Monday, July 27, 2015

What's He Thinking?

This report is part of a perplexing juxtaposition of stories involving President Obama:
Just hours before a gunman claimed three lives inside a Louisiana movie theater, President Obama on Thursday said the inability to pass gun-control legislation has been the frustrating aspect of his presidency.

In an interview with the BBC recorded Thursday afternoon, the president vowed to continue trying but seemed resigned to the fact that this Congress is unlikely to approve any significant changes to gun laws.

“That is an area where if you ask me where has been the one area where I feel that I’ve been most frustrated and most stymied, it is the fact that the United States of America is the one advanced nation on earth in which we do not have sufficient common-sense, gun-safety laws, even in the face of repeated mass killings,” Mr. Obama said.

“And you know, if you look at the number of Americans killed since 9/11 by terrorism, it’s less than 100. If you look at the number that have been killed by gun violence, it’s in the tens of thousands. And for us not to be able to resolve that issue has been something that is distressing. But it is not something that I intend to stop working on in the remaining 18 months,” he said.
The perplexing juxtaposition referred to above is that the president expressed his frustration at not being able to disarm the American people just days after having worked so hard to secure an agreement with the world's worst state sponsor of terrorism, Iran, that will free up $100 billion for them to supply weapons to terrorists around the globe and which they'll also be able to spend on developing a nuclear weapon with which to kill millions.

Weapons in the hands of the wrong people is indeed a problem in the U.S., but it's no less a problem elsewhere in the world. Why strive to take guns out of the hands of Americans, the vast majority of whom use them responsibly, while at the same time work just as hard for a deal that'll facilitate putting guns into the hands of people, the vast majority of whom will use them to kill innocents?

Either President Obama does not see the irony and inconsistency in this, or he sees it and doesn't care. If it's the former then he's obtuse, if it's the latter then he's malevolent. As bad as it may make him appear, let's hope it's the former.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Table Talk

At dinner with friends last night the conversation turned briefly to politics. One person announced that she supports Hillary, one came out for Sanders, and one hoped that Trump would prevail. My spirit sank within me. These are all intelligent people, what could they possibly see in any of these candidates? What was I missing?

Hillary Clinton is a corrupt, dishonest opportunist whose public life is wreathed in scandal and who, despite being given so many unmerited opportunities, has not a single accomplishment in her career except having married a man who carried her to national prominence. It's very difficult to say exactly what she stands for, other than her own personal aggrandizement, and what reason anyone could have to vote for her.

Bernie Sanders is an acknowledged socialist who believes Barack Obama has not gone far enough in dismantling the capitalist system that has brought a higher standard of living to more people than any other system at any other time in history. Socialism has proven unsustainable and thus an abject failure everywhere it has been practiced. It has only worked for a time in European countries which were able to shelter under the American military umbrella in the post WWII era and which were thus able to spend their dwindling resources on high pensions, health care, education, and housing rather than defense.

As Margaret Thatcher famously observed, however, the problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money, and you wind up an economic basket-case like Greece. Why would anyone vote for a man whose policies, if implemented, would turn the United States into Greece?

Donald Trump is saying things that resonate with the American people, especially about immigration. He's saying things other politicians won't say, and best of all he's not afraid to stick his thumb in the eye of the media, which is always enjoyable to watch. The problem, however, is that much of what Trump is saying today is at odds with what he was saying a decade or so ago. He's touching a nerve but, given his past statements, one questions his sincerity, not to mention his egotism. In fact, Trump is in many ways a mirror image of Barack Obama, so why, with so many more tested and principled candidates in the GOP field, would someone throw their support to Trump?

Anyway, nobody at last night's dinner asked me for my opinion so, not wanting my friends to be offended by having their views questioned in front of others (people often get testy or embarrassed when asked to actually defend their opinions), I didn't say much, but inwardly I despaired. I can only hope that my friends do not represent a cross-section of the American electorate. After all, if intelligent people are prepared to vote for corrupt crony-capitalists, socialists, or unprincipled demagogues, what in the world are the masses of uninformed, disinterested 2016 voters going to do?

