October 27, 2010

Venezuelan workers protest Chavez's nationalization of U.S. company

By David Paulin

As part of ongoing efforts to introduce "21st-century socialism" to Venezuela, Hugo Chávez plans to nationalize yet another foreign company – this time the local subsidiary of U.S. glass-making giant Owens-Illinois, Inc. Chávez claims the company's subsidiary has been “exploiting” workers.

You'd think the 1,000 workers at Owens-Illinois de Venezuela CA would be overjoyed to know they'll soon have all the benefits of a “workers paradise.”

Just the opposite is the case.

Yesterday, hundreds of “exploited” workers loudly protested the impending nationalization. Speaking to a Venezuela TV station, union leader Rigoberto Méndez said workers were “totally in disagreement with the expropriation.” Owen's workers had an excellent contract and good working conditions, he stressed, while surrounded by supportive workers. The company has been in Venezuela 50 years.

"We are going to defend the company to the last," Méndez said. "We want our right to work to be respected." (You can see a video clip here of Méndez giving an interview to Venezuela's Globovision television station.)

Méndez speculated that a nationalized company will enable Chávez to indirectly control the many companies the glass manufacturer supplies. One of the biggest is Empresas Polar SA, Venezuela's largest beer and food producer – a company Chávez often criticizes. Indeed, Chávez declared “an economic war” on Venezuela's “bourgeoisie” last June, and he lashed into Polar owner Lorenzo Mendoza “for allegedly manipulating its employees and trying to undermine the government," Bloomberg News noted in an article about the expropriation.

Mendoza has the sort of credentials Chávez despises: Forbes magazine named him Venezuela's second-wealthiest man, Bloomberg noted. He also “runs a venture with PepsiCo Inc. and makes Harina P.A.N., the staple corn flour to make arepas, the flat cakes that are a staple of the Venezuelan diet."

Explaining what Chávez hopes to gain, Bloomberg provided insights from a Venezuelans analyst who echoed those of union leader Méndez:

"The takeover will weaken closely held Polar...by putting its supply chain under government control, said Rafael Alfonzo, president of Caracas-based researcher Cedice. Combined with the expropriation earlier this month of Agroislena C.A. Sucesora de Enrique Fraga Afonso, Venezuela’s biggest farm-supply business, the move gives Chávez significant sway over Polar, Alfonzo said.

"The expropriation of Owens-Illinois is part of a government project to create a food hegemony and the total takeover of the food supply,” Alfonzo said in a phone interview. “If you control the supply chain, there is no need to take control of a company like Polar.”

Chávez made his announcement on state television Monday in his typically buffoonish manner, while surrounded by government lackeys. (Even readers who don't speak Spanish will get a sense of this from this Globovision video clip.)

"What’s it called?” Chávez said, gesturing toward officials after apparently forgetting the name of the company he plans to expropriate.

"Owens-Illinois!” he continued without missing a beat. "Expropriate it.”

According to a spokesperson at Owens-Illinois, the announcement was the first they'd heard of Chávez's plans to take-over the company. Such surprise announcements are typical of how Chávez operates. During his 11 years in office, El Presidente has carried out nationalizations in the telecommunications, steel, banking, power, and oil sectors. Not surprisingly, Venezuela is Latin America's worst-performing economy this year.

The fact that Venezuela's workers are opposed to the take-over underscores that Chávez's agenda is not about creating better conditions for workers. It's about power, ideology, and Chávez's own narcissism.

Venezuela's poor take a back seat to all these things.

(originally published at The American Thinker)

Obama using a 'back door' amnesty for illegals?

David Paulin

In a secretive process, immigration judges are dismissing large numbers of deportation complaints against illegal immigrants, lending credence to claims that the Obama administration is using immigration courts to achieve a "back door amnesty" for illegals.

What's it take for an immigration judge to dismiss a deportation case against an illegal immigrant who has been in the country a few years? Apparently, only that the person has stayed out of trouble with the law (although being in the country illegally doesn't qualify as an offense.)

