Friday, October 16, 2015

New Australian PM squashes envious Leftist attack on his wealth

An interesting lesson in how to do that  effectively

MALCOLM Turnbull today acknowledged he and wife Lucy had been lucky and were wealthier than most Australians who worked harder than them. But the Prime Minister, the richest member of Parliament, made no apologies for his wealth: “We’ve worked hard, we’ve paid our taxes, we’ve given back.”

Mr Turnbull was responding to Labor attacks on his investments in funds based in the Cayman Islands, a tactic that has highlighted how well-off the Prime Minister has become.

He returned the attack, accusing Labor of taking Parliament down the “the avenue of the politics of envy”.

It was a strong response, which left the Labor benches quieter than they were when Opposition Leader Bill Shorten put the question to Mr Turnbull.

“I don’t believe my wealth, or frankly most people’s wealth, is entirely a function of hard work,” Mr Turnbull said.  “Of course hard work is important but, you know, there are taxi drivers that work harder than I ever have and they don’t have much money. “There are cleaners that worker than I ever have or you ever have and they don’t have much money.

“This country is built upon hard work, people having a go and enterprise.  “Some of us will be more successful than others, some of us are fortunate in the turn of business, some of us are fortunate in the intellect we inherit from our parents.”

For a second day, the Prime Minister took questions on his and wife Lucy’s investments — all declared in public and none considered illegal — and repeated his argument he had sent his money off shore to avoid a conflict of interest from Australian investments.

He said the investment vehicles had been selected by a New York-based Australian financial adviser Josephine Lyndon, who has managed that portfolio. He said: “Is tax being paid in Australia by Australians? In my case and in Lucy’s case, in the case of our family interests, the answer is absolutely yes, in full.”

And he turned on Labor’s leader Mr Shorten who, he said, “could be talking today about the economy, could be asking about growth, could be proposing some new ideas on innovation or enterprise”.

Instead, he said, Labor wanted “Just another wander down the avenue of the politics of envy, just another smear”.



Reporters Exploded Into Cheers When Bernie Sanders Said This

Bernie Sanders’ statement that Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified data is none of the voters’ business was met with a roar of applause…

…by the very reporters who are supposed to cover the story.

“The entire press room just exploded when Bernie said that about Hillary's emails,” tweeted Rubin Report host Dave Rubin.

“Audible clapping and laughter in the press filing room after Bernie Sanders' ‘enough of the emails moment,’” tweeted Yahoo News reporter Hunter Walker.

This is what state-run media looks like.



New Paper Destroys Obamacare Claims

President Obama likes to tout the success of the Affordable Care Act by quoting the number of Americans that are now insured, a funny verbal trick that disregards the number of Americans who were forced into paying higher premiums and losing the care they liked despite explicit presidential promises to the contrary.

At the end of the day, whether or not the program HAS insured more people is not nearly as relevant as whether or not more Americans are receiving a higher quality of care. According to a new paper, they're not:

    "In a new working paper, Wharton economists Mark Pauly, Adam Levine and Scott Harrington estimate how much better or worse off the non-poor uninsured are under ObamaCare. They measure the cost of the plans, the benefits of consuming pre-paid medical care and out-of-pocket payments without obtaining coverage. They conclude that, “even under the most optimistic assumptions,” half of the formerly uninsured take on both a higher financial burden and lower welfare, and on net “average welfare for the uninsured population would be estimated to decline after the ACA if all members of that population obtained coverage.

    In other words, ObamaCare harms the people it is supposed to help. This is not a prescription for a healthy, durable program.

    Markets have also been disrupted by a cascade of failures among the ObamaCare co-ops that were intended as a liberal insurance utopia. These plans were seeded with billions of dollars in federal start-up loans and were supposed to work like the credit unions or the electric collectives of the Depression era. No profits were allowed, advertising to introduce new products was restricted and industry executives were barred from management. As it turns out, attempting to outlaw expertise and incentives tends not to produce good results."

Is this likely to change people's minds? Probably not. Liberals will likely demand endless funding for this flawed model or, failing that, a total shift to a publicly managed government healthcare system. In the interim, the American taxpayer and the American health care consumer will suffer.



Why Not Just Get Rid of Labor Law?

While politicians seem to never tire of proposing new ways to regulate the workplace, I want to propose a radically different idea: get government out of the workplace altogether. If that’s too radical for you, here is a compromise proposal: allow parallel systems under which workers in the same industry can choose to work as employees or work as independent contractors in an essentially unregulated labor market.

Public awareness of the “gig economy” seems to have started with Uber, a company with 4,000 employees and 160,000 drivers who are not employees. A class action lawsuit in California seeks to have the drivers reclassified as employees so they can “get benefits” they are not now getting and be “protected” from employer abuse.

There are two big problems with this lawsuit: (1) it’s based on bad economics and (2) Uber drivers don’t want to be employees.

Let’s take the second issue first. I must have read a dozen editorials and news stories about Uber — all implying that we have a new class of workers who all of a sudden are being denied all the benefits of being employees, just like ….. hmmm … just like whom?

Did you know that just about every taxi cab driver in the United States is an independent contractor? That’s right. In this industry — that has been around for longer than any reader of this column has been alive — the drivers have never been employees. What makes Uber different is not that the drivers are independent contractors. It’s that Uber is using modern technology to compete in an industry that has become stodgy and insensitive to consumer needs.

Why are taxi cab drivers independent contractors? Because they prefer it. And so do Uber drivers. But how can that be? Employees get fringe benefits like health insurance and 401(k) matches. They are assured of a minimum wage. They get time-and-a-half for overtime — by law.

The answer is that the drivers — regardless of their formal education — are smarter than the news reporters and the opinion columnists. The drivers know there is only so much money you can get from the passengers. If some of this money goes for fringe benefits that means less take home pay. This insight has been confirmed by just about every economic study of the issue that has ever been done. Employee benefits and workers' wages are dollar for dollar substitutes. So becoming employees would not create any net gain for the drivers.

Meanwhile, there are tax advantages of not being an employee. Independent contractors, for example, can take deductions that employees typically cannot. And (ironically), since the tax relief for employer-provided health insurance is smaller than the tax credits being offered in the (Obamacare) exchanges for everyone who is earning a below-average income, millions of workers are actually better off buying insurance on their own.

The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 was passed at a time when the country was in the middle of the Great Depression. If there was once a need for it, that need has come and gone. Today we tell teenagers they can’t be employees if they can’t produce $7.25 worth of goods and services in an hour. But if you are an independent contractor — say an artist, actor, writer, musician and, yes, even a taxi cab driver — the federal government doesn’t care how much you earn.

Other labor market regulations work pretty much the same way. Employers can’t discriminate on the basis of race, religion, age and God knows what else. But if you are hiring a handyman for home repairs or a gardener or a maid or hailing a taxicab, you can discriminate all day and all night. If your employer supplies you with a ladder, there are all kinds of safety regulations that apply to it. If you work for yourself and supply your own ladder, it can be as safe or unsafe as your like.

Does this mean that the non-employees are at a huge disadvantage? No, it’s the other way around. As I explained at Forbes the other day, markets are better at dealing with these issues than government. The evidence suggests that Occupational, Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations have had virtually no impact on actual worker safety. And there is no evidence that antidiscrimination laws have affected the average wages of women, blacks, Hispanics or anyone else.

However, these laws and regulatory agencies do add to the administrative costs of employment. Independent contractors and their clients avoid those costs.

This may be one reason why the unregulated sector of the labor market is growing by leaps and bounds. Writing in The New York Times, Noam Scheiber notes that:

    The number for the category of jobs mostly performed by part-time freelancers or part-time independent contractors, according to Economic Modeling Specialists Intl., a labor market analytics firm, grew to 32 million from just over 20 million between 2001 and 2014, rising to almost 18 percent of all jobs.

Another study, commissioned in part by the Freelancers Union, estimates that about one-third of the work force, or 53.7 million people, now do freelance work, an increase of 700,000 from a year earlier.

