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Weekend Read: Still Spiraling Down

By Craig J. Cantoni

The state of American society and culture 30 years after the publication of “Defining Deviancy Down.”

Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s essay, “Defining Deviancy Down,” was published in the 1993-1994 Winter edition of The American Scholar.

It was certainly scholarly. It was also accurate, prescient, courageous, politically incorrect, and subsequently ignored by policymakers, social justice activists, media, the intelligentsia, and the many organizations that depend on socioeconomic problems remaining unsolved.

Incalculable human misery and social upheaval have resulted from the essay being ignored.

The essay’s main points will be summarized momentarily, but first, some biographical information on Moynihan and his other writings.

Moynihan’s Other Writings

Moynihan was a social scientist at the U.S. Department of Labor and became an assistant secretary of the department under Lyndon Johnson, before going on to become a U.S. Senator (D, NY). Considering how far left the Democrat Party has moved, he probably would be seen as a right-winger today.

He is most remembered for his controversial paper of 1965, “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action.” He warned of the terrible socioeconomic consequences of the rise in single-parent families in Black communities and advocated for public policies that would stop the trend instead of accelerating it

He is less remembered for a book that he co-authored with Nathan Glazer, a book that was first published in 1963 and updated and republished in 1970: Beyond the Melting Pot: The Negroes, Puerto Ricans, Jews, Italians, and Irish of New York City. As the book made clear, all of these groups were at one time seen as disadvantaged minorities, and, as I have written many times, my ethnic/racial group of Italians, was seen as non-White.

Now, through some sort of social and epidermal alchemy, Italians are seen as not only White but also racist, privileged, and responsible for colonialism and slavery. To paraphrase Santayana, those who don’t know history make fools out of themselves with such new and ignorant stereotypes—and some of the fools become highly paid directors of diversity and inclusion.

In the Introduction of the second edition of Beyond the Melting Pot, Moynihan wrote a prescient statement that especially resonates today: “In 1969, we seem to be moving to a new set of categories, black and white, and that is ominous. On the horizon stand the fantastic categories of the ‘Third World,’ in which all the colors, Black Brown, Yellow, and Red . . . are the favored terms for Negro, Mexican-American and Puerto Rican, Chinese and Japanese, and American Indian.”

He referred to this as “a biologically and humanly monstrous naming,” a naming that was “being used to divide the nation into the oppressed and the oppressing Whites.” Talk about prescient! He wrote these words 55 years ago.

Defining Deviancy Down

What Moynihan meant by the phrase “defining deviancy down” in his essay of 30 years ago, was how Americans have become accustomed to alarming levels of crime and destructive behavior, due to redefining what is normal. Today, we are even more accustomed to social pathologies.

Take homelessness. The word “homeless” has been replaced with the euphemism “unsheltered,” as if the use of a supposedly kinder and gentler word will somehow reduce the staggering number of human beings living and dying on the street like animals in American cities.

Moynihan warned 30 years ago about increasing homelessness, er, unsheltered people. He traced much of the problem to a movement that began in the early 1960s to deinstitutionalize people with mental disorders; that is, to release them from mental hospitals. In place of mental hospitals, the National Institute of Mental Health recommended the building of 2,000 community-based mental health centers or one per 100,000 population. President John F. Kennedy endorsed the idea and signed the Community Mental Health Centers Act on October 31, 1963. He gave the signing pen to Moynihan.

The goal was never reached, however. Construction funds were made available for only 482 of the centers, not the 2,000 that had been recommended. Soon after, the program would be forgotten and left unfunded while mental hospitals continued to be emptied. For example, in 1955, in New York State, there were 93,314 adult residents of mental hospitals; but by 1992, there were only 11,363.

Moynihan wrote:

“Professor Fred Siegel of Cooper Union observes: “In the great wave of moral deregulation that began in the mid-1960s, the poor and the insane were freed from the fetters of middle-class mores.” They might henceforth sleep in doorways as often as they chose. The problem of the homeless appeared characteristically defined as persons who lacked “affordable housing.

Another very serious social problem had become normalized and unaddressed when Moynihan wrote “Defining Deviancy Down,” namely, the high percentage of broken homes and single-parent households. He had predicted the problem 29 years earlier in “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action.” In the intervening years, the problem had metastasized in not only Black families but also White families, although to a much lesser degree in White families.

The evidence is overwhelming that behavioral issues, poor grades, medical problems, and crime have increased in lockstep with the increase in single-parent families, especially fatherless ones.

The above statement needs to be modified, to avoid being pilloried as insensitive and judgmental. Many children who grow up without two parents in the house do just fine in life, and many successful people have come from single-parent families, including presidents of the U.S.

Moreover, being a single parent does not warrant the wearing of a scarlet letter or being committed to a home for unwed mothers, as was the case long ago. Nor is it good for a parent or a child for a parent to stay in an abusive relationship.

While the above caveats are true, it’s also true that American society is reaping the destructive effects of decades of cultural rot, in which time-tested norms and traditions regarding marriage and child-rearing have been discarded for avant-garde notions of self-fulfillment and self-actualization. This dramatic shift has been enabled by government policies, reinforced by pop culture, and blessed by the intelligentsia, who pooh-pooh monogamy and marriage as bourgeois artifacts while embracing those artifacts in their own lives.

Glaring contradictions now abound. Society rightly tries to stop children from smoking or riding a bicycle without a helmet, but at the same time tolerates children being caught in the crossfire between gangs of fatherless thugs in inner cities, children being abused by the Lotharios who take turns shacking up with mom, toddlers being hospitalized for a drug overdose after swallowing mom’s narcotics, babies being born with narcotics in their system, and students being poorly educated in schools overrun with disciplinary problems and an attitude that learning is for sissies or a White thing.

Social scientists deal with averages, normal distributions, standard deviations, correlation coefficients, and cause and effect. They focus on society or communities at large, not on individual cases or exceptions. As such, they can appear heartless.

Of course, individuals suffer when social pathologies spread across a community. As Moynihan wrote:

“From the wild Irish slums of the nineteenth-century Eastern seaboard to the riot-torn suburbs of Los Angeles, there is one unmistakable lesson in American history: a community that allows a large number of young men to grow up in broken families, dominated by women, never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority, never acquiring any set of rational expectations about the future—that community asks for and gets chaos. Crime, violence, unrest, unrestrained lashing out at the whole social structure—that is not only to be expected, it is very near to inevitable.”

Moynihan also mentioned studies by the Progressive Policy Institute, showing that the relationship between single-parent households and crime is much stronger than the relationship between race or poverty and crime.

Then there are the effects on learning. The higher the incidence of single-parent households in a community or school district, the lower the academic results and the higher the disciplinary problems. Moynihan referenced a 1992 study, “America’s Smallest School: The Family.” The study made the case that a parent-pupil ratio is a better predictor than other ratios of how students in a given school will perform academically. It’s a better predictor than the ratio of teachers to students or the ratio of school spending to students.

This would explain why certain Asian nationalities have low crime and high academic results in spite of being poor: They have a low percentage of two-parent families—just as Whites and Blacks used to have.

The most troubling aspect of all this to Moynihan was the acceptance by government and society that the social pathologies were normal and not a calamity. The attitude seemed to be in his time and seems the same today that nothing can be done about the root problem of single-parent families. Even more damning, there are huge numbers of bureaucrats, nonprofit organizations, for-profit businesses, school districts, counselors, teacher unions, and many others whose funding, revenue, or livelihood depend on the problem not being solved.

I’ll close below with my thoughts on what has been wrought by the failure to address the root problem.

Failing to Address the Root Problem

You probably know the story of how cars used to be made in America until the Japanese gave the auto industry a rude awakening. Quality problems were ignored throughout the manufacturing and assembly processes. They were passed unfixed from one operation to the next, accumulating in numbers along the way and generating rework and waste, until the final product, a finished car, was shipped with defects to dealers—where some of the defects were fixed—and then sold with the remaining defects to customers.

