Friday, August 31, 2018

The ABC experience on the big screen

ABC can mean American born Chinese or Australian born Chinese.  Because of the large similarities between America and Australia, The experience of the Chinese people concerned will be very similar as between the two countries.

Australia has only one large minority and it is the Han, people from the major race in China.  Almost all overseas Chinese are Han so whether they come to Australia from any part of the world (Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia etc.) they will for that reason also have similar experiences in Australia. 

My son and I and some of my friends are all Sinophiles.  We see the Han as good and admirable people.  So I was both sad and glad about the story below:  Sad because the Han in Australia feel not fully accepted and glad that a movie did such a lot to alleviate that feeling.  I certainly would support more use of Han actors in Western world movies if it enables good people to feel more accepted.

I note that Hollywood often includes black actors in usually unrepresentative roles so surely Han people in realistic roles is not too much to expect.  With the commercial success of the movie below we may finally see that.

A small point of interest: As I have pointed out previously, there are a lot of partnerships in Australia between young Han women and Caucasian Australian young men. But you rarely see their progeny around.  Why?  Because Eurasians tend to have eyes that are not obviously Asian.  Their eyes are of a shape that falls  within the Caucasian range.  So a lot of the "Caucasians" you see about the place are actually half Chinese!  And since they also behave in a way that falls well within the Caucasian range, they should feel different only because they choose to, not because of any differential treatment by others

As one instance of that see below a picture of a recent "Miss Australia" winner, Francesca Hung.  She is half Chinese but that is not at all obvious

Wenlei Ma

WHEN I was younger, I loved to argue, which led to people asking why I didn’t become a lawyer.

I’d tell them I hated legal studies in high school. But what I left out of that answer is the other part, the part where my dad said to me years earlier, that it would be hard for an Asian woman in Australia to be a successful lawyer. That stuck with me.

It wasn’t a case of bad parenting — he never told me not to do something I wanted to and I was far too obstinate to listen even if he had. And I would never have had the discipline to make it through law school — when lawyers talk now, I start slipping into a microsleep.

What it was, and still is for many migrant families, is that sense of never quite belonging to the culture you live in, of never being comfortable enough to stick your head up and make yourself a target.

That has as much to do with how you see yourself as how others see you.

Growing up in Australia, I didn’t see myself on screen very often — it pretty much started and ended with Lee Lin Chin.

If you don’t see yourself represented in popular culture, you feel invalidated, consciously or subconsciously, and that’s regardless of whether a customer in Myer says to your face, “Asians are so cheap,” when you wouldn’t give her a free coat hanger (true story) — she’s getting pissy demanding a free coat hanger but sure, I’m the cheap one.

Desperate to fit in, to “assimilate” like so many other migrant kids, I set out to suppress my cultural background, never self-selecting as different, hoping no one will notice I wasn’t “one of them”. I was actually proud of being bad at maths because it meant I defied a stereotype.

That’s why Crazy Rich Asians is such a landmark movie for people like me — it gives us a sense of being seen, of being heard, of being mattered.

The multitude of Asian faces in a Hollywood movie isn’t something I’ve ever seen in a film before on a big screen in Australia, not since The Joy Luck Club, and 25 years is a long time to wait.


Starring Constance Wu, Michelle Yeoh and Henry Golding, the movie tells the story of Rachel Chu, an Asian-American woman who visits Singapore with her boyfriend, who happens to come from one of the richest families on the glitzy island.

The existence of a Hollywood-funded high-profile movie starring a cast of actors with Asian heritage, telling the story of an Asian-American immigrant is so significant. Ever since its American release, the internet has been swamped with personal stories of viewers crying in the theatre out of happiness, of feeling emboldened to reclaim their heritage.

“A lot of us internalise not being represented and we render ourselves invisible,” Constance Wu says over the phone from LA where the actor has resumed production on her sitcom, Fresh Off The Boat. “But by centring a major Hollywood movie around this experience, it sends the message that your story is worth telling, you’re not there to support everybody else’s story, you can have your own.

“I hope Asian-Americans and Asian-Australians, wherever, start to really take some pride and ownership of their stories because they’re great stories.”

Wu says it is important to stress the difference between Asian experiences and the experiences of the Asian diaspora across the world.

“I’ve had many people tell me, ‘My whole life, people assumed my culture was like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and it’s not,’” Wu says. “Not that there’s anything wrong with Chinese culture but it feels a little off when someone is telling you what your identity should be and it doesn’t fit.

“That’s why it’s such a relief to find a story that does sort of reflect your experience. Rachel is very American but she has Chinese roots and it’s the struggle between both of those elements which forms her identity.”

Even though the book the film is based on is more preoccupied with designer labels, flash cars and shiny baubles, the movie cleverly focuses on Rachel’s journey and the relationships she has with boyfriend Nick (Golding), friend Peik Lin (Awkwafina), Nick’s mother Eleanor (Yeoh) and her own mother Kerry (Tan Kheng Hua). The narrative choice grounds what could’ve been a fanciful tale, and makes it relatable.

Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu tells me: “Rachel’s journey felt very personal — an Asian-American going to Asia for the first time, and that could be anyone going to their ‘homeland’ for the first time, has this experience of going there and being seduced by scenes of food and people who look and talk like you.

“They welcome you as their family but they see you as different, you’re not a part of them. Then you come home with these two different identities and you feel the pressure to choose. That, for me, was the movie. It wasn’t about crazy rich Asians, it was Rachel’s journey, coming to grips with her own self-worth.”

Like Wu, Chu is an American-born second-generation immigrant whose parents hail from Asia, his from China and Taiwan, hers from Taiwan. Previously, he’s worked on movies that haven’t dealt with his heritage, most notably two Step Up films and Now You See Me 2.


For Chu and many of the cast, it was the first time they had been on a set full of people who looked like them.

Along with local Singaporean and Malaysian actors, its main cast came from all over the world: Golding, Gemma Chan, Jing Lusi and Sonoya Mizuno from the UK, Wu, Awkwafina, Ken Jeong, Jimmy O. Yang, Nico Santos and Lisa Lu from the US and even Ronny Chieng, Chris Pang and Remy Hii from Australia.

“We all implicitly understood each other,” Wu says. “You could just mention one thing about an audition and what kind of character they described and none of us had to explain the rest of the story because everyone on the movie got it, they’ve experienced it.

“Community is important because it makes you fearless, because you have a groundswell of support.”

For Melbourne-born Chris Pang, the cast became family. “We were instantly bonded together by the background of our history growing up,” he tells me. “As an Asian growing up outside of Asia we all share the same experience. We all share this desire to change the landscape and be part of a conversation. It’s a responsibility and if you’ve got the power to change it, you should.”

For Chu, working with Asians from all over the world also facilitated a kind of dialogue that enhanced the script as he was filming.

“We listened to each other. We took time and didn’t just bypass something because we didn’t understand it — it was a safe spot to talk about those things.

“With Constance, there was a line in the book about how her character Rachel says she didn’t date Asian guys. It’s funny in the book and there’s a context to it. But in the movie, it’s a throwaway one-liner, and it was in the script and she called me and said, ‘I don’t feel comfortable about this joke.’

“I said it was just a joke and it’s beloved in the book and fans will be upset if we cut it. And then I read it and was, ‘Oh, you’re right.’ And that’s the kind of conversation you can have when you have people involved who can call it out.”


Of course, with a movie like Crazy Rich Asians with the kind of hype, marketing and expectations it has, it’s not going to be without controversy. By being visible as a vehicle for Asian representation in the West, it’s come under criticism for not being diverse enough of the pan-Asian experience, a continent that stretches from East Timor and Indonesia in the south to Pakistan in the west to Mongolia in the north.

When the film premiered in Singapore, local critics slammed it for not being inclusive of all Singaporeans, especially the non-ethnic Chinese who make up almost a quarter of the population there.

That the movie is somehow expected to represent billions of people is unrealistic, but it also demonstrates how much Asian audiences in the West were crying out for this movie. When one movie finally comes along, everyone wants it to be part of their experience and is inevitably let down when it isn’t.

The commercial success of Crazy Rich Asians is proof movies don’t have to anchored by the same old crew to make money. When it opened number one in the US, it became the first rom-com in three years to make more than $US20 million ($A27 million) that first weekend.

It’s already raked in $US76 million ($A104 million) at the American box office over two weeks. Most significantly, its second week was almost as successful as its first, tallying only a 6 per cent drop in takings. For comparison, blockbusters typically drop more than 50 per cent on the second weekend.

But strong word-of-mouth has carried Crazy Rich Asians and while Asian-Americans made up almost 40 per cent of its first weekend audiences, non-Asian viewers were packing it in by week two.

The movie’s studio Warner Bros (Crazy Rich Asians is distributed in Australia by Roadshow) has already greenlit a sequel, presumably to be based on the second book of Kevin Kwan’s trilogy.

Commercial viability is often cited as the reason why Hollywood won’t gamble big on movies that don’t have caucasian stars, though Black Panther with its $US1.3 billion ($A1.8 billion) global box office has certainly blown a hole in that argument.

“Crazy Rich Asians is another example of diversity being a commercial success,” Pang says. “There have been so many examples recently and it paints a clear picture that audiences want something new. They don’t want the same thing over and over again.

“There are communities out there that want to be included and represented. There’s a hunger there and if you’re not paying attention to that hole in the market, then that’s a bad financial decision.”

Best known for playing Lee in Tomorrow When The War Began and as Arban in Marco Polo, Pang moved from Melbourne to LA five years ago because he didn’t think a career as an actor in Australia would be sustainable.

“Australia has stepped up its diversity game since I’ve been gone and all these shows have come out. There are a lot more opportunities now than when I left but there’s still a long way to go.”

Here, while the ABC and SBS have launched a slew of projects starring Asian faces including Benjamin Law’s The Family Law, Ronny Chieng: International Student and Anh Do’s Anh’s Brush With Fame, you’d still be hard-pressed to find Australians of Asian heritage on commercial free-to-air TV outside of MasterChef or other talent-based reality TV shows.

A 2016 Screen Australia report into diversity on screen found that people with non-European backgrounds (namely Asian and Middle Eastern Australians) made up only 7 per cent of characters on Australian drama series, compared to 17 per cent of the actual population.

Pang is capitalising on the momentum created by Crazy Rich Asians and producing his own film, Empty By Design, which has just finished filming in Manila.

“It’s my way of taking the next step. I don’t want to rely on other people to come up with the next project.”