All this is being helped along by a relatively new phenomenon: computer apps. Writing in The New York Times, Natasha Singer says:

    Ride-hailing apps like Lyft and Uber, odd-jobs marketplaces like TaskRabbit, vacation rental sites like Airbnb, and grocery-shopping apps like Instacart have clearly made travel, lodging, home renovation and dining more efficient for millions of people.

Add medicine to that list. Uber-like house calls are already available in several cities. Unless government gets in the way, they will soon be available to you.



Ending Life Is Great; Saving It, Not So Much

Leftists have always hearted death.  They are merciless killers whenever they get the chance

Just days after signing assisted suicide into law in California, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed “Right to Try” legislation. In other words, he told his citizens to drop dead. Right to Try is the idea that terminally ill patients should be able to access medicines that are certified as safe but have not yet survived the gauntlet of approval from the bureaucrats at the Food and Drug Administration.

So if you are terminally ill and suffering in California, the governor thinks it’s a great idea for you to commit suicide with the help of your doctor. If, however, you wish to try all avenues to avoid suffering and extend your life, well, tough luck.

Brown argued that the FDA already has a compassionate use program to meet this need, but it’s cumbersome to apply and very few people benefit from it. Brown’s seemingly clear preference for suicide here is not terribly compatible with Catholic teaching — a faith he loves to cite when it suits him. But California’s legislature passed the bill by large enough margins to override a veto, so we’ll see what happens.

On a final note, health care economics are going to play an increasing role in end-of-life decisions, and that may explain Brown’s move. Specifically, The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto observes, “What accounts for that inconsistency? Here’s one factor that may play a role: California is on the hook for millions of state employees' and retirees' generous medical benefits. When one of them receives a terminal diagnosis, it’s a lot cheaper to hasten his death than to attempt to prolong his life.”



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, October 15, 2015

Wealth, Poverty and Politics

By Walter E. Williams

Dr. Thomas Sowell, my colleague and friend, told me several years ago that he wasn't going to write any more books, but that was two books ago, and now he has just published his 45th.

The man writes with both hands, as can be seen from his website (, which lists his 45 books, 19 journal articles, 71 essays in periodicals and books, 34 book reviews, and occasional columns written in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Star, Newsweek, The Times (Britain) et al. Plus, he writes a semiweekly column for Creators Syndicate.

"Wealth, Poverty and Politics: An International Perspective" is a true gem in terms of exposing the demagoguery and sheer ignorance of politicians and intellectuals in their claims about wealth and poverty. Sowell discusses a number of factors that help explain wealth and income differences among people and nations around the world. They include geographical, cultural, social and political factors, which Sowell explains in individual chapters. Readers will benefit immensely from the facts and explanations laid out in those chapters, but here I want to focus on what I think is his most important chapter, "Implications and Prospects."

How many times have we been told that the rich are prospering at the expense of the poor? Sowell points out that most households in the bottom 20 percent in income have no one working. How can someone who isn't producing anything have something taken from him?

What about the supposed "paradox of poverty" in a rich society such as ours? Sowell says that this is a paradox only to those who start out with a preconception of an egalitarian world in defiance of history and have a disregard for the arbitrariness of government definitions of poverty. Poverty occurs automatically and has been mankind's standard fare throughout its entire history. It is high productivity and affluence that are rare in mankind's history and require an explanation.

Government definitions of poverty make talking about income gaps and disparities meaningless. If everyone's income doubled or even tripled, poverty would certainly be reduced, but income gaps and disparities would widen.

One of the biggest problems in analyzing poverty is the vision that the poor are permanently poor. A University of Michigan study followed specific working Americans from 1975 to 1991. It found that particular individuals who were in the bottom 20 percent in terms of income saw their real incomes rise at a much higher rate than those in the top 20 percent. An IRS study, covering the period from 1996 to 2005, found a similar result. Workers whose incomes were in the bottom 20 percent saw their incomes rise by 91 percent. Over the same span, those in the top 1 percent saw their incomes fall by 26 percent. The outcomes of both studies give lie to the claim that "the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer."

Sowell argues that another source of confusion in discussions of economic differences is the failure to distinguish between income and wealth. The use of the term "the rich" to describe people in higher income brackets is just one sign of confusion. Being rich means having an accumulation of wealth rather than having a high income in a given year. This distinction is not just a matter of semantics. Calls for raising income tax rates to make "the rich" pay their undefined "fair share" are an exercise in futility because income taxes do not touch wealth. Higher income taxes are a tax on people trying to accumulate wealth.

There are many other tidbits of information in "Wealth, Poverty and Politics," such as the impact of age on income. For example, only 13 percent of households headed by a 25-year-old have been in the top 20 percent, whereas 73 percent of households headed by someone 60 or older have been.

Dr. Sowell's new book tosses a monkey wrench into most of the things said about income by politicians, intellectuals and assorted hustlers, plus it's a fun read.



Staying the Course in Syria? Which Course?

For the past six and a half years, the world has witnessed failure after failure of Barack Obama’s foreign policy. It would be terrific if we had a president who understood how U.S. involvement or lack thereof can make a situation go from bad to worse. But we don’t.

During an interview with Steve Croft on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Obama insisted he would stay the course in Syria. “We are prepared to work both diplomatically and where we can to support moderate opposition that can help convince the Russians and Iranians to put pressure on [Bashar al-] Assad for a transition.” Obama then reaffirmed that he would not “reinsert [the U.S.] in a military campaign inside of Syria.”

When asked about the failure to train and equip Syrian rebels, Obama conceded the $500 million effort “did not work,” but he also argued, “I’ve been skeptical from the get-go about the notion that we were going to effectively create this proxy army inside Syria.”

Is that so? Remember his Sept. 10, 2014, national address, in which he declared, “[W]e have ramped up our military assistance to the Syrian opposition. Tonight, I call on Congress again to give us additional authorities and resources to train and equip these fighters.”

That doesn’t sound like he was “skeptical from the get-go.” In fact, he now says his next objective is — wait for it — to provide direct aid to existing, Pentagon-approved rebel units.

Obama insists he’s staying the course. What course? He set a phony “red line” on Assad using chemical weapons only to backtrack and attribute it to “the world” setting the line. He half-heartedly asked Congress to approve attacking Assad and then backed away in favor of throwing $500 million to train 5,000 rebels — of which only a handful were fully trained. Now he’s even stopped that program. Again, what course?

It bears repeating that Obama’s decision to withdraw from Iraq left a vacuum that was filled by the Islamic State. In Syria, Obama’s capricious strategies to remove Assad from power left a vacuum of a similar sort, which was also filled by the Islamic State, Russia and Iran. Remember though, Obama lectured in 2012 that Russia did not pose a threat. But Russia’s interests in the region are not the same as ours, so Russia is a threat indeed.

Writing an opinion piece for The Washington Post, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Defense Secretary Robert Gates assert, “The fact is that Putin is playing a weak hand extraordinarily well because he knows exactly what he wants to do. He is not stabilizing the situation according to our definition of stability. He is defending Russia’s interests by keeping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in power. This is not about the Islamic State. Any insurgent group that opposes Russian interests is a terrorist organization to Moscow.”

Despite Obama’s contention that Putin is weak, the Kremlin’s strongman is projecting power in Syria that has the major powers in the world on edge, including the United States. Further, as National Review’s Andrew Stuttaford explains, Putin’s intentions may be “to prove that Russia is a reliable ally to have in a tough spot,” and “to force a binary choice upon the West — Assad or ISIS.” All of this is humiliating to the United States, but hey, at least Obama is staying the course.

Historian Victor Davis Hanson offers this perspective: “Putin is sending a warning to the oil-exporting Sunni monarchies of the Persian Gulf, who are as rich as they are militarily weak: Russia, not the United States, is the new cop on the Middle Eastern beat.”

