Friday, February 20, 2015

Father Charles E. Coughlin

Father Coughlin first took to the airwaves in 1926, broadcasting weekly sermons over the radio. By the early 1930s the content of his broadcasts had shifted from theology to economics and politics. Just as the rest of the nation was obsessed by matters economic and political in the aftermath of the Depression, so too was Father Coughlin. Coughlin had a well-developed theory of what he termed "social justice," predicated on monetary "reforms." He began as an early Roosevelt supporter, coining a famous expression, that the nation's choice was between "Roosevelt or ruin." Later in the 1930s he turned against FDR and became one of the president's harshest critics. His program of "social justice" was a very radical challenge to capitalism and to many of the political institutions of his day.

Father Coughlin was an early and passionate supporter of President Roosevelt, since he viewed FDR as a radical social reformer like himself. Roosevelt's rhetoric during his inaugural address implicitly promised to "drive the money changers from the temple." This was music to Coughlin's ears since a core part of his own message was monetary reform. Roosevelt's early monetary policy seemed to fulfill this promise and so Coughlin viewed him as the savior of the nation. But when FDR failed to follow-on with additional radical reforms, Coughlin turned against him. By 1936, he would support a third-party candidacy against FDR's reelection bid and would even say this of Roosevelt:

"The great betrayer and liar, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who promised to drive the money changers from the temple, had succeeded [only] in driving the farmers from their homesteads and the citizens from their homes in the cities. . . I ask you to purge the man who claims to be a Democrat, from the Democratic Party, and I mean Franklin Double-Crossing Roosevelt."

Father Coughlin's influence on Depression-era America was enormous. Millions of Americans listened to his weekly radio broadcast. At the height of his popularity, one-third of the nation was tuned into his weekly broadcasts. In the early 1930s, Coughlin was, arguably, one of the most influential men in America. Although his core message was one of economic populism, his sermons also included attacks on prominent Jewish figures--attacks that many people considered evidence of anti-Semitism. His broadcasts became increasingly controversial for this reason, and in 1940 his superiors in the Catholic Church forced him to stop his broadcasts and return to his work as a parish priest.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Perspectives on the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin shooting

By Massad Ayoob

The media told us a self-appointed neighborhood watch captain and wannabe cop with gun-derived courage was on patrol when he profiled a young child because he was black and wearing a hoodie, and that he stalked and gunned down the helpless youth out of sheer malicious bloodlust. The media trumpeted that theme so loudly that most of America believed it. When the killer was acquitted, there was national and even international outrage. It was a bandwagon made for anti-gunners to leap on, from the Brady Organization to the White House, and they jumped on it with more feet than a nest of spiders.

The trouble was, it wasn't like that at all. George Zimmerman had been named head of the watch group by his own neighbors. While he had considered a career in criminal justice and taken some classwork in that area, he had also been offered a quasi-police patrol car and uniform by the police department that coordinated with the Neighborhood Watch, and had turned it down. Zimmerman wasn't "on patrol" in his private vehicle on that proverbial dark and rainy night; the evidence showed he was simply driving to a Target store to buy some lunch makings for work that week.

En route, he observed a tall young man in a dark hoodie, the favored garb of the local "gangsta" set ... not hurrying home in the driving rain, but looking in windows and doing a convincing imitation of a burglar "casing" his next target. Eye contact was made, and Zimmerman reported to the dispatcher that the "suspect" was running away. The dispatcher asked in what direction the man was running, and where the responding officer should meet Zimmerman, the complainant. In a large development of look-alike homes, Zimmerman wasn't sure what street he was on and couldn't see a street sign. Also indoctrinated by Neighborhood Watch training to be "the eyes and ears" of the authorities — and literally talking to "the voice of authority," the police dispatcher — he stepped out of his car to reconnoiter so he could answer both questions. As he moved in the direction where the man in the hoodie had disappeared, the dispatcher asked if he was following that person. Zimmerman replied in the affirmative. The dispatcher told him he didn't have to do that, and the evidence shows that Zimmerman then stopped following and headed back toward his vehicle.

Meanwhile, Trayvon Martin was talking to a female friend on his Android, telling her a "creepy ass cracka'" was following him, but Trayvon had lost the "nigga," and he was close to the unit where he was staying. Minutes passed ... and, the timeline showed, during those minutes Trayvon Martin had to have moved away from his nearby safe haven and toward Zimmerman's position. If he was afraid, why didn't Martin call police with the phone already in his hand ... or simply, "go home?"

