Monday, October 31, 2022

The New History Wars

It is perfectly reasonable to have different interpretations of history and to discuss them at length.  And getting to the most accurate version of the facts has long been the implicit aim.  

Leftists however often show that they do not care about truth at at all.  They unashamedly suppress or ignore any facts that do not suit their political aims.  But that is deception -- lies, to put it plainly.  

It is saddening to read below how deeply this disregard for reality has seeped into the academic history profession in America.  So many people want to USE history rather than tell it like it was

I have myself taken a great interest in the history of WWII and deplore the lies that surround it.  And that is a field in which the facts are readily available but thoroughly ignored.  The fact that Hitler was a rather extreme Leftist by the standards of his day tends to be replaced by the old Soviet disinformation myth that he  was a Rightist.  

So I am acutely aware of the way historical truth can be subjugated to political ends.  And loss of reality contact is always perilous.  It is the leading  symptom of psychosis

Even by the rancorous standards of the academy, the August eruption at the American Historical Association was nasty and personal.

The August edition of the association’s monthly magazine featured, as usual, a short essay by the association’s president, James H. Sweet, a professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Within hours of its publication, an outrage volcano erupted on social media. A professor at Cornell vented about the author’s “white gaze.” A historian at the University of San Diego denounced the essay as “significant and substantial violence.” A historian at Knox College, in Illinois, organized an email campaign to pressure the AHA to respond.  

Forty-eight hours after the essay’s release, Sweet posted a statement of regret for his words. The four-paragraph message concluded: “I apologize for the damage I have caused to my fellow historians, the discipline, and the AHA. I hope to redeem myself in future conversations with you all. I’m listening and learning.”

That attempt at mollification only widened the controversy. An op-ed in The Wall Street Journal denounced the “woke mob” that had extracted Sweet’s mea culpa. Fox News soon followed in similar terms. On August 20, the AHA temporarily locked its Twitter account to shut down a discussion it said had been hijacked by “trolls.”

In a country that can make a culture-war flash point out of a two-note flute performance, it may be no surprise that an essay on writing history could explode like this. But all the Sturm und Drang makes it harder to understand the actual substance of the controversy. What exactly did Sweet say? Why did so many of his colleagues find it so upsetting, even threatening?

Sweet would later say that the reaction took him by surprise. In his mind, he was merely reopening one of the most familiar debates in professional history: the debate over why? What is the value of studying the past? To reduce the many available answers to a stark choice: Should we study the more distant past to explore its strangeness—and thereby jolt ourselves out of easy assumptions that the world we know is the only possible one? Or should we study the more recent past to understand how our world came into being—and thereby learn some lessons for shaping the future?

In real life, of course, almost everybody who cares about history believes in a little of each option. But how much of each? What’s the right balance? That’s the kind of thing that historians do argue about, and in the arguing, they have developed some dismissive labels for one another. Advocates of studying the more distant past to disturb and challenge our ideas about the present may accuse their academic rivals of “presentism.” Those who look to the more recent past to guide the future may accuse the other camp of “antiquarianism.” The accusation of presentism hurts because it implies that the historian is sacrificing scholarly objectivity for ideological or political purposes. The accusation of antiquarianism stings because it implies that the historian is burrowing into the dust for no useful purpose at all.

Sweet’s essay opened by remarking on the relative decline of doctoral dissertations on pre-1800 topics. He worried that the profession was succumbing to a wave of presentism. If unchecked, the trend could contaminate the profession’s integrity. “Too many Americans,” he wrote, “have become accustomed to the idea of history as an evidentiary grab bag to articulate their political positions.”

Sweet stressed that such misuse of history occurred across the political spectrum. He pointed to the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decisions on guns and abortion as examples of abusing history for political ends by right-leaning jurists. But he also did not exempt progressives when he warned, “If history is only those stories from the past that confirm current political positions, all manner of political hacks can claim historical expertise.”

Instead, Sweet argued, historians should always keep in mind the warning of the novelist L. P. Hartley: “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” Or in Sweet’s words:

Doing history with integrity requires us to interpret elements of the past not through the optics of the present but within the worlds of our historical actors. Historical questions often emanate out of present concerns, but the past interrupts, challenges, and contradicts the present in unpredictable ways. History is not a heuristic tool for the articulation of an ideal imagined future. Rather, it is a way to study the messy, uneven process of change over time.

In other words, Sweet was writing about a perennial professional puzzle, like a chess grand master opining about the best way to open a game: pawn or knight? Sweet does not even use Twitter, and he appeared to have no conception that anybody on that platform would notice or care about his entry into the intramural debate over how historians should do their work. And then the dam burst over him.

The dam burst because of the examples Sweet used to drive home his point. Sweet told a story about a recent visit he had made to Elmina Castle, on the coast of Ghana. Built by the Portuguese in the 1480s as a gold trading post, Elmina guarded the slave market of the Ghanaian coast. Elmina is a grim and sinister place that makes a painful impression on all who visit. And because Ghana is one of the most tourist-friendly countries in West Africa, many do visit. In particular, Elmina is a pilgrimage site for African Americans seeking to come face-to-face with the ordeals suffered by their ancestors who were enslaved and transported across the Atlantic.

Sweet identified a problem. Very few of the people transported to what would become the United States passed through Elmina. Elmina was more a hub for slave markets farther south: the Caribbean and Brazil. But descendants of those enslaved in Brazil and the Caribbean are less likely to pay for a trip to Ghana than the descendants of enslaved Americans. And so, over time, Elmina has retrofitted its history to interest the visitors it attracts—or so James Sweet complained.

Sweet complained about something else, too. When Elmina was built, and for long afterward, Europeans never ventured far inland into Africa, deterred by unfamiliar diseases and the military power of local rulers. The Europeans typically operated on the seacoast, dealing with African enslavers who sold them locally enslaved people or captives of war. And on the day of Sweet’s visit, that indigenous African role in the story got edited out of the narrative told by local guides. The guides instead insisted that the Ghanaian slave-sellers had no idea what would happen to the people they led in chains to the Portuguese marketplace. That falsification of the history irked Sweet.

Sweet was irked also by the imminent release of the movie The Woman King, which represents the slave-trafficking African kingdom of Dahomey as a land of freedom fighters against foreign aggression. “Bad history yields bad politics,” he wrote. “The erasure of slave-trading African empires in the name of political unity is uncomfortably like right-wing conservative attempts to erase slavery from school curricula in the United States, also in the name of unity.”

Sweet is an expert on Africa, the African diaspora, and the transatlantic slave trade. In 2011, he published a book about a West African man named Domingos Álvares, who was enslaved and transported to Brazil probably in the late 1720s. Álvares’s expertise in West African healing methods gained him his freedom and even some prosperity in his new land. He converted to Catholicism, formed a family, and fathered a child. But Álvares’s success triggered the suspicions of some of his neighbors. Possibly envious, they reported him as a magician who trafficked with the devil. He was arrested, again separated from his family, again shipped across the Atlantic in chains. He arrived in Lisbon, where he was interrogated and tortured by the Portuguese Inquisition. Released, then rearrested, a penniless and friendless Álvares vanished from the written record in 1749, en route to yet another exile. The book was based on Sweet’s discovery of a thick file of investigations in the Portuguese state archives. By decoding the antique handwriting of the Inquisition’s notetakers, Sweet (who is proficient in Portuguese) restored Álvares to history. This man, to whose story Sweet devoted years of his own life, was abducted, enslaved, and trafficked by the very same Dahomey kingdom celebrated in The Woman King.

Sweet’s insistence on detailing Dahomey’s true record was where the debate got hot. Disputes over how history should be written cease to be abstract and remote when they touch the powerfully emotive issues of empire, race, and slavery.

As an expert on the slave traffic to Brazil and on the victims of the Dahomey kingdom, Sweet thought that he had standing to speak his mind freely. Some of his colleagues vehemently disagreed, for reasons argued by Mũkoma wa Ngũgĩ, a novelist and scholar who teaches at Cornell. Ngũgĩ comes from a family that was eminent in Kenyan literary life, but was driven into exile in the United States by political persecution. It was Ngũgĩ who denounced Sweet’s “white gaze.” When I sought further comment from Ngũgĩ, he wrote back:

It is no secret that African rulers were involved in the slave trade. There is no revelation there. But it is more complex than that because at the time they would not have seen themselves as Africans (an example of presentism) and there were those that resisted as well. Plus we don’t talk enough about the communities from which slaves were taken … are still in that trauma (see Maya Angelou in All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes and her discussion of Keta in Ghana). I do not think any serious scholar of Africa denies this … What I myself was objecting to was the carelessness of using that black family caught up in trying to understand their inherited trauma as a prop in his story.

Ngũgĩ emphasized that he was not arguing for racial segregation of historical specialities. He wrote his own doctoral dissertation on the English Romantic poet John Clare. He admires the work of white Africanists such as Basil Davidson and Caroline Elkins. What matters, as Ngũgĩ wrote in a 2021 essay, is ideology. His target is not white scholarship as such, but an “ideology that assumes the continent and its peoples can and should be studied for the benefit of the western student and scholar, that knowledge is a commodity to be extracted from the continent to benefit the western student and scholar.” Scholarship about Africa, Ngũgĩ argued, must not be separated from advocacy for Africa and the African diaspora. “It is not a question of trickle-down reparations but a redistribution of power.”


