Thursday, June 13, 2024

Scientists raise alarm over common sunscreen ingredient being found in frozen pizzas and candies

Another scare about a "possible" harm. The link to the main article is here:

There are HUGE barriers to using this study a a basis for policy:

* How were the respondents selected? Were they a representative sample of any specifiable popuation? If not, no generlizations can be made from them. That may seem a harsh stricture but in my extensive reseach I always used representative samples. You can do it if you try. If you don't do it you are just playing games

* Once again only high and low scorers were used in the analysis. What happened to the middling scorers? Would including them have made the overall corelations insignificant? It often does.

* I have not been able to see details of the confounders that they alowed for but I doubt that they allowed for the big confounder: income

* They had NO clinical evidence of health problems. The differences they found may or may not lead to illness. Many ingested substances lead to physiological changes without ill effects. We call them drugs

* Since it is ubiquitous, if it did lead to illness of any kind we would surely by now have heard a raft of complaints about it. We have not. If people have ingested it a trillion times without harm, what more do we need to call it harmless?

Scientists have raised concerns of the effects of a common ingredient of sunscreen being used in foods including frozen pizzas, bakery products, and children’s candies.

Titanium Dioxide (TiO2) is a synthetically produced substance that is not classed as hazardous and is used in a vast range of industrial and consumer goods.

It is found in products including sunscreen, sunscreen, cosmetics, paint, plastics, paper, and wallpaper due to its non-flammable and insoluble properties. It also absorbs UV light, though cannot penetrate through the skin.

TiO2 is also regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a type of food coloring and used in a variety of FDA regulated foods, including cottage cheese, salad dressing, and brightly colored sweets such as Skittles – so long as the quantity does not exceed 1 percent by weight of food.

In foods that contain TiO2, it will appear on the ingredients label as either “artificial color” or “colored with titanium dioxide”, though it is not required to be listed, according to the FDA.

Though it is currently approved by the FDA in the US, the substance is currently under reviewed following a 2023 petition by environmental groups, which are seeking to have it banned from foods.

In February, California lawmakers advanced a bill to bar foods with titanium dioxide from being served in public schools. The substance was banned by the European Union in 2022.

Chief among the concerns is that TiO2 contains nanoparticles which – due to their miniscule size – can get inside cells and cause harm to internal organs.

An article in npj Science and Food cited studies done in animals that found that consumption of titanium dioxide nanoparticles led to damage to the liver, immune and reproductive systems, as well as DNA.

Other research found that as well as such damage, the particles can inhibit the spread of beneficial gut bacteria.

A study of 35 healthy adults, published in February, found that those with higher levels of TiO2 in their stool also had higher levels of certain gut inflammation. They also had indications of more gut permeability or how “leaky or separated the cells are,” said Dr Kelsey Mangano, lead scientist of the study.

The concern is that chronic increased gut inflammation and permeability could increase the risk of health issues including colon cancer, nutrient deficiencies and the low-grade inflammation, Dr Mangano said.

Despite this, organizations including the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) have opposed a “knee-jerk” ban on the substance, stating that it would have “far-reaching consequences”.

A statement released by the CHPA in August 2023, in response to the FDA announcement of a review of the use of TiO2 described a ban as “unjustified”.

“We strongly urge the Food and Drug Administration to deny the petition to repeal [a section of its regulations], which permits the use of TiO2 in food and dietary supplements,” the statement read.

“While consumer safety is of paramount importance, a knee-jerk ban on TiO2 in food and dietary supplements would be unjustified. Based on extensive scientific research and regulatory evaluations, TiO2 is deemed safe for use as a food additive when consumed within established regulatory limits.

“Furthermore, its regulatory approval, manufacturing oversight, and industry best practices ensure the responsible use of this ingredient. Continued adherence to these safety measures and ongoing research will contribute to maintaining the safety and integrity of TiO2 as an essential food additive.”


Secret Bible text changes everything

It changes nothing. When the earliest example of the story was written down centuries after the events it purported to describe, there is no warrant for its truth or accuracy. It could well be fiction, And the earliest mentions of it do say it was fiction

At least if a newly discovered papyrus about Jesus Christ’s childhood is to be believed. He fibbed. He tantrumed. He killed.

If so, little wonder the canonical (accepted) Gospels of the Biblical New Testament don’t say much about the Christian messiah’s early years.

The books of Matthew and Luke offer the only accounts of his birth.

Luke adds the story of a 12-year-old messiah-to-be stunning the theologians of the Second Temple in Jerusalem with his deep understanding of Jewish lore.

The Infancy Gospel of Thomas is significantly more comprehensive - and less righteous.

It purports to be an eyewitness account of the juvenile Jesus’ life in Nazareth. By implication, it’s written by his brother Judas Thomas.

This text was one of many put before Christian bishops drawn together from across Europe and the Middle East in 325 AD by Emperor Constantine.

The powerful convert wanted a standardised religion to help unify his rapidly disintegrating Roman Empire.

The 27 books of the New Testament as we know it today, were their final choice.

Dozens of texts claiming to be gospels, letters from the disciples and collections of Jesus’ sayings were rejected.

These were declared to be, at best, apocryphal (of dubious authenticity), or worst - heretical (against the religion).

The Infancy Gospel of Thomas didn’t make the cut.

Early Christian theologian and Bishop of Rome Hippolytus had previously declared it a dangerous fake in his decree Refutation of All Heresies, written around 230AD.

A century later, Constantine’s bishops agreed.

As such, all copies were ordered to be destroyed on sight.

Almost all were.

But a mislabeled fragment of Egyptian papyrus filed away in a German library has turned out to be the oldest known surviving copy of the original text.

This fragment of papyrus, long labelled as being a hastily written note, has turned out to be a Fourth-century copy of the Infant Gospel of Thomas - an account of Jesus’ childhood banned as heretical by the founders of the Roman Catholic Church.

This fragment of papyrus, long labelled as being a hastily written note, has turned out to be a Fourth-century copy of the Infant Gospel of Thomas - an account of Jesus’ childhood banned as heretical by the founders of the Roman Catholic Church.

The 11cm by 5cm fragment contains just 13 lines of Greek text.

It sat ignored at Berlin’s Hamburg Carl von Ossietzky State and University Library for decades.

But researchers Dr Lajos Berkes and Professor Gabriel Nocchi Macedo recognised its true significance.

“It was thought to be part of an everyday document, such as a private letter or a shopping list because the handwriting seems so clumsy,” explains Dr Berkes.

“We first noticed the word Jesus in the text. Then, by comparing it with numerous other digitised papyri, we deciphered it letter by letter…”

Previously, a codex dating from the 11th Century was the oldest known fragment of the Infancy Gospel written in its original form.

“From the comparison with already known manuscripts of this Gospel, we know that our text is the earliest,” adds Dr Berkes. “It follows the original text, which, according to the current state of research, was written in the 2nd century AD.”

While the papyrus is a tiny fragment, most of the stories contained in the Infancy Gospel have survived through the centuries in some form or another.

It had been widely quoted by early theologians probing the boundaries of acceptable belief. And the tales of the young Jesus persisted in popular storytelling through Antiquity and into the Middle Ages - possibly for their shock value.

But it’s because there is so little surviving of the original text that determining the gospel’s origins is problematic. The general consensus of Biblical scholars is that it was most likely first written down somewhere between 110AD and 130AD.

This particular fragment survived by chance. It is believed to have been discarded from a monastery’s scribe school. That’s because the handwriting is so poor.

“The fragment is of extraordinary interest for research,” adds Dr Berkes. “On the one hand, because we were able to date it to the 4th to 5th century, making it the earliest known copy. On the other hand, because we were able to gain new insights into the transmission of the text.”


‘I’m Passionate About God’s View of Marriage’: Woman Sets an Example for Her Children by Caring for Her Husband

Thirty-year-old Jessi has been using her social media platform to demonstrate the power of a healthy marriage by sharing anecdotes and lessons from her life as she cares for, loves, and prays with her husband.

The stay-at-home mom met her husband, Skylar, now 32, at a Bible college in 2014.

“I had to get to my early 5 a.m. work in the coffee shop and had 10 minutes to grab breakfast,” she told The Epoch Times. “He was just about to start his security shift and was making a waffle with the waffle maker that was never out. I came in and saw he was making one, which meant I didn’t have time to.”

On seeing Jessie disappointed, Skylar gave her his waffle, and they both left for their respective shifts.

That chance meeting led to a relationship, marriage, and eventually, four children.

image from

I shed a little tear on seeing the pic above. How blessed to have so many little ones in one's life -- JR

Since childhood, Jessi has aspired to be a stay-at-home mom, and her husband supported the idea. Skylar was happy to provide for the family.

“We both view our roles through the lenses of scripture, and it’s very important to us that we put God first, then our family,” Jessi said. “Skylar and I both were in agreement that our children are a blessing from the Lord, and I needed to be the one to pour into their little minds all day long.”

Today, they have four children aged 8 and under and are expecting their fifth soon.

