of arbitrary or capricious governmental prosecution. Let one point be clear: our conclusion today ends this unconstitutional John Doe investigation."

Andrew Grossman, who filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court case and who has served as counsel to Eric O'Keefe and the Wisconsin Club for Growth (two of the targets of the investigation) in various federal civil rights litigation against the prosecutors, provided me with the following statement:

"Today's decision puts an end to one of the worst abuses of power ever seen in Wisconsin law enforcement. The next step will be holding those responsible accountable for their actions. The Court's recognition that the John Doe was a politically motivated "dragnet" of Gov. Walker's allies provides strong support for Cindy Archer's civil rights action against the Milwaukee prosecutors and lawsuits by potentially any of the other John Doe targets".



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 and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

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


Sunday, July 19, 2015

Obama: Happy Ramadan?

Islamist Murders Marines in Tennessee

Thursday morning, my daily email from Barack Obama’s White House propaganda machine, a message to all Americans about Ramadan:

“Michelle and I would like to extend our warmest wishes to Muslims in the United States and around the world celebrating Eid-ul-Fitr. As Muslims mark the end of [Ramadan], they are reminded that [it] is a time to reflect spiritually, build communally, and aid those in need. While Eid marks the end of Ramadan, it marks a new beginning for each individual — a reason to celebrate and express gratitude on this holiday. … The morning of Eid is marked with the call to prayer echoing through cities and towns across the globe. Millions of people head to local mosques for special Eid prayers followed by festive gatherings, gift exchanges, and feasts among friends, neighbors and families. As Muslim Americans celebrate Eid across America, the holiday is a reminder to every American of the importance of respecting those of all faiths and beliefs. … Michelle and I hope today brings joy to all of your homes. Eid Mubarak! [Happy Blessed Ramadan]”

A few hours after receiving that email, a colleague was joining me for a board meeting in Chattanooga. At a stoplight near our meeting location, he heard what he assumed were fireworks leftover from Fourth of July celebrations.

Moments later, a vehicle sped by him in the median. That vehicle was driven by an Islamic terrorist assailant, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez. He had just fired on one military recruiting center with an AK-47, and was on his way to a second military post where he would kill four Marines: Sgt. Carson A. Holmquist, Staff Sgt. David A. Wyatt, Gunnery Sgt. Thomas J. Sullivan and Lance Cpl. Squire K. Wells. He also wounded three others: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith, who remains in critical condition, a police officer and a fifth Marine — the latter two in stable condition. Notably, Sgt. Sullivan was on Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran, who earned two Purple Hearts in combat there. What Islamist insurgents could not accomplish in Iraq, one of their adherents accomplished in Chattanooga.

I passed by the site of the first assault a minute after my friend — before police were responding to the scene. I regret that I was not there a minute earlier to witness Abdulazeez drive by, because I know the sound of gunfire and had a helluva lot more firepower on board my truck than Muhammad had in his convertible sports car. As it was, police would not catch up with the assailant until after his second assault, where they shot Abdulazeez dead.

The deceased and injured at both facilities were unarmed — federal military installations are “gun-free zones,” including thousands of locations that have no security force protection, such as recruiting centers.

A DoD directive signed by Bill Clinton in 1993 prohibits military personnel from possessing arms on military bases, installations or offices. In other words, if my active-duty son carried a weapon on his person or in his vehicle onto his military installation, he would be charged with a felony.

Notably, the directive stipulates an exception: “When there is a reasonable expectation that life or DOD assets will be jeopardized of firearms are not carried.”

After Islamist Abdul Hakim Mujahid Muhammad shot two Arkansas Army recruiters in 2009, and then Nidal Malik Hasan murdered 14 soldiers, security personnel and an unborn child at Fort Hood, Texas — and wounded 29 others — The Patriot Post made the case that military installations should NOT be “gun-free zones.” We insisted that Congress should immediately authorize weapons at all military installations that do not have their own security forces on station.

However, Obama and his then-Democrat controlled House and Senate would not act. Recall if you will that Obama refused to acknowledge that the Ft. Hood murders constituted an Islamist attack, and he denied combat death benefits or the awarding of Purple Hearts to families of victims there. Obama claimed it was “workplace violence,” and before the blood of our Patriots had dried he attempted to use that tragedy, as he always does, to further his gun confiscation agenda.

