Sunday, January 06, 2019

Political correctness destroys medical research

I have just finished reading a just-out report of a generally very careful body of medical research that stretched over a 12 year period. (Assessment of Risk Factors and Biomarkers Associated With Risk of Cardiovascular Disease Among Women Consuming a Mediterranean Diet by Ahmad et al.). The work that went into it must have been immense.  Yet it is in the end no evidence for or against anything.

The auguries surrounding it were bad from the start.  It was a "Mediterranean diet" study and the Mediterranean diet myth was visibly wrong from the outset.  Countries like Australia have longer lived populations than any Mediterranean country despite having nothing like a Mediterranean diet.  A normal Australian diet, for instance, includes lots of fried steak, sausages, chops, sausage rolls, fries and burgers.  It's about as UN-Mediterranean as you can imagine. If national diets were a guide to health (a silly proposition in the first place), everybody should be eating lots of fried steak and sausages along with a generous helping of fries. But, still, the Mediterranean myth lives on. 

Anyway, this latest study of a large number of Americans who ate a more or less Mediterranean diet did report some benefit from that diet.  As soon as I saw that, I said to myself "Aha!  What's going on here?".  That was only a rhetorical question, however as I knew what I would find:  A TOTAL lack of demographic controls. I had to read right through the article twice to assure myself of that but it was so.

Yet probably the most consistent finding in medical research is that the poor have worse health.  And it's not much of a guess to say that poor Americans are the least likely to comply with a Mediterranean diet regime.  So what the research most probably showed was in fact the oldest finding in the book: That the poor have worse health.  There was no need to invoke diet at all to get the results reported.

So why was the research design so crashingly stupid and ignorant?   Political correctness.  Under the Leftist dogma that all men are equal, all talk of social class is deadly dangerous and probably "racist".  You could end your career by discussing it too frankly. So best not to mention it at all.  And medical researchers do regularly skip over it.  They do not even attempt to gather data on the income of the people they study. I gathered income data in my survey research career so it can be done.

So the majority of epidemiological research might as well not have been done.  By failing to apply basic demographic controls the authors rendered their conclusions moot.  We do not know whether their conclusions were right or not -- though a suspicion that most of the findings were simple class effects and not the effect of anything dietary or medical would usually be the safest conclusion.  All that work for nothing!

And I am not overgeneralizing from one study.  For 9 years I ran a blog that looked daily at the latest epidemiological research reports -- and, with very few exceptions, income was not controlled for.

Federal Appeals Court Hands Trump a Big Win, Allows Transgender Military Ban To Stand

A federal appeals court upheld President Donald Trump’s military transgender ban on Friday, lifting an injunction that prevented the government from limiting transgender military service.

The court ruled that the partial ban, which was announced but not implemented by the Pentagon, should not have been challenged, USA Today reported.

“The District Court made an erroneous finding that the (administration’s policy) was the equivalent of a blanket ban on transgender service,” the appeals court wrote, according to The Washington Post.

“The government took substantial steps to cure the procedural deficiencies the court identified in the enjoined 2017 presidential memorandum,” the panel said, according to USA Today.

The Trump administration had decided to allow those with gender dysmorphia to serve, but only if they served under the gender assigned to them at birth and not the one that they self identify with.

The ruling said the partial ban “plausibly relies upon the ‘considered professional judgment’ of ‘appropriate military officials,’ and appears to permit some transgender individuals to serve in the military.”

The decision was made by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and made up of judges appointed by Presidents Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

American Military News reported that while the ruling is in favor of the Trump administration’s ban, there will not be an immediate impact on troops because there are three cases in other courts where the ban is being challenged.

President Donald Trump announced the proposed policy on Twitter in July 2017.

“After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military,” Trump tweeted.

The president went on to say, “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you.”

A memorandum released in March 2018 expanded on the proposed policy and read, “Among other things, the policies set forth by the Secretary of Defense state that transgender persons with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria — individuals who the policies state may require substantial medical treatment, including medications and surgery — are disqualified from military service except under certain limited circumstances.”

The president’s announcement brought turmoil among LGBTQ activists, and the decision has been challenged multiple times since the initial announcement was made.

Shannon Minter, legal director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, called the recent ruling “devastating.” “Today’s ruling is a devastating slap in the face to transgender service members who have proved their fitness to serve and their dedication to this country,” Minter said, according to USA Today.

According to USA Today, dozens of transgender recruits have signed up to serve since Jan 1, 2018, when they became eligible and there are several thousand active-duty transgender troops.


The Woke Moral Panic of Today

2018 was a chaotic year. It was a chaotic year for the markets, for domestic and international politics, and for social mores. 2019 promises more of the same, if the end of the prior year was any indicator. And it promises something else: the continued rise of the Wokescolds.