Tragically and immorally, we’re doing something similar with human beings.

I’ll use Blacks as an example, although tens of millions of Whites, Latinos, and others also suffer from the root problem of widespread single parenthood. The focus on Blacks is not because I’m a racist but because the problem is the most serious with Blacks, and also because Blacks, in particular, suffer from paternalism and the racism of low expectations.

The process begins with the fallacy that the high percentage of Black single-parent families is due almost entirely to the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow. That fallacy has been debunked by Thomas Sowell and others with statistics showing that the percentage of single parenting was much lower prior to the advent of the War on Poverty in the sixties (see Sowell’s book, Social Justice Fallacies).

As mentioned earlier, a high crime rate is one of the downstream problems caused by a high percentage of single-parent families. High crime in turn has caused high arrest rates for Blacks, which in turn has generated claims of racism, which in turn have led to demands to defund the police and to cut back on prosecutions, which in turn, in a vicious circle, have increased the crime rate in Black communities.

The high crime also has resulted in businesses, including supermarkets, vacating crime-ridden communities, thus leaving so-called food deserts behind and adding to the problem of obesity and diabetes as residents consume junk food from fast-food outlets and convenience stores.

Learning and behavioral problems in schools are other downstream problems emanating from a high percentage of single-parent families. As with crime, the behavioral problems lead to claims that Black students are being disciplined more than other races because of racism, which in turn leads to backing off of discipline, which in turn leads to an increase in misbehavior, classroom disruptions, or worse.

Poor grades are also blamed on racism, which in turn leads to grade inflation and such demands as eliminating algebra in grade school for kids who do well in math because this supposedly discriminates against Blacks. A similar lowering of standards occurs in high school, then in college admissions, and then, under the doctrines of diversity, equity, and inclusion, in hiring for jobs in government and industry.

This results in a double whammy: Blacks end up in positions for which they are not qualified, and very well-qualified Blacks have to overcome an unwarranted stigma that they got their job through affirmative action and not merit.

At the same time, because American K-12 students rank poorly on international tests in math and reading, there is an incessant demand for increased K-12 spending, smaller class sizes, the latest technology in the classroom, and the pedagogical fad of the day. There is not a similar demand to do something about the root problem.

The problem hasn’t even come up in the current presidential race.

And that’s why American society is still spiraling down.

TAKE ACTION

The Prickly Pear’s TAKE ACTION focus this year is to help achieve a winning 2024 national and state November 5th election with the removal of the Biden/Obama leftist executive branch disaster, win one U.S. Senate seat, maintain and win strong majorities in all Arizona state offices on the ballot and to insure that unrestricted abortion is not constitutionally embedded in our laws and culture.

Please click the TAKE ACTION link to learn to do’s and don’ts for voting in 2024. Our state and national elections are at great risk from the very aggressive and radical leftist Democrat operatives with documented rigging, mail-in voter fraud and illegals voting across the country (yes, with illegals voting across the country) in the last several election cycles.

Read Part 1 and Part 2 of The Prickly Pear essays entitled How NOT to Vote in the November 5, 2024 Election in Arizona to be well informed of the above issues and to vote in a way to ensure the most likely chance your vote will be counted and counted as you intend.

Please click the following link to learn more.

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Beware Those Who Intentionally Use Words To Lie

By Thomas C. Patterson

The word “liberal” was once considered a compliment. It meant fair, principled, and thoughtful. The Age of Enlightenment was birthed by “classical liberals” with their then-fantastical notions about government by consent of the governed, legal equality of all, and individually owned rights.

Later as ideologies like collectivism and class oppression gained favor among the intelligentsia, the word “liberal” was hijacked and mangled beyond recognition. It was used to describe almost anything from well-meaning do-gooders to hard-bitten class warriors, from big government socialists to tyrants who silence and ostracize their opponents, for the good of society.

With time, “liberal“ lost favor. When the label became a political epithet, Leftists dropped it like a hot potato, moving on to “progressive” as their new favorite label, even though “socialist” and “Marxist” are also accurate.

Here’s the point: in the unceasing war of democratic persuasion we call politics, what you say often matters less than how you say it and the phrasing you use. Somehow, the Left always seems ahead in the game of word messaging.

Take abortion. Since the heyday of the eugenics movement, Democrats have generally been for abortion, and Republicans have not. The two sides were labeled pro-abortion and pro-life.

Eventually, Democrats, realizing that “pro-abortion” was off-putting to many, changed their label to “pro-choice“ which made the decision to terminate a pregnancy seem more like a normal consumer transaction. “Pro-life“ came to mean that Republicans demanded all babies must be carried to term.

Most Americans are abortion centrists, willing to support legal abortion up to 12 weeks or so. Yet Gallup polls reveal that 60% of “pro-choice“ Democrats believe abortion should be legal at any time until the moment of birth, while less than a quarter of “pro-life“ Republicans believe all abortions should be prohibited. Thus the Left, by the adroit use of labels, is able to obscure the fact that their views on abortion are much further from the mainstream than are Republicans’.

“Racist“ might be the most abused word in the language. During the civil rights movement, there was a broad consensus that “racism“ meant the practice of judging fellow humans by their skin color rather than by the “content of their character”.

But even as race relations broadly improved, for race hustlers like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, that definition wasn’t good enough. They denied that color blindness was a positive goal in itself. They insisted instead that racial identity was our defining, inherent attribute that explained virtually all human behavior.

In support, the media and the Left subtly changed the language around racial equality. Equality before the law is a precious right bequeathed to all Americans under the Constitution. As a substitute, the Left devised a new definition for “equity“, now meaning equality of outcomes, a supposedly superior goal that assures permanent employment for the professionals in the field.

Nevertheless, the SAT, welfare reform, legitimate law enforcement, and anything smacking of merit were all deemed racist. Consequently, today the charge of “racism” has lost much of its coherence. “Playing the race card” is recognized as being bereft of real arguments for your point. Worse, if all racial discrepancies are blamed on “racism”, then the hard work of addressing the real causes of racial inequality can be deflected.

Institutions typically don’t like to admit that they use gender and racial discrimination in personnel decisions. Rather than come clean about their practices, however, they adopted the term “affirmative action” which did exactly the same thing. A majority of Americans are neither fooled nor amused.

There is obviously a world of difference between the legal immigration that has nurtured and defined America and the tsunami of lawlessness now plaguing us. Yet media commentators use “immigrant” to describe lawbreakers and lawful immigrants alike as if only bigots believe there are real differences.

Finally, congressional bills are often given intentionally deceptive names. The Inflation Reduction Act was a recent laughable example. The bill was actually a package of green subsidies still chasing the climate chimera and other outrageous handouts that had zero possibility of reducing inflation.

Words can be powerful tools in the pursuit of truth or falsehood. Classical liberals should call out those who deliberately use words to lie.

*****

Thomas C. Patterson, MD is a retired Emergency Medicine physician, Arizona state Senator and Arizona Senate Majority Leader in the ’90s. He is a former Chairman, Goldwater Institute.

TAKE ACTION

The Prickly Pear’s TAKE ACTION focus this year is to help achieve a winning 2024 national and state November 5th election with the removal of the Biden/Obama leftist executive branch disaster, win one U.S. Senate seat, maintain and win strong majorities in all Arizona state offices on the ballot and to insure that unrestricted abortion is not constitutionally embedded in our laws and culture.

Please click the TAKE ACTION link to learn to do’s and don’ts for voting in 2024. Our state and national elections are at great risk from the very aggressive and radical leftist Democrat operatives with documented rigging, mail-in voter fraud and illegals voting across the country (yes, with illegals voting across the country) in the last several election cycles.