Once Republicans controlled Congress, they forced the issue, and the unarmed victims at Ft. Hood were duly recognized as combat fatalities and injuries. However, Obama’s DoD has yet to authorize military personnel at unprotected installations to possess the means to defend themselves against such assaults.

So, who was Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez?

Abdulazeez was a 24-year old naturalized U.S. citizen born in Kuwait, who had lived with his family in a quiet Chattanooga neighborhood since he was in elementary school. By most accounts, he was well-liked among his peers, both Muslim and non-Muslim, but came from a troubled home. In 2010, he traveled to Kuwait, Jordan and other unspecified areas of the Middle East and by many accounts, was “changed” when he returned. He graduated from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) in 2012 and was seeking employment as an engineer. In May of 2013, he was actually hired by a Perry, Ohio nuclear power plant and worked on sight there for 10 days until there were unspecified issues with his background check. In the last year, neighbors report that his whole family became increasingly estranged. His only run-in with police prior to Thursday, was a DUI in April of this year.

In 2010, Abdulazeez’s sister Yasmeen, then a freshman at the UTC, was interviewed in the local paper about the tensions between Muslims and some of their peers. When she suspected others were curious about her, she said, “I’m not afraid to go straight toward them and ask them, ‘Do you really know what Islam is?’” It is no small irony that she then claimed, “There’s this misconception that Islam is a violent religion. Muslims are actually peaceful.”

Bassam Issa, who heads the mosque, Islamic Center of Greater Chattanooga, was quick to call the assault an act of “cowardice and hate,” adding, “We don’t see our community center as a ‘Muslim community.’ We are Chattanoogans first, and we see ourselves as part of the larger community of Tennesseans grieving today’s act.”

So why did Abdulazeez get into his car and head out on a mission to murder American military personnel Thursday morning?

We may never have a clear answer because he was on nobody’s watch list, though it is clear that his attack was framed in his Islamic rants.

The Obama administration has placed so many “religious profiling” restraints on law enforcement that it is easy for an Islamist to slip through the net.

Yes, in recent months Islamist attack plans have been thwarted by law enforcement, but, as just acknowledged by FBI Director James Comey in his congressional testimony about the domestic terror threat last week, “We are stopping these things so far, through tremendous hard work — the use of sources, the use of online under covers — but it is incredibly difficult. I cannot see [the FBI] stopping these indefinitely.” Comey added, “So it’s no longer that someone who’s troubled needs to go find this propaganda and this motivation. It buzzes in their pocket. So there is a device, almost a devil on their shoulder all day long saying, ‘kill, kill, kill, kill.’”

Indeed, in an column last year, “Islamic Jihad — Target USA,” I rhetorically asked, “How concerned should you be?” In answer to that question, I wrote, “The most likely near-term form of attack against civilians on our turf will be modeled after the conventional Islamist assaults in the Middle East, bombings and shootings, as we have now seen in Paris, London, Berlin, Sydney, Toronto, Boston, New York and Washington. This type of attack is low tech but effective in terms of instilling public fear with the long-term goal of civil acquiescence.”

It is this type of attack that Director Comey knows will get by the FBI gauntlet.

In his hollow response to the assault, Obama said, “A lone gunman carried out these attacks.” He concluded, “We take all shootings very seriously.” Even though he knew the name of the assailant, he did not mention his name, much less “Islamic” or “Muslim.”

Obama, blinded by his own Islamophilia, would like for you to believe Abdulazeez was a “lone gunman,” a “lone wolf shooter,” in an effort to disconnect the dots between this assailant and radical Islam and assert that there is no connection between Jihadi attacks in the West and the rise of Islamic extremism in the Middle East. That assertion is patently false.

Describing Islamists as “lone wolf” actors constitutes a lethal misunderstanding of the Jihadi threat. Describing their attacks as “criminal activity” or “workplace violence,” and then claiming it’s a “gun problem” as Obama has done after all such incidents, denies the fact that ALL such attacks are tied together by Islamist association.

