Friday, October 10, 2014
Greedy Corporation Stops Ebola Spread in Liberia
While governments and nonprofits have been stymied in their efforts to stymie the spread of the Ebola virus, Firestone Tire & Rubber has apparently succeeded among its 80,000 Liberian employees and their families. When a wife of a Firestone employee showed up ill after caring for an Ebola victim, the staff of the evil capitalist corporation leaped into action.
“None of us had any Ebola experience,” he says. They scoured the Internet for information about how to treat Ebola. They cleared out a building on the hospital grounds and set up an isolation ward. They grabbed a bunch of hazmat suits for dealing with chemical spills at the rubber factory and gave them to the hospital staff. The suits worked just as well for Ebola cases.
Firestone immediately quarantined the family of the woman. Like so many Ebola patients, she died soon after being admitted to the ward. But no one else at Firestone got infected: not her family and not the workers who transported, treated and cared for her.
Company employees built a 23-bed isolation facility, and in recent months treated 48 patients (mostly from outside the rubber plantation), managed to save 18 of them, and were able to prevent the spread of the disease. They also launched a door-to-door education campaign.
NPR’s report puts emphasis on Firestone’s financial resources, but I think they miss the “X” factor that causes these private-sector employees to succeed outside of their bailiwick: They’re accustomed to setting goals, achieving results and being rewarded based on actual accomplishments. In addition, they’re innovative, and know that one must often improvise and create rapid prototypes on the way to the ultimate product.
The sick and suffering people of Africa don’t need more political speeches, government press releases and empty promises.
They need more Firestones.
Online trolls: Who’s hounding whom?
What is the greatest menace to the liberty and liveliness of the internet? Is it, as we’re forever being told, ‘trolls’, those mostly anonymous saddos who live on Twitter and lurk in discussion threads, hurling offensive and sometimes abusive comments at people? Or is it the trollhunters, the self-styled cleansers of internet culture who have marshalled the media, the police, the courts, the prison system and the political class to their mission of exposing trolls and mopping up the online world?
It’s the latter. Trollhunters are the scourge of the internet. Yes, trolls can be annoying, and even scary sometimes. I’ve had my fair share of emailed death threats, discussion threads devoted to telling me what a cock I am, and even a bag of shit with one of my articles in it hand-delivered to my office (old-school trolling). But the trollhunters, from misogyny-policing feminists to the papers that splash photos of trolls across their front pages to the police who arrest them in dawn raids, do something far worse than any vocab-challenged bloke with a grudge and an internet connection could ever hope to achieve. They chill and sanitise the internet, and invite the criminalisation of more and more forms of online speech.
This morning it is reported that Brenda Leyland, a 63-year-old who was suspected of trolling the parents of murdered schoolgirl Madeleine McCann, has been ‘found dead’ in a hotel room. It is thought she committed suicide. If this is true, we may never discover why: as the Samaritans never tire of telling us, there is rarely one single cause to a suicide. But we do know that Ms Leyland’s death followed her exposure as a ‘troll’ by Sky News. A Sky reporter doorstepped her and informed her she was one of ‘dozens’ of trolls whose anonymous online behaviour had been reported to the police by supporters of the McCanns and was now being investigated.
What happened next was blackly ironic: Ms Leyland was trolled. She was, as Anorak magazine described it, ‘monstered’ by the media and by tweeters sympathetic to the McCanns. Images of her made to look like a blood-stained monster spread through Twitter. She was branded old and ugly and a bitch. A Mirror columnist called her a ‘twisted, fucked-up bitch’. The rest of the media was more polite but nonetheless had a field day at the expense of this ‘churchgoing mother-of-two’ and ‘well-spoken middle-class woman’ who was secretly writing ‘vile’ tweets about the McCanns. Her photo appeared everywhere. And so was the troll trolled, the monster monstered, the woman suspected of writing disgusting tweets subjected to disgusting tweets, the witch burnt. A few hours after this tsunami of anti-troll trolling came her way, Ms Leyland was found dead.