Zimmerman said he was confronted and then attacked, his testimony consistent with the last words Martin's female friend heard before his phone went dead. Neighbors heard — and one neighbor clearly saw — the struggle. Someone was screaming piteously for help. There was a single shot. The screaming stopped.

Police arrived a minute later.

Trayvon Martin, 17, was dead, killed by a single 115 grain 9mm Sellier & Bellot hollow point bullet fired from the Kel-Tec PF9 pistol of George Zimmerman. Zimmerman was well-bloodied, his nose smeared across his face, the back of his head lacerated from where he said Martin had been smashing his skull against the sidewalk after knocking him down with a powerful punch to the face, followed by a rain of blows and a mixed martial arts "mount." Testimony of the key eyewitness was consistent with Martin atop Zimmerman. The only injuries on Martin were the single gunshot wound and knuckle scraping consistent with him giving, not taking, a beating.

All this, the jury knew. The cops who chose not to arrest him, knew more, and the lawyers who brilliantly defended Zimmerman knew even better by time of trial. He was no racist; an FBI investigation prior to his trial showed Zimmerman had mentored black kids, and had black friends. He was part black himself on his mother's side. A lie-detector test (voice stress analysis) shortly after the shooting showed Zimmerman to be telling the truth.

At time of death, Martin, a regular pot smoker and apparently a drug dealer as well, was enamored of a narcotic concoction called "lean" or "purple drank," made by mixing cough syrup with candy like Skittles and fruit cocktails like the Arizona Watermelon drink that the media turned into "iced tea" because they couldn't bear to connect watermelons and black people. Martin had a history of street-fighting and of being dissatisfied that one victim didn't bleed enough, and had been negotiating to illegally buy a handgun. There had also been suspicion of burglary prior. This sort of thing was what got him kicked out of school in the Miami area, and which convinced his good Mom to send him to his Dad out of tough love, which is why Trayvon Martin was in Sanford in the first place. None of this information, gleaned from Martin's cell phone and other sources, ever made it to the jury: the judge ruled that since Zimmerman didn't know it, it was not germane to his decision to shoot, for which he was being judged.

But what the jury did know was enough. Following isn't stalking. Being followed isn't justification for trying to literally beat a man's brains out. Having your skull smashed into hard surfaces is likely to kill you, and the universal laws of man and God allow you to kill your attacker to make him stop doing that to you. The forensic evidence and the bulk of the testimony alike were consistent with Zimmerman's account of self-defense. The state's witnesses, one after the other, turned into defense witnesses. In the end, the state's theory amounted to ... nothing.

That prosecution theory, in turn, evolved from the media ... and, tracked back further, the media's fantasy of what happened evolved from a brilliant left-wing public relations firm hired by the lawyer who was hired by the family of the deceased. For more information on this, see my July 2013 entries in the blog at www.backwoodshome/blogs/massadayoob.

The PR folks outraged the media, and the media inflamed the public. Enraged people, once invested in their emotion, have trouble facing contradictory facts and evidence. Fortunately, the Zimmerman jury recognized the facts, and the evidence. They — like the original investigating officers who believed Zimmerman, like the original prosecutor who saw no reason to prosecute, like the FBI agents who investigated Zimmerman and found no hint of racism, and like the member of the Special Prosecutor's office who was fired for doing what prosecutors are supposed to do and turning over exculpatory evidence to the defense — did Justice.

"What do we tell our kids after this?" How about we tell them not to do drugs and not to violently, illegally assault people? Tell them to call 9-1-1 as soon as they perceive a threat? And perhaps we should warn them too that if they defend themselves from life-threatening assault, they should be prepared to face the misdirected, powerful wrath of the clueless and politically driven ... a powerful force being directed against George Zimmerman from multiple angles even now, at this writing.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Some Trayvon Martin background

As thousands of people gathered here to demand an arrest in the Trayvon Martin case, a more complicated portrait began to emerge of a teenager whose problems at school ranged from getting spotted defacing lockers to getting caught with a marijuana baggie and women’s jewelry.

The Miami Gardens teen who has become a national symbol of racial injustice was suspended three times, and had a spotty school record that his family’s attorneys say is irrelevant to the facts that led up to his being gunned down on Feb. 26.

In October, a school police investigator said he saw Trayvon on the school surveillance camera in an unauthorized area “hiding and being suspicious.” Then he said he saw Trayvon mark up a door with “W.T.F” — an acronym for “what the f---.” The officer said he found Trayvon the next day and went through his book bag in search of the graffiti marker.