News about the dismissals -- in Houston, Dallas, Miami and other major cities -- was reported by the Houston Chronicle yesterday. In its article, "Immigration cases tossed by the hundreds," the paper reported:

In the month after Homeland Security officials started a review of Houston's immigration court docket, immigration judges dismissed more than 200 cases, an increase of more than 700 percent from the prior month, new data shows.

The number of dismissals in Houston courts reached 217 in August — up from just 27 in July, according to data from the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which administers the nation's immigration court system.

In September, judges dismissed 174 pending cases — the vast majority involving immigrants who already were out on bond and had cases pending on Houston's crowded downtown court docket, where hearings are now being scheduled into 2012. Roughly 45 percent of the 350 cases decided in that court in September resulted in dismissals, the records show.

The EOIR data offers the first glimpse into Homeland Security's largely secretive review of pending cases on the local immigration court docket. In early August, federal attorneys in Houston started filing unsolicited motions to dismiss cases involving suspected illegal immigrants who have lived in the country for years without committing serious crimes.

What does all this mean? Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, an organization that advocates for stricter border controls, told the Chronicle:

"When you have this kind of mass dismissal, it sends a very clear message to illegal immigrants, and to society at large, that the government is not serious about enforcing the laws. This type of action muddles the message so both the public at large as well as illegal immigrants don't know what to think." (originally published at The American Thinker)

October 25, 2010

Connecticut Sees 'Red' After Horrific Home-Invasion Murders

By David Paulin

Blue-state Connecticut has undergone a jolting metamorphosis over the past three years, with potential ramifications for the Senate contest between Linda McMahon and Richard Blumenthal. Many residents have become a lot more like red-state Texans than blue-state New Englanders. Now, they're enthusiastic supporters of the death penalty and are fond of handguns and shotguns. It's all due to a horrific home invasion in 2007 in the affluent town of Cheshire, a New Haven suburb.

Chilling details of the "Cheshire Murders," as they're known, have played out in a New Haven courtroom this fall during the first of two trials. Now, the proceedings are in the penalty phase after Steven Hayes, 48, was convicted of murder and rape. Jurors must decide if he should get life in prison or the death penalty. According to a recent opinion poll, Connecticut residents overwhelmingly favor lethal injection.

On July 23, 2007, at 3 a.m., Hayes and fellow career criminal Joshua Komisarjevsky, now 30, burst into the home of the Petit family. Three family members were murdered: Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, and daughters Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11. Mrs. Petit and Michaela were raped. The sole survivor was Dr. William A. Petit, Jr., then 50, a prominent physician and diabetes specialist who was beaten senseless with a baseball bat and tied up. He eventually freed himself and stumbled out of his home to summon help from neighbors.

Interestingly, the Cheshire Murders have repeatedly overshadowed Connecticut politics -- putting anti-death penalty Democrats on the defensive. Democrat lawmakers in May 2009 revealed themselves to be out of touch with voters when pushing through a vote to abolish Connecticut's death penalty. It followed a debate overshadowed by the "Cheshire Murders." Governor M. Jodi Rell, a Republican, vetoed the law.

Murder and rape normally are unheard of in places like Cheshire, rated by Money Magazine as one of the best places to live in America. They don't happen to families like the Petits, all of whom were accomplished, highly respected, and active in community affairs. The horrific home invasion offered Connecticut residents an appalling glimpse of something liberals and Connecticut's Democratic lawmakers seem unable to understand: criminals who commit unspeakable evil -- and the limits of the police's ability to protect law-abiding citizens from such predatory monsters.

For the rest of the article, go to The American Thinker.

October 16, 2010

Diversity, the Enlightenment, and American Medicine

By David Paulin

The story of America (the one Obama won't tell you) starts with British settlers and their vision of a new country. Next came European immigrants who assimilated into the culture created by those settlers.

And despite speaking different languages and coming from myriad cultures, those settlers and immigrants had much in common. Among other things, they were children of Europe's 18th century Enlightenment – an era in which reason and science became a new religion, albeit a secular one.

Some of America's most breathtaking achievements have been in medicine -- the science of healing human beings. And even without ObamaCare, American medicine is today the envy of the world. Dr. John Olsen, a prominent cardiologist, wrote with much pride about this in an Op-Ed for the Seattle-Times:

Our students are the product of intense competition... Outstanding medical centers have arisen in most major cities in the country, attracting talent from around the world...