The War Over 'Transgender' Kids: A Pre-Election Battlefield Update

America is in the throes of a cultural and political war over gender ideology, featuring high-profile conflicts over everything from school curricula to athletics to pronouns.  

But among the most explosive battles unfolding within the broader war is that over transgender children. In an inhospitable election year for the left, Democrats, far from being on the back foot, have pushed ahead on this front, including this fall in California, New York, and Virginia with moves to curb parental rights. 

Days from the election, President Biden made clear the party’s broader position, telling a transgender activist that no state should be able to bar “gender-affirming healthcare” for kids. 

That can include puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and surgeries to remove or replace breasts and genitalia. Promoting such treatment  for the growing number of kids identifying as transgender are, on one side, the Biden administration; blue state governments; much, though not all, of the medical establishment; educators; and activists. Opposing them are red state governments acting on behalf of outraged or concerned parents and other constituents, and buoyed by dissenting doctors.  

Divisions have deepened despite, as Reuters recently reported, a lack of “strong evidence of the efficacy” of the treatments at issue and despite their possible long-term consequences. 


New York State state Senator Sen. Brad Holyman, a Democrat, introduced a bill that would similarly make New York a sanctuary state for transgender children. 

Virginia state delegate Elizabeth Guzman, a Democrat, announced she would introduce legislation under which parents could be criminally prosecuted for child abuse should they refuse to affirm their kids’ transgenderism. Amid national blowback over the bill, Guzman quickly recanted. 

Republican Governor Gov. Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma signed legislation conditioning $108.5 million in federal stimulus funds for the University of Oklahoma’s Children’s Hospital on its ceasing “gender reassignment medical treatment” for minors. The governor also called on Oklahoma to bar “irreversible gender transition surgeries and hormone therapies on minors” during the 2023 legislative session. Gov. Stitt finds himself in an unusually close race with Joy Hofmeister – the state superintendent of education – who switched parties from Republican to Democrat in 2021 to challenge him. 

13 state attorneys general, led by Republican Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti, responded to the AMA’s letter to the Justice Department with a letter of their own to Attorney General Merrick Garland, calling for the department to “stand down and allow the national conversation to continue,” citing medical data calling into question the efficacy of transgender treatment.


Seattle's bikini baristas WIN court case allowing them to wear skimpy coffeeshop outfits: City officials ordered them to cover up - but US district judge says limits on their attire were unconstitutional

A Washington State city's dress code ordinance saying bikini baristas must cover their bodies at work has been ruled unconstitutional by a federal court.

The decision in a partial summary judgment came after a lengthy legal battle between bikini baristas and the city of Everett over the rights of workers to wear what they want. 

The owner of Everett bikini barista stand Hillbilly Hotties and some employees filed a legal complaint challenging the constitutionality of the dress code ordinance. 

In 2017, the city of Everett enacted the law requiring all employees, owners and operators of 'quick service facilities' to wear clothing that covers the upper and lower body. 

The ordinance listed coffee stands, fast food restaurants, delis, food trucks and coffee shops as examples of quick service businesses.

The group also challenged the city's lewd conduct ordinance, but the court dismissed all the baristas' claims but the dress code question. 

The U.S. District Court in Seattle found the city of Everett's dress code ordinance violated the Equal Protection clauses of the U.S. and Washington state constitutions. 

The Court found that the ordinance was, at least in part, shaped by a gender-based discriminatory purpose, according to a 19-page ruling signed by U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez.

'The record shows this Ordinance was passed in part to have an adverse impact on female workers at bikini barista stands,' U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez.

 'There is evidence in the record that the bikini barista profession, clearly a target of the Ordinance, is entirely or almost entirely female. It is difficult to imagine how this Ordinance would be equally applied to men and women in practice' because the ordinance prohibits clothing 'typically worn by women rather than men,' including midriff and scoop-back shirts, as well as bikinis. 

Bikini baristas were 'clearly' a target of the ordinance, the court also ruled, adding that the profession is comprised of a workforce that is almost entirely women.

'I think this protects our safety from law enforcement touching our body,' barista Emma Dilemma told HeraldNet. 'Who's approving my outfit? Is it my female boss or some random dude cop that I don't know? I don't want them having to stick a ruler next to my body.' 

'Some countries make you wear lots of clothing because of their religious beliefs,' one of the plaintiffs Matteson Hernandez wrote. 'But America is different because you can wear what you want to wear. I wear what I'm comfortable with and others can wear what they are comfortable with. Wearing a bikini sends this message to others.' 

'We are here saying we watched our moms and grandmas going through hell and we don't have to,' Liberty Ziska wrote. 'Millions of women fought for our rights and right to vote and it's my right to wear what I want. It's my right as a person.' 

'Don't judge a book by its cover, just because of the girls who are doing this job, doesn't mean we're bad people,' said Ivy, a bikini barista to Fox 13. 'We all have lives outside of this; some of us are mothers, some of us go to college besides this, we're all just working and hustling like everybody else.' 

The court has now directed the city of Everett to meet with the plaintiffs next month discuss the next steps.


New California Laws Will Create ‘Ideological Purity Test’ for Police by Banning Ties to ‘Hate’ and ‘Bias,’ Critics Say

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, has signed two bills into law that will limit who is eligible to become a peace officer, even as many cities across the Golden State struggle with police shortages. Critics say the new laws will create an “ideological purity test,” preventing some conservatives and Christians from joining already-strapped police forces.

Newsom on Sept. 30 signed AB 655, which bars Californians who previously had been members of a “hate group” or involved in “hate group activity” (in the past seven years) from police service. It remains unclear when the law will go into effect.

The governor also signed AB 2229, which requires applicants to be screened for “bias” before they can join a police force. The “bias” requirement had been enacted previously in 2020, but mistakenly was stricken from the law in 2021, according to a legislative analysis. According to the law’s text, it went into effect immediately upon signing.

Although AB 655 uses a strict definition for the term “hate group” tied directly to “genocide,” critics note that the new law also requires agencies to investigate “a complaint made by the public that alleges, as specified, that a peace officer engaged in membership in a hate group, participation in any hate group activity, or advocacy of public expressions of hate.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center, or SPLC, has branded mainstream conservative and Christian organizations as “hate groups” and put them on a list with the likes of the Ku Klux Klan, often for reasons that amount to ideological disagreement. (The SPLC did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment.)

California has a public interest in preventing members of the Ku Klux Klan or other groups that truly advocate oppression and violence from joining a police department. But critics told The Daily Signal that the laws could be weaponized to exclude peaceful conservatives at a time of law enforcement shortages.

“California is in the throes of a public safety crisis,” Matt McReynolds, senior staff attorney at the Pacific Justice Institute’s (or PJI’s) Center for Public Policy, told The Daily Signal. “Mass shootings, mass release of criminals back onto the streets, and brazen smash-and-grab robberies have residents living in fear. Meanwhile, the level of politically-fueled disrespect for law enforcement has never been higher.”

McReynolds noted that police officers are fleeing the Golden State. “AB 2229,” he argued, “will only exacerbate this crisis by exposing all but the most ideologically pure officers to discipline, dismissal, or rejection for supposed bias.”

“It is the perfect Leftist tool for canceling more decent, brave and hardworking public safety officers,” he added. “In California, cancel culture is coming for our cops.”

As an aside, the SPLC brands the Pacific Justice Institute as an “anti-LGBT hate group,” a designation the institute disputes. PJI President Brad Dacus told The Daily Signal that the Southern Poverty Law Center twisted his previous statements out of context to smear him in this way.

“AB 2229 comprises a political test,” Daniel Greenfield, the Shillman journalism fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center (a conservative organization branded by the SPLC as an “anti-Muslim hate group”), told The Daily Signal.

“It is a blank check for viewpoint discrimination,” Greenfield said, “especially since it fails to identify parameters for defining bias in a time when, under the influence of critical race theory, it is widely held by the Left that all members of the majority group suffer from unconscious bias.”

“It’s entirely possible, furthermore, that membership in a biblically traditional church or synagogue would be considered a bias against sexual orientation,” he warned.

Brigitte Gabriel, a Lebanese-American activist and founder of SPLC-accused “hate group” ACT for America who warns against the threat of political Islamism, warned that AB 2229 “will become an ideological purity test preventing conservatives and Christians from being eligible for service as peace officers due to their belief on issues like marriage sexuality or gender.”

“We need more decent people signing up willing to serve the public and ensure public safety but with laws like these all they are doing is discouraging them from signing up putting the community at a far greater risk,” Gabriel told The Daily Signal.

California Assemblywoman Luz Rivas, a Democrat who sponsored AB 2229, did not respond to multiple requests for comment from The Daily Signal. The office of California Attorney General Rob Bonta, a Democrat, did not respond to The Daily Signal’s requests for comment on the previous and prospective implementation of AB 2229. Newsom’s office declined to comment on both bills, referring The Daily Signal to the legislators who sponsored them.

Critics also expressed worries about the weaponization of AB 655, and state legislators changed the bill from its original version to address some of those concerns.