Instead the officer reported he found women’s jewelry and a screwdriver that he described as a “burglary tool,” according to a Miami-Dade Schools Police report obtained by The Miami Herald. Word of the incident came as the family’s lawyer acknowledged that the boy was suspended in February for getting caught with an empty bag with traces of marijuana, which he called “irrelevant” and an attempt to demonize a victim.

Trayvon’s backpack contained 12 pieces of jewelry, in addition to a watch and a large flathead screwdriver, according to the report, which described silver wedding bands and earrings with diamonds.

Trayvon was asked if the jewelry belonged to his family or a girlfriend.  “Martin replied it’s not mine. A friend gave it to me,” he responded, according to the report. Trayvon declined to name the friend.

Trayvon was not disciplined because of the discovery, but was instead suspended for graffiti, according to the report. School police impounded the jewelry and sent photos of the items to detectives at Miami-Dade police for further investigation.


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Margaret Thatcher's proudest moment was saving an Austrian Jew
When Margaret Thatcher passed away today, the tributes began pouring in from all over the world. Mrs. Thatcher was Britain’s first female prime minister, serving for 11 years starting in 1979. Known as the Iron Lady, she was a strong Conservative who changed England’s perspective on its economic and political life.

Despite her many impressive accomplishments, including fighting the Soviet communist regime, Thatcher said that her proudest moment was when she saved a Jewish teenager from Austria during the Holocaust.

In 1938, Edith Muhlbauer, a 17-year-old Jewish girl, sent a letter to Muriel Roberts, Edith’s pen pal and the older sister of Margaret Thatcher, asking if the Roberts family could help her escape from Austria. The Nazis had started rounding up Jews from Vienna and Edith knew it was just a matter of time before she would be among them.

Alfred Roberts, the father of Muriel and Margaret, was a grocer in a small town. They lived in a cold water flat above the grocery with an outhouse; the Roberts did not have the time or the money to bring Edith to their home. So Margaret, then 12 and Muriel, 17, decided to try raising money and asking the local Rotary club to help. They succeeded in bringing Edith to England where she stayed with several Rotary families, including the Roberts for the next two years before joining relatives in South America.

Edith slept in Margaret’s room and Thatcher later wrote in her memoir: “She was tall, beautiful, evidently from a well to do family. But most important, she told us what it was like to live as a Jew under an anti-Semitic regime. One thing Edith reported particularly stuck in my mind. The Jews, she said, were being made to scrub the streets.”

In 1995, after Edith had been located in Brazil, she told audiences, “Never hesitate to do whatever you can for you may save a life.”

Edith is now a Jewish grandmother in Sao Paolo who says that she owes her life and the life of her children and grandchildren to Margaret Thatcher’s family. When Thatcher visited Yad Vashem during a historic, first visit to Israel by a British prime minister in 1986, she was visibly shaken as she stood in front of a photo of a German soldier shooting a Jewish mother and child.

She exclaimed, “It is so terrible. Everyone should come and see it so that they never forget. I am not quite sure whether the new generation really knows what we are fighting against.”

Thatcher continued to be a loyal friend to the Jews as she fought the British support for the Arab boycott of Israel, protested on behalf of Jewish refuseniks in the Soviet Union and chose several Jewish leaders to be part of her cabinet. Thatcher admired the hard work and self-reliance of the British Jewish community and frequently turned to England’s late chief rabbi, Immanuel Jakobovits for spiritual back up. She even elevated Rabbi Jakobovits to the House of the Lords and he later became known as “Thatcher’s rabbi.”

Thatcher also made the following statement about Israel’s security: “Israel must never be expected to jeopardize her security; if she was ever foolish enough to do so and then suffered for it, the backlash against both honest brokers and Palestinians would be immense - ‘land for peace’ must also bring peace.”

Thatcher spoke up with such courage and strength because as she described herself, “This lady is not for turning.” When she believed in an ideal, whether it was transforming the British economy or saving a terrified Jew from Austria, she was not afraid to follow through, even if she had to stand up against popular opinions to do so.

There were so many reasons why twelve year old Margaret and her sister could have thrown up their hands in despair and stuffed Edith’s letter into a drawer in their tiny, freezing apartment. They had no money, no power and no idea how they would be able to rescue this terrified girl that they had never met. But they believed that they could and should do everything that they can to help. They knew even then that there was room in the world for great leaders, even if they were only twelve years old and living above a small town grocery store with no hot water.

