Friday, September 29, 2023

Tainted love: is it all over for the workplace romance?

I see nothing wrong with it but lying and deceiving about it could obviously be a problem -- destroying trust

Workplace relationships have existed as long as there have been workplaces. Many people find their life partners in the place where they spend most of their waking hours.

But the politics of the office romance have changed. For generations of senior male executives, relationships with more junior staff were commonplace. Now they are a minefield.

BP’s chief executive, Bernard Looney, has become the latest business leader to find this out to his cost.

His shock resignation took the markets off guard. Looney was forced to fall on his sword after admitting that he had failed to be fully transparent with the BP board about the number of colleagues with whom he had engaged in personal relationships. The company’s directors said they expected everyone at BP to behave in accordance with its “strong values”, while requiring its leaders to “act as role models and to exercise good judgment”.

Looney thereby joins the not-so-hallowed halls of executives whose careers have been scuppered by private dalliances.

Just days after Looney’s departure, Edward Tilly, the chair and chief executive of US-based stock market operator Cboe Global Markets, resigned after a company investigation found he had failed to disclose “personal relationships with colleagues” which “violated” company policies.

Steve Easterbrook, the British chief executive of the US group McDonald’s, was fired by the fast-food company in 2019 for violating company policy, which forbids managers from having personal relationships with direct or indirect employees. Easterbrook was this year fined $400,000 (£328,000) and banned as an officer and director for five years by the US stock market regulator for “allegedly concealing the extent of his misconduct” by failing to disclose other relationships with other colleagues.

In April, Jeff Shell departed as boss of NBC Universal, one of the world’s largest media groups, after acknowledging an “inappropriate relationship” with a female colleague.

US companies have traditionally had stricter guidelines than British employers. Some implement so-called “love contracts” – signed by two colleagues confirming they have freely chosen to enter a romantic relationship – which are designed to prevent potential future sexual harassment claims.

Such contracts would not be possible in the UK.

“US corporations do have outright bans on their management having relationships at work. In the UK that would be illegal under our Human Rights Act because of the right to a private life and the right to a family life,” said William Granger, a partner at the law firm Wedlake Bell, who specialises in employment matters.

However, he said UK companies increasingly expect senior leaders to declare relationships with colleagues either on joining, or when they are promoted.

Granger said firms’ HR departments needed to tread carefully to protect employees’ privacy and keep any disclosed romances confidential.

Tina Chander, a partner and head of employment at the law firm Wright Hassall, said that on a basic level, office romances could be challenging for employers, especially at smaller organisations, because they could knock productivity.

“I’ve been practising employment law for about 16 years and I have dealt with issues arising from what we call workplace romances. I think they used to be very, very hidden,” she says.

Warwickshire-based Wright Hassall conducted their own survey about workplace relationships in 2022, finding that almost a quarter of the 2,000 people polled had had a romantic encounter with a colleague.

Chander adds: “They can impact performance because people will be emailing all day or having conversations as opposed to actually getting on with their jobs.

“It can also cause unrest among the wider workforce if that relationship is between two different tiers of staff.”

This is the particular concern for businesses: that romantic relationships – especially those between a boss and a more junior staff member, where there is an imbalance of power – could lead to unfairness, or accusations thereof, if other members of the workforce feel that a boss’s partner could be given preferential treatment, including bonuses or promotions.

Indeed, BP’s own code of conduct for staff makes clear that “a conflict of interest may occur when your interests or activities affect, or appear to affect, your ability to make objective decisions for BP.”

It specifies that this can include “having an intimate relationship with someone whose pay, advancement or management you can influence”.

One way for organisations to prevent conflicts of interest resulting from office romances would be to move one partner to a different department – especially if their liaison was with their line manager – although this would be far easier in larger organisations.

A question for those who embark on a relationship with a colleague may be at what point they decide to report the start of a relationship.

A key moment for organisations comes when appointing, or promoting senior executives, according to Ann Francke, the chief executive of the Chartered Management Institute, something which has once again come into focus as a result of Looney’s departure from BP.

“Boards and senior leaders would be well advised to thoroughly probe not only the competence of senior executives, but also their behaviour, prior to appointing,” she said.

There had been a generational shift, said Francke, with staff “much more likely to put pressure on organisations to deal with these behaviours”. The solution, she said, was to act before the fallout damaged the business.


We're in Trouble: When Teaching American Values Is Considered Problematic

If news anchors and teachers union representatives continue to label pro-American and age-appropriate educational materials as “problematic,” does it mean our schools are in more serious trouble than we thought? YES.

Over the past several weeks, television and online media continues to lose their virtual minds with the news that PragerU Kids is now approved to provide supplemental and optional curricula in Florida, Oklahoma, New Hampshire, and now Montana. Vanity Fair has multiple articles lambasting PragerU’s content. USA Today, Forbes and People all jumped on the groupthink bandwagon too – with talking points nearly identical to Daily Beast’s initial interpretation. MSNBC’s Alex Wagner scoffed that our videos mention Judeo-Christian values on occasion—despite that our Pledge of Allegiance contains the words “under God” and the fact that the official motto of the United States remains (at least, for now) “In God We Trust.” Local news stations have featured countless panicked soundbites from uninformed parents and union reps committing to keep PragerU Kids “out” of their schools. Media Matters for America ranted on X detailing our “lowlights.” And, Yahoo News warned readers that we “lack academic accreditation” despite countless school districts across America currently using non-accredited teaching materials from Black Lives Matter that encourage political activism and that includes videos on pan-sexuality.

While accusations labeling PragerU Kids as “right-wing propaganda in schools” are outright lies (go to our website and judge the videos for yourself), the frenzy started as hilarious but now has turned terrifying for everyone – regardless what side of the aisle you happen to be on. Why does aiming to unite youngsters, despite our differences and historical faults, make people angry? Because much of our school system, government leaders and powerful unions no longer seem to want children to be unified as Americans. Rest In Peace, E Pluribus Unum?

Another tragedy is that the media, school boards, and educators have bought into the anti-American rhetoric. Civil discourse and rational questions from concerned parents and citizens continue to be squashed online and in public forums, in what seems to be an effort to protect a politicized education system that not only embraced the idea that America is a terrible place, but has also downright failed children.

Recent findings from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) prove reading scores have plummeted to dismal levels, with 30-40% of 4th graders falling below basic standards. The NAEP recently cited “20 years of progress… gone.” Only 13% of America’s 8th graders are capable of explaining significant people, places, and documents in U.S. history. Meanwhile, many state education departments insist on prioritizing gender fluidity activities, systemic racism lessons, and Social Emotional Learning (SEL) surveys that ask young learners if they are “non-binary”—often without parental knowledge or consent.

And, if parents like me question these separatist tactics and realities in a public forum, we are told to shut up for being racist or unkind. For decades, the left has stripped us of having a voice for our own children’s education—scrapping American values and ideas from schools while promoting radical ideology and rewriting history. The result? Timeless American values like hard work, equality, responsibility and tolerance are lambasted as being “problematic.”

This is a major problem.

As a California mom, I sought choice. I pulled my children out of our “high-performing” school district years ago because of age-inappropriate initiatives and lack of transparency. Those of us who begged for a renewed focus on academics that support common cultural literacy to connect us as Americans are labeled “domestic terrorists” or “extremists.” We refuse to be bullied anymore.

And, PragerU Kids—created by a few moms in California two years ago, who were frustrated with activism in our classrooms (me being one of them)—is now approved to provide a bridge between parents and educators seeking wholesome options for children. What does this mean? Transparency and local control. Schools in Florida, Oklahoma, New Hampshire, and Montana (with more states being added soon) now have the option to use our materials and turnkey lesson plans at their discretion, per needs that differ from district to district—whether that includes our Otto’s Tales books about American holidays for young learners, our Cash Course video about understanding taxes, our Street Smarts episode about the Bill of Rights, or our 5-Minute Video about president Calvin Coolidge’s accomplishments. No secrets. No surprises. You don’t like something? Don’t use it. How does this squash diversity of thought, critical thinking, or freedom of speech?

Yes, PragerU Kids is a firm believer in teaching students life skills, goodness, appreciation for each other, and love for country with wholesome materials—what any reasonable American parent wants. And if learning about how money works, how our government was set up to function, or how America is a great country to live in is now considered “harmful and hateful,” liberals and conservatives should equally be terrified.


The 'Don't Hire Women' Act

Having a baby? There's a new law meant for you: the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.

America needs this law, say activists, because "pregnant workers, especially those in low-wage and physically demanding jobs, have been forced to choose between their health and a paycheck."

In my new video, Vanessa Brown Calder, director of Family Policy at the Cato Institute, explains why this new law will make life worse for many women.

"These policies are motivated by good intentions," says Calder. "But that doesn't mean that the consequences of these policies will turn out well."

Calder, who is pregnant, thinks the law will lead to fewer women being hired in the first place.

The Americans with Disabilities Act is a good example of that.

Both Democrats and Republicans applauded when President George H.W. Bush signed it. Everyone loves the ADA.

But the law hurt disabled people who want to work.

Before it passed, more disabled people got jobs, year after year. When it passed, almost 30% were in the workforce. But once the ADA passed, employment of disabled workers dropped by half!

It happened because of the job "protection." Employers fear disability lawsuits. They're afraid that if a disabled person doesn't work out, they'll never be able to fire them. Now the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act will make hiring young women risky.

"You may be a lawsuit bomb," I say to Calder, who nods and says: "It does make women more risky and more costly to hire. Employers don't know exactly what accommodation the woman might ask for."

It's safer for the employer to say, "I'm just not going to hire you. There's no way for the government to know why I didn't hire."

"Companies get good at working their way around these regulations," Calder responds.

But government officials assume their laws will do what they're supposed to do. They also are eager to please special interest groups.

The chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission went before cameras to brag that this law has support from "businesses, faith, health, women's and civil rights organizations!"

So, what?

"Activists think of the short-term effects of the law," says Calder. "It's pretty easy to get behind a superficial reading of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and think that it could be a good idea."

"The momentum is always for more rules," I say.

"Oftentimes there's guidance issued many years after the fact," says Calder. "This is probably just the beginning."

The growing number of rules kills jobs in several ways.

Since the rule applies to companies with 15 or more employees, it's an incentive for companies with 14 employees to stay small.

"You get penalized as you grow," says Calder.

"Without a law like this, who would hire someone like you?" I ask. "You might have more medical problems. You're going to leave, for weeks at least."

"Pregnant workers bring a lot to the table," she responds. "Many employers see that. But when you create a one-size-fits-all policy like this, it starts to raise many employers' concerns."

I ask: "The Cato Institute should have the right to fire you because you got pregnant?"

"I think they should," responds Calder. "Because I want people like me to be able to be hired in the first place."

Exactly. I'm a stutterer. I didn't have my stuttering under control when I applied for my first job. Had the ADA existed then, I could have demanded special accommodation. "Disability lawyers" would have been ready to protect my "rights."

No TV station would have risked hiring me! I would have never gotten a chance.

Now the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act will kill opportunities for women.


