Sunday, January 17, 2021

Remembering the past

The author below moans that we rarely remember the mistakes of our ancestors or the social and economic plight of minorities, two things that he asserts are interwoven. That the most persecuted minority of all -- Jews -- flourish mightily in social and economic matters, he does not take into account

He notes that we do occasionally remember the war dead of our communities and wonders why we don't remember the past deaths and suffering of minorities too. He asserts that we have actively suppressed our memories of the latter.

I have a much simpler and less conspiratorial explanation for him: indifference. Most of us spend some time thinking about our own past but the past of people unrelated to us rarely gets a thought. We all have our day-to-day concerns -- with relationships, work etc -- and that is where our mental energies are directed. Even when we do take note of community history, it only happens as a formal ceremony lasting a few minutes a year. We have to be MADE to think about the pasts of others

The author below has an obsession with the past but I think he will have to come to terms with the fact that few others share his concerns. The plight of some minorities is no doubt a worthy cause but I can't generate any personal concern about it. As Jesus said: "Let the dead bury their dead" (Luke 9:60). Let minorities make the effort to uplift themselves. Most minorities in our countries do: Jews, Chinese, Japanese, Indians etc. Those four groups are in fact high income earners on average.

So why is the author below so concerned about the less successful minorities? That's easy. Its just part of the guilt trip that the Left are always trying to inflict on us. They are themselves hate-filled and want others to hate along with them. They are anti-patriots -- unhappy people who resent the success of others and the general flourishing of their countries They want other people to hate their country the way they do and plague us with tales about our evil past to that effect. It's a sad obsession

A bell rings, and the playground falls silent. Some of my classmates clasp their hands behind their backs in earnest attempts at commemoration; others glance around furtively. I stand like a toy soldier, crumpled cardboard poppy pinned to my lapel, trying to conjure memories of trenches in which I have never stood.

It’s the 11th of November—Remembrance Day in the U.K., Armistice Day in France and Belgium, and Independence Day in Poland. I’m only seven years old, but the nation in which I live wants me to remember the 20 million people, including over one million Britons, who died in the First World War.

Compared to this riot of remembrance, Europe is conspicuously silent about its colonial past. In the U.K., the dark history of the British Empire is overlooked in schools. There is no day of remembrance for those who died as a result of British colonialism. When Black Lives Matter protesters argue that “Silence is Violence,” this is what they mean: national memory, curated by the state, is tight-lipped about colonial atrocities—despite European colonialism claiming 50 million lives in the 20th century alone.

“There’s clearly a big gap in memory,” says Aline Sierp, Associate Professor of European Studies at Maastricht University, and co-founder of the Memory Studies Association. “And there’s this big problem of amnesia when it comes to the role European states and European people played in colonialism.”

“In World War I, it was clear who were the victims and the perpetrators. It’s the same with colonialism, but European states aren’t used to seeing themselves exclusively as perpetrators. We still don’t remember the colonial project as something inherently European, which came with blatant human rights violations.”

The scale of those violations is difficult to comprehend. Ten million dead in the Belgian Congo; 35 million in British India. The Spanish conquest of South America resulted in an estimated 56 million deaths, including several million from European diseases brought to its shores. Such suffering merits remembrance for the same reason we remember war: to ensure it never happens again.

So why does Europe remember casualties of war while forgetting deaths in its ex-col­onies? Professor Santanu Das, author of India, Empire, and First World War Culture, is a leading voice in First World War studies, specialising in the memory of colonial troops. He believes it’s not possible to commemorate colonial deaths as we do for the war.

“Even though we accept the horrors of the war and the unprecedented loss of lives, the stories of camaraderie and endurance nonetheless have the power to inspire us— and so the images of the doomed generation come to us today with a sort of romantic glow,” he says.

“There is nothing of the sort in memories of colonialism. What we have are images of exploitation, and ideologies based on racist discrimination—and this retrospective embarrassment, awkwardness and anger.” If Europeans wish to commemorate colonial victims, the Remembrance Day framework of poetry, poppies and pan-European romance won’t work.

A novel that promotes insurrection

The novel was published in book form in 1978, with the neo-Nazi leader William Luther Pierce using the pen name Andrew Macdonald.The novel was published in book form in 1978, with the neo-Nazi leader William Luther Pierce using the pen name Andrew Macdonald.

In “The Turner Diaries,” a group of white supremacists attacks the National Capitol in an effort to overthrow the U.S. government. Dozens are killed in the assault, including members of Congress and their staffers. But in the insurrectionists’ view, the greater victory is symbolic.

“The real value of all our attacks today lies in the psychological impact, not the immediate casualties,” the 1978 novel’s narrator, Earl Turner, writes in his diary. “They learned this afternoon that not one of them is beyond our reach.”

Since its publication by the neo- Nazi leader William Luther Pierce, “The Turner Diaries” has become one of the most influential texts among white nationalists and right-wing extremists. It has inspired dozens of acts of violence, and has been held up as a blueprint for how to enact a violent insurrection.

Last week, as rioters broke into the Capitol, incited by President Trump, some saw frightening parallels with the events described in the novel. Experts who track rhetoric on the far right say the book has long been a reference point for white supremacists who see the government as an oppressive force to be overthrown.

“Many of the ideas that are central to ‘The Turner Diaries’ have turned into memes and proliferated online in right-wing media,” said Cassie Miller, a senior research analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center. “There are books that are required reading for people who are enmeshed in the movement, and ‘The Turner Diaries’ is at the top of the list.”

On social media and in militant chat rooms on sites like 4chan, Telegram and Stormfront, some users celebrated last week’s violence and likened it to “the Day of the Rope,” a mass hanging that occurs in “The Turner Diaries.”

Some rioters who livestreamed the assault made references to hanging politicians, and strung up nooses and erected a gallows outside the Capitol.

“The turner diaries mentioned this. Keep reading,” one user posted on Telegram in reference to the attack on the Capitol.

On Monday, Amazon removed the novel from its website. It had previously been available for purchase with a disclaimer identifying it as “a racist, white supremacist fantasy” that had inspired domestic terrorists.

“As a bookseller, we think it is important to offer this infamous work because of its historical significance and educational role in the understanding and prevention of racism and acts of terrorism,” the note said. The book also disappeared from Abe Books, a usedand rare-books site owned by Amazon.

Amazon — which also removed QAnon products and books from its site and suspended Parler from its web service — declined to comment on why it had taken down “The Turner Diaries.”

Part of the book’s appeal to right-wing radical groups stems from its seemingly far-fetched plot, in which a small group of insurgents terrorizes the most powerful people in the world with attacks that rally other white people to the cause. Though it’s a work of fiction rather than an ideological treatise or tactical manual, many domestic terrorists have tried to emulate the attacks in the book.

Over the decades, the novel has been cited as inspiration in at least 40 terrorist attacks and hate crimes, including the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, according to J. M. Berger, a researcher and analyst who studies extremist activities in the United States.

“We see a lot of cases where people have taken some element of the book and tried to play them out,” Berger said. “‘The Turner Diaries’ is part of the background noise that created this moment.”

Fiction has often fed into rightwing propaganda movements, said Seyward Darby, author of “Sisters in Hate,” a book about women in the white nationalist movement. In addition to “The Turner Diaries,” influential rightwing novels include Jean Raspail’s “The Camp of the Saints,” a dystopian depiction of immigrants overrunning Europe, and “Hunter,” another novel by Pierce that valorizes a white supremacist who targets interracial couples and civil rights activists.

Bumble removes political preference filter after Capitol riots honeypot scheme

Women in the US are apparently using dating apps to track down insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol building last week to report them to the FBI.

Their self-reported tactics have already prompted one dating app to change its policies.

Bumble has removed its political preference filter temporarily, but claims it’s searching for Capitol rioters on the app and reporting them to authorities.

“How the f**k is reporting insurrectionists misuse, Bumble?” One Twitter user asked.

“Rest assured that we prohibit any content that promotes terrorism or racial hatred, and we’ve already removed any users that have been confirmed as participants in the attack of the US Capitol,” the company replied.

Bumble ordinarily allows people to give their political preferences (choosing between “conservative” and “liberal”, which can make it a confusing filter for Australian users given the name of our own dominant “conservative” party).

In the US, women have reported “friends of friends” using the filter to track down people who stormed the Capitol, or were at least willing to lie about it to try and impress them.