We pay tribute to Margaret Thatcher for her friendship and work with the Jewish people. For her wise words and inspiring courage. And for teaching us, that above all else, the greatest achievement in life is sometimes not one that earns you a trophy or money or even a powerful position. Sometimes it’s the quiet, determined accomplishments that no one hears about until years later.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

St. Abe

Jim Davies

When the Church of Rome has in mind to elevate one of its heroes or heroines to the status of sainthood, it follows a certain procedure – one element of which is to hear the opinion of an advocatus diaboli – a devil's advocate. His job is to reason against the proposed canonization, so reducing the probability of error.

That task fell in 2003 to Christopher Hitchens, with respect to Mother Teresa. He began his writing career as a Marxist, progressed to a humorist and general-purpose iconoclast, and was well on his way to becoming a libertarian when the Grim Reaper intervened in 2011. His take on Teresa appeared in 1995 in The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice, and in his associated remarks to Matt Cherry.

The Church of Government follows no such procedure, and pays no heed to any contrary view, when it decides to elevate to maximum honor one of its heroes. For example by building him a monument on the National Mall, by carving has face in the rocks of South Dakota, and/or by writing history that attributes to him all manner of good and none of evil, as a savior or mainstay of these United States.

I hold both these churches in low esteem, but think that in this respect the former has a far healthier procedure, even it if is mainly for show.

No saint of the latter has been more vigorously promoted by government than Abraham Lincoln, yet he was one of the bloodiest villains ever to walk the Earth. It's high time kiddies in its schools were made aware of that, and Thomas DiLorenzo has done much to ensure they will, in his splendid 2002 book “The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War.” This offers a short, if belated, review of that work.

Other authors have demolished the myth of the “Great Emancipator.” Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, for example, summed up Lincoln's war nicely in the title of his Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men. The profound hypocrisy of Lincoln's “Proclamation” that supposedly freed slaves is shown by the fact that it freed not a single slave in the territory Lincoln's government and army controlled, nor of course any of the slaves in those areas he did not control. But I did not know, before reading DiLorenzo's book, that this wicked fraud was recognized for what it was as soon as it had been published! Yet still, a century and a half later, government continues to propagate the fiction and the title it gave him.

Most other books on Lincoln are written by historians (reasonably enough), but Professor DiLorenzo is an economist, teaching that subject at Loyola. This leads to his unique contribution: he follows the money. And the power, or the pursuit of it, from 1776 onwards. Some have criticized “The Real Lincoln” on those grounds – and truth be told, I did notice a few minor flaws in the text which a professional historian would probably have avoided (the English protectionist “corn laws” were repealed in 1846, for example, not 1850.) They do nothing to detract from the importance of DiLorenzo's economic insight.

That insight centers on placing Lincoln's action in starting the war against the seceding states in the context of the struggle between two very different views of America that had been in rivalry ever since the Constitutional Convention: the Federalists led by Hamilton, and the Anti-Federalists led by Jefferson. The former wanted “consolidation”--a powerful central government in control of the states, while the latter wanted the state governments to remain supreme with the Feds in just a support role. The battle had continued for eight decades, back and forth. Adams began in the 1790s to strangle freedoms supposedly guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, Jefferson restored them. Twice a central bank was set up, twice it was ended. Now, in 1861, the question was whether or not the discontented Southern states could rightfully pull out of the Union.

Those favoring a big central government did so for the usual reason – a thirst for power – but were backed by businessmen of the kind that perceives government as an ally rather than a pestilence. The kind that always set out to emulate those in the Old Country who for centuries had made fortunes as “mercantilists,” by operating under the protection of royal monopoly grants. This class of parasite saw vast opportunity in America for what were then called “improvements,” (today, “infrastructure”)--roads, canals, and eventually railways. Their idea was not just to offer stocks to the investing public, then buy or claim land as required for the project and get to work under the eagle eyes of stockholders eager to see their money well used, but also to solicit government loans and favors.

It was easier that way. They could wine and dine influential pols and reward them with gifts of stock, in return for land grants and loans, then get to work, often in a rather careless manner. If they overspent, well, the railroad was needed for the great American public, so the loan had to be enlarged or forgiven, and so passed on to the taxpayer. A central bank was favored because that process could be made easier. The bank could make the loan with less Congressional oversight, then go begging for a bailout when it went sour. (Notes being then redeemable in gold, it could not, of course, just print up fiat “money.”) Few did without this scheme – but one of them was, in DiLorenzo's words, “railroad entrepreneur James J. Hill [who] even built a transcontinental railroad (the Great Northern) without a dime of government subsidy.” The Great Northern was the most solidly built of them all.

