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Saturday, June 27, 2020

Europe’s Virtues Will Be Its Undoing

Europe’s Virtues Will Be Its Undoing

"We often forget that contemporary Europe was not born, as the United States was, in the euphoria of new beginnings, but in a sinking sense of its own abjection. The crimes of the Nazis affected the entire Old World, like a cancer that had long been growing inside it. Thus, the European victors over the Third Reich were contaminated by the enemy they had helped defeat, in contrast to the Americans and Soviets, who emerged from the conflict crowned in glory. Ever since, all of Europe—the East as well as the West—has carried the burden of Nazi guilt, as others would have us bear the guilt of North American slavery and Jim Crow. It has left us sullied to the very depths of our culture. Isn’t this what the Martinique poet Aimé Césaire contends when he de-Germanizes Hitler and makes him the very metaphor of the white man in general?...

The amazing thing is not that such masochistic theories should flourish, but that they are applauded by so many elites. For a few decades, the Cold War delayed the West’s self-examination, but since 1989 and the inclusion of ex-Soviet bloc countries into a widening European Union, the crisis of conscience has only deepened, and has partially, if not completely, guided political thought. Having scaled unprecedented peaks of barbarity, the Europe of Brussels has decided to redeem itself by privileging moral values over realpolitik... Western Europeans dislike themselves. They are unable to overcome their self-disgust and feel the pride in their heritage and the self-respect that is so strikingly evident in the United States. Modern Europe is instead mired in shame shrouded in moralizing discourse. It has convinced itself that, since all the evils of the twentieth century arose from its feverish bellicosity, it’s about time it redeemed itself and sought something like a reawakened sense of the sacred in its guilty conscience.

What better example of this proclivity exists than Angela Merkel’s embrace of about a million refugees fleeing war-torn Syria in 2015?... Already pre-eminent in Europe, Berlin would call the shots, whether exercising toughness or kindness. Merciless with the Greeks in July, when the Chancellery wanted to eject them from the eurozone, but beneficent with the Syrians in September, it could demonstrate severity or an ever so imperial charity...

Europe sees itself as a sacrificial offering, through which the entire world can expiate its sins. It offers to assume the shame for every misfortune that befalls the planet: famine in Africa, drowning in the Mediterranean, terrorism, natural disasters, they are all directly or indirectly our handiwork. And when we are attacked—by terrorists, for example—it’s still our fault; we had it coming and are undeserving of compassion... Two areas in particular reveal this delusion of sanctity—immigration and ecology.

When it comes to mass migrations, no one seems surprised that “migrants”—a vague all-purpose term—choose to journey exclusively to Western Europe rather than to the Maghreb, the Mashriq, the Gulf States, or Russia. That is because, like everyone else, they know that only in Europe will they find a sense of exacerbated culpability; it’s pretty much assured that they will be able to arrive on its shores, preferably under the gaze of the media, confident of being taken in, or at least listened to...

At a practical level, hospitality cannot be granted as a simple offering to the detriment of national sovereignty. The fear, not of the foreigner, but of the stranger in one’s home, of not being protected by the state, the fear of cultural insecurity and expropriation—these are not reactionary fantasies. How can the welfare state, already overstretched, cope with the costs of retirement benefits and medical care if it must also cater to the needs of new arrivals? In former times, such an influx would have been called an invasion, an occupation, colonization. Today, such pejoratives are forbidden. From now on, it is simply a matter of love and listening and radiant outwardness instead of ugly inwardness. But we are forgetting a simple truism: were it a matter of just a few thousand people, one’s duty to help would be clear. But when we talk about tens or hundreds of thousands, even millions, priorities necessarily shift—where there are overwhelming numbers, morale collapses...

Nobel laureate Jean Marie le Clézio denounced the French Republic’s president’s “unbearable lack of human decency” for wanting to distinguish between economic migrants and political refugees. When we know that a majority of those seeking asylum come from Georgia and Albania, however, this is hardly a trivial distinction... Immigration, he writes, strengthens us and enriches us. But this trope of enrichment is peculiar. It suggests that, if left to our own devices, we would be poor indeed, lacking the necessary ingredients for prosperity.

Let us remember that, since 2015, Europe has rescued 730,000 migrants from the Mediterranean. But this fact meets the immediate objection that thousands of others drowned there. In this way, our generosity is turned against us. For having accepted the challenge of migration we have become accountable for every individual who has died at sea. In a strange twist, those who rescue people from the waves have become the executioners...

Today, the migrant has replaced the proletarian and the guerrilla warrior as the new hero of contemporary victimology. He is both the epitome of oppression and the source of our salvation. Every other consideration must fall before him. One isn’t allowed to have one’s own thoughts or entertain any doubts about him, because his wretched condition demands only charity. In the same way that a “racialized” person can never be a racist, the idea that someone wanting to leave his own country to come to Europe could be duplicitous, or lie about his identity or intentions, amounts to a thought crime. Deprecating the European goes hand in hand with idealizing the foreigner, who embodies all virtue. He is at once the persecuted and the redeemer who’s come to shock us out of our comfort and complacency.

Our only duty toward the refugee is to play the solicitous host, the zealous concierge, so that he may save us from ourselves and our shrinking demographics. Without him we’d be vegetating in a retirement home, or like the paralyzed old man pushed about in his wheelchair by a congenial black man in the 2011 hit movie Les Intouchables. Thus, the great nations of Europe have no other purpose than to serve as welcome centers and public lobbies for the world’s unfortunate. Take a look at the 10, 20, and 50 euro bank notes; they all feature arches, bridges, and empty public spaces waiting to be populated by citizens of the world. As Paul Yonnet pointed out in 2006, we want to make immigration the vector of our regeneration; France must become a collaborator in its own transformation...

This movement, we are told, is irreversible. Migrations cannot be stopped. They are written into humanity’s DNA, as stipulated in the Marrakesh Pact, a worldwide agreement on safe migrations signed by 160 countries on December 10, 2018. This document considers migration to be inevitable and beneficial....

According to Novosellof, walls only exist in our imagination, and the states that want to protect themselves behind them will be left more isolated than the people kept outside. What an odd idea: closing the door to one’s home means incarcerating oneself in it!

This is Otherness taken to an extreme. In this way, newcomers are able to dictate European behavior... The more religious practice recedes, the more we abandon ourselves to a kind of goodwill that is as ardent as it is wrong-headed. Chesterton was right: “This modern world is full of old Christian ideas gone mad.” And here we are, since 2013, having adopted the notion of the migrant as Christ figure. We might call this strange mix of passivity and piety altruistic fatalism. Since we can’t stop the influx of migrants, we must enthusiastically embrace them...

To welcome foreigners must we become foreigners in our own home? According to the novelist Marie Darieussecq, yes, we must...

One’s home no longer exists, my home is your home. Just like during the colonial period, the new global individual belongs on no particular soil. We have to dismantle and rebuild our society as if it were a Lego set. The old white European’s hegemony must give way to the richness of diversity. Migrant and minority identity is always positive, and that of the old nations always regressive. It’s not surprising that the people of Europe are unenthused by the reformers’ plans and fairy tales. They have forgotten the basic fact that an offer creates demand. The porousness of our borders, the constant stream of people traffickers, the haste of some rescuers to become service providers and create, via phone signals bouncing off satellites, an “uber-migration” (Stephen Smith)—all of these factors incentivize migration more than poverty or war...

Pulling on heart strings before the cameras is the celebrity’s favorite pastime. What happens to those saved from the sea receives less attention as they grapple with the substantial challenges of assimilating into strange societies, vulnerable to the predatory attention of smugglers, organized crime, and the exploiters of cheap labour. The zenith of goodness risks being transformed into a nadir of indifference when no thought is given to what will become of the survivors.

Let’s not confuse hospitality with world weariness, even when it is dressed up in cheap lyricism. The immigrant, the refugee, is now merely a stick with which we beat ourselves...

In 2018, for example, the human rights defender Jacques Toubon vituperated in Le Monde against the desire of the government to “control migratory movements.” According to him, we’d do better to “create pathways for migrants,” even though there are already legal procedures in place that grant French citizenship to between 100,000 and 200,000 people a year...

To every problem we encounter, we feel a need to offer the most unyielding solution, and then we torment ourselves when we don’t succeed. Another example of this moral maximalism is what we now call the climate emergency...

Ecology, in the sense of legitimate concern about animal suffering and the waste products of progress, has mutated into a doctrine of the Apocalypse. In concrete terms this means that the generations to come have only two options: either widespread death in the near future or the halting of economic growth through some outbreak of unforeseen frugality. This cataclysmic discourse is, however, based on a paradox: the claim that enterprise is in vain, only helps to discourage it. What good does it do to mobilize, to clean our rivers and oceans and lakes, to plant trees and decarbonize the economy, if we are doomed? This doctrine of despair does less to mobilize our conscience than to thoroughly demoralize us.

Those who speak in the name of the planet seek to oppress... Hans Jonas, the spiritual father of German ecologists, explained in his 1979 book, The Imperative of Responsibility, that for industry the party was now over. He called for a hermeneutics of fear, as the only means of jolting us into an acknowledgement of the dangers involved. His advice has been widely heeded. There isn’t a single green movement leader today who isn’t noisily beating the panic drum. We must doubt everything but the worst; we must sweep away all our immediate concerns and face the abominable future ahead of us.

We know the solutions proposed by these prophets of doom... With a straight face, the former green deputy Yves Cochet even proposed bringing back the horse-drawn coaches & ploughs of yesteryear, reducing travel distances, and putting an immediate stop to procreating so as to reduce humanity’s interference with the natural environment. And it goes without saying that we must abandon all fossil fuels—gas, coal, petrol—as well as nuclear energy in favor of renewables. We must voluntarily become poorer, divide our standard of living by 10, and choose a life-saving asceticism over the comfortable indecency of our present lifestyles. Cleverly, the doomsayers locate the end of the world between 2020 and 2030. It’s close enough to terrify us but still far enough away to escape verification. The high priests of disaster don’t want to save the human race as much as they want to punish it. They are calling for the destruction they pretend to fear: humankind—and the European, in particular—is guilty and must pay.