One popular Twitter account — a random but handsome user known as Caucasian James — shared a screenshot with his 1.4 million followers of a profile from a “patriot” telling “anyone who was at the Capitol ‘riots’” that they “have her heart”.

Some followers were quick to agree that it “can’t be real” and pointed to the circulating reports of “honeypotting”.

Others suggested that it was indeed the case that it was part of a honeypot style trap, while others told them not to reveal that if it is the case.

A “honeypot” is an investigatory and espionage tactic that tries to lure the target into a romantic or sexual relationship that could be used to compromise them.

Jennifer Lawrence provided a broad overview of the concept through her character in the truly awful 2018 film Red Sparrow, which is otherwise a complete waste of your time with no real redeeming features (although it did pick Ms Lawrence up an award for “Actress Most in Need of a New Agent” from the Alliance of Women Film Journalists).

The tactic is popular in spy-fiction because it looks great on screen, but has also been used by real intelligence agencies around the world.

In recent years the same name has begun being used for a cybersecurity technique, where an isolated part of a computer network is spoofed to look like it contains important data that would attract attackers and keep them there long enough to analyse and block them.

The FBI has charged dozens of people and arrested more than 100 so far in relation to the Capitol building incident and is expecting to charge more.

Why the woke will never be happy

Surely America has enough to worry about. There’s no shortage of distressing issues: 389,000 people dead from COVID; the Capitol coup in which five people died; yet another impeachment; or social media’s blocking of President Trump (while Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei still gets to tweet away).

But anger is raging over a far more unlikely controversy: Kamala Harris’ US Vogue cover.

The February issue was intended to portray the incoming Vice-President as “accessible”, according to the magazine’s editor-in-chief Anna Wintour.

Instead the magazine has been slammed as “racist” and “sexist” for displaying Ms Harris – the first black person and first woman to be Vice-President – in what critics described as a disrespectful and demeaning way.

In the photograph a smiling Ms Harris wears a black jacket and tight jeans, with her trademark pearls and Converse sneakers that became her signature on the campaign trail.

Behind her is pink and green fabric in a tribute to the colours of her African-American college sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha and the slogan reads: “By the people, for the people”.

The photographer was Tyler Mitchell, who was the first black photographer to shoot a Vogue cover (the amazing Beyonce shoot in 2018) and is known for his informal and muted pictures. The feature journalist and sittings editor were also both talented black American millennial women.

The image portrays Ms Harris (whose father is of Afro-Jamaican descent and mother is from India) how she normally is, not how people want her to be seen.

But despite this inclusivity and that Ms Harris chose and wore her own clothes, it wasn’t enough to satisfy the perpetually displeased woke who called it a “mess” and “trash”.

“The choice smacks of racism and sexism,” Mary McNamara said in the Los Angeles Times.

“The cover did not give Kamala D Harris due respect. It was overly familiar,” The Washington Post’s senior critic-at-large Robin Givhan said.

Anna Murphy in The Times said it was “downright blah” and said Ms Harris had a “slightly awkward in-the-queue-at-Starbucks stance”.

Online the negative response was worse, with commenters claiming she looks like a “tired soccer mom” and that is was “bizarrely horrible”. “It looks like what some kid who really wants to work at Vogue some day would slap together,” one person tweeted.

Others conspired that discrediting Ms Harris was Ms Wintour’s main motivation, ignoring the fact that the Vogue editor did not feature First lady (and former model) Melania Trump in Vogue in the past four years.

It’s also telling that Ms Harris is, according to a source, “extremely disappointed”.

Her team allegedly agreed informally with Vogue that a different image (Ms Harris in a powder blue suit) would be the cover, according to reports.

That with everything going on in the US, they bothered to address off the record this tempest in a teacup is worrying.

Isn’t saving democracy is more important than wading into yet another confected outrage by triggered moralisers searching for the next pile on?

It’s easy to dismiss this as petty and trivial, but it signals a significant toxic trend in society.

Everything must now be judged through a filter of race, colour and (to a lesser extent) gender and nothing will ever be allowed to succeed in satisfying the liberal progressives.

And that is what is so disappointing about the Vogue outcry is that no matter how Ms Harris would be styled and photographed it would be met with a petulant tantrum from the Left.

The same people enraged that she was photographed wearing sneakers would foam at the mouth if she was in a ball gown.

If she was wearing designer clothes there would be backlash for making her look disconnected in a pandemic, just as New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was ridiculed for her Vanity Fair cover.

Put her in a pencil skirt and high heels? That’s stereotyping a powerful woman.

Have her in bare arms and there would be the same uproar Michelle Obama got.

What Ms Harris looks like or wears should not matter. What she says and does is what counts.

But that means nothing to those people who actively seek to be outraged on behalf of others.

You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.




Saturday, January 16, 2021

White North Dakota lawmaker is branded racist for claiming black Americans are 'glad their ancestors were brought here as slaves' - but is backed by black Republican who says slavery was good for Africans who became Christians

State Rep Terry Jones, a Republican from New Town, has made the controversial statement while discussing his newly introduced bill that would allow residents to put down 'American' as their race on official paperwork.

House Bill 1333 would require state agencies to list 'American' as the first option on documents that ask for information on race.

Jones' remarks about slaves have been labeled racist by Fargo Black Lives Matter activist Jamaal Abegaz, who stressed that he is 'not happy that my mother's ancestors were stolen and brought here,' as first reported by The Forum.

But Michael Coachman, a former Republican gubernatorial candidate, who is black, has rushed to Jones' defense.

Coachman said that while slavery was terrible, he argued that it was good for Africans who converted to Christianity in America.

The controversy began unfolding after Jones introduced the bill on Wednesday, arguing that the legislation would help unite the country under a shared American identity, rather than allow race to divide people further.

Jones claimed that the American nationality qualifies as a race under a definition he offered as 'a group of people that has lived under common laws for mutual benefits.'

The US Census does not allow respondents to put down their nationality as their race.

Rep. Gretchen Dobervich, a Democrat from Fargo, rejected Jones' reasoning and said her colleague's bill would do nothing to heal the racial divide.

'I don't think [the bill] is meant to be racist, but the optics are not good,' Dobervich said.

Jones argued that people of all races and cultural backgrounds are proud to be Americans, including the descendants of slaves.

He added that his belief is rooted in a Reader's Digest article from the 1980s about a black doctor from the US who visited a war-torn African country and came away from the experience feeling grateful for slavery.

Fargo Black Lives Matter board member Jamaal Abegaz said Jones' comments are racist, crass and unrepresentative of the way many Black Americans view their ancestors' forced arrival on the continent. Abegaz, who is Black, emphatically said he's "not happy that my mother's ancestors were stolen and brought here."

'The unrelenting buffoonery of [Jones'] statement cannot be understated,' said Abegaz, a member of the Fargo BLM board, adding that his proposed legislation that would do away with racial identification on official forms is a 'piece of nonsense.'

But Coachman, who unsuccessfully ran for governor in November as a write-in candidate, and who has now emerged as Jones' supporter, said he believes questions requiring people to identify their race only sow division in the country.

Jones is a rancher and farmer with a wife and six children who was first elected to the State House of Representatives in 2016.

In the fall of 2020, state Democrats made a failed attempt to kick Jones off the ballot by claiming that he is a resident of Wyoming, where he operates several businesses.

Jones argued that he owns a home in New Town, pays North Dakota income tax, and has led a congregation at a Mormon church there for years.

In a ruling issued in September, the State Supreme Court ruled that Jones was eligible for re-election, which he won in November. His current term ends in November 2024.

Coachman is a retired Air Force veteran with a wife and three children who has run several statewide campaigns, including in 2018 when he made a failed bid for North Dakota secretary of state.

During his campaign for governor last year, Coachman criticized the state's response to the coronavirus pandemic and railed against restrictions, saying: 'we’re not free. We’re under bondage and being told to wear a mask when we don’t need to,' reported The Dickinson Press last October.

He also weighed in on race relations, which he described as one of the biggest problems facing the US.

'We the People of the United States ... Our Constitution says it best. We the People,' he said. 'It’s not We the Blacks, not We the Native Americans, We the Whites, We the Catholics, Lutherans, Baptists, Democrats or Republicans ... No, it’s We the People.'