This racket required more and more money, and it had to come from taxes, so ever increasing taxes were levied, and they took the form of import tariffs because at that time nobody had figured out how to get around the Constitutional requirement that direct taxes (e.g. one on income) be apportioned. Therefore, Whigs and then Republicans stood for high tariffs and for “improvements.” And for a quarter century prior to 1861, Lincoln worked hard in both those parties for both those purposes. This was his true life's work.

High import taxes suited not only those eager to feed at the government trough, but also American manufacturers, most of whom were in the North and all of whom were selling against imports from more-experienced European competitors. High tariffs meant they could charge more, make better profits. Their customers in the North might grumble, but at least those profits stayed in the North. In the agricultural South, such machinery had to be bought (whether from overseas or from the US North) at artificially high prices, and none of the money stayed in the South. That was the real cause of tension between the two zones.

There was tension too over slavery, of course, but DiLorenzo scorns it as a prime cause of the war. Most Abolitionists were in the North, but he says there were “only 200,000” of them and hence, politically unimportant (though I wonder if he's quite right on that; the US population was only about 30 million, so it's a respectable minority.) More importantly, he says that racial bigotry was generally stronger in the North than in the South! -- and instances the dramatic effect in New York of “Emancipation”: “in July 1863 there were race riots in New York City as whites protested the Emancipation Proclamation (January 1863) and Lincoln's new conscription law (March 1863) by randomly assaulting (and sometimes killing) any and all black people unlucky enough to cross their path.” Northerners had been willing (and stupid) enough to fight to “preserve the Union,” but not at all to free blacks.

As the tension over tariffs rose to a snapping point, Lincoln saw danger and opportunity. If the South seceded, it would no longer collect import taxes or buy Northern machinery – planters would just import it from overseas – so his tax-and-”improve” racket would be undermined. If however he could use it to wage (and win) a war, central power in D.C. would be forever engrossed. That was the origin and cause of the war; it was fought not to emancipate, but to consolidate. In truth, Lincoln was the Great Consolidator.

DiLorenzo reasons that secession is a natural right, always accepted as such in America and never questioned, prior to 1861. America began by seceding from the then-legitimate London government, “illegally” of course – so the right to secede was integral to the new nation. It wasn't written in to the Constitution because nobody thought it needed to be. In his Foreword to The Real Lincoln, Walter Williams writes, “In Thomas Jefferson's First Inaugural Address (1801), he declared, 'If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed . . . .'” DiLorenzo musters in his Chapter 5 multiple reasons to support the thesis that secession was always understood to be such an “undisturbed” right; one of them considers the 1814-15 Hartford Convention of Northern Federalists, who considered leaving the Union because they thought the “three-fifths clause” gave too much representation to the Slave States. They wanted it scrapped, so that Negroes were not counted at all! But at no point during that Convention did anyone suggest that any state did not have the right to secede.

So, despite having ample and wealthy support, Lincoln took no chances. He did not invite even the rump Congress of Northern representatives to declare war, but rather called the secession a “rebellion” and asserted powers as Commander in Chief to quell it. Further, he provided FDR, 80 years later, with a blueprint of how to begin a war while appearing not to: he manipulated the South into firing the first shot. Fort Sumter was a Federal outpost in South Carolina territory, so after secession was declared, it “should” have been evacuated. Jefferson Davis even “appointed peace commissioners, in conformity with a resolution of the Confederate Congress, whose mission was to travel to Washington, D.C., in March 1861, before the attack on Fort Sumter, and offer to pay for any Federal property.” Lincoln refused to see them (!) and instead, sent ships to replenish its provisions – which were, as expected, fired upon. Thus the War began. Unprecedented power was about to pass to the central government, exactly as Lincoln intended.

The Real Lincoln continues by presenting a short account of the War's conduct, and it's well done and quite horrible; I don't often feel nauseous after reading, but this was one of those times. (Others were The Black Book of Communism and Death by Government, and as a most interesting aside, I noticed while preparing this article that Prof. DiLorenzo has spotted an omission in the latter; author R.J. Rummel did not list 300,000 Americans in his awesome catalog of worldwide democides. Those were the civilians killed during the War to Prevent Secession.) Lincoln micro-managed his generals, so bears full responsibility for the butchery their armies carried out. One American in 60 was killed, but Lincoln's aim was fulfilled. We are living with that result to this day.