We must be permanently mobilized in the manner of a totalitarian regime to resist this scourge... For the adherents of this way of doing things, there are no actual material stumbling blocks, only enemies and the malevolence of shadowy lobbyists. This blackmail by countdown is furiously topsy-turvy: no achievement is ever enough, the only important thing is what remains undone because time is running out before the punishment of cataclysm befalls us all. We must change our way of life overnight and tolerate no exceptions.

Colonel Louis Rivet was the head of French military intelligence, who tried in vain to alert the military brass to the Germans’ plan to launch a springtime attack in the Ardennes. In a June 1940 letter to his wife, he wrote: “We weren’t defeated, we commit suicide.”...

The European elites, bunkered down in their visions of utopia, have convinced themselves that we must abandon our history... By choosing conscience over power, the Old World risks losing both. It will not only suffer denunciation, it will also succumb to fragility. It will continue to fall short of its moral ideals, but it will be too weak to achieve its lofty ambitions...

Elites wanted to strip Europe’s nations of their particularity and transform the continent into a merely legal entity. But a nation is more than just a contract that haphazardly brings together interchangeable entities. Peoples have strong memories, solid traditions, and they are rising up against Europe in the name of their flouted sovereignty...

It is an inviolable rule that moralists don’t practice what they preach. Open-handed promises are broken as soon as they are made. Tartuffe reigns supreme in this domain. Chaste believers trample on their faith, the friends of the indigent cry crocodile tears, the court disobeys the law it enforces. History is full of preachers and zealots who are caught redhanded after they’ve sworn to live according to their pure principles. As for the celebrities, those paragons of virtue who call upon the people to tighten their ecological belt—they jet themselves around the globe increasing carbon emissions thousands of times more than the average citizen. But, of course, they make up for this by their posturing of living the simple life, like Prince Harry delivering a climate-change speech barefoot, or Greta Thunberg crossing the Atlantic on a luxury sailboat, a journey that will produce four times the emissions of an ordinary flight.

In the same way, the theatrical confrontation between Matteo Salvini and Emmanuel Macron showed that, except for perhaps a slight difference in tone, there is very little to distinguish between the former’s migration policy and the latter’s, for which Macron was vigorously criticized by the NGOs. When a moral imperative takes precedence over any political solution it is even more difficult for a nation or a continent to deal with than for an individual. Without compromise, virtue quickly becomes a nasty behavioral tick, a self-abnegating exhibitionism. The more a democratic entity shows itself to be open and tolerant, the more its enemies refer to it as fascistic and dictatorial. If Europe refuses to countenance the use of force in any of its forms—the military, a common foreign policy—it renounces its own existence. Unless it wants to sink into insignificance, it must stop extending itself ad infinitum; it must live with clear borders. It must become a credible “sheriff,” that can inspire fear when it needs to.

It should be pointed out that since Europe was rebuilt in 1945, it has been the receptacle of all the chimeras of modernity: the late Roman Catholic priest Raymond Pannikar called upon Europe to do its part, for example, to de-occidentalize the world. George Steiner demanded it rediscover the poverty and austerity from which its culture was created. For Jeremy Rifkin, it must favor being over having, unlike the United States. It must create the reign of the spirit (Gianni Vatimo) and become the world’s hostage (Pope Francis). But this bombast and misty-eyed lyricism, as generalized as it is generous, requires us to sacrifice political practicality. We float in an ether of marvels when we lose a sense of the possible. We prefer to dwell in that paradise instead of admitting that democracy is made up of cacophony and tension, as Raymond Aron observed. Democratic governance is conducted in prose, not in poetry. Europe cannot turn itself into a charity. Unless it wants to disappear once and for all, it cannot, like the Catholic Church, seek political guidance from the gospels (which not even Rome itself can manage to follow). Either it becomes a convincing world player alongside the others (USA, China, India, Russia, Brazil), and forges a new balance between power and human rights, or it will be dismembered by hungry predators waiting to devour it piece by piece...

America may one day succumb to its vices of violence, inequality, and segregation. But it is sustained by religion and patriotism, which bolster it despite its divisions. Unless Europe changes course, it will die of its virtues. Its discourse of guilt has metastasized into one of self-annihilation. When a section of the ruling class abandons its responsibilities, the commonweal itself is attacked, and moral perfectionism becomes another name for abdication. Only mortally wounded civilizations can be destroyed. How can the Old World be resuscitated if it wants to disappear? Perhaps we must await a new generation to emerge to staunch our desire for self-destruction and save us from sleepwalking into oblivion as mystical penitents."

Friday, June 26, 2020

Links - 26th June 2020 (Apocalyptic Thinking)

Apocalyptic thinking in the age of Trump - "It’s almost as if being called the Antichrist is a compliment — it means you are a powerful man. Whether done in jest or not, describing Trump in apocalyptic terms is, in the end, about setting boundaries. When we call Trump “the Antichrist,” we transform his election into an event that’s comfortably out of our control but one that can also serve as a rallying point. “Belief in the Antichrist has fostered group loyalty by dramatizing the satanic nature of every enemy facing the faithful community”"

Apocalypse Not: Here's Why You Shouldn't Worry About End Times | WIRED - "When the sun rises on December 22, as it surely will, do not expect apologies or even a rethink. No matter how often apocalyptic predictions fail to come true, another one soon arrives. And the prophets of apocalypse always draw a following—from the 100,000 Millerites who took to the hills in 1843, awaiting the end of the world, to the thousands who believed in Harold Camping, the Christian radio broadcaster who forecast the final rapture in both 1994 and 2011.Religious zealots hardly have a monopoly on apocalyptic thinking. Consider some of the environmental cataclysms that so many experts promised were inevitable... Predictions of global famine and the end of oil in the 1970s proved just as wrong as end-of-the-world forecasts from millennialist priests. Yet there is no sign that experts are becoming more cautious about apocalyptic promises. If anything, the rhetoric has ramped up in recent years. Echoing the Mayan calendar folk, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved its Doomsday Clock one minute closer to midnight at the start of 2012, commenting: "The global community may be near a point of no return in efforts to prevent catastrophe from changes in Earth's atmosphere." Over the five decades since the success of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring in 1962 and the four decades since the success of the Club of Rome's The Limits to Growth in 1972, prophecies of doom on a colossal scale have become routine. Indeed, we seem to crave ever-more-frightening predictions—we are now, in writer Gary Alexander's word, apocaholic. The past half century has brought us warnings of population explosions, global famines, plagues, water wars, oil exhaustion, mineral shortages, falling sperm counts, thinning ozone, acidifying rain, nuclear winters, Y2K bugs, mad cow epidemics, killer bees, sex-change fish, cell-phone-induced brain-cancer epidemics, and climate catastrophes. So far all of these specters have turned out to be exaggerated... The classic apocalypse has four horsemen, and our modern version follows that pattern, with the four riders being chemicals (DDT, CFCs, acid rain), diseases (bird flu, swine flu, SARS, AIDS, Ebola, mad cow disease), people (population, famine), and resources (oil, metals)... Of all the cataclysmic threats to human civilization envisaged in the past 50 years, none has drawn such hyperbolic language as people themselves. "Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet," says Agent Smith in the film The Matrix. Such rhetoric echoes real-life activists like Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society: "We need to radically and intelligently reduce human populations to fewer than one billion ... Curing a body of cancer requires radical and invasive therapy, and therefore, curing the biosphere of the human virus will also require a radical and invasive approach... The lesson of failed past predictions of ecological apocalypse is not that nothing was happening but that the middle-ground possibilities were too frequently excluded from consideration. In the climate debate, we hear a lot from those who think disaster is inexorable if not inevitable, and a lot from those who think it is all a hoax. We hardly ever allow the moderate "lukewarmers" a voice: those who suspect that the net positive feedbacks from water vapor in the atmosphere are low, so that we face only 1 to 2 degrees Celsius of warming this century; that the Greenland ice sheet may melt but no faster than its current rate of less than 1 percent per century; that net increases in rainfall (and carbon dioxide concentration) may improve agricultural productivity; that ecosystems have survived sudden temperature lurches before; and that adaptation to gradual change may be both cheaper and less ecologically damaging than a rapid and brutal decision to give up fossil fuels cold turkey."
"This time, it's different" doesn't just apply to financial crises

The end is always nigh in the human mind - "The latest incarnation of the destruction-redemption myth is brought to you by numerological number-cruncher and evangelical Christian radio host Harold Camping. Originally predicted to unfold on 21 May, the rapture has now been postponed until October after a no-show. It is easy to mock, but such apocalyptic scenarios are not the exclusive property of religion. Secular end of days may be found in Karl Marx’s end of capitalism and Francis Fukuyama’s end of history, along with scientistic doomsdays brought about by global warming, ice ages, solar flares, rogue planets, black holes, cosmic collisions, supervolcanoes, overpopulation, pollution, nuclear winter, genetically engineered viruses, the grey goo of runaway nanotechnology – and let’s not forget Y2K, the millennium bug. In 2004, UK Astronomer Royal Martin Rees put our chances of surviving the 21st century at 50 per cent. Stephen Hawking famously warned humanity that contact with aliens could result in our enslavement or extinction.Like Camping’s rapture, many of these prognostications have failed to unfold. Given that there can only be one apocalypse, most of the others will too.Why, then, do we find the basic narrative so appealing? What is the underlying psychology behind apocalyptic prophecies, both religious and secular? The answer lies in the emotional and cognitive processes of our brains.Emotionally, the end of the world is actually a renewal, a transition to a new beginning and a better life to come. In religious narratives, God smites sinners and resurrects the virtuous. For secularists, the sins of humanity are atoned through a change in our political, economic or ideological system. Environmental prognostications of calamity are usually followed with reproaches and recommendations for how we can save the planet. Marxists projected communism as the liberating climax of a multistage process that requires the collapse of capitalism. Proponents of liberal democracy proclaimed the end of history when the cold war was won by democracy and liberty.Most recently, the US Tea Party’s messiah is John Galt... Cognitively, there are several processes at work, starting with the fact that our brains are pattern-seeking belief engines... Apocalypse thinking is a form of pattern-seeking based on our cognitive percepts of time passing... Apocalyptic visions also help us make sense of an often seemingly senseless world. In the face of confusion and annihilation we need restitution and reassurance. We want to feel that no matter how chaotic, oppressive or evil the world is, all will be made right in the end. The apocalypse as history’s end is made acceptable with the belief that there will be a new beginning."
Most of the people who hyperventilate about how the coronavirus will kill us all seem to be different from those who were hyperventilating about how climate change would kill us all. Apocalyptic thinking manifests differently depending on one's pre-existing beliefs and dispositions. Of course there're also the environmentalists who gush gleefully about humanity's extinction - I suppose even if they or anyone related to them will not be able to see the new beginning, they take vicarious pleasure in the earth seeing it

