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Michael Galak The Right to Offend…and be Offended

Let’s give 18C the benefit of the doubt and allow, for argument’s sake, that it was conceived with the very best of intentions. OK, that’s my concession, but I also expect any reasonable person on the other side of the argument to acknowledge it has become a handy weapon, often a lucrative one.
Ah, this evergreen topic of insult and offence. What a maze to skip through, this business of not “insulting and offending” anyone! There’s such a rich and wondrous variety of reasons why people might dislike, sometimes intensely, anything you say or do that it boggles the mind. Even if you manage to avoid contentious topics — race, religion, money, politics, immigration, abortion, drugs, Section 18C, ABC, environment, elections, Trump, Hillary, women, sex, discrimination, human rights, terrorism, victims, Aborigines, carbon footprints, homosexuality, prostitution, conscription, vaccination, coal, renewables, oppressed sharks and pot-bellied parrots — you might yet trigger a warning of some kind.

Table conversations become more and more like valedictory dinners in a minefield. Step back from the table and its thin fare of acceptable opinion and topics for discussion and one false move detonates the big kaboom! So, rather than rile the table, you wear the standard-issue solemn face as steaming servings of politically correct tripe are dished up for general consumption. Beg to differ and, well, it could be the end of a beautiful relationship. Risqué jokes? None of those, please, unless the punch line is aimed at conservatives, which is always acceptable and necessarily so. There are now so many subjects and identity groups the Left has declared off-limits, Liberals are about the only free-range prey left.

Where would we be if anyone could tell a joke about anyone and anything? Dragged before the tax-hoovers of the Human Rights Commission, like poor Bill Leak, that’s where. An appropriate deference — indeed, a secular adoration — for the paraded virtues of the Fitzroy, Brunswick and Balmain set is required to avoid a public shunning and, once Dr Tim Soutphommasane has touted for “victims” on Facebook prepared to keep him busy and in the headlines, there will be no escaping the substantial legal costs. These morally superior, specimens struggle mightily to bring us mugs into the bright, brave future they envision for all humankind, whether the rest of us like it or not! Solemn agreement, meek acquiescence and, for those who wish to get ahead, a fawning deference that would shame Uriah Heap is what they (and their taxpayer-funded legal departments) expect and demand. They are, by their own estimation, the sole custodians of human rights’ eternal flame. Place your unfettered sense of humour before the altar of PC rectitude and surrender it as an offering to what they imagine is the greater good.

Very soon there will be no permissible topics for pointed jocularity, not unless they are the sort based on Pavlovian stimulus and response. If you have been to one of those “comedy” festivals, you will know what I mean. The stand-up guy or gal says “yada yada yada … little Johnny Howard” and the audience roars with laughter because, well, that is what good groupthinkers are supposed to do — respond on cue. Like the screamers in 1984‘s Two Minute Hate, they know and enjoy the satisfaction of howling with the mob at those they love to hate, be it howling with derisive laughter or old-fashioned, flat-out contempt.

They say the personal political, so let me ask if Section 18C protect me? As a Jew, I am sensitive to anti-Semitic insults, and 18C is presented as protecting me from this scourge. As far as an open assault, whether physical or verbal, it is not a foolproof protection as far as my safety and my family’s is concerned. For example, consider the variety of organisations declaring themselves to be “anti-Zionist” that are, in effect, no more nor less than anti-Semitic. Did 18c inhibit the mobs of chanters and bullies who, week after week, invaded the Max Brenner chocolate shops? Watch the video below if you are groping for an answer.

In Praise of Paranoia by Tom McCaffrey

“Deep-state holdovers embedded like barnacles in the federal bureaucracy are hell-bent on destroying President Trump.” So said Sean Hannity recently, and Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal took him to task for it. Stephens accused Hannity of right-wing paranoia. He quoted Richard Hofstadter’s 1963 essay, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” and asked whether Hofstadter’s description applies to the right wing mindset of today:

“America has been largely taken away from them and their kind, though they are determined to try to repossess it and to prevent the final destructive act of subversion. The old American virtues have already been eaten away by cosmopolitans and intellectuals; the old competitive capitalism has been gradually undermined by socialistic and communistic schemers; the old national security and independence have been destroyed by treasonous plots, having as their most powerful agents not merely outsiders and foreigners as of old but major statesman who are at the very centers of American power.”