Hanson further notes, “If oil-rich and nuclear Russia and a soon-to-be-nuclear Iran can bully the Sunni monarchies, Putin’s new cartel may control the spigot of some 75 percent of the world’s daily export of oil.”

But don’t worry; the rebels in Syria will take care of business. It turns out the rebels who we armed may have played a part with Putin intervening in Syria. How so? Because one of the weapon systems with which we armed the Syrian rebels is the TOW missile. This is the most deadly anti-tank missile in modern warfare, and Assad’s armored vehicles have suffered substantial losses from it. Several Russian tanks have been lost as well, which explains why Russian aircraft has been targeting rebel fighting positions that are firing the TOW missiles.

Proxy war, anyone? Isn’t this reminiscent of us arming the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan with Stinger missiles in the 1980s to shoot down Russian aircraft? The decision to arm the Syrian rebels with these missiles is extremely worrisome because of the technology involved. Did anyone in this administration bother to consider what Islamic State jihadis will do if they get their hands on those missiles?

What about the U.S. fighter jets tasked with taking out Islamic State targets? Now that Russia is involved in Syria, our fighter pilots are under strict new rules to give way if Russian aircraft come within 20 miles of our aircraft. (By contrast, the British Royal Air Force has been given the green light to shoot down hostile Russian jets in Syria.) So give our pilots strict rules and declare that Russia’s strategy isn’t working. Thanks, Obama.

Finally, in case you missed it, China is moving warships into the Mediterranean, supposedly to fight the Islamic State. Given China’s general alliance with Russia, however, it’s hardly a mystery why they’re really there.

What is taking place in Syria right now is what happens when the U.S. is viewed by major powers in the world as being weak. It’s a geopolitical nightmare that will take a leader who projects strength to overcome. Perhaps a leader who doesn’t define leadership, as Obama did in his interview, as “leading on climate change.”



Tracking America's Suicide

Amidst a plethora of sensational news reports elbowing each other to seize first place in America’s national consciousness, there is a story that has lurked beneath media radar that teaches us much more about the status of our country than school shootings, Russian bombings in Syria, Iranian perfidy, Hillary Clinton’s makeover attempts, and Republican candidates' daily presidential gymnastics. It concerns an event that took place in Afghanistan in 2011, when a group of Green Berets, which included Captain Danny Quinn and Sergeant First Class Charles Martland, were faced with reprehensible acts that pitted them against some local officials in a classic episode involving a clash of civilizations.

It seems that Quinn and Martland were apprised of a situation involving an Afghan mother who was severely thrashed by an Afghan soldier who had kidnapped her son, chained him to a bed, and was repeatedly raping the helpless child whenever he felt the inclination. Quinn and Martland confronted the Afghan commander, who then laughed in their face, said that “it was only a boy,” and that Americans should find better ways to use their time.

But these Green Beret heroes wouldn’t stand for that. Martland proclaimed that they morally could not tolerate Afghan soldiers committing atrocities against their own people in the presence of U.S. forces, and the two men made their point clear by body-slamming the soldier and kicking him off the post. Whereupon the American soldiers “were reprimanded because they were told it wasn’t their place to intervene and they should properly observe Afghanistan’s cultural and relationship practices,” according to Representative Duncan Hunter (R-CA), a Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and has taken up their case against the Army’s outrageous decision. In fact, although Quinn has since left the military, Martland is currently fighting to keep his position before he is discharged, effective November 1.

Without question, these American soldiers represent the best that our country has to offer, sterling exemplars of moral rectitude and courage. However, they are currently facing an enemy that is arguably more insidious than anything they have faced so far on the battlefield. What enemy is that? It is the reigning multiculturalist ideology, a witch’s brew of moral relativism that over the past two generations has morally castrated Western civilization by expunging efforts to make principled judgments defending our values. At best, multiculturalists believe in nothing in particular. And as the West’s enemies know, something always beats nothing, and it doesn’t matter how reprehensible that something is. In short, multiculturalism represents the suicide of Western civilization.

Indeed, westerners could learn much from the approach taken by Sir Charles James Napier, a general in the British Army who was a commander-in-chief in India during the 19th century. When confronted by Hindu priests whose custom was to burn alive widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands, he is reported to have said:  “Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs.”

Wait a minute! you might say. Doesn’t this represent that terrible era when Western nations considered themselves morally superior to everyone else?  We now all agree how repulsive that was! Well, as a matter of fact, General Napier did live during that era, yes. With regard to claims of Western moral superiority, however, we might have asked the opinion of widows faced with immolation. Or, better yet, ask the boy whom that Afghan commander continuously raped what he thinks of that “custom.”

In fact, our judgments should be based on the values that have defined our civilization for the past two millennia, and not airily dismissed on the grounds of multicultural moral relativism. That means that Martland should be applauded and not condemned for refusing to “respect” a barbarous cultural practice, to which multiculturalism, which dominates nearly every aspect of Western life, can find no objection. This is why it represents the death knell of our civilization, from within and not from without, as presciently noted by another famous 19th century figure, Abraham Lincoln. "If destruction be our lot,“ he noted in his 1838 Lyceum Address, "we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”



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, October 14, 2015


Most of what I put up on my six blogs is a selection of what I see as good or interesting articles written by others.  But I also do a fair bit of original writing -- mostly debunking Leftist claims.  On GREENIE WATCH, I debunk some Warmist claim almost daily.  EVERY claim made in support of global warming is bunk so there is plenty for me to debunk there.  Yesterday I wrote something there that might please lovers of pumpkin pie.  Some Warmist said that warm weather would destroy pumpkin crops. I showed why that is nonsense.

But I am putting up this present comment to draw attention to two of my blogs which rarely feature debunking stories, but which have such stories up currently.

On POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH earlier today, I drew attention to an obscure piece of academic research from Britain which blows out of the water the feminist panic about an "epidemic" of rape.  There is no such epidemic, at least as it is usually conceived.

And on EDUCATION WATCH, I look today at a claim from the "Boston Globe" to the effect that Boston has an all-black school that produces results as good as Boston private schools.  Amid the mountain of reports showing a huge gap in educational attainment between backs and whites, we suddenly have one report claiming that they have found out how to bridge that gap.  It had to be bunk, of course, and when I dug down a bit, it surely was. The "Boston Globe" didn't mention it, but less bright students were systematically excluded from the school concerned.

Leftism is solid lies.

Why is the world ignoring a wave of terror in Israel?

By Arsen Ostrovsky

In the last week, my country, Israel, including our capital, the Holy City of Jerusalem, have come under an unprecedented wave of Palestinian terror.

A week ago, Eitam and Na’ama Henkin were brutally executed by Palestinian terrorists point-blank in their car. Their four children, Matan, 9, Nitzan, 7, Neta, 4, and Itamar, 9 months old, who are now orphaned, were still in the back seat and miraculously unharmed. Their lives are now irreparably altered.

Days later, two more Israelis were stabbed to death in Jerusalem. One of the men killed was holding his two year old child at the time. More lives and families torn apart.

Two weeks ago, Alexander Levlovitz, who was on his way home after Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) dinner, was murdered when Palestinian youths threw rocks at his car and he lost control.

Over the past 48 hours in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and virtually all parts of Israel, we have had over 150 terror attacks, including stabbings, shootings, stones thrown and vehicular rammings.

Yet somehow the international community is silent in the face of this terror onslaught against my people. Is our blood cheaper? Do Jewish lives not matter?  Let there be no mistakes, ifs, buts or maybes. We are being targeted for one reason and one reason only: we are Jews.

I understand Europe has a number of pressing concerns, including Islamic State and the wave of Syrian refugees, but what about us? Do we not count?

Many leaders, especially in Europe, are quick to condemn Israeli settlements, yet sure take their time to utter a muddied, equivocal word of condemnation against these terror attacks. Likewise human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty.