Don't be a victim

Hugh Mackay

Victimhood is one of our favourite hiding places. Look what a hard life I’ve had! Look how hopeless my parents were! Look how badly I’ve been treated! If we allow ourselves to be consumed by self-pity, that may well turn into a hiding place, allowing us to settle for a superficial, reflexive victimhood rather than taking a deeper look at what we might yet become.

Having spent most of my working life sitting in people’s homes, listening to the stories of their lives and their views on every imaginable subject, I can say two things with confidence. The first is that everyone’s story is interesting: you have only to ­listen patiently enough to realise that. The ­second is that everyone has had their share of tragedy; everyone walks with shadows; everyone has been wounded, disappointed, wronged or misjudged. Everyone. And perhaps there’s a third thing, though it’s less universal: almost everyone resists the temptation to take themselves too seriously, or to fall into a trough of self-pity; almost everyone knows that there’s someone worse off than they are.

What you can never predict is how individuals might deal with misfortune and setbacks. Some of the most serene and gentle-seeming people turn out to be harbouring a seething resentment of “fate”. Some people who seem relaxed and ­charming turn out to be restless rogues or bullies constantly plotting revenge against real or imagined adversaries. (Indeed, I’m tempted to propose a law of human nature: charm is the ­preferred disguise of the rogue and the bully – that’s how they get away with it.) Others, whose experiences would move you to tears of sympathy for their loss, their sorrow or their tough luck, shrug their shoulders and look at you with a half-smile, as if to say: “What can you do? What can anyone do?”

Some people lead lives of quiet heroism – as carers for disabled children or parents with dementia, as visitors to lonely people in hospitals or nursing homes, as spouses who sacrifice their own career to support their partner’s aspirations or to raise their children – without even realising how heroic they have been. Others complain ­bitterly about the sacrifices they feel they have been forced to make.

Some people have experienced life-threatening illness and never once asked: “Why me?”; ­others have railed ceaselessly against the injustice of it all, throughout their illness and beyond. Some people have been bullied, harassed, abused or belittled by parents, teachers or people in ­positions of authority in the workplace, and maintained their dignity and courage; others have been discouraged and diminished.

All unpredictable. All part of the broad range of normal human behaviour. It’s unpredictable partly because of the crucial role played by luck in determining the trajectory of our lives. Yes, some of us can improve whatever situation we find ourselves in, through education, training and hard work. But some of us simply can’t do that because our genetic inheritance has left us with insufficient cognitive ability or emotional resources to rise above our difficulties, or because it has proved impossible to escape from a poverty trap or other crushing disadvantage. Unless we are irretrievably disadvantaged, being dealt this or that hand by the fates does not entail being defined by the hand we’ve been dealt. As Carl Jung put it: “I am not what happened to me; I am what I choose to become.”

Many people who experience illness or other misfortunes ranging from retrenchment or divorce to poverty or disability manage to display remarkable resilience, including a capacity to remain in touch with their essential loving self. But people who embrace victimhood in any of its guises tend to have an inflated sense of entitlement, are more likely to expect others to tolerate their rudeness, insensitivity or self-centredness, and are more prone to anger based on a sense of “the injustice of it all”.

What are such people ­hiding from behind that veneer of victimhood? What is it about portraying ourselves as victims that appeals to some of us? Given that the desire to be taken seriously is the most fundamental of all our social desires, is it that we believe victimhood to be the only way to get other people to take us seriously?

None of this is intended to downplay the ­misery of people trapped in the coils of tragedy or misfortune. Such people need all the sympathy, all the kindness, all the understanding and all the practical support we can muster on their behalf. But when they elect to play the victim role, that diminishes their capacity for self-reflection, as well as our capacity for sympathy: after all, if someone is wallowing in self-pity, it’s a bit hard to muster much additional pity to add to the existing swamp.

We sometimes adopt victimhood as a hiding place even when we are the architects of our own problems. We may complain about the inroads of IT into our life, as though “it’s nothing to do with me, I’m just the victim of all these messages I need to respond to”. Or, having crowded our lives with too many commitments, or failed to be strict or sensible about our priorities, we may sound just like a victim: “Oh, I’m so busy. I don’t know how I’m going to cope. People make so many demands on me!”

Sometimes, victimhood poses as martyrdom – not in the classical sense of a person dying for a cause they believe in, but in the more mundane, everyday sense of a person who has fallen into the trap of self-pity because of the demands being made on them. It might be the competing demands of work and family, or the burden of caring for (or even just worrying about) frail elderly parents, or the self-imposed stress brought about by taking on too much. By playing the martyr, we try to convince ourselves that there’s something heroic about our situation, that we are worthy of praise and admiration, and that people are not giving us sufficient recognition or sympathy. To perceive ourselves as having been martyred or victimised by our responsibilities to others is to have become deaf to the whispers of the soul.

There are a great many victims in our midst, all of them worthy of our attention and support: victims of natural disasters, of illness, of relationship breakups, of retrenchment, of prolonged unemployment leading to poverty and, yes, even of incompetent, neglectful or abusive parents. In whatever situation they find themselves, victims are entitled to expect compassionate responses from us. But the person who embraces the role of victim and wears it like a badge of honour is a person in need of a different kind of help.

The Coming Purge of All Things and People Trump

Around 3500 years ago in ancient Egypt, there lived a pharaoh who didn’t believe there were multiple gods ruling the universe. Pharaoh Akhenaten believed there was only one god — Aten the sun god. As you might imagine, this didn’t sit well with a lot of people. Priests who made a living assisting in the worship of other gods lost their livelihoods and since religion was a big deal in Egypt, a lot of important people connected to other gods lost quite a bit.

Akhenaten had sort of a co-regency with his son, Pharaoh Amenhotep IV, who also believed in the one god. After their deaths, the priests and those who worshipped other gods took their revenge on both of them. They systematically erased both pharaohs from history — literally. They scratched out their names on carvings, they chiseled over their names on stone tablets, they destroyed every scroll where their names appeared, they toppled any statues that bore their likenesses.

How effective was this erasure? When a bust was found of Akhenaten in the 19th century, nobody could figure out who he was.

Not even the Soviets, who became famous for scrubbing their history books of Communist leaders who had fallen out of favor, did such a fabulous job in erasing history. This is all relevant because Trump, and those even just tangentially associated with him, are about to be erased from history by those on both sides who see a political opening to destroy their opponents.

Senator Josh Hawley has been fingered as the scapegoat in the mob attack on the Capitol. It’s not exactly clear why. It could be that he was the most visible Senator who, in a completely legal and constitutional fashion, challenged the results of the Electoral College. You may believe he was right or you may think him crazy. Whatever your opinion, what he did was perfectly legal.

Hawley’s sin was they he didn’t sit down, shut up, and accept without question the verdict of authorities. He decided to legally challenge the Electoral College results. No one knows if he really believed the conspiracy theories about magic voting machines, altered votes, and a stolen election. It was enough that a picture of Hawley was published showing him outside the Capitol building shaking a clenched fist at the protesters in support of their demonstration — a demonstration which was peaceful until it wasn’t.

There were thousands of Trump supporters peacefully demonstrating in front of the Capitol — just like the majority of protesters last summer were peacefully demonstrating against the police. But there were those on Wednesday in Washington and across the country last summer who sought to use the peaceful protesters to disguise their intent to commit violence.

Of course, a few minutes later, some in the crowd breached the Capitol building and the insurrection was on. But trying to cancel Hawley for his legal challenge to the Electoral College or support for peaceful protests has nothing to do with standing up for democracy. Hawley and other Trump supporters will be purged from society not because they supported violence as some Democrats did last summer, but because a chasm has opened up in America and anything and anyone associated with Donald Trump will be thrown in it. On the left, it’s not enough to defeat your political opponents. They must be destroyed.

The same treatment given to Hawley will be given to other supporters of Donald Trump, including ordinary people who might have a MAGA bumper sticker on their car or a Donald Trump coffee mug at the office. How many will lose their jobs, be shunned by neighbors, or kicked out of organizations? This is not the way to protect democracy or defend the integrity of elections.

We are about to enter a very dark period in American history. It won’t be Robespierre’s “Reign of Terror.” Guillotines won’t be set up on the mall or gallows erected in Central Park. But there will be terror nonetheless. And it won’t be the Josh Hawley’s or political big shots who will be terrorized. It will be people with everything to lose who will fear being purged.