Friday, July 24, 2015

Liberalism's Heavy Price

The Obama administration has refused to enforce our borders and has released thousands of illegal aliens who are known to be felons onto our streets while sanctuary cities around the country have given these criminals a haven from prosecution and deportation. Why is the president doing this? I understand that he wants to flood the country with illegals who will one day become citizens and vote Democratic, but why is he turning so many vicious criminals loose on the American public?

It seems like an act of utter madness. It's what one would do if one were intent upon destroying the fabric of a society, and yet that's what's happening in this country, and the media has adopted the code of omertà. There's an almost total media blackout on this crisis except when a high profile case like that of the murder of Kathryn Steinle manages to interrupt the media's fascination with Donald Trump stories.

J. Christian Adams has a piece at PJ Media in which he presents some truly frightening statistics about what the president's administration is doing:
The murder of Kathryn Steinle on the Embarcadero in San Francisco by an illegal alien is the most familiar example of a crime committed by an alien. But an unreleased internal report by the Texas Department of Public Safety reveals that aliens have been involved in thousands of crimes in Texas alone, including nearly 3,000 homicides.

PJ Media obtained a never-before-released copy of a Texas DPS report on human smuggling containing the numbers of crimes committed by aliens in Texas. According to the analysis conducted by the Texas Department of Public Safety, foreign aliens committed 611,234 unique crimes in Texas from 2008 to 2014, including thousands of homicides and sexual assaults.

The report describes an alien crime wave of staggering proportions exacerbated by federal officials unwilling to enforce immigration laws.
Not only are aliens committing crimes at this horrific rate, but the Obama administration is inexplicably freeing them from jail and sending them back into our communities:
Yesterday, Texas Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) grilled Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Sarah Saldaña about the 104,000 criminals that ICE released in 2013, and the 68,000 criminals against whom ICE refused to start deportation proceedings.

Saldaña calls it “good news” that only 30,558 criminal aliens were released by ICE in 2014.
Add to this the policy of granting criminal aliens a safe haven in sanctuary cities which refuse to obey federal immigration law and you have a portrait of a country which seems determined to commit national suicide. Nobody in the administration from the president on down feels any obligation to obey immigration laws passed by Congress, yet if a family bakery refuses to cater a gay wedding they're fined $135,000 and all but put out of business for failing to obey the law. How can the nation's leader flout the law while demanding that everyone else hew to it? What kind of example is he setting?

Kathryn Steinle was shot in the back for no reason whatsoever by an illegal alien who had been deported numerous times but who had taken refuge in a sanctuary city. Her last words as she lay dying in her father's arms, were "Help me dad. Help me."

I don't see how President Obama, and every person who supports his immigration policy and/or supports sanctuary cities for illegal aliens, can escape personal responsibility for her death. Every one of those people should put themselves in the heartbreaking position of Kathryn's father and ask whether the policy they endorse is worth watching their daughter's life ebb away while she pleads with her remaining strength for her helpless father to save her.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Kirsten Powers on the Planned Parenthood Debacle

The videos of Planned Parenthood higher ups negotiating deals for baby body parts and, in the most recent example, joking about wanting the buyers to sweeten the deal so she can buy herself a Lamborghini, are pretty awful. In response, Planned Parenthood (PP) and it's media apologists have come to the defense of PP and its employees, but none of their responses have much of anything to do with the deplorable state of PP's ethics or concern for the law.

Kirsten Powers, a liberal, mind you, who worked in the Clinton administration, pillories some of the more egregious excuses that PP's defenders have employed in a column at USA Today. I'd like to add a couple of thoughts to what she writes.

She begins by noting that Cecile Richards, the CEO of PP, found nothing objectionable in the Dr. Deborah Nucatola videos other than the doctor's "tone":
Planned Parenthood head Cecile Richards apologized last week for the uncompassionate tone her senior director of medical research, Deborah Nucatola, used to explain the process by which she harvests aborted body parts to be provided for medical research.