The reactions to Crazy Rich Asians have left the cast and their director pretty emotional. “It’s very moving to be part of something that means something to people,” Wu says. “I can’t even believe it. I feel so lucky.”

Lots of actors say they feel lucky to be involved with something but for Wu, when she says she’s feeling emotional, it’s genuine, there’s a hint of her voice breaking over the phone. It’s personal — she has real skin in the game.

And that’s why this movie is resonating so deeply. Because it touches at our very sense of self.

“Cultural identity is a difficult task to come to terms with whatever your nationality or background is,” Pang says. “It just makes it that much harder when you never see your own image. It gives you a complex and I know all my friends and peers have dealt with that in some way or other.

“When you’re growing up, you don’t know what’s right or wrong, you just know what is, and that you don’t see yourself represented so you feel like you don’t measure up, you feel lesser and that should never be something people feel, it’s outside of your control and it’s unfair.”

Overwhelmingly, those involved in the making of Crazy Rich Asians and those who have seen it feel a sense of hope — hope that it’s changing, that more stories like this will make it to screens both big and small.

Yeoh, who has worked on both sides of the Pacific in her native Malaysia, in big-budget Western movies including Tomorrow Never Dies and on TV as a starship captain in Star Trek: Discovery, tells me: “This is one of big early steps and I hope the steps will turn into sweeping strides.

“I think in the past, we didn’t speak out because we thought, ‘OK, to integrate into society, let’s just keep our heads down and do the right thing’ and people have had enough of not being proud of their heritage, not being able to share it.

“We have learnt to embrace our differences and our cultures and that’s what Crazy Rich Asians is touching on. Tradition and culture is important to each person, whether they’re Asian or African-American or of Latin descent or whatever it is. That will always be a part of your identity and you should be proud of it.”

Chu is already set to direct the sequel and with the glow of commercial success attached to this project, there’s no going back.

“We’re here. Our stories are going to be heard,” Chu says. “All the world’s eyes on us and it’s a rare opportunity to make a statement like this, for people to show up and make their voices known.”


The Royal family keep traditional British country pursuits alive

As a boy of 11, Prince Charles wrote breathlessly to his much-loved ‘honorary grandfather’, Earl Mountbatten, of his growing love for blood sports.

‘I have been having great fun shooting lately,’ he said. ‘Yesterday I got 23 pheasants and today I got ten and a partridge, a moorhen and a hare.’

He was, by then, already something of an old hand. From the age of eight, he had been allowed to accompany ‘the guns’ on shooting parties, walking with the beaters, listening to their conversations and learning the ways of the countryside.

While timid and withdrawn in many other areas, the young Charles was at home in the outdoors. He did not recoil from the sound of gunfire, nor from the death throes of a downed stag. As for Balmoral, where life for the Royal Family revolves around guns, stalking and fishing, there was nowhere else he would rather be.

So when it emerged this week that the Prince’s grandson, five-year-old Prince George, had attended his first grouse shoot on the heather-clad hills above the Queen’s Scottish summer retreat, it was the clearest sign of the passing of a royal tradition from one generation to another.

It was, after all, how George’s father Prince William had been introduced to the sport. William was just four when Charles and Princess Diana took him to his first shoot on the muddy fields of the Queen’s Sandringham estate in Norfolk.

As a teenager, William was deluged with complaints from anti-fieldsports campaigners after he brought down his first stag with a single shot, prompting the late Labour MP Tony Banks to brand it ‘disgusting’ that a 14-year-old boy was indulging in ‘blood lust’.

But, even allowing for such hyperbole, shooting has, for years, polarised opinion in Britain.

Prince Philip — who, in his younger days, was dubbed the ‘trigger happy prince’ — has never been allowed to escape the furore after he shot a tiger on an official visit to India, even though it was at a time when big-game shooting was both legal and an important part of fraternal diplomacy.

For the royals, of course, shooting is rooted in understanding the countryside and the delicate balance that is best protected by active management of the land. That means culling deer and hunting game. Without that, a lot of our countryside would fall into decay and disuse. In time, Prince George, a king-in-waiting, will come to learn about that balance, as both his father and grandfather did as young men.

When a short-trousered Prince of Wales took to the landscape around Balmoral, the gamekeepers and ghillies discovered in the young Charles not only a willing student, but a shared enthusiasm. It was also the one place where he got to spend time with his parents, riding out with his mother and accompanying his father on his shoots.

At nine, Charles shot his first grouse. A year later, Philip had taken him on his first duck- hunting expedition to Hickling on the Norfolk Broads. He was already a promising shot, having downed an elusive woodcock, when, aged 13, he bagged his first stag. It provoked uproar — as William’s did 35 years later — with letters in the Press attacking the royals.

While still a boy, Charles became adept at ‘bleeding’ and cleaning the carcass of a deer, before dragging it to a pony that would carry it down from the hillside.

William got his shooting eye potting rabbits on the Highgrove estate, before graduating to a 20-bore shotgun to shoot pheasants. To celebrate his admission to the University of St Andrews, Charles purchased a handmade sporting rifle for his son. The .243 calibre weapon was designed for a skilled shot. Left-handed William had already proved his ability with his first stalking kill on the Spittal at the western end of Loch Muick during a stay with the Queen Mother at her Birkhall home.


Hungary and Italy launch anti-migration plan and vow to 'exclude socialists and the left' in a bid to change the way the EU is tackling the crisis

This is a big step forward.  The Eastern European countries of the EU also oppose immgration from outside Europe but tend to be dismissed as "backward, due to their history of Soviet domination.  But Italy is not in that class and was one of the founding members of the EU.  And no-one can dismiss Italy as uncivilized  or unimportant

Hungary and Italy has launched an anti-migration manifesto with the aim of 'excluding socialists and the left' in next year's European parliament elections.

Hungarian nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Italy's hardline Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has vowed to work together to try to push for a more hardline approach to immigration within the EU.

The pair cemented their political ties in talks in Milan today, where hundreds gathered to protest their right-wing policies.  

'We agreed that the most important issue is migration,' Orban said, praising his own and Salvini's restricted approach on allowing asylum seekers into their respective countries.

Orban praised far-right Salvini was his 'hero' and claimed that 'the security of Europe depends on his success.'

Salvini said they were working to create a future alliance 'that excludes socialists and the left, that brings back to the center the values and identity' that their respective political parties represent. He said: 'We are near a historic change on a continental level.'

EU countries are expected to go to the polls in May, and Salvini has aligned himself with the right-wing 'Visegrad' countries: the Czech Republic, Poland, Austria and Hungary.

Salvini's meeting with Orban came shortly after Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte's more low-key summit with his Czech counterpart Andrej Babis, which also focused on migration.

'At the heart of the talks between the two prime ministers was a safer and fairer Europe as a common objective to work towards ... beginning with the key issues for European citizens: the fight against illegal migration, growth and work, and socio-economic stability,' a government statement said.

Salvini has repeatedly shot barbs at the EU ver immigration, accusing the bloc of having abandoned Italy as it struggles to deal with the hundreds of thousands of migrants who have arrived on its shores since 2013.

His antagonistic stance has drawn support from key figures of Europe's hard-right including Marine Le Pen and Orban, and critique from the centre and left, including French President Emmanuel Macron.

Macron has sharply criticised countries who refuse to cooperate on migration saying those who benefit from the EU but 'claim national self-interest when it comes to the issue of migrants' should have sanctions imposed on them.

Tuesday's meeting in Milan came just days after Italy's latest standoff with Brussels over immigration, which led to scores of migrants being held on a coastguard boat moored in Sicily for days until a relocation deal was struck enabling them to disembark on Sunday.

Salvini said he would continue to refuse NGO ships with migrants access to Italian ports, and brushed off an investigation into 'abduction' launched against him by prosecutors in Sicily. 'They won't make me take one step backwards,' he said.

Orban told reporters that he would not allow migrants to enter Hungary, and insisted that help should be 'taken to where people are in trouble, rather than bring trouble to us'. 'We need a new European Commission that is committed to defence of Europe's borders,' he said.

Migration is a hot-button issue in Italy. According to a study carried out by research body Instituto Cattaneo, 70 per cent of Italians believe that the percentage of non-EU immigrants among Italy's population of 60.5 million is nearly four times that recorded by Eurostat - seven percent as of the start of 2017.

Salvini's meeting with fellow hardliner Orban has exposed fractures in Italy's ruling coalition, which joins Salvini's League with the populist Five Star Movement.

His fellow Deputy PM and Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio has stood alongside Salvini in opposition to Europe's handling of migration from Libya.

Last week he threatened to pull Italy's EU budget contributions if more help didn't arrive and backed Salvini as he waited for nearly a week before allowing 140 migrants to disembark a coastguard ship docked at the Sicilian port of Catania.

But Five Star includes within its broad political ranks a left-wing faction uncomfortable with the party's alliance with Salvini.

Di Maio blasted Orban on Monday for putting up 'barbed-wire barriers' and refusing to do his part to help with migrants.

'As far as I'm concerned countries that refuse allocation of migrants should not be entitled to European funding,' Di Maio said in an interview in daily La Stampa.


Military finally drops charges against chaplain accused of anti-gay discrimination

In a surprising win for religious freedom in the military, the Army is finally letting a chaplain off the hook for refusing to violate his conscience and facilitate a marriage retreat for same-sex couples.

Scott Squires is a chaplain in Fort Bragg, N.C. As part of his job he conducted marriage retreats for couples called "Strong Bonds," but several months ago he declined to conduct a marriage retreat for same-sex couples. He believed this would violate his religious beliefs. Like all chaplains, Squires must follow the guidelines his endorsing agency establishes. In this case, his agency (the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention) forbid its chaplains from facilitating marriage retreats that include same-sex couples, due to their core religious beliefs.

Despite his refusal, Squires made sure another chaplain could help the soldier who wanted to be involved in this particular retreat. Still, the Army vowed to investigate and he was to face disciplinary action on the basis of sexual discrimination, if such discrimination was proven. Originally, an Army investigator recommended that Squires be found guilty of "dereliction of duty," a court martial offense that could result in prison time.

Last week, the Army announced that it has rejected the findings of an investigation and will abandon charges of "dereliction of duty" for Squires and his assistant, SSG Kacie Griffin. In a statement, Mike Berry, Deputy General Counsel and Director of Military Affairs to First Liberty, the firm that represented Squires, said, "The United States military is no place for anti-religious hostility against its own military chaplains. Chaplains like Scott Squires assistant Kacie Griffin do not have to give up their First Amendment rights in order to serve their fellow soldiers."