Read Part 1 and Part 2 of The Prickly Pear essays entitled How NOT to Vote in the November 5, 2024 Election in Arizona to be well informed of the above issues and to vote in a way to ensure the most likely chance your vote will be counted and counted as you intend.

Please click the following link to learn more.

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The Abortion Access Amendment Is Getting Most Of Its Funding From Outside Arizona

By Katarina White

It’s bad enough that the abortion lobby is fully committed to its disturbing agenda to enshrine abortion up until birth in the Arizona Constitution. But now, it appears, that the overwhelming majority of the funding to get this measure on our ballot in November isn’t even coming from within our state.

I recently examined the campaign finance reports for both Q3 and Q4 of 2023 for Arizona for Abortion Access (the group driving the campaign for this constitutional amendment) and noticed a concerning trend. Most of the dollars being raised to support this campaign are coming from groups outside Arizona.

In Q3 (July 1 – September 30), the campaign’s funding landscape revealed that individual Arizonans contributed just $12,202 while corporations and LLCs based in Arizona contributed just over $87,000. That’s a total of just over $99,000 coming from inside our state for this ballot measure. So, how much funding came from outside Arizona? More than $2.3 million! If you do the math, that means a mere 4% of the total financial backing for the Arizona Abortion Access Amendment is coming from within our state while 96% of the funding has been injected from the outside. In a campaign that should be driven by local voices, this difference is not only staggering, it’s alarming.

Adding to this disconcerting narrative, the Q4 (October 1 – December 31) data continues this disheartening trend. Despite an increase in contributions from Arizona individuals and corporations—totaling $1,133,282 and constituting 33% of total contributions—the specter of external interference looms ominously. Contributions from outside Arizona commanded a 67% share during Q4 for a total of $2,244,207. Additionally, the number of out-of-state individual contributions, 186, surpassed the count of individual contributions from Arizona, 112.

Compounding these concerns is the revelation that the largest business contribution from both quarters comes from an organization named The Fairness Project, a Washington, D.C.-based entity. Ironically, The Fairness Project champions direct democracy for ballot measures, emphasizing collective decision-making by the public. And yet, the group paradoxically channels significant funding from outside Arizona to influence the state’s constitutional trajectory. In the November 2023 election in Ohio, where voters were deciding on enshrining abortion as a fundamental right in the state, the Fairness Project contributed a staggering $2.2 million to the Ohio United for Reproductive Rights Campaign.

Overall, the Ohio United for Reproductive Rights Campaign garnered a substantial $23,820,999 in out-of-state funding—83% of their total funding. Unfortunately, this substantial financial support played a pivotal role in the passage of the initiative, leading to the tragic amendment of abortion as a fundamental right in Ohio. This alarming pattern of out-of-state funding continues in Arizona, where the Fairness Project has contributed $3,124,502 to the Arizona Abortion Access Campaign, constituting 54% of the total income in both Q3 and Q4.

Arizonans stand at a pivotal juncture, facing not only the potential erosion of our constitutional values but also the disturbing reality that external forces are actively shaping our state’s destiny. Even worse, at the core of this issue is the shocking possibility of embedding in our state’s constitution the unconstrained authority to terminate pregnancies right up until the moment of birth—an appalling decision of profound consequence.

Now, the people of Arizona must decide. Will you allow external forces to determine the course of our constitutional future and allow abortion up to birth? Or will you decline to sign this amendment and stand for life?

*****

This article was published at AZ Free News and is reproduced with permission.

TAKE ACTION

As we move through 2023 and into the next election cycle, The Prickly Pear will resume Take Action recommendations and information.

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Representatives of the Uyghur Community to Speak at Chandler Event

By David Wanetick

Editors’ Note: The presentation of Plight of the Uyghurs by Davos in the Desert will be virtual on Monday, February 12th from 6:45 – 8:00 PM (Mountain Time). Registration for this informative and important presentation can be accessed here

The word “genocide” has been hurled around so much and so loosely in recent months that much of the public has built up an immunity to a term that should make the hair on the backs of our necks stand up. However, almost no one is talking about the most profound genocide that is currently taking place anywhere in the world. That is the systematic annihilation of the Uyghurs, the Turkic Muslim people residing in Xinjiang, China. Chandler residents will have an opportunity to listen to two leading Uyghurs discuss the Plight of the Uyghurs at a Davos in the Desert meeting in Chandler on February 12.

So why do I claim that Uyghurs are targeted for genocide at the hands of the Chinese government?

Because Uyghur women from 18 years of age to those far past child-bearing age are subjected to forced sterilization and IUD placement. According to my discussions with Muetter Iliqud, a human rights lawyer and researcher at the Uyghur Transitional Justice Database, not even women in their mid-fifties who vowed never to become pregnant have been spared from being neutered. As a result, birth rates have plunged between 80% and 90% in some rural areas of Xinjiang.

Since 2016, 900,000 Uyghur children have been separated from their parents and sent to orphanages where they are raised as Hun Chinese, according to Abdulkaim Idris, Executive Director of the Center for Uyghur Studies. Their immersion in Mandarin is so thorough that they forget their mother tongue.

Forced marriages are another means to de-Uyghurize Xinjiang.

As many as three million Uyghurs, or 25% of the population, are condemned to time in so-called “re-education camps”. In these detention facilities, women are routinely gang raped and men are savagely beaten. Tours in the “re-education centers” are usually for 60 days but easily last for a year for those who fail to demonstrate good behavior. Laboratories to facilitate involuntary organ transfer are located nearby. A further 13,000 Uyghurs have disappeared or been impressed into forced labor, where conditions are even worse. The release rate from these slave labor camps is only 4%.

The remaining 75% of the Uyghurs live in what can best be described as open-air prisons, where they are vulnerable to arrest for any reason at any time. Their every move is captured on surveillance cameras outside of their homes and inside their homes. As if this wasn’t enough, Mr. Idris notes that 1.1 million Hun Chinese have been sent to live with Uyghurs in their homes. Often, these uninvited male guests appear when the Uyghur husbands have been banished. They are not prohibited from sleeping in the same beds as the Uyghur women. These informants report to police when their Uyghur hosts abstain from eating pork or drinking alcohol, which are sufficient reasons to send them to detention facilities.

Why is Chandler-based Davos in the Desert running an evening event highlighting the plight of the Uyghurs? First, Davos in the Desert does what it can to put a spotlight on some of the world’s most oppressed people. Our Gala featured Yeonmi Park, a notable North Korean defector. More recently we ran a program that brought attention to the terror that Hamas inflicts on the people of Gaza.

Secondly, Davos in the Desert is an anti-globalist organization that is highly concerned about the globalists’ plans to micromanage our lives. Authorities in places like the United Nations, the World Economic Forum, and the World Health Organization are scheming to dictate the foods we eat, the distances we can travel, the kinds of home appliances we can use and the vaccines that we are required to inject into our bloodstreams. They wish to track every movement we make through tools such as vaccine passports and digital currencies. Our Lockdown Nation conference, to be held a week before our Plight of the Uyghur event, will highlight that if we allow unelected and unaccountable authorities to make all of our decisions for us, we will soon end up like the Uyghurs.

*****

David Wanetick is the CEO of Davos in the Desert, an unapologetically and stridently anti-globalist movement.

TAKE ACTION

As we move through 2023 and into the next election cycle, The Prickly Pear will resume Take Action recommendations and information.

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Joe Biden is a Terrible Father and a Lousy Liar

By Bruce Bialosky

As we lurch into the 2024 election year, it is imperative we confront the naked truth about the potential contestants for the grand prize of President of the greatest country ever. Though it is often stated that family is off limits in political discussion, I believe that ship has sailed for President Biden – he is a lousy liar and a terrible father.

