Friday, March 01, 2019

Enough moral panic. Mobile phones are life-enhancing

I suppose it makes a change from Brexit, obesity and plastic bags. Recent weeks have seen a litany of hand-wringing about the time people spend on their mobile phones. So severe is the apparent crisis that even my colleague, the great and iron-willed Tim Harford, has been chronicling his efforts to shake off the mobile curse.

I am slightly surprised we have not seen this modern calamity captured in heart-tugging news pictures akin to the environmental catastrophe tropes of seals trapped in plastic bags. Perhaps some terrifying pictures of frazzled toddlers clutching Huaweis, or children gazing at their tablets and singing “They’re here”, like the little girl in front of the TV in Poltergeist.

Now, I do not wish to dispute the valid societal concerns raised by the overuse of mobiles, but surely some perspective is needed. This is not an epidemic of homelessness or a flu pandemic. Indeed, it feels rather more like the kind of middle-class moral panic that followed the invention of the television.

It is time to stand up for the smartphone, surely one of the most wondrous, useful, boredom-battling devices ever created. Perhaps my equanimity in the face of this crisis is a sign of my age, of the fact that I was born into a pre-internet and even pre-PC era. The notion of owning a computer you could put in your pocket was the stuff of science fiction, of Captain Kirk, phasers and “Beam me up, Scotty”.

Everyone we know now has a computer, film- and music-streaming service, iPod, newsagent, telephone and stack of books in their pocket. Of course we spend a lot of time on it. Almost everything you want aside from physical activity can be accessed via a smartphone. It is our contacts book, our entertainment and our general transmitter to the world. How many other devices would you turn around and go home to get if you left them behind? This is not addiction, it is mere good sense. Americans may cherish their guns; for me it’s my phone. If only there was a constitutional amendment enshrining my right to bear data.

People often complain that this time could be so much better used — spent with friends and loved ones instead of on social media, for example. Well, that’s great, but the 7.45pm from Waterloo is not exactly crammed with my friends and family. There is no nightly Shrimsley Express jam-packed with people I would like to see in person.

I love the fact that I can zone out of a tedious meeting, although it would be nice to be less obvious about it. I am delighted the spawn have an app on their phone that allows them to work out how to get anywhere on public transport. Although I admit I liked it less last weekend, when a snafu told the girl her bus to Sunday school wasn’t running and I had to get up unspeakably early to give her a lift, only to see the aforementioned double-decker trundling towards me as I dropped her off.

If we choose to fiddle away our time on a screen rather than doing something more “useful”, it is because we are enjoying it more. It reminds me of a TV series from my childhood called Why Don’t You Just Switch Off Your Television Set and Go and Do Something Less Boring Instead? It was full of “fun” things to do, like making cheese and pineapple sticks. The reason we eschew more worthy things is because they are not actually less boring. Have you ever made a cheese and pineapple cocktail stick? Believe me, diminishing returns on enjoyment set in pretty fast.

Of course, there are downsides. Wander into a restaurant and you will see people sitting at tables ignoring each other and playing with their devices. It can be hard to switch off. Pedestrians tap in messages when they should be looking where they are going; teenagers spend too long on chat apps. We are still struggling towards a behavioural equilibrium. But the phone does not stop anyone going for a run, meeting friends or reading a book if they want to.

There is a reason why we only worry about other people’s phone use and rarely our own. Mobile phones are life-enhancing devices and, deep down, we all know it. So if you are reading this on yours, I salute you.


Michelle Malkin: I've Been Silicon Valley Sharia'd

Last week, the little birdies in Twitter's legal department notified me that one of my tweets from 2015 is "in violation of Pakistan law." It seems like ancient history, but Islamic supremacists never forget — or forgive.

My innocuous tweet featured a compilation image of the 12 Muhammad cartoons published by Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in 2005. It also linked to my Jan. 8, 2015, syndicated column on the Charlie Hebdo jihad massacre in Paris. There's no hate, violence, profanity or pornography, just harmless drawings and peacefully expressed opinions about the Western media's futile attempts to appease the unappeasable enforcers of sharia law, which bans all insults of Islam.

The Twitter notice assured me that the company "has not taken any action on the reported content at this time," yet advised me that I should "consult legal counsel about this matter" in response to complaints from unnamed "authorized entities."

Don't worry, lawyer up? Gulp.