It’s unfortunate that members of the military, who fight to ensure our country’s liberties remain intact--and the chaplains who aid in this effort, of encouraging and preserving the spiritual and mental health of members of the military--even have to face discrimination charges when they’re only practicing their faith. Cases like this, and the investigation that followed, demonstrate a waste of funds and resources in the name of political correctness.

It’s imperative that the military and its resources remain focused on the task at hand – defending this country, here and abroad – rather than concern itself with whether a chaplain is discriminating against someone else’s right to a marriage retreat in violation of his own conscience. These issues are not only a distraction from the purpose of the military but a frivolous effort that cloaks political correctness in discrimination and requires members of faith to violate their conscience for another’s demands.


Australia: 'Would they do this if he was Muslim?' Public broadcaster is slammed for using taxpayer dollars to mock Prime Minister's Christian faith in comedy show

The ABC has been slammed after its comedy show Tonightly with Tom Ballard targeted new Prime Minister Scott Morrison's Christian faith.

The skit, performed on Monday night by comedians Bridie Connell and Wyatt Nixon-Lloyd, tried to connect the nation's refugee policy to Mr Morrison's religious beliefs.

A song by the duo, who dubbed themselves the 'Shadow Ministers', featured lyrics such as: 'ScoMo is under the spell of Jesus' charm, and kids are under safety watch for self-harm.'

Other controversial lyrics included: 'We love Jesus, Jesus, but not refugee-us' and 'to do what pleases Jesus, deny them all visas.'

Mr Morrison is Australia's first Pentecostal Prime Minister, and vowed in December last year to fight back against discrimination and mockery of religious groups. In his maiden speech, he said: 'My personal faith in Jesus Christ is not a political agenda.'

However, some have been quick to use it against him.

Many on social media were quick to defend the new Prime Minister, who is less than a week into his term.

On a Facebook response to the Tonightly act, one wrote: 'This is abhorrent editorial garbage. Completely disrespecting the views of many Australians and faith.' 'Would they do this if he was a Muslim?' another asked.

Their sentiment was seconded by Peter Kurti from the Centre for independent Studies.

'The show would probably not mock the ­religious beliefs of Ed Husic, Islam, or Josh Frydenberg, Judaism,' he said, the Daily Telegraph reported.

NSW opposition education spokesman, Jihad Dib said: 'I think once it gets into a personal issue about someone's faith … then I think we're going down the wrong path.'

According to the Daily Telegraph, an ABC spokesman defended Tonightly, saying it regularly satirised 'people in positions of authority, regardless of their race, gender or religious beliefs'.

Tonightly was earlier cancelled after two seasons, with its final show scheduled for September 7.

'Tonightly deliberately pushed boundaries to inform and entertain,' an ABC spokesperson said.



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


Thursday, August 30, 2018

Nationalism has been a dirty word for too long

Melanie Phillips (below) uses "nationalism" to mean pride in national identity and characteristics. In that sense, nationalism is not a problem. Many people, however, including myself, use "nationalism" in Orwell's sense, to mean a desire for one's own nation to conquer other nations. Hitler, Stalin and Americans in the "Progressive" era were nationalists in Orwell's sense while Scottish nationalists are nationalists in Melanie's sense. It is important to be aware of the distinction.

In Melanie's sense, nationalism is just an assertive form of patriotism, which is a normal human feeling. Humans do tend to identify with groups to which they belong. Note how football fans talk about "our" team and how "we" won or lost. If you dislike that you are at odds with most of the human race

And the common Leftist claim embodied in the term "ethnocentrism" is simply false.  Being in favour of your own group does NOT commit you to being against outsiders.  Many times in my research  career, I asked people their opinion about various outsider groups -- blacks, Jews etc. -- and also asked them about their feelings about their own country: patriotism.  The two types of attitude were always uncorrelated (See e.g. here and here).  Knowing how patriotic you were enabled NO prediction of your liking or disliking any given outsider group.  Given that lack of correlation, patriotism does not CAUSE racial antagonism.  Nor does nationalism in Melanie's sense

Nationalism in Orwell's sense seems mainly to be caused by the Leftist will to power. Democrat presidents got reluctant Americans into both world wars and Vietnam. George Bush invaded Iraq only in response to an attack on America. Germany and Vietnam did NOT attack America before America went to war with them. There is no particular need to explain a response to attack but invading another country does require explanation. The great invasion of C20 was undoubtedly Hitler's invasion of Russia. And Hitler too was a socialist with a very distinct will to power

The concept of the nation state is vilified but it is essential for personal freedom and democracy

Nationalism needs to sack its PR agency. As a political creed, it is widely deemed to be synonymous with fascism, Nazism, bigotry, war and the Holocaust. The Brexit vote, the rise of nationalist parties across Europe and the election of Donald Trump are said to exemplify “nativism” — which paints nationalism as a form of xenophobic racism — and to augur the arrival in the West of a new dark age of repression.

Now, a thinker has stuck his head into the very jaws of the lion by arguing that, on the contrary, nationalism is the bulwark of liberty and democracy. Yoram Hazony, an Israeli philosopher, is the founder and former head of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. This liberal arts college set out to challenge the failure of Israeli universities to teach the core texts underpinning Jewish identity and western civilisation.

Such failure is rooted in the default belief among progressive intellectuals in Britain, America and the rest of the West that their culture is innately racist and exploitative and that the nation state is responsible for all the ills of the world. This belief emerged in response to Nazism in Germany. That was ascribed to nationalism, said in turn to be a near-inevitable outgrowth of the western nation state. Undermine or circumscribe the nation state and you would abolish bigotry, hatred and war.

There are many different definitions of nationalism. In his new book, The Virtue of Nationalism, Hazony defines it as “a principled standpoint that regards the world as governed best when nations are able to chart their own independent course, cultivating their own traditions, and pursuing their own interests without interference”. The alternative, he says, is imperialism, which is inherently tyrannical through seeking to unite mankind under a single political regime.

Under the imperialist heading, Hazony includes liberalism, the EU and the postwar American “world order”, which sought to impose western legal norms through the global exercise of US military might.

By contrast, the mutual loyalties at the heart of the nation state, based on shared traditions of language, religion, law, culture and other characteristics, provide “the only known foundation” for tolerance and diversity, free institutions and individual liberties.

So, what about Nazi Germany? Hazony argues that Germany was not so much a nation state as a classic imperial power because it wanted to conquer all of Europe. A true nation state, he suggests, inherently requires limited borders because it is based upon the particularities of cultural identity. It’s demonstrably the case that bigotry or intolerance are not confined to the nationalist right. Universalist ideologies such as liberalism, Marxism and Islam have been shown to inflame vicious hatred against those who oppose them.

Some European nationalists do have troubling associations with Nazi or racist ideologies. Others are simply fighting to defend their national identity and culture against erosion by the combination of liberal “imperialists” and mass immigration. Yet all are demonised equally. This has resulted in a lethal confusion. People are entitled to want to live in societies that identify with a common heritage and goals. Yet this is now treated as racist, “nativist” and illegitimate by virtually the entire political mainstream.

In Britain and America, the Brexit and Trump phenomena constitute a mass revolt against this vilification of national identity. In Europe, millions of similarly disenfranchised decent citizens are voting for new parties offering them an end to mass immigration, along with a pledge to resist Islamisation and to defend their national identity.

Some of these parties do give cause for legitimate concern on account of some of their historical connections. Some supporters may be motivated by racism or anti-Muslim prejudice. In other words, racists, fascists and bigots may be piggy-backing on the frustration of those with a legitimate desire to preserve western culture. Their motivation, however, is not the same. Millions want to defend western national identity based on tolerance, liberty and one law for all. These values are threatened by mass immigration and multiculturalism.

Fascists or white supremacists don’t want to stop immigration in order to preserve western decencies. They are motivated instead by hatred of others, lust for power and denial of the core principles of civilised society. The disturbing thing, though, is that because all nationalism is equally damned as unconscionable, increasing numbers feel they have no alternative but to vote for such parties, however noxious they may be.

If the nation state fails to survive, western society will revert to premodern tribalism: group fighting group for power and supremacy and deploying coercive measures to stifle opposition.

We can already see this happening. The onslaught by liberal universalists on the nation state has produced totalitarian identity politics, victim culture and brazen antisemitism once again stalking the corridors of Britain and Europe. Far from preventing bigotry and intolerance, the delegitimisation of the nation state and the corresponding demoralisation of western culture has in fact fomented them.

The desire of the vast majority to uphold their historic culture and identity, with democratically elected legislatures passing laws reflecting that shared national project, is not a route to the destruction of liberty, tolerance and decency. It is, in fact, the only way to defend them.


Thousands of nationalist Saxons clash with riot police in East German city where man was stabbed to death 'by migrants' as vigilante mobs 'hunt down foreigners'

Several people were injured Monday as thousands of far-right protesters took to the streets in the eastern German city of Chemnitz where a knife killing, allegedly committed by a Syrian and an Iraqi, sparked racist mob attacks that were deplored by Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The right-wing protesters chanted 'We are the People' and the Nazi-era term 'Luegenpresse' (lying press) while displaying placards that read 'Stop the refugee flood' and 'Defend Europe', the latter adorned with an image of an automatic rifle.

Some carried banners or insignia of the far-right AfD and neo-Nazi NPD parties and other extremist groups, while a handful delivered the illegal right-handed Hitler salute, police said.

Left-wing counter protesters yelled slogans like 'Nazis out' and 'There's no right to Nazi propaganda,' at a larger group of right-wing demonstrators that retorted with 'We are louder, we are more' and 'Lying press.'

Of the estimated 800 people who took part in the first round of protests, about 50 were involved in violence and attacked police officers with bottles and stones, Chemnitz Police Chief Sonja Penzel said.

A Syrian teenager and an Afghan teenager were attacked in separate incidents but were not seriously hurt and a 30-year-old Bulgarian was also threatened, she said.

Penzel said police are still evaluating video footage and called for any witnesses to the violence to come forward.

Germany has denounced far-right groups 'spreading hatred on the streets' after hundreds of followers gathered to protest in the city of Chemnitz on Sunday.

Angela Merkel's spokesman said he condemns the groups 'in the strongest possible terms' after footage emerged of skinheads chasing a man of Arab appearance down the streets and throwing bottles at police.

He added that Germany would not tolerate 'vigilante justice'. 

Officers in riot gear pushed people back as they tried to get at those on the other side. The demonstrators from the right hurled bottles and firecrackers at the rival camp before starting off on a march.