Wokescolds are the new representatives of moral panic. We’ve seen plenty of moral panic before in the United States, from worries about violent video games, to concern about allegations of sex abuse at day care facilities.

But never have we seen a moral panic of the stunning breadth of today’s woke moral panic. It’s a moral panic that insists we change fundamental characteristics of our society, from biology, to language, to politics, to religion, to romantic relations, to art, to comedy.

We’re told that if we fail to rewrite biology to suggest there are more than two sexes, or if we don’t use preferred pronouns rather than biological ones, we will inevitably create emotional and mental instability among certain vulnerable groups.

We’re told that if we fail to silence members of groups who haven’t suffered sufficiently in the United States, we will be contributing to the perpetuation of power hierarchies that target minorities.

We’re told that if we don’t force religious people to violate their own standards in order to cater to those engaging in what they consider to be sinful activity, we will be bolstering religious oppression.

We’re told that the only proper type of sexual relationship is one initiated via contractual levels of affirmative consent, rather than mere affirmative body language or acquiescence.

We’re told that “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” and “The Philadelphia Story” are deeply troubling hallmarks of our sexist past (modern rap, replete with brutal degradation of women, is just fine, in case you were wondering).

And we’re told that if we consider politically incorrect jokes funny, we’re strengthening regressive stereotypes.

If we fail to abide by these new strictures, we will be attacked by the Wokescolds.

These “woke” inquisitors have apparently mastered the ever-shifting dynamics of leftist power politics and are willing to scour everyone’s online history and interpersonal relationships for signs of heresy. Once such heresy is uncovered, the Wokescolds truly go to work: They demand apologies from the supposed sinners and boycotts of those who refuse to disassociate from them. They discourage decent people from speaking up—better to stay silent so as to avoid the wrath of the Wokescolds.

The Wokescolds deliberately pick marginal cases—cases on which good people may be split. This allows the Wokescolds to consistently narrow the boundaries of safety for those who disagree with them.

The latest victim of the Wokescolds: Louis C.K.

Now, C.K. has a reprehensible personal history; by his own admission, he used his position of fame and power to lure up-and-coming female comedians backstage, where he would then ask them to watch him touch himself. C.K. has apologized for that behavior. But now he’s back on the road, and he’s beginning to make jokes again.

This must not be allowed, particularly when his jokes are about such taboo topics as gender pronouns and the alleged expertise conferred by experiencing tragedy. And so C.K. has been pronounced Unwoke.

See, before his #MeToo moment, he was sufficiently politically leftist to avoid the Wokescold wrath—after all, he once called Sarah Palin a “c—.” But now, C.K. must pay the price for not being sufficiently woke. Those who watch his comedy must be shamed. And we must suggest that he is no longer Funny.

Now, the difference between being funny and being Funny is that when you’re funny, everyone knows it—when you’re Funny, as defined by critics, you don’t have to be funny. You just have to be woke, like the awfully unfunny Hannah Gadsby. Real humor requires only satisfying the Wokescolds. We’ve all just been misdefining comedy for a few millennia.

If all this sounds dull, obnoxious, and frustrating, that’s because it is. And while the Wokescolds may win temporary victories, those victories will surely be Pyrrhic: As it turns out, we tend to like our biology, language, politics, religion, romantic relationships, art, and comedy.

The Wokescolds will certainly lose. But not before they destroy a lot of people and fray the social fabric nearly beyond repair.


How different are fascists and the Antifa, really?

So there’s this really whacked-out young lady just absolutely spitting high on rage with one of those weird Chelsea Girl fringe haircuts like skinhead molls used to wear back in the Age of Reagan and she is right at this moment very fixated on—and I am not making this up—kettle corn, that weird repulsive caramel-coated Dutch mutant popcorn varietal sold at state fairs and any place men in laced-up pirate blouses are gathered, and she’s just going on and on about it, screaming at the top of her skinny little lungs: “IT ’S SALTY AND SWEET! IT’S SALTY AND SWEET! IT’S SALTY AND SWEET!” and ain’t nobody listening, but that’s pretty clearly beside the point, psychically, from where this particular specimen is standing and chanting, working herself up into a kind of lathery confection-oriented trance as she contemplates the ineffable yin and yang of it all, kettle-corn-speaking.

I imagine that her head would explode if she found out that Oreo is making a kettle-corn-flavored sandwich cookie, and that it is—saints above!—vegan.

The kettle-corn girl is but one of many madcap escapees from the great mental ward of the Pacific Northwest out here making strange noises on the mean streets of downtown Portland on Election Night 2018, and her ecstatic om mani padme hum devotional to kettle corn is soon drowned out as her thuggish black-masked comrades begin their more straightforward and politically meaningful and considerably more comprehensible chant: “Whose streets?”