William T. Armaline, associate professor of sociology at San Jose State University and director of the university’s Human Rights Collaborative, which sponsored the bill, told The Daily Signal that “in the two-year legislative path of this bill we met with all organizations who expressed concerns.”

Armaline described those meetings as “productive” and said they “resulted in the current language of the bill, precisely out of a deliberate effort to protect civil liberties and collective bargaining rights.”

He noted that “the bill does not apply the SPLC’s framework,” but rather grounds its language in “state/constitutional/international legal conceptualizations of, for instance, ‘hate crimes’ or ‘genocide.'”

The new California law defines a “hate group” as “An organization that supports, advocates for, threatens, or practices genocide or the commission of hate crimes.” The law defines “genocide” as follows:

‘Genocide’ means any of the following acts committed with specific intent to destroy, in whole or substantially in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group through means including killing or causing serious bodily injury to members of the group, causing permanent impairment of the mental faculties of members of the group through drugs, torture, or similar means, subjecting the group to conditions of life that are intended to cause the physical destruction of the group, in whole or in part, imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group, or forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Armaline said “there are many historical and current organizations, including but not limited to the Ku Klux Klan in California and the U.S., that would arguably meet this description.” He noted, however, that “there is no stated blacklist.”

The Pacific Justice Institute “is one of the organizations we communicated with in early revisions of the Bill, and the final bill language reflects our effort to address these concerns to their apparent satisfaction,” he said.

“We’re gratified that our constitutional concerns with AB 655 were taken seriously, and the threat it originally posed to law enforcement officers was substantially reduced in the amended version,” Pacific Justice Institute’s McReynolds told The Daily Signal.

McReynolds noted that the original version of the legislation defined a “hate group” as any group that “supports, advocates for, or practices the denial of constitutional rights” of a class of people, a definition that easily could be twisted to apply to pro-life organizations seeking to outlaw abortion.

Although the final version of AB 655 represented an improvement, McReynolds spoke on behalf of PJI noting, “We remain opposed to this and similar legislation because they build on a flawed premise that inexorably leads to thought crimes. As the original version of AB 655 reveals, our far-left legislators will not be satisfied until they silence, de-platform and even criminalize conservatives.”

Greenfield also called AB 655 “deeply disturbing,” saying it “allows public complaints, likely by partisan groups, targeting peace officers over their views and continues to centralize state control over law enforcement. It makes those complaints public to further target them.”

“The bill has the state defining what is hate and how to investigate it,” Greenfield added. “While the bill currently focuses on promotion of genocide and hate crimes, it would be easy for the actual implementation and later ‘reforms’ to define it more broadly. The experts likely to be tasked to draw up such standards are prone to be associated with the SPLC and other partisan organizations that can take the opportunity to use their power for partisan going.”

“With the standards of evidence unclear, it will become all too easy to pressure sheriff’s departments and more conservative areas to purge personnel,” Greenfield concluded.


Superannuation delusions: Future Australian retirees risk being shortchanged by politically correct fund management

In an interview with Company Director, the Australian Institute of Company Directors’ magazine, Dr Don Russell, chair of AustralianSuper, says, ‘Being able to influence companies in their decisions around board governance, climate risk and disclosures, are all mechanisms we see as improving investment returns.’

‘We’re heavily engaged in that because we think it lowers the risk associated with everything we’re invested in.’

Well, with 2.5 million accounts, a quarter of a trillion dollars under management and $650 million a month in new contributions, no one can doubt this fund has clout. Nor that much of that clout, whatever the investment returns, comes from increasing payments from the same companies Dr Russell seeks to influence. Having started at three per cent of workers’ salaries, these are soon to rise to twelve per cent.

As a principal adviser to former prime minister Paul Keating, Dr Russell helped design the compulsory scheme. No doubt he and Mr Keating knew what an enduring gift it would be to their friends in the trade union movement. And what a gift it has proven to be!

In three decades it has enabled a handful of unions and employer associations, with no capital backing, to account for around 30 per cent of Australia’s $3.1 trillion superannuation assets, earning some $30 billion a year in fees. This firepower has greatly leveraged organised labour’s capacity to influence boardrooms through shareholder activism.

Unions also benefit from sponsorships and advertising deals which aim to encourage workers to join their funds. According to the Financial Services Royal Commission, while not itemised, these inducements totalled more than $30 million in the five years to 2019. Unions are also believed to receive fees of around $14 million a year, paid nominally to its appointed directors.

Former union apparatchik and current federal assistant treasurer, Stephen Jones, ignores calls for improvements in reporting standards. He believes annual aggregate disclosures of political donations and, payments to trade unions and industry bodies is sufficient.

Unsurprisingly, the cosy relationship between industry funds, trade unions and government, leads to suspicions of personal indulgences and cover-ups. No matter the truth, this cartel exerts an unhealthy influence on capital allocations.

And while union nominees on fund boards have responsibility for a substantial slice of workers’ life savings, they remain relatively unknown. After all, workers see superannuation contributions as a tax paying for something they will receive in the remote future and this detachment means fund executives on multimillion-dollar salaries and performance bonuses are rarely held to account.

The absence of transparency and accountability seems inconsistent with many of the ESG governance principles espoused by Dr Russell. Nevertheless, this doesn’t preclude AustralianSuper from closely monitoring external managers to ensure they adhere to its strict protocols. Indeed, rather than exert indirect control, AustralianSuper has already brought management of half its assets in-house.

Dr Russell believes this strict ESG approach enhances the equity portfolio’s performance. ‘We’ve built concentrated portfolios and developed skills and capabilities to understand a whole range of Australian businesses,’ he says, ‘Part of that understanding is based around an understanding of how these companies deal with climate risk and other ESG matters.’

On climate, AustralianSuper is committed across its portfolio to net-zero emissions by 2050. But what does this mean? According to consultancy McKinsey, ‘trillions of dollars need to be spent every year for almost three decades to hit net zero targets’. Is AustralianSuper’s commitment open-ended? Has it considered the long-tail risks to its members’ savings from constant capital misallocation? Have AustralianSuper and its likeminded peers forgotten the old Wall Street adage, ‘When all the experts and forecasts agree – something else is going to happen’?

Already, too many alarmist climate predictions, advertised as based on authoritative modelling, have proven false. It is surely only a matter of time before the public weighs the crippling economic and social costs of environmental policies against environmental progress. Retirees will begin to question who gave the mandate for superannuation assets to be so heavily weighted in essentially moral crusades. What about eggs and baskets and a case for compensation?

By inserting themselves into boardrooms, industry funds and their friends in government have blurred the line between management and ownership. They are getting in the way of what Milton Friedman argued was the ‘one and, only one, social responsibility of business, to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it… engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud’.

Despite Dr Russell’s claims of inherent ESG out-performance, several studies have questioned any causal link, saying it can be explained by other factors. For example, technology and asset-light companies are often among broader market leaders in ESG ratings because they have a relatively low carbon footprint. These tend to merit higher ESG scores and, through weight of buying, initially achieve a self-fulfilling out-performance. But, as the director of one fund declared, ‘There is no ESG alpha,’ or, sustained outsize market return.

Nevertheless, Dr Russell and many of his powerful peers, insist on micro-managing the companies they invest in. The boards in turn obey, spending valuable board and management time on unproductive navel gazing and redirecting investments into ‘safe’ assets. Innovation is shunned.

Strikingly, net zero 2050 and, ESG more generally, seem to be peculiarly Western preoccupations. China is not so obsessed. Rather, it is massively boosting coal production to keep electricity supplies reliable, prices low and manufactured products internationally competitive. Chinese leaders remain clear-eyed and are thoroughly practised in the art of climate-change arbitrage. BMW’s decision to move manufacture of Minis to China highlights Beijing’s wisdom.

This is not to argue against prudent governance. But it is to warn that a cartel, comprised of big government, ideologically driven investors and obedient businesses, is concentrating risk based on what may yet prove to be a popular delusion. Future retirees would have good reason to feel betrayed.




Sunday, October 30, 2022

Controversial 'race researcher' who wrote a 2019 report about 'gaps' in IQ between white and blacks is hired by Cambridge University's philosophy faculty - and says the university knew about it before hiring him

I helped proof-read and comment on a draft of Nathan Cofnas's book Reptiles With a Conscience so I know exactly what Nathan says and why. After reading Nathan's rigorous and relentlessly factual book, I can only wonder at the empty abuse aimed at him below. Note that all the adverse comments about him are simply abuse and condemnation. There is no attempt to address his facts or arguments. His claims MUST NOT be true, apparently

But his claims are not in fact extreme or eccentric. An official report of the American Psychological Association concluded much the same thing. It concluded that there was a gap of one standard deviation (about 15 IQ points) between average black and white IQs in the USA. And the American Psychological Association is the official body of American psychologists. Nathan actually has some authority on his side as well as the facts.

And his conclusions have never been more relevant amid the current furore over Critical Race Theory. He points out -- as I have pointed out -- that this evil racist theory stems dfirectly from the denial of black/white inborn differences. If there is nothing in blacks to explain their great failures in education, income and much else, some other explanation has to be found.

It has been found in Critical Race Theory. The theory is that discrimination against blacks by whites has caused blacks to fail. Black woe is the fault of white racism. The fact that whites have enegetically been doing the opposite for many years under the rubric of "affirmative action" is blithely ignored. Whites have long discriminated IN FAVOUR of blacks, in fact. Critical Race theory is counterfactual nonsense but, if there is nothing in blacks to explain their failures, it is all that is left.