Then I look at some of the media reporting on these attacks, such as that from the BBC, and ask myself how on earth they can twist the facts and logic beyond a semblance of recognition to actually place the blame on Israel.

"Only when the Palestinian leadership unequivocally renounces terrorism and roots out and condemns all those who preach violence against Israel and hatred of the Jewish people, can there be hope for real peace."

Even more exasperating are those international leaders who, after only noticing the situation when Israel has the audacity to defend itself, then predictably call for us to exercise "restraint". Excuse me? Restraint?

Imagine for a moment if people were being mown down with cars, guns or knives by Islamic terrorists on the streets of central London, Paris, Washington or Moscow. How would leaders of those countries react?

Where are all those so-called enlightened liberals, who continue to call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against the Jewish State, but are silent in the face of Palestinian terror against Jews?

Israelis, like all people, have the right to live in safety and security, free from terror. And our government and security forces have an obligation to take whatever action necessary to ensure this.

The tension across Israel, especially Jerusalem, is increasingly palpable. Somehow this wave of terror feels different to last summer’s rocket barrage from Hamas. At least then we had the Iron Dome and time (albeit only 15 seconds) to find shelter. But it is something much more intimate and personal when a terrorist singles you out to kill you in cold-blood.

Many commentators and pundits are calling these "lone wolf" attacks. But how many lone wolf attacks does it take to constitute a co-ordinated wave of terror?

The bottom line is that attacks like these do not occur in a vacuum. Such acts of pitiless slaughter are the direct result of a pervasive Palestinian infrastructure headed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, indoctrinating hate, inciting violence and instilling a worldview justifying such gruesome acts.

Barely a week ago, Abbas gave an incendiary speech before the plenary of the United Nations General Assembly, all but giving a green light to this wave of terror.

In a speech on Palestinian TV on September 16th, Abbas proudly stated “we bless every drop of blood spilled for Jerusalem. With the help of Allah, every shaheed (martyr) will be in heaven.” He then added “Al-Aksa is ours and so is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. They [Jews] have no right to desecrate them with their filthy feet.”

And people still wonder where these terrorists get their motivation.

Not only has the Palestinian Authority failed to condemn these barbaric terror attacks, they have now, incredibly, sought to condemn Israel for defending ourselves. Abbas is surely giving new meaning to the term "chutzpah". Is this really a sign of a leader who yearns for peace?

Only when the Palestinian leadership unequivocally renounces terrorism and roots out and condemns all those who preach violence against Israel and hatred of the Jewish people, can there be hope for real peace.

As the PA continues to insist that the world recognize a Palestinian state, one must ask exactly what type of state it wants: one that teaches the virtues of peace, or incites and glorifies terror?

In a groundbreaking speech on Islamic extremism this July, the British Prime Minister David Cameron made clear, if you say “violence in London isn’t justified, but suicide bombs in Israel are a different matter” – then you too are part of the problem.”

To all those people who fail to condemn this Palestinian terror, or find ways to excuse, equivocate or minimize it, I say the same – "then you too are part of the problem."



Lower the drinking age

By Abigail R. Hall

This semester I am teaching a lot of college freshman. As I look out into my classroom I am excited for my students. They will get to participate in university life, make new friends, and try to figure out what to do when they enter “the real world.” It’s an exciting time in their lives. But looking at my students, I also worry. I worry that some will have problems adjusting. I worry that some will abuse their newly found freedom, and it will get them in trouble. I worry about the choices they will make. It concerns me that, at 18, they may make decisions with life-altering consequences and repercussions they can’t yet appreciate.

I think back to when I was a freshman in college. I was by no means a partier, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have memories of drinking the worst rot-gut whiskey in my friends’ dorm rooms and houses. (The warm cola chaser didn’t help.) The worst I ever suffered were hangovers, but others aren’t so lucky. Every year about 2,000 college students die from alcohol-related injuries. Rape and sexual assault are issues on many campuses, and alcohol often lurks in the background. About 25 percent of students report their drinking has resulted in academic consequences ranging from missing class and failing exams to receiving poor grades. Tragically, more than 150,000 students develop health-related problems from drinking.

With these statistics in mind, I say that I care deeply about my students and will gladly advocate changes to make them safer.

That’s why I support lowering the drinking age.

Given the data I’ve presented, my position must seem crazy. But the laws setting the minimum drinking age at 21 are classic examples of a well-intentioned policy with truly devastating unintended consequences.

In 1984 the National Minimum Drinking Age Act required all 50 states to raise their drinking age to 21 or face a 10 percent decrease in federal funding for highways. On the surface this seems like a good idea. The federal government, interested in preserving the lives and health of American youth, pushed states to adopt stricter guidelines on alcohol. But the story doesn’t end there.

Prohibiting a substance doesn’t make the market for it disappear. Just as the prohibition of drug use and prostitution has not stopped these activities, banning drinking for persons under 21 doesn’t stop 18-year-olds from drinking. Prohibition does, however, make underage drinking a lot less safe. By pushing that market for alcohol underground, people like my college students have to do their drinking in secret or risk getting caught, fined, and possibly jailed. They could face additional consequences at school.

The problem here is obvious. If a 21-year-old woman overindulges at the bar, the bartender, friends, or even other patrons can encourage her to stop. If she becomes ill or injured, someone is there to help.

But if the woman is 18 she can’t go to the bar. So, like many college students, she goes to her friends’ place or a party. If she becomes violently ill from overconsumption or something else happens, what options are available? The woman, unable to help herself, must rely on friends who are probably also underage. They are faced with the choice of calling for help and getting busted or trying to care for their friend themselves and hoping for the best.

Another problem is what economists call “potency effects.” Underage drinkers are more likely to consume stronger or greater quantities of alcohol at each opportunity than legal drinkers because they know they may be caught or not have regular access to alcohol. They “pregame” -- that is, drink -- before going out, knowing they won’t be served alcohol later. This behavior, encouraged by the drinking laws, is more likely to lead to alcohol poisoning and even death. In fact, of all underage drinking, some 90 percent is consumed through binge drinking.

People who care about the perils of alcohol should seriously consider supporting a lowering of the drinking age. While that policy won’t eliminate alcohol abuse among youth, it could save thousands of lives.



Health Jobs Dominate Terrible Jobs Report

No good words were used to describe last week’s Employment Situation Summary: “Every aspect of the September jobs report was disappointing,” wrote Michelle Girard, chief U.S. economist at RBS (quoted in Forbes). This is largely a repeat of the August jobs report, although those and previous months’ figures were also revised downwards.

One-quarter of September’s new jobs were in health services: 34,000 of 142,000 added to nonfarm payrolls. Of those 34,000 health jobs, 37 percent were in ambulatory facilities, and 45 percent in hospitals. This is a change from the past few months. Because of a long-term shift in the location of care, there are now almost seven million people working in ambulatory settings, versus just under five million working in hospitals.

We should hope September’s disproportionately high hospital jobs growth is idiosyncratic, and the trend to faster growth in ambulatory facilities is restored. Hospitals are very expensive facilities and have very concentrated lobbying power that they bring to bear to keep their payments higher than they would be otherwise. One of their most successful talking points is that hospitals are the largest employers in a community, which obviously attracts the support of politicians. As the health services workforce shifts to ambulatory settings, this talking point will lose its power.

Significant revisions to previous months’ reports are reflected in the longer term change (See Table II). Over the past twelve months, employment in ambulatory settings has somewhat faster (4.06 percent) than hospital employment (3.04 percent). The health services workforce overall has grown faster (3.17 percent) than the non-health workforce (1.83 percent).

Labor costs comprise a large share of health spending, which is less productive than spending in other parts of the economy. Unfortunately, continuing high growth in health jobs likely contributes to slow economic growth today and Obamacare’s failure to slow the rate of health spending.



FDA Driving Drug Prices into Stratosphere

Bloomberg Business has another story of a jaw-dropping price hike for a very old medical. In this case, Colchicine, a gout remedy so old that the ancient Greeks knew about its effects, used to cost about 25 cents per pill in the U.S. Then in 2010 its price suddenly jumped 2,000 percent.