Both groups took to the streets of Chemnitz after a 35-year-old German man was injured during a clash after a street festival and died early Sunday.  

A 22-year-old Iraqi and a 23-year-old Syrian have been arrested and charged with murder.

The stabbing happened around 3.15am on the sidelines of a street festival.

Police have denied rumours that the fight broke out after the alleged sexual harassment of a woman.

Prosecutor Christine Muecke told reporters Monday the slaying stemmed from a verbal confrontation that escalated. Two men were taken into custody - a 22-year-old Syrian citizen and a 21 year-old Iraqi citizen- and both were held on suspicion of manslaughter, Muecke said.

Initially around 100 people gathered after being urged on to the streets by a far-right football group who urged supporters to show 'who is in charge'.

While that demonstration passed off largely without event, a much larger group of 800 gathered later around a statue of Karl Marx, catching police by surprise.

During the violent demonstrations, marchers chanted 'we are the people! and 'this is our city!'

Following the demonstrations, Merkel spokesman Steffan Seibert said: 'We don't tolerate such unlawful assemblies and the hounding of people who look different or have different origins and attempts to spread hatred on the streets. 'That has no place in our cities and we, as the German government, condemn it in the strongest terms.

Tweeting about Sunday's incident, AfD politician Markus Frohnmaier said: 'If the state is no longer to protect citizens then people take to the streets and protect themselves. It's as simple as that!'

The violence in Chemnitz is likely to put further pressure on Merkel's conservatives, who last week faced accusations of ignoring the rise of far-right groups in the eastern state of Saxony, where Chemnitz lies.

Almost a quarter of Chemnitz voters supported the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party last year.

Merkel's decision in 2015 to let in about a million migrants, many fleeing wars in the Middle East, has fuelled support for far-right groups such as PEGIDA and the AfD, now the main opposition party in parliament.


Women don’t have penises

Britain it might soon be a crime to express this scientific fact

Is it now a crime to tell the truth in Britain? It’s heading that way. At the weekend it was revealed that Merseyside Police are making ‘enquiries’ into a trans-sceptical group that distributed stickers saying ‘Women don’t have penises’. Yes, that’s right: the police, the actual police, are investigating a group for expressing what the vast majority of people consider to be a biological, social, actual fact: that if you have a penis you are not a female. What next: arrest people for saying the sky is blue or that Piers Morgan is a muppet?

The stickers, shaped like penises, were produced by a so-called TERF group. TERF stands for ‘trans-exclusionary radical feminist’ – that is, a feminist who doesn’t think men who have a sex change are real women – but it is really just an updated, PC word for ‘witch’. When trans-sceptical women are denounced as ‘TERFs’ by hordes of irate identitarians online, they are really being branded disobedient bitches, women who really ought to know their place. The ‘TERFs’ distributed their heretical stickers in the Merseyside area, including on the Antony Gormley sculptures that make up his piece ‘Another Place’ on Crosby Beach, and all hell broke loose.

Twitter went into meltdown. This is a hate crime, they said. These people genuinely believe it is a hate crime to say women don’t have penises. Arrest all biology teachers right away! Twitter snitches, who are legion, grassed on the TERFs to the mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, who promised that he would get the police to ‘identify those responsible’ for these outrageous declarations of scientific truth. These sticker heretics are an affront to Liverpool’s history of ‘diversity’ and ‘equality’, he said. A fancy way of saying they are thoughtcriminals. And lo, the Merseyside Police duly got involved: ‘[W]e are aware of this matter and enquiries are being made.’

Consider what is being done here. Not only are the police making enquiries about the expression of an idea, which is something they should never do; but even worse, they are making enquiries about speech that simply said, ‘Women do not have penises’. But that is true. Or, to make a tiny concession to this era of relativism, this statement is considered by very many people to be true. If you have a penis, you are male. If you have a vagina, you are female. Of course people with penises should be at liberty to call themselves women and change their names and so on – but that doesn’t mean the rest of us have to accept that they really are women. They clearly are not.

How has it become so controversial to say this? Because the atmosphere around trans issues has become alarmingly stifling. Everything from saying ‘Women don’t have penises’ to having Scarlett Johansson star in a film about an alleged trans-man is now branded ‘transphobia’. Feminists who gather to discuss the Gender Recognition Act and the fact that it will allow almost anyone to identify as a woman are harassed, censored, and in some cases physically attacked. Woe betide anyone who turns up to a campus to raise questions about the transgender ideology: they can expect to be No Platformed by the moral guardians who govern student politics.

The end result is the truth itself has come to be outlawed. It is now genuinely risky to say that someone who has a penis is not a woman – that is, it is genuinely risky to engage in reasoned, rational discussion about sexual difference and biological reality. We are sleepwalking into a police state. In recent days the Metropolitan Police have decreed, in their infinite wisdom, that Boris Johnson didn’t commit a speechcrime when he criticised the niqab (the implication being that sometimes it can be a speechcrime to mock religion); the West Yorkshire Police threatened to arrest people who abused or mocked them on their Facebook page; and now Liverpool police are making enquiries about trans-sceptical speech. Every day people are arrested for so-called trolling. And a battery of laws, from hate-speech legislation to the Malicious Communications Act, is used to punish people for making off-colour jokes or saying super-rude things about MPs.

Enough. Get the cops out of public debate. Women don’t have penises, they just don’t, and it should never be a police matter to say so.


Federal Court: First Amendment Protects Sharing Food With Homeless People

In a colorful decision that managed to invoke the Boston Tea Party, Lady Macbeth and Jesus of Nazareth, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Wednesday that feeding the homeless is “expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment.” The decision revives a challenge brought by a local chapter of Food Not Bombs, which sued Fort Lauderdale, Florida for requiring a permit to share food in public parks.

Thanks to the city's ordinance, Fort Lauderdale has become infamous for cracking down on compassion. In 2014, police arrested a 90-year-old man and two ministers who were simply trying to share food with the homeless.

“We are very pleased with this ruling, and we look forward to continuing our community organizing in Fort Lauderdale,” Nathan Pim, a member of Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs and a plaintiff in the case, said in a statement. “We hope we are one step closer to something we've fought for over many years—simply being able to help people without being threatened with arrest by people who should be working with us.”

Every week at Stranahan Park in downtown Fort Lauderdale, Food Not Bombs offers free vegetarian and vegan meals to the public. Although many of the participants at these events are homeless individuals, Food Not Bombs is not a charity.

Originally started in the early 1980s by anti-nuclear activists in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Food Not Bombs protests war and poverty. Today, this network of social justice pacifists claims over 5,000 chapters worldwide. Writing for the court, Judge Adalberto Jordan explained that for the Fort Lauderdale chapter, “providing food in a visible public space” is “an act of political solidarity meant to convey the organization’s message.”

But in October 2014, Fort Lauderdale enacted an ordinance that bans sharing food in public parks, unless the hosts obtain a “conditional use permit” from the city. Event organizers also must comply with the city’s regulations for “social services facilities,” which cover “outdoor food distribution centers…used to furnish meals to members of the public without cost or at a very low cost.”

In February 2015, Food Not Bombs sued the city, claiming that the ordinance and associated park rule violated their right to free speech and free association, and were “unconstitutionally vague.” A year later, a federal district court dismissed their case, and held that their food sharing events were outside the scope of the First Amendment because they did not convey a “particularized message.”

But the Supreme Court rejected that line of reasoning more than two decades ago. In its 1995 decision, Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston, the High Court ruled that Massachusetts could not force veterans organizing a St. Patrick’s Day parade to include gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals.

Writing for a unanimous court, Justice David Souter remarked that “the Constitution looks beyond written or spoken words as mediums of expression” and that “a narrow, succinctly articulable message is not a condition of constitutional protection.”

If the First Amendment were “confined to expressions conveying a ‘particularized message,’” Souter argued, then the Constitution “would never reach the unquestionably shielded painting of Jackson Pollock, music of Arnold Schoenberg, or Jabberwocky verse of Lewis Carroll.”

With that as precedent, the 11th Circuit ruled that to determine if an activity is expressive or not, “we ask whether the reasonable person would interpret it as some sort of message, not whether an observer would necessarily infer a specific message.” So for the Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs case, “the circumstances surrounding an event often help set the dividing line between activity that is sufficiently expressive and similar activity that is not.”

As Judge Jordan noted, walking or sitting down aren’t usually considered “expressive conduct,” but they certainly convey a message in the context of a picket line, a parade, or a sit-in. Likewise, when viewed in their full context, the Food Not Bombs events are “more than a picnic in the park.”

Since the chapter's events are open to the public, occur against a backdrop of controversial homeless policies in Fort Lauderdale, take place near city government buildings, and involve “tables and banners (including one with its logo) and distribut[ing] literature,” the court concluded that a “reasonable observer would interpret its food sharing events as conveying some sort of message.”

“History may have been quite different had the Boston Tea Party been viewed as mere dislike for a certain brew and not a political protest against the taxation of the American colonies without representation,” Jordan wrote.

Having ruled that Food Not Bombs does  have a First Amendment right to share food, the 11th Circuit sent the case back down to the lower court to determine if the city’s ordinance violates those rights. The City of Fort Lauderdale did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“The court’s opinion recognized sharing food with another human being is one of the oldest forms of human expression,” said Kirsten Anderson, litigation director at the Southern Legal Counsel and lead attorney on the case. “We think this decision strengthens our message to cities across the country that they need to invest in constructive solutions to homelessness instead of wasting government resources on punishing people who seek to offer aid.”


Lauren Southern's visit to Australia

Under the heading "It’s OK To Be Right, But Careful What You Wish For Lauren Southern" there is an article in the far-left "New Matilda" by Dr Petra Bueskens, a Melbourne feminist, who offers several criticisms of Lauren Southern.  Her article is very long-winded, like most offerings in New Matilda, but I will try to pick out a few salient passages to reproduce below.

She has obviously been collecting for a long time examples of female assertiveness going well back into history and she spends a lot of time giving us those examples.  She uses those examples to claim that feminism is not a new thing and that it has always been influential in the development of Western civilization.

But there are two problems with that. The examples she gives are NOT representative examples of thinking in those times so any influence they had is purely conjectural.  The second problem is that she assumes that her feminine protesters in the past were similar to feminists today. I would argue that they are a totally different ilk.

Female protest througout history was protesting about formal rules and customs that limited the opportunities for women to show all their talents.  They protested discrimination against women.  Modern-day feminists are not like that.  They achieved equal opportunities long ago.  Testimony to that is the fact that there are now more female graduates than male coming out of our universities.