Doomsday is (not) coming: The dangers of worrying about the apocalypse - "But apocalyptic thinking has serious downsides. One is that false alarms to catastrophic risks can themselves be catastrophic. The nuclear arms race of the 1960s, for example, was set off by fears of a mythical "missile gap" with the Soviet Union. The 2003 invasion of Iraq was justified by the uncertain but catastrophic possibility that Saddam Hussein was developing nuclear weapons and planning to use them against the United States. (As George W. Bush put it, "We cannot wait for the final proof – the smoking gun – that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.") And one of the reasons the great powers refuse to take the common-sense pledge that they won't be the first to use nuclear weapons is that they want to reserve the right to use them against other supposed existential threats such as bioterror and cyberattacks. Sowing fear about hypothetical disasters, far from safeguarding the future of humanity, can endanger it. A second hazard of enumerating doomsday scenarios is that humanity has a finite budget of resources, brainpower and anxiety. You can't worry about everything... And that leads to the greatest danger of all: that reasonable people will think, as a 2016 New York Times article put it, "These grim facts should lead any reasonable person to conclude that humanity is screwed." If humanity is screwed, why sacrifice anything to reduce potential risks? Why forgo the convenience of fossil fuels or exhort governments to rethink their nuclear weapons policies? Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die! A 2013 survey in four English-speaking countries showed that among the respondents who believe that our way of way of life will probably end in a century, a majority endorsed the statement, "The world's future looks grim so we have to focus on looking after ourselves and those we love." Few writers on technological risk give much thought to the cumulative psychological effects of the drumbeat of doom. As Elin Kelsey, an environmental communicator, points out, "We have media ratings to protect children from sex or violence in movies, but we think nothing of inviting a scientist into a second-grade classroom and telling the kids the planet is ruined. A quarter of [Australian] children are so troubled about the state of the world that they honestly believe it will come to an end before they get older." According to recent polls, so do 15 per cent of people worldwide, and between a quarter and a third of Americans. In The Progress Paradox, the journalist Gregg Easterbrook suggests that a major reason that Americans are not happier, despite their rising objective fortunes, is "collapse anxiety": the fear that civilization may implode and there's nothing anyone can do about it... Those who sow fear about a dreadful prophecy may be seen as serious and responsible, while those who are measured are seen as complacent and naive. Despair springs eternal... As author and academic Eric Zencey has observed, "There is seduction in apocalyptic thinking. If one lives in the Last Days, one's actions, one's very life, take on historical meaning and no small measure of poignance." Scientists and technologists are by no means immune. Remember the Y2K bug?... As a former assembly language programmer, I was skeptical of the doomsday scenarios, and fortuitously I was in New Zealand, the first country to welcome the new millennium, at the fateful moment. Sure enough, at 12 a.m. on Jan. 1, nothing happened (as I quickly reassured family members back home on a fully functioning telephone). The Y2K reprogrammers, like the elephant-repellent salesman, took credit for averting disaster, but many countries and small businesses had taken their chances without any Y2K preparation, and they had no problems, either... the techno-apocalyptic claim that ours is the first civilization that can destroy itself is misconceived. As Ozymandias reminded the traveller in Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem, most of the civilizations that have ever existed have been destroyed. Conventional history blames the destruction on external events such as plagues, conquests, earthquakes or weather. But the physicist David Deutsch points out those civilizations could have thwarted the fatal blows had they had better agricultural, medical or military technology"

How Apocalyptic Thinking Prevents Us from Taking Political Action - "sensationalist speculation attracts eyeballs and sells advertising, because fear sells -- and it can sell everything from pharmaceuticals to handguns to duct tape to insurance policies. "People react to fear, not love," Richard Nixon once said. "They don't teach that in Sunday school, but it's true." Nothing inspires fear like the end of the world, and ever since Y2K, the media's tendency toward overwrought speculation has been increasingly married to the rhetoric of apocalypse. Today, nearly any event can be explained through apocalyptic language, from birds falling out of the sky (the Birdocalypse?) to a major nor'easter (Snowmageddon!) to a double-dip recession (Barackalypse! Obamageddon!)... This over-reliance on the apocalyptic narrative causes us to fear the wrong things and to mistakenly equate potential future events with current and observable trends... The danger of the media's conflation of apocalyptic scenarios is that it leads us to believe that our existential threats come exclusively from events that are beyond our control and that await us in the future -- and that a moment of universal recognition of such threats will be obvious to everyone when they arrive"
Ironically the article also falls prey to apocalyptic thinking

Anthony Grafton on "Left Behind" and Apocalyptic Thinking | The New Republic - "By the early 1990s, in other words, the millennium was firmly established as a richly mutable object of historical research, one which rewarded study from many different points of view. Scholars realized that millennialists, in the west, were far too diverse to be characterized by simple formulas, and their goals and movements far too complex to be forced into a single analytical pigeonhole... Though our authors caution against simple explanations, all of them, in the end, resort to one: the desire for change, and hopeless discontent with the existing world... Humans, he points out, seem to have a propensity—one that appears in cultures and societies so disparate from one another, in time and in space, that it might even be natural—to look for an order in time. Time—or so humans wanted to believe for millennia, and many still do—is not a merely natural phenomenon. It embodies a deeper order. It has a direction—forwards or cyclical (or, more often, both at once). It is coded. And there is a key, which can take almost any form."

Apocalypse Not! How Science Is Distorted To Serve The Activist Agenda - "Take the Great Bee Hoax, for example. If you’re still relying on the mainstream and social media for your information, you probably believe that honeybee populations are crashing worldwide, that without bees to pollinate our crops we’ll all soon starve, and that we’re in this sorry state because evil pesticide companies are reaping huge profits and despoiling the environment, while crony regulators look the other way.At least, this is what Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer seems to believe. When the Agriculture Department recently suspended its annual census of U.S. honeybee hives due to budget cuts (a decision that was soon reversed), the Democratic senator from New York rose in high dudgeon claiming — what else? — collusion... the USDA’s beehive census has been one of the main sources of evidence that refutes alarmist claims of honeybee declines. According to the USDA count, honeybee populations, far from “plummeting,” have actually risen by about 150,000 hives in the last 20 years. Most foreign governments keep official counts of their bees, and bee populations are rising abroad, too... The Pseudo-Scientific Method was mobilized to create the “bee-pocalypse” narrative about honeybees over the past six years. An early, memorable landmark was the Time magazine cover story of Aug. 19, 2013, “A World Without Bees?” It shows the power of activists and a few rogue scientists, abetted by feckless magazine editors who uncritically parroted the latest alarmist studies’ claims without even bothering to check them against readily available facts... The scientists who glommed onto the “bee-pocalypse” narrative never bothered to go back and correct the record. As we’ll see in the next installment, they simply swapped out crises, jettisoning honeybees for claims that it was actually wild bees that were facing extinction, and then moving on to claims that all insect species will soon die out – because, of course, of neonicotinoid pesticides."

Why Computers Won't Takeover the World, with Steven Pinker - "I think that the arguments that once we have super intelligent computers and robots they will inevitably want to take over and do away with us comes from Prometheus and Pandora myths. It's based on confusing the idea of high intelligence with megalomaniacal goals. Now, I think it's a projection of alpha male's psychology onto the very concept of intelligence. Intelligence is the ability to solve problems, to achieve goals under uncertainty. It doesn't tell you what are those goals are. And there's no reason to think that just the concentrated analytic ability to solve goals is going to mean that one of those goals is going to be to subjugate humanity or to achieve unlimited power, it just so happens that the intelligence that we're most familiar with, namely ours, is a product of the Darwinian process of natural selection, which is an inherently competitive process."

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Links - 25th June 2020 (2) (China's 'Peaceful' Rise)

UK moves to drop Huawei as 5G vendor China transparency - "The US viewed Johnson’s decision on Huawei as a major blow to the “five eyes” electronic surveillance alliance among the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. US officials fear China could use Huawei to collect intelligence... White House coronavirus coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said at a recent press briefing that Chinese data in January led experts to believe the virus was less contagious, akin to the related virus SARS, leading to less concern among health officials."

Huawei development team mails an HKSP (Huawei Kernel Self Protection) Linux patch with a backdoor to Linux Foundation, Huawei denies involvement - "A perfect recipe for introducing backdoors in gadgets. Last week Huawei development team submitted a patch to the Linux Foundation with a ‘trivial vulnerability.’ When the vulnerability was discovered, Huawei, as always, denied its involvement in the patch and said that its employees may be responsible. Huawei is infamous for security relates issues. It has already been banned by the U.S. government from supplying 5G technology to US telecom providers citing security and data leak issues. Now, Huawei is trying to secretly implement a backdoor in HKSP (Huawei Kernel Self Protection) which could have been included in the next update of Linux."

Chinese ambassador threatens retaliation if Germany excludes Huawei
So China is admitting that they control Huawei? Why is China interfering with Germany's internal affairs?

Melissa Chen - "#Misinformation on #COVID19 is hitting African American, Asian, Hispanic, rural & low-income Americans hard. On May 13 @NABJ ,@IAMWILL, @VanJones68, @RolandSMartin & @EbonyJadeHilton discuss keeping Americans healthy+safe"
"The organizer, Huawei and its puppet master, the CCP, stand furthest away from the principles of "inclusion and diversity."Not only does the CCP ignore minority rights, it has a terrible record of upholding it.You're being played.This is right out of the old Soviet playbook of exploiting racial tensions in the US, but it's even more sophisticated - this time, they're using prominent black American activists and celebs."