Decay: Major Retailers Announce Hundreds of New Store Closures Due to Mounting Crime in Cities

Back in the tumultuous summer of 2020, rioting was shockingly widely excused within Democrat-Left political circles -- to the point that Joe Biden indulged "defund the police" toxicity, and Kamala Harris encouraged her supporters to contribute to a radical bail fund for criminals. A prominent news editor was forced out of his post by a howling mob for allowing a headline that critiqued property destruction. Terrible, lasting, destructive pro-criminal policies were enacted, in the name of "progress" and "equity." We were even lectured by "experts" not to accurately describe the criminal activity exploding across the country. Our society is still grappling with the consequences more than three years later.

One of the fashionable justifications for rioting and looting was that large companies held insurance policies, so such crimes were, essentially, victimless. This was always dangerous ignorance. It fueled lawlessness that has resulted in immense harm and even deaths. Many small businesses could not, and still cannot, weather crime sprees. Blathering about insurance doesn't save a family-owned store teetering on the brink, as neighborhood safety deteriorates. Even large corporations can only withstand so much, hence the exodus of businesses from decaying urban center and the shuttering of franchises by enormous companies like Starbucks (which has faced other woke comeuppance), McDonald's, Whole Foods, and other major chains.

When, say, a Walgreens location is closed down due to crime and deteriorating conditions, "insurance" doesn't fix that. It doesn't magically provide new jobs for the displaced employees. It doesn't suddenly furnish local senior citizens with convenient local options to pick up necessary prescription medication. It doesn't patch up a community that's slowly, or rapidly, circling the drain. These are very real costs, for real people. And the wages of such reckless policies continue to pile up across America's major cities -- the vast majority of which operate under one-party rule. The damage continues:

CVS is set to close hundreds of stores across the country as it undergoes a complete retail overhaul – as more outlets move towards online sellers amid rampant increases in crime. The major drugstore chain is coming to the end of a policy launched in 2021 which will see 300 stores closed each year - meaning 900 will have shuttered by 2024. In the announcement, which has hit headlines again recently amid rampant shoplifting at the chain, bosses they said that they were undergoing a new 'retail footprint strategy.' ...Thousands of stores across the US have been forced to lock up basic products like toothpaste and deodorant following a spike in shoplifting...Stores catch shoplifters roughly 2 percent of the time, with the average shoplifter being arrested once out of every 100 incidents...Rival pharmacies are making similar moves to close their doors, with Rite Aid and Walgreens also closing stores. Rite Aid announced it would close two more stores earlier this month, following the closure of 25 stores earlier this year, amid reports the company is preparing to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

These decisions aren't entirely about crime; other pressure-building trends are also in the mix. But consequence-free lawlessness plunges a dagger into any hopes of keeping many of these brick and mortar stores open. Companies can't make a profit and can't keep employees safe. Another new example:

Target put itself in some consumers' crosshairs by wading into certain controversial culture war matters, reaping negative impacts from resulting boycotts. Throw in "mounting thefts and organized retail crime," and it's literally lights out for multiple locations, and potential unemployment for dozens or hundreds of people -- including those who can't afford to commute to other retail locations further away. The great hollowing out continues:

Target will close nine store in four states, including one in East Harlem, New York and three in the San Francisco Bay Area, saying that theft and organized retail crime have threatened the safety of its workers and customers. The closings, which will be effective Oct. 21, also include three stores in Portland, Oregon, and two in Seattle...Target described the decision as "difficult." "We know that our stores serve an important role in their communities, but we can only be successful if the working and shopping environment is safe for all," Target said in a statement on Tuesday.

New York City, the Bay Area, Portland, and Seattle. What a surprise. We've seen similar movement in Chicago, who's soft-on-crime leaders then have the gall to complain about the "food deserts" being created by their own failed policies (with the mayor now suggesting a guaranteed-to-fail communist "solution" out of desperation). "They have insurance" doesn't cut it, and it can't make up for gaping holes in business models that are this large. The words "only modestly" are doing a lot of work in this report:

Retail executives over the past year have talked a lot about “shrink” — or the losses they take due to theft, fraud or employee error — amid a flood of headlines about sometimes violent organized thefts at stores. But results from a retail-industry survey released Tuesday found the metric rose only modestly last year. The report from the National Retail Federation, a retail industry group, found that the average shrink rate in 2022 crept higher to 1.6% from 1.4% in the prior year, when calculated as a share of sales. The figure from 2022 is in line with those seen in 2020 and 2019. Still, the losses amounted to billions of dollars — $112.1 billion, up from $93.9 billion in 2021 — according to the report. And the report said that retailers were increasingly concerned about the violence of those crimes.

The costs of "shrink" aren't just absorbed. They're passed down to consumers, which is the last thing consumers need in an age of sky-high, inflation-fueled prices. Either that, or stores disappear altogether. Call it a Democratic policy two-fer.




Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Evangelical Christian family begs Biden administration to stop their deportation back to Germany where it's illegal to homeschool their kids - while MILLIONS pour across open US border

A Christian family is begging the Biden administration to intervene in their upcoming deportation after living in the US for 15 years seeking asylum from persecution in Germany.

Uwe and Hannelore Romeike fled Germany in 2008 after being threatened with prosecution for homeschooling their five children.

Homeschooling in Germany is only allowed in very limited circumstances, and the family was facing a $9,000 fine, so they moved to East Tennessee and filed for asylum.

Authorities denied their claim in 2013, with the family attempting to appeal the decision after the Obama administration challenged the initial ruling that was approved. They do not have citizenship in the US.

They have been able to live in the US for the last ten years under an 'indefinite deferred action status', but were told earlier this month they must return to Germany.

Their bid comes as millions of asylum seekers are pouring into the US near the Texas border.

In their initial argument, the family claimed that 'God was calling them to homeschool their five children', claiming that the 'anti-Christian' message in German schools was also a factor.

The couple are now begging the Biden administration to intervene in the decision after they were told to obtain German passports on September 6.

During a routine check-in, the family were told their deferred status had been revoked and were given four weeks to apply for German passports.

Speaking to Fox and Friends, Uwe said: 'They did not tell us anything. We don't really know why. We wonder ourselves because we can't understand.'

His wife added that the 'laws haven't changed' in Germany so they would still face 'the same persecution.

The family was reportedly not giving any prior warning or explanation, other than there had been a 'change of orders.'

In a legal brief in 2014, the Justice Department wrote: 'The goal in Germany is for an open, pluralistic society. Teaching tolerance to children of all backgrounds helps to develop the ability to interact as a fully functioning citizen in Germany.'

Kevin Boden, an attorney representing the family, said: 'They found that the Romeike family did have a well-founded fear of persecution based on their participation in a particular social category, that being homeschoolers.

'The Obama administration appealed that to the Board of Immigration Appeals. That appeal court agreed with them, as did the Sixth Circuit, and the Supreme Court denied it….

'We think this is, in fact, an asylum case. We do think they have a well-founded fear as we testified.

Kevin Boden, an attorney representing the family, said that they entered the country legally and have a right to stay
Kevin Boden, an attorney representing the family, said that they entered the country legally and have a right to stay

'I can tell you today, I talked to families today that have fear in Germany and the fight there, the persecution there, is very real today as it was 15 years ago.'

The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) said in a statement: 'In the 10 years that the Romeikes have lived peacefully in the United States, they've built a second life.

'They have two children who are American citizens, and two other children who married American citizens (one of these couples recently welcomed their first child).

'Deportation to Germany will fracture these families, while exposing the Romeikes to renewed persecution in Germany, where homeschooling is still illegal in almost every case.

'But there is still hope. The United States executive branch intervened once before to grant the Romeikes a respite, and it has the power to do it again.'


Canada’s parents are taking to the streets

In the biggest demonstration since the Freedom Convoy, large numbers of Canadian families and supporters took to the streets across the country on 20 September to assert the rights of parents as primary educators and protectors of their children with the slogan, ‘Leave our kids alone!’

The ‘1 Million March 4 Children’ was spearheaded by Muslim Canadians in response to increasingly aggressive policy and curriculum changes in publicly funded schools, pushing radical gender ideology and putting content before children that protesting parents say is indecent or age-inappropriate. Turnout was impressive, with many thousands of participants in over 100 cities and up to 10,000 marchers reported at the largest gathering in Ottawa.

Yes, it was the biggest Canadian demonstration since the freedom truckers – and yet there was barely a ripple in mainstream reporting. Left-wing gatekeepers – the Trudeau government, the unions, and radical progressive activists – declined to engage with the rallies in good faith. (In fairness, it must be hard to keep up an unsullied image as the white knights of democracy if the peasants get to keep rising up against you on live TV.)

The state-subsidised Canadian media, knowing which side its bread is buttered, got to work downplaying the event, focusing on the relatively small counter-protests. These counter protests were partly organised by senior union leadership in Ontario and radical activists, as a secret Zoom meeting leaked ahead of the event showed.

At the meeting, protesting parents were described as right-wing extremists, hate-filled, and racist. (Is it right-wing extremism to want a say in what your child learns in school?) Yet the March’s organisers had been clear that the protest was specifically focused on a single issue, that of parental rights in education, not on other aspects of radical social change, or, on anything remotely connected with race.

Nonetheless, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau felt the need to ‘strongly condemn this hate and its manifestations.’ Why should he mischaracterise the perfectly ordinary issue of parental rights as hateful? Canadian academic Jordan Peterson later rebuked Trudeau directly on Twitter, telling him, ‘Once again, you are on the wrong side of history…’

Along the same lines, the mayor of Ottawa declared that he supported the right to protest, but not the targeting of children ‘for being who they are’ – implying that this was the goal of the March 4 Children. He did not explain why he thinks parents wanting to care for their own offspring is equivalent to ‘targeting’ children.

Jagmeet Singh, leader of the NDP, joined a counter-protest in Ottawa and made cryptic remarks to reporters about ‘a lot of folks that don’t feel safe because of the rise in hate and division that’s targeting vulnerable people.’

As for Pierre Poilievre’s Conservatives, the party originally instructed MPs not to make any public comment about the mass protest, though in an internal memo the party allegedly admitted that protestors had ‘legitimate points’ to make about parental rights. On Thursday afternoon, Poilievre criticised Trudeau for demonising concerned parents and expressed support for parental authority over what is taught to children.

The Conservatives’ original reticence to support the protests is probably because they fear that if they are perceived to be supporting a grassroots protest criticising gender ideology in schools, they will be smeared as extremist, divisive, racist and hateful. But who are they trying to please? The state-subsidised media? That’s a lost cause, particularly after Poilievre’s promise to defund the CBC.

Much more courageous was Premier Blaine Higgs of New Brunswick, who came out to welcome pro-family protestors in front of the provincial legislature. Premier Higgs recently took a great deal of heat from all sides for obliging schools to obtain parental consent to use new names or pronouns for children under 16 – hardly an extreme policy from any perspective. His own – conservative! –party attempted to pressure him out of it, but he stayed firm, expressing his willingness to trigger an election over the motion, and ultimately carried the day.