That flies in the face of what we are told on a daily basis by the current White House staff and their sycophants in the Legacy Media. How many times has the current press secretary told us that Joe Biden loves his son? And the point is? The parents of the Columbine murderers loved their children. Did that exonerate them from being atrocious parents? How could they not know what those kids were doing in their own homes?

Any honest parent knows there are struggles with raising children. There is a difference of opinion as to when that parenting ends. Some believe that once they are “grown” parenting ends. Others like me believe it ends on your deathbed and may go beyond that.

Certainly, what constitutes parenting has evolved over the years. What you do with a six-year-old versus a thirty-six-year-old is extraordinarily different. If you have done things well, you become trusted advisors to your children. I believe every once in a while, when necessary, you need to step in and nicely say, “Are you out of your mind? Don’t do that.”

We hear all the stories about the family traumas that President Biden has had. No civil person would wish that on anyone. God bless him for the tragedy he has dealt with, and we should all respect him for having the strength to forge forward.

Hunter Biden was and is a disaster. He is an embarrassment to his family and our country. He exposed his father, who was then a heartbeat from the presidency to untold potentially disastrous situations with total disregard for his father and his family. One cannot blame it just on drugs. Hunter was apparently coherent enough to make deals with people who speak other languages other than English in order to line his pockets with bundles of cash. His documentation made clear his father was part of that.

Do you think Joe had no idea what was going on? Do you think he was shocked to see the famous picture of his drugged-out son with the cig hanging from his lips? If he wasn’t aware, then he was negligent as a parent. If he was aware, then he was negligent for not giving Hunter greater attention and guidance.

To me, Biden was always more focused on his political career and his perverse drive to capture the grand prize – the presidency. What was going on with son was the second fiddle. Maybe third.

When Joe Biden decided to run for President his people around him should have done what every significant campaign does – opposition research on their own candidates. They don’t want any nuclear bombs dropped on their campaign. They had to know the status of Hunter and they must have disclosed that to his father. Biden and his wife knew everything Hunter exposed their campaign to with his reckless behavior.

Hunter was using his relationship with a U.S. Senator who became the Vice-President. Somehow Hunter got through law school, but we can guess that he plied his biggest asset at the time – his influential U.S. Senator father – to get through his schooling.

Hunter went to work at a law firm and decided that glad-handing on his father’s name was a better way to make money than actually working. Yet Joe never shut it down.

While Hunter was doing these deals, his father was fully aware. My God, Hunter flew with him to China on Air Force Two and returned home with a deal. Did Joe tell his son not to use his name to flush money out of people’s hands — particularly questionable people like some who gave him money? Did he tell Hunter that it was highly improper to take money from Burisma, that it would look like a bribe? No Joe went along with the game and threatened the Ukraine government with withholding $1 billion if they didn’t fire the prosecutor Burisma wanted gone.

I have advised my male clients that the most important word they can use with their children is simple – NO. Joe apparently doesn’t know how to say that to Hunter. He doesn’t know how to say that about his poor living habits or his sleazy foreign deals. That amounts to being a terrible father.

Joe tells us these things never happened. He is the President of the United States, and his dysfunctional son left his laptop at a repair shop and never claimed it. The laptop’s information signified corruption at the hands of a dreadful human being. Instead of telling his son to own up to it, he lies about it and goes along with Hunter’s lies. It is the old story – don’t believe your eyes; believe us.

Add to this the most curious case of the Vice-President whose son does not file tax returns declaring these millions of dollars of ill-gotten gains. You would think with Joe railing against all those people not paying their “fair share” he would make sure Sonny Boy filed his returns timely and paid his taxes. When he becomes President, his staff then allows two years of Hunter’s offense to expire in order to exceed the statute of limitations. I have been a CPA for 45 years and never once did the IRS let any client’s statute of limitation expire without filing a waiver. Then Biden tells us he loves his son, and he hasn’t done anything wrong.

His son stands in front of the U.S. Capitol building as he defies the same kind of subpoena defied by someone else and Joe said simply arrest that other guy. Otherwise, the law is different for my son. Pathetic parenting especially for the President. Then Joe lied about the entire matter.

There’s no need to go on. We talk a lot about the candidates. We must have clarity about the character of the people running. Joe Biden is a terrible father and a lousy liar.

*****

This article was published by Flash Report and is reprinted with permission granted by the author.

TAKE ACTION

As we move through 2023 and into the next election cycle, The Prickly Pear will resume Take Action recommendations and information.

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The Cost of Inflation: History Shows Inflation Erodes More Than the Value of Money

By Jon Miltimore

Across the world, people are struggling under the specter of inflation.

In Venezuela, the inflation rate is 360 percent. In Argentina, it’s 160 percent. In Turkey, inflation is about 50 percent, about 10 percent higher than its neighbor Iran.

In Europe, inflation of the euro has finally cooled to about 3 percent, down from more than 10 percent a year ago. Canada and the United States have witnessed a similar pattern.

Even if Europe and North American countries can continue to rein in inflation — and that’s a very big if — the consequences of governments’ inflationary policies have already been realized. The value of people’s earnings and savings has been severely (and likely permanently) eroded.

The depreciation of real income causes serious pain for consumers and families, particularly poorer families who spend a higher percentage of their income on food and housing, commodities that tend to be disproportionately impacted by inflation.

“Lower-income households experienced above-average inflation because of their higher proportional spending on food and housing, categories for which prices were rising more rapidly at the time (especially during 2020, with the onset of the pandemic),” a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York concluded earlier this year.

While the pernicious effects of inflation have been exhaustively detailed in recent years, one effect of inflation has received little attention: its impact on morality.

‘During Every Great Inflation’

The idea that inflation could affect morality might sound strange to some readers; It certainly did to me when I first heard the hypothesis. Yet, one of the most famed economic writers in history saw a clear link between inflationary policy and corruption (both public and private).

“During every great inflation there is a striking decline in both public and private morality,” Henry Hazlitt, the author of Economics in One Lessononce observed

One of the authorities Hazlitt cites is the historian Andrew Dickson White (1832–1932), author of Fiat Money Inflation in France. White, an abolitionist, and graduate of Yale University who cofounded Cornell University weeks after the conclusion of the Civil War, had a deep interest in monetary policy and French history.

During his European travels, which stretched back to before the American Civil War, he collected an impressive array of primary sources from Revolutionary France — “newspapers, reports, speeches, pamphlets, illustrative material of every sort, and, especially, specimens of nearly all the Revolutionary issues of paper money” — which he used to publish his book in 1912. 

In his work, White discusses how money printing in France led to not just monetary decay, but moral decay, and explains how it happened:

Out of the inflation of prices grew a speculating class; and, in the complete uncertainty as to the future, all business be­came a game of chance, and all businessmen, gamblers. In city centers came a quick growth of stockjobbers and speculators; and these set a debasing fashion in business which spread to the re­motest parts of the country….In this mania for yielding to present enjoyment rather than providing for future comfort were the seeds of new growths of wretchedness: luxury, senseless and extravagant, set in. This, too, spread as a fashion. To feed it, there came cheatery in the nation at large and corruption among officials and persons hold­ing trusts. While men set such fashions in private and official business, women set fashions of extravagance in dress and living that added to the incentives to cor­ruption…

Harvard Researchers: ‘A Positive Relationship Between Corruption and Inflation’

White’s book, which is freely available online courtesy of Project Gutenberg, is worth reading for anyone interested in history or monetary policy. While I find his thesis persuasive — White offers copious examples to show how loose money creates loose behavior — many readers will argue there’s an obvious problem: It’s unfalsifiable.

In one sense, they have a point.

While there’s no shortage of academics who argue morality can be measured — see Jonathan Haidt’s Moral Foundations Theory and the Schwartz Value Survey — I’m skeptical that humans can agree on a universal moral code, let alone accurately quantify morality in human populations.