How did this happen? Colchicine is one of a small number of drugs that were marketed in the United States before 1938. That year, Congress passed the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to require new drugs to be approved for “safety” as well as be “pure” (that is, not adulterated or misbranded, as had been required since 1906).

When the Act was amended in 1962 to require “efficacy,” drugs approved since 1938 had to be approved again. However, pre-1938 drugs have never had to be approved. In today’s parlance, they were “grandfathered.”

Or, at least they were grandfathered until 2006, when the Food and Drug Administration decided to cause the makers of those drugs to apply for approval under the 1962 standards of both safety and efficacy. This is called the Marketed, Unapproved Drugs Initiative and Compliance Policy Guide.

Winning approval requires very expensive clinical trials. Pre-1938 drugs are no longer patented. However, forcing them to go through the FDA regulatory gauntlet effectively gives their manufacturers’ exclusivity similar to patents. The FDA asserts the unapproved drugs were unsafe, citing a few examples. Nevertheless, it looks like the cure has serious side effects, suggesting the FDA has overstepped reasonable boundaries by requiring drugs used for almost a century to submit to regulation.



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, October 13, 2015

Blind rage when new Nashville bus line blocked at State level

I am putting up below a small part of a long rant in the Boston  Globe about a proposed dedicated bus road in Nashville.  The Democrat-run city had obtained a substantial Federal contribution to the cost with the rest to come from the city and the State.  The GOP-led State Legislature kyboshed the idea and the Globe is incensed.

I am putting this up because the entire rant is emblematic of Leftist thinking.  No attempt is made to understand or even find out WHY the GOPers blocked the project.  The GOPers apparently just acted to be malicious.  That the money might have been better spent elsewhere is not considered.  Bus lanes can work sometimes but often represent a lot of spending for little return.  They can also interfere with other traffic, causing wasteful bottlenecks

Because they don't listen, Leftists just see conservative  opposition to their schemes as totally unreasonable blockages and therefore explicable only as the actions bad men with evil motives.  They are always surprised to hear that someone might see a downside to their often hare-brained schemes.  We are just supposed to be starry-eyed at their brilliance.

The only evil motive they could come up with on this occasion was that some people in the richer end of town saw the project as likely to bring into their suburbs people from the poor end of town.  But no evidence is presented to say that that was likely nor is it shown that such objections were a factor in the decision.  They don't even show that the objectors were GOP supporters.  Many rich people these days -- Jews in particular -- vote Democrat, rightly seeing the Democrats as determined to get control of everyone -- including the "riff-raff".

America pays a high price for having one half of politics unwilling to listen to both sides of a question.  It engenders rage and hate

Karl Dean, a Democrat in his second term as this city’s mayor, had a few minutes to tell President Obama about his dream: building a “trackless trolley” line that would connect Nashville’s gentrifying east side with its ritzy west. He had spent years submitting applications for a $75 million grant, and he made sure the president knew about it.

Two months after that January 2014 meeting in Nashville, the dream seemed to be coming true. The White House announced that money for Dean’s project was in the president’s budget.

Unbeknownst to Dean, however, an extraordinary coalition was at work behind the scenes to take away the money before the check could be written. The local leader of a group created by the conservative Koch brothers helped write a bill that was introduced in the Tennessee Legislature by a sympathetic Republican lawmaker and that was designed to kill the project.

“I’m not used to having the state come in and try to crush us,” Dean said in an interview last month, on his last full day in office.

The tale of the trackless trolley is, on one level, a prosaic account of a fast-growing city struggling to pay for much-needed mass transit. But as the story unfolded, it became clear that there was something much deeper going on: a bare-knuckle city-versus-state fight at a time when the partisan divide between big cities — mostly run by Democrats — and state capitals, where the GOP largely holds sway, has reached a historic extreme. It showed how national politics, and secretly financed outside groups, can influence even local battles.

The 7-mile high-speed bus line, lyrically dubbed the “Amp,” was supposed bring together the disparate sides of Music City. Instead, it tore Nashville apart.

Zeroing in on this sort of local battle has become a key to success for groups such as Americans for Prosperity, the Koch-backed organization that counts its Tennessee chapter among its most effective.

What is clear is that the political ground is more fertile than ever for national groups to enter local fights. And it was exactly this divide that opponents of the Amp sought to exploit, pitting City Hall against the Capitol, two buildings sitting three blocks apart in downtown Nashville.

A system of Boston-style trolleys was deemed too costly, so Dean pitched the idea of a high-speed bus network on dedicated lanes, which some refer to as trackless trolleys, with the city’s east-west corridor as the first route.

The line would start in East Nashville, which is 39 percent African-American, and has more than its share of public housing, with half its families earning less than $38,000. It has lately become a gradually gentrifying haven for artists, musicians, hipsters, and working-class residents who make the city hum, in more ways than one.

The route would cross the Cumberland River and run along Broadway, past neon-bathed honky-tonks with their cacophony of country bands, near the historic Ryman Auditorium, and alongside the arena where the Country Music Awards are held. It would pass Lee Beaman’s auto dealerships and continue on West End Avenue past Vanderbilt before ending near a hospital complex.

That would bring it deep into West Nashville, where nearly one-third of families have an income more than $200,000, and 92 percent are white, according to census records. Just beyond the western terminus is Belle Meade, one of the nation’s wealthiest neighborhoods, where residents cross creeks to enter a park-like setting of rolling hills, emerald lawns, Tara-style mansions and French-influenced chateaus.

But some in the West End, in luxe neighborhoods such as Woodland, feared an influx. One resident, Edie Wenczl, elegantly dressed and wearing a string of pearls, stood during a 2012 public meeting on the Amp to declare her opposition.

“We don’t want the riff-raff of East Nashville in our neighborhood,” said Wenczl, who lives in what she calls a “precious” enclave of stately homes near the route’s western terminus, and explained in an interview that part of her concern was traffic on her street.

Rick Williams, the owner of Nashville Limousine Service for 15 years, also was aghast. He couldn’t believe it when he heard that taxpayer money would be used for the Amp.

“Is it my job to use tax money contributed by everybody to help a certain segment out, to say, you don’t want a car and responsibility of owning a car, or car insurance, is it my job to make transportation easier for you?” Williams said. He became chairman of a group he called “Stop Amp.”



Nearly 1,000 People Move From Blue States to Red States Every Day

The so-called “progressives” love to talk about how their policies will create a worker’s paradise, but then why is it that day after day, month after month, year after year, people are fleeing liberal blue states for conservative red states?

The new Census data on where we live and where we moved to in 2014 shows that the top seven states with the biggest percentage increase in in-migration from other states are in order: North Dakota, Nevada, South Carolina, Colorado, Florida, Arizona, and Texas. All of these states are red, except Colorado, which is purple.

Meanwhile, the leading exodus states of the continental states in percentage terms were Alaska, New York, Illinois, Connecticut, New Mexico, New Jersey, and Kansas. All of these states are blue, except Alaska and Kansas.

The latest Rich States, Poor States document (which I co-author), published by ALEC, the state legislative organization, finds that nearly 1,000 people each day on net are leaving blue states and entering red states. This migration is changing the economic center of gravity in America—moving it relentlessly to the South and West.

Travis Brown, the author of the indispensable book “How Money Walks,” shows that two of the leading factors behind this movement of human capital are 1) whether a state has a right to work law (half of the states do) and 2) how high the top income tax rate is in the state. Nine states have no income tax today, and they are creating twice the pace of jobs as are high-income tax states.

Data from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) show a similar trend. Each year the IRS issues a migration data report that examines how many tax filers (and dependents) in the year changed their residency and how much income was transported from one state to another. The numbers for the most recent year (tax filing year 2013) are gigantic and put the lie to the claim that interstate migration is too small to matter in terms of the wealth and economic opportunity in one state versus another.