At the center of their marriage is Jessi’s belief that “the greatest gift you can give your children is to love their father well.”

“Loving one another only second to God gives your children a deep sense of trust in your family unit,” she said, adding this helps her children see their parents as reliable and stable and gives them confidence that they can rely on them.

The couple prioritizes spending quality time with each other and ensures they have actual meaningful conversations with each other without their devices.

“We want our kids to see the joy that we have together,” Jessi said.

Jessi’s family eats breakfast together every morning before memorizing hymns. They then tend to their animals and garden before starting their homeschooling session.

By midday, they’ve completed school, and the little ones take a nap.

The afternoon for the older children is spent on games and reading.

Jessi loves seeing her children learn new things. “Reading and math have been so fun to watch my kids discover!” she said.

“Usually we bake something at this point because we love baked goods in this house,” Jessi said.

After baking, everyone works to get the house cleaned so that Skylar can come home to a clean house. Then, the whole family eats supper together—a priority for Skylar and Jessi. A bedtime routine comes next complete with hymns, prayer, and family time.

Jessi feels content in her role as a wife and mother and is grateful to see Skylar fulfill his role as the provider.

Not only does Skylar provide for the family with his income, but he handles most of the bills, having been blessed with a talent for managing finances.

“We talk through our finances and budget,” Jessi said.

Balancing household chores isn’t always easy with little ones underfoot.

“I have specific days for specific things,” Jessi said. “I try to be flexible though. With five kids, it definitely takes creativity!”

Needless to say, the proud mother is devoted both to her husband and her children.

“Our faith has shaped our family from the beginning,” Jessi said.
‘I’m Passionate About God’s View of Marriage’

“My goal is to encourage wives to lean into the role that God has so graciously given to them and not take it for granted!” Jessi said. “I’m passionate about God’s view of marriage, and I think it’s something that many couples need encouragement in.”

To achieve this, Jessi began sharing her perspective on building a “holy and strong marriage” on social media and has been able to build a community of nearly 17,000 followers and is grateful to them.

As for feedback from women online, Jessi’s content has received “a mixture of beautiful, encouraging support and some very unkind words,” she said, although she added that “the good outweighs the bad.”


Was footballer Jarryd Hayne the victim of a false rape accusation?

This matter is even more problematical than it at first appears. The obvious problem is that he was released on technical grounds -- on the grounds that his most recent trial was not properly conducted. He was NOT exonerated. He was NOT found to be innocent. Bully for his lawyers, I suppose.

So in theory he could be tried on the same matters for a fourth time. That is unlikely to happen as he has already spent enough time in jail to satisfy most of the penalty that a new guilty verdict would bring

The problem that is not being highlighted, however, is the really big one. He could well be the victim of a false rape allegation. There have been several instances in the past when women have been found to be false accusers. Britain at one stage not long ago locked up some of the false accusers.

There appears to be no doubt that he had been promised sex when he arrived at the woman's place but what happened after that is in dispute. The woman claims he forced himself on her until she bled. Messages that she sent to friends after the event, however suggest that she had not told the full story. And that would make her open to have given false testimony, which would make HER the guilty party

So why would she lie? It's pretty clear. Hayne told the taxi driver he would only be a few minutes, showing that what he wanted and expected was a "quickie". But she could well have been dissatisfied with that. She was clearly heavily "into" him and expected a more prolonged and affectionate interaction. So her cry of rape could well be revenge for not getting what she expected from him.

But the truly obnoxious part of the whole affair is that the messages casting doubt on her story were NOT shown to the jury nor were Hayne's lawyers allowed to question her about them. Why on earth would that be? I suspect that it was part of another determination to enforce the feminist "believe the woman" doctrine. I suspect that Hayne has been much maligned. I suspect that he was at most guilty of bad manners

Former rugby league star Jarryd Hayne has walked out of prison after his sexual assault convictions were quashed on appeal.

Mr Hayne left a correctional facility in Sydney's west just before 5pm on Wednesday after being granted his release on bail.

The 36-year-old was found guilty in May last year of sexually assaulting a woman at her Newcastle home on the night of the 2018 NRL grand final.

It was the third time he had been tried over the incident and the second time he was found guilty.

His first trial ended in a hung jury, he was convicted after the second but then won an appeal, and the third trial resulted in this now-quashed conviction.

The NSW Court of Criminal Appeal was split 2-1 over the decision.

Justice Stephen Rothman said the appeal succeeded on two grounds: one concerning the trial judge's decision not allow further cross-examination of the complainant and another concerning a direction to the jury about how to treat allegations the woman had lied.

"The outcome is that the appeal from each conviction is allowed … and the court will quash the two convictions in order that there be a new trial," he said.

"Whether there in fact is a new trial is a matter for the Director of the Public Prosecutions."

Mr Hayne, who has been in prison at a minimum-security jail at Lidcombe in Sydney's west since last year, has been granted bail, which was not opposed by the prosecution.

It was granted on a number of conditions, including that Mr Hayne pay a $20,000 surety and not attempt to contact the complainant or enter the Newcastle local government area.

The Director of Public Prosecutions said it would consider the Court of Criminal Appeal's ruling before deciding whether Mr Hayne should face a fourth trial.

In his written judgment, Justice Rothman noted: "In the current circumstances, it is unlikely that a new trial will occur before the expiry of the non-parole period and most of that period has already been served" and suggested there is "good reason for there not to be a fourth trial."

Mr Hayne, who appeared via videolink from prison, gave little reaction upon hearing the news his convictions would be quashed.

His lawyer Lauren MacDougall said Mr Hayne was "really, really looking forward to getting home to his family".

Hayne's lawyer argued the interaction was 'entirely consensual'

During the trial the jury heard the woman had contacted Mr Hayne via Instagram a little less than two weeks before their first in-person meeting and the messages progressed to a "sexualised" nature.

It heard he arrived at the woman's home, having negotiated a $550 taxi fare back to Sydney, and told the driver to wait outside.

The court heard Mr Hayne tried to kiss the woman, at one point grabbing her by the face, with "forceful" actions despite her telling him to stop.

The jurors were told Mr Hayne's charges were in relation to two forms of sexual activity — oral and digital penetration — and the complainant had said "no" and "stop".

It allegedly lasted for about 30 seconds, and stopped when the complainant's genitals started to bleed.

During the trial Mr Hayne's barrister, Margaret Cunneen SC, said the activity was "entirely consensual" and he "didn't mean to cause her any harm at all".

Mr Hayne's lawyers argued in the appeal that messages deleted from the woman's phone showed that she was consenting and should lead to his acquittal.

The complainant was said to have told the friend Mr Hayne "went down on her", but made no reference to her injury and blood, or to the sexual activity having been forced.

Mr Hayne's lawyers argued that the judge should have allowed them to further cross-examine the woman about why she had failed to disclose the messages to police around the time of the sexual assault.

They argued the issue was central to assessing the witness's credibility.

'The jury were deprived of evidence'

In the judgment Justice Rothman wrote that the cross examination should have been allowed as "it was for the jury to determine whether to believe the complainant" and that "demeanour would have played a significant role".

Justice Deborah Sweeney concurred writing: "The jury were deprived of evidence which had significance for their assessment of the honesty of the complainant."

"By not permitting counsel to cross-examine the complainant on those topics and then telling the jury that in considering the submission that the complainant had lied about matters including deletions from her phone, they should consider whether that was "fairly put", this created an unfairness in the accused's trial".

"The combined effect of those circumstances was to cause a miscarriage of justice in the trial."

Mr Hayne was sentenced in May 2023 to four years and nine months in prison, with a non-parole period of three years.

With time already served, he was eligible for parole from May next year.

Mr Hayne's first trial ended in a hung jury.

He was convicted after the second, but then won an appeal before being tried for a third time.




Wednesday, June 12, 2024

A 10 percent inflation rate imposes a tax of nearly 7 percent on the real wealth of the average family

The most obvious effect of inflation is that it robs your savings of their value. If everything costs more, your savings will buy less

Most people dislike inflation for obvious reasons. If the prices of the things you buy are rising faster than your income, you are clearly worse off. But even if your income is keeping up, most people tend to think they deserve their pay raises, but don’t deserve the higher prices.

There is another aspect of inflation that people tend to overlook. When there is inflation, the government gains and most people lose a result.

Why the Government Gains from Inflation and You Don’t

One reason government gains is that large sections of our fiscal system are not indexed—that is, they do not adjust for inflation. The tax on Social Security benefits is one example. When this tax was first adopted in 1983, it hit only 10 percent of seniors. But because the income thresholds for the tax are not indexed, more than half of all seniors are paying the tax today. Every time the inflation rate ticks up, more beneficiaries pay more taxes to the government.

Capital income is another example. Interest payments on bonds, dividends on shares of stock and capital gains on any asset are all taxed on inflationary gains, even if there has been no increase in real income

When Joe Biden says the rich aren’t paying their fair share of taxes, he can take partial credit for making them pay more. Above $200,000 of income, wage earners are subject to a 0.9% additional Medicare tax. But since that amount is not indexed, inflation under the Biden administration has made more people and more income subject to it. Similarly, higher-income enrollees are paying higher Medicare premiums because inflation has made them subject to income-related rates.