Turning a blind eye to black/white differences is well intentioned but ignoring reality is always disastrous and ignoring black/white differences has become a major example of such a disaster. In denying one sort of racial difference, it has invented another

The University of Cambridge has hired a controversial 'race researcher' to its Faculty of Philosophy who previously came under fire for publishing a 'racist' paper - despite knowing about its contents before hiring him.

Nathan Cofnas, an American who was appointed on a three year programme as an 'early career fellow' on September 1 of this year, has previously been the subject of fierce debate over his argument that there are intrinsic differences between races when it comes to intelligence.

Speaking to MailOnline, he confirms he still stands by what he wrote and said the University of Cambridge knew about the paper before he took up his position there.

Cofnas told MailOnline he would advise critics to 'read it'. He added: 'The paper represents my views then and now.'

In a 2019 paper published in Philosophical Psychology he criticised the idea that all 'human groups have, on average, the same potential', and argued that the 'hypothesis' of differences in IQ between men and women and different racial groups is 'ignored'.

Cofnas also referenced adopting black children into white families and argued that some 'race groups' are 'falsely blamed' for structural racism.

His paper was widely debunked by various scientists, and in June 2020 the editor of the journal resigned over the controversy.

There has been backlash amongst students who have called the decision 'crazy' and 'disappointing', according to Cambridge's student newspaper Varsity.

A response paper published by a leading group of researchers called Cofnas' work 'unintelligible and wrong-headed': 'Most researchers in the area of human genetics and human biological diversity no longer allocate significant resources and time to the race/IQ discussion... an equally fundamental reason why researchers do not engage with the thesis is that empirical evidence shows that the whole idea itself is unintelligible and wrong-headed.'

They added that Cofnas' work had 'racist ideological undertones' and 'pandered' to racist ideas.

In the 2019 paper he refers to the theory of hereditarianism throughout, which relies on the fact that genetics are more important that environmental factors in determining people's actions and decisions.

Students have begun to criticize his appointment, with one philosophy student telling Varsity: 'It's crazy that someone who's published such obviously questionable work has been given not only a platform but a Fellow position. 'It's obviously disappointing but not surprising.'

Cofnas refers to old studies that claim white populations have a higher intelligence than black populations.

In the article, Cofnas repeatedly references what he sees as 'race differences in intelligence', and claims that 'the adult black-white IQ gap has remained stubbornly constant... since around 1970.'

He referred to studies into 'early intervention' techniques to battle his so-called 'race difference', including adoption.

He wrote: 'Adoption by white families [of black children] - one of the most extreme interventions possible - has virtually no effect on the IQ of black adoptees.'

Cofnas appears to question the extent that racism exists within society and argue that white populations are unfairly 'blamed' for 'differences' between races.

He wrote: 'As long as people believe that race differences have a purely environmental cause, differences will, in practice, most likely be attributed to racism or institutional racism.

'Denying the possible genetic cause of race differences will not stop people from being focused on race.'

He added that 'if people believe that members of certain races are victimized or benefited by racism' this could cause harm to society.

He called for research to give a 'biological account' of how 'genes lead to race differences', adding: 'As of now, there is nothing that would indicate that it is particularly unlikely that race differences will turn out to have a substantial genetic component.

'If this possibility cannot be ruled out scientifically, we must face the ethical question of whether we ought to pursue the truth, whatever it may be.'

He claimed research such as his is censored and that 'if not all groups have identical distributions of potential, then it is unjust to assume that some people must be blamed for average differences in performance among groups.'


Judge Quashes Sweeping DOJ Subpoena Against Conservative Group

A federal judge quashed a Justice Department subpoena going after the communications of a private conservative group in Alabama.

The Justice Department sued the state of Alabama opposing the Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act, and in the course of discovery sought all information from Eagle Forum Alabama regarding its advocacy for the bill going back to 2017.

Eagle Forum is not a party in the lawsuit, prompting the court to rule that the DOJ was overreaching.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Liles Burke, of the Middle District of Alabama, issued an opinion stating, “Considering the relevance (or lack thereof) of the requested material, the burden of production, the nonparties’ resources, and the government’s own conduct, the Court finds that the subpoenas exceed the scope of discovery.”

The Justice Department issued the subpoena in August and last month, Eagle Forum Alabama filed the motion to quash.

Several Republican members of Congress, the Alabama Legislature, and conservative organizations filed a brief with the court arguing on the side of Eagle Forum Alabama.

The Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act, which bans the distribution of puberty-blocking medication and cross-sex hormones to minors, along with the performing of transgender surgeries on minors, became effective in May after large majorities in both houses of the Legislature approved the bill.

The Alabama chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, representing parents of kids who claim to identify as transgender, filed suit against the law in late April, and the Justice Department joined as an intervener party in the lawsuit.

“Eagle Forum’s triumph today is a victory for freedom of speech for all Americans who wish to be a part of the democratic process,” Kristen A. Ullman, president of Eagle Forum, said in a statement Tuesday. Conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly founded the national Eagle Forum, which has multiple state chapters.

“We successfully defended the rights of private citizens and non-profits to engage in the legislative process when their viewpoint differs from that of the government,” Ullman continued. “DOJ ardently fought to harass a volunteer group of concerned citizens and should take their loss today as a reminder they have awakened a sleeping giant. The Court made clear that the government’s attempt to silence voices with which it disagrees by demanding irrelevant materials will not be allowed.”


California’s Proposition 1 Is Perverse Virtue-Signaling

Abortion in California is already, indisputably legal during the first six months of pregnancy, and illegal after the fetus has become viable (week 24 to 26), unless necessary for the mother’s life or health.

So why is Proposition 1—which will amend the California State Constitution to enshrine a right, funded by taxpayers’ money, to abortion on demand for any reason for the full term of pregnancy—on the ballot, and why are more than $9 million being spent to support its passage?

Following the Supreme Court’s decision this year that the U.S. Constitution doesn’t have anything to say about abortion, and it is thus a matter for states to decide, many seized the opportunity to grandstand politically—and none so blatantly as California’s Governor Newsom. Apparently launching his 2024 presidential campaign on this issue, Newsom ran billboard ads in 18 states to promote California as an abortion sanctuary, and launched the website

Thus, given the current legality of abortion, and the current support being provided to its access, the only explanation for Proposition 1 I can fathom is that it is essentially a doubling-down by abortion-celebrants, a nose-thumb in the face of those old fogies who hold on to antiquated notions as “abortions should be safe, legal, and rare.”

Unfortunately, the wording of the proposition (as usual) is such that voters will have almost no way of knowing that this is what they are voting for: their tax dollars will be used to pay for the abortions of anyone from anywhere, up to birth.

Other imponderables: Why are the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria investing $5 million, Quinn Delaney $500,000, and the California Federation of Teachers $250,000 in its passage?

They are among the major underwriters of the Yes on 1:

According to the history of the Graton Rancheria community on its website, revenues from the casino which presumably made possible this level of spending for an unnecessary proposition, are intended “to provide programs and services to Tribal Citizens to realize their dreams of self-sufficiency.” Is state-funded late-term abortion an underpinning of self-sufficiency?

Similarly, Quinn Delaney’s web profile leaves one wondering how her foundation’s mission, to “eliminate structural racism and create a racially just society,” is advanced by taxpayer-funded late-term abortion.

And the California Federation of Teachers’ website proclaims, “We believe in the power and promise of education.” Since sex education has been universal for decades now, shouldn’t it have resulted in abortions being little needed?


Why an Australian woman does NOT want transgenders competing against biological females who are being 'sacrificed on the altar of woke'

Popular YouTube right-wing pundit Sydney Watson says allowing gender transitioned women who have gone through male puberty to compete in female sports is 'crazy'.

The Melbourne-raised commentator, who has nearly 800,000 subscribers to her YouTube channel, said female athletes are being sacrificed 'on the altar of woke' by having to compete with biological men.

Ms Watson, who is visiting family in Australia but has lived in the US since 2019, says that she will calls a trans person by their preferred pronoun but won't pretend they are something they are not.

'I think it's pretty simple, I think there are two sexes male and female,' she told Daily Mail Australia. 'Are trans women women? No,' she said.

'There's an inescapable biological reality that I am not going to deny simply because it makes them feel better. 'We have understood that men and women are fundamentally different for hundreds and hundreds of years. 'They are different, we are different.

'The fact we deny this in order to appease a very, very small portion of the population and an even smaller proportion of the population who can afford it (to transition) is crazy.

The 29-year-old said she 'feels' for trans women who can't compete in their sport because 'they don't neatly fit into either category anymore' but that did not make them women.

'You have these biological men, who go through a male puberty and people will not admit this and I do not know why,' she said. 'It is so crazy to me.

'I realise it is an evolving topic and it is not easy to deal with but I don't think that sacrificing women on the altar of woke is the way to go.'

She pointed to the examples of trans New Zealand weight lifter Laurel Hubbard, who was the first Kiwi to win international weight-lifting competitions, and US trans swimmer Lia Thomas, who won a national college title in March.