America, 2021.

CBP Chief Says Biden's Immigration Proposals Already Leading to Skyrocketing Numbers at the Border

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan says Biden's planned immigration changes are already contributing to an increase in new arrivals at the southern border.

Around 74,000 migrants arrived at the border last month, an 80-percent jump from the previous December. According to the outgoing Border Patrol chief, the uptick is the result of proposed policy changes by the incoming Biden administration.

"We’re already seeing the negative impacts of the proposed policy changes," Commissioner Morgan said on a call with reporters. According to Morgan, "cartels and human smugglers are spreading the perception that our borders will be open. In this case, they’re correct. They’re right: It’s not just the perception."

Joe Biden has pledged to dramatically increase the number of refugees permitted to resettle in the United States and roll back several Trump-era reforms.

"Halting construction of the border wall system, stopping deportations for 100 days, expanding DACA, ending MPP [Migrant Protection Protocols], providing free health care, providing amnesty to millions of individuals here illegally, and the list goes on and on. This isn’t an immigration strategy; it is an open-borders strategy," said Morgan.

The acting commissioner said he was reassured by Biden's decision not to immediately reverse President Trump's asylum restrictions in the midst of a pandemic, but equated the postponement of the policy change to simply kicking the can down the road.

"Mr. Biden himself said he’s not going to do what he promised on day one, because he knew that it would create a crisis — that was very good to hear, but it doesn’t alleviate the concerns that I have," Morgan said.

"It’s simply kicking the crisis can down the road. There’s got to be real reform to what their ‘open border’ strategies are."

With Democrats soon to be in control of both Congress and the White House, there is very little standing in the way of another amnesty.




Friday, January 15, 2021

Conservative Commentator Says AIG Canceled His Insurance Over His Social Media Posts

The more this sort of thing goes on, the more conservatives will set up their own alternatives to restricted services. That is already happening with alternatives to mainstream social media. There are already several alternatives to Twitter and Facebook available.

The Left are not content to let that happen of course. They have already shut down Parler, a conservative-oriented alternative to Twitter but it seems unlikely that they will be able to shut down all the alternatives., in particular now seems to have its own servers.

And business generally will in time provide alternatives to other services. In the case at issue below, there will undoubtedly be other insurers willing to give cover to customers rejected by AIG

If the Left go full Fascist however and manage to shut down all alternatives to sites that they control, that will be a real red rag. It will invite retaliation that could be violent. Many Trump supporters are military or ex-military men. And as such they are usually trained marksmen. So if the Left are authoritarian enough, some of the oppressed may see that the gun is the only alternative left to them. Sniper attacks on major Leftist targets could be expected. Would anyone working at the NYT be safe?

At an extreme, a real-life dystopia could emerge, whereby all Democrat officials had to drive around in armoured cars for their own safety. And that is not as improbable as it sounds. One should not forget that, during the Obama years, it was guns that restrained the law enforcement response to Cliven Bundy's protest against loss of his traditional rights.

Conservative commentator and former baseball star Curt Schilling says that AIG canceled his insurance policy over his “social media profile,” a new level of deplatforming not yet seen.

“We will be just fine, but wanted to let Americans know that @AIGinsurance canceled our insurance due to my “Social Media profile,” tweeted Schilling.

“The agent told us it was a decision made by and with their PR department in conjunction with management,” he added.

While innumerable Trump supporters have lost their Twitter and Facebook accounts due to social media censorship and cancel culture, cases of individuals being cut off by banks and other financial services are now growing too.

The purge has gone beyond the realm of simply silencing people on major platforms for their opinions, but punishing them for expressing them by trying to make their lives unlivable.

Numerous respondents pointed out the obvious – that without insurance it’s impossible to mortgage a home or register a vehicle.

However, other leftists applauded the move and said that Schilling deserved it for his support of Trump. “You’ve definitely earned it,” remarked one.

“I mean…. capitalism right? They calculated the risk and decided your premiums weren’t worth the long term exposure?” added another.

Another White Liberal Busted for Peddling a Racial Hoax for Career Gain

I mean, how many times are we going to see this happen within the world of white liberals? Rachel Dolezal, Elizabeth Warren, Hillary Baldwin (not calling her Hilaria), and now some human rights lawyer who claimed to be Puerto Rican and Colombian but is really some white girl from Georgia. It’s the liberal America exception again, folks. It’s bad to culturally appropriate. It might be racist, and you should be shamed and destroyed for doing so, but if you’re a liberal and fighting for like-minded causes — it’s ok. You get a hall pass. Alas, the lack of principles at the core of American liberalism. It’s nothing but rot.

For a slice of the country that wants to get us all "woke" and change past racial and ethnic norms, there sure are a lot of these people who have straight-up lied to get ahead, huh? This is just as bad as putting "Native American" or whatever down on college applications. It’s a fraud. So, what’s this white woman from Georgia’s name? It’s Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan, and she’s been claiming to be Hispanic for nearly a decade (via NY Post):

She serves senior counsel at the Latino Justice Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Records obtained by the site say Bannan’s family arrived in the United States from Ireland, Italy and Russia.

On Monday, Bannan, 43, clarified that she’s white in response to the report

“I am racially white, and have always said that. However my cultural identity was formed as a result of my family, both chosen and chosen for me, and that has always been Latinx,” the attorney wrote.

“My identity is my most authentic expression of who I am and how I pay honor to the people who have formed me since I was a child.”

And there it is. That’s the red flag. Only white liberals use "Latinx." Only white liberals think that’s a thing. It’s not. You cannot be Puerto Rican or Colombian if you don’t have a drop of blood running through your veins. I was raised by Italians and Irish. That’s not my cultural identity. I mean, it’s American, but I can’t say I’m full-blooded Italian. People would look at me as if I’m nuts — and they’d be right. The pretzels these clowns twist themselves into to justify stealing racial heritages to further their careers is some high-class white privilege, which again I was told was not good.

Recently, Alec Baldwin’s wife, who allegedly claimed to be from Mallorca, Spain, got busted for peddling a similar ethnic scandal. She’s a white woman from the greater Boston area. All five of her kids have Spanish names. She put on a fake accent. She was featured in the Madrid-based magazine Hola! For years, she was described as Spanish. She’s not. And any good public relations person would have pointed that out to her regarding this fake part of her biography. Why didn’t they? Maybe "Hilaria" didn’t think she’d be caught. I don’t know, but the evidence exposing this circus was both cringeworthy and flat-out hilarious.

Only in California: Where “Affordable Housing” Costs More than Five-Star Luxury

Have you ever dreamt about living in luxury on the beach in Maui? Sadly, this is just a dream for most of us because of its cost. But I am guessing you haven’t dreamt of living near the extremely busy I-680 freeway in Milpitas, California, at the local Extended Stay America, which consists of 300-square-foot units that include a kitchenette, a small living area, and one small bedroom and bathroom.

But buying the Extended Stay motel and flipping it into “affordable” apartments will cost you more per square foot than top-of-the-line digs on the shores of Hawaii. Santa Clara County, the county home of Milpitas, is paying about $725 per square foot for buying this property and flipping in into low-income apartments. Yes, this is outrageous, and there is no reason it needs to be this way. By accepting this insanity and failing to reform housing policies, California legislators are increasing California’s cost of living enormously and failing their constituents.

At this per-square-foot price point, Santa Clara County would need to spend close to $1 billion to satisfy the number of affordable housing units that the state is demanding of the county to deliver in the next two years. With an annual budget of about $8 billion, there is little chance the county will achieve this goal. And this also shows why Governor Newsom’s target of 3.5 million new housing units, one of his principal campaign promises, is a pipe dream. Even before COVID-19, California’s housing construction rate was 49th in the country.

“Affordable housing” is a myth in California, at least in areas near the coast, because a housing cost of $725 per square foot is anything but affordable. Building housing for low-income households at this cost means that taxpayers must enormously subsidize these projects.

Why is the cost so high? As always, the devil is in the details, so let’s look under the hood. There we will find that the costs of the small number of improvements that the state is planning on implementing are grossly overpriced, to the point that auditors—and taxpayers—should be taking a critical look.

The property in question sold in July for $14 million, which provides a realistic estimate for its value in its present condition. And as far as projects go, this isn’t much of a project, if one at all. According to a just-completed environmental impact report, the property and structures are in good condition and well maintained, without needing major renovations and repairs.