Still, like just about anything, morality can be studied, and empirical evidence can be gathered. And there’s persuasive evidence that supports the idea that inflation corrupts.

For example, a prominent 2004 study conducted by Harvard researchers Miguel Braun and Rafael Di Tella found that higher levels of inflation variability tend to lead to more government corruption (and less capital investment). 

“We document a positive relationship between corruption and inflation variability in a sample of 75 countries,” the authors wrote.

‘A Nursery of Tyranny, Corruption, and Delusion’

Corruption is just one way to measure public morality, of course. Crime levels are another.   

The hyperinflation Weimar Germany (1918–33) experienced during the early 1920s is well known. Less well known is the surge in crime during the inflationary period, though it’s something Hazlitt discussed.

“It is no coincidence that crime rose sharply during the German inflation,” he wrote. “On the basis of 1882=100, the crime rate, which stood at an index number of 117 in 1913, rose to 136 in 1921 and 170 in 1923. It declined again in 1925, when the inflation was over, to 122.”

The rise in crime, however, was just one example of a much broader collapse in virtue and stability during the Weimar period. The historian Richard Evans touched on this topic in his 2005 book The Coming Third Reich:

Money, income, financial solidarity, regularity, economic order, and predictability had been at the heart of the bourgeois values and bourgeois existence before the war. A widespread cynicism began to make itself apparent in Weimar culture… It was not least as a consequence of the inflation that Weimar culture developed its fascination with criminals, embezzlers, gamblers, manipulators, thieves and crooks of all kinds. Life seemed to be a game of chance, survival a matter of the arbitrary impact of incomprehensible economic forces.

Evans’s description of the consequences of inflationary policy is but a longer, more artful version of that offered by the esteemed French statesman Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, Count of Mirabeau, who at the dawn of the French Revolution warned, in a private letter, that inflationary policy was “a nursery of tyranny, corruption, and delusion.” 

Mirabeau was right, but this didn’t stop him from pushing paper notes to finance public works while a Member of the Constituent Assembly, a policy that no doubt contributed to France’s descent into tyranny.

Mirabeau died of pericarditis early in 1791 at just 42 years of age, not long after yielding to pressure to pass a paper-money scheme. He never witnessed the full tyranny he predicted (and his own policies helped bring about): the Reign of Terror.

‘Developed in Obedience to Natural Laws’

White’s point is that the tyranny in France did not come about accidentally. It stemmed directly from its monetary policy.

Figures from the French Revolution are hard to come by (especially if you don’t read French), but a new paper published in European Economic Review described France’s monetary policy as “an explosion of paper money called the assignat,” which resulted in a hyperinflation Europe would not experience again until the twentieth century.

White goes so far as to suggest that the horrors of the French Revolution were an unavoidable consequence of France’s inflationary policies.

“Thus was the history of France logically developed in obedience to natural laws,” he writes.

This is similar to Hazlitt’s thesis that bad money will inevitably result in bad behavior. This might be a tough thesis to swallow — particularly for those who live in the age of fiat money — but other historical examples are easily found. Henry VIII’s lavish lifestyle and many wars were enabled by expansionary monetary policy — what historians refer to as The Great Debasement. Even the Bible hints at a link between inflation and moral decay.

“Your silver has become dross, your best wine mixed with water,” the Prophet Isaiah chided (1:22).

Isaiah was preaching at a time during which the people of Israel, particularly its leaders, were morally wretched, or so we’re led to believe.

I’ll leave it an open question for readers to decide whether the United States’ own expansion of the money supply has resulted in a collapse of private and public morality. Though I’ll point out that Hazlitt, writing during the Carter administration, argued that the rise of public immorality was already well underway and that it stemmed directly from its debauched currency.
I also suspect that White, if the great scholar was alive today, would look at American society — its endless warspublic corruption, and questionable taxpayer-funded initiatives — and simply say, “I told you so.”

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This article was published by AIER, American Institute for Economic Research, and is reproduced with permission.

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Why Gen Z Is Ditching The Girlboss For The Tradwife

By Emma Waters

For women who have observed the unhappy zero-sum battle of the sexes, many feel that the modern world, for all its promises, has failed them.

Hannah Neeleman, a Utah-based cattle farmer and mother of eight, is perhaps the most popular Instagram “tradwife” — a growing category of social media influencers who reject the not-so-traditional 9-to-5 workforce in favor of homeschooling their children, homemaking, or running a family business. Though her content is entirely wholesome, she (and other tradwife accounts) are not without controversy.

In the case of Ballerina Farm, followers recently uncovered that Daniel Neeleman, Hannah’s husband, is the son of the founder and former CEO of JetBlue, whose estimated net worth is $400 million.

Her kitchen stove, prominently featured in many of Hannah’s videos where she bakes sourdough bread, farm-raised beef, and other dishes, costs a minimum of $20,000. For those who laud their simple lifestyle as cattle farmers, many felt blindsided by the wealth enabling their smooth transition to homesteading. After all, starting a farm requires many high-cost purchases on the front end from the land, equipment, and animals, forcing many farmers into perpetual debt.

Yet Hannah and other tradwife accounts will easily maintain their prominence going into 2024. For many women, who increasingly report “persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness” and disillusionment with the “girlboss” lifestyle, these influencers offer an idyllic alternative to urban life. They are illuminating a deeper hunger among women, especially among Generation Z.

A quick search on Google Trends shows that the term “tradwife” gained popularity in 2018 but peaked in 2020 as the pandemic accelerated women’s return to the home. Instead of being confined to religious or ultra-wealthy women, the tradwife movement entered mainstream discussions. It offered women the chance to reclaim the ingredients of happiness — faith, family, community, and meaningful work — back from the career-focused model they grew up with.

Popular online accounts (explored here and here) tend to show women who don the clothes and lifestyle that they perceive women in a previous era embodied: shirtwaist dresses, aprons, a rejection of formal work outside the home, and a heavy emphasis on homemaking and care for children.

Instead of finding the home stuffy, boring, or trivial, many women found greater purpose and satisfaction than they previously imagined. Initially, the pandemic gave women the ultimate “permission slip” to explore the domestic realm (stay inside to stay alive). Later, popular and aesthetically pleasing tradwife accounts gave women the encouragement they needed to combat the outspoken expectations that all women, even mothers, ought to rejoin the 9-to-5 workforce.

It’s worth considering why Gen Z women, who have the most professional opportunities and fewest barriers to education, work, and politics, would flock in large numbers to tradwife influencers. No doubt the online accounts are more intense in their expressions of femininity, homemaking, or anti-feminist sentiment than the average follower, but then, this is always the case with influencers.

For Gen Z women who have observed the unhappy zero-sum game that is the battle of the sexes, many feel that the modern world, for all its promises, has failed them. They’re looking for an older, and truer, model for how to live a good life. Or, as Carmel Richardson said, “There are too many elders who give bad advice about marriage and family. I am trying to become the matriarch I want to see in the world.”

Similarly, it’s worth asking why this movement provokes many others to mockery or disgust. As one influencer said, “What if their husband leaves them? Then how will they support themselves?” For women who grew up observing the impact of no-fault divorce, family breakdown, the sexual revolution, and the rigid careerism of the 1990s, it seems as though their plan for survival is to depend on no one, especially a man, to provide for them.

The exhaustion and subsequent disenchantment this has produced in Gen Z is enough to spark a counterrevolution.

The harm is not borne equally, either. As both Aaron Renn and Mary Harrington have pointed out, the current workforce has meant that for elite or upper-class women to work, they require other women, who would rather stay home with their own children, to serve as nannies and daycare workers just to make ends meet. Many tradwife accounts encourage women, insofar as they can, to return to their own homes and release poorer women from the expectation of handling their child care, cooking, or cleaning.

