Pay attention to the trend. A salutary reminder to pundits like me to pay attention to the trend figures produced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics for things like the employment and unemployment numbers.

That the seasonally adjusted ones, based as they are on a survey, jump around a lot was shown when figures for December showed unemployment falling from 5.2% to 5.0% (a decline of 25,000) but job creation only increasing by 2,300. The explanation for this seeming anomaly was a change in the participation rate which fell from November’s high of 66% to 65.8%.

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The trend figures show that things on the employment front are definitely getting better.

Quick, get out and buy a gun. And a United States response to the Tucson shootings? According to radio news reports I heard, the incident apparently caused a marked surge in gun purchases, especially in Arizona.

That shouldn’t come as any surprise, I suppose, for the American Gallup Poll has found trends on gun control show that Americans have grown less supportive of strengthening gun laws in the United States over the last two decades, notwithstanding a number of tragic gun attacks during that period.

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The Palin way with words. That Sarah Palin should choose to defend herself against the charges that her words and actions helped create the climate for the Tucson shootings was not a surprise.

When her initial expressions of regret for the victims were brushed aside by many in the media concentrating on her gun site advertisement her campaign for the Republican presidential nomination was put at risk. An attempt to put her campaigning style into a broader perspective became politically necessary.

What was unfortunate about the defence she mounted by way of an internet video clip was her use in it of the words “blood libel”, a false, centuries-old allegation that Jews were killing children to use their blood in religious rituals. Rather than helping to end the debate about her role on the consequences of overheated political rhetoric she has added to it.

As Reuters reports, the accusation of “blood libel” has been employed for centuries to justify the killing or expulsion of Jews. The phrase had been used by other conservative commentators, including a Wall Street Journal column, since the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who is Jewish.

“Perhaps Palin honestly does not know what a blood libel is, or does not know of their horrific history — that is perhaps the most charitable explanation we can arrive at,” said David Harris, president of the National Jewish Democratic Council.


A blood Libel illustration in the Nazi newspaper Westdeutchen Beobachter of Cologne
— the most popular newspaper in Western Germany in the early years of Nazism

The Zionism and Israel — Encyclopedic Dictionary defines the blood libel as a false accusation that Jews sacrifice Christian children either to use the blood for various “medicinal” purposes or to prepare Passover Matzoth (unleavened bread) or for vengeance and mock crucifixions. It is one of the central fables of Anti-Semitism of the older (middle ages) type.

The blood libel is a phenomenon of medieval and modern Christian anti-Semitism, but spread to the Middle East as early as 1775, when there was a blood libel in Hebron. A second blood libel occurred in Damascus in 1840 and one occurred in Cyprus in the same year. As the blood libel was the subject of folk ballads and literature, it was not simply a religious superstition in Europe, but a staple of popular culture, like most anti-Semitic prejudices.