Nucatola had been caught on an undercover video talking to anti-abortion activists posing as representatives of a biological tissue procurement company. The abortion doctor said, “I’d say a lot of people want liver,” and “a lot of people want intact hearts these days.” Explaining how she could perform later-term abortions to aid the harvesting of such intact organs, she said, “We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m gonna basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.”
People who can insouciently discuss killing a baby by crushing it in such a way as to leave internal organs salvageable for sale, and those who find nothing disgusting about this except, perhaps, the tone, have, I fear, lost at least some of their humanity.
A second undercover video released Tuesday shows another Planned Parenthood official talking about using a “less crunchy” way to perform abortions while preserving salable fetal tissue.

This is stomach-turning stuff. But the problem here is not one of tone. It’s the crushing. It’s the organ harvesting of fetuses that abortion-rights activists want us to believe have no more moral value than a fingernail. It’s the lie that these are not human beings worthy of protection. There is no nice way to talk about this. As my friend and former Obama White House staffer Michael Wear tweeted, “It should bother us as a society that we have use for aborted human organs, but not the baby that provides them.”
Indeed. If the baby has grown to the point where it has well-developed internal organs then we're not talking about a blob of undifferentiated tissue, we're talking about a living human being.
Richards worked to discredit the video by complaining it was “heavily edited.” But the nearly three-hour unedited video — a nauseating journey through the inner workings of the abortion industry — was posted at the same time as the edited video. Richards intoned menacingly that the video was “secretly recorded.” So what? When Mitt Romney was caught by “secret video” making his 47% remarks, the means of attaining the information was not the focus of the story.

Planned Parenthood’s public relations firm also portrayed the crushing and organ harvesting as a “ humanitarian undertaking,” and tried to tarnish the maker of the video with a white paper that deemed him unfit because he once wrote an article for the “opposition” outlet The Weekly Standard, a well-respected conservative magazine. Let’s talk about anything except the information disclosed by Nucatola.
Yes. Change the subject. Deflect attention away from the grisly butchery that PP is engaged in and complain instead about the nefarious tactics used by the imposters who surreptitiously recorded the conversation. It was so unfair, so sneaky, it was a form of entrapment. Never mind what the video reveals about what's really going on in abortatoriums around the country.
It’s a measure of how damning the video is that Planned Parenthood’s usual defenders were nowhere to be found. There was total silence from The New York Times editorial board and their 10 (out of 11) pro-abortion rights columnists. Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi — both recipients of Planned Parenthood’s highest honor, the Margaret Sanger Award — have been mum. But a few loyalists took up the cause, including Washington Post columnist Petula Dvorak, whose column was headlined: “Planned Parenthood deserves to be supported, not attacked.” Actually, it's fetuses who are under attack. By Planned Parenthood.
On what grounds does PP deserve to be supported? Because they sometimes help troubled women? Even if that were true, it's a bit like saying Bill Cosby deserves to be supported, not attacked, because he sometimes helped young actresses.
Dvorak invoked a common defense against the barbarism of late-term abortion: “The details are gruesome, as are many medical procedures and how doctors and nurses tell stories about the operating room.” But nobody is morally repulsed by stories of heart transplants.
True enough, but then neither is the patient intentionally crushed to death when given a heart transplant.
Mississippi abortion doctor Willie Parker — who was lauded by Esquire for his “ abortion ministry” — ran with the trope that direct quotes from a Planned Parenthood doctor constitute a vicious attack, but went a step further: He compared Nucatola to Jesus. “It's no secret that my frame of reference for the work that I do and in terms of generating compassion is related to my religious understanding and, in particular, my Christian religious understanding,” Parker told Cosmopolitan magazine. “I'm thinking about a strong parallel between what's happening to my colleague (Nucatola) and the trial week of Jesus before he was crucified (as) he was marched from place to place, asked to answer allegations.”