Former Employee Discloses Huawei’s True Power - "Jin Chun obtained a master’s degree in computer science in Ireland and worked for Huawei on big data research for three years before leaving the company in April of this year. He says that Huawei is actually an agent of the Chinese communist regime, a military unit that combines commercial activities, espionage, intelligence, and technology theft in its daily operations. Li Hongyuan, who worked for Huawei for 13 years, was terminated and wrongfully imprisoned for eight months after attempting to expose corruption within the company. His story went viral on China’s social media.According to Jin, there are many victims similarly wronged by Huawei. Most of them choose to keep silent because if they speak out, nothing changes and they pay the price... “Some say Huawei is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). I would say it is [part of] the CCP itself. That is plainly obvious”... Jin revealed that Huawei not only monitors Chinese citizens living in China, but also collects information from overseas Chinese nationals... Jin’s specialty is big data analysis, so the department he worked in focused on analyzing people’s likes, preferences and personalities, and their anticipated future spending patterns.In other words, Huawei does not only use its surveillance and data analysis technologies to help China’s National Security Department monitor the Chinese people, it also makes a profit by studying consumer habits... “Many so-called innovations were actually plagiarized. As a matter of fact, Huawei does not have much innovation. More often than not, the company simply takes over the paths others are walking on, and forces competitors into a dead-end. Huawei is able to do that because it is backed by the iron-handed state apparatus—the entire judicial system always sides with Huawei. In the end, all patents belong to Huawei, even inventions by other companies eventually become Huawei’s intellectual property. This is how Huawei rose to become the number one IT company in China.”... Huawei unashamedly proclaims that the company worships and adopts an aggressive and ruthless work environment known as “wolf culture.”Jin said he prefers to call it “wolfdog culture” because employees work like a dog every day, and the company encourages them to report on and bully each other. According to Jin, most employees only have 4 days off each month. Usual working hours are 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. When a project is at a crucial stage, the engineers have one day off a month. Those who work to 3 a.m. may take a half day off the following morning.”Worst of all, when the company needs to reduce the workforce, instead of laying off employees with a severance package, management makes employees work overtime on a crazy schedule, so they will quit on their own."

Pyjamas in public: Chinese city apologises for 'shaming' residents - "Government officials in Suzhou in Anhui province released pictures of seven people wearing their nightwear, calling it "uncivilised behaviour".The online "shaming" included the pyjama picture - caught by surveillance cameras - plus the person's name, ID card and other information... Officials argued they were entering a national "civilised city" competition, and that residents were banned from wearing pyjamas in public.Other "bad behaviour" exposed online included "lying [on a bench] in an uncivilised manner", and handing out advertising flyers. But the pyjama pictures caused anger online. Some argued there was nothing wrong with wearing pyjamas in public - while others said the government had infringed residents' privacy. Officials later "sincerely apologised", adding: "We wanted to put an end to uncivilised behaviour, but of course we should protect residents' privacy."The officials said they would, in future, blur the pictures instead.Suzhou's proactive approach is not new. Last year, according to local media, the city asked residents to submit pictures of "uncivilised behaviour", offering to pay 10 yuan ($1.45; £1.10) for successful tip-offs."

The strange tale of the paid protesters supporting Meng Wanzhou at her extradition hearing - "Two people who demonstrated in support of Meng Wanzhou outside B.C. Supreme Court during her extradition hearing say they were unwittingly recruited under false pretences and paid to be there... For actor Julia Hackstaff of Vancouver it all started with a promise of $100 for two hours of work in what she understood to be an appearance as an extra in a movie shoot. Hackstaff said the offer came over Facebook from a person in the acting community she has never met."

How Xi Jinping destroyed religion and made himself God - "Catholic churches torn down or denuded of their crosses and statues. Images of the Madonna and Child replaced with pictures of “People’s Leader” Xi Jinping. Signs posted outside evangelical churches forbidding anyone under the age of 18 from entering. The Ten Commandments painted over with quotes from Xi.These are just some of the ways that the Chinese Communist Party is persecuting Christians in China... Buddhist temples are being turned into shrines celebrating Xi Jinping, China’s President For Life. His picture adorns the walls, his recorded voice booms out of the loudspeakers, and it is his “Thought” — not Buddha’s — that the monks are now required to meditate upon.Not even the Taoists, China’s ancient folk religion, have escaped this new Cultural Revolution. Temples that have stood for over 1,000 years have been closed and ancient statues smashed, all on the orders of “Religious Affairs” officials... On Feb. 1, 2020, new restrictions on all forms of religious activity came into force. The “Control Measures for Religious Groups,” as the 41 new rules are called, deal with everything from the holding of rites and rituals, to the selection of leaders and annual meetings, to the hiring of staff and the handling of funds. All of these must be reported — in advance, no less — to the comrades at the “Religious Affairs” office for their approval. In other words, without the permission of the authorities, you can’t organize a Bible study. And if you do get permission, you’d better hold it in a Party-approved religious venue, at a Party-approved time, with a Party-approved leader and using the new Party-approved Bible, which contains quotations from Confucius and, of course, Xi Jinping.No Communist directive would be complete without a Catch-22 and the “Control Measures” contain a doozy: “Religious groups must also report to the appropriate government authorities any and all other matters that should be reported.”Translation: We can shut you down at any time for any reason.The “Control Measures” are part of Xi Jinping’s New Cultural Revolution, one goal of which is to stamp out all religious groups that the Communist Party cannot co-opt and control. “A religious group cannot carry out any activities,” warns the new rules, “without registration with the Civil Affairs office and the approval of the Religious Affairs office of the people’s government.”... The new rules order all “religious groups” to “propagandize the principles and policies of the Chinese Communist Party, along with national laws and regulations, to all of their religious staff and followers” and to “educate and guide all religious staff and followers to embrace the Chinese Communist Party’s leadership, to embrace the socialist system, to uphold the path of ‘Socialism with Chinese Characteristics’ .?.?. and to maintain the overall policy of sinicization of religion.”... It is a policy of replacing the worship of God with the worship of the Communist Party leadership. Hitler and the Nazis attempted something similar in the 1930s with their Nazification program, which was an effort to turn the Catholic and Protestant churches of Germany into ardent supporters of National Socialism and the Nazi leadership."

Minnesota student jailed in China over critical tweets - "China has arrested and sentenced a student that had allegedly posted tweets critical of Chinese President Xi Jinping while studying at the University of Minnesota"

Chinese video game lets players attack Hong Kong protesters - "China is ramping up the anti-protest propaganda with a new browser-based game where players can hit Hong Kong “traitors” with bats.In “Everyone Hit the Traitors,” players can assault pro-democracy protesters and grotesque caricatures of known activists with weapons like bats and shoes by repeatedly tapping on them.The free game opens with Chinese text indicating that “Hong Kong is part of China, and this can’t be meddled with by outside powers”... “Everyone hit the Traitors” also shows comic-style cartoons of Western influencers rewarding protesters with cash for killing cops or committing suicide"

China fines church for owning ‘wrong’ version of the Bible - "One branch of the Protestant Three-Self Church, located in the northeastern province of Liaoning, was fined the equivalent of $1,400 after South Korean versions of the Bible were discovered in April. Other Three-Self churches had hymnbooks, gospel pamphlets and Bibles confiscated and burned... Since March 2018, the Chinese government has banned online and retail sales of Bibles and hymnals and other spiritual books aren’t allowed in churches unless sanctioned and published by the CCP, moving the churches further and further away from any semblance of religious liberty... Sermons and speeches by pastors in religious venues that impinge on CCP’s religious policies and regulations are considered violations, according to an open letter titled “All People Must Take Action and Fully Carry Out Work to ‘Clean Up Gang Crime and Eliminate Evil’ and ‘Eradicate Pornography and Illegal Publications’ in the Religious Filed!'”... although there are no quotes saying religious material is akin to pornography, the government is essentially linking the two by putting them in the same campaign and trying to scare parents who send their kids to church or Sunday School in “the most up-to-date version of psychological warfare and propaganda.”"

Doctor who exposed Sars cover-up is under house arrest in China, family confirms - "The Chinese military surgeon who exposed the government’s cover-up of the the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) epidemic in 2003 has been under de facto house arrest since last year, according to his friends and family.The fate of 88-year-old Dr Jiang Yanyong, a retired general in the People’s Liberation Army, has been brought into the spotlight after a whistleblower doctor, Li Wenliang, who exposed the coronavirus epidemic, died last Friday at the age of 34.Since April last year, officials have cut off Jiang’s contact with the outside world and restricted his movements after he wrote to the top leadership asking for a reassessment of the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement... The doctor became agitated and was given medication, which led to severe memory loss, the friend said. Officias have restricted his movement since then... Jiang became a national hero by exposing the government’s cover-up of the Sars epidemic in 2003, but was detained and forced to undergo “brainwashing sessions” after he called on the government to acknowledge that the 1989 student movement was a “patriotic movement”... AdvertisementIn a 2013 interview with Southern People Weekly, an outspoken state magazine, Jiang stressed his insistence on speaking the truth. “As a doctor, protecting patients’ health and lives is first and foremost … the most basic requirement for a doctor is to speak the truth. I have experienced numerous political movements for 50 years, I feel deeply that it is easy to lie, so I insist on never telling lies”"...

Chris Derps on Twitter - "Chinese social networking platform Douban has censored lyrics from #China's own national anthem "rise, people who do not wish to be slaves" due to "radical content" #coronavirus"

#9 China’s Hip Hop Ban is Not Really About Hip Hop - Magpie Digest - "it is not actually hip hop culture that the censors care about, but rather its foreign roots and its sudden, explosive popularity among youth. As with most censorship in China these days, what is really being managed is the scale of people coming together outside of the government’s control. Case in point: in addition to hip hop, the new regulation also banned “artists with tattoos, counterculture, and funeral culture (bourgeois decadence).” A few days later, another (alleged; see below) list of admonishments surfaced, targeting virtually every popular mobile game in China. The reasons cited range from vague (“does not adhere to socialist values,” for PUBG-like Battle Royale games), to selectively enforced (“inappropriate costumes,” for a wide array of games including Arena of Valor), to the downright bewildering (“may cause male dissatisfaction,” for our favorite boyfriend simulator Love and Producer). The only thing all of these subcultures and games have in common are the large fanbases they have amassed. Not even industry insiders can predict exactly when regulations will be announced, what they will impact, or how long they will be enforced for, but one thing is certain: nothing that catches the attention of huge numbers of young people will avoid the scrutiny of the censors forever... From the outside, it is easy to forget that the Chinese government is not a unified monolith but rather a sprawling bureaucracy made of thousands of individuals with different motives and priorities. Decisions are rarely absolute, uniformly enforced nationwide, or even executed in total consensus. A ban might be motivated by the desire of a minor bureaucrat to perform patriotism — as we saw with the boycott on Christmas in December — or it could be passed down from Xi Jinping himself. There is no real way for a bystander to know.The amorphous and inconsistent nature of cultural rulings is both a symptom of this system, and a coping mechanism that allows the system to evolve while maintaining its authority."