Our national conferences routinely attract thousands who seek to validate their ideas on the most competitive stage. The best journals, the most publications, and the most scientific accolades are garnered by physicians working in this country.

We have deciphered the genome and developed dialysis, bone-marrow transplantation and catheter-based cardiac interventions. Our population can get advanced imaging studies or virtually any laboratory test performed promptly and reliably. A simple call to 911 provides instant access to a remarkable countrywide system of emergency care.

Could anything be missing from this upbeat assessment from a proud American physician?

"Yes," says diversity expert Nydia Gonzalez: American medicine needs more “cultural sensitivity” in order to accommodate the non-Western beliefs of new immigrants from non-Western traditions -- immigrants who are changing America's demographic landscape. Indeed, as America's demographic landscape changes, American medicine must change too, becoming more culturally sensitive and diverse, she contends in an article published in the Austin American-Statesman: “
Dose of cultural sensitivity helpful in health care setting.”

American medicine, in other words, is no longer primarily about science and values rooted in the Age of Enlightenment. And nor is it about intense competition in which medical schools and medical centers compete for the best and the brightest: It's now about "diversity" too, says Gonzalez.

Gonzalez, associate vice chancellor for institutional diversity at Tarrant County College in Forth Worth, Texas, says it's not enough for a physician (or translator) to speak to a patient in their own language. They also must demonstrate “sensitivity to and respect (for)...religion, customs, values and traditions — all these values around health care that shape the approaches that we take to health and illness."

In other words, science rooted in 18th century Enlightenment values is no longer the cornerstone of American medicine.

Could what happened at a Minneapolis medical center be a harbinger of things to come? To accommodate a large population of Muslim immigrants from Somalia, hospital administrators at "Hennepin County Medical Center developed an obstetrical staff made up almost entirely of women after Muslim Somali women objected to having male doctors deliver their babies," reported the
New York Times last year.

Nydia Gonzalez may well applaud such cultural sensitivity. But couldn't all those Somali women have been “culturally sensitive” to American medical traditions? Or does cultural sensitivity not apply to Western traditions and values?

As an expert on diversity and cultural sensitivity, Gonzales has an impressive background, and an interesting one. She previously held “diversity related” positions at Yale University and the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, noted the Statesman. Even more interestingly, she speaks with much insight about “cultural sensitivity” because she was raised in what might be considered a non-Western tradition.

Gonzales, you see, grew up in South Texas where she was exposed to non-Western medical care -- the type found in backward parts of Mexico.

As the Statesman explains:
Growing up with insight into two cultures provides the backdrop for Gonzalez's interest in cultural competence among health care providers. She said that when she had a fever as a child, a curandera, or faith healer, was called to the family's house to rub an egg from the crown of the girl's head down to her feet. Once the egg was cracked and left in a saucer under her bed overnight, the state of the egg indicated whether her illness was caused by mal de ojo, the evil eye — a concept that exists in cultures around the world.

If that wasn't the case, her family figured she likely had an infection easily treated by driving to a pediatrician's office in Weslaco for a shot of antibiotics.

In the time and place where Gonzalez grew up — in the 1950s in South Texas — it was common for Hispanic families to seek health care from a curandera as well as a medical doctor, she said. Now that she is an expert in organizational diversity, she has a name for the treatment she was given.

"I didn't know it then, but what I was really experiencing was integrative medicine," Gonzalez said.

What a strange way to describe such treatments -- as part of “integrative medicine.” For those who've never heard of “
integrative medicine,” it's a relatively new approach to medical care; a holistic approach practiced at some medical centers in which traditional care is combined with things like nutrition, fitness, and yoga.

I'm no medical expert, to be sure, but I doubt that “integrative medicine” would involve the Mexican voodoo that Gonzalez was exposed to as a child.