This property is a prime flipping candidate. Some paint, shampoo the carpets, a touch-up here and there, and we are good to go, yes? How much would this cost to flip if done by a private flipping specialist? About $20 per square foot, according to the evaluation tools provided by a private home flipper. Other flipping estimates are similar. And at $20 per square foot, this cost includes replacing carpet and hard flooring. But hey, this is California, where it costs more to do everything, so let’s double that $20 per square foot to $40 per square foot, which means a flipping budget of $1.5 million, and a grand total of about $15.5 million, give or take.

But the county’s budget to convert the Extended Stay into apartments is $29.2 million, nearly twice what it should cost. Where does that extra $14 million go? The answer to that question sheds much light on California’s housing crisis. And it is easily fixable, if policy makers are willing to do it.

The remaining items include building a laundry room and community kitchen, and outside, about 10,000 square feet would be used for a community garden, sports courts, a barbeque area with picnic tables, a dog park, and a pet washing station. Some units will also be converted into meeting rooms and into two larger manager units. Finally, there are reports—including a 222-page environmental impact report on a property that will be almost unchanged from its current usage—planning, permitting, and other administration costs.

Somehow, all this will apparently cost nearly $14 million. Scratching your head? I did as well, so I called a developer who specializes in apartments, and who lives outside of California, and asked him to guesstimate these costs at a “moderate” quality level if he were to do this project in his state.

His answer: $300,000. This includes plans, permits, overhead, and builder profit. The kitchen was the highest cost item, and he questioned why this was included in an apartment complex, given that each unit has an existing kitchen and that most apartment complexes do not have this feature. The laundry room was also expensive, but he noted that most apartment buildings cover these costs with currency-operated washers and dryers.

The extreme cost of this project is not a one-off. In San Jose, the cost of installing 8-by-10-foot tool sheds as temporary housing, along with a communal kitchen, meeting rooms, and a dog park, as in the case of the Extended Stay, costs about $700 per square foot. And, like the Extended Stay, it appears nearly all the cost is wrapped up in reports, administration, permits, and building a kitchen and laundry facilities. Almost entirely funded by taxpayers.

You must wonder why someone involved in this process doesn’t demand accountability, doesn’t say, “No more, this is nuts!” Perhaps this will happen one day, but all too often, the problem is that of people who spend other people’s money. As long as the owner of the checkbook doesn’t complain, checks just keep on getting written. It is much easier to do that than to rock the political boat, because there is so little for anyone to gain by doing that.

The fundamental problem with government is that there is no profit motive to impose discipline on spending and incentivize efficiency. Consequently, voters must constantly ride herd on elected officials. California voters don’t do this nearly enough. This is why California politicians spend $725 per square foot on down-market housing without batting an eye. And why they’ll continue to do this.

Shopify Bans Trump Store. Marginalization of Trump Support gears up

Not being familiar with either Shopify or the Trump Store and wanting to see what kinds of things it sold, I clicked on the link in Bloomberg’s tweet, only to get the notice that “This shop is unavailable.” Apparently the Trump Store website is run through Shopify, which describes itself as “the all-in-one commerce platform to start, run, and grow a business,” unless, apparently, one’s political views are undesirable.

So while I was unable to discover what exactly the Trump Store sells, I rather doubt that it’s balaclavas, Molotov cocktail mix, and maps to the Capitol. The people who work for the Trump Store have nothing to do with President Trump’s claimed incitement of mob violence at the Capitol yesterday. They are now essentially being deprived of a livelihood, at least temporarily, because the political and media establishment would have us believe that anything associated with Donald Trump is irremediably tainted. Shopify and its ilk seem to be working from the assumption that allowing anything connected with Trump a platform is apparently tantamount to accepting and even propagating the noxious brew of racism, xenophobia and “hate” that is all support for Trump is about, as far as they’re concerned.

Shopify is clearly just the beginning. Also on Thursday, Rick Klein, political director at ABC, tweeted: “Trump will be an ex-president in 13 days. The fact is that getting rid of Trump is the easy part. Cleansing the movement he commands is going to be something else.” Klein didn’t say how he proposed to “cleanse” Trump supporters. Special showers, maybe? Or is it just our brains that he wants to wash? In any case, Klein is just the latest prominent Leftist to call for the reeducation of Trump supporters, and it is worth noting that neither Joe Biden nor Kamala Harris, nor any other Democrat leader, has dismissed, much less condemned, this idea.

As David Horowitz has memorably put it, “Inside every progressive is a totalitarian screaming to get out,” and at this point it’s clear: They’ve gotten out. The Left seems to be bent on criminalizing and thereby marginalizing all opposition to its agenda, and that will require pretending that every Trump supporter is the maniac redneck with a gun of Leftist fiction, just itchin’ to get inside that thar Capitol building and bag some Democrat varmints and then, power secured, go out and oppress blacks and women. It’s a lurid and ridiculous fantasy, of course, but Democrat leaders are today in no mood to treat opposition to high taxes and support for secure borders and protection of the First and Second Amendments as if they were any more reasonable. It is much easier to silence one’s opposition, and not be challenged in doing so, once one has succeeded in portraying him as evil in the eyes of the world — irrational, tending to violence, and well beyond the bounds of acceptable discourse and behavior.

The Left has done this for years. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s hit list of “hate groups,” treated by the social media giants as an infallible index to what is lawful and what is prohibited, is a sophisticated, well-financed, ongoing exercise in defamation and libel, seeking to drive individuals and groups from public life and destroy them utterly without discussion or appeal, solely because they do not reflect the Left’s worldview, agenda, and goals. With all the certainty of medieval Churchmen burning heretics at the stake, and with less opportunity afforded them to respond to the charges and clear their name, the SPLC has become the Inquisition of our age, identifying heretics on the right and burning them accordingly.

But the SPLC’s activities have been restricted to a relatively small number of conservative groups and individuals. Now, with their Reichstag Fire of Trump supporters in Capitol building yesterday, the Left is moving quickly to expand the heretics list by about 75 million people. Once these thought criminals are identified, these new Inquisitors will duly destroy their lives, and thus ensure the purity of the new totalitarian order. And why not? There is nothing and no one who can stop them now.




Thursday, January 14, 2021

Censorship a weapon that must be taken out of Big Tech’s hands

Claire Lehmann

On January 6, a violent mob inspired by US President Donald Trump and his claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him stormed the US Capitol, smashing windows, pummelling police and chanting “Hang Mike Pence”.

In the wake of the riot, Big Tech companies including Twitter, Facebook, Amazon and Apple have mobilised to quash insurrectionist activity on their platforms. For breaching Twitter’s “Glorification of Violence” policy, Trump has been given a permanent suspension from its service.

The two incriminating tweets that led to the suspension include the following, on January 8, 2021:

“The 75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST, and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future. They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!”

And: “To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.”

The reasoning that Twitter has provided for the permanent suspension appears to be based on evidence that Trump’s supporters were using these two tweets in their planning of further violence.

Twitter’s press release stated: “Plans for future armed protests have already begun proliferating on and off Twitter, including a proposed secondary attack on the US Capitol and state capitol buildings on January 17, 2021.”

A day later, social media platform Parler, which is popular among American right-wingers, was banned from Apple’s app store and then swiftly removed from Amazon’s website-hosting service, AWS.

In addition to the social media bans, the Trump Organisation press email appears to be defunct, and its Shopify account has been taken down.

Almost all avenues of communication and commerce available to Donald Trump have been removed, virtually overnight.

Trump’s permanent suspension may well be supportable from a national security point of view, if these companies, in concert with US law enforcement, have credible evidence of further political violence. Yet the co-ordinated movement of these companies and their swift removal of Trump’s presence on the internet has chilled observers around the globe.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a “combative leftist”, decried the move by tech companies. “I don’t like censorship,” he told reporters. “I don’t like anyone to be censored and for them to have their right taken away to send a message on Twitter or on Facebook.”

Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader who was poisoned with nerve agent just last year, has made the observation that “this precedent will be exploited by the enemies of freedom of speech around the world”, and that “of course, Twitter is a private company, but we have seen many examples in Russia and China of such private companies becoming the state’s best friends and the enablers when it comes to censorship”.