Even Inflation “Protection” Is Much Less than We Think

Even those parts of our fiscal system that are indexed for inflation don’t offer people the protection they might think they have.

Take Social Security benefits. As is well known, benefits are increased each year, through a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) that is supposed to protect people against an inflationary reduction in their standard of living. But these adjustments are made with a lag.

The Social Security administration calculates the COLA adjustment by comparing prices from October to the previous October. Then, the adjustment in benefit levels is not made until the following January. This creates a fifteen-month lag.

Suppose a beneficiary is receiving a monthly Social Security check of $3,000 and suppose the annual rate of inflation is 10 percent. Each month, this person is losing $300 to inflation. A fifteen-month lag in the COLA adjustment means this individual has lost $4,500. If the inflation continues, this “inflation tax” also continues—every year.

Inflation in this case helps the government because it pays less than it was supposed to pay and beneficiaries receive less than they should have received.

The income brackets in the federal income tax code are also supposed to be indexed. Here, the adjustment process is a bit more complicated. But roughly speaking, there is about a 12-month lag in making the adjustment.

Suppose that a household’s tax liability is otherwise $10,000 and suppose that liability rises by 10 percent because of 10 percent inflation. A 12-month lag in inflation indexing means that the household will pay (and the government will receive) $1,200 more than should have been paid—all because of inflation.

Inflation also affects taxable business income. Instead of expensing an investment at the time it occurs, firms are generally required to depreciate the expense over time. But when inflation reduces the real value of those tax-deductible amounts, real after-tax profits will be lower. That hurts shareholders and workers in the process.

Virtually all entitlement programs base eligibility on income in one way or another. Suppose a family’s income from the government rises with the rate of inflation, but the criteria for eligibility are adjusted with a lag. In that case, a family that would otherwise be eligible for benefits might find itself perpetually ineligible because of inflation alone.

The System Is Enormously Complicated

Our fiscal system is enormously complicated. In addition to federal taxes, each state has its own state and local taxes, along with such state-run programs as Medicaid and Food Stamps. Since the 20 largest entitlement programs can be administered differently by 50 different states, there are in principle 1,000 different entitlement spending programs.

Estimating how nationwide inflation affects people living under all these different systems would seem to be a complex impossibility. Yet this herculean task has been tackled by Boston University economics professor Laurence Kotlikoff and his colleagues in a multi-year study.

To simulate the effects of inflation, the authors assume that we begin with zero inflation and increase the rate to 5 or 10 percent. The higher inflation rate affects all wages and prices evenly and persists indefinitely for all future years.

How Inflation Shifts More Money to the Government

The authors find that a permanent increase in inflation from zero to 5 percent reduces the average household’s lifetime resources by 3.62 percent. An increase to 10 percent permanent inflation reduces lifetime resources by 6.82 percent.

Note that, in these simulations, the country’s real income doesn’t change. A 10 percent inflation rate is a way of imposing a tax of almost 7 percent on the real wealth of the average family and transferring that amount to government.

These numbers are averages. For some households (especially higher income households), the inflation tax can be much worse. Take a simulated Delaware couple, in their fifties, both working and earning a combined income of $190,000. With 10 percent inflation, the present value of the couple’s lifetime loss from Social Security is $142,000. Their loss from income and other taxes is almost $170,000. In this case, inflation imposes a 17 percent lifetime tax on the couple’s wealth.

In the worst cases, the authors find that California households with large capital gains can face a lifetime inflation tax of over 50 percent!

This last example illustrates one more effect of inflation. It gives people strong incentives to relocate to lower-taxing states. One answer to these problems is instantaneous indexing—both in private contracts and in public programs. That is inflation adjustment with no lags. Another option is to avoid inflation in the first place.

Milton Friedman once said that persistent inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon. Since government controls the money supply, responsibility for controlling inflation begins and ends with government itself.


Mom Smiles Through Online Hate, Keeps Cooking From Scratch for Her Family: ‘I Never Take Any of It to Heart’

Alexia Delarosa, a 30-year-old stay-at-home mom and content creator from California, often faces sarcasm for her videos on preparing meals from scratch for her kids. The young mom has devised a quirky response to brush off the negativity and continues to highlight the beauty, value, and power of motherhood,

Mrs. Delarosa and her husband, Mathew Delarosa, 38, who owns a café in San Diego, live with their two toddler sons. Though many have thought the young mom’s social media channel is trying to recreate 1950s housewife appeal, she says she is just trying to do what comes naturally to her, sharing the daily moments of a good mother.
“I always had very maternal instincts,” Mrs. Delarosa told the Epoch Times, noting that she has loved to bake since she was little and worked as a nanny before she was a mother.

For Mrs. Delarosa, taking care of the home is just a small part of a mother’s work. She says it’s vital that moms “raise good human beings” and that children should not be thrown into the world with the “hope that they turn out OK.”

“That’s going to be the future generation and the people that are making decisions,” she said. “I see great value in [motherhood], and I think everyone else should too.”

Traditional Gender Roles

Her traditional take on life, in general, was probably what led her to her husband. She met Mr. Delarosa at his coffee shop. Gradually, their friendship evolved, and they began dating.

The young couple discussed the kind of relationship and marriage they wanted to have. For both of them, fulfilling their traditional gender roles was important.

“Our vision for life aligned,” Mrs. Delarosa said, adding that she wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, and Mr. Delarosa had no intentions of scaling back his business.

“That’s naturally who he was. I don’t think it was something that I had to shape him to be to make him fit into my life,” she said.

With their lives and desires fitting together like puzzle pieces, they chose to get married. Now they work together, making their family life run smoothly as they both embrace their roles as parents.

While Mr. Delarosa runs the coffee shop, much of Mrs. Delarosa’s day is spent nurturing and looking after their two boys. They spend their days baking, cleaning, and playing outside. The proud mom has also chosen to homeschool her children, though they are still young and aren’t currently spending much time on schooling.
Recognizing that some people think stay-at-home moms live lives of lazy luxury, she remarked that it’s a “full-time job.”

“Just being home and tending to tiny humans all day is hard work, and taking care of a home all day is hard work. And I think it gets devalued a lot,” she said.

Mrs. Delarosa believes American families are in crisis today, and parents and kids seem to be “living very separate lives.” The school system and the world in general, is “just scary now,” she says.

“There’s just so much disconnect and very little time spent [together],” she said. “Even when I went to school, there’s absolutely things at certain ages that I should not have been exposed to, that my parents had no control of because I’m gone for eight hours a day. I’m kind of at the whip, the will of the adults that I’m around and the other kids that I’m around. So ... having too much freedom as a young child can be damaging sometimes.

“I think it’s a great decision if people are able to [homeschool their kids]. But I get that it’s not possible for everyone. Some families, they have to go to work. There’s no one that can do the homeschooling.”

Dealing With Online Negativity

Amid her busy schedule as a mother, homemaker, and home educator she has also found the time to create content for social media. To Mrs. Delarosa, this has become a job that enhances the work she does in her home.

“I have a full-time job being a stay-at-home mom,” she said, “and I’ve stacked on extra responsibilities with the social media stuff. It doubles as my creative outlet. It’s good for me mentally to be doing that—something on the side that I can do for myself.”

The videos she creates usually stem from her doing creative things for her family like making a birthday cake, homemade cereal, or homemade crayons. Often her kids are involved in the process. She’s become known for a specific quirk of holding a slight smile in the videos while focusing on the task before her. Some have even commented that she looks “miserable” with that smile or that she looks like her eyes are closed.

“My eyes are not actually closed,“ she said. ”I know that people say it looks that way for sure. If I’m looking down at what I’m doing, it looks like my eyes are closed.”

She explains why she chose this specific quirk for her videos: “Early on, when I first started sharing my life online, like making food in the kitchen, basically what I’m doing now, people would comment like, ‘Oh, you look so miserable. Why aren’t you smiling?’”

And when she started smiling in her videos, she got the flip side, people commented, “Why are you smiling? You’re so weird.”

Mrs. Delarosa’s cheeky sense of humor shines through in her videos and in how she deals with negativity in the comments.
“I am not saying anything controversial,” she said. “I’m not doing anything controversial. So the fact that people find something negative to say ... is almost humorous.

“It’s not about me. I’m like, ‘You’ve some issues that I’ve triggered somehow with this video of me making a birthday cake, and you’re taking it out on me.’ So I have that separation and that awareness that this person doesn’t know me—I didn’t do anything to elicit a negative comment. So I never take any of it to heart.”

She also says it’s easy to brush off the negative comments when there are so many other positive comments from people who love and are inspired by the content she creates.

Though the crafts and recipes she showcases in the videos can be intricate and time-consuming, she doesn’t expect other moms to try and copy what she does, but, rather, she wants to highlight the importance of motherhood.