Putting forth the case for “cultural competence” among physicians, Gonzalez points to America's changing demographic landscape where white “Anglos” (as she might put it) are heading toward minority status. It's a landscape, of course, that's far different than the one created by British settlers and European immigrants, now that millions of immigrants are here from non-Western and non-European cultures: Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

American medicine and physicians must change to accommodate them, says Gonzalez, who offered this mouthful of insight:

"There's a compelling need for cultural competence just by responding to projected demographic changes to eliminate long-standing disparities in people of diverse cultural backgrounds. Really, nowhere are the divisions of race, ethnicity and culture more sharply drawn than in the issue of health care in the United States."

Besides “cultural sensitivity,” Gonzalez maintains that American medicine needs lots more “diversity” too. As the Statesman explains:

“In response, health care organizations have been issued 14 national standards known as Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) by the Office of Minority Health, a division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. CLAS mandates on providing translation services at no cost to patients are required of health care organizations that receive federal funds. Overall, the list of guidelines calls for care that's respectful of a patient's "cultural health beliefs and practices and preferred language." The standards also suggest that a health care organization's staff should reflect the demographics of the surrounding community and should receive training in cultural sensitivity.

Besides interviewing Gonzalez, the Statesman's reporter dug up a hip physician in Austin who's a big fan of cultural sensitivity training.
Dr. David Kessler told the paper that "Whether it's a class or reading the newspaper every day, it's incumbent upon you to get that training. That's what it means to be an informed citizen in this country."

Dr. Kessler, I have a recurring nightmare: It's that I wake up in a hospital run by you and Nydia Gonzalez; a hospital in which people are not hired based on merit but on their ethnic backgrounds and skin colors. A hospital in which, in the room next to mine, I can hear Nydia Gonzalez's witchdoctor performing the “egg” treatment that Gonzalez claims is part of “integrative medicine” – a ceremony you no doubt would encourage due to your your cultural sensitivity. (Originally published at The American Thinker.)
Rachel Corrie's parents demand 'justice' from Israel

By David Paulin

You remember
Rachel Corrie – the left-wing terror advocate who suffered a major deficit of common sense? On March 16, 2003, the 24-year-old American got herself killed when she stood in front of an Israel Defense Forces bulldozer conducting anti-terror operations in Gaza -- destroying tunnels used for weapons smuggling.

Corrie has since become a patron saint of the Israel-hating left. And within the coming week, her parents will be proceeding with a civil suit in Israel's courts against the IDF, according to a
sympathetic article about them and their misguided daughter written by Diaa Hadid of the Associated Press. Craig and Cindy Corrie are seeking an "apology" and the chance to "look their daughter's killer in the eye," according to the piece.

Corrie's parents and her rabid supporters dispute the IDF's claim that her death was an accident.

Incidentally, the photo accompanying this article is of Rachel Corrie burning a mock American flag in Gaza, her face contorted with rage. It's a photo that never seems to accompany sympathetic articles about the pro-Palestinian radical in the mainstream media.

Underscoring her patron saint status to the international left, Corrie had a play written about her based on her writing. "My Name is Rachel Corrie" was a big hit in London – or Londonistan as that city is informally called.

In April 2005, the play opened “at London’s prestigious Royal Court, a venue named by The New York Times 'as the most important theater in Europe',"
observed journalist Tom Gross.
Corrie's parents, for their part, have for years been demanding justice in Israel's courts, while simultaneously standing up for the Palestinian cause and bringing attention to what they regard as "Palestinian suffering.”

Earlier, the Corrie's
unsuccessfully sued Caterpillar Inc. -- the U.S. company that made the IDF bulldozer that ran over their daughter. Caterpillar, they claimed, had been violating international law by facilitating Israel's alleged human rights violations.

The left's worship of Corrie, of course, has no room for victims of Palestinian terror, as Gross noted in a piece about the "cult of Rachel Corrie" and the victims of Palestinian terror.
In "The Forgotten Rachel's," Gross describes the hypocrisy of Rachel Corrie, her parents, and their devoted supporters; not to mention the anti-Israeli bias of the mainstream media in respect to its coverage of Rachel Corrie. Specifically, Gross points out that "many of the articles about Corrie...are not really about the young American activist who died in such tragic circumstances. They are about promoting a hate-filled and glaringly one-sided view of Israel."