DiLorenzo's chronicle doesn't end in 1865, but gives a good account of “Reconstruction,” also managed by Republicans in full accord, he reasons, with Lincoln's aims and policies. It, too, makes sickening reading. He writes: “The primary effect, if not the intent, of the 'Reconstruction' policies of 1865–1877 was to centralize and consolidate state power in Washington, D.C., and to establish Republican Party political hegemony that would last for some seventy years. Even when the Republican Party did not control the White House during those years, its mercantilist policies generally prevailed until the Franklin Roosevelt administration of the 1930s, at which time government became even more interventionist.”

One disappointment in The Real Lincoln, for me, was that it didn't comment on what would have happened if Lincoln had failed to start the 1861 war, or if the “First Bull Run” battle in July 1861, won by Confederates, had been immediately followed by the capture of the capital; Stonewall Jackson begged Jefferson Davis' leave, saying “Give me ten thousand men and I will take Washington tomorrow!” Davis refused, and ever afterwards regretted it. Presumably, Lincoln's bid to centralize power would have failed there and then. The Confederacy would have continued, tariffs would have been slashed, and “improvements” would all have been built by free enterprise, like J.J. Hill's. The FedGov would have remained as a minor role-player in American life.

Would that have been good enough? Not in a million years. State and local governments are just as arrogant and intrusive as the Federal one. The problem is not the size or the scope, but the very existence and nature of government, denying as it always does the absolute right of every human being to own and operate his or her own life.

That said, without doubt a large and inescapable government is far worse than a small one from which one can readily escape by moving to another's jurisdiction. Lincoln brought about that large government, and right now, with its worldwide tax laws and treaties and its burgeoning no-fly lists, it is busy preventing such escape.

Call Thomas DiLorenzo an advocatus diaboli if you will, but I reckon he did a good day's work. In my portrayal of the day government evaporates, I visualized that the celebrants on the National Mall will decorate the Lincoln Memorial with appropriate graffiti; having now read The Real Lincoln, I think that in the succeeding weeks they will also hammer it to bits, no doubt selling fragments, like the cubic inch of concrete on my bookshelf from the former Berlin Wall, as mementos of a truly evil man who could be regarded as a “saint” only by those with an utterly twisted sense of morality.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Australian Federal MPs say no to gay marriage

GAY marriage advocates have urged supporters to "maintain their rage" after federal Parliament delivered a crushing defeat of proposed changes to the law.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and former party leaders Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull all voted against same-sex marriage as it was beaten in the House of Representatives by 98 votes to 42.

It came as Mr Abbott sacked Senator Cory Bernardi as his parliamentary secretary after he commented that the push for gay marriage could lead to legalising bestiality and polygamy.

Senator Bernardi told the Senate the "next step" after gay marriage could be "creepy people" who want "consensual sexual relations between humans and animals".

He said: "In the future will we say, 'These two creatures love each other and maybe they should be able to be joined in a union?'."

Mr Turnbull, who supports gay marriage but voted against it because Coalition frontbenchers did not have a free vote on the issue, blasted Senator Bernardi's comments as hysterical, alarmist and offensive.

Mr Abbott said Senator Bernardi had been "ill-disciplined" but was a "decent bloke with strong opinions".

He said after a fairly forthright discussion Senator Bernardi offered his resignation and he accepted it because it was crucial the Opposition be a "strong and disciplined Coalition".

Labor MP Stephen Jones, who sponsored the Bill to change the Marriage Act, urged supporters to "maintain your rage" and predicted he would be attending gay weddings within 10 years.


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Transfusions bring experts' blood to boil


REFUSE at your own risk: for years that's the message doctors have relayed to Jehovah's Witnesses and others who've declined blood transfusions.

But transfusions are not the wonder procedure of popular, or even medical profession, imagination. Mounting evidence shows they significantly increase the risk of post-operative complications - including infections, kidney failure, lung injury and death.

Yet instead of being saved as a last resort, they are still being performed when other safer options could be used instead.

In fact, more than 25 per cent of blood transfusions currently performed are unnecessary, according to a visiting US expert who spoke at the annual scientific meeting of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA) two weeks ago.

Internationally renowned emergency medicine and anaesthiology professor Bruce Spiess told the conference that while blood transfusions have long been "believed to be helpful and a pillar of modern medicine", there was now relatively little evidence to support such claims.

It's a point that has been echoed by several Australian experts, including anaesthesists associate professor Larry McNicol and doctor Peter McCall at Austin Health in Melbourne."Drug options are carefully tested and regulated through prospective, randomised double-blind testing, but blood transfusion stands apart," Spiess says. "It has never been safety or efficacy tested."

"From the point of view of the risk of transmitting infections, blood transfusions are safer than they have ever been," McCall says.