America – and the world – now faces the 21st century equivalent of the railroad problem. Railroads of the 19th century were the industrial world’s first monopoly, and legislation that was passed in the 1880s became the world’s first anti-monopoly laws. Big Tech companies have essentially built the railroads on which 21st century international communication and commerce operate. With the flick of a switch they can determine whether an individual (or group) can participate in the global marketplace.

It is a mistake to think that these private companies act with any coherent ethical framework in mind. While Apple has just banned Parler from its app store for violating its app store user terms, the company has also lobbied to water down provisions in a recent bill aimed at preventing forced labour in China. Similarly, Twitter allows Iran’s Ayatollah Imam Sayyid Ali Khamenei to tweet repeatedly about Israel being a “malignant cancerous tumour” that has to be “removed and eradicated”.

Other threats of violence are commonplace.

When the US experienced its “race reckoning” of 2020 following the death of George Floyd – a reckoning that led to widespread rioting, billions of dollars worth of property damage and an estimated 25 deaths – there was no crackdown on accounts that encouraged looting, property damage or arson.

It is domestic political pressure that has led to the swift and permanent suspension of Donald Trump. And it is domestic political pressure that has led Amazon to remove Parler from its website-hosting service. In the absence of regulation that would help tech companies make decisions with transparency, and an appeals process, tech CEOs respond to public outcry with ad hoc censorship.

Tech platforms have unleashed powers that have started to become unwieldy and beyond the control of their masters.

No chief executive wants to have the responsibility of having to mitigate imminent political violence. But Americans, and the world, should not burden them with this responsibility. It is time for the era of unregulated monopolistic tech platforms to come to a close.

Is Truth Irrelevant?

Thomas Sowell

It is amazing how many people seem to have discovered last Wednesday that riots are wrong -- when many of those same people apparently had not noticed that when riots went on, for weeks or even months, in various cities across the country last year.

For too many people, especially in the media, what is right and wrong, true or false, depends on who it helps or hurts politically. Too many media people who are supposed to be reporters act as if they are combatants in political wars.

Someone once said that, in a war, truth is the first casualty. That has certainly been so in the media -- and in much of academia as well.

One of the most grotesque distortions growing out of this carelessness with the facts has been a removal of Abraham Lincoln's name and statues from various places, on grounds that he saw black people only as property.

Such criticisms betray an incredible ignorance of history -- or else a complete disregard of truth.

As a lawyer, Abraham Lincoln knew that there was nothing in the Constitution which authorized him or any other president to free slaves. But he also knew that a military commander in wartime can legally seize the property of an enemy nation. Defining slaves as property gave President Lincoln the only legal authority he had to seize them during the Civil War. And once they were seized as property, he could then free them as human beings.

But, if the Emancipation Proclamation had based its action on defining the slaves as human beings, with a right to be free, the Supreme Court of that era would undoubtedly have declared it unconstitutional.

Millions of human beings would have remained slaves. Would ringing rhetoric be worth that price?

As for the claim that Lincoln did not regard black people as human, he invited Frederick Douglass to the White House!

Gross distortions of history, in order to get Abraham Lincoln's name removed from schools tells us a lot about what is wrong with American education today.

Many schools are closed because of the coronavirus and the teachers unions. And many schools in minority neighborhoods failed to teach children enough math and English, back when they were still open. So it is incredible that school authorities have time to spend on ideological crusades like removing names and statues from schools.

Unfortunately, too many American educational institutions -- from elementary schools to universities -- have become indoctrination centers. The riots that swept across the country last year are fruits of that indoctrination and the utter disregard for other people's rights that accompanied those riots.

At the heart of that indoctrination is a sense of grievance and victimhood when others have better outcomes -- which are automatically called "privileges" and never called "achievements," regardless of what the actual facts are.

Facts don't matter in such issues, any more than facts mattered when smearing Lincoln.

Any "under-representation" of any group in any endeavor can be taken as evidence or proof of discriminatory bias. But those who argue this way cannot show us any society -- anywhere in the world, or at any time during thousands of years of recorded history -- that had all groups represented proportionally in all endeavors.

In America's National Hockey League, for example, there are more players from Canada than there are players from the United States. There are also more players from Sweden than from California, even though California's population is nearly four times the population of Sweden.

Californians are more "under-represented" in the NHL than women are in Silicon Valley. But no one can claim that this is due to discriminatory bias by the NHL. It is far more obviously due to people growing up in cold climates being more likely to have ice-skating experience.

This is one of many factors that produce skewed statistics in many endeavors. Discriminatory bias is among those factors. But it has no monopoly.

Yet who cares about facts any more, in this age of indoctrination?

Why a White Mother Forced Her Children to Pray to Black Women on Social Media...It Didn't Go Over Well

It has to be said: white liberals are the worst. The ideology was already insufferable, but the antics of this annoying slice of America just makes everything more combustible. First, they think that their useless college degrees give them a badge to become the cultural appropriation police. Yeah, they get to be the protectors of communities of color in this regard because that’s not paternalistic, problematic, or wholly inappropriate at all right?

Second, the overreaction to everything within the ‘woke’ paradigm makes already annoying people seem like total aliens. The lengths to which these white people will go to prove that they’re not really ‘white’ within socio-political constructs is irrational and awkward. It’s a spectacle to watch for sure.

The best part is that activists who are in the black and Latino communities laugh at this stuff. They think it’s to all that helpful, which is true but also denigrating. This is a cause that’s dear to them. These white liberals are only doing this oddball stuff which I will get to in a second to increase social media presence.

On TikTok, some white mother forced her kids to pray to black women since Joe Biden is president and Donald Trump is no longer or something. This slice of America booted Trump, so pray, kids. Pray! Actually, it’s a bit more nuanced, lady. It was a combination of rich white liberals and white working-class voters coming out against Trump. The latter group was a marginal shift, but such shifts can land you in the political hurt box. Anyways, here’s more on this odd prayer circle, which later forced the mother to take it down after—shocker—a whole host of people found it insincere and problematic (via NY Post):

In a video liked more than 13 million times before disappearing from the platform, Justine Champion, dubbed @teenychamp on TikTok, drew both praise and criticism for her unorthodox dogma.

The footage, originally posted on Dec. 30, shows Champion with her four young sons on an outdoor play set. “Me teaching my white boys how to behave,” reads text on the clip.

“Black women are the reason Donald Trump is no longer gonna be our president,” she says, facing the camera while her sons bow amid giggles.


Not everyone found Champion’s sermon sincere.

“I’m a woman of color and agreed,” commented one TikTok user, according to Daily Mail. “But it’s annoying when people make these videos just for clout and not because they genuinely agreed.”


“I took it down after listening to some black women and their concerns,” she wrote. “Others want me to put it back up because they loved it. Either way I’m grateful they helped get rid of trump.”

These people are cancer. We haven’t even delved into the irony of the white liberal, which is that they overreact and overthink things they think are racist but really are not. They are the first to protest places engaging in so-called cultural appropriation but then are caught lying about their heritage for personal gain.

Elizabeth Warren, Rachel Dolezal, and Hillary Baldwin, Alec’s wife. We have three prominent liberal women who faked being a Native American, a black woman, and someone from Spain. It sounds like the beginning of a joke. Maybe it is. Only white liberals can peddle racial hoaxes and get away with it. Baldwin did. Warren is still a sitting US Senator. Dolezal was hurled into economic distress. It is the dichotomy race-based or more grounded in rich vs. poor, the latter of which impacts every one of all creeds and backgrounds. I don’t know. You can debate that among yourselves. Frankly, this post was merely to show that some white woman forced her kids to pray to black women as some ‘woke’ social media exercise only to have actual people of color call her out for it.

Why hello boomerang.

FDA Celebrates 10-Year Anniversary of a Food Safety Law That Hasn't Made Our Food Safer

In a week when hundreds of President Trump's supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol as part of an effort to overturn the legitimate results of the 2020 presidential election—the latter of which Congress subsequently confirmed was won handily by President-elect Joe Biden—you'd be forgiven if it escaped your notice that one of the country's worst food laws, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), just celebrated the 10th anniversary of its signing.

FSMA, which was signed into law on January 4, 2011, by President Obama, gave the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) "more power to crack down on food-safety scofflaws and decrease the incidence of foodborne illness across the country," I detailed in a 2012 law-review article, The Food-Safety Fallacy: More Regulation Doesn't Necessarily Make Food Safer.