Israel's courts, for their part, appear to be bending over backwards to accommodate the Corries, which is ironic given Rachel Corrie's hatred of Israel, the Middle East's only democracy.

Imagine parents whose daughter was murdered by Palestinian authorities getting a comparable level of justice in a court room in the West Bank or Gaza. (Originally published at The American Thinker.)

America's Food Stamp Culture

By David Paulin

Many Americans can remember a time when a Coca-Cola was a treat: You had one now and then. But most middle-class Americans didn't drink Coca-Cola and similar carbonated drinks all the time, as if they were water. For one thing, it was too expensive to do that for most individuals and most families.

Today that's no longer the case.

Today a Coca-Cola is an entitlement in America. But it's not an entitlement for everybody. Rather, it's an entitlement for people who have fallen on hard times or are permanently stuck in them; people who are on America's growing food-stamp dole.

Recently, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg
called for a ban to prohibit the city's 1.7 million food-stamp recipients from using their federal food allowance to buy sugary soda drinks. Ostensibly, Bloomberg is concerned about health-related problems for New Yorkers on food stamps. After all, large numbers of them are fat or suffering from diabetes; and one reason for this, say health experts, is their large consumption of all those empty calories in sugary drinks that are popular among low-income New Yorkers – mainly blacks and Hispanics on the food stamp dole. They're suffering from what Bloomberg's office calls an “obesity epidemic.” Indeed, in New York City's public schools, 46 percent of Hispanic children, 40 percent of African-American children, and 40 percent of all children are overweight or obese, according to Bloomberg's office. The problem is substantially worse in low-income areas, said the mayor's office.

Bloomberg, a Democrat-turned Republican and now an independent, is not so politically foolish as to suggest that many New Yorkers on food stamps are irresponsible people living in an “entitlement culture.” But his call for a ban on using food stamps to buy sugary drinks amounts to the same thing because it would, if approved by Washington bureaucrats, force many food-stamp recipients to adjust their lifestyles and make smarter supermarket purchases.

Bloomberg's proposal has gotten mostly positive reviews, with his two main critics being the nation's
beverage lobby and libertarians who contend that food stamp recipients ought to be able to buy whatever they want. (Food stamp recipients, however, are prohibited from buying tobacco and alcohol – two things that even libertarians are unlikely to say are entitlements for people suffering through hard times.)

Specifically, Bloomberg proposed a two-year ban on the use of food stamps to buy sugary drinks – during which health experts would evaluate whether the ban was helping food-stamp recipients lose some weight and reduce their high levels of diabetes.

6 percent of food-stamp benefits are spent on sugary beverages, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, which administers the food-stamp program.

For the rest of the article, go to The American Thinker.

October 15, 2010

Who is the real leader here?

Like millions of Americans, I was riveted to live images of the mine rescue in Chile. One emotion kept creeping into my mind: I couldn't help but admire Chile's President Sebastián Piñera-- and compare his bearing and leadership to that of America's own president, Barack Obama.

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal had an interesting piece on the mining disaster: "Capitalism Saved the Miners." It wasn't only capitalism, of course. It also took a man like Chile's conservative president, a former businessman and Harvard-trained economist, to know how to leverage the forces of free-market capitalism to save his fellow countrymen.

Contrast Piñera's performance against what Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez did when tens of thousands of his fellow countrymen were killed and injured by devastating mudslides in 1999 -- he rejected a a U.S. Navy ship loaded with aid and military engineers from the United States in a fit of nationalistic bluster. That ship was steaming to Venezuela when Chavez announced that the aid was not welcome. For those who think that George W. Bush is responsible for all the anti-Americanism in the world, it should be noted that America's president in 1999 was Bill Clinton.

Had this mining disaster occurred in socialist Venezuela, it's safe to say that it would not have had a happy ending.

Congratulations to President Piñera, the rescued miners, and all Chileans who can be rightly proud of this wonderful mine rescue. There are many stories left to tell about this shining example of human courage, innovation, and cooperation -- all things that flourish in a world of responsible free-market capitalism where the human spirit is allowed to flourish.
--David Paulin