In 2013, Florida gained $8.2 billion in adjusted gross income from out-of-staters. Texas gained $5.9 billion—in one year. Five of the seven states with the biggest gains in income have no income tax at all: Florida, Texas, Arizona, Washington, and Nevada. New York was again the big loser, with another 112,236 tax filers leaving and taking $5.2 billion with them. (So much for those TV ads trying to lure businesses into America’s 2nd highest taxed state with temporary tax breaks.) Illinois lost nearly 67,000 tax filers and $3.7 billion of income it can no longer tax.

I’ve never met a Democrat who could come up with even a semi-plausible explanation for why families and businesses are hightailing it out of blue states. They are leaving states with high minimum wages, pro-union work rules, high taxes on the rich, generous welfare benefits, expansive regulations to “help” workers, green energy policies, etc. People are voting with their feet against these liberal policies.

When I debated Paul Krugman this summer, I confronted him with this reality. His lame explanation for the steady migration from liberal North to conservative South was that “air conditioning” has made the South more livable. Americans are evidently moving because of the weather.

There are two glaring problems with this theory: California and North Dakota. In the last decade ending in 2013, 1.4 million more Americans left California than moved into the once-Golden State. It’s a good bet these California refugees didn’t leave for more sunshine or better weather.

And if warm weather is what is attracting people to the South—and surely there is some truth to that—why did the coldest state outside Alaska, North Dakota, have the biggest population gain in percentage terms in the most recent year? The answer is that workers went to get jobs created by the Bakken Shale oil and gas boom. By the way, California is one of the oil- and gas-richest states in the nation, but its “green” politicians are regulating that industry out of businesses. So much for caring about working-class Americans.

The latest Census and IRS data merely confirm what Americans can see every day with their own two eyes. Red states are a magnet. There’s a downside to this for sure. Conservatives have a legitimate gripe that as blue-staters come into their prosperous red states, they try to turn them blue. That’s happened in New Hampshire, where Massachusetts transplants vote for the left-wing policies they just fled.

But the underlying trend is unmistakable: Liberal blue states are economic dinosaurs. Will they change their ways before they go the way of Detroit and become extinct



The NYT defines what a ‘Modern Man’ is

The New York Times is not just the Paper of Record. It is, among so very many other things, the adjudicator of acceptable opinion, the arbiter of style, and the guide for the perplexed. It was thus with humble gratitude that males, all of whom are prostrate betas before the Times’ grand alpha, received the article that appeared last week in the Men’s Style/Self-Help section: “27 Ways to Be a Modern Man.” How would we know, if the New York Times didn’t tell us?

Brian Lombardi, the Times’ appointed oracle on what makes a Modern Man, is as gnomic and enigmatic as any of his Delphic predecessors. He tells us, for example, that “the modern man listens to Wu-Tang at least once a week.” My best guess as to what this could possibly mean is that it is a reference to the Wu-Tang Clan, which, I am informed, is “an American hip hop group from New York City, originally composed of East Coast rappers RZA, GZA, Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, U-God, Masta Killa, Cappadonna, and the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard.”

That’s right: “the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard.” There are plenty of us still alive, but never mind. Brian Lombardi’s epigrammatic utterances include no explanation of why modern man must consult Wu-Tang weekly. There is no why. One does not question the oracle.

But then, there is this: "The modern man lies on the side of the bed closer to the door. If an intruder gets in, he will try to fight him off, so that his wife has a chance to get away."

Very well, but also: "The modern man has no use for a gun. He doesn’t own one, and he never will".

If Modern Man must never own a gun, that’s his choice. But he “has no use” for one? What if the intruder who storms his bedroom is too strong for Modern Man to fight off unarmed? What if the intruder has a knife — or is even so much of an Antiquated Man as to have a gun?

What can Modern Man do then? Reach for the melon baller that Lombardi advises he use to make sure  “the cantaloupe, watermelon and honeydew he serves” are “uniformly shaped”?

A clue as to how all this sage advice hangs together comes in the oracle’s penultimate utterance: "The modern man cries. He cries often".

Perhaps the Modern Man is so given to such displays because the intruder was indeed armed, and Modern Man wasn’t, and Modern Man’s wife had no chance to get away.


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, October 12, 2015

Russia Declares ‘Holy War’ on Islamic State


According to Vsevolod Chaplin, head of the [Russian] Church's Public Affairs Department, "The fight with terrorism is a holy battle and today our country is perhaps the most active force in the world fighting it.  The Russian Federation has made a responsible decision on the use of armed forces to defend the People of Syria from the sorrows caused by the arbitrariness of terrorists. Christians are suffering in the region with the kidnapping of clerics and the destruction of churches. Muslims are suffering no less".

This is not a pretext to justify intervention in Syria.  For years, Russia's Orthodox leaders have been voicing their concern for persecuted Christians.  Back in February 2012, the Russian church described to Vladimir Putin the horrific treatment Christians are experiencing around the world, especially under Islam:

"The head of External Church Relations, Metropolitan Illarion, said that every five minutes one Christian was dying for his or her faith in some part of the world, specifying that he was talking about such countries as Iraq, Egypt, Pakistan and India.  The cleric asked Putin to make the protection of Christians one of the foreign policy directions in future.

"This is how it will be, have no doubt," Putin answered.

Compare and contrast Putin's terse response with U.S. President Obama, who denies the connection between Islamic teachings and violence; whose policies habitually empower Christian-persecuting Islamists; who prevents Christian representatives from testifying against their tormentors; and who even throws escaped Christian refugees back to the lions, while accepting tens of thousands of Muslim migrants.

Russian Patriarch Kirill once even wrote an impassioned letter to Obama, imploring him to stop empowering the murderers of Christians.  That the patriarch said "I am deeply convinced that the countries which belong to the Christian civilization bear a special responsibility for the fate of Christians in the Middle East" must have only ensured that the letter ended up in the Oval Office's trash can.  After all, didn't Obama make clear that America is "no longer a Christian nation"?

Of course, Russian concerns for Christian minorities will be cynically dismissed by the usual brood of talking heads on both sides.  While such dismissals once resonated with Americans, they are becoming less persuasive to those paying attention, as explained in "Putin's Crusade-Is Russia the Last Defender of the Christian Faith?"

For those of us who grew up in America being told that the godless communist atheists in Russia were our enemies, the idea that America might give up on God and Christianity while Russia embraces religion might once have been difficult to accept.  But by 2015, the everyday signs in America show a growing contempt for Christianity, under the first president whose very claims of being a Christian are questionable.

The exact opposite trend is happening for Russia and its leaders-a return to Christian roots.

Indeed, growing numbers of Americans who have no special love for Russia or Orthodoxy-from billionaire capitalist Donald Trump to evangelical Christians-are being won over by Putin's frank talk and actions.

How can they not?  After one of his speeches praising the West's Christian heritage-a thing few American politicians dare do-Putin concluded with something that must surely resonate with millions of traditional Americans: "We must protect Russia from that which has destroyed American society"-a reference to the anti-Christian liberalism and licentiousness that has run amok in the West.

Even the Rev. Franklin Graham's response to Russia's military intervention in Syria seems uncharacteristically positive, coming as it is from the head of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which for decades spoke against the godless Soviets:

"What Russia is doing may save the lives of Christians in the Middle East....  You understand that the Syrian government ... have protected Christians, they have protected minorities from the Islamists."

Should U.S supported jihadis ("rebels") succeed in toppling the government of Syria, Graham correctly predicts that there will be "a bloodbath of Christians":

"There would be tens of thousands of Christians murdered and slaughtered and on top of that, you would have hundreds of thousands of more refugees pouring into Europe. So Russia right now, I see their presence as helping to save the lives of Christians."

Incidentally, it's an established fact that the "good rebels"-or "moderates"-are persecuting Christians no less than the Islamic State.