Yanxi Palace: Why China turned against its most popular show - "The story of Yanxi Palace, a drama about life in imperial China, broke records when it was released last year.It was streamed more than 15 billion times on China Netflix-like iQiyi and became the most watched online drama in China for 39 consecutive days.All that changed in late January when a state media article criticised the "negative impact" of imperial dramas, and it wasn't long before Yanxi Palace was taken off air... "It's not the first time something like this has happened," Prof Stanley Rosen, a China specialist at the University of Southern California, told the BBC."But I would say the censorship is certainly getting worse."Yanxi Palace was seen as promoting incorrect values, commercialism and consumerism; not the socialist core values that Beijing wants to see promoted."... Prof Zhu Ying of the Film Academy at Hong Kong's Baptist University told the BBC. "Censors tend to turn a blind eye to entertainment programs of frivolous nature."But that's only until they become too popular and threaten social norms, morally and ideologically. Yanxi is a perfect example of such a show."... Another problem might have been the attention Yanxi Palace received from international audiences."It could be that the show became too popular outside China," says Mr Rosen. "It's a contradiction of wanting to succeed overseas but also wanting to control the message."Beijing wants Chinese culture to be promoted outside of China but showing the values that the authorities want to see portrayed... President Xi Jinping is promoting the idea of the rise of China as peaceful, and that China believes in harmony.Yanxi Palace, though, paints an image of a China of intrigue and backstabbing."It flies in the face of the message that China wants to send about its peaceful rise"... "And censorship is getting tighter, I would say," Mr Rosen says. "It's not just series or movies, it's also targeting music like rap for instance." China often stands in its own way when it comes to building up its soft power.A point in case are the movies it enters into the Oscars foreign movie category.There've been plenty of strong candidates in recent years but those didn't get picked, says Mr Rosen, likely because they tell a story that Beijing thinks reflects negatively on China.The 2017 movie Angels Wear White dealt with child molestation while 2018's Dying to Survive told the story of a cancer patient illegally importing medicine from India.Both movies were successful in China and have received international praise - but they don't depict the version of China that Beijing wants to world to hear."If they tolerated a little bit more criticism, they could be much more successful when it comes to soft power," Mr Rosen sums up."But they worry that once they open the floodgates, they won't be able to retain their control anymore.""

China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia - WSJ - "China’s financial markets are probably more dangerous in the long run than China’s wildlife markets. Given the accumulated costs of decades of state-driven lending, massive malfeasance by local officials in cahoots with local banks, a towering property bubble, and vast industrial overcapacity, China is as ripe as a country can be for a massive economic correction. Even a small initial shock could lead to a massive bonfire of the vanities as all the false values, inflated expectations and misallocated assets implode. If that comes, it is far from clear that China’s regulators and decision makers have the technical skills or the political authority to minimize the damage—especially since that would involve enormous losses to the wealth of the politically connected.  We cannot know when or even if a catastrophe of this scale will take place, but students of geopolitics and international affairs—not to mention business leaders and investors—need to bear in mind that China’s power, impressive as it is, remains brittle. A deadlier virus or a financial-market contagion could transform China’s economic and political outlook at any time."

China expels 3 Wall Street Journal reporters over 'Sick Man of Asia' op-ed headline - "China on Wednesday ordered three reporters from American newspaper the Wall Street Journal to leave the country over what it deemed a racist headline, in one of the harshest moves against foreign media in years... Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the Journal op-ed — titled “China is the Real Sick Man of Asia” — had a “racially discriminatory” and “sensational” headline, and slammed the newspaper for not issuing an official apology... The three journalists are in the Wall Street Journal’s news section, which is separate from editorials and op-eds.The opinion piece, written by Bard College professor Walter Russell Mead, also criticised the Chinese government’s initial response to the new coronavirus outbreak — calling the Wuhan city government at the virus epicentre “secretive and self-serving”, while dismissing national efforts as ineffective. The February 3 piece “slandered the efforts of the Chinese government and the Chinese people to fight the epidemic”... “The editors of the Wall Street Journal have nailed themselves to the pillar of shame,” wrote the nationalistic Global Times in an op-ed on Tuesday before the reporters were expelled.The WSJ’s remarks “sound like gloating, and they disgust Chinese people”... China’s move to revoke the credentials of three WSJ journalists marks a drastic escalation in the country’s tightening media landscape, which has seen the effective expulsion of multiple foreign reporters over the past five years.The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China said revoking the press credentials of three correspondents is an unprecedented form of retaliation, adding that the country had not outright expelled a foreign correspondent since 1998... Nine journalists have been either expelled or effectively expelled through non-renewal of visas since 2013, it added.In August, China refused to renew the press credentials of WSJ journalist Chun Han Wong, after he and Wen wrote an article on one of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s cousins. In 2018, Megha Rajagopalan, the Beijing bureau chief for BuzzFeed News, was effectively expelled from China after she was unable to renew her visa as well. Prior to her expulsion, she had reported extensively from the northwest region of Xinjiang, where China has rounded up an estimated one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities in internment camps.And at the end of 2015, French reporter Ursula Gauthier was also forced to leave the country after she criticised government policy in Xinjiang and the authorities refused to renew her credentials.A survey of 109 foreign journalists published in January 2019 “painted the darkest picture of reporting conditions inside China in recent memory”"

Benevolent slaveholders

The following was posted in a history meme group I am in:

"Chapter 29
How the Negroes Lived under Slavery


EARLY in Virginia's history the General Assembly made laws closely controlling the Negroes. However, the laws were not fully enforced. Many slave masters did not like to have the state government meddle in what they considered their private business. They managed their servants according to their own methods. They knew the best way to control their slaves was to win their confidence and affection.

Many Negroes were taught to read and write. Many of them were allowed to meet in groups for preaching, for funerals, and for singing and dancing. They went visiting at night and sometimes owned guns and other weapons"

--- Virginia: History, Government, Geography (state textbook used from 1957 to the 1970s)

It was quite sad to see that even in a history meme group (i.e. where members would be expected to know some history, appreciate historiography and understand the complexity of history), almost all of the commenters dismissed the claim out of hand, and some even called for the poster to be banned and/or the post to be removed

Of course, the truth is rarely pure and never simple, and the literature confirms that some slave holders were benevolent:

Africans in America/Part 4/William Scarborough on antebellum slavery

"Planters viewed themselves as benevolent patriarchs with respect to the institution of slavery. They felt that they treated their slaves humanely. They fed them well. They did not require more work than was required of agricultural laborers generally. They gave them generous holidays. It was not uncommon, for example, for slaves to receive as much as seven days at Christmas.

In fact, I think the average on one Louisiana plantation that I dealt with recently was eight and a half days at Christmas.  They also had a system of rewards as well as punishments. We're all familiar with the whipping, which was certainly endemic on southern plantations. That was the normal form of punishment. But there [were] also systems of rewards. There was a Louisiana planter, for example, who operated a sugar plantation south of New Orleans. And the records indicate that he supplied the slaves there with mosquito nets, with sheets, with socks. This is highly unusual, I'll admit. But [he] also rewards [with] pay for overtime work on Sundays and on holidays, and generally tried to balance the punishment with rewards. [He] gave gifts at certain times to both male and female slaves and to the children. Generally a very benevolent master. Slaveowners felt that they treated their charges much better than northern factory workers treated the operatives in the New England textile mills and other manufacturing establishments."

--- William Scarborough
Professor of History
University of Southern Mississippi at Hattiesburg

Luckily, he has tenure

"Master didn't whip, only once. That 'cause a nigger steal he favorite pumpkin... he make that nigger set down and give him the big bowl pumpkin sauce and make him eat it. Him eat and eat and get so full him can't hardly swallow, and Master say, "Eat some more, it am awful good." That nigger try, but him can't eat no more. Master give him the light brushing, and it am funny to see that colored gentleman with pumpkin smear on he face and tears running down he face. After that, us children call him Master Pumpkin, and Master never have no more trouble with stealing he seed pumpkins."

--- Lay my burden down : a folk history of slavery / Benjamin Albert Botkin

"Since the commencement of 1830, I had been living with Mr. Joseph Travis, who was to me a kind master, and placed the greatest confidence in me; in fact, I had no cause to complain of his treatment to me"

--- The Confessions of Nat Turner, The Leader of the Late Insurrection in Southampton, VA. / Nat Turner

As an example of how awful historians some of these people in the group were, one, on being presented with the first 3 sources above, first dismissed them after reading the first sentence and upon my urging her to read them again, proclaimed that:

"I did read the article. It's a recollection FROM A WHITE MAN, who was born WELL AFTER slavery ended.

not exactly sure how a WHITE MAN, who wasn't alive during the slavery period in America, is going to understand the reality slaves faced, having NEVER actually experienced ANYTHING of the sort. This is ignorant, more propaganda, and is literally "slave owner apologist.""

Leaving aside the many problems with her historiography which would mean that history would not function as a discipline, Nat Turner was a black slave who was born in 1800 who led a slave revolt in 1831.

The literature also confirms that some slaves were taught to read and write - even by their masters, and that this was sometimes motivated by a resentment of government regulation:

Chaplin, J. E. (1993). When I Can Read My Title Clear: Literacy, Slavery, and Religion in the Antebellum South. By Janet Duitsman Cornelius (Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press, 1991. xiii plus 215 pp. $29.95). Journal of Social History, 26(3), 632–634 (book review):

"In the English speaking Protestant tradition, reading scripture was necessary for true religious understanding; antebellum slaves, despite the fact that up to 90 percent of them were illiterate, agreed with this contention and wanted to learn to read. In explaining obstacles to slave literacy, Cornelius tellingly highlights the tension in slaveholders’ beliefs: a post Reformation conviction that every human should study God’s word warred with an Anglo—American tendency to denigrate Africans and African—Americans as not fully human... [There were] attempts on the part of church leaders—black and white, northem and southern—to link instruction in reading to religious instruction...