“I hope that people find value in being a stay-at-home mom or see the value in stay-at-home moms [or] just moms in general,” Mrs. Delarosa said. “I would love for the world to collectively agree that it is a full-time job. There is great value in having a mom in the home taking care of the kids that you created.”


Trump in Nevada: ‘[W]hen I get to office, we are going to not charge taxes on tips!’

“[W]hen I get to office, we are going to not charge taxes on tips — people making tips. We’re not going to do it. And we’re going to do that right away first thing in office because it’s been a point of contention for years and ye$4.ars and years, and you do a great job of service.”

That was former President Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Las Vegas, Nev. on June 9, making the case for eliminating taxation tips received by waiters, waitresses, bartenders and so forth.

Clearly the appeal is to workers in Las Vegas, many of whom work at bars, restaurants and other establishments where collecting tips is a significant portion of a person’s annual income.

In 2018, the IRS reported that there was $38.2 billion of taxable tips reported by individuals. Assuming the lowest bracket of taxation at 12 percent, the Trump proposal would amount to $4.6 billion less revenue collected.

That’s out of $4.4 trillion the government collected in total revenues in 2023, according to the White House Office of Management and Budget. That’s a mere 0.1 percent of revenue — and that could make Trump’s pitch for tax-free tips to be quite compelling to the more than 4.4 million tip workers nationwide in the 2024 election.

In other words, it’s a smart political move, and one which the government in the great scheme of things won’t really miss in the way of revenue — although members of Congress will undoubtedly quibble about any loss of their tax powers, especially when their pinching lower income Americans who often lack a voice in government.

Trump’s pitch comes as he is attempting build on his current lead in the polls of swing states like Nevada, where Trump leads incumbent President Joe Biden 48.3 percent to 43 percent, according to the latest average compiled by


Javier Milei Shows Newsom and Biden How It’s Done

Residents and businesses fleeing California have left the Golden State with a budget deficit as high as $73 billion, a sharp contrast to a $31 billion surplus in 2022. Gov. Gavin Newsom has responded by cutting some 10,000 “vacant” state jobs.

“These are programs, propositions that I’ve long advanced—many of them,” Newsom told reporters. “But you’ve got to do it. We have to be responsible. We have to be accountable.” If the governor really seeks accountability for taxpayers, he should take aim at positions and programs that serve little if any purpose. Consider, for example, the California Coastal Commission (CCC).

A legacy of recurring Gov. Jerry Brown, this unelected body overrides the duly elected governments of the state’s coastal cities and counties on land use issues. The CCC rides roughshod over property rights and commissioner Mark Nathanson served prison time for extorting bribes from Hollywood celebrities.

In 2022 the Commission voted unanimously to reject the Poseidon Water desalination plant in Orange County, which would have provided 50 million gallons of fresh water a day. More recently, the CCC told the organizers of a Huntington Beach surfing event that they must allow a biological man calling himself Sasha Jane Lowerson to participate.

Gov. Newsom could also target the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) the $3 billion state stem cell institute that in 2004 promised life-saving cures for Alzehimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other deadly diseases. By 2020, CIRM had produced not a single promised cure but wanted $5 billion more. To get it on the ballot, they indulged in some shady signature gathering practices that have yet to be audited.

CIRM works best as a soft landing spot for over-the-hill politicians such as former state senator Art Torres, former chairman of the state Democratic Party. Torres had no medical or scientific background, but in 2009, then-Lt. Gov. Newsom nominated Torres for vice chair of CIRM. Now governor, Newsom should not neglect wasteful infrastructure projects.

California’s high-speed rail project, the vaunted “bullet train,” boasts a Sacramento headquarters and three regional offices but has yet to carry a single passenger. The costs have soared from $33 billion to $100 billion, with no completion date in sight. As UCLA economist Lee Ohanian contends, the bullet train was a fantasy from the start and “the only reasonable decision is to end a project that should never have begun.”

Other candidates for elimination include the State Board of Equalization, a wasteful tax agency that can’t seem to get its own books straight. As veteran California commentator Dan Walters contends, a genuine reform effort would “abolish the board entirely.” A true reformer would also target the state’s network of licensing boards, which limit Californians’ job opportunities

In 1997, the state legislature eliminated the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology but brought it back in 2003. The board now claims to “protect consumers by licensing and regulating the state’s barbering and beauty industry.”

If he wants to make a run at the presidency, Gov. Newsom might cast a glance at Argentina’s president Javier Milei. He took over a nation in worse financial straits than California.

President Milei reduced state spending, cut in half the number of federal ministries, halted new infrastructure projects, and reduced government subsidies in energy and transportation. He also targeted the parasite class of political appointees who perform no work but show up once a month to pick up their salaries. These tough-minded reforms have lowered inflation, and Argentina could soon see single-digit monthly inflation rates for the first time since October of 2023.

Gavin Newsom prefers to cut “vacant” jobs and leaves wasteful state bureaucracies in place. In similar style, the Biden administration has left in place agencies such as the federal Department of Education, which dates from 1979, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a more recent creation of dubious utility. The paradigm seems to be shifting.

In the old “North-South economic dialogue,” the nations of the northern hemisphere supposedly exploited those of the south. In the new “South-North” economic dialogue, Argentina shows the U.S. how it’s done. Embattled Americans, especially in California, will have to see what happens.




Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Postcolonial Theory and its consequences — Why the academic-activist demonisation of Israel is so dangerous

Ingo Elbe:

Since the pogrom of October 7, a wave of hatred against Israel has flooded Western universities. What we are currently seeing is a significant radicalisation of left-wing actors, even if the trend of which this is the result itself goes back a long way.

What is playing such a significant role in all of this is a type of thinking that has become increasingly popular in many areas of academia, namely postcolonial theory. It is a theory that claims to be able to detect traces of colonialism within forms of knowledge and social structures long after colonial rule itself has formally ended.

The motif of “coloniality” — a collective term for the diagnosis of a Western world order that is supposed to have covered the so-called global South with racist exclusion and genocide for some 500 plus years—is declared to be the main yardstick for historical analysis and social criticism.

Adepts of this new grand narrative are convinced that with the notion of “coloniality” they have also hit upon a key for the understanding of Judaism, Zionism, Antisemitism, and the Shoah. Which leads to deep-seated theoretical distortions that are systematic: Antisemitism is dissolved conceptually into racism, the Holocaust is relativised as a colonial crime, Israel is demonised, and Islamic and Arab antisemitism is ignored.

The Israeli historian Anita Shapira puts it aptly: “The Jew as victim becomes an ideal.”

The demonisation of Israel is a long-standing practice in this movement, and it can take various forms. A direct transference of antisemitic motifs onto Israel is common. For example, an icon of the postmodern left, Judith Butler, speaks of Israel “murdering children”. In her accusation that Jews who defend a nation state are betraying their essence, there is an echo of the legend of the Jew condemned to eternal exile, to a diaspora existence of surrender to the Other. In an apt formulation by the Israeli historian Anita Shapira, “The Jew as victim becomes an ideal.”

This is where the notorious formula ‘National Socialism equals Israel’ kicks in. Here’s the source of the idea of Israel supposedly continuing the process of nationalism leading to the Holocaust, which is why prominent postcolonials resort to such grotesque analogies: the situation in the Gaza Strip or the West Bank is supposed to remind of Nazi concentration camps or the Warsaw Ghetto.

For Ramón Grosfoguel, “Hitlerism as a continuation of colonial racist ideology came back to hunt Palestinians, this time at the hands of European Jews”. In the fight against Israel, “the future of humanity is at stake”, no less. According to this redemptive anti-Zionism, “The Palestinian victory will take humanity to a higher level of consciousness.”

Israel is seen as the incarnation of all Western colonial crimes, “eliminating” the “indigenous people”, in this case the Palestinians. The US activist Linda Sarsour goes so far as to defend the dehumanisation of the supposedly white Jewish settlers. Pointing to the Zionists, she warns: “If you’re on the side of the oppressor, or you’re defending the oppressor, or you’re actually trying to humanize the oppressor, then that’s a problem”.

So it’s no wonder that London professor Gilbert Achcar, who as recently as June 2022 was still a guest at the “Hijacking Memory” conference organised by the Centre for Research on Antisemitism (ZfA) and the Einstein Forum, celebrates the Hamas massacre of October 7 as a “quasi-desperate act of bravery”.

The more elegant strategy, however, is the humanistically draped demonisation of Israel through the de-realization of the antisemitic brutality itself, as can be found in the popular “contextualisations” of the October pogrom. An open letter signed by leading representatives of Postcolonial Studies such as A. Dirk Moses and Michael Rothberg, but also by the director of the ZfA, Stefanie Schüler-Springorum, states: “Seventy-five years of displacement, fifty-six years of occupation, and sixteen years of the Gaza blockade have generated an ever-deteriorating spiral of violence that can only be arrested by a political solution.”

