Friday, December 30, 2016
Political correctness and opioids
On Friday, Dec. 16 the Centers for Disease Control released its annual report of drug overdose deaths. The CDC reported that "rates of other opioids, specifically heroin and synthetic opioids other than methadone (likely driven primarily by illicitly manufactured fentanyl) increased sharply overall and across many states." By "sharply", that includes a one year increase in New York State deaths of 135.7 percent from fentanyl alone.
While the CDC report is certainly worth reading and consulting on the heroin epidemic, it is also seriously deficient. In seven single-spaced pages with academic footnotes, there is precisely zero discussion of the sources of the problem. The words "Mexico," "China" (source of fentanyl), "the border," "cartels" or "trafficking" do not appear. A reader coming to the issue cold would have no idea where this poison came from or how it made its way to "Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Ohio, Rhode Island and West Virginia," among other American states devastated according to the CDC.
On the same Friday, Dec. 16, running well over an hour, President Obama held his final news conference as president. In his opening monologue, the president made a tour de force of the world and the United States during his eight years in office. Although he mentioned some continuing social problems, heroin was not one of them. Five reporters from The Associated Press, Bloomberg and other major media outlets asked him questions. None of them asked about heroin deaths.
Still staying with Friday, Dec. 16, The Wall Street Journal produced an otherwise excellent Page 1 above the fold feature on the effects of the heroin epidemic on children who lose their parents. The story ran 67 precious inches of type and included three large color photos and two charts showing the rise in children placed with relatives or foster care due to the heroin epidemic. Again, the Journal's reporters failed to reference "Mexico," "China," "the border," "cartels" or "trafficking."
So, we're 0 of 3 on Friday the 16th. But maybe that was just an anomaly?
On Sunday, Dec. 18, The Washington Post ran its own feature on children caught up in the heroin epidemic - Page A-1 again but this time the coverage ran to 80 column inches and four color photos, taking up the entirety of two inside pages. It clearly dominated the Sunday edition of the paper and, just like the Journal's feature totally failed to mention the source of the problem. None of the magic words appeared.
It is actually possible to report on the heroin epidemic in a reasonable and professional manner. In mid-November, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) ran a multipart feature which was shown in the United States and is still on their website. They began in Mexico with a first segment called, "America's Heroin Trail: The Outdoor Factory that Feeds the U.S". Later segments followed the drugs over the border to their users and showed the death and destruction that heroin and fentanyl cause. All or nearly all the magic words appeared.
The BBC's production makes good sense: The problem starts here (Mexico and China). It goes through there (the Border) and it causes harm over there- New Hampshire or some other American State. To my knowledge, no American broadcast or cable network has ever done that, certainly not in recent years as heroin from Mexico and fentanyl from China have exploded on the American scene. To the extent that they have covered the issue at all, the American networks have exclusively focused on the suffering of the users and their relatives, just as the Journal and the Post did in the examples cited above. In one case, ABC did an hour long show, with their evening Anchor, David Muir, in the chair and he mentioned the word "Mexico" in one half of one sentence in Minute 51.
The response of the CDC, the Journal, the Post and the broadcasters is pretty common. The BBC's report is what is uncommon and, to its credit, The Washington Times has also covered the subject professionally.
Why, then did the CDC and the American journalists not live up to normal professional standards? The answer, I would argue, is the border. Once you start asking, "Well, how did this poison get here to kill American citizens?" you are on a slippery slope towards Mexico, China and the border. That then feeds right into the border security arguments of Attorney General-designate Jeff Sessions and President-elect Donald Trump. It's a direct shot with no sidetracks.
So political correctness prevails. If you don't ask the "how" question, you never reach the answer which is, "Without border security, there will be no halting the heroin epidemic." And, if you don't ask the "how" question, that means that political correctness is more important than American lives.
UK: Furious supermarket shopper is ordered to 'go and join another queue' by Muslim cashier who refused to sell him a bottle of wine because it was 'against her religion'
A father-of-three has hit out at Tesco after a Muslim shop assistant refused to sell him a bottle of wine due to her 'religious beliefs'.
Lee Saunders was trying to buy the rosé wine at a superstore in Feltham, Middlesex, when he was told to go to a different till by the worker, who was aged in her 20s and wearing a headscarf.
He was eventually served by a duty manager but criticised the supermarket giant for putting a member of staff in that position.
Mr Saunders, 35, told the Sun he was 'miffed and baffled' by the incident.
He said: 'If you apply for a job surely you've got to be able to do everything within the boundaries of that job.'
Mr Saunders had been at the shop to buy the £4 wine along with LED lights and an Xbox FIFA 17 game for his son, with the total coming to £55.
He added: 'It should have been made clear if they can't serve you certain items. There were no warnings or signs.
'She apologised afterwards, but she's been put in that position. It's not entirely her fault to be fair.'
A Tesco spokesperson apologised for the incident and said staff did all they could to resolve the situation. The spokesman said: 'We take a pragmatic approach if a colleague raises concerns about a job they have been asked to do. We apologise to our customer for any inconvenience caused on this occasion.'
The store confirmed the member of staff worked on a kiosk where alcohol is 'generally not purchased' and would request another colleague's help if the situation arose again in the future.
Merkel is punished for her open door refugee policy as backing for German chancellor's party crumbles amid surge in support for the far-right
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been punished for her open door refugee policy as new figures show support for her conservative CDU party continuing to crumble.