'For these and other people to absolutely smash their female competitors it is just so regressive,' Ms Watson said.

'They think that's somehow being positive for women and then to post their names and say they are woman of athlete of the year - you're not a woman.'

Ms Watson said she had no issue with people transitioning and would use the pronouns that people requested or best fit their appearance.

'If you are adult and you are making your own choices and it doesn't affect me and I don't have to pay for it and you want me to call you a male or female, he or she, man or woman I will do that for you,' she said.

'But I am not going to say "hey guy, you can participate in female sports if you have gone through male puberty and transitioned after the fact".

'I am not going to say "hey you male, who is completely intact but now identifies as a woman, come into my changerooms".'

Ms Watson argued that such trans behaviour was actually 'the erasure of women'.

She also thinks that, paradoxically, gender preconceptions are being reinforced by the trans activists.

'In this quest to dismantle stereotypes the regressive left and the trans rights activist movement have actually enforced their stereotypes,' she said.

'So, if a girl like Tonka trucks, the colour blue, wears baseball caps and plays sports there is a cohort of parents who say "my kid is trans" rather than "hey, my kid really likes that stuff and I am just going to let her do it because it is what she likes".'

Ms Watson described herself as a utilitarian that wants 'things to make sense'.

'Let's say you have a transgender sports person who is devastated because they love their sport and they can't really play anymore because they have transitioned and they are on hormones it has shifted the game for them,' she said.

'I think we can have compassion for people who don't feel comfortable in their skin, however there is a bigger mental issue at play.

'What these (trans) advocates are advocating for is affecting kids, it's affecting women. it's putting women in danger in some cases it's harming others and I just think why do their interests supersede the rest of the population.'

Ms Watson said that it was important to keep trans issues in perspective.

'I think the fact that the transexual conversation dominates every area of life and we are expected to walk on eggshells around these people to me is not appropriate,' she said.

'The vast majority of the population does not participate in this and you can sympathise and have empathy but letting them dictate the way we live our lives the language that we use I don't think that is OK.'




Friday, October 28, 2022

Not so homeless in Los Angeles

Images and video show homeless in Los Angeles syphoning water and power in camps sprouting throughout the city's streets - with some of the brazen encampments even boasting working washing machines.

Homelessness is a dominant issue in the state's upcoming mayoral election, with a large field of candidates promising to do more on an issue that has placed Los Angeles in an unwelcome national spotlight.

Sagging tents, rusting RVs, and makeshift structures have become commonplace along Hollywood Boulevard to Venice Beach - and even in the shadow of City Hall.

Over the past year, the camps have become increasingly bold, putting up full-sized tents and cordoning off entire streets, much to the chagrin of outraged locals.

Now, citizens have snapped evidence that the urban outposts are stealing water and power from the city to maintain a surprisingly lavish lifestyle while living out on the street, taking water from hydrants and electricity from any outlet they come across.

That same day in seedier South-Central, evidence of another, even more shameless encampment surfaced on social media - one also with a working washing machine and even a oversized tent that an onlooker noted was blocking a local business.

'1 bedroom tent with garden & working washing machine blocking a business driveway. Welcome to Los Angeles,' the user wrote, in a post that shared video of the washing machine in the middle of a clothes cycle.

On the 'door' to the unseen inhabitant's evidently homey tent, complete with a set of house plants adorning its entrance, a sign urged onlookers: 'Don't be hatin!'

Such sightings have become increasingly common since the pandemic, when the City of Angels, like many other liberal-run cities across the country, descended into a den of debauchery and crime that it has yet to crawl out of.

This comes as the city's wealthiest residents have been forced to fight a proposed 'mansion tax' on properties over $5million, further inflaming their dissatisfaction with city leadership.

One photo snapped by an awestruck bystander showed one such encampment in Hollywood, where multiple people were seen washing what looked to be their cars and motorcycles with syphoned water from a nearby hydrant.

Multiple cars were parked in the makeshift camp site - which also sported multiple working washing machines and several tents.

The photos, shared to Twitter by @LeatherJoseph on Monday, seem to suggest the camp's inhabitants are also stealing electricity from a nearby street light, to power their appliances and vehicles.

The city's current crime-ridden state has spurred countless locals and even celebrities to flee the Golden State for a better life, with the most recent being actor Mark Wahlberg, who is fleeing his longtime home in LA in favor for a life in nearby Nevada.

The likes of Elon Musk, Joe Rogan, Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne, and Matt Damon have also participated in the mass exodus - as well as hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens - citing a combination of over taxes, crime, and the state's notorious ever-worsening homeless problem.

Moreover, the state recently experienced its first population decline in decades last year, when roughly 250,000 residents were reported to have left the city - many instead electing to buy property in less costly locales such as Texas and Arizona.

Mayoral candidate Rick Caruso has made keeping Hollywood 'in Hollywood' a huge point of his campaign - though he appears to be fighting a losing battle to woke progressive Karen Bass.

Caruso is running against Democrat Karen Bass in the November election on a platform of tackling crime, homelessness and bringing an end to a steady stream of 'career politicians' such as DA George Gascon, whose 'soft-on-crime' policies he says have ruined the city.

Caruso has also criticized the city's treatment of local businesses, who instead of being rewarded for putting their money into the city, are now faced with aggressive homelessness that likely scares away customers.

He cited how current Mayor Eric Garcetti's office has so far failed to address that issue, as well as the hundreds of other camps currently operating in plain sight across the city.

'Look at [Netflix CEO] Ted Sarandos. Here's a guy who said, "I'm going to make a commitment and have my headquarters actually in Hollywood," and made a big, incredibly wonderful commitment to the city. And what has the city done?' Caruso asked during a recent appearance on The Ankler.

'The city has allowed encampments all around that headquarters.'

He added that such encampments is deterring the city's professionals from returning to work at the office, slowing the city's post-pandemic recovery to a virtual standstill.

'People are coming to work, and I've talked to the executives in there, coming to work carrying human waste on their shoes because there's so much human waste on the sidewalk, because we've allowed people to live in the most inhumane situation.

'It's incredible what all of our elected officials have allowed to happen. We're allowing people to live and die in the streets in their own waste. And then we allow that to happen in front of one of the great companies of Hollywood.'

Caruso was a Republican for years before registering as a Democrat earlier this year, ahead of the mayor's race.

He insisted in his interview - and has done throughout his campaign - that party affiliation is irrelevant.

'None of these issues are Republican or Democrat issues. None of them are. These are human issues. These are issues that are affecting all of our lives every single day.

'When crime is spiking, when you've got homicides that are at a 15-year high and it's only getting worse, when you have hate crimes that are up 160 percent, when you have homelessness now at 44,000 and people dying in the streets, these are life and death issues that transcend any kind of party.


Former Levi’s top exec reveals how woke mobs took over corporations

Jennifer Sey was Levi’s brand president and on track to be the jeans company’s CEO. But when she complained online about extended school closures and their effect on children, she was attacked and falsely labeled a “COVID denier” who wanted to get former President Donald Trump re-elected. Levi’s management gave her a choice: Shut up or leave. As she explains in her new memoir, “Levi’s Unbuttoned,” Sey felt she had to quit her dream job on principle. In this exclusive excerpt, Sey explains how many of today’s CEOs — lacking any backbone, yet desperate to be seen as “good” — cave to performative woke mobs.

“Woke capitalism” is corporate America’s attempt to profit off Millennial and Gen Z activism, often passive keyboard activism.

It exploits social-justice politics and transforms it into social-justice consumerism — and ultimately, investor profit. Companies purporting to care about “progressive values” are really doing nothing more than striking a superficial pose meant to signal virtue while distracting from any company’s true motive: financial gain for shareholders.

All of that is true. But there is more to it, in my opinion.

First, you’ve got CEOs and executives who want to distance themselves from the greedy image of past business leaders. They want you to know that they are not like the ruthless banking moguls and oil tycoons from years gone by. They aren’t destroying the planet, and they aren’t taking advantage of consumers with sub-prime mortgages. They aren’t stealing or grifting, they’re helping! They aren’t in it for themselves, they care about you!

Tech companies are well known for their “change the world” cultiness. You don’t just work at Google. You’re connecting people to information that is life-changing, driving the digital revolution at the end of which we’ll all be so much better off than we are now.

Corporate leaders want us to believe that they are do-gooders, not money grubbers. They’ll get rich, too, but they don’t want you to think that is their mission. And, more importantly, they don’t want to think that about themselves. They believe they embody the best qualities of Andrew Carnegie (so generous! so benevolent!), Henry Ford (a visionary who cared about his employees!) and Theodore Roosevelt (a progressive man of action!) all rolled into one.

Business executives would have us believe that they are our saviors. Bill Gates is eliminating malaria and saving the children in Africa. Howard Schultz is running for president to save our democracy. Elon Musk is not only saving the planet with electric vehicles, he is exploring new frontiers in space and defending free speech for the masses.

Somehow, some way, despite all the evidence of greed and corruption, business leaders have managed to re-brand themselves as altruists. Never mind that in 2020, CEOs made 351 times more than the average worker at their company — up from 21 times more in 1965. Indeed, in the last 30 years, their average compensation has grown over 1,000%, even as they have burnished an image as humanitarians.