When abortion doctors are elevated to gods who may not be questioned or held accountable, society has officially gone off the rails.
And when a Christian doctor can compare a colleague who callously destroys the lives of helpless infants and then seeks to profit from the sale of the child's organs to the One who said that it would be better for a person who harms a child to have a millstone tied around his neck and dropped into the sea than to face the judgment that awaits him, that doctor has a very peculiar understanding of the person of Christ and has forfeited whatever moral authority he may once have had.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Modern Slavery

Slavery was once practiced by the most advanced civilizations on earth, but in modern times is found only in retrograde, morally depauperate societies where slavery is still very much alive and apparently thriving.
In June 2015 ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) held a slave auction in eastern Syria. On sale where 42 Yazidi women, who were offered to ISIL men for between $500 and $2,000. Since the slaves were not Moslem they could not be married, so their owners would use them for sex, housekeeping or whatever.

ISIL was depending on Moslem scripture to justify this. Actually, ISIL is not alone as there is still a lot of slavery in the Islamic world. There is also a lot of hatred for non-Moslems especially those they consider pagans. ISIL considers the Yazidis pagans. It was with Yazidis that ISIL reintroduced slavery (of non-Moslems, especially “pagans” like Yazidis) into their new Islamic State. This may appall many in the West and to placate foreigners most Arab nations have outlawed slavery, despite the fact that it still exists and continues to exist with much local support.
Slavery is also found in Mauritania, Sudan, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia and almost always involves the enslavement of black Africans to Islamic Arabs:
The divisions in Mauritania, with a population of less than four million, are between the Arab (about a third) and "former slaves" (black Africans from the south). Mauritania exists on the border between Arabs and Bantu (the ethnic group that predominates in Africa south of the Sahara). Blacks were the slaves, and slavery was formerly abolished only in 1981. But slavery still exists in Mauritania. In Sudan the pro-Arab government has used slavery to encourage Arab tribes to make war on darker skinned “African” tribes. The government allowed any captives taken to be enslaved.

It’s not just Mauritania and Sudan that have problems with slavery. In 2010 Yemeni anti-slavery groups forced their government to investigate families living in the countryside that were still keeping slaves. At least 500 Africans are believed to be enslaved, some of them recent migrants, others the descendants of slaves.

Slavery was outlawed in Arabia in the early 1960s, but that only eliminated the more obvious cases in urban areas. The practice continued in more remote areas. It's been going on for thousands of years, during which Arabs are believed to have enslaved up to 20 million Africans. As a result, up to twenty percent of the people in Arabia appear to have African ancestors and genetic studies have confirmed this.
Why is it that throughout history it has predominately been black Africans who wind up in shackles? Why is it that the Muslim practice of slavery, condoned by the Koran, is not more vociferously condemned by the leaders of the Western world? Could it be that the juxtaposition of the three facts contained in the foregoing two questions holds the answer?

Consider that the victims are mostly black Africans, the perpetrators are mostly Muslims, and the Western elites have largely embraced a moral and cultural relativism that saps them of any ability to make moral judgments and perhaps we have the germ of an answer as to why the world expresses so little outrage.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Black Lives Matter

Do all lives matter? Evidently not to liberal progressives, they don't. When former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley suggested such a heretical notion at a recent Netroots convention he was roundly booed by the attendees, forcing him to embarrass himself with an abject, ignominious apology for inadvertently uttering the outrageous notion that all people, not just blacks, have value.

Notwithstanding the remarkable stupidity of the reaction to O'Malley's "gaffe" and his grovelling clarification, black lives do, of course, matter, but those who insist on the slogan and shout down those who would like to be rather more inclusive, are generally focusing their energies in the wrong direction. The implication of "Black Lives Matter" is that whites don't place a sufficiently high value on black lives, that whites, especially white policemen, hold black people in low esteem. But those who truly believe that black lives matter need to take a harder look at the black community itself. Of course, to people who spout slogans facts are often irrelevant, but we need to consider them nevertheless.