So modern day feminsts, having overcome discrimination, now discriminate against men.  They want equal numbers of males and females in all walks of life and are not at all slow to discriminate against men to achieve that.  If there is, for instance, a vacancy on a company board, feminists clamour for a female to be appointed, even if there is a male available who is better qualified for the post.  It is now males who are denied opportunities to show all their talents. Females are a privileged caste.

So modern-day feminists are hateful bigots.  And that is what Lauren protests about.  Dr Bueskens says Lauren cuts her nose off to spite her face when she criticizes feminists.  She does not.  She simply dissasociates herself from a gang of angry Harpies.  Females do perfectly well without the "assistance" of female haters.

And the follies go on.  Dr Bueskens says that the emergence of successful colonial societies such as Canada and Australia proves that multiculturalism is a good thing. It does not.  It proves that SOME immigrants can form an integrated society.  But that was never in question.  What disturbs many conservatives is that all immigrants are not equal and that some immigrants -- mainly Africans and Muslims -- just create problems for society while contributing little that is positive.  A big majority in the two groups mentioned are welfare dependent so do not even contribute their labour.

All men are NOT born equal nor are all immigrants . And all societies that I know of have criteria for who can be admitted and who cannot.  So Lauren is not going far in arguing that "indigestible" groups should be excluded where possible and their influence minimized.

Dr Bueskens sees Lauren only though the lens of her conventional Leftist prejudices, blindnesses, and contestable assumptions and therefore misses the real person.  I could go on to challenge more of her assertions but I am  in no doubt that I will never be able to clean out the Augean stables. But I think I have shown that, despite her lengthy article, she leaves out a lot of the relevant arguments and considerations.

Southern arrived in Australia wearing an ‘It’s okay to be white’ t-shirt, designed purely to stir controversy and point out what she identifies as an asymmetrical discourse on race. Her core message on this tour is that “multiculturalism doesn’t work”, with little attention to the fact that colonial settler societies like Australia (like her home country of Canada) were built on immigration.

One of the key platforms of Southern’s videos is that the discourse of “political correctness” has become an orthodoxy shutting down free speech, and that the left should respond with ideas and debate rather than with protest, aggression, public take-downs and no-platforming. On this we can agree!

It is something the globally famous intellectual Jordan Peterson has forcefully put on the map in the last two years. However, I invoke Peterson not because of his position on free speech or because, like Southern, he is a “darling of the alt-right”, rather it is to point out something he often says about people at the very beginning of adulthood: you know nothing!  While I am not in full agreement with him on this (I have a daughter Southern’s age), it is clear, for all her defensive protestations, she knows nothing about the history of “western civilization” and nor, for that matter, do Peterson or Molyneux if they cannot see feminism as an integral part of it. 

From Christine de Pizan’s The Book of the City of Ladies to the Querelle de Femme, from Mary Astell’s A Serious Proposal to the Ladies to Mary Wollstoncraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, from the bluestockings to the fight for the Married Women’s Property Acts, from the Seneca Falls Convention to J.S. Mill and Harriet Taylor’s The Subjection of Women, from the suffrage movement and the New Woman to Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex; from Betty Friedan’s ‘problem with no name’ to Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch we have the clear articulation of a feminist voice invested in reason and rights that is the very epitome of free speech marshalled against the prevailing orthodoxy.

In Southern’s infinite wisdom – though here she is following the ignorance that characterises the alt-right’s approach to feminism – she assumes that feminism had nothing to do with the creation of “the west”, by which she is mostly referring to the transformations in society and culture associated with the European Enlightenment. In fact feminism was an integral and defining voice! You weren’t anybody unless you were invited to Madame de Staël’s salon and all the well-known philosophes, with the notable exception of Rousseau, were “feminists” (though this of course was not a term in use at the time).

The other assumption – again commonplace on the right – is that feminism is anti-rationality and illiberal. This is patently absurd since it was the desire to have “Woman right” (as it was then called) and the vote enshrined in law that was central to early modern feminist campaigns, as was the desire to own property, including property in the person, and enjoy equal civil rights. 

It is interesting to me that Canada is producing so many of these social media stars: people who were once on the left or saw themselves as liberals and have now undergone a YouTube conversion and seen the alt-right light  – Jordan Peterson, Janice Fiamengo, Lindsay Shepherd and Karen Straughan, as well as more established stars such as Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux. In the US there is Sam, Harris, Dave Rubin, Ben Shapiro and, more recently, Candace Owens.  The so-called “intellectual dark web” of left-to-right converts (as well as left-to-critical left converts) is growing apace.

In any event, the twist in this narrative is that with the institutionalisation of progressive agendas, the new right emerge as the “radicals”, the one’s “shaking the joint up”.  Conversely, those shutting down free speech, the supposed progressives, become the face of the establishment, the arbiters of what is and what is not allowed to be said.  Hence the concerns – that I too share – about the left’s more recent propensity to shut down free speech on contentious issues.



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


Wednesday, August 29, 2018

UK: Take on more magistrates with criminal records to help improve diversity, law chief suggests

This must be the ultimate in "affirmative action"

More magistrates with criminal records would help increase diversity among the judiciary, the chairman of the Magistrates Association has suggested.

John Bache said that a more representative set of magistrates was needed in order to make those accused of crimes feel less alienated by the justice system.

"We all make mistakes, we all do things we shouldn't have done. But we want to increase diversity, and if we did say anyone who's done anything wrong ever isn't going to be appointed, that's no way at all to increase diversity," he told the Telegraph.

He said the fact the rules allow people with a criminal record to become magistrates needed to be better known


Revamped Violence Against Women Act Faces Uphill Battle

Next month, the House of Representatives will decide whether or not to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Expect the debate to become a major political flashpoint in the weeks ahead. If reauthorization doesn’t pass, this fact will become another point of contention in the November elections, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow Wendy McElroy in an op-ed in The Hill.

Introduced by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), the reauthorization bill, HR 6545, would, among other changes, expand the law’s definition of domestic violence to cover not only felony and misdemeanor violence, but also “verbal, emotional, economic, or technological abuse or any other coercive behavior committed, enabled, or solicited to gain or maintain power and control over a victim.” If that sounds like a major expansion, that’s because it is. The proposed legislation continues: “Technological abuse may include — unwanted, repeated telephone calls, text messages, instant messages, or social media posts.”

This expansive definition isn’t the only indicator that reauthorization faces an uphill battle. “For the first time, VAWA was introduced in the House, rather than in the Senate; this could mean that the bill’s champions in the Senate, Sen. Grassley and Sen. Feinstein, were not confident of having sufficient or immediate support,” McElroy writes. While passage by the House is still a possibility (a spokesperson for Speaker Paul Ryan even says it’s likely), success in that chamber of Congress in no way ensures final passage. “If it does move to the Senate, the fate of VAWA’s reauthorization is murkier,” McElroy writes.


German firms ignore EU appeal, end Iran projects

Deutsche Telekom and Deutsche Bahn, two state-owned German companies, are following car manufacturer Daimler and mechanical engineering company Herrenknecht to withdraw from Iran because of US sanctions.

Deutsche Telekom, Europe's largest telecommunications provider, already stopped all transactions in Iran in May. Deutsche Bahn will have its projects phased out by the end of September, German weekly business news magazine Wirtschaftswoche reported Thursday.

Both companies have confirmed the report. They are ignoring an appeal by EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who has called on Europeans to intensify Iran business in response to President Donald Trump’s sanctions.

Deutsche Bahn is currently involved with its subsidiary DB Engineering & Consulting in two projects in Iran, a corporate spokeswoman said on Thursday.

“Both projects will be ended in August and September 2018 respectively,” she said. “Due to the altered banking practice we have sought to bring the contract to an amicable and timely conclusion.”

Like other companies, the German rail operator is troubled by the fact that many international banks are now refusing to handle major financial transactions with Iran.

In May 2017, the company signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Iranian railway operator Bonyad Eastern Railways (BonRail) for the first project to identify and address potential in rolling stock and organization.

The second project involved a consultancy contract for the Iranian state railway RAI that included restructuring the company. 

Deutsche Telekom already stopped all transactions in Iran in May. The company probably wants to remove the risk of providing US regulators with a pretext to stop the laboriously negotiated takeover of Sprint Corp by its US unit, T-Mobile.

Just three weeks after the announcement of the takeover, Telekom pulled the ripcord on May 18 and withdrew all employees of its in-house consulting Detecon from Iran.

"The business activities of Detecon in Iran were quite low. Until the decision was taken, sales in Iran amounted to about 300,000 euros in 2018," said a spokeswoman.

Detecon, a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom’s IT services arm T-Systems, had deployed employees with the fixed-line operator Telecommunication Company of Iran (TCI) and the mobile operator MTN Irancell to offer consulting services.

Deutsche Telekom and Deutsche Bahn follow German automaker Daimler and tunneling company Herrenknecht in slamming the door in Iran’s face.

While the pullout has little economic significance, it flies in the face of the EU implementing a “blocking statute” which aims to keep trade with Iran on track.

The family-run world leader in tunnel-boring equipment said last Thursday that it had to give up a deal worth 20 million euros ready for signing.

The deal included delivering a tunneling machine for the construction of a large car tunnel, company boss Martin Herrenknecht told Wirtschaftswoche.

Daimler, the maker of Mercedes-Benz trucks and luxury cars, announced earlier this month that it had put its expansion plans in Iran on ice in the face of new US sanctions against the country.

The exodus flies in the face of the EU implementing a “blocking statute” which is purported to protect firms against possible fallout from breaching US sanctions on Iran.


Why cheer the Labour leader’s support for government-approved journalism?

Government-approved journalism is condemned as a giveaway sign of dangerous authoritarianism in states such as Turkey. So why is the Labour left cheering Jeremy Corbyn’s plan to impose a less obvious version of the same thing somewhat closer to home?

In a speech delivered today at the Edinburgh Television Festival, Corbyn outlined his proposals for reform of the UK media landscape. The one that caught my eye was his plan for a windfall tax on big tech firms such as Google, Amazon and Facebook to fund ‘public-interest journalism’.

The Labour Party leader wants the Treasury to take millions in tax off the tech giants, which an ‘independent’ fund would then dole out to support new ‘news cooperatives’ pursuing ‘investigative, public-interest journalism’. He thinks existing independent media outlets, such as the Bureau for Investigative Journalism, should be granted charitable status.