Cornelius reveals the libertarian streak in many slaveholders by recounting how they insisted on their right to teach slaves to read—even if this activity flew in the face of racialist justifications for the peculiar institution."

Sometimes, history tells you more about the time it was written than the time it is about

Keywords: good, kind, masters, slave owners, slaveowners, slave holders

Links - 25th June 2020 (1) (Trans Mania)

What are your preferred genital nouns? - "The Human Rights Campaign Foundation, America’s largest LGBT lobbying group, has produced a guide called Safer Sex for Trans Bodies. And it contains some truly remarkable distortions of everyday language. One section of the guide redefines the terms we use for genitals, apparently to make them more ‘inclusive’. To the uninitiated, ‘dick’ means penis, the male member. But according to the guide, ‘dicks come in all shapes and sizes and can belong to people of all genders’.Female anatomy is much more complicated, apparently. The word ‘vagina’ is used not to refer to a woman’s genitals, but to a post-op trans woman’s genitals: ‘We use this word to talk about the genitals of trans women who have had bottom surgery.’A woman’s vagina is instead referred to as a ‘front hole’, the guide goes on. ‘We use this word to talk about internal genitals, sometimes referred to as a vagina’, it says. This neat distinction leads to some truly bizarre sentences, such as, ‘Surgically-created vaginas are also not as stretchy as front holes’. Much like previous attempts to erase the word ‘woman’ by instead referring to uterus bearers, non-prostate owners or womxn, there is more than a whiff of misogyny to the term ‘front holes’. These new definitions might be confusing, but that’s just the beginning. You might have heard of preferred pronouns, but the guide introduces us to what we might call preferred genital nouns: ‘In most cases, the best thing you can do is ask which words a person uses to describe their body. Remember: our bodies are our own to name and use.’We have reached peak trans-Orwellianism."

Elton John calls gender-neutral Sam Smith 'he' and all hell breaks loose: 'It's not f**king optional' - "Grammy-winning singer Smith had come out as non-binary back in September 2019, announcing that they have changed their pronouns to gender-neutral ones: they/them/their... While some fans are ready to give John the benefit of the doubt, others have taken a far more aggressive stance, or as pop culture loves to call it: cancel him."
When you ride a tiger...

What a Chinese Idiom Tells Us About Gender Identity Ideology - "There is a Chinese idiom known as “calling a deer a horse” which means to deliberately misrepresent reality for the purposes of manipulation. It makes an apt analogy for gender identity ideology, in particular for the phrase “trans women are women” and for how that phrase is meant, by many, to be taken nowadays. The story goes that, during the reign of Emperor Qin Er Shi (221 to 206 BC), there was a politician named Zhao Gao who was attempting to stage a coup. To figure out who in the court would go along with his plans, he brought a deer before the Emperor and said it was a horse. The Emperor laughed and said Zhao Gao was mistaken — it was clearly a deer. So Zhao Gao asked the other members of the court what they thought. Those who were on Zhao Gao’s side or who were fearful of him agreed that it was a horse, while others said it was a deer. With one simple test, Zhao Gao immediately knew who did and did not support him. Whether or not you accept the statement that “trans women are women” is now being used as a similar kind of test... If you aren’t willing to say that a male can be a female, if you raise any objections at all, no matter how carefully and sensitively worded, you’ve identified yourself as the enemy. You are now fair game for bullying and harassment, you can be called a Nazi and a white supremacist with impunity, you can be prevented from gathering in public places, and you can be shouted at in the streets."
Virtue signalling and preference falsification!

Facebook Community Standards Allow The Promotion Of Violence Against Women, Shocker. - "It’s perfectly OK, according to Facebook Community Standards, to post about punching women. Punching women in the throat seems to be particularly popular.There is a catch, of course. You can’t just post about punching any woman, or all woman. You do have to make sure your posts only involve encouraging violence about women who have wrong opinions about gender ideology... On Facebook, you can post about punching (or “throatpunching”) women to your heart’s content.You just have to make sure to call these women “TERFs” first. “TERF” was an acronym for “trans exclusive radical feminist” — but you don’t have to be “trans exclusive” or a “radical feminist” to be a “TERF”. All you need is a slightly different opinion to the person calling you a TERF.Do you think that there should be a discussion on when biological males who identify as women should be able too access women’s sports and prisons? You are a TERF.Do you think that trans women deserve love and respect but that they aren’t in all cases actual women? You are a TERF.Do you think everyone should be able to dress and express themselves however they want, but that no-one else should be forced to think or pretend that they have actually changed sex? You are a TERF.Are you a trans person like Debbie Hayton, frustrated at intolerant, hyperbolic trans activism? You are a no better than a Nazi collaborator. And it’s OK to hate and promote violence against TERFs. Facebook’s Community Standards say so.But wait, you say: Facebook doesn’t allow the promotion of violence against women per se — it’s just women with wrong opinions.These women have it coming to them. As ever, they just won’t listen."

Satiria - Posts - "Stop Domestic Violence. Unless you call the woman a “TERF". Then you can promote violence against her, according to Facebook Community Guidelines. #FreePoster #TERFlove"
"This has a good example: a Communist Facebook page showing a meme of a transwoman stabbing a "TERF" who's held in place by a leftist

The Honey Badger Radio official Facebook group - "Okay, let me get this straight: Aerith in the FF7 remake...
-Is sarcastic
-Cracks dad jokes
-Constantly thinks about food
-Wears a choker
Ya'll... I legit think Aerith is trans."
"This is why people dislike you.
The only similarity she has to a trans is how early she dies."

Don't you dare ask my pronouns - "Corbyn hadn’t want to miss an opportunity to virtue signal — on International Pronoun Day, no less. He has impeccable trans-inclusive politics, even supporting the inclusion of men who identify as women on all-female shortlists. Corbyn’s self-appointed advisor on all things trans, Owen Jones, has made it clear to the Labour leader that in order to be on the “right side of history” one must put male-bodied trans women before actual women... Most of my friends and colleagues block the extremely trans-woke Pink News site from their social media feeds because of the toxic levels of misogyny on its pages. But Corbyn’s words did make it through to the mainstream... this obsession with pronouns is extremely worrying. Especially now the police have joined in. The same week that government statistics were released showing rape convictions down to a shocking 1.4% of those reported, Deputy Chief Constable Julie Cooke of Cheshire Police found the time to make a video to mark IPD, telling us that for many people, “Being misgendered can have a huge impact on somebody and their personal wellbeing.” So can being raped, but let’s get our priorities right, shall we? For all those lesbians who are constantly told we “look like men” because we refuse to wear make-up, high heels and corsets, and dress for the benefit of men, it is offensive and deeply anti-lesbian to now get asked “what are your pronouns?” We have struggled for years to win respect and acceptance as women — why should we have to spell it out... The trouble with being able to choose your own pronouns is that it can be abused. If men aren’t identified as men, then they can no longer be held accountable for patriarchy and misogyny. And whether we like it or not, men are the ones to blame for the oppression of women. Women, on the other hand, are unable, however much some of us may wish, to identify our way out of being oppressed by the male sex class. We cannot escape atrocities such as FGM, forced marriage, rape, or domestic abuse simply by giving ourselves new pronouns... Jeremy Corbyn, the man who took money from a regime that executes men for being gay can present himself as super-woke by telling us he, ahem, identifies as male. But let us also remember that this is the same man who made the ludicrous suggestion that a solution to sexual attacks on the underground was to assign women-only carriages. Does he not see the flaw in his logic? If such a thing existed, all a male-bodied sexual predator would need to do to gain access would be to wear a pronoun badge declaring that his pronouns were ‘she/her’."

Gays and lesbians are abandoning the LGBTQIAA+ movement - "Millennial lesbian vlogger Arielle Scarcella caused a stir last Friday when she announced that she no longer feels a part of the contemporary LGBTQIAA+ movement, the latest evolution of the gay rights movement that stands for ‘Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, Allies and others.’... Scarcella, who vlogs about women, sexuality and culture and has over 600,000 YouTube followers, denounced the ridiculously “woke” rainbow coalition movement as “a safe haven for the mentally unstable”, stating that she has been “more cancelled, tortured, tormented, harassed” by what is supposedly her own community than by any other group.She is not the first gay, bi or lesbian person to jump ship, though she is probably the most prominent. The LGB Alliance, launched in 2019 by UK activists including one Stonewall founding member, sought to regroup a political movement for gay, lesbian and bisexual political interests away from other sexuality- and gender-related identities that have attached themselves to the rainbow flag.The growing desertion of the movement formerly known as LGBT by actual lesbian, gay and bisexual people reflects a core issue raised by its current trajectory, namely the political paralysis that results from an attempt to practice inclusivity in the absence of limits. Forming a group in order to campaign for that group’s political interests necessarily means defining what that group is, which in turn means defining what it is not. That is, political agency requires a degree of self-definition that is necessarily exclusionary. But as other groups are added, willy-nilly, in the interests of inclusivity, it becomes increasingly difficult to discern the nature of their common political interests. Lesbian, gay and bisexual people campaigned for decriminalisation and social acceptance of same-sex romantic and sexual relationships. Their political calls were premised on a pre-existing belief in the intrinsic value of all humans... What, from a political point of view, can lesbian women unite in solidarity with asexuals to campaign for, apart from a general feel-good assertion that ‘we are all valid’?In effect, by abolishing limits on who is included, this is what the LGBTQIAA+ movement necessarily becomes: a political campaign for individual validation. Indeed, Stonewall’s slogan is ‘Acceptance without exception’. But validation has little meaningful substance as a political programme; in effect it takes away political agency. For if ‘validation’ is the core political demand, those pursuing this kind of identity-based programme ultimately hand power to the authority they claim to challenge, granting the state the ability to confer or withhold personhood itself. So it is unsurprising that the people drawn to a movement dedicated to demanding an all-powerful state grant them the personhood they are no longer sure they possess are perhaps not the most stable individuals"