“OUR STREETS!” “Whose streets?” “OUR STREETS!” “Whose streets?” “OUR STREETS!” The thing is, the pointy-headed little black-shirted goons aren’t entirely wrong about that. The official target of tonight’s march is U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement—an agency within the Department of Homeland Security that some Top Gun–loving bureaucrat surely christened thus so that it could be called “ICE,” which sounds about 35 percent more jackbootilicious than you really want a law-enforcement agency serving a free people in a still-functional constitutional republic to sound. “Abolish ICE!” is the official theme of the evening, and the blackshirts return to it from time to time, but the real subject of tonight’s fugue is, pardon my Anglo-Saxon, “F*** THE POLICE!” which is developed in a kind of sloppy exposition in three or four different chants. “A-C-A-B!” “ALL COPS ARE BASTARDS!” “A-C-A-B!” “ALL COPS ARE BASTARDS!” “A-C-A-B!” “ALL COPS ARE BASTARDS!” And these absolutely are their streets, as the two neutered Portland cops following them dutifully around make clear.

The goons and thugs occasionally take a moment to amuse themselves by messing with the cops, screaming obscenities at them or committing flagrant but relatively minor violations of the law in front of them, daring them to do anything about it. The cops trudge and trundle on, calm as monks, pretending not to notice as the hoodlums pound on passing cars, block intersections, and menace bystanders.

At the most public of public spaces in Portland, Pioneer Courthouse Square—“Portland’s living room,” they call it—the goons encounter a little bit of counterprotest, not from sad incel Proud Boys or the Klan or simply from other pissant neo-fascists wearing slightly different-color shirts—but from a young black man who intuits, not inaccurately, that this is mainly a bunch of rich-white-kid play-acting by little runts who make pretty good thugs when confronted with people in wheelchairs or little old ladies—more on that in a second—but who are basically chickensh** poseurs who are DOWN FOR THE CAUSE only to the extent that it doesn’t stand between them and a soy latte and an MFA.

He says as much, at higher volume than probably is really necessary—and the weaselly little munchkin blackshirts who had just a second before insisted that ALL COPS ARE BASTARDS! and boasted of their control of the streets turn immediately to the police for help. And the police, damn their eyes, help: They evict an actual peaceable protester, if a loud one, from the public square—in order to make room for mask-wearing, law-breaking, little-old-lady-assaulting hooligans.

A police vehicle cruises down the street a respectful distance behind the mob. The purported lawmen inside announce over the loudspeakers that they are there to assure this rabble of miscreants that they are there to help the mob “exercise your First Amendment rights safely,” so please stay on the sidewalk and obey the traffic laws. Naturally, the mob responds to this by immediately stepping off the sidewalk and violating the traffic laws. Not that there’s any need to—they just want to remind themselves, and the police, that they can. Whose streets? That’s pretty clear.

On Portlandia, the mayor of Portland is played by Kyle Maclachlan (of Twin Peaks) as a goofy and generally earnest middle-aged municipal careerist trying to be cool. In real life, Portland’s mayor is Ted Wheeler, a sniveling little runt of a bureaucrat who professes to be “appalled” at the political violence that is now commonplace on the streets of Portland but complains that he is effectively unable to do anything about it.

When Antifa thugs attacked a march held by Patriot Prayer, a local right-wing group, police reported seeing people brandishing guns, clubs, knives, and pepper spray. They made no arrests.

Owing to one of the eccentricities of Portland governance, the mayor is also the police commissioner. The police chief, who bears the wonderful inaptronym “Danielle Outlaw,” answers to him, as of course do the police themselves.

According to Andy Ngo, a local journalist who has written for the Wall Street Journal and other publications about the Portland fascists who style themselves anti-fascists (and whose work on another topic appears elsewhere in this issue), the police are under orders to avoid creating “flashpoints,” meaning confrontations between police and hooligans that might look bad on video. “The police are getting pushed from all sides,” Ngo says. “The Right feels like the police allow anarchy to happen on the streets, and the Left says that the police are protecting the ‘fascists.’

The mayor’s constituents are people who are sympathetic to Antifa. He’s come out verbally very hard against the right-wing groups and has been inaccurate in his description of them, describing them as white supremacists, which I don’t think is a fair description of Patriot Prayer or the Proud Boys. When it comes to Antifa, sometimes he condemns their violence—but never their ideology.”

Mayor Wheeler did not avail himself of the opportunity to comment for this report. He did tell reporters after an earlier riot: “This is the story of Goldilocks and the two bears. The porridge is either too hot or it’s too cold. At any given moment in this city, the police are criticized for being heavy-handed and intervening too quickly, or they’re being criticized for being standoffish and not intervening quickly enough.”

Fair enough. If only Portland had some sort of city leader who in his official capacity might be relied upon to make such judgments and see them put into place through city policies. Perhaps an elected official something like what the Spanish call an alcalde.