In every case, those ties include mentors in local mosques and among Islamist peers, and yes, “propaganda buzzing in their pocket saying ‘kill kill kill kill.’”

The fact is, the blood of our Marines here in Chattanooga is on Obama’s hands.

Why?  These dots are easy to connect.

In 2008, Obama campaigned on “ending the war in Iraq.” In 2011, having rejected the Bush strategy of establishing a status of forces agreement (SOFA) to secure our hard-won gains in Iraq and the region, Obama declared, “Everything Americans have done in Iraq, all the fighting, all the dying, the bleeding, the building and the training and the partnering, all of it has led to this moment of success. … We’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq.” In 2012, amid the cascading failure of his domestic economic and social policies, Obama centered his re-election campaign on his faux foreign policy successes crafted around the mantras, “Four years ago, I promised to end the war in Iraq. I did,” and, “al-Qa'ida is on the run.”

Obama’s Iraqi victory narrative was just one more of his BIG lies, and this one with catastrophic consequences.

What Obama did was ignite an entirely new and far more dangerous war, one that is spreading across the Middle East and North Africa, and into the suburbs of Western nations, including Chattanooga, Tennessee.

This was a devastating assault, not only for the families of our murdered Marines but on our entire proud Chattanooga community of military Patriots. Please join us in prayer for their families and for the young female Navy recruiter who remains in critical condition.

And a couple Footnotes:

1. Terrorism or not? According to Bill Killian, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee, the attack is “an act of terrorism.” According to Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, “I think he was radicalized by these individuals in Syria. This is a new generation of terrorists.” According to Ed Reinhold, FBI Special Agent in Charge, East Tennessee (Knoxville): “We have not classified it as an act of terrorism. … We have no indication that Abdulazeez was inspired by or directed by anyone other than himself.” (Given that this horrendous attack happened on Reinhold’s watch, perhaps he is not quite ready to be transferred to the Fairbanks Alaska office.)

2. After receiving Obama’s White House Ramadan message yesterday, today’s message made no mention of the Tennessee assault, but solicited funds for the Democrat National Committee so that our next president will expand entitlement handouts: “We’ve got to do all we can over the next few months to make sure we elect Democrats who will fight for every single American at all stages of life.” I note, clearly, Obama and his Leftists don’t support “every single American at all stages of life.”

3. Thinking back on the violence in Charleston and the diversionary rush to remove the historic Confederate battle flag from all commercial and public venues, including National Military Parks, will Amazon and other online retailers purge their inventories of any and all Islamic symbols? Apparently, some people commit horrendous acts of violence and terror under the Islamic banner. Of course not, because most Muslims in our midst are productive citizens and people of peace, and those citizens should not be cast in with the lot of Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, anymore than those of us who honor the symbols of our Southern heritage should be cast in with a racist sociopath who murdered innocents in Charleston.)



NYC very generous

 The $5.9 million settlement against the officer accused of killing Eric Garner was condemned Monday by of a top police union official for being obscene and politically motivated.

The record-high settlement was charged against Daniel Pantaleo, the police officer who allegedly choked Garner, a black man, to death in 2014. Garner was heard shouting that he couldn't breathe as he was wrestled to the ground. The incident made national headlines and sparked a debate on police using excessive force and institutional racism. At the time Pantaleo caught Garner selling untaxed cigarettes.

The city will be responsible for paying the huge settlement. Ed Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, called it shameful.

"Where is the justice for New York taxpayers?" Mullins told New York Post. "Where is the consistency in the civil system?"



A deliberately blind bureaucracy

 The Veterans Affairs Department's system for verifying whether a veteran is alive or dead contributes to costly or embarrassing errors, including compensation being paid to veterans who have passed away and records indicating they had visited doctors after they died, according to an internal VA report.

The report, a review of the VA's death eligibility system, found that the department's medical records system lists as active patients 2.7 million veterans who are, in fact, dead.

But the VA can't expunge them from their rolls because the death notices came from sources such as the Social Security Administration, Medicare, the Defense Department and other government entities that the VA does not accept as proof of death.

The VA accepts only actual death certificates, a record of a death at a VA facility or a notification from the National Cemetery Administration as sufficient verification to remove a veteran from the system, according to department officials.



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 and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

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)