Before madness overtook the Capitol this week, the FDA was celebrating the law's birthday.

"It's not enough to respond to outbreaks of foodborne illness," said Frank Yiannas, the FDA's deputy commissioner for food policy, in a statement this week. "We must prevent them from happening in the first place."

That shift from a reactive to a proactive agency, Yiannas notes, was Congress's mandate to the FDA in passing FSMA, the most noteworthy update of agency food-safety enforcement in decades. So how's it going?

Yiannas describes what he sees as FSMA's key accomplishments, including that food businesses "are now taking concrete steps every day to reduce the risk of contamination" and that the law has caused a "bigger conversation about the importance of food safety," strengthened agency partnerships with business and civil society, "advanced food safety," and fostered "safer food in this country."

But has it really done that?

In 2011, before FSMA was implemented, the Centers for Disease Control, which tracks and responds to foodborne illness outbreaks, estimated that tainted food causes around 48 million illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000 deaths in the United States each year. Today, a decade on, those CDC estimates remain unchanged. Lest you think those CDC estimates merely haven't been updated in some time, the agency reported earlier this year that "[t]he incidence of most infections transmitted commonly through food has not declined for many years."

So if FSMA has not reduced cases of foodborne illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths, then what was it all for?

Well, it turns out the law wasn't really designed to reduce those illnesses, hospitalizations, or deaths. Indeed, the idea that FSMA would revolutionize the FDA by changing it from a reactive to a proactive agency always rang hollow. The FDA predicted that FSMA's best-case reductions in foodborne illness would be an annual decline between 3.7 percent and 5.4 percent. Even that didn't happen.

The FDA knows FSMA is failing to achieve its objectives. Consider that nearly any time the agency discusses FSMA, it refers to foodborne illness as "a significant public health burden that is largely preventable." In 2015, Dr. David Acheson, a former FDA associate commissioner for foods, rightly argued that the key marker for FSMA's success would be whether the law "drive[s] down foodborne illness" and yields "the public health gains that this is all about." But in 2018, a FSMA working group reported that using cases of foodborne illness to assess FSMA's efficacy is "a high bar to prove a relationship to the FSMA rules."

That may be true. But FSMA cannot be a success if overall foodborne illness numbers don't fall. Dramatically. And they have not.

To be fair, FSMA isn't all bad. The law did give the FDA one important power—the authority to order a recall of foods that are adulterated (tainted) or misbranded (labeled inaccurately), either of which could sicken or kill one or more persons. And though FSMA is a needless burdensome, clearly ineffective, and costly law that should be repealed forthwith, that's not to say all federal food-safety laws or programs are wrongheaded. They're not.

For example, I've explained previously that the CDC's PulseNet tracking program, which "prevents more than 275,000 cases of foodborne illness each year," is a smart and highly successful program for tracing, combating, and limiting foodborne illness outbreaks. It's also inexpensive and doesn't impose additional regulations on food producers.

Toward the end of Yiannas's statement this week on FSMA, he references a new FDA approach he's championing: the New Era of Smarter Food Safety.

That evolving approach, which I explained last year will "ramp[] up the use of technology to improve traceability and reduce the spread and impact of future cases of foodborne illness," is at odds with the proactive approach implemented under FSMA.

That fact alone makes the New Era of Smarter Food Safety sound both realistic and promising. And it reiterates—along with CDC data and other factors—that a decade on, FSMA has failed to meet the lofty food-safety goals its supporters argued it would achieve.




Tuesday, January 12, 2021

The Western mind is different

Henrich is at his usual barrow below but his explanations are dubious. His central claim that the Catholic church disrupted traditional family relationships with its sexual restrictions seems implausible. It is true that the church restricted cousin marriage but restrictions on cousin marriage are ancient and and the church would seem to be about average in the degree of consanguinuity it allowed.

Cousin marriage is certainly endemic among Muslim populations but that is a consequence of the ease of divorce under Sharia law. There is nothing comparable elsewhere

So is there another explanation for the unusual Western mind? There is but it wades into politically dangerous waters these days. But let me go wading.

The plain fact is that the breakout of modern civilization that was produced by Western minds was not exactly Western. It would more accurately be described as a creation of German or Germanic minds. The seminal innovations -- from the printing press to the steam train were the product of minds in two Germanic nations -- Germany and Britain. In about 500AD Roman Britannia was conquered and subdued by Germans mainly from the West Baltic area and their genes are predominant in Britain to this day.

And the influence of both countries on nearby countries was great. To some extent German thinking was transmitted along with German technological innovations.

So why was German thinking different? I have written at some length on that elsewhere

The database that dominates our understanding of human psychology derives primarily – approximately 95% of it in fact – from populations that are Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich and Democratic (Weird), and these Weird populations turn out to be distinct in many ways.

Unlike much of the world today – and most people who have ever lived – Weird people are highly individualistic, self-obsessed, guilt-ridden and analytical in their thinking style. They focus on themselves – their attributes, accomplishments and aspirations – over relationships and roles. When reasoning, Weird people tend to look for abstract categories with which to organise the world. They simplify complex phenomena by breaking them down into discrete elements and assigning properties – whether by imagining types of particles, pathogens or personalities.

Despite their seeming self-obsession, Weird people tend to stick to impartial rules and can be quite trusting, fair and cooperative toward strangers. Emotionally, Weird people are relatively shameless, less constrained by the eyes of others, but often wracked by guilt as they fail to live up to their own self-imposed standards.

Where did these psychological differences come from and why are European populations, along with their cultural descendants in places like North America, at the extreme end of these global distributions?

A growing body of research traces these psychological differences to the structure of families – what anthropologists call kin-based institutions. This work suggests that our minds calibrate and adapt to the social worlds we encounter while growing up. Until recently, most societies have been undergirded by intensive kin-based institutions built around large extended families, clans, cousin marriage, polygamy and many other kinship norms that regulate and tighten social life. These institutions persist in many parts of the world today, especially in rural areas.

By contrast, many European populations have been dominated by monogamous nuclear families – a pattern labeled the “European Marriage Pattern” by historians – since at least the end of the Middle Ages.

Testing this idea, analyses reveal that people from societies rooted in more intensive kin-based institutions show greater conformity, less individualism, more holistic thinking, fewer guilty experiences and less willingness to trust strangers. These patterns emerge whether we compare countries, regions within countries or second-generation immigrants from different backgrounds living in the same place. As the first and often the most important institution we humans encounter upon entering the world, the structure of our family networks plays a central role in explaining global psychological diversity.

But why do families organise themselves in such different ways across societies, and why were European families already peculiar by the end of the Middle Ages?

While the diversity of kin-based institutions found around the world has been influenced by many factors, the European Marriage Pattern traces primarily to a religious mutation. Beginning in late antiquity, the branch of Christianity that evolved into the Roman Catholic Church began to gradually promulgate a set of prohibitions and prescriptions related to marriage and the family. The Church, for example, banned cousin marriage, arranged marriage and polygamous marriage. Unlike other Christian sects, the Church slowly expanded the circle of “incestuous” relationships out to sixth cousins by the 11th Century.

Despite often facing stout resistance, this enterprise slowly dissolved the complex kin-based institutions of tribal Europe, leaving independent nuclear households as a cultural ideal and common pattern.

To test the idea that the medieval Church has shaped contemporary psychological variation, it is possible to exploit the unevenness of this historical process by tracking the diffusion of bishoprics across Europe from AD 500 to 1500. Analyses show that Europeans from regions that spent more centuries under the influence of the Church are today less inclined to conform, more individualistic and show greater trust and fairness towards strangers.

Globally, national populations with longer historical exposures to the Church not only show weaker kin-based institutions, but are psychologically “Weirder” today.

Most of us might prefer to think of ourselves as independent, rational thinkers. But how we think, feel and reason – including our inclinations toward conformity and preferences for analytical explanations – has been shaped by historical events, cultural heritages and incest taboos that stretch back centuries or even millennia.

Understanding how history has shaped our minds is part of exploring and embracing our diversity.

One of Big Tech's Own Lobbed a Punch Against Them... On Behalf of Trump

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is rarely, if ever, on the side of conservatives. In fact, they usually favor Democrats' policies and decisions. But now the civil rights organization is speaking out about Big Tech's decision to permanently ban President Donald Trump from their platforms.

According to the ACLU, Americans should be concerned about the "unchecked power" that social media platforms have.