I'm used to getting threats directly from bloodthirsty cartoon jihadists. In 2006, I spearheaded a "Mohammed cartoons blogburst" in support of the Danish cartoonists at Jyllands-Posten. After posting all 12 of the drawings to educate the public about the publication's brave stand against sharia-enforced self-censorship in the West, death and rape threats from radical Muslims around the world poured into my email inbox. Vengeful thugs based in Turkey and Germany called me a "whore" and "prostitute," vowing "We will kill you" unless I deleted the pictures from my server. My website was targeted by jihadist hackers who launched a week of denial-of-service attacks.

Thirteen years later, however, who knew that using an American company's microblogging service from my secluded mountaintop in Colorado could get me in hot water with foreign Muslim stone-age goons 8,000 miles away still hung up on the cartoons.

Who knew Twitter would act as dutiful messenger pigeons for the oppressive anti-blasphemy police squad that sentences people to death for disparaging Islam.

Welcome to Silicon Valley sharia.

Over the past few months, several other prominent critics of Islamic extremism have received similar warning letters from Twitter's legal department, including Saudi-Canadian activist Ensaf Haidar, the wife of imprisoned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi; Imam Mohammad Tawhidi, an Iranian-born Muslim scholar and reform advocate from Australia; Jamie Glazov, a Russian-born Canadian columnist who just released a new book called "Jihadist Psychopath"; and Pamela Geller, an anti-jihad blogger and activist.

Jacob Engels, another conservative activist and blogger, was suspended from Twitter this weekend without explanation. His last tweet linked to video of a black Christian street preacher being arrested for "breaching the peace." Engels opined that the scene depicted "America's future thanks to (Rep. Ilhan Omar). Roaming rape gangs ... cops do nothing. Massive terrorist attacks."

There's no violence, hate, profanity or pornography, just an informed opinion about the consequences of open borders and capitulation to Islamic extremism. So why was Engels censored for condemning violent Muslims? Jack Morrissey, the Disney film producer who publicly called for the falsely accused Covington Catholic high school students to be fed into a woodchipper "screaming, hats first," was allowed to retain his verified Twitter status without any punishment for his bloody death wishes.

This is all of a piece. As I reported in December, citizen journalist Laura Loomer was banned from Twitter for stating true facts about radical Muslim Rep. Ilhan Omar's embrace of sharia laws that threaten gays, Jews and women. Loomer has since been deplatformed from PayPal and just learned she can no longer sell T-shirts protesting Twitter's ban with the hashtag #StopTheBias on Teespring.

Paypal's CEO admitted this week that he relied on the Southern Poverty Law Center's powerful smear machine for input on which conservatives to blacklist in order to uphold the company's alleged values of "diversity and inclusion." SPLC's de-Paypal'd victims include Tommy Robinson, an English anti-jihad activist; VDARE, a nationalist immigration news and commentary site that publishes my syndicated column; and Gavin McInnes, a humorist, social critic and media entrepreneur whose fans have raised nearly $140,000 at for his powerful defamation lawsuit against the SPLC. McInnes was also de-Twittered and temporarily de-YouTube'd.

Among others targeted by SPLC, which collaborates with credit card companies and banks to silence influential thinkers and activists on the right: David Horowitz, a venerable scholar and investigative author who successfully beat back Mastercard's attempt to drop him over his organization's opposition to Islamic radicalism and illegal immigration, and the Center for Immigration Studies, which is suing the SPLC for labeling its mainstream think tank a "hate group."

Deplatforming dissenting voices is a ruthless, bizarre and unprogressive way to achieve "diversity and inclusion." So is conspiring with repressive regimes that are hell-bent on destroying the West. Twitter has become America's version of Islam's morality police — the dreaded "mutaween."

I will not. As an American citizen who is subject to America's laws — not Pakistan's or Mohammed's — I'll retweet my harmless little Mo cartoons to my 2.1 million followers every day from now on and stand with other targets on the side of free speech and free thought. How about you, Twitter?


United Methodist Church votes to maintain opposition to  homosexual marriage, homosexual clergy

Dissident bishop accuses the Bible of a "punitive, exclusionary mentality". He is right about that.  See Leviticus 20:13.  But he sees it as a condemnation. He is clearly not a Christian.  Maybe Buddhism would suit him better

In a contentious meeting years in the making, the United States’ third-largest faith community voted to emphasize its opposition to same-sex marriage and gay clergy — a decision that was cheered by conservatives in the global church, especially in Africa, but was deeply disappointing to many Americans who had hoped the church would change.