When asked why the Obama administration is so callous towards the plight of persecuted Christians, Graham, somewhat echoing Putin, said the American president was more invested in promoting the homosexual agenda than he is in protecting Christians:

"I'm not here to bash the gays and lesbians and they certainly have rights and I understand all of that, but this administration has been more focused on that agenda than anything else. As a result, the Middle East is burning and you have more refugees moving today since World War II. It could have been prevented."

In reality, it's not Russian claims of waging a holy war to save Christians from the sword of jihad that deserves to be cynically dismissed, but rather every claim the Obama administration makes to justify its support for the opposition in Syria (most of which is not even Syrian).

There are no "moderate rebels," only committed jihadis eager to install Islamic law, which is the antithesis of everything the West once held precious.  If the "evil dictator" Assad kills people in the context of war, the "rebels" torture, maim, enslave, rape, behead, and crucify people solely because they are Christian. How does that make them preferable to Assad?

Moreover, based on established precedent-look to Iraq and Libya, the other countries U.S. leadership helped "liberate"-the outcome of ousting the secular strongman of Syria will be more atrocities, more Christian persecution, more rapes and enslavement, and more bombed churches and destroyed antiquities, despite John Kerry's absurd assurances of a "pluralistic" Syria once Assad is gone.  It will also mean more terrorism for the West.

Once again, then, the U.S. finds itself on the side of Islamic terrorists, who always reserve their best for America.  The Saudis-the head of the Jihadi Snake which U.S. presidents are wont to kiss and bow to-are already screaming bloody murder and calling for an increased jihad in Syria in response to Russia's holy war.

Will Obama and the MSM comply, including through an increased propaganda campaign?  Top Islamic clerics like Yusuf al-Qaradawi-who once slipped on live television by calling on the Obama administration to wage "jihad for Allah" against Assad-seem to think so.  Already the U.S. "welcomes" the new cruel joke that Saudi Arabia, one of the absolute worst human rights violators, will head a U.N. human rights panel.

At day's end and all Realpolitik aside, there is no denying reality: what the United States and its Western allies have wrought in the Middle East-culminating with the rise of a bloodthirsty caliphate and the worst atrocities of the 21st century-is as unholy as Russia's resolve to fight it is holy.



7 Times Obama Ignored the Law to Impose His Executive Will

President Obama—the imperial President, the “I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone” president who can’t wait to show us his “year of action”—once vowed to do exactly the opposite.

"The biggest problems that we’re facing right now have to do with George Bush trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all. And that’s what I intend to reverse when I’m President of the United States of America"

That was candidate Obama back in 2008. This comment somehow slipped under the radar for the past few years and resurfaced this week.

Proving the absurdity of this campaign promise, Heritage’s legal experts have put together a list of seven illegal actions the Obama administration has taken in the president’s unilateral drive for executive power.

If it seems like there should be more than seven, you’re on to something. It’s more complicated than you think to tell what’s illegal or unconstitutional when it comes to presidential power. Heritage’s Elizabeth Slattery and Andrew Kloster explain:

While it might not be possible to define in all instances precisely when an action crosses the line and falls outside the scope of the President’s statutory or constitutional authority, what follows is a list of unilateral actions taken by the Obama Administration that we think do cross that line.

1. Delaying Obamacare’s employer mandate

The administration announced that Obamacare won’t be implemented as it was passed, so employers with 50 or more employees don’t have to provide the mandated health coverage for at least another year (and longer if they play their cards right). Slattery and Kloster observe that “The law does not authorize the president to push back the employer mandate’s effective date.”

2. Giving Congress and their staffs special taxpayer-funded subsidies for Obamacare

It was uncomfortable for members of Congress when they realized that, through Obamacare, they had kicked themselves and their staffs out of the taxpayer-funded subsidies they were enjoying for health coverage. But the administration said no problem and gave them new subsidies. In this case, “the administration opted to stretch the law to save Obamacare—at the taxpayers’ expense.”

3. Trying to fulfill the “If you like your plan, you can keep it” promise—after it was broken

When Americans started getting cancellation notices from their insurance companies because Obamacare’s new rules were kicking in, the president’s broken promise was exposed. He tried to fix things by telling insurance companies to go back to old plans that don’t comply with Obamacare—just for one year. Slattery and Kloster note that “The letter announcing this non-enforcement has no basis in law.”

4. Preventing layoff notices from going out just days before the 2012 election

There’s a law that says large employers have to give employees 60 days’ notice before mass layoffs. And layoffs were looming due to federal budget cuts in 2012. But the Obama administration told employers to go against the law and not issue those notices—which would have hit mailboxes just days before the presidential election. The administration “also offered to reimburse those employers at the taxpayers’ expense if challenged for failure to give that notice.”

5. Gutting the work requirement from welfare reform

The welfare reform that President Bill Clinton signed into law in 1996 required that welfare recipients in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program work or prepare for work to receive the aid. The Obama administration essentially took out that requirement by offering waivers to states, even though the law expressly states that waivers of the work requirement are not allowed. “Despite [the law’s] unambiguous language, the Obama administration continues to flout the law with its ‘revisionist’ interpretation,” write Slattery and Kloster.

6. Stonewalling an application for storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain

This was another case where the administration simply refused to do what was required by law. An application was submitted for nuclear waste storage at Yucca Mountain, but “Despite the legal requirement, the Obama administration refused to consider the application.”

7. Making “recess” appointments that were not really recess appointments

Slattery and Kloster explain that “In January 2012, President Obama made four ‘recess’ appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, claiming that, since the Senate was conducting only periodic pro forma sessions, it was not available to confirm those appointees.” The catch: The Senate wasn’t in recess at the time. Courts have since struck down the appointments, but the illegitimate appointees already moved forward some harmful policies.

More: Slattery and Kloster list even more actions that, while they might not be illegal, are definitely abuses of executive power. That list includes imposing new immigration law by executive fiat and refusing to enforce more than one federal law.



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, October 11, 2015

Actor dressed as Hitler on the streets of Germany tells how people were pleased to see him

In a country being swamped by aggressive and hate-filled Muslims that the German government is just accepting, Hitler comes to be seen as the reasonable leader they now lack. It is not impossible for a moderate Western government to keep out incompatible minorities.  Australia has done it  -- see below.  But most Western governments are not moderate.  They bow down to head-in-the-sand Leftist thinking. They are extremists in their attitudes to differences between people -- they act as if there are no differences at all.  No wonder Hitler seems a reasonable man in that context.  Extremism begets extremism -- JR

An actor dressed as Hitler on the streets of Germany was begged to bring back labour camps, kissed and made to feel like 'a pop star' - casting an uncomfortable light on growing support for right-wing extremism in the country.

Oliver Masucci plays the Nazi leader in 'He's Back' ('Er ist wieder da'), a biting social satire by author Timur Vermes which was released in German cinemas this week.

However, it is not his performance, but the reactions of people on the street to 'Hitler' which have got the country talking as it prepares to welcome hundreds of thousands of refugees this year alone.

The film imagines what it would be like if Hitler was transported to the 21st century, and is interspersed with documentary footage which captures people's real reactions to seeing the 'dictator' on the streets

'He's Back' is based on Vermes' 'what-if' best-seller of the same name, published three years ago. In it, Hitler is baffled to find himself in a multicultural Germany led by a woman, Chancellor Angela Merkel.

He discovers TV chefs, Wikipedia and the fact that Poland still exists before he ends up a small-screen star, in a social commentary on society, mass media and celebrity hype.

But the film goes a step further than the novel, and intersperses the action with real life documentary footage - including footage of people welcoming back the despotic mass murderer with open arms.

In real life, Masucci - walking through the streets with a Hitler moustache and uniform - got rousing receptions from ordinary people, many of whom pose for 'selfies' with him.

The reaction horrified the actor, who revealed to the Guardian how he was made to feel like a 'pop star' when he arrived at the Brandenburg Gate.  'People clustered around me,' he said. 'One told me she loved me, and asked me to hug her. One, to my relief, started hitting me.'