But traditional families are also good, full stop

The federal Conservatives could learn from Roger Scruton’s commentary on UK conservatives over ten years ago: ‘For the ordinary voter the family is a place in which children are produced, socialised and protected. That is what the party should be saying, but does not say, since it is prepared to sacrifice the loyalty of its core constituents to the demands of a lobby that is unlikely to vote for it.’

There is only one way that progressive activists will endorse the Conservatives, and that’s if they believe Conservatives will serve to further the progressive agenda better than other parties. They’ll be willing to compromise on some issues to get what they want on others – and right now, that’s unfettered access to children’s minds through public education.

Will the 1 Million March 4 Children protestors vote Conservative? Probably, if they have any reason to believe that Conservatives will protect what they cherish most – their children. If not, maybe not.

And aside from pleasing the voters, Conservatives might like to consider another Scrutonism: The traditional family has not just an instrumental value, but an intrinsic value. Sure, traditional families are good for the economy, good for the wellbeing of children, good for the stability of society, good for getting leaders with conservative values into power.

But traditional families are also good, full stop. So is standing up for them – whatever the cost.


Combatting Woke tyranny: can science be saved?

Joseph Forgas

The takeover of universities and scientific associations by radical Woke activists seeking to impose an ideological straight jacket on academia has now reached alarming proportions. Compelled speech, compulsory DEI declarations, de-platforming, and worst of all, the hounding and cancellation of anyone accused of departing from politically correct dogmas, have become hallmarks of coercion in academia.

The totalitarian objectives of Woke activism are directly traceable to Marxist-Leninist conflict ideologies, something I was forced to study for several years in my youth while living in a communist society. Strangely, the Woke academic revolution is not a movement by the dispossessed, but rather, is driven by secure upper middle-class activists who infiltrated powerful institutions, straining to outdo each other in vacuous moral posturing and virtue signalling.

The dispassionate pursuit of truth and free speech cannot coexist with such blind ideological activism in our universities and scientific associations. Much damage has already been done by the creeping take-over by zealots of our institutions. This happened while the silent majority remained silent and did nothing to prevent the destruction of some of our most important universities, research institutions, and scholarly associations.

A case in point now worth revisiting is the major recent scandal in psychological science when the executive of the Association of Psychological Science (APS) summarily terminated Prof. Klaus Fiedler, the Senior Editor of their flagship journal, Advances in Psychological Science. Fiedler was accused of racism by racial scholar Steven Othello Roberts, who was offended by critical reviews by four distinguished scientists (Hommel, Stanovich, Stroebe, Jussim) of his paper on Racial Inequality in Psychological Research. The Spectator Australia also covered this disgraceful incident at the time.

Rather than responding rationally to critical comments, as academic authors must do when getting negative feedback, Roberts published a denunciation of Fiedler and his critics, insinuating that as they were, to quote: ‘All senior White men.’ This illustrates his point that ‘…systemic racism exists in science. There is a racialised power structure that marginalises research by (and about) people of colour.’

Within days, an internet lynch mob was formed demanding Fiedler’s dismissal, while Fiedler was given limited opportunity to present his case. To its indelible shame, the Association of Psychological Science obliged.

Following the time-honored pattern of Woke activism and attendant moral outrage, the Woke warriors specifically demanded that APS should ‘empower and fund your Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee to … address racism’, to ‘conduct remedial training for all editors on … anti-racism’, and ‘give Dr. Roberts the option to have his outstanding and important commentary published in PoPS, with the four other articles in question available only as supplementary online material … and grant him any additional reparative action he might deem necessary’.

This is a complete mockery of how science, and refereed publications in particular, are supposed to work. Woke activists now define what truth is and decide what should or should not be published. Freedom of speech, evidence, and rational discourse are summarily dispensed with, and political pressure is exerted to exact revenge on those declared as ideological enemies. And our scientific associations go along with this.

These are the same Orwellian strategies that oppressive tyrannical regimes have employed throughout history. The carefully constructed institutional edifice of universities and scientific associations exist precisely to resist ideological tyranny – but these institutions have largely failed us in recent years. It could be argued that the only racially-charged rhetoric in this sorry saga came from Dr. Roberts, who did not argue his case in the journal as invited by Fiedler, and resorted instead to publicly accusing Fiedler and his critics.

However, there are some incipient signs that a kind of resistance to Woke tyranny in science may be slowly forming. Recently, over 130 psychological scientists sent a strong letter of protest to APS demanding that the Association revisits Fiedler’s termination. The letter was signed by such influential academics as Steven Pinker, Jonathan Haidt, Robin Dunbar, and Roy Baumeister, among others. Perhaps this rare reaction is due to Fiedler’s widely recognised qualities as an eminent scholar with a highly respected editorial track record for several major journals, also explicitly acknowledged by APS at the time of his appointment.

Once criticisms of the APS decision surfaced, and five out of six associate editors as well as numerous academics resigned in protest from the Association, APS then disingenuously claimed that Roberts’ allegations of racism had nothing at all to do with Fiedler’s termination. This lame explanation lacks credibility.

APS can now be fairly accused of compromising the values of scientific integrity and transparency they are obliged to represent. Their claim that Roberts’ incendiary allusion to racism had nothing at all to do with Fiedler’s termination is unlikely. As Fiedler argues, ‘The APS action was prompted by widespread disquiet about ‘racism’, not editorial practices. A disquiet was triggered by a misconceived and unfounded accusation, as the unreported evidence shows’.

Claims by disgruntled authors against editors would never succeed if it was not for the Woke mob baying for retribution. The spineless activism of APS, the wanton destruction of the career and reputation of a decent and highly respected scientist, and the feeble and dishonest protestations amount to a complete betrayal of APS’ mission that has brought shame and disrepute on the field.

The real issue is that in addition to many university administrations, independent scientific associations like APS have been taken over by ideologues, for whom social activism is more important than defending truth and scientific integrity.

APS is not alone in betraying their foundational values. Numerous scientific associations and conference organisers now impose an absurd requirement that scientific papers must be prefaced by regurgitated statements about how the work promotes diversity, equity, and inclusiveness, a policy reminiscent of the well-honed coercive ideological practices of totalitarian regimes.

Just such Woke activism is also ripe in the STEM disciplines like physics and chemistry, as documented at a recent meeting on free speech and academic freedom at Stanford University.

As the Economist recently noted, many academic job advertisements mandate elaborate statements about an applicant’s commitment to DEI principles, and scientific merit often comes second to political correctness and activism as a selection criterion. Some job ads explicitly exclude white males from applying, all in the name of social justice, diversity, equity, and inclusiveness.

Academic institutions are also eliminating objective tests in the name of improving inclusiveness and equity. Good luck with going to a doctor next time who has not been selected on merit…

Woke ideology sees entire disciplines, such as mathematics, as racist that must be de-colonised because it insists that there can only be one correct answer to a mathematical problem – thereby privileging white supremacy, and denying the legitimacy of alternative ways of ‘knowing’. Once reputable institutions such as the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation go along with such bizarre nonsense, and California has a proposal to do away with advanced math programs in schools because they are considered racist.

Is there a way back from such lunacy? Some scholars at Stanford University’s forum on free speech argued that the situation is beyond redemption. As many faculties in the arts, humanities, and social science are now exclusively staffed by like-minded ideologues, even if free speech was miraculously restored, there is nobody left to voice alternative views. After decades of hiring faculty based on ideology and Woke principles rather than merit, entire disciplines may be doomed. The only solution may be to start new institutions and new associations explicitly committed to heterodoxy. Within psychology, just such an initiative is now in progress so that disgraceful episodes like Fiedler’s cannot re-occur.

Recent protests in the Fiedler case may offer a faint hope that things might be slowly turning. But this will only happen if all scientists, and all concerned citizens consistently speak up against the kind of injustice committed by the APS.


New Zealand's housing density experiment saw approvals for new builds in Auckland 'skyrocket' while house prices kept climbing

Deregulation works its usual magic

There is a place just a few hours from Australia's east coast where a change in policy has seen the number of approvals for new homes "skyrocket" while increases in rents and house prices have been kept to moderate levels.

In Auckland, the council has been running an experiment, and at the heart of it is a bold decision to remove restrictions around zoning, opening up suburban blocks to higher-density developments.

The test case went so well, New Zealand's national government adopted a version of it for the whole country, but recently the opposition withdrew its support, meaning the upcoming election could change things.

There are all kinds of arguments against the idea of opening up suburban blocks to higher-density housing, and often the debate is a hypothetical one.

But the Auckland up-zoning change happened in 2016.

Since then, blocks of land that were once the site of single-family homes have been developed into new medium and high-density housing projects all over the city — and now the data is in.

The top line is that building consents — or council approvals for new homes — started to increase the moment the new approach to zoning was proposed.

Then, the data shows, rents started to stabilise, with Auckland's rents now rising at a slower rate than New Zealand's other major cities.

House prices are still going up, just at a slower pace. And now indicators are showing housing affordability is slowly improving.

Research economist Matthew Maltman said: "I have seen very few economic phenomena like it." "The new plan came into place and just absolutely skyrocketed these dwelling consents," he said.

He said New Zealand was "broadly a pretty comparable country to Australia" and the experiment showed what was possible.

"And we have all these debates about how can we increase housing supply. How can we improve affordability?" Mr Maltman said. "And there's this place that's not far away from us that's actually done it and implemented these reforms that people have been talking about for years."

At the heart of the experiment is an ambition to use land inside the city of Auckland more efficiently — growing by densification, as opposed to sprawl.

That approach keeps new housing close to existing infrastructure such as transport, schools and employment hubs.

Ryan Greenaway-McGrevy, an associate professor in economics at the University of Auckland, said prior to the 2016 change, most of the city was zoned for buildings of no more than two storeys high and covering a maximum of 35 per cent of the block.

"Those are sort of typical, single-family detached policy settings, and so those restrictions were relaxed to various degrees," he said.

"In the residential zone that allows the most density, you can build five to seven storeys now and have a site-coverage ratio of 50 per cent."

Auckland's suburbs have been transforming. A space that was once quarantined for a small cottage now accommodates multiple families.

Not every project that is approved to be built actually is, but research suggests that in New Zealand more than 90 per cent of building consents turn into bricks and mortar projects.

Another caveat to keep in mind is that the data that shows how many new buildings are being approved does not factor in those old dwellings that were demolished to make way for the modern developments.

But five years after zoning regulations were relaxed across more than three-quarters of Auckland, Dr Greenaway-McGrevy's research has found the changes have resulted in more than 20,000 additional homes across the city.

"It's not just about developers," Dr Greenaway-McGrevy said.

"It enables the state to provide medium and high-density housing as well.




Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Conservatives Are Not All Christians, So Please Stop Presuming It

This is an important article. American conservatives do need to recognize that there are irreligious conservatives too. I am one. And in that regard I am a fairly typical Australian conservative. Perhaps due to its convict origins, Australia is a dominantly irreligious place. Church attendance is around 20%, mostly Catholics and ethnics. So NEITHER side of politics is very likely to be religious.