Many American ministers in the United Methodist Church already perform same-sex marriages and approve of the ordination of LGBT people as clergy, although the Protestant church’s rules officially forbid these marriages and ordinations. Many Methodists hoped the church would amend those rules this week. Instead, a group of more than 800 clergy and lay leaders from around the world voted to affirm the church’s traditional view of sexuality — and to punish disobedient clergy more harshly than before.

"The United Methodist Church will very soon lose an entire generation of leadership in the United States," lamented Kimberly Ingram, speaking at the meeting on behalf of Methodist seminaries and theological schools, who argued that their students strongly approve of including LGBT people fully in the church. "The future of the United Methodist Church in this country is at stake."

But presented with several options during a four-day special session on the future of the church in St. Louis, the delegates picked the "traditional plan."

Other options would have allowed local churches to choose their stance on sexuality for themselves, or would have split the church into separate denominations.

The choice raises the question of whether churches that hoped for a different outcome will leave the denomination. The United Methodist Church is the largest mainline — meaning nonevangelical — Protestant church in the United States. Most other mainline Protestant churches do perform LGBT marriages, including the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Episcopal Church, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Each of those denominations lost some churches to more conservative faith groups when they decided to affirm same-sex marriage.

The United Methodist Church, unlike those denominations, is worldwide, not almost entirely American. Nearly one-third of the church’s membership is in Africa, and speakers from outside the United States — including Liberia and Russia — were among the most vocal proponents of the traditional plan.

Jerry Kulah, head of the UMC Africa Initiative, said he was sorry the church had even spent so much time and money debating questions about homosexuality. "The progressive groups are loud, but they don’t have the numbers," he said. If the church had voted to affirm LGBT inclusion, he said, it would have become a "laughingstock" in Africa.

"I’m happy to go back to old ladies and old men in villages who received the Bible from missionaries and let them know that the Bible hasn’t changed," he said.

But Will Willimon, a retired Methodist bishop and a prominent theologian at Duke Divinity School, said that preaching to the "old" is a failure of the church.

"We’re sending a signal we are here to minister to the spiritual needs of the elderly," he said, adding that he has trouble explaining this debate to his adult children.

Willimon had advocated for the "one church plan," which would have allowed local ministers to choose their stance.

"The traditional plan is a misnomer," he said. "We really have nothing in our tradition to justify this sort of punitive, exclusionary mentality."


'Take it off or I'll rip it off': Black high school student confronts a white classmate for wearing a MAGA hat and Trump 2020 flag as a cape and then rips them off

Leftist violence again

A black Oklahoma student is facing a possible criminal charge after he was filmed confronting a white classmate who was wearing a MAGA hat and Trump 2020 flag as a cape.

The incident occurred in the hallway of Edmond Santa Fe High School, north of Oklahoma City, on Monday. Cellphone footage of the incident has since gone viral on social media.

The video shows 18-year-old Kenneth Dewayne Jones confronting an underage student who was wearing a red MAGA hat and had a Trump 2020 flag draped around his shoulders.

'Take it off or I'll rip it off… do you want me to rip it off?' Jones, who was wearing a yellow vest, could be heard saying as he blocked the other student from walking by.

He then grabbed hold of the Trump flag before knocking the MAGA hat off the other student's head.

The video shows the 18-year-old ripping the flag out of the student's hand and throwing it to the ground as another teenager tried to intervene.

Jones was issued with an assault and battery summons by a school resource officer. He has not been charged.

Police said the family of the boy wearing the MAGA hat has several days to meet with authorities if they wish to pursue the assault complaint.

The 18-year-old told KOCO 5 that he plans to apologize to the student, while the family of the victim say they plan to purse the charges. 

A school spokesperson said the incident occurred when students were allowed to wear headgear to class as part of a fundraising effort.

'Given that hats were allowed at school yesterday as part of the week-long fundraising events, there was no specific dress code violation,' the spokesperson said.

'The student's choice to grab a classmate's property and knock his hat off did, however, violate the school's discipline policy. In response, Edmond Santa Fe High School administrators, working simultaneously with Edmond Police, addressed the incident with swift and immediate disciplinary action.

'The school district honors students' First Amendment rights, but must at the same time be vigilant in teaching and supporting students as they learn how best to respectfully express their opinions.'



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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