Consider a few: In 2011 there were 6,309 black homicide victims in the United States. As a share of the population the murder rate of blacks is four times that for other racial groups, and over 90% of those victims were murdered by other blacks. Many of the remainder were murdered by Hispanics in gang-related activity.

Furthermore, despite the fact that blacks are only 13% of the population and whites comprise over 63%, blacks murdered whites twice as frequently as whites (including Hispanics) murdered blacks in 2013.

What about black deaths at the hands of white cops? Of all the people killed by cops in the decade ending in 2011, most of which were justified, 49% were white and 30% were black.

The 30% figure may seem disproportionately high since blacks constitute only 13% of the population, but given that blacks also constitute the largest cohort of perpetrators of violence against police it's not surprising that a disproportionate number would wind up being shot.

And blacks are indeed the worst perpetrators of violence against police, murdering cops at rates out of all proportion to their percentage of the population. They comprise 13% of the population but in 2013 they were responsible for 42% of the murders of police officers.

In other words, blacks suffer far more grievously at the hands of other blacks than they do from either whites in general or white cops in particular. Moreover, in cases of interracial murder, not counting other assaults from which injury results, blacks murder whites much more frequently than whites murder blacks. If it doesn't seem that way it's only because the media generally downplays or ignores black on white violence and goes wall-to-wall with stories of white on black violence on the rare occasions when it occurs.

In fact, to paint the picture more vividly, although the United States ranks third in the world for murder, according to this source, if Chicago, Detroit, Washington, D.C., and New Orleans were deleted from the United States' homicide statistics, the U.S. would drop to fourth from the bottom for murders.

If black lives matter, and they do, then those who are concerned about the carnage, especially among young black males, should focus their attention not on white racism or white police who have probably saved far more black lives than they've taken, certainly more than they've taken without justification, but on the real source of the problem, the awful dysfunctionalities which exist in the black community - dysfunctionalities that only blacks themselves can cure.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Stem Cell Progress

Stem cell researchers originally used cells extracted from human embryos, a process which resulted in the death of the embryo. This, of course, was an intolerable situation for those who hold to a high view of human life, and it was a great relief a few years ago when technology advanced to the point where other types of cells, notably skin cells, could be made pluripotent without destroying embryonic human beings.

Now researchers working with skin cells are beginning to see their work bearing fruit as this article in the UK Independent notes:
Scientists have made tiny human hearts that can actually beat from nothing — and they’re so small that they can barely be seen with the naked eye.

The hearts have been grown using only stem cells, for the very first time, the New Scientist reports. As such, it mimics the processes that happen when humans hearts’ grow for the first time — except it happens in a lab, at the prompting of researchers.

The new hearts were created using stems cells that were made by reversing human skin cells, so that they turned back to something like an embryo. Once that was done, the scientists encouraged the cells to grow into the right formation, changing their shape and then eventually forming first into the cells that help hearts beat, then into those that connect the heart up and after that into tiny ventricles.

The techniques could eventually be used to create a full-sized heart, scientists suggest to the New Scientist. “Our model is the first step towards building a heart relying on self-organisation of cells, without any external three-dimensional supporting materials,” says Zhen Ma, from the University of California at Berkeley, told the magazine.

The same technique might also be used to create other parts of the human body. It has long been difficult to encourage lab-created organs to grow into the right thing — but the new research gives a new insight into how stem cells turn into the right cells.

But in the shorter term, the tiny hearts can be used to study how humans’ bigger ones work. The “highly defined human cardiac microchambers”, as the scientists call them, could also tell us more about how embryos and early hearts are formed, as well as how certain drugs affect babies before they are born.
Great prospects for creating other organs from skin cells in the future. No dead embryos. It's a development that only Deborah Nucatola, the current occupant of Planned Parenthood's Dr. Mengele chair, wouldn't appreciate.