And Australia manages to be a very civilized place nonetheless. One index of that may be that the homicide rate in Australia is less than one per 100,000 people. In the USA is over 6 per 100,000 people. Irreligious places can be pretty good. I am profoundly grateful for where I live

It happens so often that I am amazed when the contrary occurs. I am at a gathering of Republicans/Conservatives, and someone gives the benediction. This could happen at a luncheon, certainly at a dinner, and other types of gatherings. Usually, these prayers are only a couple of minutes in length. Then, after all has been said, the speaker adds a final sentence, “In Jesus’ name do we pray.”

Messaging Matters

I’m not the first to observe that Republicans and Conservatives have better programs and policies and a firm grasp of what actually helps the nation, but they have lousy messaging. The Democrats have harmful programs and policies but better messaging. They know how to twist and turn a phrase. Consider the difference between the terms “pro-abortion” and “pro-choice.”

When it comes to benedictions, conservatives can enhance their phrasing. Rebel is all you want, but citing the name of Jesus in the benediction is unnecessary. Once you say, “Heavenly Father,” or “God,” or “the Lord,” that is more than enough for a benediction in front of a group.

A benediction speaker once said, “In Jesus's name do I pray.” That, at the least, seems more appropriate than roping in the entire audience. Upon hearing such a closing statement, one might think, “Yes, I'm with you,” or “Fine, that is your prerogative.” Indeed, we are all for free speech. The last thing we want to do is squelch somebody else's speech. The Left shouts down conservative speakers, creates safe zones, and requires toeing the politically correct line. We're bigger than that.

Concurrently, it is vital to understand and acknowledge that many people at the political gatherings that you attend are NOT Christians. When you make the blanket and wrong assumption that all are Christians, your messaging is wrong and frankly unhelpful.

Who Might be a Republican?

For many years, I have been a greeter and foot traffic director for Wake County, NC, Republican primaries. With 100% assurance, I can tell you from personal experience that a significant sliver of those arriving are of Indian descent. Most Indians are Hindu, 79.8%, so the odds are Hindus attend GOP events. Muslims account for 14.2%, while Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians, and Jains largely account for the remaining six percent of Indians.

A notable number of Asians also attend in Wake County. The Chinese government recognizes five major religions: Buddhism, Catholicism, Daoism, Islam, and Protestantism. Other faiths are prohibited while often tolerated.

The majority of Jews are still staunchly Democrats for reasons that I’ll never understand. Right-leaning Jews are in attendance at conservation gatherings. The point is that the ties that unite us are our political views. We do not have to be of the same religion.

I am not a Christian, but I share many of the same values that they do. I'm not offended when a speaker, giving the benediction ends with “In Jesus’ name do we pray.” I am, however, dumbfounded that here, past mid-2023, the speaker and possibly the meeting host still do not understand their constituency. It’s as if they are merrily proceeding along with blinders. It makes me wonder: do they seek non-Christians, vote-wise as well as ideologically, or are they pushing some kind of doctrine? Politics based on religion, bordering on theocracy, is not pretty.

Unhelpful Presumptions

To presume that everyone in the room is a Christian or a devoted follower of Jesus is to make the same kind of error that the Left makes every waking moment. The Left paints a broad brush over their constituency, believing that every single one of them is pro-choice, hates Donald Trump, wants open borders around the clock, regards sexually grooming children as appropriate, and so on.

As conservatives, we should be smarter, more aware, and more ready to embrace those in our ranks who are not necessarily of the same religion but of the same politics.

I'm not spouting platitudes here, such as “diversity is our strength.” The issue is a call to fellow conservatives everywhere to recognize that our ranks contain people from different backgrounds and different walks of life. The sooner we embrace this notion, which is going to be impossible to ignore, the stronger we will be.


Can Trump get a fair trial?

You’d think by now that Trump would have assembled a crack legal team to fight off the avalanche of legal peril the Democrats are raining down on him. Yet you’d be wrong. Trump cannot get first-class lawyers, largely because of the seeming certainty of deep and serious legal, personal and career reprisals against lawyers who sign on to his team.

If you want a legal career, you can’t afford to work for Trump, that’s the message.

A Democrat-linked legal hit squad called ‘The 65 Project’ is largely to blame for what amounts to an attempt to deny Trump access to counsel, in the US this being a right that is even enshrined in the 6th Amendment. The 65 Project has personnel linked to the powerful Washington DC Democrat lawfare centre, Perkins Coie. Even Forbes, no Trump-supporting outlet, says the 65 Project is funded by ‘dark money’. And as you read this the 65 Project is seeking to disbar more than 100 lawyers in 26 states who worked on Trump post-election lawsuits. The two-year-old group, named after the number of Trump post-election lawsuits, has filed 79 ethics complaints, and while it claims to be bipartisan, it is reported no lawsuits have hit lawyers representing Democrats despite Democrats themselves questioning election results myriad times over the years including one Hillary Clinton. Managing director of the 65 Project Michael Teter explains this by saying in USA Today no one on the left manufactured facts in court to overturn an election. That’s his outlook in a nutshell. The crime, as the Babylon Bee puts it, is ‘Questioning Election Results while Not Being a Democrat’.

Notice that the 65 Project mission is couched in Orwellian nicespeak. They are ‘defending democracy’ and holding ‘Big Lie Lawyers accountable… so that lawyers, including public officials who subvert democracy, will be punished’. But the line between a frivolous lawsuit and a merely weak one is not always clear – in fact, lawsuits with little chance of success are a dime a dozen especially in the US where, uniquely, there is no costs rule so that losers pay two-thirds of the winners’ legal costs.

Put differently, and as the saying goes, the absence of evidence is not always evidence of absence. High-profile lawyer Alan Dershowitz, himself a Democrat, cuts to the chase over what he calls the ‘nefarious’ 65 Project: ‘It’s a tactic. People will not take on Trump-related cases. That’s the intention and that’s the result.’

Dershowitz himself was targeted after defending Trump against what he says was an ‘unconstitutional’ impeachment in 2020, and in 2023 Dershowitz wrote, in a paper entitled ‘Why Trump cannot get a top-tier lawyer’: ‘I was cancelled by my local library, community center and synagogue. Old friends refused to speak to me and threatened others who did. My wife, who disagreed with my decision to defend Trump, was also ostracised. There were physical threats to my safety.’ Most long-time Trump associates bear similar or worse scars, financial, emotional and career-affecting, of this vicious targeting; Roger Stone, John Eastman, Rudy Guiliani, Jenna Ellis, Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, Steven Bannon, Peter Navarro and many more have all been dragged through the courts or are in the midst of financially ruinous lawfare. There is talk of personal harassment, nails in driveways, protesters outside lawyers and judges’ homes, as happened with the Supreme Court justices after the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

These sort of ad hominem attacks sure look to us like naked intimidation. And this in the same country in which, as a young lawyer, the future second president of the US, John Adams, served as a lawyer for the defence in the trial of eight British soldiers accused of murder during a riot in Boston on March 5, 1770. Adams and the other defence lawyers got all the soldiers acquitted but two who were given token sentences for manslaughter. Adams remained proud of upholding the presumption of innocence and right to counsel his whole life.

So as much as we are both the most pro-American non-Americans going, this politicisation of the lawyerly caste is way worse in the US than in the Westminster common law world. The US criminal justice system is bottom of the class, to be blunt.

Few lawyers can afford to challenge this formidable, if despicable, onslaught against a presidential candidate’s legal rights. The result is another stacked deck against Trump. Trump conservative, the influential Charlie Kirk of youth organisation Turning Point USA, said on a recent podcast: ‘If you talk to any sophisticated lawyer, Donald Trump’s team is made fun of constantly… in serious legal minds a better legal team could crush these indictments.’ That’s the point for these 65 Project Democrats, isn’t it? To get attorneys to walk away by threatening them with an ability to earn a living in the future and even to practise law.

It’s a dangerous game these partisan left-wing lawyers are playing. Public confidence in the legacy press has already cratered and, let’s be honest, it’s never been that high as regards lawyers. It took hundreds of years to build up the cab rank rule type thinking. It is crucial to a well-functioning legal system.


John Cusack says Democratic elite ‘sold out the working class for decades’: They’re ‘full of s—‘

John Cusack had some strong words for the Democratic Party elite, Monday, when he branded them as being “full of s—” and blasted them on social media for allegedly selling out the working class “for decades.”

“They have played a major part in creating the precise conditions for fascism to flourish – Obama corporatist democrats – are to the right of Richard Nixon on domestic policy – Don’t believe me – look it up – and Dems have sold out the working class for decades – and this kind of bought and paid-for betrayal of principals [sic], fairness – historical precedent -any sense of moral or intellectual honesty – The kind of brutal selfish horrific actions one only does – because they can get away with it,” he wrote in part on X, formerly Twitter, Monday.

The 57-year-old “Say Anything” and “High Fidelity” star’s lengthy post continued with a takedown of the party’s complacency with the wealthy, not-far-enough-left politics and neglecting certain principles.

He argued that the party elite’s trajectory has planted fertile ground for Republicans like Trump to win.

“All your Yale and Harvard buddies will tell you how great and smart you all are – and they are all in bed with all the same big , big money power players- And we run the world – right ? – this kind of staggering amoral bulls— is one of the main reason ( yes there are others ) Trump’s demagoguery works on people. The Democratic elite ARE full of s—,” he continued.

The lengthy statement came in response to an article from Jacobin Magazine which claimed some top Democrats seek to outlaw federal wealth taxes.

“Imagine what FDR would say about such a proposed law ?! Don’t worry fellas – the Democrats will save the .ooooooo1 % from paying tax – the hubris to do this – is staggering – it’s a sham and an insult to everyone’s basic intelligence – the contempt for people – To even attempt this … Unbelievable,” he continued.

He ended the spiel by accusing Obama’s famous “hope and change” slogan of becoming “another branded hustle.”

Cusack has been outspoken about his political stances in the past, slamming former President Donald Trump on multiple occasions, including by calling for an impeachment over his alleged mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Christian Bookstore Under Attack on Military Base

A small, family-owned Christian bookstore that operates inside the Fort Liberty Exchange mall is under attack from a hate group that claims the store's presence violates the U.S. Constitution, the Todd Starnes Show has learned.

Faith2Soar has operated in an Army and Air Force Exchange mall for the past eight months. Prior to that, the for-profit company ran kiosks on military bases.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation, an activist group known for targeting Christian ministries operating on military bases, filed a complaint arguing that the store violated the so-called "separation of church and state."

“We have no trouble with any of these stores at all if they’re in some local mall. But it’s about the time, place and manner. This is on U.S. military property,” MRFF founder Mikey Weinstein told Military Times.

He claims he was alerted to the store’s existence when a soldier emailed about the bookstore “selling t-shirts reading ‘Salvation is Found in JESUS.'"

Imagine that. A Christian bookstore selling a t-shirt adorned with a Christian message.

Weinstein alleges that 211 Military Religious Freedom Foundation clients complained and out of those - 165 purported to be Christians. Smells like a lot of bull fertilizer to me.

He also claimed “the Constitution makes it clear that [the government] will not establish religion. This is the epitome of establishing religion, in a post exchange.” Again, not true.