Here, Arab pogroms against the Yishuv in the 1920s and 30s, the Palestinian refusal to accept a Jewish state, the wars of aggression by Arab armies against Israel and its peace offers in 2000 or 2008 are completely ignored—in such Manichean formulations by leading academics, there is apparently room only for one victim and one perpetrator.

At the root of this type of demonisation, within postcolonial studies, there is however a very basic methodological and political deficit.

If one takes, as a point of departure, Edward Said’s idea of Orientalism—a key example for this way of thinking—then the West invents the image of a degraded Oriental Other in order to define itself, to purge its self-image from all that is negative, to create a self-justication for its imperial claim to power.

Much of the writing from the postcolonial movement cultivates a double standard: one needs only to take a closer look at the representation of how the “West” is said to discuss the “global South”. This is always represented as the exercise of illegitimate colonial power, with the substance of such discourse being entirely dismissed.

The “global South” is often presented as victim, or is treated as a mute object for projection.

The “global South” comes to be seen as a victim or as a mute projection surface, and thereby presented as conceptually incapable. The Islamic Studies scholar Bernard Lewis has spoken ironically of the “white man’s burden of guilt”, a negative superiority mindset that assumes that only white Europeans can be responsible for the world’s ills.

The “Other”, Islamist regimes and movements such as Iran or Hamas for instance, seldom feature as protagonists at all. Should their acts of violence and power relations be discussed, they are not taken seriously, antisemitic statements are trivialised as the mere rhetoric of desperate victims, and their behaviour is interpreted as merely reactive to the actions of the West or those of Israel.

At the same time, what are presented as more complex variants of postcolonial thinking suffer from systematic flaws all of their own. Coloniality and liberal democracy are presented as two sides of the same coin. With the result that what is to follow on from ‘colonial modernity’ remains obscure. A ‘multipolar world order’ is often praised as an alternative, following a notion of left-wing ethnopluralism, which lends legitimacy to authoritarian powers such as Russia, Iran or China. Such ‘alternative modernities’ are presented under the heading of ‘hybridity’.

Where this leads, is that the colonised (whether real or imaginary) are encouraged to engage in a subversive reinterpretation of concepts such as human rights or democracy from within their own specific ethnocultural perspective: culturally specific human rights or ‘Islamic democracy’ thus become desirable goals in the struggle against Western hegemony. It is this that leads to ideological alliances between postcolonial leftists and jihadists—one needs merely to read the unambiguous statements of left-wing protagonists like Judith Butler, Susan Buck-Morss, Walter Mignolo or Ramón Grosfoguel.

Preventing insight through the simulation of overcomplexity.

Large swathes of the academic left, however, are engaged in a defence against critique: one labours to block understanding through the simulation of over-complexity—one proclaims that postcolonial theory, as a unitary idea, does not exist. Or one claims that there is an enormous gulf between highly differentiated postcolonial studies and their simplistic reception in activist circles. But for all that, for all the internal differences of postcolonial approaches, the above-mentioned argumentation patterns appear so regularly and so often, especially amongst its high-profile representatives, that it is necessary to speak of a dominant mindset.


And finally, these academics themselves often act as activists, presenting themselves as such. Manifesting itself not only in the manichean* and simplistic arguments—sometimes reaching excruciating levels—to be found in the now almost endless number of open letters against Israel.

Jews have nothing good to expect from such academic activism in the 21st century.

*Manichean or thinking in “dualities,” solely in black and white.


FBI Suspends Employee’s Clearance After Probing Trump Support, COVID-19 Views

The FBI revoked the security clearance of an employee after asking colleagues questions–under threat of discipline–about his support for former President Donald Trump and views on the COVID-19 vaccine, according to a complaint to the Justice Department’s internal watchdog.

The employee attended the rally on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington before it turned into a riot, and reported his presence to the FBI the next day, according to the whistleblower advocacy group Empower Oversight, which issued a complaint to Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz on June 8, in a letter made public Monday night with the client’s name blacked out.

The complaint comes on the heels of the FBI reinstating the security clearance of whistleblower Marcus Allen, a former FBI staff operations specialist, after allegations of politicized retaliation.

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The 12-year employee also volunteered to an FBI polygraph, in which the Office of Inspector General found “no deception” when he said he did not enter the Capitol or a restricted area.

In March 2022, then-FBI Executive Assistant Director Jennifer Leigh Moore suspended the employee’s security clearance, and made an indefinite suspension without pay. The employee then made confidentiality protected disclosures to the House Judiciary Committee that alleged politicization of the security clearance process.

“The FBI Security Division (“SecD”) improperly pursued a broad, sweeping investigation into our client’s political opinions, questioning other protected First Amendment activity and Second Amendment advocacy while off-duty,” Empowerment Oversight President Tristan Leavitt said in the cover letter of the complaint to Horowitiz, the inspector general.

Empower Oversight obtained the investigative files from the FBI. Leavitt said the “shocking documents” demonstrate the FBI Security Division’s “political bias and abuse of the security clearance process to purge the FBI of employees who expressed disfavored political views or concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine requirement.”

The FBI sent the former employee’s colleagues a questionnaire, asking such questions as whether the employee did “Vocalize support for President Trump,” “Vocalize objection to Covid-19 vaccination,” and “Vocalize intent to attend 01/06/2021.”

“Instead of limiting its investigation to legitimate issues, SecD [the FBI’s Security Division] acted as if support for President Trump, objecting to COVID-19 vaccinations, or lawfully attending a protest was the equivalent of being a member of Al Qaeda or the Chinese Communist Party,” the Empower Oversight complaint to the inspector general says. “The FBl’s intentions are made clear by the questions it chose to put in black and white on a government document.”

Whistleblowers and former FBI agents have come forward with stories about the FBI focusing on pro-life protesters, developing a “threat tag” to monitor parents who spoke up at school board meetings, and relying on the Southern Poverty Law Center, a far-left organization that brands mainstream conservative and Christian organizations “hate groups,” putting them on a map with the Ku Klux Klan.

The FBI’s Richmond office cited the SPLC in targeting “radical traditional Catholics” for surveillance in a memo last January, before the national office officially rescinded the memo. The Justice Department took a briefing with the SPLC when it released a “hate” report in 2023.

According to documents obtained by The Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project, FBI agents worked about 16,000 more hours during the pay period after the Capitol riot of Jan. 6, 2021, than they did during the pay period of the 2020 riots in Washington, D.C.


French voters have delivered a damning verdict on Macron

I sensed something significant was going to unfold on Sunday as I took my morning coffee at our village café. Enjoying the June sunshine I watched as a steady stream of men and women walked past on their way to the voting booth in the village hall. Forty-eight per cent of them cast their ballot for Jordan Bardella of the National Rally. The next best was Valerie Hayer, representing president Macron’s party; she managed 12 per cent.

The people chose Macron, and got chaos

The voter turnout in my village in Burgundy was 60 per cent, an eight per cent increase on the 2019 elections and 17 per cent superior to 2014. Overall in France, the turnout was 52.5 per cent, the highest in European elections since 1994.

But this election was never about Europe. It was a French mid-term, an opportunity for the people to pass judgement on president Macron two years into his second term. That judgement is damning.

Macron has never been a popular president. He was elected in 2017 almost by default. The favourite, the centre-right former prime minister Francois Fillon, was brought down by a financial scandal, and the Socialist candidate was punished for the sins of the outgoing president, Francois Hollande. That left Marine Le Pen.

Macon styled it as a choice between ‘me or chaos’, a phrase first coined by Charles de Gaulle during the 1965 presidential campaign.

The people chose Macron, and got chaos. Crime, immigration, Islamism and the cost of living have all risen sharply under Macron. In the two years since he was re-elected – defeating Le Pen once more but with a reduced majority – these increases have soared. It’s almost as if Macron, knowing the Constitution precludes his running for a third successive term, has forsaken boring domestic issues for the glamour of the global stage.

He may enjoy playing this attention but his people are increasingly concerned by his belligerent rhetoric towards Russia. As Marine Le Pen put it last week, ‘you get the feeling that Macron wants a war’.

Furthermore, the French can’t help contrast his bullishness towards Putin with his cowardice towards Islamism. In a long television interview on Thursday evening, Macron spoke of the need to defeat Russia, and to that end France would be supply some fighter jets to Ukraine.

In the same interview he lamented the 300 per cent increase in acts of anti-Semitism in France this year, calling it ‘inexplicable’.

The right-wing leader of the Reconquest party Eric Zemmour, himself a Jew, swiftly offered the president an explication. ‘We are suffering from imported anti-Semitism from the Arab-Muslim culture,’ he said. ‘The more immigrants there are from these countries where this culture has a foothold, the more anti-Semitism there will be in France.’

In one of his first major television interviews as president, in October 2017, Macron vowed that any illegal immigrant who committed an offence ‘of any kind will be deported’. He made his announcement a few days after two young women were stabbed to death at Marseille railway station by a Tunisian.

It was the first major security crisis of his presidency and a stony-faced Macron assured the French ‘he would be ‘uncompromising on this issue’ and he acknowledged that border control had become shambolic. ‘We no longer take all the measures that need to be taken. Well, that’s going to change.’