"For months, President Trump has been using social media platforms to seed doubt about the results of the election and to undermine the will of voters," ACLU Senior Legal Counsel Kate Ruane said in a statement. "We understand the desire to permanently suspend him now, but it should concern everyone when companies like Facebook and Twitter wield the unchecked power to remove people from platforms that have become indispensable for the speech of billions – especially when political realities make those decisions easier."

The organization reminded followers and supporters that the same thing could happen to them.

"President Trump can turn his press team or Fox News to communicate with the public, but others – like many Black, Brown, and LGTBQ activists who have been censored by social media companies – will not have that luxury. It is our hope that these companies will apply their rules transparently to everyone," the statement concluded.

Conservatives have been concerned about Big Tech censorship for years. It's something we've all talked about in depth, especially with debates over Section 230 protection.

It's a breath of fresh air to see a left-leaning organization admit that what happened to President Trump and other conservatives could happen to anyone else. We never get that kind of admission from left-leaning figures. They know they're safe because their friends in Silicon Valley share their political views.

Free speech and a free press are important aspects of our society. Having a tech company decide who should and should not be allowed on their platforms – including the leader of the free world – is a dangerous thing. Yes, they're a private company and they have a right to do what they think is best. But maybe it's time to address the elephant in the room and admit that stifling content that goes against their narrative isn't healthy and only causes further division. And the only ones who can address this issue, in full, is Congress.

This Social Network is Gaining 10,000 Users Per Hour After Trump's Twitter Ban

The CEO of Gab, a conservative-friendly social media site, claims it’s picking up 10,000 users an hour following Twitter banning President Trump.

“The traffic just keeps growing hang tight, even more servers on the way today,” Gab CEO Andrew Torba wrote on the site Saturday.

He also wrote: “500,000+ new users today. 18 million visits. You don’t need an account to use the site. The Silicon Valley Exodus has begun. Get in the Ark. The best is yet to come.”

Gab, which launched in 2016, calls itself a “social network that champions free speech, individual liberty, and the new free flow of information online.”

Following his permanent suspension, Trump used the official @Potus account to accuse Twitter of “banning free speech” and announced he is “negotiating with various other sites, and will have a big announcement soon, while we also look at the possibilities of building out our own platform in the near future. We will not be SILENCED!”

“As I have been saying for a long time, Twitter has gone further and further in banning free speech, and tonight, Twitter employees have coordinated with the Democrats and the Radical Left in removing my account from their platform, to silence me — and YOU, the 75,000,000 great patriots who voted for me,” the president tweeted from the @Potus account.

“Twitter may be a private company, but without the government’s gift of Section 230, they would not exist for long. I predicted this would happen,” he tweeted. “We will not be SILENCED! Twitter is not about FREE SPEECH. They are all about promoting a Radical Left platform where some of the most vicious people in the world are allowed to speak freely. STAY TUNED!”

Torba said he’s been in touch with Trump’s team.

“I’m going to be upfront with you: I am in the process of connecting with President Trump’s team as we speak,” wrote Torba in a message posted to his website. “The President’s Gab account is already reserved with hundreds of thousands of followers. We need to massively expand our server capacity and very quickly.”

Meanwhile, Parler, a social network that pitches itself as a “free speech” alternative to Twitter and Facebook, is being censored.

Psychologist reveals why boys and girls SHOULD be raised differently

This lady sounds a bit mixed up to me. She is rejecting the now rather old idea that males and females should be the same. But what she is advocating seems little different from that. She "believes both sexes must be taught to embrace masculinity and femininity"

A more traditional view is that men should be men and women will be glad of it. When one looks at media reports of romances between public figures such as sportsmen and movie stars it is very noticeable that attractive and very feminine women regularly team up with big, well-built and fit men -- often sportsmen -- who give no signs of anything feminine. The partners concerned could be almost a parody of traditional sex roles. Women with choices like real men, not wimps. A big fit body attracts and all the rest is incidental.

Some years back, I actually did some survey research into the androgyny hypothesis -- that it is healthiest for people to be big on both male and female traits. I found the opposite. The healthiest were those who rejected both male and female traits. They rejected stereotyped ways of behaving in favour of what they individually were

So boys should NOT be told to embrace femininity. They should be set free to become whatever is right for them. They should be given freedom to become themselves

A psychologist has revealed why 'boys and girls should be raised differently' in an era where calls for the two to be treated equally steadily grow louder.

Mother-of-two Megan de Beyer believes both sexes must be taught to embrace masculinity and femininity beyond the socially constructed roles they are conditioned to identify with.

The South African author, who in February published 'How to Raise a Man: The modern mother's guide to parenting her teenage son', says a healthy balance of the two traits is essential for developing independence and emotional intelligence.

Parenting should change at the age of 11, Ms de Beyer reveals, right before adolescence when the bulk of emotional maturing and the 'unfolding of masculinity' occurs.

'We need to become more conscious with our parenting and recognise the subtle but complex difference between socially constructed identities of boys and girls,' Ms de Beyer told Daily Mail Australia from her farm on the outskirts of Cape Town.

Her argument contrasts with the iconic activist slogan 'raise boys and girls the same way', widely used in the '#metoo' movement to discourage cultures of toxic masculinity and the wrongful protection of powerful perpetrators of sexual abuse.

The phrase - which has become synonymous with gender equality campaigns and is often emblazoned on T-shirts, posters and bumper stickers - calls for children of all sexes and orientations to be treated equally.

But Ms de Beyer believes instilling values typically associated with the opposite sex is the key to creating a more compassionate society that supports men and women in achieving their goals, whatever they may be.

Parents subconsciously raise boys to be strong, independent and less expressive of their emotions, Ms de Beyer says, which can leave them feeling 'disconnected and isolated' and prone to mental health issues.

In 2017 roughly 75 percent of Australians who died by suicide were men, according to figures from the Black Dog Institute.

Meanwhile Ms de Beyer said girls are instinctively brought up to be accommodating, understanding and less assertive, which can lead to insecurity and a lack of confidence in adulthood.

How to raise boys to be more in touch with their emotions

1. Self-awareness: Mothers must be clear in their own definition of masculinity.

They must understand the complex and multi-faceted nature of being a man, which involves softness and vulnerability as well as strength and leadership, if she wants to raise an emotionally mature son.

2. Let go of personal experience: Mothers must be aware of their personal experience with men and the situations they have faced during their lifetime.

3. Focus on humanisation, not emasculation: Mothers must strike a balance between the two to promote emotional intelligence and traditional male traits.

Ms de Beyer said parents - mothers in particular - must be clear in their own definitions of masculinity.

She believes mums must understand the complex and multi-faceted nature of being a man, which involves softness and vulnerability as well as strength and leadership, if they want to raise a son who is empathetic and emotionally mature.

'There are many ways to be a man, and we need to welcome all of them back,' the holistic parenting expert said.

Ms de Beyer insists mothers must be aware of their personal experience with men and the situations they have faced during their lifetime.

They should reflect on these to work through difficult emotions they may have faced in relation to domination, broken relationships and poor communication so they can teach their sons to be well-rounded individuals.

'Mums must heal their own wounds around masculinity so they don't bring that into their relationship with their sons,' Ms de Beyer added.

She said mothers with 'masculine wounds' can often overreact to displays of masculinity - such as aggression, territoriality and arrogance common in adolescence - in a bid to protect themselves from 'toxic masculinity'.

But Ms de Beyer admitted there is a 'fine balance' between emasculating boys and humanising them that is not always easy to strike.

'We need to make room for their emotional lives to let their inner voices shine through so they can reach their full potential,' she said.

Raising girls with healthy masculinity

Ms de Beyer believes parents must be clear with language and communication in order to encourage a healthy dose of masculinity in their daughters.

She recommends using phrases like 'do things that make you feel proud of yourself' and 'I love how independent you've become' to show young girls it is good for them to be strong and stand on their own two feet - traits historically applauded in boys.

Other statements that reinforce positive masculinity for girls include 'it's brave to do that' and 'you are behaving very honourably'.

Ms de Beyer believes use of this language will encourage girls to embrace their masculine side while they develop the classic - and equally important - feminine characteristics of collaboration, kindness, care and compassion.

She said it's vital to create a 'blend of the two'. 'Don't stop either, with boys or with girls,' she added.