How? In partnership with a complicit press that buys into their companies’ expensive “we’re do-gooders” marketing campaigns, these CEOs have p.r.-ed themselves to philanthropic, good-hearted hero status. This phony message has been amplified and embraced by consumers around the world, despite all the evidence that shows that these so-called do-gooders are really no good at all. It boggles the mind, but it’s a testament to the power of marketing.

There was a time when doctors and lawyers were the pillars of the community, and that’s what every mother wanted her child to be. But now, business leaders seem to have taken that mantle. While Steve Jobs is widely known as kind of an a–hole, he’s also viewed as a visionary who changed the world. I can’t tell you how many business leaders use his quote “Stay hungry. Stay foolish” as their email sign-offs. It clothes naked capitalism with profundity and meaning.

CEOs and C-suite executives were always rich. But now they’re rich and beloved, and perceived as well-meaning and heroic.

In this new Gilded Age, journalists — themselves often politically biased and ethically compromised — have continued to spread the fiction that corporate leaders and entrepreneurs are not just “good” people but near god-like figures. The public eats it up, because it helps to fill the gaping religion-size hole in our increasingly secular culture.

And today’s ostentatiously woke CEOs are more than happy to play along, eager to prove that they are not just guys out to make a buck. Woke capitalism signals that their guiding intention is to make this a better, more just world, even as it distracts us from their only true intention: enhancing their companies’ bottom line, and their own.

Of course, the beauty of it all is that simultaneously it endows consumers with a false sense of nobility, encouraging them to believe that buying the right stuff is actually activism. “You like T-shirts? Here — buy this organic cotton T-shirt that also shows you support the LGBTQ+ community because it has our logo but with a rainbow!”

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not against capitalism. Far from it. I’m against the charade that is social-justice capitalism.

I want to buy stuff because it’s the best stuff on the market. Win me over with your excellence. I’ll even pay more for it. I’ll express my political affiliation with my vote, not my sneakers or soft drink of choice.

But in the age of armchair, keyboard activism, woke capitalism lets consumers badge themselves as progressive activists without actually having to do anything. It’s magic!


The Right Resistance: Donald Trump didn’t just change the GOP, he vastly improved it

Since it’s election time and politicians from both parties are campaigning on platforms of improving voters’ lives, it’s fitting to ask whether the Republican Party itself is better off now than it was before Donald J. Trump rode down the Trump Tower escalator with wife Melania by his side and proceeded to change the world one truthful assault and insult (to the establishment) at a time.

Most conservatives and Republicans would reply with an emphatic “Yes!” to the above query and the discussion would then switch to the ways Trump made a difference since he burst on the scene. They’re too many benefits to count, or at least too numerous to lay out in a reasonable length opinion column. Books have been written on the subject and no doubt dozens, if not hundreds (or thousands?) more will follow in the years and decades to come.

What is indisputable on all sides is the notion that the Republican Party of 2022 looks, sounds and feels different/better than the old one did under the guidance of presidents George H.W. Bush and his son, George W. Bush. We can also lump GOP presidential nominees Bob Dole, John McCain and Mitt Romney into this group as well as a good many of the party’s congressional leaders and past presidential candidates.

The Republican Party has changed alright, and by the looks of it, will never go back to its old default position of permitting the media to trample all over its leaders and beliefs. The GOP also (hopefully) won’t return to its previous non-stop parade of sellouts and capitulations. Current senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has done his best to maintain the half-hearted party attitudes, but Donald Trump – and his growing band of MAGA brand promoters – is working to fix that problem, perhaps as soon as next January.

What else has changed? Six things, apparently. In a piece titled “Six ways Trump has changed the GOP”, Max Greenwood wrote at The Hill:

“Former President Donald Trump has dramatically reshaped the Republican Party in his own image, leaving marks that have outlived his presidency — and could potentially outlive him.

“It’s not unusual for a president, current or former, to hold sway over his party and its voters. But Trump’s impact on the GOP stands out for its breadth; Trump has influenced the party and its members on everything from policy to rhetorical style, as Republican officials and candidates look to recreate the movement that helped propel Trump to the White House six years ago.

“Here are [six] ways Trump has significantly changed the GOP: [He’s turned it more against mainstream media; He’s made attacking opponents a signature; He’s sparked opposition to institutions; He’s fueled skepticism in the country’s elections; He’s made fealty to him a necessity for party survival; He altered the GOP’s view of the world].”

At the outset I’ll point out that making “lists” of ways that Trump did this or that is a terrific means for lazy reporters with writer’s block to fulfill his or her daily or weekly allotment of writings and still get a lot of people to click the links. Almost every time I see this type of column, the premises are usually highly disputable and, again, basically designed to paint Trump as either a buffoonish amateur or unflinching dictator.

As I’ve argued many times, Trump’s name by itself turns heads. Both fans and enemies alike love reading about the former president, and it’s that kind of instinctive attraction that’s allowed him to remain part of the conversation long after he departed Washington. Former presidents usually go into “retirement” and seek a golden years’ respite from the spotlight. Not Trump. Anyone who thought he would follow the example of his predecessors surely hasn’t studied the political or entertainment aspects of his career.

With that being said, I’ll add my own commentary to Greenwood’s “Six ways Trump has changed the GOP” propositions: 1. He’s turned it [the party] more against mainstream media

Is this really true? For as long as I can remember Republicans have railed against unfair media coverage, but it took a man like Trump to actually call the fourth estate out in direct terminology on their bias. Past surveys revealed that nine-out-of-ten media members consider themselves (or have voted for) liberal Democrats, and their personal slant shows up in their reporting.

Trump refused to play along with the manipulation games, instantly labelling anything he considered blatantly untrue as “fake news”. And he’d say it to the speaker’s face, too. Trump had little patience for the schmoozing and subtle manipulation of facts to support a liberal narrative – like “the Trump campaign colluded with Vladimir Putin to tip the 2016 election” and often turned interviews with hostile journalists into a verbal combat sport.

This “change” was more than welcome. Rather than watching the media relentlessly pecking at him as though he were poor, defenseless George W. Bush, Trump fought back. And won, at least with the people who paid attention to the particulars.

2. He’s made attacking opponents a signature

Even before Donald Trump arrived in 2015 to kick the GOP “up a notch”, a new breed of conservative fighter was emerging in Republican ranks.

Radio legend Rush Limbaugh helped bring about the GOP’s House majority in 1994 by highlighting the work of Newt Gingrich, who certainly was no stranger to attacking opponents. Gingrich and his core group of House conservatives, including Dick Armey, formulated the “Contract with America”, a set of ten ideas that the authors deemed “majority issues”.

While it may be true that Republicans didn’t attack each other as much in those days as Trump laid into his opponents during the 2016 campaign – and ever since – I wouldn’t say condemning each other is a GOP “signature” now. The Liz Cheneys and Adam Kinzingers of the world deserve every bit of negative energy they’ve received, not because they disagreed with Trump on policy, but because they made it personal. And petty. Sad.

Today’s Republican Party is much better off than before Trump because overall, they’re more unified and less content with having their policy positions smeared by Democrats and the media as racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic, etc., or to be called “semi-fascists” by jerks like Joe Biden just because they aren’t onboard with the liberal transgender fixation.

3. He’s sparked opposition to institutions

Like the previous item, Trump didn’t necessarily change Republicans’ “opposition” to institutions as much as he brought their suspicions to the forefront.

Americans don't love the U.S. government nearly as much as the media insists that they do. Americans love the Constitution and American traditions, not institutions, especially when said foundations have been corrupted. Some institutions within the government, like the military and the FBI, used to enjoy stellar reputations for effectiveness and nose-to-the-grindstone impartiality, but both (and many, many, others) have been despoiled by careerists with attitudes that they’re bigger and more important than the law and citizens’ rights.

Americans don’t send their sons and daughters into the military to be reprogrammed into “woke” robots spouting newly reformulated jargon, and the FBI has been wholly taken over by the Merrick Garland Department of in-Justice to the point where the drive to catch real criminals has been supplanted by elites pursuing political vendettas. Did Trump steer people away from the institutions, or did the institutions themselves change from within? You decide.

4. He’s fueled skepticism in the country’s elections

Really? Donald Trump alone changed the GOP into the party home of election deniers?

The irreplaceable Victor Davis Hanson wrote a column last week highlighting all the times Democrats denied or rejected the results of past elections. From the incredibly close 2000 presidential election to the non-disputed (by sane people, that is) Trump victory in 2016, many, many Democrats have gone on record indicating that a particular result was illegitimate and they wouldn’t abide by it.

Trump was just the first prominent official to make a public stink about election fraud and integrity at a very high level. Besides, Trump wasn’t the only one planting doubt into the minds of conservative voters regarding the electoral system. Such wariness was already there. Democrats have often refused basic integrity measures such as paper ballots, same-day voting and Voter ID. All of these suspicions pre-dated Trump. Democrats seem to think voter rolls don’t ever need to be scrubbed and illegal aliens should be given the franchise, too.

Democrats’ push for amnesty and citizenship for illegal aliens is about voting, period. The deeply flawed current electoral system invites more skepticism, not less. Until there are unquestionable accountability measures put in place, the reservations will remain.