"However, there is an ever-increasing body of research about adverse outcomes in association with them. Still there is a tendency to think that blood transfusions are mystical and lifesaving, and it is better to give them than to withhold them."

The reasons not to make blood transfusion routine are becoming increasingly apparent: a person who has had a blood transfusion after surgery has up to four times the risk of wound infections. People who have blood transfusions during cancer surgery face up to twice the risk of the cancer recurring.

In his conference presentation, Spiess discussed Swedish research on cardiac patients that compared Jehovah's Witnesses who refused blood transfusions to patients with similar disease progression during open-heart surgery. The research found those who refused transfusions had noticeably better survival rates.

There are a few major reasons complications arise following transfusion. For one thing, immune response is impaired as the body responds to the blood as a foreign body, much in the same way it responds to a transplant, experts say. The properties of red blood cells also become altered when blood is stored, reducing their ability to distribute oxygen through the body.

Yet at least 25 per cent of transfusions that are done could be avoided, Spiess says.

A 2005-2006 audit of the use of fresh frozen plasma in hospitals in Tasmania and Victoria found that one-third of the transfusions performed were inappropriate under underguidelines issued by the National Health and Medical Research Council, says associate professor Larry McNicol, who also chairs the Better Safer Transfusion program run by the Victorian Government.

"Essentially these patients really perhaps didn't need it and there might not have been therapeutic benefits," McNicol says.

But there are still circumstances when blood transfusion is necessary, and the patient would probably die if they did not receive one, says University of Sydney professor James Isbister, a consultant on haemotology and blood transfusion who chairs the Red Cross advisory board.

Isbister says blood transfusion can be vital for patients undergoing major surgery after experiencing major trauma or shock when there is major bleeding that is difficult to control quickly. It can also be instrumental in managing hemophilia, where blood does not clot, as well as acute hemorrhages.

"A lot of major surgery would never have developed without the possibility for blood transfusion either - for instance, open heart surgery," Isbister says.

But many of the cases in the Better Safer Transfusion audit involved transfusions that could have been avoided. For example, it was once thought that blood transfusions should be performed any time a patient's hemoglobin level dipped below 10 grams of hemoglobin per decilitre of blood - but now guidelines in varying countries put that between 6 and 8g.

"It used to be that 10g was the acceptable minimum, but now we know that patients are at no detriment by a running a lower count and we can avoid these additional risks," McCall says.

"When the blood count is lower, the heart is able to beat more strongly - so it can actually pump more efficiently to distribute the blood better."

The audit also uncovered a tendency for some doctors to use transfusions as a precaution in patients who were at risk of bleeding, but not yet bleeding - for example, they might have had abnormal test results. In those cases the guidelines recommend doctors wait until bleeding starts.

Other studies have also shown that the likelihood of receiving a transfusion during elective orthopaedic surgery or cardiac surgery can vary enormously between hospitals, despite there being little difference between the patients, Isbister says.

"There's huge variation between hospitals and surgeons depending on where you have your operation - in one hospital you can have an 80 per cent chance of being transfused, and in another hospital 10 per cent chance."

"Most patients undergoing hip and knee surgery should only have a 10 to 20 per cent chance of needing a transfusion - but there's evidence it can be much higher."

There are a number of ways to avoid transfusions, including drugs that minimise blood loss and others that stop clots from being dissolved, as well as anesthetic and surgical techniques to minimise blood loss.

"You don't always have to bring a person's blood pressure up to normal - you can keep it low and that minimises bleeding," he says.

In surgery where there's a risk of major blood loss, doctors frequently use a technique called "red cells salvage", which allows them to reuse the patient's own blood rather than transfusing someone else's. The patient's blood is collected in a machine where it is then washed in a saline solution before being given back to the patient.

But the battle to reduce unnecessary transfusions often begins before surgery.

"One of the ways to minimise transfusions is to prepare patients better before surgery - for example you can give them supplements to get their blood count up before surgery," McCall says.

To that end a 2005 South Australian audit found that 18 per cent of people who had been on waiting lists for elective surgery had anemia, which increases the chances of needing a transfusion. If the anemia had been better managed before surgery some of those patients could have avoided blood transfusions, according to Kathryn Robinson, medical adviser of South Australia's BloodSafe.

But for all the bad news, experts say that change is on the horizon. Various states are developing initiatives to help decrease unnecessary transfusions, and at a conference of federal and state health ministers in March the federal Government said it would fund two initiatives expected to improve the safety of the blood supply and improve outcomes for people who do ultimately need transfusions.