It hasn’t. It’s got worse. And the two young women murdered in Marseille were the first of a long list of people killed by people who were in France illegally.

During campaigning for the European elections, Macron’s go-to issue was Ukraine and Bardella’s was immigration/ insecurity. The result of the election proves what troubles the French most.

Among the many guests who were in Normandy last week for the D-Day commemorations was Keir Starmer. According to a report in the Sunday Times, the Labour leader made the most of Rishi Sunak’s decision to cut short his time in France by rubbing shoulders with Macron. One of the president’s aides told Starmer that he ‘really liked’ him because he is ‘fascinated by men like him who can suddenly achieve stunning results’.

Presumably then Macron is also a fan of Jordan Bardella, as the result he achieved on Sunday was stunning. His victory in the European elections has forced Macron to call a snap election on 30 June. The second round of voting takes place on 7 July, just three days after Britain goes to the polls to choose its prime minister.

If Starmer is elected Premier he would be advised to look to Macron only as an example of how not to lead. His divisive presidency has been a disaster for France. Anger and demoralisation hangs in the air wherever one goes. It is as well that Macron has called a snap election; had he ignored Sunday’s result and carried on as arrogantly as ever, I suspect there may have eventually been some form of uprising.

Consequently, there is a strong likelihood that the Republic’s next prime minister will be Jordan Bardella, the working-class lad from the Parisian suburbs. One can’t see him and Sir Keir doing much to improve the entente cordiale.


‘There’s no safe level’: Carcinogens found in tap water across Australia

Not PFOS again! This scare is like Global Warming: No facts will dent belief in it.

The WHO study referred to was just a meta-analysis, which is very vunerable to manipulation, but even its conclusion was very weak. It found that PFOS is "possibly carcinogenic to humans". Note the "POSSIBLY". It was no basis for any action at all. It was actually an exoneration of PFOS. No matter how hard they tried, they could find no evidence against it

Tap water across parts of Sydney, Newcastle, Canberra, Victoria, Queensland and the tourist havens of Rottnest and Norfolk islands has been found to contain contaminants that US authorities now warn are likely to be carcinogenic, with “no safe level of exposure”.

Experts say widespread testing of Australia’s drinking water must be an urgent priority after the US Environmental Protection Agency’s dramatic policy shift in April found there was no safe level of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in drinking water and they were likely to cause cancer.

The World Health Organisation’s cancer agency has gone a step further, concluding in December that PFOA is carcinogenic to humans.

Dr Mariann Lloyd-Smith, a toxic chemicals campaigner who has served on United Nations expert committees, slammed it as a “national disgrace” that PFOA is now permitted in Australia’s tap water at 140 times the maximum level the US will allow.

This masthead has analysed publicly available data which indicates the chemicals have been found in the drinking water of up to 1.8 million Australians since 2010, including in the Sydney suburbs of North Richmond, Quakers Hill, Liverpool, Blacktown, Emu Plains and Campbelltown, along with the NSW regional centres of Newcastle, Bathurst, Wagga Wagga, Lithgow, Gundagai and Yass.

The pollutants have also been detected in tap water in Canberra, the inner Melbourne suburb of Footscray, inner-city Adelaide, the Queensland regional centres of Cairns and Gladstone, Kingborough in greater Hobart and locations across Darwin and the Northern Territory.

The most comprehensive data comes from a federally funded University of Queensland study published in 2011, which sampled 34 locations across the country.

Various water providers have carried out their own localised surveillance in recent years, which confirms the chemicals are still turning up in some of the same locations they were first found in 2011, in some instances at even higher concentrations.

However, this masthead wasn’t able to locate any further widespread studies of Australian tap water funded by Commonwealth agencies since the 2011 study.

During the past decade, the federal government has been defending class actions over its use of the chemicals in firefighting foam and denying they cause “important” health effects.

It reached the first of settlements with 11 communities collectively worth $366 million in the weeks after the Federal Court’s expert umpire concluded there was good evidence the chemicals potentially cause harmful health effects, including cancer.




Monday, June 10, 2024

Australia's new boss of men's behaviour

SHAMEFUL and SEXIST World First says Bettina Arndt

A broadcast from Sydney by "Other side" with Damian Coory:


General elections are a travesty of democracy – let’s give the people a real voice

I am pleased to see that George Monbiot (below) is getting disillusioned by the limits of government. We might get a libertarian out of him yet

Everything hangs on them but little changes. For weeks or months, elections dominate national life. Media reports and public conversations are monopolised by furious jostling and frantic speculation. All else – policymaking, problem-solving, reason itself – grinds to a halt. Unsurprisingly, when the frenzy is over, we discover we have solved almost none of our problems.

An election is a device for maximising conflict and minimising democracy. Parties gain ground by sowing division and anger, often around trivial issues that play to their advantage. At the same time, as the big players seek to appease commercial lobbies and the billionaire press, they converge disastrously on far more important issues, such as austerity, privatised public services, massive inequality of wealth and the unfolding genocide in Gaza. Many of those who seek election manipulate, distract and lie.

Communities are set against each other: see how the Tories appeal to their elderly base by treating young people as a problem to be solved, currently through national service. The parties reduce our complex choices to a brutal binary; sometimes, as in the 2019 election, to a three-word slogan (Get Brexit Done). Vast questions, such as the environmental crisis, the spiral of accumulation by the wealthy, the possibility of food system failure or the resurgent threat of nuclear war, remain unresolved and generally unmentioned. All that is left to us, except for a 10-second action every five years, is to sit and hope. We end up, in our supposedly representative system, with a highly unrepresentative parliament and a perennial sense of disappointment.

Just as capitalism is arguably the opposite of markets, general elections such as the one we now face could be seen as the opposite of democracy. But, as with so many aspects of public life, entirely different concepts have been hopelessly confused. Elections are not democracy and democracy is not elections.

Earlier societies recognised the distinction. Aristotle and Montesquieu observed that elections generated (respectively) “oligarchical” and “aristocratic” rule. After the American and French revolutions, the designers of the new political systems chose elections as a way of excluding the majority, whom they did not trust, from a meaningful involvement in power. Some of them, such as John Adams, James Madison, Antoine Barnave and Boissy D’Anglas, inveighed against the frightening concept of democracy, and insisted those elected should be a class apart, distinguished from the common people as a “natural aristocracy” of the wise, virtuous and competent. I think we can determine how well that worked out.

In the UK, our political model was settled in the 18th century, when democracy was a dirty word and parliament regarded the people with a mixture of contempt and fear. It survived the introduction of the universal franchise almost intact. Why does our system keep electing people whose incomes, assets, interests and psychology are hugely at variance with ours? Because that is what it is designed to do.

There are many alternatives, stifled not by infeasibility but by the determination of powerful people to retain control. In previous columns I’ve mentioned Murray Bookchin’s popular assembly model, implemented in Rojava in north-eastern Syria, in which decisions are handed up from local communities, rather than down from a distant centre; and the highly successful participatory budgeting in Porto Alegre, in southern Brazil, which ensured that money went where it was needed most, rather than to favoured interests. But I don’t want to be prescriptive about the form that deliberative, participatory democracy should take. There are dozens of potential models.

In David Van Reybrouck’s excellent book Against Elections, he favours “sortition”: choosing members of political bodies by lottery. This is how much of political life was run in ancient Athens and in Venice, Florence and other European cities in the second millennium. Today, algorithms can be used to ensure the results of the lottery closely reflect the composition of society.

Hang on, you say. What if incompetent, corrupt, reckless, self-interested people, without expertise, were to find themselves in powerful roles? It’s likely, of course. But deliberative processes possess the extraordinary property of transforming their participants. This is why they work better in practice than in theory. Ordinary citizens tend quickly to take responsibility, to inform themselves, listen respectfully and seek to build consensus. Their decisions tend to be fairer, greener, bolder and more inclusive than those of elected chambers.

Every argument against participation can be returned with interest against elected representation. Incompetent, corrupt, reckless, self-interested? Don’t get me started. Those chosen by lot, whose selection cannot be influenced by money or lobbying, are likely to be more resistant to both. No expertise? Our representatives certainly possess expertise, but generally in self-promotion and electioneering. As we keep discovering, many, elbowing their way from one ministry to the next, are incapable of addressing our predicaments.

Much of the critique of participatory democracy is classist. The working classes cannot be trusted to think for themselves; they must be steered by enlightened guardians. This snobbery extends all the way from Edmund Burke, in Reflections on the Revolution in France, to Karl Marx, in The Communist Manifesto.

We should not accept any change to our political system without evidence that it works. But plenty is accumulating, as citizens’ assemblies and constitutional conventions are used by governments to resolve issues that are too divisive, complex or long-term for the dominant system to handle. When they are well designed, they have proved highly effective at addressing issues that left elected representatives floundering. Ireland used citizens’ groups to help resolve its debates on equal marriage and abortion, overcoming apparently intractable divisions in a largely Catholic nation. France has used a citizens’ assembly to help find a way through the complex and politically hazardous issue of assisted dying.