First Liberty Institute, one of the nation's largest religious liberty law firms, is representing Faith2Soar.

“First Liberty is proud to stand with our client, Josh Creson, and his faith-based business," attorney Mike Berry told The Todd Starnes Radio Show. Berry is the law firm's senior counsel director of military affairs.

"The Army should simply ignore Mikey Weinstein and his hollow threats that have no basis in law or reality. This is exactly why Congress is considering a bill that would prohibit the military from wasting its time responding to Mikey Weinstein’s blatant religious hostility," he told me.

Weinstein, who has been incredibly successful at removing Nativity scenes and Bibles from POW/MIA tables, also took issue with products that he said promoted "Christian nationalism."

“It represents the heinously un-American, unconstitutional epitome of unlawful, ‘in-your-face’, fundamentalist Christian nationalism, triumphalism, exceptionalism, domination, bullying and supremacy,” Weinstein wrote in a letter to Lt. Gen. Christopher Donahue, the commanding general at Fort Liberty.

“The obvious COMMAND endorsement and favor of fundamentalist Christianity, to the exclusion of all other faith and non-faith traditions of your subordinate U.S. Army soldiers, by the Fort Liberty command structure is unmistakable, untenable, illegal, immoral, and unethical," he added.

Store owner Josh Creson told Military Times that mall officials officials met with him to look at the items in the store since Weinstein’s complaint. But no action has been taken.

“We’ve never been approached by anyone complaining about our presence here at all. We’ve received a tremendous amount of praise and appreciation from people saying they are so thankful we are here, but nothing ever negative,” Creson said.

Creson says he and his wife have been subjected to profane and threatening emails and telephone calls. In spite of that, he is calling on people to pray for "Mr. Weinstein and other angry people, some of which have sent some mean, expletive-laden messages and attacks, to come to know the goodness of God."

"We want nothing more than to serve, honor, and glorify God and to help our community in having access to Christian material," he wrote on the store's Facebook page.

Here's a thought. How about booting the godless heathens and keeping the bookstore?




Monday, September 25, 2023

Blackwashing: False stories about black prominence

Threre is a good summary of past blackwashing episodes below:

If you listen to some historians there have been blacks in Britain since prehistoric times. How you tell skin colour from a skeleton is unclear. But a new example of blackwashing has emerged in the form of a book called "Brilliant Black British History". It says; "the very first Britons were black” -- with not a shred of good evidence for most of the claims. Even Stonehenge was built by blacks, allegedly.

The one bit of real evidence offered is that the Roman historian Tacitus reported that the Silures people in Wales were “dark-skinned and curly-haired”. In Tacitus’ full account, he theorised that they may have been from Spain.

The account by Tacitus is confirmed by Jordanes in his "Origins and Deeds of the Goths , where he says, “The Silures have swarthy features and are usually born with curly black hair ... They are like the Gauls or the Spaniards.” So both ancient authors saw the Silures as having a Mediterranean appearance, not an African appearance.

A fuller critique of the book below:

Such appropriations have been rather common from American black authors -- again as mere evidence free assertions. Blacks built the pyramids, of course. I have written on that before. See:

One instance of blackwashing stands out, however: A BBC program in 2017 that describes black and mixed-race families in Britain during the Roman era. It has the distinction that a couple of British historians have defended it. A graphic from the BBC program.

I have commented on the claims of British hisorian Mary Beard elsewhere so will not repeat that. Link below:

A much more sustained defence of Africans in Roman Britain comes from Mike Stuchbery so I partly reproduce it below. Stuchbery's argument is mainly in a long series of tweets, which would be rather tedious to reproduce but the opening of the article concerned is as follows:
Alt-right commentator gets 'schooled' by historian over diversity in Roman Britain

An alt-right commentator who complained about the BBC portraying Roman Britain as ethnically diverse has sparked a row with a historian on Twitter.

Paul Joseph Watson (PJW), editor of alt-right website InfoWars, shared a screengrab of a BBC educational video on life in Britain, suggesting it was inaccurate. “Thank God the BBC is portraying Roman Britain as ethnically diverse,” he tweeted. “I mean, who cares about historical accuracy, right?”

Step forward writer and historian Mike Stuchbery, who gave PJW a quick history lesson on ethnic diversity in Roman Britain.

“Roman Britain was ethnically diverse, almost by design. To begin, occupying legions were drawn from other parts of the Empire,” Stuchbery responded.

“Every year we dig up new remains that suggest that Roman Britain, anywhere larger than a military outpost, was an ethnically diverse place.”

All the examples he gives of Africans in Britain are of Mediterranean people, not sub-Saharan Africans. North Africans were and are white, of course. To this day, telling a Berber he is black will get you a dusty response. He will think you are blind or mad.

Berber woman in ethnic dress. It seems likely that the Berbers are in part descendants of the ancient Carthaginians. They are at any event the native people of most of North Africa -- JR


As the deficit soars, Biden boasts that he has cut the deficit

by Jeff Jacoby

PRESIDENT BIDEN has a well-earned reputation as a fabulist. PolitiFact, the Poynter Institute's accuracy project, debunks his assertions so often that its releases are wearily headlined "Latest False Fact-Checks on Joe Biden." He was rebuked most recently for claiming that he had traveled to Ground Zero in New York on the day after the Twin Towers fell in 2001.

"I remember standing there the next day, and looking at the building," Biden said in a speech at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska, on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. "I felt like I was looking through the gates of hell."

In reality, as PolitiFact, CNN, Forbes, and other news sites pointed out, Biden didn't go to New York on Sept. 12. He waited until Sept. 20 to visit the scene of devastation.

To be fair, how soon after 9/11 Biden visited Ground Zero isn't, in itself, that big a deal. What makes it notable is that it is one of an ever-lengthening string of whoppers he has told — including, as CNN pointed out, three false personal anecdotes in a single speech last month.

But worse still is a particular fiscal boast of Biden's that is so deceitful it has been repeatedly discredited by fact-checkers. All to no avail: Biden insists on trotting it out again and again, as he did in a speech on Labor Day.

"In my first two years, all this stuff — guess what?" the president said in Philadelphia during an appearance before the local Sheet Metal Workers union. "I cut the deficit $1.7 trillion. Here's the bottom line: My economic plan is working. It's reducing the deficit."

Biden has made that claim in scores of speeches, many of which are posted on the White House website. According to an online database of his public remarks, he has recited that statistic 44 times this year alone.

But, to use a Bidenesque phrase, here's the thing: He hasn't cut the deficit by a penny.

What Biden's brag is based on is that in fiscal year 2020, before he took office, the federal deficit shot up to $3.1 trillion, whereas by 2022, his second year as president, it had fallen to a little under $1.4 trillion. The difference is $1.7 trillion, the amount of red ink that Biden keeps claiming to have eliminated.

But the 2020 deficit was so gargantuan because of the sudden and unforeseen explosion of spending in response to COVID-19. The CARES Act, passed by near-unanimous votes in Congress and signed by President Donald Trump on March 27, 2020, jacked up federal outlays by $2.2 trillion. Most of that had to be borrowed by the Treasury — that is, it was paid for by adding to the deficit. Later that year, another huge pandemic relief bill, for $900 billion, was passed by Congress and signed into law. Result: The budget deficit soared to levels never before experienced (or even imagined).

Yet that tidal wave of spending was always meant to be temporary. When the funding expired in 2022, the budget receded. The government's borrowing levels dropped — not because of anything Biden did but because that's how the law was written.

In fact, just weeks after Biden's inauguration, the Congressional Budget Office forecast that the deficit in 2022 would be $1 trillion as the emergency outlays were winding down. By 2023, the CBO forecast, the deficit would have shrunk to $963 billion. That wasn't what happened. The 2022 deficit was almost $1.4 trillion — 40 percent higher than projected. And the deficit for the current year is now headed toward $2 trillion.

Far from reducing the level of red ink as was expected when he became president, Biden has raised it.

Though he has sometimes acknowledged that "we need to cut spending," outlays — and borrowing to cover those outlays — have kept going up on his watch. Early on, Biden signed an unnecessary stimulus package worth $1.9 trillion. Then came a $1.2 trillion "infrastructure" package, a huge increase in food stamp spending, and a continuation of the years-long halt in requiring student loans to be repaid.

Oblivious to all of it, Biden boasts that he has "cut the deficit" and proved himself more fiscally responsible than his predecessors. The truth is exactly the opposite.

"My economic plan is working," the president said in his Labor Day speech. As a candidate for reelection, what else is he going to say? But the public isn't buying it. In a survey released Thursday by Suffolk University and USA Today, 70 percent of US residents say the economy is getting worse. Nearly 6 in 10 respondents hold Biden responsible for the nation's economic anxiety. The share of Americans living in poverty has risen dramatically since 2021, inflation has sent the price of pantry staples and gasoline skyward, and home mortgage rates are at their highest level in decades.

And all the while, Washington continues spending money it doesn't have — the Treasury is borrowing $4.6 billion per day. Because interest rates are much higher than they were a couple of years ago, it costs the government much more to service its debt. So much more, in fact, that the United States now pays nearly as much in interest on the federal debt ($644 billion per month) as it spends on national defense ($692 billion). Spending on Social Security and Medicare is up by double digits this year, while revenues are down because tax brackets are indexed for inflation.

We are headed for a fiscal cliff and no one in Washington seems to have a grip on the steering wheel. The $2 trillion federal deficit is a big flashing red light warning policymakers to curb their out-of-control spending. But Congress and the White House won't take their foot off the accelerator. And in the face of onrushing disaster, the president keeps bragging that he has cut the deficit.

It isn't only money that the US government lacks. The worsening fiscal shortfall is deadly serious — but even more ominous is our national deficit of leadership and good judgment. Dollars can be borrowed. But where can Americans find political leaders capable of dealing with this crisis?


Here’s Where to Take Your Kids When Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts Go Woke

I sat down Wednesday with Patti Garibay, founder and executive director of American Heritage Girls, the leading scouting alternative to the Girl Scouts. She founded American Heritage Girls back in 1995, after she realized that the Girl Scouts were promoting homosexuality and abortion.

While the Girl Scouts had begun moving in that direction during the 1970s, Garibay said, it really hit her in 1993 when the Girl Scouts removed an oath to God from the Girl Scout Promise.

“Well, when you kick God out of a character-development program, what are you going to set the stone on? It’s going to be the shifting sands of cultural winds, and that can be crazy,” she said.

“They have come out of the closet with this,” Garibay added. She mentioned a “Pride patch” with a “very enticing” rainbow and a “Camp Culture Code that tells campers and leaders that you have to use the proper pronouns of whoever the camp counselor might be.”

“I’ll tell you, they are manipulating our kids,” she said. “I believe it’s indoctrination.”

She tried to reform the Girl Scouts from within, but eventually realized she needed to start a separate organization. “Sometimes, we can’t just curse the darkness. We have to light a candle, and we’ve got to start to be part of the solution, rather than the problem,” she said.