By the time Hofstadter wrote these words, progressives had already gone a long way toward transforming the political system of the United States. As the Framers of the U.S. Constitution understood it, a primary purpose of government is to secure the property rights of individuals, which they believed are the foundation of all other rights. (Try to imagine freedom of the press without privately owned newspapers, or freedom of religion – in a country that is expelling religion from the public square – without privately owned church buildings on privately owned land.) This purpose manifested itself most broadly in the structure of the Constitution, which was intended to limit the power of democratic majorities, correctly regarded by the Framers as the greatest threat to private property and, thus, to individual liberty.

But in the early 20th century, the progressives set out to make America more democratic – through the 17th Amendment, for example, which substituted popular election of U.S. senators for their selection by the respective state legislatures. Their purpose in democratizing America was not to empower the people, but, rather, to “democratically” abolish the Constitutional barriers that had kept property rights secure for a century, thus freeing governments at all levels to intervene in the economic affairs of the nation, legislating wages, working conditions, hours of employment, and countless other matters.

The Nihilism of Antifa: Edward Cline

The average Antifa recruit is a sociopath. He’s in the “resistance” irrespective of the “cause.” He’s in the mob because of his basic nihilism; freedom of speech means nothing to him. He would “oppose,” while carrying a stick or wearing steel-toed shoes or knuckle busters, a speech about the chemical composition of cow paddies. It could be about immigration, Brexit, Trump, pro-Trumpers, or MiloYiannopoulos. It matters not. He is an empty vessel. There is the chance to chant with countless others to feel “one” with them is that is his driving motive to physically assault demonstrators and be paid for it. Alone he is a non-performer, a non-entity. Antifac gives him a chance to vent his malevolent universe soul, to lash out at anyone who stands for something.

The mentality of an Antifa “soldier” is parallel with that of an Islamic jihadist. The latter’s end is his own death, or arrest, or “martyrdom.” They have said that in so many instances. But maybe it is also, if he survives being shot, the five minutes of TV fame as his carnage is televised and he is shown being led away by the police. But it is not “mental illness,” which is what European authorities invariably ascribe to Muslim attacks on non-Muslims. It is plain, unadulterated nihilism. Islam is a nihilist, death-worshipping “creed.”

Antifa “soldiers” are impervious to the charge that their “anti-fascist” mantra allows them to behave like fascists, just as Hitler’s brown shirts behaved.

Deterrence and Human Nature The dream of a therapeutic utopia without punishment for wrongdoing fails in practice. By Victor Davis Hanson *****

Deterrence is the strategy of persuading someone in advance not to do something, often by raising the likelihood of punishment.

But in the 21st century, we apparently think deterrence is Neanderthal and appeals to the worst aspects of our natures. The alternative view insists that innately nice people respond better to discussion and outreach.

History is largely the story of the tensions between, and the combination of, these two very different views of human nature — one tragic and one therapeutic.

The recent presidential election results favor a more pessimistic view of humans: that without enforceable rules, humans are likely to run amok — quite in contrast to the prior therapeutic mindset of the Obama administration.

Take illegal immigration. The Trump administration believed the answer was to persuade people not to come illegally into the United States, and to convince those who are already residing here illegally and who have broken American laws to go home. So his proposed wall on the border with Mexico and beefed-up patrols are a sort of insurance policy in case immigrants do not heed appeals to follow the law. Deportation and even the threat of deportation also serve as deterrents to persuade others not to enter the U.S. illegally, given the likelihood of being sent back home promptly.

The early result of that proposed deterrent policy is that in just two months, attempted illegal entries into the U.S. have fallen dramatically.

Past approaches to illegal immigration were largely therapeutic. Bilateral talks with Mexico, sanctuary cities, de facto amnesties, and non-enforcement of immigration laws supposedly would ensure that immigration was orderly and a positive experience for both hosts and guests. Instead, the border effectively became wide open and chaos ensued.

Currently, there are no real repercussions on campus for students who disrupt public discourse or prevent invited speakers from presenting lectures. Universities in theory claim this is a bad thing — a violation of the constitutional rights of free expression and assembly. But campuses rarely punish students for violating the rules. They seldom ask local law enforcement to apply the full force of local and state laws to (often violent) student lawbreakers.