5. He’s made fealty to him a necessity for party survival

This is another media created myth that isn’t backed up by facts. Journalists and liberal talk show hosts hold up Liz Cheney as the poster child for an unfortunate office holder whose electoral viability was destroyed by Donald Trump, but it was her own doing that put Liz on the primary chopping block in her home state (Wyoming).

Cheney made the mistake of siding with the enemy (Democrats) in voting to impeach Trump for something that he didn’t do – incite an armed “insurrection” against the government. Lots of people were and still are ambivalent about the former president, but this doesn’t mean they believe he’s a saboteur or a traitor. Far from it. Trump spoke eloquently about America and went out of his way to help disadvantaged people.

Liz Cheney crossed the line, as do any other Republicans who make it personal about Trump and his agenda. It's okay to disagree with Trump on policy, but don't attack him or his voters. Lindsey Graham is a good example of someone who publicly disagrees with Trump on some issues (such as Ukraine and Russia) but still remains in the man’s good graces. There are others, too.

Trump’s been burned far too many times from within the GOP. Demanding a little loyalty isn’t too much to ask in return for peace within the party.

6. He altered the GOP’s view of the world

Hear! Hear! It’s about time! For far too long Republicans were automatically associated with endless “stupid wars” and boundless military adventurism that was the product of neoconservative ideology and strongarmed political tactics. Trump put an end to it, as well as shamelessly promoting the notion that the American government should represent the interests of Americans first before they consider citizens and governments of other nations.

What’s wrong with that? We aren’t citizens of the world and conservatives value borders, sovereignty and their own God-given constitutional rights. Who cares what’s going on halfway around the world in terms of energy policy or trade philosophy?

Trump brought a new attitude to the GOP, and the fact that most current party members back him up on it is a good thing, not something to criticize.

Donald Trump didn’t change the Republican Party as much as he improved it. All Republicans ever needed was a leader like Trump (or Reagan before him) who knew how to sell the party’s ideas while simultaneously branding the Democrats as socialists, corporatists, globalists and “woke” climate hypocrites whose sole mission was to transform the once great nation into an unrecognizable dystopia. Think about that the next time the media argues that Trump has only hurt the GOP.


The elite keep getting it wrong

It’s time to take a good hard look at the cadre of mainstream, legacy journalists and psephologists as well as the public health clerisy, that constitutes ‘the expert class’. It might not have escaped your notice that these members of the cognoscenti have gotten so much wrong these past few years it would be embarrassing, or at least it would if the journalistic class bothered to report on it.

Let’s start with the pollsters and journalists. Back in mid-September in these very pages I predicted the Republicans would take the Senate and do so with a net two or three pick up (so, would end up with 52 or 53 of the 100-member Senate). And this despite the fact only 14 of the 35 Senate seats being contested this mid-term year are ones currently held by the Democrats, and those 14 are all in states won by Joe Biden in 2020. If you go back to September you’ll see that virtually all the pollsters and near-on every single member of the legacy media (here as well as in the US) were predicting the Dems would retain the Senate.

I didn’t believe it for two reasons. Firstly, I didn’t believe independent voters in the US could or would endorse what they’d seen from this Joe Biden administration, probably the worst in well over a century. Just consider the open southern border that has seen over four million illegal aliens pour in since Joe took over. Consider the skyrocketing gas and oil prices, largely driven not by Putin and the Ukraine war but by Biden’s massive restrictions on new (and some existing) domestic exploration. Consider the inflation rate. Consider the Democrats thuggish and heavy-handed pro-lockdown, pro-masking, pro-mandates approach to Covid. The list goes on and on.

But perhaps more relevantly to my prediction, I have read various people point out that US pollsters have been way off since at least 2016. The pattern we’ve seen is consistently that most US polls overstate the position of Democrat candidates and do so significantly right up until the last week or two before the election. Then the polls move noticeably towards the Republicans.

If you’re feeling charitable this might be put down to the difficulty of getting Republicans to answer pollsters, something that might explain why nearly all polls over-sample Democrats. (Look at the small print and you’ll see what I mean.) If you’re feeling conspiratorially minded, though, you might instead put it down to journalists and pollsters hoping to suppress the Republican vote by convincing them their candidate has no chance and then moving at the very end to protect their reputations as pollsters. (‘See, our final polls were pretty accurate.’)

Anyway, back in mid-September the talk and polls were all about a Democrat recovery and an easily retained Senate, not to mention all sorts of talk about how the Trump-endorsed candidates were so weak. But not now. With just under a fortnight to the elections the Republicans are surging everywhere. Winning the House is virtually a sure thing. Meanwhile, every currently held Republican Senate seat has a Republican with a lead or tied (even Dr Oz in Pennsylvania). And the currently held Democrat Senate seats in Georgia, Nevada and Arizona all have Democrats tied or behind. Should those all flip it will be a Republican wave.

But the momentum is such right now that it could even be a tsunami – throwing into play the chances the Republicans pick up Senate seats in New Hampshire and in ultra-liberal, west coast Washington and more. Meanwhile the gubernatorial races are looking cataclysmic for the Democrats. Ron DeSantis in Florida, back in 2018, barely won by 30,000 votes out of 8.5 million or so cast. Right now he’s massively ahead in the polls (such are the rewards of being brave and resisting despotism during the pandemic). This while long-time Democrat strongholds are in play. A future star Republican Kari Lake (she tells the press they’re biased and then backs it up chapter and verse) looks like winning in Arizona. The lockdown despot and Dan Andrews-type wannabe Governor Gretchen Whitmer is in big trouble in the safe Dem state of Michigan. Heck, the Republican looks to have a shot at unseating the incumbent Governor in New York of all places.

So either something earth-shattering happened in the last four or five weeks. Or, and this will shock you I know, the pollsters and journalists lean so far left they see everything through a ‘what will best help the Democrats’ lens. Either way, the cognoscenti expertocracy is failing us here. Maybe that explains why journalists are coming dead last in surveys of the most-trusted occupations in the US.

Speaking of failures by the expert class, let’s now turn our attention to the public health clerisy in this country. It was to these medicos that our woeful political caste abdicated virtually all decision-making during the pandemic. Last week a self-styled ‘Independent Covid Review’ led by Peter Shergold reported back on how we did in Australia. It found that no schools should have been shut; some of the lockdowns and border closures were avoidable; key groups were excluded from financial support; and generally was not overly complimentary. But let me be abundantly blunt here. This report is as tepid as they come. The data is now clear there should have been no lockdowns, no mandates, no police thuggery, no outspending Trudeau, the list goes on. So say so.

Here’s the problem. All these reports done by the great and the good all start with the premise that in the face of radical uncertainty (no one knew how bad the virus was going to be) the government had to take steps and err on the side of doing something big to keep people safe. It’s from that premise that even this report makes its criticisms. But in my view that core premise is simply wrong-headed. In the face of radical uncertainty there is no plausible ground for thinking the default position should be some regulatory equivalent of the precautionary principle – ie opt for what looks like the zero-risk position – requiring big-state actions. In fact, the best-supported approach in the face of radical uncertainty is to continue on with what the till-then accumulated data indicated was the best road and wait for new data. (Data, not models, to be clear.)

That, readers, is basically what three of the world’s top epidemiologists recommended in the Great Barrington Declaration. And it is exactly what we in Australia (and most of the non-Swedish world) did not do. The costs are now proving to be astronomical, even in terms of cumulative excess deaths where we are worse than Sweden. So this report points in broadly the right direction but, really, it is pathetically weak in its criticisms. We lived through thuggery, the worst inroads on our civil liberties in 300 years, massive impositions on the young and poor to benefit the old and rich, and virtually no MPs (Libs included) said a word. Our expert class was wholly useless as were our politicians. (My kingdom for a DeSantis.) Their first principles were catastrophically wrong. And we here in the pages of the Speccie Australia were saying it from day one, not in an enervated report long after the fact that is far, far too tepid. ?




Thursday, October 27, 2022

Hitler as an artist

It is rather embarrassing to some on the Left that Hitler was an artist. Artists often claim moral superiority and significant constructive influence for their art. They cope with the embarrassment by claiming that Hitler was only a house painter or that his art was esthetically worthless.

The fact is that Hitler was quite a competent artist if not a very original one. He made money out of selling his paintings and for that reason they had to be rather pleasant -- and they mostly were. They are nearly all online (e.g. here) so judge for yourself

The view I take of them is that they are simply unimportant so their fate is also unimportant. They have been so often reproduced that they cannot really be destroyed. The original might be destroyed but the reproductions tell us anything that they have to tell us. I doubt that any will be destroyed, however. Some have sold for pretty high prices

"Jimmy Carr Destroys Art" was introduced last night with a trigger warning as a comedian argued a piece of artwork by genocidal dictator Adolf Hitler shouldn't be destroyed on the Channel 4 show.

Fronted by comedian Jimmy Carr, the new programme, which aired last night, saw a number of panelists argue whether artwork by 'problematic' figures should be kept or destroyed.

Earlier this month, controversy was sparked after it emerged Channel 4 had purchased art by the likes of Hitler, whose Nazi Germany systematically murdered some six million Jews in the Holocaust to use in the series.

And last night, ahead of the programme airing, a spokesperson for the channel read out a trigger warning, advising some viewers may find the contents 'triggering and offensive.'