American Heritage Girls grew and grew, and it even partnered with the Boy Scouts of America from 2009 to 2013. Garibay lamented that the Boy Scouts changed its policy to allow openly homosexual scouts in 2013, even though the Boy Scouts had won a historic Supreme Court case in 2000 (Boy Scouts of America v. Dale) in which the BSA argued that homosexual conduct was inconsistent with the values it was attempting to instill in young men.

Garibay said that she helped a group of men launch Trail Life USA, a Christian alternative to the Boy Scouts.

While American Heritage Girls is an explicitly Christian organization, it does allow Muslim, Hindu, and Jewish girls to join, so long as they believe in God.

“The girls do all kinds of fun things,” Garibay explained. “They go camping. They serve in the community. They learn about citizenship and government so that they can be good citizens one day. They also learn about badges. We have over 330 badges that the girls can earn, and these are life skills.”

The organization also defends America’s heritage.

“With American Heritage Girls, what we’re training the girls to understand is the Judeo-Christian values upon which our country was founded,” she said. Her organization is bringing back the “basic tenets of America” that are “not being taught in the public schools” or on social media.

Garibay also mentioned resources that American Heritage Girls puts out to help equip families to instill a biblical worldview in their children, and to innoculate them against the lies of transgender identity.


ObamaCare Turns Out to Be Affordable Only for the Healthy

The old advice still holds: Don't get sick in America

When Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act of 2010, President Obama and lawmakers made the same claim over and over: The act would make good, affordable health insurance available to people with pre-existing conditions. The actual result has been the opposite. ObamaCare makes health insurance as good as possible for the healthy and as bad as possible for the sick.

According to President Biden, health insurance in America is free or almost free (“as little as $10 a month or less” after subsidies) for about 80% of people who acquire it in an ObamaCare exchange. Most preventive care—the only kind of care healthy people require—is also free.

If you are sick, things are different. Consider a hypothetical middle-aged couple in Dallas earning $70,000 a year. Suppose they have two children, both of whom have serious birth defects. Although this family will pay no premium for a Blue Cross bronze plan in the ObamaCare exchange, they will face a $9,100 deductible for each child. Their total out-of-pocket exposure is $18,200 a year.

It gets worse. Patients with serious diseases often require the care of highly trained specialists who usually work at centers of excellence. But that family in Dallas will discover that their Blue Cross plan isn’t accepted at leading cancer providers nearby, including Baylor University Medical Center and the University of Texas Health Science Center, or MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

The problem isn’t unique to Texas. ObamaCare plans have very skinny networks in every state. They tend to pay providers Medicaid rates or close to them. As a result, ObamaCare looks like Medicaid with a high deductible. A great many providers, including prestigious medical institutions, won’t accept Medicaid managed care—the version of Medicaid most recipients receive—or ObamaCare.

When a patient with ObamaCare coverage goes out of network, the plan usually pays nothing and the patient’s payment doesn’t apply to his deductible or out-of-pocket maximum.

In addition to ObamaCare’s high medical expenses for the sick, there is an implicit tax on their earned income. Suppose our Dallas family earned only $60,000. According to, their children could qualify for CHIP, (the Children’s Health Insurance Program) or Medicaid, and they wouldn’t be allowed into a subsidized private exchange plan. Given their lower income, the best exchange plan the family would qualify for would now be the Blue Cross silver plan, which carries zero premium. This means that if the parents stay healthy, they would have no out-of-pocket medical expenses.

But things quickly change if they rose to $70,000 household income again. The penalty would be an $18,200 increase in maximum medical costs—a marginal tax rate of 182%.

Even with the children on CHIP, the parents could have serious medical problems of their own and an accompanying implicit tax on income. At an income, say, of $30,000, the best option is a silver plan with a small premium combined with a small deductible. But if their income doubles to $60,000, the out-of-pocket exposure will increase by $14,200. That’s an implicit marginal tax increase of 47%.

Healthy people tend to buy health plans based on premium alone and ignore all other features. So when premiums are set so low that the enrollee pays nothing, the plan will attract enrollees who will cost almost nothing. But they will generate government subsidies worth thousands of dollars to large insurance companies.

By contrast, sick enrollees are potentially financial losers. High deductibles and narrow provider networks deter the sick, who are guided by these plan features. If a sick potential enrollee chooses a competitor’s plan, so much the better.

If you wonder why ObamaCare was designed this way, consider that it wasn’t designed by Mr. Obama or by Democratic lawmakers. It was designed by special interests. ObamaCare has been pouring about $60 billion a year in new money into the healthcare system. All that spending is lining the pockets of insurance companies, hospitals and some doctors—although it doesn’t appear that there has been any overall increase in the amount of healthcare being delivered.

Most people with serious health problems who have to buy their own coverage would have been much better off in the pre-ObamaCare health system. In Texas there was a risk pool for people who delayed buying a plan until they really needed one. Premiums were higher than what others were paying, but less than ObamaCare premiums today. A typical offering was a standard Blue Cross plan, with reasonable deductibles and networks that covered almost all doctors and medical facilities.

In the last two sessions of Congress, Democrats had an opportunity to reverse some of the worst aspects of ObamaCare. Instead, they added $30 billion of “enhanced subsidies,” which will make health insurance cheaper for healthy people making as much as several hundred thousand dollars a year.


Australia: Racists under every bed

Cancel culture is about to get interesting and happening right here on Australian campuses. Get your popcorn and tune in!

But be warned: the first episode – the cancelling of Alfred Deakin through the push to rename Deakin University – is dreadfully dull and predictable. It is episode two and three where it gets juicy, where the cancellers cannot escape the undeniable analogies between the deemed offences of Deakin and those of left-wing heroes, John Curtin and (gasp) Gough Whitlam. The cancellers just haven’t realised this yet, which makes it particularly engaging.

Before getting too far ahead of ourselves, let’s recap on developments from earlier in the month which set the scene.

As reported in the Age newspaper, academics and students at Deakin University have decided that the university’s name needs to change, because Alfred Deakin, a founding father and our second prime minister, was apparently – you guessed it – a racist.

The university leadership is resisting the change for the moment, but have established a truth-telling process to document Deakin’s record, which will inevitably add further pressure for a name change.

On what basis do they argue that Deakin was a racist? As it turns out, on the basis of some quite racist policies and statements, as viewed from today’s perspective. In particular, he supported the introduction of the White Australia policy when he was Australia’s first attorney general and continued this support in his times as prime minster.

According to the activists, one of his greatest sins was predicting that Australia would remain a white country in decades to come.

Deakin’s views on race would not be acceptable in Australia today, and I don’t know of a single parliamentarian who would hold such views. Today, we are the most successful multi-racial country and this is a great source of pride to the vast majority of us.

But at the time, Deakin’s views were mainstream. In fact, every political party, including the Labor party, supported the White Australia Policy and nearly the entire population tended to view people through a racial lens. As the federal Parliamentary Library notes, there was ‘almost universal support’ for restricting non-Europeans and the extensive parliamentary debate of the policy concerned the method of exclusion, rather than whether it should occur.

So why single out Alfred Deakin from the entire political class and population of the time? Particularly when Deakin is broadly regarded as an important figure in the development of modern Australia, including being critical in the creation of our federation.

I suspect because he is seen as a figure of the right. The National Union of Students’ Xavier Dupe is clear on this: ‘The University should be renamed, just like other institutions named after right-wingers,’ he is reported as saying.

The problem for left-wing activists, like Dupe, who want to reassess historical figures through the values of today is that their own heroes are likely to be caught up in the revisionism.

And this is certainly the case here with two of the giants of the left, John Curtin and Gough Whitlam. Both were substantial figures in Australia’s history; both have universities or university institutions named after them (Curtin University, the Whitlam Institute) and both said similarly objectionable things to Deakin.

Consider John Curtin’s position on the White Australia policy. He was an ardent supporter, telling the federal parliament in late 1941 that, ‘Our laws have proclaimed the standard of a White Australia…. It was devised for economic and sound humane reasons. It was not challenged for 40 years. We intend to keep it because we know it to be desirable.’

Gough Whitlam’s statements are not as directly analogous. After all, Australia’s discriminatory immigration policy had already been abolished for six years by the time he became prime minister.

However, his position on the south Vietnamese was arguably as appalling. When Saigon fell in April 1975, Whitlam overruled his Foreign Minister’s willingness to admit significant numbers of South Vietnamese refugees, famously telling Foreign Minister Willesee that he didn’t want an influx of ‘f-cking Vietnamese Balts’.

No Labor figure today tries to justify Whitlam’s position. Because it can’t be justified. But if cancel culture activists on campuses are consistent, then surely Curtin University and the Whitlam Institute are also targets for renaming?

Chris Watson, Labor’s first prime minister, was also amongst the Labor luminaries who supported racist policies. In fact, while many unions and Labor people at the time were against non-European immigration for industrial reasons – fearing an undercutting of wages – Chris Watson made it clear that racial impurity was his primary concern, stating, ‘The objection I have to the mixing of these coloured people with the white people of Australia… lies in the main with the possibility and probability of racial contamination.’

Should Watson also be cancelled? Watson doesn’t have a university named after him, but there is a federal electorate and Canberra suburb named in his honour – just like Deakin. Should they be renamed? Tony Burke, who holds the seat of Watson doesn’t think so. Nor does Anthony Albanese who, in his 2015 ‘Light on the Hill’ address, praised Chris Watson as a ‘great leader’ whose record speaks to ‘our [Labor] ideals’.

The truth is that no person in the past would withstand the scrutiny of everything they said if they are judged from today’s moral values. No political leader from the earlier days of Australia’s modern history. And what about the past family members of the activists? Even their own grandparents?

So how should we judge people like Deakin and Watson?

We certainly shouldn’t let left-wing activists be the moral arbiters. Rather, we should assess them in their historical context. This means being honest about our past – the good and the bad.




Sunday, September 24, 2023

The Surge of Populism -- and Nationalism

Michael Barone is a respected conservative commentator but he has missed the point below. Trump is popular but that does not make him a populist. Populists are generally poorly informed, not graduates of the Wharton School. Nor is he a nationalist. Read Orwell for a very clear definition of nationalism.

Trump is simply an enthusiastic patriot. His love of America comes strongly through and endears him to masses of his fellow Americans. And his policies are in no need of new labels either. He is a conservative, very much so, but one with a take on economic issues that is both old and new -- but was also thoroughly conservative in practice. Read below for an understanding of that

Historical context below:

Perhaps in passing I should mention that noted British conservative philosopher Roger Scruton saw patriotism and conservatism as very closely allied

"Populist politicians and parties," writes the Ethics and Public Policy Center's Henry Olsen in The Spectator, are "rapidly gaining strength and power across the developed world." They're doing so despite the opposition and angry scorn of political and intellectual establishments of Left and Right and with a resilience that they find baffling.

Nothing exemplifies that resilience more than the current standing of Donald Trump's third presidential campaign. Trump didn't come close to a plurality, much less a majority, of the popular vote as the Republican nominee in 2016 and 2020; his conduct led to his party's loss of its House majority in 2018, and his endorsements of weak nominees cost it its Senate majority in 2022. Of course, despite his claims, he failed to win reelection in November 2020.