Between 2021 and 2023, 160 new citizens’ assemblies were set up to resolve difficult problems. Forty of these bodies are now permanent. They help address, for example, homelessness in Paris, urban design in Lisbon and climate policy in Brussels. In the German-speaking part of Belgium, a citizens’ council forms the regional parliament’s second chamber.

A next step, as Van Reybrouck and others have suggested, could be to generalise this model, replacing one parliamentary chamber, such as the House of Lords or the US Senate, with a people’s assembly. This could evolve towards an entirely participatory system, largely based on sortition, in which everyone has an equal chance to make the decisions on which our lives depend. You care about democracy? Then you should hope to see an end to elections like this one.


Our kamikaze elites

Sometimes you get a better view of your own society from the outside than the inside, where the steady, daily drip of declining standards can inure you to what’s going on. A recent trip to Japan demonstrated that there are still societies where honour and integrity matter, they’re just mostly not in the Anglosphere.

In Japan a school principal, 59, was recently fired for repeatedly helping himself to larger coffees than he had paid for at a store; he had his retirement pay of around AUD$180,000 cancelled and his teaching licence revoked. His offences had cost about $5. A council employee elsewhere also lost his job for paying for a $1 coffee and serving himself a $2 coffee. Harsh? Yes. It is a shock to lax Westerners to see honesty and laws taken so seriously.

In case you think these offences are trivial, here’s a serious example. When former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated in July 2022, the Nara police chief apologised copiously for security failures, head bowed in shame, in a public press conference the very next day. He admitted fault both personally and corporately. One month later both he and the national police chief resigned over the matter.

Contrast this with the infamous Uvalde school massacre in Texas, which occurred two months before. The disgraced school police chief, whose forces waited over an hour to engage the shooter, neither apologised nor resigned, defended his indefensible actions and had to be sacked three months later. His men had been clustered in the corridor outside the killing field of the schoolroom, cravenly killing time, checking phones and applying hand sanitiser as the killer executed 19 victims, most schoolchildren.

Pundit Mark Steyn has taken to commenting that countries become more Western the further east you go, which is to say, Western in the old sense of abiding by Judeo-Christian values. I can’t vouch for that, but I do remember when Labor Minister Mick Young stood down from the Hawke ministry over failing to declare the import of a Paddington Bear, a high bar for a sackable offence if ever there was one. These days, PM Albanese takes no responsibility for the failed Voice campaign, although we all know he would have crowed from the rooftops had it got up. Former UK PM Boris Johnston partied willy-nilly with staffers during Covid lockdowns and failed to even show shame at being found out, while in the US Joe Biden doesn’t seem to have ever heard of the notion of accepting blame or responsibility. Did US heads roll over the catastrophic Afghanistan withdrawal, where civilians fell from aeroplanes and terror groups looted an army’s worth of abandoned military hardware? Is anyone responsible for the many millions of invading illegals at the US border? What about the secret Washington censorship campaign revealed in the Twitter files, any apologies or sackings? Has Biden junior or senior apologised for the litany of debauchery emerging from Hunter’s digital devices – images of himself cavorting naked with prostitutes, weighing drugs with a hooker and far worse. No apologies or jobs lost over the Russia collusion hoax that the Democrats and the intel services perpetrated on Trump, and the dirty dealing with Chinese labs that saw gain-of-function funded by US monies, despite Covid supremo Tony Fauci’s denials. Instead the Biden regime continues the Uvalde police chief’s tactic of deny, dodge and delay.

Japan seemed exceptional in other ways, not only in honesty and integrity. One day in the Ginza, we ran into some acquaintances who were starry-eyed at what they had experienced. ‘Our first trip but it won’t be our last,’ they said, joining the surging throng of Australian tourists to Japan, it now being our third-most-popular destination. Apart from a plummeting yen and top ski fields, Japan also offers an exemplary cultural homogeneity, a society that prioritises beauty, order and politeness, spotless and quiet streets even in the midst of a 37-million strong city, no graffiti, no hobos, no litter, the locals trim, relaxed and well-dressed. The Ginza has been greened, with newly tree-lined streets, walls and balconies; gusts of jasmine-scented air greeted us in one main street. That’s climate action we could all get behind. Compared with Bourke or Pitt streets, this is an urban paradise.

Of course, Japan has its problems, such as its plunging fertility rate, and a hyper-ageing society where 29 per cent are already aged over 65. The Ginza is an upmarket area and hardly typical. But on the question of values, it is clear that Japan’s leaders still believe in and uphold the Japan project.

In his book 1984, George Orwell listed ways in which societies could collapse; one was when elites lost faith in their own society’s core principles. Christianity, the rule of law, our British-derived institutions, equality not equity, a justice system blind to special pleading, even the idea of men and women, few of these are defended by our current crop of politicians.

Free speech is now our latest casualty, with eSafety Karen, Julie Inman Grant, demanding Twitter/X censor a video of a Muslim youth stabbing a bishop, and Australian media incomprehensibly piling on to attack the hated billionaire, Elon Musk and by extension, free speech. That the offending video was pulled down in Australia, that an infinite number of other violent videos such as the George Floyd incident can be seen everywhere at will, that other platforms such as YouTube were not prevented from showing it, and that the video itself showed little that was graphic, seemed not to matter.

In an essay, Orwell talked about generations of Western intellectual ‘destroyers’ who fought to overturn religious belief. ‘For two hundred years we had sawed and sawed and sawed at the branch we were sitting on. And in the end, much more suddenly than anyone had foreseen, our efforts were rewarded, and down we came. But unfortunately there had been a little mistake. The thing at the bottom was not a bed of roses after all, it was a cesspool full of barbed wire.’

Australia’s elites, following the US and UK lead, seem to have lost faith in their nation’s values.

Japan shows us what we have squandered.


Christianity under increasing attack from a much more intolerant and authoritarian religion: Leftism

Is the Bible hate speech? Could a Christian minister, or any ordinary person, be prosecuted for reading out sections of the New Testament?

In fact, this is almost the case in law already, as we’ll see. A slew of legal, legislative, bureaucratic and cultural trends make it likely to become a practical reality in time.

It will not only be the Bible. Countless Christian classics from almost every denomination will be liable to be, if not banned from sale, banned from public display, recital or reading aloud. The Catholic catechism, the official compendium of belief for the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics, may well have to be trafficked in brown paper envelopes under the counter.

Christianity may become like smoking, tolerated at law for a while, but ever more narrowly, with ever more restrictions, actively discouraged by punitive financial measures.

The Albanese government, like the Morrison government, has abandoned the attempt at a religious discrimination law to protect people of faith. Like the Morrison government, it won’t even present a bill for public consideration.

Both sides of politics, when in government, are paralysed by fear of having the debate about religious freedom and how that interacts with other freedoms. Surely the voice referendum demonstrated the danger of not having a big open debate before implementing fundamental change.

This political timidity indicates cowardice in the face of rising prejudice, in some cases hatred, against Christianity in the activist class, and the anti-Christian assumptions increasingly permeating the bureaucratic and institutional elites. Former Labor senator Jacinta Collins, now executive director of the National Catholic Education Commission, tells Inquirer: “In the public policy class, the political elite and the policy bureaucracy, it’s becoming more common not to see Christianity as a social good.”

Melbourne’s Catholic Archbishop, Peter Comensoli, remarks: “Step by small step, the path of living a life of faith in our country is being undermined. But there are always seeds of hope.”

A fundamental cultural change is under way here, perhaps the most destructive we’ve seen. Official Australia, more the bureaucrat/academic/media class than politicians, no longer sees Christianity as a social good. Rather, they see it now as anti-social, something to be constrained.

This is not a story about a perfidious left-wing Labor government assaulting Christian churches. Both sides of politics are flummoxed and scared by this. Neither handles it well. Anthony Albanese and at least some of his ministers are sympathetic to Christian churches. But there’s a severe limit to how far this sympathy will take them in defending Christian institutions against bureaucratic, activist and sectional effort to destroy their independence and religious integrity.

There’s a lot of legislative action, but the seething cultural dynamics suggest no prospect of lasting settlement.

The Sex Discrimination Act contains an exemption, section 38, for religious bodies. Otherwise, Catholics, Greek Orthodox, conservative Anglicans and others couldn’t have an all-male priesthood. Religious schools are allowed to preference teachers who support their core ethos. So Christian schools don’t hire gay activists. They knowingly hire plenty of gay people but they don’t want activist teachers running campaigns against the core beliefs of the school.

Almost none of them hires exclusively co-religionists. Most exhibit common sense; they want enough teachers who share the faith of the school so as to promote those beliefs. Thus, Collins says: “We (Catholic schools) have lots of teachers from diverse religious backgrounds and from none. That’s great, so long as they operate in sympathy with the ethos of the school.”