The online mob, the giddy, foul-mouthed organisers of the darkly ironic trolling of this alleged troll, are not responsible for Ms Leyland’s death. If she took her own life, it was her decision, her action. But her treatment over the past 48 hours nonetheless shines a harsh light on the new national bloodsport of hunt-the-troll.
Firstly, it exposes how presumptive and intolerant trollhunting can be. It is not yet known if Ms Leyland wrote any tweets about the McCanns that would count as being actually illegal, whether libelling them or threatening them with violence; all that the news reports say is that her tweets were ‘abusive’. And yet she was ‘unmasked’ by the media (the media’s own word), as if she were some gangster or drug lord, and she was hounded by an online mob of self-righteous troll-haters, who couldn’t possibly wait to discover if she had done anything illegal before branding her an old, twisted, fucked-up bitch. In the world of the trollhunter, the norms of justice count for little – ‘burn the troll’ is their unofficial motto.
And secondly, the treatment of Ms Leyland shows how utterly warped is the depiction of trolls today. Ms Leyland and the other tweeters of shocking stuff about the McCanns have been depicted as awesomely powerful people who destroyed the McCanns’ lives and poisoned the internet. This is the same narrative presented to us during every trolling scandal. Whether it’s well-known female columnists being subjected to sexist tweets or politicians being sent vulgar, violence-tinged messages, again and again we are told that trolls are holding the internet to ransom and damaging fragile members of the media and the political class. This is so opposite to the truth that it is almost surreal.
In reality, the power, the real power, rests with the trollhunters, not the trolls. All of the trolls that have been exposed in recent years have been quite sad individuals: Liam Stacey, a student with a drinking problem who was jailed for 56 days for writing abusive tweets about the then ill footballer Fabrice Muamba; John Nimmo, a 25-year-old ‘jobless hermit’ with ‘some level of learning difficulties’ who was jailed for six weeks for sending abusive tweets to feminists; and now Brenda Leyland, a rather sad-seeming woman from a small village in Leicestershire. These people wield no power whatsoever. The people with power are the trollhunters, the well-educated, well-connected columnists, activists and politicians who have signed up the entire media, both tabloid and broadsheet, to their shrill campaign of hunt-the-troll, and who have got the police to carry out dawn raids on people’s homes, the CPS to press charges against them, and the courts to bang them up in jail.
The trollhunters’ self-flattering depiction of themselves as lone, brave warriors against mobs of harmful abuse-spouters is an Orwellian warping of the reality – which is that it is the trollhunters who lead a mob, a mob of mediamen, coppers and prosecutors who get a much-needed collective political and moral kick from hunting down and jailing sad individuals whom they depict as a threat to the online, social and moral fabrics.
Perhaps the worst thing about the trollhunters is the censoriousness they have unleashed. They have painted the internet as a cesspit of foul and damaging speech that must be monitored and cleansed by the authorities. They claim only to target violent speech – threats of rape and death – but this isn’t true. For example, Nimmo, jailed for sending abusive tweets to a feminist campaigner, was not found guilty under the law that forbids the ‘writing’ or ‘uttering’ of a death threat, which is the Offences Against the Person Act.
Rather, he was found guilty under the Communications Act 2003, which criminalises speech that is ‘grossly offensive… indecent, obscene or menacing’. In essence, his crime, like that of most other trolls arrested and fined or imprisoned, was to be horribly offensive. No wonder the police in Scotland could recently warn abusive tweeters of tennis player Andy Murray, and the rest of us, that ‘there is no place for personal abuse of any kind on [social media]’.
That the police can make such a sweeping, dictatorial statement, essentially decreeing that you must never be abusive or offensive online, is pretty terrifying. And it is entirely down to the trollhunters, the scourge of the web, who have nurtured mob-like behaviour, authoritarianism and intolerance across the internet.