The voiceover said: 'This contains discussions about controversial art and artists, which some may find triggering and could cause offense and upset.'

During the show, presenters explained they had purchased the artwork for £11,500 at auction, before comedian Jolyon Rubinstein argued the painting shouldn't be destroyed because it is 'an important piece of history.'

During the programme, Carr described Hitler as 'very famous although not primarily for his art.'

He went on to ask: 'Do you think the world would be a better place without this piece of art?'

The question was met with both boos and cheers from the audience.

Carr then asked the audience to decide what should be done with the artwork, and explained they would vote as to whether it should be destroyed.

The presenter explained the piece of art had been bought from an auction house for £11,500, and said it is believed to have been given by Hitler to his air minister Hermann Göring.

He is said to have left the painting to a group of pilots after his death.

Experts consider his work to be of mediocre quality.

Comedian and presenter Dane Baptiste and Jolyon Rubinstein went head to head to argue over the paintings existence.

Jolyon made reference to his own surname, before calling Hitler 'a mass maniac', adding: 'It's crazy in 2022 that you need to say that, but you do. And nothing I am going to say is an apology for Hitler.

'It's very important that we never forget. And when we destroy these things, there's a danger of whitewashing our own history.'

Dane said: 'I think this is a sh** painting.'

Jolyon added: 'The reality is, what we're touching is a moment in the past.'

Jimmy asked if the destruction of the art showed a 'strong statement.'

Jolyon said: 'This programme in itself is making this piece of art famous. I personally don't think it should be on the market, I think it should be donated to somewhere it can be utilised as a tool to connect to a past we too readily forget.


Some pictorial messages


How Bolsonaro built a rightwing movement bigger than his presidency

The words of the Old Testament prophet Isaiah rang out across the crowd at the election rally, amplified by a huge loudspeaker array: “Those who strive against you shall be as nothing and perish . . . For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand . . . Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”

The evangelical pastor on stage at the showground in Montes Claros finished his Bible reading. To roars of approval from thousands of supporters dressed almost entirely in Brazil’s national colours of green and yellow, he presented the holy book to the man to whom the reading was dedicated: President Jair Bolsonaro.

“He is the captain of the people, he will win again,” played a jingle insistently, as images of the young Bolsonaro wearing his army uniform flashed up on giant screens either side of the stage. “He is from God, you can trust him”.

On stage with Bolsonaro as he campaigned for re-election in Brazil’s run-off presidential vote on October 30 was a cross-section of his conservative coalition: an army general standing as his running mate, a successful businessman just re-elected as governor here in the key election swing state of Minas Gerais, and a YouTube musician-turned-senator.

All had the same message: Brazil was at a critical moment in its history and Bolsonaro must not lose to his challenger, the leftwing former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, usually known simply as Lula.

“We cannot allow Brazil to turn into a disaster like Venezuela,” said Humberto Souto, a veteran national politician who is mayor of Montes Claros, the main city in the poorer north of Minas.

While Lula’s international reputation still reflects his government’s efforts to reduce poverty, Bolsonaro supporters talk only of the corruption which marred the leftwinger’s time in office, later triggering what the US justice department called the largest foreign bribery case ever. “Lula’s a thief, the only place for him is jail,” chanted the crowd at the rally.

As Brazilians prepare to vote in the second-round run-off on Sunday, Lula remains the narrow favourite in polls, though Bolsonaro is closing the gap and first-round surveys understated his support.

Whether he wins or loses, Bolsonaro has demonstrated in the election that he has forged a durable rightwing movement, one that blends Brazilian conservatism and nationalism with American-style culture war politics and battles waged over social media.

“Bolsonarismo has strong roots in society,” says Camila Rocha, a researcher and author of a book on the president. “[Even if he loses] he will be able to keep the movement going because he will have a lot of money and I think he will try to come back in four years.”

The persistence of Bolsonarismo

If the “Trump of the tropics”, as the international media labelled Bolsonaro, was initially dismissed by opponents as a political aberration, the speakers at the rally in Montes Claros demonstrated his staying power.

The pillars of his coalition are the fast-growing evangelical churches, the army and police, farmers, business, and a new generation of socially conservative YouTube musicians and influencers.

As a result, Brazil’s election with its emphasis on religion, nationalism and cultural norms feels different to other recent presidential contests in South America. In Colombia, Chile and Peru, social justice, equality, poverty and the environment came to the fore and voters swung against a ruling elite widely perceived as self-serving and out of touch.

In Brazil, however, Bolsonaro has successfully kept up an anti-establishment message even while in office, railing against institutions such as the Supreme Court or the mainstream media which he believes are biased against him and cultivating a simple, man-of-the-people image.

He is partial to riding his motorcycle, stopping off in small towns for a pastel, a deep-fried fast food snack. More recently, his tours have turned into massive mobile campaign events, with thousands of supporters bedecked in Brazil’s national colours joining him on two wheels.

This is the image that is resonating with his base and helping to narrow the gap with Lula before Sunday’s decisive second-round vote. A poll last week by Datafolha suggested the former leader has 52 per cent support versus 48 per cent for Bolsonaro — a technical tie, given the margin of error of two percentage points up or down.

“The left did nothing for us and left the country in a mess,” says Ana Tulia Flores, a young law student attending the Montes Claros rally. In the last presidential election in 2018 she had voted for Lula’s Workers’ party (PT) but now she was backing Bolsonaro.

“There is less economic crisis,” she says. “Most of our population is Christian. We need a president who will defend the principles of God and the family.”

Lula, who governed Brazil from 2003-10 during a commodity boom, has assembled a broad coalition of parties against Bolsonaro but critics say he has run a lacklustre campaign which lacks fresh ideas. A former metalworker whose family left the struggling north-east to seek a better life in São Paulo state when he was seven, Lula retains strong support among Brazil’s poorest, trade unionists and most of the intelligentsia and world of culture.

But among the 100mn Brazilians in what the national statistics agency IBGE defines as the biggest social class — broadly, the skilled working class and lower-middle class, which expanded under Lula — Bolsonaro is building an advantage.

“Bolsonaro’s libertarian thing makes sense for some of these people,” says Rocha. “Many are informal workers, gig-economy workers. A lot of them think, ‘I don’t want to pay taxes’, and ‘I want to be my own boss’.”

The populist president’s socially conservative coalition has put down deep roots in the country’s vast interior in the booming agribusiness sector, which now accounts for nearly 30 per cent of gross domestic product, as well as in the more developed south and south-east of Brazil.

Bolsonaro-supporting candidates scored major successes in elections for congress and state governors on October 2, which coincided with the first round of the presidential race.

In the congressional races, Bolsonaro’s Liberal party were the big victors. They jumped from seven to 13 seats in the 81-member Senate, where they will be the biggest party, and from 76 to 99 seats in the 513-member lower house. In Brazil’s highly fragmented political system, with 23 parties represented in the next legislature, that counts as a significant success.


The statue issue crops up again in Australia -- with a white "Aborigine" stirring it up

Blue eyes and all. This is just attention-seeking. Her aboriginality is essentially nil so she is not campaigning for anything that affects her personally.

The issue she is jumping onto is not totally unreasonable. The whole statue removal lark has the justification that we should separate ourselves from the values espoused by the person portrayed. And perhaps we should in the unlikely event that we are aware of it. But it is also trying to remove us from our own history. History is not changed so lightly. We do well to remember it.

Most people's lives have good and bad in them. And the statues concerned could well be seen as a message about how unfortunate were the values of our comunal past. To add a plaque to statues telling of both the worthy deeds of the person plus the deplored ideas of their time would be a balanced approach to any issue involved. It would certainly be more constructive and potentially useful as education

An indigenous marriage celebrant wants a 'racist' statue of Australia's first prime minister removed from a regional town's waterfront because it is 'offensive'.

Arlene Mehan is behind a push to have Sir Edmund Barton's statue uninstalled from Port Macquarie's waterfront Town Green Park.

Although Ms Mehan has pushed to have it taken down for several years, not everyone agrees and the statue's exit isn't assured.

It was only put up in 2001 as the focus of a local project about Barton.

His statue is the latest monument to a significant historical figure to be earmarked for removal in recent years because of past 'racist' actions.

Barton, prime minister from 1901 to 1903, is widely accepted to have been a key architect of the White Australia policy.

He also said publicly that he believed white people were superior and there was no such thing as 'racial equality'. '[Other] races are, in comparison with white races – I think no-one wants convincing of this fact – unequal and inferior,' Barton once famously said.

Ms Mehan claims the presence of the monument in the park is confronting for local indigenous people. 'It is offensive to glorify this man who represents racist ideologies on this sacred site. 'Edmund Barton was explicitly racist,' she said.

Town Green was a burial ground for the local Birpai Indigenous people before colonisation.

Other options aside from removal have been proposed to the local Port Macquarie-Hastings council, including placing an educational signage explaining more about Barton's views.

If the statue is removed it could be placed outside the Port Macquarie Local Court as Barton became a High Court judge after his term as prime minister.

Ms Mehan gathered 4,383 signatures in a petition to have Barton's statue removed in 2020 and presented it to the Port Macquarie-Hastings council.

She also campaigned against a statue of the fifth governor of NSW, Lachlan Macquarie, whom the town is named after.