With 434,019 members at the end of last month the CDU has now slipped behind the social democrats with 13,000 people tearing up their party cards this year.
Many of them switched to the hard-right anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD).
The news was a little better for the centre left SPD which rules Germany as the junior partner in a coalition led by the CDU.
It has shed 9,000 members this year as a result of underwriting the migrant influx which brought with it terror and death to the country.
But when Donald Trump won the American election, and as support for extremism in the form of the AfD and neo-Nazis continues to rise, the party has been making up ground with 2,000 new members attracted in November alone.
It now boasts more members than Mrs. Merkel's party nine months before Germany goes to the polls in a general election in which she will seek a fourth term in office.
The AfD has capitalised enormously on the problems that the refugee influx has created in the country with nearly 5,000 new members in the past few months.
'Their enormous popularity lies witgh the policy failures of the old parties and the large vacuum that created,' said AfD's executive board member Georg Pazderski.
A new poll taken by the Forsa research group for Stern magazine showed 28 percent of respondents believing Chancellor Merkel's refugee policy was 'jointly responsib le' for the Berlin Christmas market attack on December 19 which killed 12 and injured 48.
And three quarters of all citizens - 76 per cent - assume that the terror threat and the security situation in Germany will play an 'important role' in the general election.
A total of 67 percent of respondents said they believed a debate on the subject of internal security during the election campaign would harm rather than help the chancellor.
The AfD, which trounced the chancellor in several key regional elections in 2016, is looking to gain seats in the national parliament for the first time next year.
But it is unlikely to get into power: the established parties look set to win again and have ruled out doing any deals that would give Germany's first hard-right political parts since 1945 any say in governing the country
Freedom of association isn't just for the Rockettes
LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE connected to Donald Trump, even the entertainment at his inauguration is generating controversy. The stories have been a godsend to the talk-shows and tabloids. But they have also provided a reminder of something too easily forgotten: Freedom of association is a vital human right.
According to news accounts, Jackie Evancho and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir are slated to sing during the inaugural festivities; Elton John and Andrea Bocelli have let it be known that they're staying away. The Radio City Rockettes will be part of the show — but any dancers who wish to opt out are free to do so.
Critics left and right have been lobbing attacks. Liberals on social media have inundated Evancho with hateful comments for agreeing to perform for Trump, while conservatives have mocked the entertainers steering clear of the Trump revels as "preening peacocks" choosing to "pout" because Hillary Clinton lost the election. Phoebe Pearl, the Rockette who posted on Instagram that she was "embarrassed and disappointed" at the prospect of dancing for Trump — or "#notmypresident," as she described him — was both praised and blasted after her message went viral.
The divisiveness doesn't stop with the inaugural entertainment. Heat Street reported that many Washington-area homeowners who had planned to rent out rooms through Airbnb pulled their listings once they realized that they wouldn't be sharing their homes with Clinton enthusiasts. "I have a visceral reaction to the thought of having a Trump supporter in my house," one owner said. "No amount of money could make me change my mind. It's about moral principles."
Others putting their money where their anti-Trump principles are include fashion gurus Sophie Theallet and André Leon Talley, who announced that they will refuse to dress Melania Trump, a former model, out of revulsion for her husband. "You make the choice to be in Trumpland or you make the choice to eject yourself from the horror of Trumpland," Talley told the New York Times. "I've made my choice not to be part of Trumpland."
There are also the artists who have publicly asked Ivanka Trump to remove their artwork from her walls, and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, who says he will boycott any restaurant in Trump's hotels.
I support them all — the singers who refuse to sing for Trump, the fashion designers who refuse to design, the landlords who refuse to rent, the dancers who refuse to dance. No one should be forced to play a role in a celebration they want nothing to do with, or to hire themselves out to clients they would prefer not to serve.
And if a caterer turns down a request to prepare the meals for Trump's inauguration? Or a florist declines to provide the floral arrangements? Or a calligrapher says "thanks but no thanks" to addressing the invitations? I'd back them, too, and for reasons having nothing to do with Trump or Republicans or inaugurations — and everything to do with freedom of association.
The right to discriminate — to choose with whom we will and won't associate — is vital to human liberty. A dressmaker who can't say no to a commission to design a gown isn't free, and it doesn't matter whether the gown is for a First Lady or for the brides in a lesbian wedding. A liberal baker who declines to create a lavish cake decorated with the words "Congratulations, President Trump" is entitled to as much deference as a black baker who declines to decorate a cake with the Confederate flag, or a Muslim baker who declines to decorate a cake with the message "No Muslim Immigrants."
Freedom of association, like all freedoms, isn't absolute. Common carriers, innkeepers, and vendors open to the public are barred by law from refusing to serve customers because of their race, religion, or sex, for example. But when it comes to providing personal services to others — whether the service is cleaning homes or singing the national anthem or taking photos — coercion is anathema. It would be ludicrous for the Trump committee to sue Andrea Bocelli or Phoebe Pearl to compel their involvement in the inaugural. It is just as ludicrous, or ought to be, to sue florists and bakers to compel their involvement in weddings they prefer to avoid.
Tolerance and pluralism are important values in a free society. So are choice and association. Your choices may not be mine; my preferred associations may not be yours. In a diverse, live-and-let-live culture, our differences are manageable — as long as government doesn't interfere. The state can't force Elton John to take a gig he doesn't want. It shouldn't be able to force anyone else to, either.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.