Conservatives on SCOTUS Same-Sex Marriage Decision: Judicial Activism All Around
Conservatives are reacting to the Supreme Court’s decision on Monday not to review any of seven petitions ruled on by lower courts, which found state laws banning homosexual marriage unconstitutional, paving the way for same-sex marriages to be conducted in 30 states.
Of the 25 states where homosexual marriage was put in place before the high court let stand the lower case rulings in five others, only three states have legalized it by popular vote. Fourteen states allow it by court decision and eight states legalized the practice through the state legislature.
The court’s move will add Indiana, Wisconsin, Utah, Oklahoma, and Virginia to that list. (To see a complete list of states and gay marriage click here).
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC), said in a statement that the Supreme Court’s decision silences “the voice of the people.”
"Unfortunately, by failing to take up these marriage cases, the High Court will allow rogue lower court judges who have ignored history and true legal precedent to silence the elected representatives of the people and the voice of the people themselves by overturning state provisions on marriage,” Perkins said. “Even more alarming, lower court judges are undermining our form of government and the rights and freedoms of citizens to govern themselves.
“This judicially led effort to force same sex 'marriage' on people will have negative consequences for our Republic, not only as it relates to natural marriage but also undermining the rule of and respect for law,” Perkins said.
Brian S. Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), gave three reasons the Supreme Court made the wrong decision.
“First, the entire idea that marriage can be redefined from the bench is illegitimate. Marriage is the union of one man and one woman; it has been this throughout the history of civilization and will remain this no matter what unelected judges say,” Brown said in a statement. “Second, it's mind-boggling that lower court judges would be allowed to impose the redefinition of marriage in these states, and our highest court would have nothing to say about it.
“Third, the effect of the lower court rulings is to say that a constitutional right to same-sex ‘marriage' has existed in every state in the union since 1868 when the 14th Amendment was ratified, but somehow nobody noticed until quite recently,” Brown said.
Both Perkins and Brown called on Congress to address the issue.
"Congress should respond to today's announcement by moving forward with the State Marriage Defense Act, which is consistent with last year's Windsor ruling and ensures that the federal government in its definition of marriage respects the duly enacted marriage laws of the states," Perkins said.
Brown agrees, but thinks congressional action should involve amending the U.S. Constitution.
“It is critical not only to marriage but to the republican form of government in this country to amend the Constitution to reaffirm the meaning of marriage,” Brown said. “We therefore call on the US Congress to move forward immediately to send a federal marriage amendment to the states for ratification.”
Two members of Congress issued their own statements on the high court’s decision not to hear any of the marriage cases in five states where the voters banned the practice.
“The Supreme Court’s decision to let rulings by lower court judges stand that redefine marriage is both tragic and indefensible,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said in a statement. “By refusing to rule if the States can define marriage, the Supreme Court is abdicating its duty to uphold the Constitution.
“The fact that the Supreme Court Justices, without providing any explanation whatsoever, have permitted lower courts to strike down so many state marriage laws is astonishing,” Cruz said.
“This is judicial activism at its worst,” he said. “The Constitution entrusts state legislatures, elected by the People, to define marriage consistent with the values and mores of their citizens.
“Unelected judges should not be imposing their policy preferences to subvert the considered judgments of democratically elected legislatures,” Cruz said.
“Nothing in the Constitution forbids a state from retaining the traditional definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman,” Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said in a statement. “Whether to change that definition is a decision best left to the people of each state — not to unelected, politically unaccountable judges.
“The Supreme Court owes it to the people of those states, whose democratic choices are being invalidated, to review the question soon and reaffirm that states do have that right,” Lee said.
The Rev. Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and of Samaritan's Purse, an international Christian relief organization, took a more religious approach to the court's decision.
"It's painful to see the U.S. Supreme Court take another step away from the biblical values this nation was founded on," Graham said. "With their refusal to even hear challenges to same-sex marriage, they threw the gates wide open to making it the law of the land.
"God help us," Graham said.