Older people began pouring their hearts out to him, often voicing extremist views.  'Yes, bring back labour camps,' one person says to the 'dictator' in the film.

Masucci, best known as a stage actor, also told German daily newspaper Bild about his mixed feelings while shooting the unscripted scenes with people on the street.

'During shooting, I realised: I didn't really have to perform - people felt a need to talk, they wanted to pour their hearts out to a fatherly Hitler who was listening to them,' he said. 'I found it disturbing how quickly I could win people over. I mean, they were talking to Hitler.'

In the film, his character chillingly notes 'a smouldering anger among the people, like in the 1930s,' with visible satisfaction.

Masucci's Hitler also meets members of the populist-nationalist Alternative for Germany party and the neo-Nazi NPD, while the final scenes show news footage of far-right mobs and a rally by the PEGIDA movement, short for 'Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident'.

The release of the movie has touched off broad debate in a country where guilt over World War II and the Holocaust continues to influence political debate.

'A fake Hitler, a small moustache clearly helped people lose their inhibitions and... allowed insights into Germany's dark side,' found the daily Berliner Morgenpost, which added:  'The far-right ideology smoulders to this day and has found new forums... in the form of the Alternative for Germany and the PEGIDA movement.'

At the public premiere Thursday, a Berlin audience roared with laughter during the funnier moments, but quietened during some of the real-life footage.  One viewer, who gave her name as Angela, said: 'It was all a bit too forced. The film is playing too hard on the fear about Nazi ideology, and they only picked out the worst sequences.'

Another viewer, Tobias, was more disturbed.  'This is real,' he said. 'We need to debate this. It shows how easily people can be manipulated. This is the right moment, because the danger is here now.'



Australia is not much different from the USA but has become completely successful in keeping out illegal immigrants

All it needs is some real conservatives in power

AUSTRALIA’S tough border protection regime has stopped more than 650 “potentially ­illegal immigrants” arriving by boat in less than two years.

Federal Immigration Minister Peter Dutton revealed the figure yesterday as he warned that people smugglers were using Australia’s change of leadership from Tony Abbott to Malcolm Turnbull as an opportunity to drum up business.

Mr Dutton said the Turnbull Government remained committed to the existing policy and would “stare down” the threat posed by people smugglers.

“I want to reiterate today — in the strongest possible terms — that the resolve of the Prime Minister and myself, the whole Government, is to make sure that we don’t allow deaths at sea to recommence,” Mr Dutton said.

Operation Sovereign Borders commander Major-General Andrew Bottrell said it was now more than 430 days since the last successful people smuggling venture to Australia and nearly two years since the last known death at sea.

He said the most recent attempt was in August but the passengers and crew on that vessel were “safely returned” to their country of departure.

Mr Dutton, who visited the Christmas Island detention centre this week, said there had been a “transformation” in the make-up of the detainee population.

He said of the 285 people being held on Christmas ­Island, 125 were there as a result of visa cancellations, 57 were overstayers and just 96 were now “illegal maritime arrivals”. The largest nationality group was Iranians — 21 per cent of those detained.

Forty New Zealanders [Maori?] with criminal convictions are being detained on the island and face deportation. Several are appealing against their visa cancellations.

He added the Government was also in discussions with a number of countries about resettling those seeking asylum on Manus Island, but would not speculate on a possible deal with the Philippines.

“I think we’re best to discuss those issues in private with those partners,” he said.



ObamaCare Program Shorts Insurance Companies Billions

ObamaCare’s risk corridors were a lot more risky than what the federal government let insurance providers believe. In order to accomplish the goal of increasing the number of Americans covered with health insurance, the federal government created risk corridors, assuring insurance companies that they could sign up people usually too old, sick or poor for the level of insurance they were buying. ObamaCare would reimburse those losses, the government promised.

Last year, insurance companies asked to be reimbursed for $2.9 billion. On Thursday, the Department of Health and Human Services said it would only pay out $362 million.

Oops. Who will pay the ultimate price? It’s not the government, and nor will it be the insurance companies. CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans Marilyn Tavenner said, “Stable, affordable coverage for consumers depends on adequate funding of the risk corridor program. It’s essential that Congress and CMS act to ensure the program works as designed and consumers are protected.”

Add this to the list of problems that both sides of the aisle want to fix with Obama’s signature legislation. Better yet, scrap it and start over.



Another blow to the antioxidant religion

"Settled science" bites the dust again

Compounds hailed for their cancer-fighting abilities could in fact increase the risk of the disease, experts have warned.  Antioxidants could double the rate at which the most dangerous form of skin cancer - melanoma - spread, they said.

The findings come in the wake of other recent studies, which showed antioxidants hasten the progression of lung cancer.

Professor Martin Bergö, from the Sahlgrenska Academy, warned those people with cancer, or an elevated risk of developing the disease, should avoid nutritional supplements that contain antioxidants.

In January 2014, a study at the academy, part of the University of Gothenburg, demonstrated that the compounds aggravated the progression of lung cancer.  Mice that were given antioxidants developed additional, and more aggressive tumours.  Furthermore, experiments on human lung cancer cells confirmed the findings.

Given the well-established evidence that free radicals can cause cancer, the research community had simply assumed antioxidants, which destroy them, would provide protection against the disease.

They are found in many nutritional supplements, and are widely marketed as a means of preventing cancer.

However, follow-up studies at the academy have now found that antioxidants double the rate of metastasis - spread - in malignant melanoma.

Professor Bergö said: 'As opposed to the lung cancer studies, the primary melanoma tumour was not affected.  'But the antioxidant boosted the ability of the tumour cells to metastasize, an even more serious problem because metastasis is the cause of death in the case of melanoma.



For decades, governments steered millions away from whole milk. Another backflip coming up?

"Settled science" bites the dust again

U.S. dietary guidelines have long recommended that people steer clear of whole milk, and for decades, Americans have obeyed. Whole milk sales shrunk. It was banned from school lunch programs. Purchases of low-fat dairy climbed.

“Replace whole milk and full-fat milk products with fat-free or low-fat choices,” says the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the federal government's influential advice book, citing the role of dairy fat in heart disease.

Whether this massive shift in eating habits has made anyone healthier is an open question among scientists, however. In fact, research published in recent years indicates that the opposite might be true: millions might have been better off had they stuck with whole milk.

Scientists who tallied diet and health records for several thousand patients over ten years found, for example, that contrary to the government advice, people who consumed more milk fat had lower incidence of heart disease.

By warning people against full-fat dairy foods, the United States is “losing a huge opportunity for the prevention of disease,” said Marcia Otto, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Texas and the lead author of large studies published in 2012 and 2013, which were funded by government and academic institutions, not the industry. “What we have learned over the last decade is that certain foods that are high in fat seem to be beneficial.”

In 2013, New Zealand researchers led by Jocelyne R. Benatar collected the results of nine randomized controlled trials on dairy products. In tallying the tests on 702 subjects, researchers could detect no significant connection between consuming more dairy fat and levels of “bad” cholesterol. (Four of the nine studies included in the tally were funded by the industry. Those results were consistent with those of the trials funded by government entities.)

The same year, Otto and Mozaffarian, then both at the Harvard School of Public Health, conducted another study on the effects of milk. Their study sought to address a key weakness in the previous research.

One of the flaws of nutrition studies is that they rely on people to accurately recall what they’ve eaten over the course of a year. Those recollections are vulnerable to inaccuracy, especially for dairy fats which can be found in small amounts in many different foods. This inaccuracy may be one of the reasons studies have yielded contrary results on the link between milk and heart disease.

To improve estimates, Otto and Mozaffarian used a blood sample for each of more than 2,800 U.S. adults. Using the blood sample, they could detect how much dairy fats each had consumed. And over the eight-year follow up period, those who had consumed the most dairy fat were far less likely to develop heart disease compared to those who had consumed the least.



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