Without such government intervention, says Corbyn, ‘a few tech giants and unaccountable billionaires will control huge swathes of our public space and debate’. He argues that investigative journalists today are being ‘held back’ by ‘media tycoons’ — and by ‘excessive state influence’ in the case of the BBC. ‘The best journalism’, Corbyn concluded, ‘takes on the powerful, in the corporate world as well as government, and helps create an informed public’.

Which might all sound nice and apple pie. Who, after all, would want journalism to go against the public interest? Or support a less diverse media and an uninformed public? Encouraging the Treasury to make the tax-averse tech giants turn out their pockets is arguably even more popular than fruit-based home-baked desserts today.

No sooner had excerpts from the Labour leader’s proposals been released in advance than Corbyn’s online fan club were cheering them to the digital rafters, with #ChangeTheMedia trending on Twitter long before he even stood up to speak. That sounded more like a threat than a proposal. What Labour’s plans would really mean is a British form of government-approved journalism produced by a state-sponsored media. No wonder they went down so well with the instinctive Stalinist wing of the Corbynista movement.

The overbearing influence of the tech giants certainly creates problems in the media world. Established news outlets are understandably furious at the way the likes of Google and Facebook exploit their content while paying little in tax and taking the lion’s share of advertising revenue.

Here, however, Corbyn is exploiting public concerns about the big tech firms’ behaviour as a shield behind which to pursue Labour’s own media-bashing plans. Look at what his woolly words mean.

Corbyn wants to invest taxes in more ‘public-interest journalism’ – which appears to be an unquestionable Good Thing. The question it should always raise, however, is – who is going to decide exactly what the ‘public interest’ means? Government ministers? Judges? Jeremy Corbyn’s press office?

On closer examination it becomes clear that the notion of ‘public-interest journalism’ is less of an agreed universal value than an ethical-sounding cover for pursuing what are really matters of personal taste and political preference.

One thing seems certain: it won’t be the British public deciding what ‘public-interest journalism’ taxes should finance. Corbyn wants his fund to be ‘independent’. Another buzzword that should always raise the question: independent of what, exactly?

There are no such things as independent angels floating above the media melee below, with only the public interest at heart. Everybody has interests, agendas and angles of their own. Labour’s independent media-funding body would be another government-backed quango, stacked with placemen from the political and cultural elites — and every bit as ‘unaccountable’ to the public as any tycoon or tech giant he might rail about.

As for the HMRC funding journalism to create a more ‘informed public’ – again, informed by who, peddling which political line? It is not hard to imagine the sort of information Corbyn and Co want to feed us. We have not all forgotten how his chosen ‘charitable’ outfit, the Bureau for Investigative Journalism, was behind the story when the BBC’s flagship Newsnight programme got carried away with its self-righteous posing and effectively accused a Tory lord of being a paedophile.

Many people want to see a more diverse media – that’s why some of us have put our energies into creating such an alternative publication as spiked. What the UK media needs most, however, is diversity of content and ideas. What Corbyn’s plans promise instead is a far more conformist media, with the despised popular tabloid press tightly regulated and Labour’s own brand of government-approved journalism given the floor and public funding.

His complaint about BBC journalism being too influenced by the state is a transparent tantrum about a few BBC journalists criticising his leadership – from the same fantasy stable as the left’s complaint that the BBC, mainstay of the Remainstream media, is somehow an outpost of Leave propaganda.

Labour’s track record of press-bashing should give the lie to any notion that it is interested in a more free and open media. And there are few internal party divisions here – Labour’s non-Corbynite deputy leader, Tom Watson, is an even more ardent tabloid-hater than his boss.

As Corbyn’s fanclub in the Media Reform Coalition spelt out in their manifesto for the General Election: never mind that freedom nonsense, what the Labour left ultimately wants is for ‘communications to be organised and regulated in the public interest’. Organise the media! Regulate the press! Nationalise the news!

We could moan about media empires and encourage the state to restrict their freedoms. Or we can strive to remove the already onerous legal and cultural obstacles to freedom of expression – which is also the best hope of ‘diversifying’ the debate and creating an alternative media.

Whatever anybody thinks of any part of the relatively free press we have in Britain today, there is always something worse. That’s an even more unfree press, however the plan to sanitise what the public sees might be dressed up in Corbyn’s fine words about ‘public-interest journalism’.


More on Fentanyl

A reader who is a retired anesthesiologist writes as follows:

As an anesthesiologist, I had extensive experience using fentanyl. Several issues come to mind.

Fentanyl by itself is NOT an “anesthetic” - it is an adjunct to anesthesia by providing analgesia, but other drugs are needed to make a patient unconscious. Of course, after an overdose people may become “unconscious” - codespeak for DEAD.

Fentanyl shares ALL the side effects of morphine and other opiates, the most deadly being respiratory depression,
(PS - constipation is real; I can tell you from personal experience).

The major differences from other opiates include:

Much faster action.
Great potency.

Faster action makes for a “rush”, as addicts can tell you. Fast action makes it more difficult to control, as effects may be too fast to counteract effects. For example, effects of morphine are more gradual and give an earlier warning of bad effects. As a well known example, ether was used safely for many years by less skilled personnel, because effects were gradual; in contrast faster acting agents such as chloroform and halothane are “less safe” in unskilled hands because they act so rapidly.

Being so potent, the “margin of safety” is less with more potent drugs (This is basic pharmacology). For example, the more potent Midazolam (Versed) was deadly when it was used by unskilled personnel in place of the less potent and slower acting Diazepam (Valium).

In contrast, Fentanyl is VERY safe when used by anesthesia providers, because we all know how potent Fentanyl is, and we are also aware of the GREAT difference in potency among individual patients (margin of safety - the vast differences in effects among individual patients makes overdose easy. But with artificial ventilation and close observation individual differences can be accounted for).

What’s the correct dose? “ENOUGH”.

Fentanyl’s short action makes it ideal for outpatient surgery. A newer analog, Remifentanyl, was a “bust” because it was too potent and rapid action to be controlled safely.

The extreme potency of Fentanyl makes it a “natural” for suicide of anesthesia providers, pharmacists, nurses. Indeed, I have lost several colleagues; most were “weird”, but obviously this is not criteria for a full investigation. I was not surprised by any: there were multiple “red flags” - poor job performance, repeated late arrivals and sick days, etc.

As always, Leftism takes its toll among anesthesiologists using Fentanyl (and other drugs) on themselves.

The recurrence rate of using is VERY high among those “rehabilitated”, and suicide is frequent. Therefore, any sane administrator would NEVER let such a person return to any job where they had ready access to these drugs. The more rational approach fortunately is “rehabilitation” to psychiatry and other jobs where they don’t have access to these drugs. (For example - psychiatrists, radologists may be OK when they simply aren’t allowed easy access to these drugs (Of course, illegal access can’t be controlled).

YOU GOT IT. There are those administrators who “feel the pain” of these unfortunate doctors and others, and try to “rehabilitate” them -- A LEFTIST FANTASY.

Fortunately, at my hospital the administration was conservative; “rehabilitation”was NOT offered as an option.


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


Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The corruption of British justice

Sean Gabb

Any system of criminal justice worth the name needs to reconcile humanity with certainty. On the one hand, part of the function of the criminal law is deterrent. When you know that you will go to prison for six months if you smash someone’s window, you may be less inclined to pick up the stone than if you believe you may get an absolute discharge or a whipping. Another part of the system’s function is to match severity of sentencing to the perceived gravity of offences. We need to see that breaking a window is less of a crime than breaking someone’s nose, and that murder is much more of a crime than either.

On the other hand, no set of laws can take into account every set of circumstances. Should someone who steals a loaf of bread for a bet receive the same punishment as if he had stolen it to feed his hungry children? We can write in allowances for age and mental capacity. We can write in examples of mitigating circumstances. But rigid sentencing tariffs will always lead, sooner or later, to perceived injustice of punishments. Indeed, unless the system is in the hands of human robots, rigid tariffs will usually be circumvented in practice. Before the nineteenth century, English juries would often acquit rather than see a defendant sentenced to death or transportation for a crime of passion or an uncharacteristic lapse. Or judges would pass sentence, and then approach the King or his Ministers for a pardon or a commutation of punishment. Later on, the prosecuting authorities would bring lesser or greater charges, depending on how they saw a defendant.

By the twentieth century, both in Britain and America, a criminal justice system had emerged in which, murder and treason aside, offences had minimum and maximum sentences laid down in the law, and it was up to the judges to decide what sentence was appropriate within these bands. Sometimes, a judge was too harsh or too lenient. On the whole, however, the system worked. It reconciled a general hierarchy of punishments with a reasonable faith in the justice of punishment for each individual case.

In Britain, the system is now breaking down. Take these examples:

In January 2013, Chelsea Lambie and Douglas Cruikshank attached bacon to door handles and threw strips inside the Edinburgh Central Mosque in Scotland. In June 2014, Lambie was sent to prison for twelve months and Cruikshank for nine months. [Pair jailed for Edinburgh’s Central Mosque bacon attack]

In June 2014, an Islamic teacher called Suleman Maknojioa was found guilty of sexually molesting one of his eleven year-old female students. He was let off going to prison because the Judge accepted that his wife’s English was too bad for her to function in England without him to take her about. [Islamic teacher who sexually abused girl, 11, as he taught her the Koran spared jail because his wife doesn’t speak English]

I could fill a whole article – I could fill a small book – with similar instances of differential punishments that must shock any reasonable sense of right and wrong. I am not saying that the wilful desecration of a place of worship should go unpunished, or even that the case given above should have been punished exactly as if the defendants had left bacon in a church. But prison for sacrilege and a suspended sentence for sexual assault of a child – where is the justice in that?

The answer is that the criminal justice system has been politicised. It still dispenses justice, but the justice dispensed is no longer our justice. It instead reflects the sense of right and wrong of a ruling class that has no regard for the moral views of ordinary people, but is committed to a revolutionary transformation of British society. Stupidity aside, there are no mitigating circumstances for those Scottish bacon-layers, and they deserved some punishment. But their real crime appears to have been that they disobeyed the prime commandment of the modern law, which is to act and speak at all times as if we really were living in a multicultural love feast. Their actual crime was “hate,” or “intolerance.” The act of leaving bacon in a mosque was only evidence of their crime. As in Rotherham [Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal], the sexual abuse of children may be at best a minor offence, to be lightly punished, if not systematically covered up, when committed by one of the ethnic minorities.