Sydney M. Williams: Trump, Russia and Lies

Despite Sophocles declamation that “no lie ever reaches old age,” we will likely never know the truth about who is responsible for all that has been written about Trump and Russia, nor the truth of the accusation that Obama tapped Trump’s phone. FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) courts, at the request of the President, can implement wiretaps opaquely in the murky recesses of the intelligence world. Did Trump, or someone on his team conspire with Putin to affect the election, as has been claimed by some in the media and by many Democrats? Did former President Obama or his minions spy on Trump and his associates, with the goal of undermining his Presidency, as Mr. Trump’s recent tweets suggest?

It has always beggared belief to conclude that Putin would have preferred Trump (a political unknown and cited as mercurial) to Mrs. Clinton, a woman who had been part of an administration that had given him little push-back in Crimea, Ukraine and Syria. What we do know is that from the first hours after an election that surprised them, Democrats have been crafting a story to explain their (to them) inexplicable loss. Not willing to accept the possibility that responsibility may be theirs – a flawed candidate and/or identity policies that ignored middle class working Americans – they settled on Russia and Putin as scapegoats.

It was an inspired choice. Russia had become Mr. Obama’s nemesis. Mr. Putin, whatever his faults (and they are many), is not stupid. Remember how President Obama belittled Mitt Romney in 2012 when the latter suggested that Russia was the greatest threat we faced. Remember Mr. Obama’s comments to Mr. Putin that same year: “After the election I will have more flexibility.” Over the past several years Mr. Putin out-maneuvered Mr. Obama, Mrs. Clinton and John Kerry, in places like Crimea, Ukraine, Eastern Europe and Syria. Accusing the Trump camp of colluding with Russians deflected criticism of the Obama legacy. We all know that it is in Mr. Putin’s interest to discredit democracy. We know that the Russians had the means to interfere in the election, because they had hacked Mrs. Clinton’s private server, as well as that of the Democratic National Committee. And, because of Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks, we also know that our government has the means to listen in on and record phone calls, messages and e-mails. Regardless of what is the truth, Mr. Putin must be smiling at the discord he is accused of having sown.

Change In Our Time By Herbert London

Published in: https://spectator.org/change-in-our-time/
From Heraclitus to the present, historians and philosophers addressed the issue of change. Is change built into the nature of society or is it a mirage that reflects a different side of sameness? It would appear that there are years in the so-called modern age that suggest a departure from the past: 1789 and The French Revolution; 1914 the Great War and the End of Innocence; 1939 and the onset of World War II. Although it is too early to argue with any certainty, 2016-2017 may be a candidate for historic proportions, since the institutions and their philosophical underpinnings which accounted for relative global stability are in disarray. The world is turning and not necessarily on its axis. “The wheel keeps turning the sky’s rearranging.”Alas, the rearrangement brings into focus an uncertain future in large part because the political and economic institutions such as the United Nations, the IMF, the World Bank, the European Union have lost or are losing their legitimacy. In fact, liberal internationalism – a belief that nations can share “rules of the road”- is undergoing challenge from a newly emergent nationalism. Not only is President Trump calling for America First, but the nationalist sentiment has gained traction across the European continent and into the Asian heartland. Rules are being renegotiated or dismissed and the pattern for going forward remains unclear.

Accelerating this percolation is technological innovation that has produced a social media of narcissism and personal fulfillment that virtually excludes any other pursuits. Secularization across the board has elevated “me” into the position of a transcendent force. How does one manage a society that does not recognize the limits of freedom? How can order be maintained without modesty and humility?

As Jacques Ellul once announced, “technology exists because technology exists.” Presumably it is a force of its own, resistant to the controls of manners, morals or human welfare. If in a Schumpeterian equation there is as much destruction as creation, will employment be a privilege? How do you deal with those left behind? A guaranteed income? Rewards for the idle? The puzzle parts seek a framework.

If trade deals are filtered through the prism of job creation, will tariffs be imposed to equalize comparative advantage? And if so, would these tariffs be applied internationally – what is now called import taxes? National assertiveness, with its broad political appeal, could result in a diminished world order or even global depression. Admittedly Smoot Hawley has faded from public memory and it was not the actual cause of the Great Depression as many have conceded, but it did exacerbate a declining world economy.