Most religious school authorities therefore want the right to “discriminate” in hiring staff and to accept and reject whatever students they choose. No Catholic or Anglican I spoke to for this story, or whom I’ve ever met in a lifetime’s involvement in Christian schools, could recall any student ever being expelled for any reason related to sexual identity.

However, non-government schools can expel a student who behaves unacceptably. It’s possible you could get a student who, at age 16 or 17, decided they hated the church their school is affiliated with and campaigned against it. If that student clothed their campaign in a protected characteristic, such as gender status or sexual identity, the school wouldn’t be able to deal with them if the exemption from the Sex Discrimination Act is removed.

It’s wrong to think of this as Christian institutions wanting to discriminate. Rather, they want the right of free association. Christians, like everyone else, should be allowed to associate with each other and form institutions that reflect their values.

Kanishka Raffel, Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, tells Inquirer: “Our (Anglican) schools have young people who identify as LGBT, and are happy and supported and not desperate to go somewhere else – nor would we want them to. We’re only asking for the same rights as political parties have.”

Raffel means that the Labor Party is not required to employ, or even admit as members, people who oppose Labor and support the Liberal Party. Increasingly Christian institutions are denied this elementary freedom.

Raffel continues: “Christianity accepts a pluriform world. The New Testament advises Christians, even if unfairly attacked, to ‘give an answer for their hope’ and to do so with ‘gentleness and respect’.

“That’s the biblical seed of contemporary pluralism. It’s religious. It’s Christian. But at one end of the spectrum there’s a totalitarian secularism that doesn’t countenance religious speech. In Australia we’ve had a confident pluralism. It’s that kind of practice which is now under attack. It (this attack) is driven by activists in thrall to the prevailing ideology of identity and sexuality, who will not countenance alternative world views.”

Raffel’s view, that this intolerance threatens pluralism, is widely shared among Christian denominations. Mark Varughese, founder of the international Kingdomcity Pentecostal church, and a member of the Australian Christian Churches executive, accuses elites of weaponising tolerance.

“The trend appears to be to almost suffocate the ability of faith-based organisations to employ according to their ethos,” Varughese says. “But you don’t have to go to any of these schools. Those who choose to go to them have a right to expect an environment which reflects their beliefs. Weaponising tolerance to erode the freedom of those who want a unique space to grow is the ultimate irony.

“This is not about hating any part of society. The faith of the gospel is based on the belief that we are all sinners and we all need a saviour. People can choose not to believe in God. Why would you be offended by the principles of a God you don’t believe exists?”

The government blames the opposition for not reaching bipartisan agreement on a religious discrimination bill. The opposition says it won’t support a bill the major faith leaders oppose, so the government should get the major faith leaders onboard, then there would be the basis for bipartisanism.

The Catholic and Anglican leaders, plus a group of other faith leaders including non-Christians, wrote to the Prime Minister and Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, outlining in detail where they thought the draft legislation was inadequate. They argued strongly that removing the religious exemption from the Sex Discrimination Act and passing the religious freedom legislation as it was shown to them would leave Christian schools seriously worse off in their ability to run effectively.

Everybody has somebody else to blame and nothing gets done. The Christian leaders are in a tough, uncertain spot. Some of them think they must press for the best deal they can get from the Albanese government, get something resolved now. A future parliament, with Labor perhaps in minority government and dependent on the Greens, would likely use the “progressive majority” to attack the churches much more aggressively.

The counter-argument is that the churches cannot willingly accept legislation that gravely weakens their ability to run their schools and other institutions with integrity. A weak settlement now would easily be undone by a more aggressively anti-Christian parliament and the churches, having surrendered now, would be in a weaker position then.

The key is they must fight, even if they fight in a kindly way. The Scripture passage Raffel referred to occurs in the first letter of Peter, who advises Christians: “Even if you suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an account of the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”

Albanese has promised Christian leaders their schools won’t go backwards in their ability to operate independently. However, now it has abandoned a religious discrimination bill, the government plans to introduce hate speech legislation and insert criminal penalties for vilification or hate speech. Christian leaders find this alarming because, as I suggested at the start of this piece, modern anti-discrimination bodies, extreme LGBTI lobbies and others, now regard normal Christian teaching as hate speech

Comensoli puts the broader cultural context: “It’s death by a thousand cuts. Places of influence like the media, academia, corporations, are all signing up to agendas that see the Christian Church as the problem. We’re disappointed that a religious discrimination bill won’t go ahead. And given that, we’re concerned about the proposed vilifi­cation legislation and the very low threshold at which vilification cuts in.”

The proposed hate speech law is a needed response to the shocking, appalling outbreaks of anti-Semitic abuse that Australia, like many Western nations, has witnessed.

How then could such legislation be weaponised against Christians? This is likely because the legislation will not just protect religious and racial identities but all protected characteristics, including sex, gender status, sexual orientation and various other categories. It will introduce criminal penalties, including harsh jail terms, for offensive speech in these areas and will not override state anti-discrimination commissions and laws.

A number of states, Tasmania, Victoria and now Queensland, already have anti-discrimination laws with no or little religious exemption. But generally federal laws take precedence. They won’t do so in this case.

Now, discrimination “offences” incur mainly civil penalties. With hate law legislation they would become criminal offences. Numerous state anti-discrimination commissions have already shown an inclination to regard normal Christian teaching and pas­sages of the Bible effectively as hate speech.

The New International Version of the Bible translates a passage from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians thus: “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor men who have sex with men, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

That’s isn’t a condemnation of anyone’s identity but of certain behaviours. The gospels and the letters of Paul, Peter and the others never condemn anyone’s identity. They do teach against certain behaviours and attitudes. A gay sexual orientation in traditional Christian teaching is not a moral fault, but sex outside marriage is immoral. Paul is assuredly not saying that anyone who doesn’t live up to the moral ideal is condemned to hell. But as Varughese put it, all human beings need forgiveness.

Similarly, the Catholic catechism, in explaining human sexuality, comments: “Homosexual acts are inherently disordered.” This also refers to behaviour, not identity. Is it hate speech? In Christian theology, disordered means not in accordance with the order God wants in creation. But in modern parlance disordered has a medical connotation. The catechism also says of gay people that “they must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity” and there must not be discrimination against them.

No one is required to accept, or even pay any attention to, Christian teaching on this or any other matter. The question is whether Christians will be allowed to speak and teach their faith.

Michael Stead, Anglican Bishop of South Sydney, says the proposed hate speech law “has the potential to criminalise religious speech that expresses traditional understandings of human sexuality”.

Everyone is free to disagree with, lampoon, contest or ignore Christian teachings. But should it be a criminal offence for Christians and Christian institutions even to express them? This is not theoretical or far-fetched. In 2015, Catholic Archbishop of Hobart Julian Porteous was subject to 12 months of harassment and inquisition by the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commission. He had published the gentlest defence of traditional marriage. The activist class encouraged people to take offence and lodge a complaint. Eventually the complaint was withdrawn, never adjudicated in Porteous’s favour.

Recently Porteous wrote another pastoral letter and circulated it to Catholic parishes and schools. It taught the positive Christian case for universal human dignity but also said, inter alia: “We are now witnessing the imposition of certain ideological positions on social and moral questions by means of legislation … This has included the attack on the biological reality of being male and female.”

Porteous argued proposed legislative changes allow “for a priest to have a complaint made against him for simply presenting Catholic teaching while preaching at a Sunday mass”. Two Tasmanian politicians threatened to make complaints to the Anti-Discrimination Commission.

I wrote and spoke in favour of a Yes vote in the same-sex marriage plebiscite because I thought it implausible for the state to enforce elements of Christian teaching for which there was no longer a consensus. Also, we’d long ago allowed gay couples to adopt kids. Therefore it seemed better for the kids if their parents had the status of a civil marriage. But in holding that view it’s not necessary to demand Christian churches abandon their teachings of 2000 years or be prosecuted if they don’t do so.

Recently the Productivity Commission argued church school building funds should lose tax deductibility. This seems a vicious assault on religious schools’ ability to build and expand. Every parent who sends a kid to a non-government school pays a massive subsidy to the state by shouldering a large part of the financial burden that the state would otherwise pay for fully.

The Productivity Commission proposal is just one more bit of evidence of how pervasively hostile to Christianity ruling elites have become. Sydney Catholic Archbishop Anthony Fisher recently delivered a brilliant speech imagining Australia in 2035, where he has to submit his weekly sermon in advance to a government censor – under a Greens-teals coalition – that determines what can be said in all religious pronouncements.

That situation prevails in some countries, just not in democracies.

As historian Tom Holland demonstrates so elegantly in Dom­inion, everything Western society likes about itself – welfare, human rights, equality of the sexes, concern for the poor – comes directly from the Jewish and Christian traditions. Yet we now inhabit a cultural moment in which you can scream “F..k the Jews!” and suffer no legal consequence at all. But read out the wrong bit of the New Testament …

For Australian institutional life now to become so irrationally hostile to Christianity is a mark of madness, a terrible cultural mistake. But mistakes can be corrected.