As Common Sense Returns to the Gender Debate, Radicals Set Upon Their Own Allies - "The trolls that targeted Knox were avowed trans activists, just like their target. Amanda Jetté Knox, author of Love Lives Here: A Story of Thriving in a Transgender Family, was excommunicated for being insufficiently supportive of trans people.There is a predictable pattern in many extreme movements that’s sometimes described as a “purity spiral,” whereby yesterday’s radicals are denounced by onetime fellow travelers as reactionaries... a relentlessly trans-supportive doctor and avowed “cis-phobe” named Adrian Harrop was set upon by his one-time allies when he admitted the perfectly obvious fact that, as a gay man, he is attracted to biological males (a common-sense statement that put him at odds with the fashionable dogma, which no one’s brain actually obeys, requiring us to be sexually attracted to others on the basis of their stated gender and not biological sex)... Every one of the aforementioned Twitter combatants, including Knox and Benaway, are fully orthodox members of the trans activist community... The entire argument was about whether one particular trans ally had become too famous at the expense of more worthy and authentic competitors... Over time, the old (by which I mean, say, 2010) ideal of equality between trans and non-trans has given way to a more quasi-mystical philosophy that exalts gender identity as a spiritual force marking us from birth with a sort of ersatz divine grace. By this conception, trans and non-binary individuals are elevated into a priestly class tasked with channeling and interpreting their inner mysticism for the benefit of the cis masses. (Something very similar has played out in the field of Indigenous reconciliation, with “settlers” therein cast as muggles.)... denouncing the persistent heteronormativity of Queer spaces is what Benaway does for a living. It’s how she puts food on the table. And so you can see why, for entirely practical reasons, she might be horrified by the idea that some cis mom from Ottawa would presume to write a book about being nice to trans people that ordinary people would actually understand and buy, and which contains nary a single chapter on the persistent heteronormativity of Queer spaces"
The purity spiral is another example of the "myth" of the slippery slope

16-year-old boy shares his story about being forced to be trans by mother - "“I was a star, or least I felt like it. The teachers absolutely adored me and used me as an example all the time. I got special treatment. I could never do any wrong. The other boys in my class didn’t bully me or anything. I guess I really enjoyed the attention so I started to embrace it and play it up a bit.” According to Lucas his mother was enjoying the attention just as much as he was. She’d be invited to special events to talk about ‘raising trans kids’ and things like that... Lucas claims that from the age of 11 to 14 his mother would take him to parties and other social events where there would intoxicated adults.“She took me to a high-end club that was filled with men who were practically nude. They’d have stage shows where the guys would dance promiscuously and strip. A lot of these guys would always say nasty things to me and touch me inappropriately. I didn’t like it, I told my mum yet she didn’t care. She told me to ‘man up’, which I thought was very ironic.” Lucas was pressured to take the stage and dance erotically in front of a lot of man. “I didn’t know what to do, so I just copied the other dancers and also did what I saw on RuPaul’s Drag Race,” said Lucas.At the end of the night Lucas’s mother was approached by a man who propositioned her. He gave her a card and said that he’d “absolutely love to get to know Lucas a bit better.”... His crush would bring some spare clothes to school so he wouldn’t have to wear a dress. His teachers would pull him aside and lecture him on conforming to gender norms and say that what he was doing was ‘toxic’. “I was shamed by my English teacher. She said I was setting a bad example for other LGBTQ kids”... “The special treatment was gone but at least I felt like myself again. My English teacher would call me Lucy and I would correct her by saying ‘it’s Lucas, miss.’ She yelled at me in front of the entire classand accused me of misgendering her and something called mansplaining.”"

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Links - 18th June 2020 (3) (China's 'peaceful' rise)

BBC Radio 4 - From Our Own Correspondent Podcast, Can Afghanistan find peace? - "We’re not meant to focus on the many individuals scars made in the course of China's modern history. It's the end result that matters and on face value, the transformation has been extraordinary. New visitors to China are awestruck by the skyscraper-festooned high tech megacities connected by brand new highways and the world's largest high speed rail network. They see a rampant consumer society, with the inhabitants enjoying the freedom and free time to shop for designer goods, to dine out and to surf the internet. How bad can it really be the onlookers ask, reflecting on the negative headlines they've read about China back home. The answer however, as in all societies, depends very much on who you are. Many of those in China's major cities, for example, who've benefited from this explosion of material wealth and opportunity are genuinely grateful and loyal. In exchange for prosperity they may well accept or at least tolerate the censorship and the lack of political freedom that feature so often in foreign news reports. But in the carving out of a new China, the knife has cut long and deep. Chairman Mao's manmade famine did claim 10s of millions of lives, and his Cultural Revolution killed hundreds of thousands more, truths notably absent from Chinese textbooks. After his death, the demographically calamitous one child policy, brutalized generations. And even today, the new two child policy continues to violate that most intimate of rights, an individual's choice over her fertility. The list of losers is long, with each category adding to the toll of those damaged or destroyed by one party rule. There are the victims of religious repression, of local government land grabs and of corruption. There are the 10s of millions of internal migrant workers, the backbone of China's industrial success, who have long been shut out of many of the benefits of citizenship. And in recent years, there are the estimated one and a half million Muslims in China's western region of Xinjiang - Uighers, Kazakhs and others who have been placed in mass incarceration camps that the government claims are vocational schools, on the basis of their faith and ethnicity. Viewed from this perspective, the censorship of large parts of China's recent history is not simply part of a grand bargain to be exchanged for material enrichment. It is something that makes the silence of their suffering all the more difficult to penetrate. But while censorship can shut people up, it cannot stop them remembering. As if to prove the point about how the unsettled past continues to impact the present, the [National Day] parade is for invited guests only. The troops will be marching as they always do on these occasions down the same Avenue along the north side of Tiananmen Square, where Beijing's pro democracy movement was gunned down 30 years ago. The risk of even a lone protester using the parade to try to commemorate an event that the authorities have spent years trying to bury is just too great. With central Beijing sealed off, ordinary people in whose honor it is supposedly being held can only watch it on TV."

The long arm of authoritarian China reached into my seven-year-old’s bedroom - "the world globe by his bedside became the latest target in the People's Republic of China's war on words... it was time to return home, and the removalists were going through our rooms at lightning speed. Until the globe was seized by their supervisor. "Taiwan," he said, pointing to the island off the mainland Chinese coast. "Taiwan is not a country, it is a part of China. You can't take this." A new customs regulation was being zealously enforced, as China ramped up diplomatic fury at Taiwan's independence-leaning government... "The typeface used for the city of Taipei is the same size as Beijing. It shows Taipei is a capital. It isn't," he said. I got out a black marker and put a line through Taipei. "You can't take it, it is out of my hands," he repeated... Raising an Australian boy in Beijing threw up interesting dilemmas. Like the time I returned from a reporting trip in Xinjiang in China's far western desert. I had been detained and trailed by police who sought to stop foreign reporters speaking to Uighur Muslims, as the government locked up the Muslim population there en masse in re-education centres... as an Australian journalist in China, I saw my job as the independent observer – "independent always" – looking for facts, not an activist. Covering the trade war between the United States and China I would look through Australian eyes for the impact on Australia. As the Tweets raged against China supposedly banning Peppa Pig, I could still see Peppa everywhere, beloved by Chinese four-year-olds... During my China posting I witnessed the rise of the digital surveillance state. In 2017, People's Liberation Army soldiers stood guard at my office and apartment compound gates. They were soon replaced by cameras, lots of cameras, as white cyclopes appeared on most street corners.  Facial recognition screens I had first seen in Xinjiang soon replaced ticket collectors at Beijing train stations... Tencent founder Pony Ma revealed at China's own "World Internet Conference" that when WeChat used artificial intelligence to allow commuters to scan a barcode with their smartphone at the subway instead of buying a ticket, there was also a "security" feature. "It also gives authorities access to the real identity of passengers"... For a reporter on the ground trying to report China as it really is, the hurdle was the increasing reluctance of Chinese people to go "on the record" in foreign media, unwilling to risk the trouble this might bring.  Insightful interviewees pulled out of stories as the geopolitical winds blew."
Presumably according to China shills she couldn't be allowed to speak to Uighers because she would spread fake news. So we must content ourselves with official Chinese government press releases; how ironic that China shills demand you must visit Xinjiang to be able to say anything negative about China's treatment of the Uighers, but the Chinese government goes out of its way to make that hard or impossible

Gene-Edited Babies Claim Sparks New Questions About Safety - "it has become clear that He actually missed precisely editing his genetic target.He tried to make a change in a gene that would protect the girls from HIV. But, at best, he may have protected only one twin from HIV, inadvertently making her genes ostensibly superior to her sister. It's also possible the genetic changes he made may not have protected either twin at all.Perhaps more worrisome, his attempt to use the powerful gene-editing tool CRISPR appeared to create unintended mutations in their DNA that could harm their health"
A China shill was posting this approvingly - then the Chinese government went after He

15 Worrying Things About the CRISPR Babies Scandal - The Atlantic

BBC World Service - The World This Week, The rich countries where people are dying younger - "Across the border in mainland China's Guangdong Province, people were able to watch live broadcasts of the elections on Hong Kong TV channels with the help of satellite dishes, which are illegal but tolerated, and many Chinese people were not impressed. On the popular chatting platform WeChat, some postings question the validity of the ballot counting. One mainlander even asked me whether there was vote buying. Even those who accept the election results were not persuaded by the will of the majority. They saw it as a result of Western culture brainwashing Hong Kong's youth and a rejection of China and being Chinese. If you don't like to be Chinese, then you can get out of China, one friend in China’s Xianjing City said… Some people see events in Hong Kong as a precursor of what might happen in mainland China in the distant future. When Chinese people are well off and well informed, they might want more decision making power. These people hope Beijing has learned the lesson"
Ironically, the views of many mainland Chinese suggest that never the twain shall meet, and that it's a bad idea for Hong Kong (and Taiwan) to reunite with China