Artificial intelligence is already addressing these issues without the requisite policy constraints. Most manufacturing jobs will soon be obsolescent. Even higher level positions in medicine will be rendered unnecessary. These are changes advancing incrementally. A person with cancer might consult an oncologist today, but in short order he will ask a computer bank for the best treatment based on all the empirical evidence of his disease. Of course, this example cannot be generalized to all jobs, for society will probably need some work. The question is who gets rewarded and who doesn’t and who is left out of the equation completely.

While the change in the past was largely political and economic, the change we are in is the tail wagging the cultural shifts. The loss of confidence in institutional foundations moves down a slope of cultural realignment. When President Trump denounces political correctness, he speaks to a portion of the population largely forgotten by elites and resentful at the adversarial dominance of the “chattering class.” President Trump is an unlikely voice of the disenfranchised, but there you have it. The confidence deficit fills the air as people come to question the leadership in their nations; change will be unhinged from notions of the past.




Want to hear a joke? Here is the punchline: Bill Clinton gave a talk at the Brookings Institute ….
He went on to say, “…we have to find a way to bring simple, personal decency and trust back to our politics.”

Robert Murray: An Age of Decrepitude

Melbourne’s former broadsheet, once a splendid newspaper, now delivers interminable, paint-by-number epistles about racism, refugees, multiculturalism, climate change, victmised Aborigines, male chauvinism and, of course. the loathsomeness of conservatives. Trees die for this. How sad.
After almost a lifetime of reading the Age, Melbourne’s 162-year-old morning news­paper, I am debating whether to cancel my subscription. This is not so much about digital technology as, in the words of a veteran ex-subscriber friend, because the paper is “biased and boring”.

A lot of people around Melbourne are saying the same thing and, in a way they would not have a few years ago, dismiss the Age with disdain. They agree with the description of the late Peter Ryan, in one of his last Quadrant columns, that it has become a “feeble and foolish newspaper”.

How could a once very good newspaper fall so low? The financial squeeze of recent years has affected it severely, but there is much more at work. In a few words, it is over-managed and under-edited, puts process before product—a common complaint about management everywhere—and, worst of all, it is bizarrely politically correct. Politically correct in this context means censoring the news at the expense of reader interest and thus circulation and accurate public debate.

Similar complaints are made about its 185-year-old Fairfax Media stable-mate the Sydney Morning Herald, but this is more specifically about the Age newspaper version and excludes specialist pages such as sport and finance.

The circulation of both has been falling at 7 to 8 per cent a year, twice the rate of their tabloid competitors and is now, at 96,000 for the Age and 102,000 for the SMH, around half that of earlier in the century. The rival tabloid circulations have declined only about half as much. Digital versions partly explain the falls but in my observation widespread reader dissatisfaction is also part.

It goes back a long way. The weaknesses have been seeping in over more than forty years, but have become marked in the past decade. Questions arise about how suited a conventional public company with no dominant shareholder is to owning a newspaper.

Until about 1970 family dynasties, going back to the mid-nineteenth century, controlled both organisations: Fairfax in the case of the SMH and the David Syme family company for the Age. Neither was ideal, but they offered commitment and collective memories of how to do things going back generations. The management bureaucracies were small, close, fairly decentralised among the operating units, and administrators often had spent their entire careers there. Management usually tried to bring up future administration and editorial executives from within.

The SMH was the most respected newspaper in the country, and while the Age had been rather stolid it was a substantial and readable paper of record. When Graham Perkin, with his flair, energy and drive, became editor in 1965, with Syme support he soon turned it into a very good newspaper.

By around 1970, however, financial pressure and family changes pushed David Syme & Co into merging with Sydney’s stronger John Fairfax & Sons. The old intimate simplicity of both was weakened in a much bigger public company, while 1970s radicalism began asserting itself among journalists, bringing a certain lofty preciousness. The notion of journalism being about opinion and questioning rather than plain reporting was creeping into society generally.

For Regulatory Reform, Look to Congress Taming regulators by strengthening the legislature By Sean Speer & Kevin R. Kosar

It is rare that we get a glimpse at the guiding principles that motivate a president and his team, but White House senior adviser Stephen Bannon’s recent remarks at the Conservative Political Action Conference may have provided unique insight into the Trump administration’s operations and goals.