One of those initiatives is the universal testing of platelets, which carry particularly high risks of complications. Unlike other blood products, platelets can't be refrigerated, so they are susceptible to contamination by bacteria. International guidelines recommend all platelets be universally tested for the bacteria, but currently only about 5 per cent of the supply is tested, McNicol says.

At the same meeting the government announced that by 2010 all blood will be processed to remove white blood cells, known as leuko-reduced blood, which has been shown to dramatically reduce complications and is already in widespread use in Canada, New Zealand, Western Europe and elsewhere.

"There are three randomised controlled studies in heart surgery, where patients who were deemed appropriate to be transfused got either leuko-reduced blood or blood with white cells present," Spiess says.

"The death rate in those with leuko-reduced blood was roughly half that in those with blood with white cells," Speiss says. "In the patients that got no blood, there were no deaths at all."

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Greenies against the Jews

Followers of Hitler in that respect too

“The desert is groaning”, declares Cornerstone magazine, the Palestinian Sabeel Theology Center’s publication. “The Israeli army and settlers have polluted the Palestinian areas,” writes Reverend Naim Ateek, who heads the notorious anti-Jewish Christian center.

Despite the fact that Israel is the only country to enter the 21st century with a net gain in forest growth, Green activists today are among the most virulently anti-Jewish. The Green Party mayor of Aachen, Hilde Scheidt, has just waged a media campaign against Israel. Prominent German author Henryk Broder called her a “Green anti-Semite,” after she defended a cartoon depicting a man sporting a Star of David on his bib as he devours a young Palestinian boy with a fork draped in an American flag and a knife with the word “Gaza” written on it.

Back in 1991, German Green Party’s spokesman Hans Christian Stroebele defended Saddam Hussein’s rockets on Tel Aviv because “Iraq’s attacks are the logical, almost compelling, consequence of Israel’s politics vis-à-vis the Palestinians and the Arab states,”

The Green lies about “the ecology of occupation” are now spreading at the highest European levels. The French parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee recently published an unprecedented report accusing Israel of implementing “apartheid” in its allocation of water in Judea and Samaria.

Meanwhile, environmentalists accuse Israel’s army of being a major cause of cancer in Palestinian children. This blood libel began in 1999, when Suha Arafat declared that Israeli gas is poisoning Arab children: “Our people have been subjected to the daily and extensive use of poisonous gas by the Israeli forces, which has led to an increase in cancer cases among women and children.” She also said that Israel has “chemically contaminated about 80% of water sources used by Palestinians.”

Nazi-style rhetoric

The pollution myth spread through the literary milieu as well. British dramatist David Hare wrote that the Jews have “polluted” the Promised Land and “do not belong here.” According to this racist belief, “native species” originate in a certain place and that is where they “belong.” Hence, Israel’s "colonization" threatens the “original” Arab environment.

Green NGOs accuse Israel of “warfare ecology,” “deforestation,” “erosion of agricultural lands,” and “expropriation” of Arab land for Israel’s national park. European geographers denounce settler “cementification” and the “architecture of occupation" in a growing topography of hatred.

Elsewhere, Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine,” led by the British Richard Rogers, has called for a boycott of architects, planners and companies involved in building the security fence, which stopped the suicide bombers. Eyal Weizman, an Israeli architect living in London, calls it a “war crime.”

Elements within the Green movement have adopted Nazi-style rhetoric to blast Israeli businesses. Literature distributed by the boycotters outrageously describes Judea and Samaria citizens as “parasites.” Products from the Golan Heights, such as wines, mineral water and milk are targeted. Flowers are targeted by the BDS movement, because since Israel entered the flower export market in the 1970s this business has been blooming.

The Ahava cosmetics company is also targeted by Green activists. In the last three years, thousands of Western women in bikinis, belonging to the feminist association Code Pink, protested outside Ahava shops in the US and in European capitals. They are usually streaked with mud, some featuring the words “Ahava is a dirty business.” The slogan of the campaign is fashionable and catchy: “Stolen Beauty.”

Dutch government promoted an investigation to determine whether Ahava should enjoy tax privileges granted to foreign goods. Elsewhere, Sex and the City actress Kristin Davis was suspended by humanitarian group Oxfam International after joining an Ahava advertisement campaign.

In the final analysis, environmentalists have launched a primitive diatribe against Israel that smacks of classic, medieval-style anti-Semitic blood libels. It demonizes the Jews for “dispossessing” and “polluting” a fabricated, “archetypical Palestine.” Yet this campaign has proven, again, that anti-Semitism is the most dangerous pollutant.