Notably, a Refinery29 article recognized this appeal for minority women: “Traditional marriage is the key to Black women’s liberation from being overworked, economic insecurity, and the stress of trying to survive in a world hostile to our survival and existence.” Implicit in the tradwife model, of course, is the financial and ideological support of a husband. It requires husband and wife to work together in distinct roles toward a shared vision — one that ideally allows each the margin to flourish in their given space. In this way, tradwives represent a sort of anti-fragility that, in the words of Nassim Nicholas Taleb, is not merely resilient in the face of difficulty, but grows stronger because of it.

At their best, tradwives require more of the men around them. Rather than trying to replace the men in their lives (father, husband, perhaps employer) when they fail, such tradwives hold them accountable to provide, protect, and grow within the family. Few things could sound scarier to a woman who has been failed by a man she thought she could trust through divorce, unfaithfulness, or abandonment. Nonetheless, many women are realizing that the happiness they desire requires reliance upon a husband and other family members to succeed.

Whether it’s a corporate girlie, an academic, or a tradwife, each dreams of and relies upon a wealthy patron to support the lifestyle she wants to live. While some tradwives denounce all work “outside the home,” many run small businesses, write or blog, and contrary to the Luddite stereotype, manage savvy social media influencer accounts. They take the time and flexibility that their lifestyle offers and seek creative uses of their time that bless their family, their community, and the causes they care about.

Certainly, some aspects of the tradwife movement range from alt-right pagan beliefs to unrealistic forms of live-action role-play. At the heart of it, however, is a positive attempt by many women to embrace marriage and motherhood.

Countercultural movements tend to overcorrect to provide the next generation of women with a moderate option between the two ideological extremes of careerism and the rejection of all “paid work.” For Gen Z, the result may be that women receive the flexibility and support to pursue a family and work amenable to their goals and the demands of each season.

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This article was published by The Federalist and is reproduced with permission.

Image Credit: Pixabay Free

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Arizonans Should Decline To Sign The Arizona Abortion Access Amendment thumbnail

Arizonans Should Decline To Sign The Arizona Abortion Access Amendment

By Katarina White

Imagine a future where abortion is sanctioned until the very moment of birth, parental consent becomes a relic of the past, and taxpayers foot the bill for all abortions. This is not a distant dystopia; it is the gruesome reality that will unfold if a new controversial amendment—the Arizona Abortion Access Amendment—finds its way onto our state’s ballot this November. Now, Arizona voters stand at a crossroads—sign a petition to advance the possibility of this horrific amendment to the Arizona Constitution or decline to sign the petition and stand for the sanctity of life.

The heart of this matter lies in the proposed amendment’s language, asserting, “Every individual has a fundamental right to abortion…” This means that if it gets passed, the Arizona Constitution will be amended to make abortion a fundamental right for all individuals. The amendment’s text also explicitly states that the State shall not enact, adopt, or enforce any law, regulation, policy, or practice that “denies, restricts, or interferes with an abortion after fetal viability that, in the good faith judgment of a treating health care professional, is necessary to protect the life or physical or mental health of the pregnant individual.”

This means that if this amendment passes, it will not only embed abortion as a fundamental right in our state Constitution, but it will remove any constraints on the abortion industry. Just read that direct quote from the proposed amendment again. The text explicitly bars the state from interfering with abortions after fetal viability, contingent upon the “judgment” of a health care professional. Is there any surprise as to why the abortion industry is championing this amendment so heavily? The removal of gestation limits offers abortion businesses unrestricted access to perform abortions at any stage without legal impediments, which will give them significant economic and financial benefits!

Analyzing the language of the amendment reveals three major implications:

  1. Abortion up until birth.
  2. Abortion with no requirement for parental knowledge and/or consent.
  3. Abortion completely funded by taxpayers.

Under this proposed amendment, a 15-year-old girl could abort her baby up until the time of birth, without her parent’s knowledge or consent, and send the bill to taxpayers. That’s not only dangerous, it’s insane.

Proponents of the Arizona Abortion Access Amendment assert that the amendment’s primary objective is to save the mother’s life; however, upon closer examination, the amendment intentionally misleads voters by instilling an urgent fear that the mother’s life is at risk. Anthony Levatino, MD, JD, a board-certified obstetrician gynecologist, challenges this perspective, stating, “There are several serious conditions that can arise or worsen typically during the late second or third trimester of pregnancy that require immediate care. In many of those cases, ending or ‘terminating’ the pregnancy, if you prefer, can be life-saving. But is abortion a viable treatment option in this setting? I maintain that it usually, if not always, is not.” While the amendment writers want the public to believe that this amendment is necessary to save the mother’s life, clearly it’s nothing more than a sympathetic tactic to garner support.

On September 12, 2023, the Arizona Abortion Access Amendment petition campaign began. If petitioners are successful in gathering 383,923 signatures by July 3, 2024, the amendment will appear on Arizona’s ballot this November.

We can’t let that happen.

That’s why it is imperative for Arizona voters, taxpayers, and citizens to take a stand. And many pro-life organizations are doing so right now by leading a grassroots effort to educate Arizonans about why they should “Decline to Sign” this petition.

“Decline to Sign” aims to prevent the Arizona Abortion Access Amendment from even reaching the ballot by engaging in extensive education and awareness efforts. Volunteers associated with this grassroots initiative are dedicated to approaching Arizona voters, taxpayers, and citizens with kindness and providing a comprehensive understanding of the proposed amendment’s potential consequences. “Decline to Sign” volunteers believe that once the proposed amendment’s true nature is revealed, Arizona voters, taxpayers, and citizens can make an educated and informed decision whether to support, or not to support, the proposed amendment. The “Decline to Sign” initiative challenges the proposed amendment’s false impression that it advocates solely for “women’s reproductive health.” The “Decline to Sign” initiative also seeks to shed light on the proposed amendment’s harsh and permanent implications.

The proposed Arizona Abortion Access Amendment presents a crucial juncture in the ongoing discourse about the sanctity of life. As the petition process unfolds, Arizona voters, taxpayers, and citizens face the responsibility to protect the sanctity of life in our state and ensure that the voices of all life within the community are heard.

Katarina White serves as Legislative District Co-Chair for Arizona Right to Life. To get involved and stay informed with the “Decline to Sign” initiative, visit the Arizona Right to Life website. Katarina also delves deeper into the proposed amendment through the “Conservative Seoul Show,” where she presents the “Sanctity Unveiled” segment. You can join her as she explores the challenges faced by the sanctity of life in the State of Arizona here.

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This article is published at AZ Free News and is reproduced with permission.

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AZ Gov. Hobbs’ Bizarre Attack on ESA Families

By Matt Beienburg

Today, 70,000 Arizona children are finally getting the education they deserve through the state’s universal Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program, the most expansive program of its kind in the nation. But instead of celebrating those students’ success, Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs is launching a direct attack on their families and the beginning of a government takeover of private and home-based education.

First, Gov. Hobbs’ plan claims to be “Protecting Rights for Students with Disabilities,” by requiring every private school to provide special education services. This is as insulting as it is disingenuous. For over a decade, the largest constituency of students served by the ESA program were students with disabilities. Literally, thousands of children who were underserved by the public school system and fled it have found success through the ESA program, whether via at-home instruction, special education therapies, or tuition assistance at private schools specializing in education for students with physical and/or learning impairments.

Family after family has testified to state lawmakers and members of the state board of education that this program saved the educational lives of their children. As the mother of a child with a speech and language impairment testified to legislators in November 2023, for instance,

“When she was in 5th grade” in a public school, “her reading comprehension was at a first-grade level… all they offered her was a half an hour of therapy per week, and it was online. And that wasn’t enough to meet her needs… Because of ESA, we were able to offer her 12 times the amount of therapy that she was getting [in public school]… In that first year of utilizing ESA, her reading comprehension jumped from 1st grade to 6th grade. The ESA changed her life, and it gave her confidence, and her self-image improved. And the ESA really does what the title says. It empowers students.”