For conservatives, it was a mixed bag. Bannon’s emphasis on economic nationalism raises concerns about autarky and statism. But as Rich Lowry observes, his pledge for the “deconstruction of the administrative state” was music to conservatives’ ears.

Regulatory sprawl and executive overreach have been the target of principled conservatives for some time. Efforts to tame the administrative state predate President Trump and even President Obama, whose proclivity for executive action has been subject of plenty of NRO commentary.

Conservative animus toward the administrative state is focused on more than just its economic costs, which come in the form of less investment and job creation. The principal objection is that it undermines the role of the legislative branch relative to the executive. As Bannon quipped: “The way the progressive left runs, if they can’t get it passed [by Congress], they’re just going to put it in some regulation.” This tendency to governance by regulation and executive rulemaking must therefore be reversed for both economic and political reasons.

What steps can the Trump administration and conservatives both agree to take toward reducing the size and scope of the administrative state? An obvious step would be to give Congress some way to review and scrutinize regulations and executive rulemaking, as has been done in other jurisdictions.

The U.S. Constitution indisputably places responsibility for lawmaking with Congress. The legislative branch promulgates and passes laws, and the president and his appointees implement and enforce them.

But that is not how the system of government has evolved. Many of the laws passed by Congress delegate authority to departments and agencies to produce rules and regulations to effectuate or administer them. These secondary or accompanying policies are sometimes called “delegated legislation,” because they have the full force of the law.

One good (or bad, depending on your perspective) example is the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The 2,300-page statute covered a far-reaching set of issues — including financial instruments, executive compensation, mortgage lending, and government oversight — and established three new agencies, including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. While comprehensive in its scope, the law was light on details. Federal agencies were granted considerable discretion to promulgate delegated authorities to accompany the statute, with no congressional role.

Vague drafting that agencies “may” issue rules or shall issue rules as they “determine are necessary and appropriate” give the executive branch tremendous power to define, broaden, and interpret the law. As the Hudson Institute’s Christopher DeMuth has put it: “In these cases, the agencies make the hard policy choices. They are the lawmakers.” The upshot is that, in 2016, Congress passed 211 laws and the federal government issued 3,853 rules and regulations. It is fair to say that this 18:1 ratio is not what James Madison had in mind.


The month ended with President Trump addressing a joint session of Congress. Eloquence may not be not his forte, but last night he was. He spoke for just over an hour and was interrupted with applause 96 times. It was, in my opinion, a home run of a speech. He was conciliatory toward Democrats, uplifted the American people and evoked empathy with guests he had brought, especially toward the widow of Ryan Owens, a U.S. Navy Seal killed last month in Yemen.

While global stock markets moved higher – the DJIA were up 4.7% for the month – clouds gathered on the horizon. This is a weather pattern we have seen before; however, man-made efforts caused them to temporarily dissipate, but not disappear. I write, of course, of the surge in government debt and obligations, which are growing faster than underlying economies – a situation that must, at some point, end. Adding to (and prolonging) the problem has been the effective socialization of debt, as central banks transferred private obligations to their public balance sheets. The Fed has stopped its QE programs, but the ECB continues. In 2008, such tactics were justified; but, to the extent they are used now to maintain social welfare benefits that would otherwise be unaffordable, they may delay, but will not prevent, future storms.

The problem is particularly acute in the EU, especially in those nations unflatteringly referred to as PIGS – Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain. While Spain’s prospects appear better than the others, all are experiencing financial hardship and all are facing the demographic challenge of fertility rates far below replacement rates. Declining birthrates is one reason why Europe has been open to Muslim immigration. Somebody has to produce babies and if the native population won’t they must be imported; for economic growth is difficult when populations shrink and productivity is absent.

These trends, which have produced substandard economic growth, were instinctively understood by those in the UK who voted for Brexit and Trump voters in the U.S. They have been misread by elites throughout the West who seem as removed from reality as were those Russian aristocrats who sipped lemonade, as the guns of 2017 harkened the coming Revolution. Keep in mind, Brexit and Trump are symptoms, not causes. The causes were a consequence of hearts bigger than heads, of sensibilities that exorcised sense.