But there he sits, despite four indictments with 91 counts, polling 59% against multiple opponents in primary pairings and a 45%-45% tie against President Joe Biden, who led him 51%-47% in 2020.

As Olsen points out, Trump isn't the only politician often labeled as a populist who is doing well despite elite scorn. Italy's prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, comes from a party with roots in the fascist movement of Benito Mussolini. Though Mussolini has been dead for 78 years, that aroused more unease than the election of a former Communist to that post in 1998, just nine years after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Other populists doing well lately include Germany's Alternative fur Deutschland and Canadian Conservative party leader Pierre Poilievre, longtime Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and, back in 2019, former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

In different ways and to different extents, these populists abjure the market economics and interventionist foreign policies of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher and have been winning the votes without entirely endorsing the platforms of cultural conservatives.

The stock response of financial and corporate establishments has been to use any means to exclude such politicians from positions of power. In this country, that has included concocting and promoting the Russia collusion hoax rather than accepting Trump's election as legitimate and using intelligence officials to muscle social media to suppress news of the legitimate Hunter Biden scandal in 2020.

Now, the establishment may be throwing in the towel. In its most recent edition, the London-based Economist left off worrying about populists' supposed authoritarianism and conceded that "Europe is not about to be overrun by fascists, in a repeat of the 1930s."

"Rather than trying to exclude hard-right parties entirely from government and public debate," it went on, "the best response is for mainstream parties to engage with them, and on occasion to do deals with them. If they have to take some responsibility for actually governing, they may grow less radical."

Quite possibly, and quite possibly, some establishment folks may one day concede that some of their policies and presuppositions have not worked out well. Olsen cites "the blind faith elites had that the pursuit of wealth would transform China's Communist party," the "elite economic mismanagement" that caused the 2008 financial crash and today's inflation, and "elite insistence that traditional mores be disregarded," which has led to "culture wars." He might have added the overly stringent and scientifically unjustified COVID-19 lockdowns in this and other countries.

Some 30 years ago, in the late Irving Kristol's Public Interest Quarterly, I wrote an article in which I argued that democracies have had "four major types of political parties: religious, liberal, socialist, and nationalist." Some democracies over the preceding 160 and the intervening 30 years have fared better than others.

Religious parties in Europe have disappeared or changed character with the decline of religious belief. The Republican Party, for three decades since the 1980s, has had some of the character of a religious party, which has faded in the Trump years, while today's Democratic Party sometimes advocates with religious fervor the secular liberalism of an increasing number of its supporters. As I predicted in 1993, "parties will attack their opponents by calling them religious."

Liberal parties dedicated to 19th-century liberalism, free trade, market economics, religious toleration, and freedom succumbed in the 20th century to socialist parties closely allied with labor unions. Grover Cleveland's laissez-faire Democrats become Woodrow Wilson's statist Democrats. Britain's Liberal Party, with a 397-156 seat margin in 1906 and a front bench with two later wartime prime ministers, David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill, faded to third-party status as Labour elected a prime minister in 1924.

Anti-clerical liberal parties in Italy, Spain, and France "died from failure of nerve," as I wrote, failing to protect democracy against Mussolini, Franco, and Vichy. Socialist policies didn't work and were repudiated by Thatcher and Reagan -- and Tony Blair and Bill Clinton.

The democratic parties with staying power have been nationalist parties -- "not the nationalism of Hitler, of course," as I wrote in 1993, but the "nationalism that is open to various economic programs and compatible with cultural toleration." Olsen identifies "national solidarity" as the guiding principle of populist voters, who favor "the particular over the global, the communal over the individual, and the traditional over the novel."

"The United States may be entering a happy period," I wrote in 1993, "where it has two nationalist parties, with differing positions on important cultural and economic issues, but a fundamentally favorable outlook toward American nationalism, a condition we have not enjoyed since the mid-1960s."

Those hopes have been disappointed, most recently by the personal shortcomings of Donald Trump and Joe Biden, by the refusal of Trump's opponents to accept the legitimacy of his victory in 2016 -- and by his refusal to accept the legitimacy of theirs in 2020. It's looking like they will be disappointed for some time to come.


The Cuban horror

“I want to recognize everyone in the audience who has their own painful but important story to tell about the true and brutal nature of the Castro regime,” remarked President Donald Trump during a speech in Miami’s Little Havana on June 16, 2017. "And we want to thank you all for being a voice for the voiceless...."

“Many of you witnessed terrible crimes committed in service of a depraved ideology," continued Trump's remarks, announcing his Cuba policy. "You saw the dreams of generations held captive, you saw what communism has done. You knew faces that disappeared, innocents locked in prisons, and believers persecuted for preaching the word of God. You watched the Women in White bruised, bloodied, and captured on their way from Mass. You have heard the chilling cries of loved ones, or the cracks of firing squads piercing through the ocean breeze. Not a good sound.

“Among the courageous Cuban dissidents with us onstage here today are Cary Roque, who was imprisoned by the Castro regime….She looks awfully good," he added.

“Mr. President, on behalf of the Cuban people, the people thank you, and we appreciate your love,” Roque responded.

“The Castro dictatorship may have taken 16 years of her life in a gulag, but they were never able to take her dignity," wrote Alberto de la Cruz at Babalu Blog. "The indomitable Cary Roque was an inspiration for the Cuban exile community and all women. She passed away in Miami on Wednesday (9/20) at the age of 82, but she leaves behind an incredible legacy of valor and perseverance that we would all do well to follow."

Not only was Caridad Roque a victim of The Left’s premier pin-up boys (Fidel Castro and Che Guevara) but she was also singled out for praise by President Donald Trump. Any more questions about the media black-out of her history, suffering and death?

On the other hand:

"She was an early b*llbuster, and I mean that in the nicest possible way. She rattled a lot of cages before women were even allowed into the zoo," said Katie Couric hailing Barbara Walters in Vanity Fair upon her passing on Dec. 30, 2022.

Some women living in the U.S. today (and with long experience in literal cages) strongly differ with Couric. Barbara Walters “interviewed” Fidel Castro in 1977 and again in 2002. But the famous ABC Wicked Witch who interrogated Nixon, Reagan and Bush – when confronted by Fidel Castro – morphed into Ann Margaret in front of Conrad Birdie. No hint of the famous ABC News dominatrix in Washington was evident in the smiley and goo-goo-eyed groupie in Havana.

Instead this famous “feminist” shamelessly stroked among the most brutal and insatiable male egos in modern history—and within walking distance of where hundreds of his female victims (including Cary Roque) languished in filthy, rat-infested and sweltering torture chambers.

When feminist icon Barbara Walters sat quivering alongside Fidel Castro in 1977 cooing that “Fidel Castro has brought very high literacy and great health-care to his country. His personal magnetism is powerful!” dozens of Cuban (genuine) feminists suffered in nearby torture chambers. From exile today many of them recall the horrors:

“They started by beating us with twisted coils of wire," recalls former political prisoner Ezperanza Pena from exile today. “I remember Teresita on the ground with all her lower ribs broken. Gladys had both her arms broken. Doris had her face cut up so badly from the beatings that when she tried to drink, water would pour out of her lacerated cheeks.”

“On Mother’s Day they allowed family visits,” recalls Manuela Calvo from exile today. "But as our mothers and sons and daughters were watching, we were beaten with rubber hoses and high-pressure hoses were turned on us, knocking all of us the ground floor and rolling us around as the guards laughed and our loved-ones screamed helplessly.”

“When female guards couldn’t handle us male guards were called in for more brutal beatings. I saw teenaged girls beaten savagely, their bones broken, their mouths bleeding,” recalled prisoner Polita Grau.

Fidel Castro’s regime, so “magnetic” to Barbara Walters, jailed and tortured 35,150 Cuban women for political crimes, a totalitarian horror utterly unknown—not only in Cuba—but in the modern history of the Western Hemisphere. Some of these Cuban ladies suffered twice as long in Castro’s Gulag as Alexander Solzhenitsyn suffered in Stalin’s.

Their prison conditions were described by former political prisoner Maritza Lugo: “The punishment cells measure 3 feet wide by 6 feet long. The toilet consists of an 8 inch hole in the ground through which cockroaches and rats enter, especially in cool temperatures the rat come inside to seek the warmth of our bodies and we were often bitten. The suicide rate among women prisoners was very high.”

“Only minutes after my arrival at the Hotel Riviera in Havana, I was told to be in his (Fidel Castro’s) office within 15 minutes,” wrote Barbara Walters about her first interview with Fidel Castro in May 1977. “There I found a very courtly, somewhat portly Fidel Castro. He apologized for mak­ing me wait for two years and said that now he wanted to cooperate…On Wednesday, Castro himself came to our hotel to pick us up…Then, driving a Russian-made jeep, he took us to the Bay of Pigs, where we boarded an armed patrol boat. We thus became, according to Castro, the first Americans to cross the Bay of Pigs since the U.S.-supported invasion there in 1961.”

Barbara Walters’ crossing of the Bay of Pigs was probably more than a historical sight-seeing junket. On the other side and near the mouth of the bay sits Castro’s personal island-resort Cayo Piedra, that houses his luxurious get-away chateau. According to defectors, when younger, Fidel Castro often repaired to this remote but luxurious villa for spearfishing among other recreational pursuits.

Juan Reynaldo Sanchez, a Lt. Col. in Cuba’s Armed Forces who spent 17 years as Fidel Castro’s bodyguard/valet, had just been promoted to the position when Barbara Walters visited Cuba for her first interview with the Stalinist dictator in May 1977. Sanchez defected to the U.S. in 2008 and explained to this writer how he was part of the Castroite entourage that accompanied Ms Walters and Fidel to the latter’s island chateau. Ms Walters does mention that:

“We stopped at a little island for a picnic lunch of grilled fish and pineapple. During which Castro swapped fish stories with the ABC crew. It was here that we taped our first but brief and candid interview with him.”

Argentinian journalist Juan Gasparini in his Spanish language book Mujeres de Dictadores (Women of Dictators) writes that, “It is widely supposed that Fidel Castro had several amorous adventures with the North American reporter Barbara Walters who twice visited Cuba to interview him. It is alleged that she later visited Cuba more discretely for private visits. According to The Hollywood Reporter, "Walters has admitted to developing an attraction to the Cuban leader while boating with him on assignment in 1977, but she denies things got physical."

When Castro’s torturers were transferring his female prisoners from cell to cell while Barbara Walters visited Castro’s Bay of Pigs’ “Love Shack,” the guards were forced to drag many of these Cuban women around like dead animals. They were simply incapable of walking. The constant beatings had incapacitated many of them. The excrement and menstrual fluid caked to their legs and bare feet made it more difficult still. Some of the cells called “Tapiadas,” were barely big enough to stand and walk in and were completely sealed except for a few tiny air holes. The women were confined completely underground in total darkness and suffocating heat for weeks at a time. These were tombs by any other name, except that their occupants were still alive, if barely and if only by ultra-human perseverance.