But this is apparently not enough. As with the left’s destructive embrace of “equity” in shutting down gifted education programs across the country (to ensure all students are treated the same), Gov. Hobbs seemingly wants to force every educational provider to scale up its offerings of special education services or else close its doors. How exactly is it that Arizona’s children will benefit when a small school in an economically disadvantaged neighborhood without the capacity to hire the proper dictated cadre of special education teachers is suddenly shuttered?

Second, Gov. Hobbs’ plan claims to be “increasing student safety” through new fingerprint and background check requirements. Yet private educators already employ such safeguards without a layer of bureaucracy (see, for instance, the Diocese of Phoenix here, Northwest Christian School, Trinity Lutheran School here). In fact, it is the public school system—with all of its apparent government-mandated safeguards—that produced dozens of classroom teachers disciplined last month for inappropriate behavior tied to alcohol, drug, and/or sexually inappropriate conduct.

Even the leadership of anti-school choice groups such as Save our Schools Arizona have declared, “We fully support the original ESA program,” which has successfully served thousands of the state’s most vulnerable students for over a decade. So, how exactly are we supposed to believe that the ESA program is suddenly too dangerous (now that it is open to all students), but that it has been acceptably safe for the last decade in which special education and foster kids have participated year after year virtually without incident?

Third, Gov. Hobbs’ plan purports to require “accountability for taxpayer dollars.” Yet every family on the ESA program receives thousands of dollars less per child than would be spent on that same child if in the public school system, and every single ESA purchase is already subject to review. ESA families have been maligned by school choice opponents for years—long before the universal expansion—as trying to defraud the state en masse, yet even the state Auditor General confirmed as early as 2020 that ESA misspending rates are extremely low (far lower than other government programs) and that parents have been the ones proactively seeking clarity (particularly under the previous Superintendent of Public Instruction) when navigating the program’s rules about what constitutes an allowable or disallowed purchase.

Fourth, Gov. Hobbs’ policy proposal “Prohibit[s] Price Gouging” by instituting price controls on private school operators. Yet median private school tuition rates in Arizona are roughly half the cost of public school per pupil spending, which is now over $14,000 per student. Moreover, private school tuition rates have risen more slowly than public school spending increases.

Fifth, Gov. Hobbs’ plan claims to ‘Rais[e] Educational Standards” by forcing private schools to hire only teachers who meet state-mandated certification requirements. Yet just as Arizona’s charter sector—which significantly outperforms the state’s public district schools at a rate of 3 to 1—is exempt from teacher certification requirements and is able to more nimbly hire teachers for their actual quality rather than number of years they clocked into a costly education degree program, Arizona private schools are able to hire based on merit, not a piece of paper. Moreover, despite the left’s affinity for state-sponsored stickers of achievement, scholars across the political spectrum have found that such requirements do little to improve educational outcomes. As the left-leaning Brookings Institution found in “Identifying Effective Teachers Using Performance on the Job,” for instance:

“Recent evidence demonstrates that teacher certification is a poor predictor of teacher effectiveness…Controlling for baseline characteristics of students and comparing classrooms within schools, there is no statistically significant difference in achievement for students assigned to certified and uncertified teachers… To put it simply, teachers vary considerably in the extent to which they promote student learning, but whether a teacher is certified or not is largely irrelevant to predicting his or her effectiveness.”

Likewise, a U.S. Department of Education – Mathematica Policy Research “Evaluation of Teachers Trained Through Different Routes to Certification” report notes that “The more rigorous studies generally showed that students of AC [alternate route to certification] teachers scored the same or higher than students of TC [traditional route to certification] teachers…When effects have been found, they have typically been described by the authors as small… There was no statistically significant difference in performance between students of AC teachers and those of TC teachers. Average differences in reading and math achievement were not statistically significant.”

Especially in an age in which states (both blue and red) are dropping unnecessary but currently mandatory degree requirements for government jobs—and focusing instead on ability—this approach is exactly backward.

Sixth, Gov. Hobbs’ plan pledges to “reinstat[e] eligibility requirements” by forcing students to attend public school for 100 days before they are allowed to participate in the ESA program. Placing such an arbitrary obstacle in front of students in no way benefits their educational trajectory, yet this proposal would force families to spend over three months in an environment that doesn’t meet their kids’ needs before they would be allowed an escape hatch. Arizona does not force families to attend an underperforming district school for 100 days before allowing them to switch school districts or to opt for a charter school. This naked attempt to prop up the enrollment of district schools and arbitrarily exclude from the ESA program families that might already have been sacrificing to afford private or homeschool (as the governor’s own family did, at great financial difficulty) amounts to little more than political divisiveness.

Finally, the governor’s proposal of “expanding Auditor General authority” and “establishing program transparency” amount to little more than an attempt to undermine state law and subjugate parents and private school operators to the bureaucratic compliance machinery of public education. Arizona law is extremely clear that families and private schools are not to be micromanaged by the state, nor treated as incapable of pursuing an education that best serves the needs of their child. Every participating family already forfeits the higher funding associated with their student in the public school system in exchange for the opportunity to direct a portion of those dollars to a better education for their children.

Gov. Hobbs policy proposal claims to improve the ESA program for the sake of parents, taxpayers, and students—particularly those with disabilities. But let’s not forget that if the governor had had her way in 2011—when she voted against the original ESA program even for special education students—that thousands of students with special needs would still today be trapped in schools failing to serve their needs. And thousands more from the foster care system, military families, Native American reservations, and now the Arizona student population at large would likewise be locked out of educational support.

The governor’s plan is bad policy, plain and simple—and it would only hurt the very people she claims to want to help.

Matt Beienburg is the Director of Education Policy at the Goldwater Institute. He also serves as Director of the Institute’s Van Sittert Center for Constitutional Advocacy.  

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The article was published by Goldwater Institute and is reproduced with permission.

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The TikTok Spiral

By Faith Kuzma

Trauma dumping on the “for you page” sucks young girls into a pit of self-loathing.

The winning TikTok formula is videos produced by teens for their peers. In that sense, it is hugely kid-friendly. Yet in 2019, TikTok paid a settlement for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. Then in 2021 TikTok users were notified by the app they were due compensation after an Illinois lawsuit charged TikTok of using a “complex system of artificial intelligence to recognize facial features in users’ videos.” How might that face data be used as part of what’s called the TikTok spiral? And how does this female-dominated platform affect girls?

Spiraling is an actual psychological term for becoming mentally dizzy. TikTok’s “for you page” (FYP) is overwhelming, piping a steady stream of the most viral videos to kids—a big departure from the social media norms of yesteryear, which mostly shared amateurish updates from kids’ subscribed channels. Girls who would normally say hi to friends and show off their pets now get adult content and other non-age appropriate material direct to their inbox. Feeding “smash-innocence” content to kids is part of the TikTok spiral.

From its inception as a lip sync app, TikTok is based on the inherent kid fun of mimicry. The fast-paced stream of exciting music and dance videos is contagious. Creative collaboration is further encouraged not just by hashtags but through such collaborative interactions as duets, which allow multiple users to record one another’s videos and create mashups. Some hit song is constantly being refashioned or repurposed; interpretative boundaries are endlessly exercised. No one sleeps on TikTok.

It’s a world saturated with an over-abundance of consciousness: self-consciousness, body-consciousness, identity-consciousness. Ideal for getting girls to spiral. Videos designed to provoke envy are common, showing off piercings, tattoos, clothes, a new hair style, making grimaces and grins in the digital mirror. Humor, novelty, and intimate sharing attract a mostly female viewership, and body image content related to gender can be especially compelling.

People have compared “likes” on social media to a continuous dopamine drip, but TikTok is more jacked up: it tightens the emotional screw. It can do this because as Teen Magazine observes: “Every second you hesitate or re-watch, the app tracks you.”