But the corruption is more profound than the manipulation of sentencing guidelines. During the past twenty years in Britain – and perhaps also in America – the criminal justice system has been politicised at its heart. Traditionally, a criminal court has been asked to consider two elements of guilt – wrongful act (actus reus) and wrongful intention (mens rea). For example, murder is defined as “killing with malice aforethought.” If you poison your wife to lay hands on the insurance money, you have killed her, and you have killed her deliberately. You have committed murder. If, on the other hand, you kill her by accidentally knocking her off a ladder, or letting her catch your cold that then turns to pneumonia, you may only have been negligent. You may be guilty of manslaughter or nothing at all. But you are not guilty of murder.

Beginning with the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, the British ruling class has added a further element, which is motivation. For example, if you commit grievous bodily harm against someone of your own race or religion, the maximum prison sentence is five years. If you commit this against someone of a different race or religion, and it can be shown that you were motivated by dislike of that race or religion, the maximum sentence is now seven years. There is a consistent loading of punishments for virtually every crime against life or property.

According to the Crown Prosecution Guidance Note:

[T]here are common problems that are experienced by victims of racist of religiously aggravated crime. They can feel extremely isolated or fearful of going out or even staying at home. They may become withdrawn, and suspicious of organisations or strangers. Their mental and physical health may suffer in a variety of ways. For young people in particular, the impact can be damaging to their self-esteem or identity and, without support, a form of self-hatred of their racial or religious identity may result.

This may be the case. But it can be the case with any assault, regardless of motive. The effect of the law is to make opinions into crimes. If you get into a fight with a black man, and you are charged with assault, you will be in greater trouble if the police then search your home and find copies of books by Enoch Powell, or if your browsing history shows that you read articles on VDare. Again, some part of your crime will be “hate,” and, again, the specific assault will be merely evidence of this.

A through tyranny, such as Bolshevik Russia, can get away with perverting the law in this manner. In a semi-free society, such as Britain or America, the natural result is gradually to bring the criminal law into scandal, and its officers into contempt. The main danger is probably not that differential punishments will lead to thorough tyranny. There is still the possibility of a reaction. The danger is that all law, of whatever kind, will be seen as an expression of rule by a malevolent ruling class, and that all the safeguards of life and property will be weakened. A further danger is that if, or when, the reaction comes, the idea of sentencing discretion will be so discredited that the balancing of certainty with humanity will be forgotten, and we shall find ourselves with a criminal law written in letters of blood.

Sadly, given the nature and current progress of the revolutionary transformation mentioned above, it can be doubted whether something unpleasant can be avoided.

Via email:

The Challenge of Reforming Nutritional Epidemiologic Research

John P. A. Ioannidis, writing below, is a renowned critic of bad science.  He points out that conventional beliefs about what constitutes "healthy" food are very poorly founded.  The article is from a leading medical journal

Some nutrition scientists and much of the public often consider epidemiologic associations of nutritional factors to represent causal effects that can inform public health policy and guidelines. However, the emerging picture of nutritional epidemiology is difficult to reconcile with good scientific principles. The field needs radical reform.

In recent updated meta-analyses of prospective cohort studies, almost all foods revealed statistically significant associations with mortality risk.1 Substantial deficiencies of key nutrients (eg, vitamins), extreme overconsumption of food, and obesity from excessive calories may indeed increase mortality risk. However, can small intake differences of specific nutrients, foods, or diet patterns with similar calories causally, markedly, and almost ubiquitously affect survival?

Assuming the meta-analyzed evidence from cohort studies represents life span–long causal associations, for a baseline life expectancy of 80 years, eating 12 hazelnuts daily (1 oz) would prolong life by 12 years (ie, 1 year per hazelnut),1 drinking 3 cups of coffee daily would achieve a similar gain of 12 extra years,2 and eating a single mandarin orange daily (80 g) would add 5 years of life.1 Conversely, consuming 1 egg daily would reduce life expectancy by 6 years, and eating 2 slices of bacon (30 g) daily would shorten life by a decade, an effect worse than smoking.1 Could these results possibly be true? Authors often use causal language when reporting the findings from these studies (eg, “optimal consumption of risk-decreasing foods results in a 56% reduction of all-cause mortality”).1 Burden-of-disease studies and guidelines endorse these estimates. Even when authors add caveats, results are still often presented by the media as causal.

These implausible estimates of benefits or risks associated with diet probably reflect almost exclusively the magnitude of the cumulative biases in this type of research, with extensive residual confounding and selective reporting.3 Almost all nutritional variables are correlated with one another; thus, if one variable is causally related to health outcomes, many other variables will also yield significant associations in large enough data sets. With more research involving big data, almost all nutritional variables will be associated with almost all outcomes. Moreover, given the complicated associations of eating behaviors and patterns with many time-varying social and behavioral factors that also affect health, no currently available cohort includes sufficient information to address confounding in nutritional associations.

Furthermore, the literature is shaped by investigators who report nonprespecified results that are possible to analyze in very different ways.4 Consequently, meta-analyses become weighted averages of expert opinions. In an inverse sequence, instead of carefully conducted primary studies informing guidelines, expert-driven guidelines shaped by advocates dictate what primary studies should report. Not surprisingly, an independent assessment by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine of the national dietary guidelines suggested major redesign of the development process for these guidelines: improving transparency, promoting diversity of expertise and experience, supporting a more deliberative process, managing biases and conflicts, and adopting state-of-the-art processes.5

Proponents of the status quo may maintain that the true associations are even larger than what are reported because of attenuation from nondifferential misclassification. Indeed, self-reported data have error,6 but there is no guarantee it is nondifferential. Nevertheless, if error is nondifferential and estimated effects are attenuated, reported results become even more implausible: eating 12 hazelnuts daily would increase life expectancy by 20 to 30 years, not just 12 years.

Individuals consume thousands of chemicals in millions of possible daily combinations. For instance, there are more than 250 000 different foods and even more potentially edible items, with 300 000 edible plants alone. Seemingly similar foods vary in exact chemical signatures (eg, more than 500 different polyphenols). Much of the literature silently assumes disease risk is modulated by the most abundant substances; for example, carbohydrates or fats. However, relatively uncommon chemicals within food, circumstantial contaminants, serendipitous toxicants, or components that appear only under specific conditions or food preparation methods (eg, red meat cooking) may be influential. Risk-conferring nutritional combinations may vary by an individual’s genetic background, metabolic profile, age, or environmental exposures. Disentangling the potential influence on health outcomes of a single dietary component from these other variables is challenging, if not impossible.

To use an analogy from genetics, studying associations of specific foods is like studying whether large chromosomal regions increase mortality risk. For decades, genome linkage scans struggled to link large chromosomal areas to disease risk. According to current knowledge, these previous efforts were doomed: each chromosomal area contains thousands of genetic variants. Linkage scans resulted in numerous articles, but limited useful information. Retrospectively, using a few hundred microsatellite markers to study an entire genome with many million polymorphisms seems naive. Similarly, limited self-reported nutrition data ascertained with a handful of questions and self-reported items fail to acknowledge or accurately measure a system that matches or exceeds the genome in complexity.

Beyond food studies, results of single-nutrient studies have largely failed to be corroborated in randomized trials. False-positive associations are common in the literature. For example, updated meta-analyses of published data from prospective cohort studies have demonstrated that a single antioxidant, beta carotene, has a stronger protective effect on mortality than all the foods mentioned above.7 The relative risk of death for the highest vs lowest group of beta carotene levels in serum or plasma was 0.69 (95% CI, 0.59-0.80).7 Even when measurement error is mitigated with biochemical assays (as in this example), nutritional epidemiology remains intrinsically unreliable. These results cannot be considered causal, especially after multiple large trials have yielded CIs excluding even a small benefit.

Proponents of the status quo of nutritional epidemiology point to occasional small trials with surrogate or metabolic outcomes (eg, lipids, diabetes, composite end points) whose results agree with epidemiologic findings. However, these small trials often have selective reporting bias similar to that of nutritional epidemiology.

Nutritional research may have adversely affected the public perception of science. Resources for some of these studies could have been better spent on unambiguous, directly manageable threats to health such as smoking, lack of exercise, air pollution, or climate change. Moreover, the perpetuated nutritional epidemiologic model probably also harms public health nutrition. Unfounded beliefs that justify eating more food, provided “quality food” is consumed, confuse the public and detract from the agenda of preventing and treating obesity.

Confusion is further enhanced by some approaches to publication in this field. Slices of data are often published from a cohort without accounting for other findings from the same cohort. A single article reporting a significant effect of a dietary component may seem plausible in isolation but would be untenable if all results were available. Given the vast space of analyzable associations, some prolific cohorts (eg, European Prospective Investigation Into Cancer and Nutrition, Nurses’ Health Study) have yielded more than 1000 articles each. Nutritional epidemiology articles also attract attention because the public is very interested in (and perpetually misinformed about) nutrition. For example, one of the 20 highest Altmetric scores in 2017 was for a study reporting major survival benefits from coffee.8 Despite important limitations and shortcomings, such studies also accrue substantial numbers of citations.

Some additional, large-scale, long-term, randomized trials on nutrition may be useful, especially for assessing diet patterns.3 The most promising large trial to date, Prevención con Dieta Mediterránea (PREDIMED), a trial of Mediterranean diet, had shown a benefit on a composite end point but was recently retracted and republished9 after it was realized that there were multiple subversions of randomization. Findings from the reanalysis showed results similar to those of the initially reported findings; however, the study should no longer be considered a randomized trial. Regardless, the trial showed no survival benefit. Large pragmatic trials for more complex diet patterns also may yield largely negative results. Nevertheless, their outcomes may help inform nutritional guidelines with some pragmatic “intention-to-eat” data.

Reform has long been due. Data from existing cohorts should become available for reanalysis by independent investigators. Their results should be presented in their totality for all nutritional factors measured, with standardized methods and standardized exploration of the sensitivity of conclusions to model and analysis choices. Readers and guideline developers may ignore hasty statements of causal inference and advocacy to public policy made by past nutritional epidemiology articles.10 Such statements should be avoided in the future.

The nutritional epidemiology community includes superb scientists. The best of them should take ownership of this reform process. They can further lead by example (eg, by correcting their own articles that have misleading claims). Such corrections would herald high scientific standards and public responsibility. A flawed methodological approach has dominated research questions that have proved particularly difficult to answer, more difficult than those of other epidemiologic disciplines.