Islamic Studies: a Cold-War-Style Influence Operation?
The launch of a new Center for Global Islamic Studies at the extremely liberal University of Florida in Gainesville may have been planned as a purely academic affair, but the announcements in the local and national media, including AP and Fox News, exhibited more than a purely academic interest in this event. To compare, one doesn't often see national media announcements about, let's say, a local center for the study of viruses - unless the virus is Ebola. And just like with any news about Ebola studies, any news about studies of Islam attract attention from the general public who want to know if there's a hope for the cure, containment, and safety from danger.
Unfortunately, these may not be the kind of Islamic Studies that answer those hopes. The Center opened on September 18th with a conference on "Global Islam and the Quest for Public Space," headlined by none other than Georgetown professor John Esposito, a known apologist for radical Islam and founding director of the Saudi-sponsored Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding in the Walsh School of Foreign Service.
A small group of protesters picketed the event outside the Pugh Hall on the university campus, with a dozen creative posters and a vinyl banner pointing out that John Esposito and the leader of ISIS both hold PhD in Islamic Studies: "Same goal, different tactics." The video of the protest can be seen online.
The protest organizer, Randy McDaniels of ACT for America and the Counter-Terrorism Advisory Group, stated that our students certainly need to study Islam, as long as such studies are based on scientific objectivity and critical analysis. But the presence of John Esposito as the keynote speaker indicated that the new Global Islamic Studies Center was likely to go the way of many other universities, opening their doors and exposing our children to political Islam under the guise of education, with programs funded by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and other state sponsors of Islamic fundamentalism.
While many among the liberal faculty and the students were visibly upset with the protest, complete with occasional angry obscenities, a few others were interested in the message and asked for a flyer. Some of them asked, "What's wrong with having an Islamic Studies Center, even if it's financed by foreign money?"
The short answer would have been to compare such a project to active measures undertaken in America by the KGB during the Cold War - except that, unfortunately, most American students aren't familiar with this term. Their knowledge of the Cold War has been thoroughly sanitized by the liberal faculty, especially if the professors are Marxists who used to root for the other side. The resulting perceived absence of the Soviet subversion, propaganda, disinformation, and other influence operations inside the U.S. and around the world create the impression of an ideologically neutral world, in which America's response to protect liberty can very easily be misconstrued as imperialist aggression against the innocents.
Ignorance about the enemy leads to confusion about one's own nation's role in the world, regardless of the historical era or the current adversary. Whether we admit it or not, we are now in a new global conflict that has many parallels with the Cold War; it is often fought by similar means and sometimes even by the same actors.
Now, just as it was then, we're up against a supremacist collectivist ideology whose goal is to establish a totalitarian utopian society on a global scale. The two deadly pipe dreams - global communism and global caliphate may have their differences, but in practical terms they both view the United States as the main obstacle in their quest of world domination. There is no reason why one can't learn from the other's vast experience in subverting this country.
Both foes have made claims that they stand for peace. The problem is that Marxists understand peace as the absence of opposition to socialism, just as the Islamist supremacists understand peace as the absence of opposition to Islam. Eventual peace will theoretically ensue once they subjugate the rest of the world to their totalitarian rule.
In both cases, tolerance is a one-way street: everyone must be tolerant of their "superior" views, while they retain the right to self-righteous intolerance of the "inferiors." Both ideologies generate a variety of wild-eyed conspiracy theories as a means to retain loyalty, boost morale, recruit new members, and demoralize the opponent.
The Soviets didn't necessarily hate Americans or wanted to kill them off; they only wanted to "convert" our economic and political system for our own good. Likewise, the Islamists feel morally justified: they don't view terrorism as the murder of innocents, but rather as a collective punishment for being foolish in resisting Islam. This makes mass murder a moral virtue, absolving them of all sins and encouraging them to keep punishing us, "the inferior fools," until we see the light and either convert or accept their supremacy. They'd rather convert than kill, so if we force their hand, it's "our own fault."
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.