BBC World Service - The World This Week, NATO takes on China - and Trump - "‘[The ubiquity of apps in China in everyday life in China] enables a Chinese company which is bound to hand over all this information to the Communist Party an enormous amount of data on your everyday movements. And so the power in these devices is like nothing we’ve ever seen before’
‘China has more CCTV cameras than any other country, but now there are signs of public unhappiness with the sheer extent of surveillance. How is the Chinese government reacting to that?’
‘There was a survey that we saw released this week showing, as you say, some sort of concern about it. But to tell the truth, not very much considering what it is. I mean, what that survey found is that most people would prefer that there was some other option available other than face scanning to log your ID, to perform some sort of task. Whereas really in in many other countries, the rollout of technology like this would see a lot of suspicion amongst the general public. It just shows the extent to which people are either, well, they haven't thought it through, or they just think that the convenience so far outweighs any potential concerns as to not be so worried about it...
Like in other parts of the world, there is a problem there with Islamic extremism, and a certain proportion of people there are prepared to use violence, either to achieve a sort of independent homeland, or to further the causes of Islamic extremism, and yet, because of that relatively small group of extremists, everybody is now paying the price in terms of a heavy crackdown there… what they're trying to do there is to use DNA samples, and there’ve been huge numbers of DNA samples taken in Xinjiang, to create sort of mapping of people's faces. One of the big ethical problems with that is that those people didn't agree to have their DNA handed in to be used for these tests. It was, by and large, forcibly taken from them. Because if you're a Uigher in Xinjiang, you have to do what you're told you. Or, you'll be thrown in a reeducation camp.'…
The main opposition Labour Party used Mr. Trump's visit to highlight concerns that the UK’s very large and much loved government owned and run health care system, the NHS, would somehow be on the table in any post Brexit trade talks with the US
Strange, somehow China shills claim that the "biased" "Western media" are spreading fake news that there is no terrorism in Xinjiang. Of course, this arises from their simplistic, binary thinking

China is leasing an entire Pacific island. Its residents are shocked - "Under a secretive deal signed last month with a provincial government in the South Pacific nation, a Beijing-based company with close ties to the Chinese Communist Party has secured exclusive development rights for the entire island and its surroundings.The lease agreement has shocked Tulagi residents and alarmed American officials who see the island chains of the South Pacific as crucial to keeping China in check and protecting important sea routes. It is the latest example of China using promises of prosperity to pursue its global aspirations — often by funneling money to governments and investing in local infrastructure projects that critics call debt traps for developing nations... Even compared to previous Chinese development deals in nearby countries — including a wharf in Vanuatu, whose terms were not publicly released for years — the Tulagi agreement is remarkable for both its scope and lack of public input.The renewable 75-year lease was granted to the China Sam Enterprise Group, a conglomerate founded in 1985 as a state-owned enterprise, according to corporate records... many residents of Tulagi, an island of a little over 1,000 people, are taking the signing of the document to mean it is a real agreement, and outrage has quickly set in.“They cannot come in and lease the whole island like that,” said Mr Michael Salini, 46, a business owner on Tulagi who is helping organise a petition to oppose the China Sam agreement.“Everyone is really scared about the possibility of China turning the island into a military base,” he added. “That is what really scares people — because why else do they want to lease the whole island?” A military installation would carry strategic and symbolic significance. Some American officials believe China’s efforts in the region echo the period before and during World War II, when Japan wrested control of island assets, which were won back in turn by American and Australian troops in bloody battles."

Contractors hit as China local government defaults rise | Financial Times - "China’s local governments face a record number of lawsuits for failing to pay their contractors as the country’s slowing economy puts a strain on public finances.The financial outlook has deteriorated so markedly that analysts have warned that there is a risk of social unrest.Chinese courts have listed 831 local governments as being in default in the first 10 months of this year, compared with 100 in the whole of 2018. The value of these local authorities’ overdue payments grew by more than 50 per cent from Rmb4.1bn at the end of last year to Rmb6.9bn ($984m) at the end of October. The totals do not take into account the amount owed by local government finance vehicles and companies operated by municipal or provincial officials, more than 1,000 of which have been listed as defaulters over the past three years... “The surge in government defaulters could lead to a social crisis with workers taking to the street and protesting against official agencies. That’s the worst-case scenario for Beijing”... Making government entities pay their bills is challenging. There is no official guidance on seizing government assets to settle overdue payments.China’s political regime prioritises party control over rule of law and local governments face few consequences if they decide not to pay.“I can’t think of a single official being punished for failing to pay contractors,” said Mr Wang, the Beijing lawyer. “They are above the law.”"

China's economy is in more trouble than markets think - Nikkei Asian Review - "China's economic slowdown just got real. The world is well aware that Asia's biggest economy is growing at its slowest pace since 1992. The 6% growth in gross domestic product recorded for July to September reflects a rapid weakening of demand from abroad as the trade war damages production.Yet three developments last week suggest China may be in more trouble than President Xi Jinping's government admits.First, warning signs are flashing over corporate profits. Beijing's official data on GDP, inflation and production often generate doubt, but China Inc.'s deterioration is unmistakable... This is not an epic decline, but it belies the conventional wisdom that growth is stabilizing. Instead, Xi's team has a traction problem. Traditional pump-priming -- public works spending, tax cuts, local-government debt issuance -- is not working its magic. This has the central bank springing into action, our second indication China Inc. is reeling... The trade war is forcing Yi's hand. Factory prices are veering toward outright deflation. Not Japan-like "lost decade" stuff, but the 1.2% drop in producer prices in September year-on-year is more alarming than the fall in corporate profits.  The third indicator of trouble is that Xi wants to make a deal. In recent months, Trump tried to claim Washington and Beijing were on the verge of a giant trade pact -- only to see Beijing deny it. Last week, it was Xi's team moving markets with talk of detente. On November 7, both sides confirmed tariffs may be rolled back in a "phase one" trade deal."

“You can never be China’s friend” - "A former head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) told me it's a matter of whether westeal everybody's data or the Chinese steal everybody's data. And don't you prefer having the Americans steal your data?... The Chinese understanding is that every smartphone is a data gatherer. It'll gather data on health, on consumer transactions, on the environmental traffic patterns. All of this data can be uploaded to the Cloud. It can be processed by Chinese computers, and it can give China massive advantages in terms of industrial controls, health systems, the environment, urban planning and, of course, social and political control... They want to have everybody in the world pay rent to the Chinese Empire. They want to control the key technologies, the finance and the logistics, and make everyone dependent on them. Basically, make everyone else a tenant farmer... The single biggest misconception is that you have a wicked government and a good people. The Chinese have had 3,000 years for the government and the people to shape each other. The institution in the West that most closely resembles the Chinese system is, in fact, the Sicilian mafia. You have a capo di tutti capiwho prevents the other capifrom killing each other. Because they're natural anarchists, they don't like any form of government. They're loyal to their families. The emperor is nothing but a necessary evil. The idea of public trust and subsidiarity that's fundamental to democracy is unknown to the Chinese.
What holds a country of anarchists together, if not the emperor? ...
China is a country of 1.4 billion emperors. Everyone wants to be an emperor. Everyone strives for his own and his family's power. There's no sense of Res publica. Certainly no Augustinian sense of common love to hold a country together. What holds the country together is ambition. Therefore, it's critical that the meritocracy be fair... the one thing that we're much better at than the Chinese is innovation. As I mentioned, Huawei is very much dependent on Western employees for innovation... If you ask the Chinese what worries them the most, many will say, "How come we have no Nobel prizes?" Eight Chinese have won the Nobel prize in sciences, but they are all Chinese who lived in America.  The Chinese system is very bad at identifying those eccentrics, like an Einstein, who make fundamental contributions. We are much better at that. The Western idea of the divine spark in the individual simply doesn't exist in China. So, I think we do have a chance against the Chinese...  If you look at the disposition of Chinese forces, it looks like a person with a gigantic head and tiny legs. The Chinese spend $1,500 to equip a foot soldier. That's basically a rifle, and a helmet and some boots. Americans spend $18,000 to equip a foot soldier. We have enormous airlift capability. We have enormous amount of technology applied to the infantry. The People's Liberation Army(PLA) infantry is one of the most poorly-equipped and badly trained in the world. On the other hand, their missile forces, their satellite forces, their submarines, and so forth, are extremely good...
Some people say that confrontation is the wrong strategy, that we should become friends. Do the Chinese have the same concept of friendship that we have?
The Chinese, as individuals, have no friends. China, as a country, all the less so... It was explained to me by my Chinese colleagues while I worked there that, when you're in first grade in primary school, you look to your left and right and try to figure out whom you're going to walk over. In China, you have your family. Otherwise, you have inferiors and superiors. But there are no parallel institutions. There's no group of people coming together, spontaneously, to do something together as equals. You have a superior and you have inferiors. There's no concept of political friendship in Aristotle's sense... You can never be China's friend. We obviously have to do business with China. You can't isolate 1.4 billion clever and industrious people. That's absurd. But one can only deal with them successfully from a position of strength... The Chinese only respect power, and our power is in innovation. If we show that we can out innovate the Chinese and leave them behind in critical sectors of technology, I think that will undermine the credibility of the present government."

Chinese nationalist upset with Tsai Ing-wen’s victory, calls on 1.4 billion Chinese to vote & gets censored - "the nationalist’s Weibo account got locked after his post went up...
“You can’t even say the word “vote (in an election)” on the mainland, and now you want to decide who should be Taiwan’s president, you poor thing.”...Chinese state media Xinhua has denounced Taiwan’s election results, saying Tsai’s victory came about due to “dirty tactics such as cheating, repression and intimidation”.It also claimed that “external dark forces” contributed to the election results... Chinese authorities tend to shut down forms of expression that might potentially gain traction and inspire a mass movement, even if the act itself is borne from support for the government.This is why they are particularly sensitive to any causes that might gather steam among the masses, going as far as banning them... While the Chinese Communist Party lets nationalistic expressions have a free rein on the Chinese Intranet, Chinese nationalism can be a double-edged sword for the one wielding it.If not kept under control, it can go out of hand, and even challenge the party, especially if the party is seen as not being assertive enough in its foreign policy when it comes to protecting China’s interests.Political scientist Jessica Chen Weiss told LA Times the Chinese government commonly stirs up nationalistic sentiments among the people, but then reel that in when nationalism has served its purpose.Such a tactic could generate resentment against what appears to be government hypocrisy"
Calling for democracy hurts the feelings of the Chinese people

China GDP growth at 29-year low as economy feels trade war fallout
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