A counterargument may be, by analogy, that genome linkage scan publications have not been corrected, so why correct nutritional epidemiology? The difference is that genomic scans performed with a handful of microsatellite markers have been replaced by better methods and generally did not affect public policy and people’s lives. Conversely, studies of nutritional epidemiology continue to be published regularly, spuriously affect guidelines, and confuse the public through heated advocacy by experts and nonexperts.

Nutritional epidemiologists who espouse reform in past and future work should be rewarded, for example, with continued funding to conduct pivotal trials, widely share their cohort data, conduct transparent all-encompassing analyses, and explore entirely new avenues of nutrition research. Funding agencies should support the reform agenda and thereby rejuvenate the field of nutritional research.


With fentanyl flooding the illicit market, all drug users now in danger

Fentanyl is a powerful surgical anaesthetic and has a very narrow window of safety.  Get the dose just a bit wrong and you are dead

Fatal overdoses continued to decline in Massachusetts in the second quarter of 2018, but a new challenge has surfaced as deadly fentanyl gets mixed with cocaine, a drug now found in more overdose deaths than heroin, authorities said Friday.

The devastating and growing prevalence of fentanyl was the dominant message in the state’s latest quarterly report on opioid-related deaths, released Friday. Fentanyl — the illicit synthetic, not the drug doctors prescribe — was present in nearly 90 percent of overdose deaths.

“If you are using illicit drugs in Massachusetts, you really have to be aware that fentanyl is a risk no matter which drug you’re using,” said Dr. Monica Bharel, Massachusetts public health commissioner. “The increased risk of death related to fentanyl is what’s driving this epidemic.” Fentanyl is many times more potent than heroin.

“Pretty much all you can access in the Boston area is fentanyl. You’re not finding heroin anymore,” said Richard Baker, director of the mobile prevention team at Victory Programs, a treatment provider.

That means that a new population of drug users — those who use cocaine — are also in danger of opioid overdose, said Dr. Alex Walley, physician and researcher at Boston Medical Center’s Grayken Center for Addiction.

Some cocaine users may not know their drug has been cut with fentanyl, and unaccustomed to opioids, they are especially prone to overdose. Others are continuing a longstanding practice of mixing cocaine, a stimulant, with heroin, a depressant — except that now, instead of heroin, they’re using the much more potent fentanyl.

“The deadliness of doing that increases with the introduction of fentanyl,” Walley said.

“It’s been over a year since I’ve seen [a patient] who told me they used heroin and they didn’t have fentanyl in their toxicology screen,” he added. “Fentanyl is the rule when it comes to people using what they call heroin.”

Cocaine has surpassed heroin in tests of those who fatally overdosed, starting with the last quarter of 2017. That has prompted the state to alert treatment providers that cocaine users are also at risk of opioid overdose, and a new alert to all medical personnel is planned, Bharel said.

The last quarter of 2017 is also when opioid-related deaths overall started to decline. From April to June 2018, fatal opioid overdoses in Massachusetts fell for the third consecutive quarter — but chiefly among whites. Blacks, especially black men, continue to be hit hard: The rate of overdose deaths among blacks increased by 23 percent from 2016 to 2017, while whites and Hispanics saw slight decreases.

Baker, of Victory Programs, cautioned against complacency amid the declining death toll, because certain groups are still severely affected, especially minorities and people in the prime of life. Between January 2017 and June 2018, nearly two-thirds of overdose deaths occurred among people age 25 to 44.

“We have an epidemic among young, new users who aren’t able to access resources and information that some of our older users have,” Baker said.

Massachusetts’ health and human services secretary, Marylou Sudders, acknowledged the issue in a statement. “When you look at the trend lines over time, while the results of our efforts are having an impact, we must double down on our efforts to implement treatment strategies that meet the needs of the highest-risk individuals and communities,” she said.

Most people who die of overdoses have more than one drug in their system, and the medical examiner often cannot pinpoint which drug or drugs were responsible for the death. But the prevalence of different drugs found in the victims’ bodies provides insight into the changing forces in substance use.

In the first quarter of 2018, there were 477 opioid-related deaths in which the medical examiner was able to screen for drugs. Of these, 89 percent involved fentanyl, 43 percent cocaine, 42 percent benzodiazepines, and 34 percent heroin. In contrast, in 2014, fentanyl was present in only about 40 percent of those who overdosed.

“This quarterly report provides a new level of data revealing an unsettling correlation between high levels of synthetic fentanyl present in toxicology reports and overdose death rates,” Governor Charlie Baker said in a statement. “It is critically important that the Commonwealth understand and study this information so we can better respond to this disease and help more people.”


GAVIN McInnes is having some fun -- as usual

He is a genuinely funny man but political correctness is the butt of most of his jokes  -- so he is called "Alt-Right"

McInnes, the co-founder of Vice magazine turned right-wing commentator and head of controversial pro-Trump, street-brawling “men’s rights” group the Proud Boys, smells something  rotten in society.

The Marxists and “fat feminists” have taken over everywhere, he says, spreading a “computer virus of rules” — a “war on fun”.

“When did the social justice warriors get so much power?” he asks.  “It happened in the past 15 years. My theory is it started with eradicating bullying and the whole idea of the death of the in-crowd, which I think we can all support — no one likes Mean Girls, the prom king jock — but what happened is the fat feminists gained power and like the proletariat took over.

“Like the Marxists, the oppressed became the oppressors and they are now way worse. It’s not only affecting high schools, it’s affecting the workplace, comedy clubs.”

He mentions a flyer he saw recently being passed around inside New York Comedy club UCB with “some trans-man who looks like your dad in a wig” dictating who can be cast in sketches if the character is transgender.

“Here are these nerds Trojan-horsing their way into comedy clubs,” he says.

McInnes, who has been labelled by critics as sexist, racist, white supremacist, Islamophobic and transphobic, is the latest right-wing provocateur to set his sights on Australia.

McInnes and the Proud Boys were kicked off Twitter earlier this month for being “violent extremists” ahead of the anniversary of the deadly Unite the Right neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

While McInnes disavowed the rally, its organiser Jason Kessler was once a member of the Proud Boys — McInnes has previously said Kessler was kicked out for his racist views.

McInnes says he is of two minds about the Twitter ban.

“On one hand as a libertarian I say, oh well, that venue doesn’t want me anymore,” he says. “We don’t have a contract, I was just using it. It’s kind of nice to not have Twitter in my life.

“But we are having lawyers looking at suing them. There’s something grander going on. There’s a war on conservatives because they’re petrified of Trump getting re-elected, they’re in a state of panic.

“Facebook, Google, YouTube, even Snapchat are clamping down on conservatives. It’s the DNC and Big Tech colluding. That is the government colluding with big business. That is not America, that’s not the west — that is Communism and it’s morally wrong.”

A “western chauvinist” and friend of Milo Yiannopoulos and Lauren Southern, whose recent trips Down Under were marred by violent left-wing protests, McInnes says his message is one of “pride”.

“Shame is such a scam,” he says. “There’s this sense of apology and shame with western countries. I noticed this when I was in Israel, they even sort of assume you’re going to come at them so they come out on the defensive.

“They go, ‘Look we had to build this wall, we were getting a terror attack a day.’ I said, I love your wall, I don’t care.

“What Australia built is so incredible. (But) look at Sydney, it’s being lost to Islam just like West London was. In fact there’s parts of Sydney totally indistinguishable from West London. It’s exactly the same — the sense of capitulation, discouraging assimilation.”

Yet Census data from 2016 reveal Australia is a religiously diverse nation, with Christianity remaining the most common religion (52 per cent of the population).

“Islam (2.6 per cent) and Buddhism (2.4 per cent) were the next most common religions,” the ABS said.

“In the 10 years from 2006 to 2016, the proportion of people reporting a religion other than Christianity in the Census increased from 5.6 per cent in 2006 to 8.2 per cent in 2016. “Although the increase was spread across most of the non-Christian religions, the top two were Hinduism (0.7 per cent in 2006 to 1.9 per cent in 2016) and Islam (1.7 per cent to 2.6 per cent).”

But McInnes says his goal isn’t to preach politics when he arrives in November. “I see it as a comedy tour,” he says.

“My goal is to show people that conservatives are funny. In fact we’re the rebels, we’re Animal House. Who got kicked off campus? John Belushi. Milo and Lauren, even Alan Dershowitz are getting kicked off campus. We’re the fun ones.”

McInnes describes Australia as “like a hot Canada”. “I love Australia, I feel a real kinship,” he says. “The only difference between me and my friends in Australia is there’s more masculinity. I’m looking forward to that, just getting pissed.”

He wants to “have some fun, do some comedy and show millennials and everyone else that there’s life outside of this liberal bubble, outside of social justice warriors monitoring every joke and telling you what you can and can’t say”.

And yes, he’s expecting violent left-wing protesters.

“I don’t know why,” McInnes says. “We don’t come to their things. I don’t understand why there’s a problem with free speech. Why is that seen as a threat?

“Even the worst, most right-wing guys like (white supremacist) Richard Spencer, I don’t like their ideas but I’m not scared of their ideas. A 100-pound girl, what are her words going to do to you — start a world war? Why are people so frail?”

McInnes adds “people will show up and if they want to fight, I’m happy to fight”. “Our motto is we don’t start fights but we’re happy to finish them,” he says. “Isn’t that what your dad used to tell you?”

Antifa, he says, are “rich kids who are the sons of professors and they’ve been brainwashed by this Marxist crap their whole lives”.

“There was a time when fighting racist bigots was cool, like the Freedom Riders in the 1960s,” he says. “The problem is the bad guys are gone, there’s no more Nazis — so how about we make Milo a Nazi?

“It’s like a Twilight Zone episode where everyone to the right of Bernie Sanders is considered a Nazi. So they get to feel like they’re fighting for justice, like they’re these brave warriors.”

At the end of the day, though, “people in the media tend to overintellectualise this — it’s just the mods and the rockers fighting on Brighton Beach”.

“We’re talking about a few different trends,” McInnes says.

“The street fights outside venues, that’s just mods and rockers playing silly games. It’s not real. That’s why they don’t want to argue with you. That’s why I can’t get them on my show.

“Usually when they brawl, like the punks and skinheads or the mods and rockers, it’s just middle class kids fighting working class kids. The Proud Boys are blue collar.”

The “more insidious” and threatening element is the underlying cultural shift. “The obsession with making sure everyone has equal outcomes, that women are part of all action movies, this computer virus of rules invading everything including art,” he says.

“It’s a war on fun, on colour, where they want every radio station to be playing the same music. How is that different from Stalinism?”



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