The problem is most dramatically on display in Portland, but it is hardly limited to the city “where young people go to retire.” Everywhere pointy-headed progressives are given unchallenged power, the same thing happens: Berkeley surrendered to political violence, too, along with Washington and other cities and practically every college campus.

Peter Beinart, writing in The Atlantic, forthrightly described Antifa as a group of “people preventing Republicans from safely assembling on the streets of Portland.” And elsewhere, of course.

And in spite of the ridiculous rhetoric surrounding Antifa, this is very much a Democrats-vs.-Republicans issue. As the blackshirts marched through Portland on the evening of the 2018 midterm elections, Democratic-party workers and campaign flunkies wearing official IDs on lanyards around their necks stepped out of the Hilton and the other places where Democratic grandees gathered to watch the returns, pumping their fists and chanting along with Antifa, sometimes looking around at one another a little guiltily. Nice young well-scrubbed college-educated political professionals and volunteers cheering on a mob of masked terrorists explicitly committed to a campaign of political violence. Why?

Antifa, in Ngo’s estimate, is made up of “young people who are ideologues wanting to be heroes. With the ideological monoculture in Portland, people here really think that they are in some kind of cosmic battle with fascists. So whenever there happens to be a gathering of Trump supporters—and they do it in Portland to be provocative, coming from out of town to make a point—these people, who don’t have a lot of meaning in their lives, take to the streets to fight.” Ngo notes that the majority of them reject religion, suggesting that in street violence they have found, or tried to find, a substitute.

THE ‘crisis of democracy is not a peculiarly Italian or German problem, but one confronting every modern state. Nor does it matter which symbols the enemies of human freedom choose: freedom is not less endangered if attacked in the name of anti-Fascism or in that of outright Fascism.” So wrote the Freudian-Marxist social critic Erich Fromm all the way back in 1941. He knew whereof he spoke: Only a few years before, London had seen the so-called Battle of Cable Street, in which Oswald Mosley and his British Union of Fascists had attempted to march—lawfully, it is worth adding—through the city. They were attacked by thousands of anarchists, socialists, and union workers organized by the Communist Party and armed with bombs and other weapons, including bags of feces, a kind of low-rent biological weapon favored by their imitators today. They had to go through 6,000 police officers, many of them mounted on horses, to get to their enemies, and they did so, crippling police horses by tossing marbles under their hooves.

Antifa has hijacked the name of an earlier German organization, Antifaschistische Aktion, a front for the Communist Party of Germany, itself a creature of Moscow and no stranger to authoritarianism, political repression, and political violence. (The Communist Party of Germany was banned in 1956 by the same constitutional court that prohibits neo-Nazi organizations.)

Germany of course had some genuine fascists to fight, but, as in the Soviet Union itself, “anti-fascist” came to cover action against everything displeasing to the Kremlin. It probably is worth noting that these black-bloc hooligans do not always call themselves “Antifa.” The Portland march was organized by Abolish ICE PDX. Sometimes they call themselves “Smash Racism” or something else. But they are the same people, and their goal is the same: They are fascists, albeit fascists whose idol is the proletariat rather than the nation.

The helpful people at Merriam-Webster remind us that fascists seek “severe economic and social regimentation and forcible suppression of opposition.” Senator Warren pursues the former, and the blackshirts pursue the latter. Their efforts are perfectly complementary.

It is tempting to think of the street brawls between Antifa and the Proud Boys and their ilk as a kind of midget Battle of Stalingrad during which all good republicans should stand to one side and cheer for casualties. But it is more serious than that. Once political violence is out of the box, it is hard to put it back in.

Left-wing militias such as Antifa beget right-wing militias that cite the existence of left-wing militias as justification for their own, and on and on it goes. We have seen this before in many contexts, and it rarely ends well. The original German Antifa served an enterprise whose worldwide affiliates would murder some 100 million people in the 20th century alone.

But those were sober times. Our own are a little less so. If you want to see what a bunch of half-baked idiots and kettle-corn psalmists in a political march are up to, the easiest thing to do is to march around with them, as I did for a while in Portland. I do not look much like Tucker Carlson, and I remain, for the moment, able to blend in with such groups.

Which I did—and a funny thing happened: As the march began to peter out, a group of Antifa loitered for a bit on a street corner, and I loitered with them for a while, observing. And then I got tired and decided to bring my labors to an end and go on my merry. As I walked off, a contingent, apparently believing that we were once again on the move against fascism, began to follow me, pumping their fists and chanting, until they figured out that I wasn’t leading them anywhere. And thus did a NATIONAL R EVIEW correspondent end up briefly leading an Antifa march through Portland. Of course they followed me. They’ll follow anything that moves.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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