In marked contrast to Cary Roque’s horrific ordeal in Castroite prisons, the celebrated Nobel Peace Price winner Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar has served a total of 15 years under house arrest. The late celebrated human rights activist Elena Bonner of the Soviet era served a total of 5 years of internal exile.

So you’ll please excuse these Cuban ladies (most of them U.S. citizens today) if they regard the “struggles” of Betty Freidan, Gloria Steinem – and yes, the “b*llbusting” by Barbara Walters – as a trifle overblown.


Police drop charges against British woman for silently praying outside an abortion clinic

After a six-month investigation, police in England have decided not to bring charges against a woman for silently praying outside an abortion clinic.

Police also issued an apology to Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, the director of the UK March for Life, for the length of time it took to reach the decision not to prosecute her for silent prayer. In March, the charity volunteer was arrested after she told police she "might" be praying silently when they asked why she was standing on a public street near an abortion facility.

The abortion clinic was in a so-called "buffer zone," which was introduced by local authorities via a "Public Spaces Protection Order" and bans activities, such as prayer, that are considered a protest against abortion.

Vaughan-Spruce said in a statement upon receiving the apology from police that she never should have been arrested or investigated for the thoughts she held in her own mind because "this isn’t 1984, but 2023."

"Silent prayer is never criminal," she said. "I welcome West Midland Police’s decision to end their investigation and their apology for the time it took to do so, but it’s important to highlight the extremely harmful implications of this ordeal not just for myself, but for everyone concerned with fundamental freedoms in the UK."

"What happened to me signals to others that they too could face arrest, interrogation, investigation, and potential prosecution if caught exercising their basic freedom of thought," she added.

Vaughan-Spruce is currently considering options to pursue redress for her treatment by police with support from Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) UK, which has been supporting her legal defense.

"Now that authorities have twice settled on the conclusion that silent prayer is not a crime – a conclusion also reached by the Home Secretary last week – I am thankful to resume my practice of praying silently for women in crisis pregnancies," Vaughan-Spruce said.

Jeremiah Igunnubole, legal counsel for ADF UK, said in a statement to FOX News Digital that in a democracy, speech and thought must be protected, not criminalized.

"We welcome the decision of the police to drop this investigation and apologise to Isabel for the length of her ordeal, but the fact remains - by arresting innocent people for the thoughts in their head, the UK has put the world on notice that fundamental freedoms are not robustly protected in our country," he said.

Parliamentarians in the UK are considering legislation to introduce similar censorship zones in other parts of England and Wales. The Public Order Act, which passed through Parliament in May 2023, would prohibit "influence" in an area of 150m around abortion facilities, but free speech advocates have raised concerns that its vague terminology will lead to criminalization of peaceful conversations, leafleting and prayer.

"There is now an urgent need for the UK government to address ideological policing by robustly protecting freedom of speech and thought and consistently applying the rule of law," Igunnubole said in his statement. "At a time when confidence in policing is at an all time low, it is crucial that police officers remember that they exist to protect citizens from crime, not to victimise law-abiding citizens for peacefully holding and expressing a diverse range of views."

"ADF UK are proud to have supported Isabel's legal defense," he added. "We are considering all options to pursue legal redress for Isabel's treatment at the hands of the police."


Newsom gets one right

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, vetoed a bill late Friday night that would have required judges in child custody cases to consider whether a parent has affirmed their child's gender identity.

AB 957 originally proposed that courts deciding custody cases must consider whether each parent affirmed the child's gender identity. An amendment in June added a parent's affirmation of their child's gender identity to the state's standard of what constitutes parental responsibility in a court of law for providing for "the health, safety, and welfare of the child."

The bill was passed earlier this month by the state assembly, and was sent to the governor's desk for his signature. But Newsom said in a statement released Friday night that he cannot sign the legislation.

The governor said he appreciates the "passion and values" that led Democrat Assemblywoman Lori Wilson to introduce the bill and that he shares a "deep commitment to advancing the rights of transgender Californians, an effort that has guided my decisions through many decades in public office."

"That said, I urge caution when the Executive and Legislative branches of state government attempt to dictate -in prescriptive terms that single out one characteristic -legal standards for the Judicial branch to apply," Newsom wrote. "Other-minded elected officials, in California and other states, could very well use this strategy to diminish the civil rights of vulnerable communities."

"Moreover, a court, under existing law, is required to consider a child's health, safety, and welfare when determining the best interests of a child in these proceedings, including the parent's affirmation of the child's gender identity," he added.

When parents divorce and cannot agree on child custody, judges will determine custody based on a variety of factors.

Under AB 957, gender affirmation would have been one of the several factors for judges to consider in custody cases. Wilson, who coauthored the bill along with Democrat state Sen. Scott Wiener, has said the bill would not have required parents to move forward with gender transition medical treatment.

"I am extremely disappointed. I know the Governor's record. He's been a champion for the LGBTQ+ community for years and even before it was popular to do so," Wilson said in a statement after the governor's veto on Friday. "However, on this point, the Governor and I disagree on the best way to protect [Transgender, Gender-Diverse and Intersex] kids."


Senator Bob Menendez, his 'consultant' wife and kilos of gold: The Egyptian bribery claim that's hit US congress

It's an old saying that the weakness of Leftist politicians is for money while the weakness of conservative politicians is for women. Gold versus "girlfriends"

By the time FBI agents showed up at the New Jersey home of Bob Menendez last year, the US senator and his wife had allegedly been taking bribes for years.

According to court documents unsealed in New York overnight, the agents found hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of evidence to back their suspicions.

The documents accuse Senator Menendez and his wife Nadine of accepting the bribes in exchange for, among other things, providing sensitive information to benefit the Egyptian government.

The 69-year-old, who chairs the Senate's foreign relations committee, is also accused of using his position to try to "protect and enrich" a trio of Egyptian-American businessmen – Wael Hana, Jose Uribe and Fred Daibes.

"The FBI found many of the fruits of this bribery scheme, including cash, gold, [a] luxury convertible, and home furnishings," the US Attorney's Office for New York's Southern District said today.

During the June 2022 search, more than $US480,000 ($745,000) in cash was found stuffed into envelopes and hidden in clothing, closets and a safe in the home, and another $US70,000 cash in Nadine Menendez's safe deposit box.

Some of the envelopes were found inside jackets emblazoned with Senator Menendez's name, hanging in his cupboard, and others had the fingerprints or DNA of Mr Daibes.

There was more than $US100,000 worth of gold bars in the house.

FBI agents also found home furnishings and a luxury car parked in the garage – all allegedly provided by the three New Jersey businessmen who have also now been charged.

Mr and Ms Menendez are each charged with three criminal counts: conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud and conspiracy to commit extortion.

In a statement, Senator Menendez said prosecutors had mischaracterised routine legislative work.

"The excesses of these prosecutors is apparent," he said. "The facts are not as presented."

A lawyer for Nadine Menendez said she also denied any wrongdoing.

A trade in sensitive state information

Four years earlier, the powerful Democrat senator allegedly hosted a group in his Washington office. According to federal prosecutors, this was no ordinary meeting.

The sweeping corruption indictment alleges Egyptian military officials and Mr Hana were present. The businessman was a friend of Nadine Menendez. She was then Nadine Arslanian, and she had just started dating the senator.

The charging documents say she and Mr Hana arranged the meeting. It included discussions about foreign military financing to Egypt.

It did not include staff from Senator Menendez's office or the foreign relations committee.

Two months later, the senator and his girlfriend allegedly met with Mr Hana again.

According to prosecutors, that same day the senator asked the US State Department for some information. It wasn't classified but was highly sensitive due to security concerns.

He wanted to know the number and nationality of people serving at the US embassy in Egypt's capital, Cairo.

The next day, Senator Menendez allegedly texted the information to Ms Arslanian, who then forwarded it on to Mr Hana, who sent it to an Egyptian government official.

The same month, after dinner at a high-end restaurant with Senator Menendez, Mr Hana allegedly texted another Egyptian official with some more "non-public information".

This time, it was that a ban on sending small arms and ammunition to Egypt had been lifted. "That means sales can begin. That will include sniper rifles among other articles," said one of the texts.

The players

Bob Menendez, the senior US senator from New Jersey, is a lawyer who was elected to the seat in 2006.

He is perhaps best known in Australia as a prominent supporter of the AUKUS military alliance between Australia, the US and the UK.

He and Nadine Menendez married in October 2020. He had proposed with a performance of a song from The Greatest Showman outside the Taj Mahal while the couple were holidaying in India.

According to prosecutors, she was unemployed before she met Senator Menendez in a pancake restaurant and began dating him in February 2018.

For years beforehand, she'd been friends with the businessman Wael Hana, who operated a halal certification company.

Jose Uribe, a business associate of Mr Hana's, worked in trucking and insurance after previously being convicted of fraud and having his insurance broker's licence revoked.

He's accused of giving Ms Menendez a Mercedes-Benz convertible, in exchange for her husband's efforts to influence a criminal insurance fraud investigation targeting one of Mr Uribe's associates.

Ms Menendez later allegedly texted her husband: "Congratulations mon amour de la vie, we are the proud owners of a 2019 Mercedes"

The fifth defendant, Fred Daibes, is a real estate developer and long-time fundraiser for Senator Menendez.

Prosecutors say Senator Menendez agreed to try to influence a pending federal prosecution of Mr Daibes, including by recommending the US president nominate a candidate for US attorney that Senator Menendez believed could be influenced.

The 'corrupt agreement'

Prosecutors allege Nadine Arslanian and Wael Hana worked for years to introduce Egyptian military and intelligence officials to the senator, in order to establish "a corrupt agreement".

It meant receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of bribes in exchange for "acts and breaches of duty" to benefit the government of Egypt and Mr Hana himself, and others.

The first alleged bribe was a 2018 promise to put Ms Arslanian on the payroll of Mr Hana's company in a "low- or no-show" job.

In exchange, the couple allegedly promised Senator Menendez would use his authority to facilitate military sales and financing to Egypt.

The alleged meeting in Senator Menendez's Senate office occurred a few months later.

Around the same time, Ms Arslanian allegedly passed on a request from an Egyptian official. The official wanted Senator Menendez's help to draft and edit a letter lobbying US senators to support American aid to Egypt.

According to the charges, Senator Menendez "secretly edited and ghost-wrote the requested letter … seeking to convince other US senators to release a hold on $US300 million in aid to Egypt". He then sent it to his girlfriend from his personal email account, and then deleted it.

A meat monopoly pushes up prices

The following year, Mr Hana's company was granted an exclusive monopoly on the certification of US food exports to Eygpt. That's despite neither Mr Hana nor his company having any experience with halal certification, and the company making "little to no revenue" between 2018 and early 2019, according to the indictment.

"The monopoly … advanced the scheme by, among other things, providing a revenue stream from which Wael Hanna could make good on the bribe payments he had promised," the indictment said.

"The monopoly also resulted in increased costs for various US meat suppliers and others."

After the Department of Agriculture raised concerns about the monopoly with the Egyptian government, Senator Menendez allegedly called a high-level official to insist the department drop its opposition.