This screenshot shows a comment in response to a post with 314.9K likes by London trans influencer channel tatedalton. TikTok gathers data from the user’s digital face print to push videos from creators with similar demographic indicators, including gender identity. Additional cues TikTok uses are the video’s hashtags, which in this case include #trans #transmasc #nonbinary #dysphoria #lgbt #lgbtq.

In this screenshot, user “Cave” is a bit mystified as to why a video from a trans influencer reappears on each return to the app. But it’s no great mystery: re-watching a video, according to a Wall Street Journal investigation, helps determine which kind of videos will be sent to the person’s feed in the future. Digitally captured user data tells TikTok to keep pitching this video to Cave. TikTok zeros in on emotional response in order to push similar but more intense content: “every second you scroll or re-watch a video on the app counts. It takes less than 3 minutes or until the 15th video for the algorithm to understand what a person is feeling and what videos should be recommended next.”

The TikTok spiral, as described in a special Wall Street Journal series, is like digital cocaine. More than just a successful business model, it’s a mode of mental capture. Munmun De Choudhury, an associate professor at the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech, notes that TikTok is scraping “trajectories of people’s behavior” and tying that to such things as mental health cues and affective cues—in other words, charting how people react to video content emotionally. Face print technology may collect data for the user’s FYP.

Summarizing a 2018 study of facial images online, Christopher Bergland writes: “Disgust is associated with one facial expression that is universally understood in every culture they examined. According to this study, humans use three different facial expressions to convey fear across cultures. The study also showed that we have four ways to convey surprise, five facial expressions for sadness, and five cross-cultural facial expressions that convey anger.”

TikTok provides the perfect milieu for body-image stressed girls to fixate on their perceived flaws and spiral into pathological habits. The Center for Countering Digital Hate set up two 13-year-old female accounts, one of which they pushed toward dieting videos. The researchers found TikTok responded by serving up mental health and body image content, “and the research indicated that the more vulnerable accounts—which included the references to body image in the username—were served three times more harmful content and 12 times more self-harm and suicide-related content.” Already prone to anxiety and depression, girls become disoriented. Spiraling perpetuates a cycle of negative thoughts.

Young girls typically have not yet developed defenses against spiraling. Ash Eskridge said that as a 13-year-old, she and her peers were “brainwashed” by the videos they saw: “I notice that the demographic [trans identification] most affects is teen girls around 12 to 14, as they’re the most vulnerable since they aren’t matured yet.” TikTok parasitizes the typical rhythms of girlhood friendship. David C. Geary, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, notes that social networking platforms exploit patterns of female friendship such as over-sharing: “The social dynamics of girls’ and women’s friendship groups, including a desire to fit in and avoid conflict, may make them more susceptible to social contagion.” We tend to sync ourselves with others without even realizing it, and this creates bonds of affiliation over time. The TikTok spiral involves addictive sharing, imitating gestures and movements, and lip-syncing lyrics from pop songs.

TikTok’s spiral exacerbates the roller coaster of upswings followed by depressive states. Dr. Julie Albright, an expert on social media and the brain, explains: “In psychological terms [it’s] called random reinforcement…sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. And that’s how these platforms are designed…they’re exactly like a slot machine. What that’s doing is rewiring their neuropathways in their brains.” This addictive spiral misdirects stress into an internal loathing that can be seen pretty clearly within the female demographic.

TikTok thus represents a bigger threat than other platforms, because it encourages reposting highly relatable videos and sharing deeply personal information with strangers—even the vocal affirmation within the #LGBTQ milieu does not alleviate the distress. Mental health professionals are increasingly speaking out about such effects. For instance, Yim Register, mental health and social media researcher, points out the particular danger to mental well-being posed by the over-sharing tendency on TikTok. Whereas in clinical settings, personal information and disclosure is safeguarded, “The platform spirit of TikTok seems to be about posting very loudly about very intimate and intense things. And people are encouraged to be vulnerable to fit that spirit.”

In a manner analogous to an anorexic’s self-disgust at seeing her own body in a photograph, a gender-questioning girl can begin to hyper-focus on her female body with intensifying animus. Embodiment itself becomes triggering. One popular sound effect features an older woman’s voice musing, “I miss the girl you were,” before a voice representing the user replies, “I gutted that b**ch from the inside out.” Ironically, many videos featuring this audio clip are are glow ups (videos tracking positive transformations), not limited to but very much including trans-influencer videos showing a transformation from female to “male.”

Even factoring in youth posturing, there is something extremely disturbing about “gutting” the sexed childhood self, and those curious about gender issues (i.e., every kid living) can get channeled into harmful spiraling that includes videos by trans influencers. TikTok’s pop music layering and lip-syncing, tailored to attach the most personal meanings to lyrics, seem designed to produce what one Canadian Millennial calls “trauma dumping.”

The TikTok hashtag “I gutted that b**ch from the inside out” includes 226.3 thousand videos. A casual review of the videos for this hashtag will convince you of the universality of female body image issues, but those created by trans influencers are unforgettable for conveying extreme self-hatred. A small sampling of “gutted” videos is enough to suggest typical female dissatisfaction with body image.

In one notable example, a Scottish trans influencer with a 38.5k-follower account called “psychedelicody” flashes a timeline photo as a young girl while lip-syncing the “gutted” sound effect. Cody’s style is cyber punk, but the mood is particularly dark, with Cody literally “giving the finger” to show absolute contempt of the younger self.

Within this viral TikTok trending video category, trans influencer videos show striking antipathy toward an earlier embodied self.

Trans suffering spirals outward, much like the TikTok tics identified as a new disorder spread by watching Tourette syndrome videos on the app. One person talks about self-disgust and gutting her girl-self, and others sympathize, internalizing the mindset that female embodiment was insufferable. The responses and comments to Cody’s videos readily demonstrate that viewers are perceiving life struggles through the eyes of the content creator. Mimetic engagement on TikTok gets kids to adopt others’ dysfunctions before they have fully learned the skills necessary for self-protective emotional gatekeeping. Lacking the experience and wisdom to foresee and foreclose compelling claims on their attention, kids are vulnerable. TikTok encourages them to take on the thoughts and perceptions of those expressing body hatred.

Concerns about invasion of privacy are at the heart of spiraling. Researchers warn that TikTok‘s new user agreement includes biometric data collection that can be used for active full-time surveillance. This goes beyond capturing audio for captioning and visual data for geolocation.

How might TikTok face data, in particular, be used to induce spiraling? Beyond uploaded videos, the app can utilize video capture, which the user agreement apparently classifies as adware used for “other non-personally-identifying operations.” U.S. Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission Brendan Carr has said: “TikTok collects everything from search and browsing histories to keystroke patterns and biometric identifiers, including faceprints…and voiceprints.” Using TikTok permits access to data including camera and microphone.

Internationally, people are beginning to ask why a Chinese-owned company with no separation from its government might invest the latest technologies in an app that is increasingly recognized as a precision instrument for burrowing into and splitting open the psyches of young users. Well might we wonder—and consider whether this is an influence we want in our homes.

*****

This article was published by The American Mind and is reproduced with permission.

Image credit: Pixabay

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DEI Resistance Is Advancing

By Larry Sand

Editors’ Note: As we move into 2024, let us call out DEI for what it really is. The Marxist agenda being pushed by the radical left (i.e., today’s Democrat party) with their long standing goal of taking over American institutions and forcing everyone into tribal collectivism, is branded by the meaningless and shallow words Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. What is really being attempted in America is the transition (an Obama “fundamental transformation of America”) using a collectivist and authoritarian redo, a great reset, of our individual sovereignty gifted to us by America’s brilliant founders and the establishment of our Republic (not the leftists’ “democracy”).

Let us redefine DEI for what it really is as a tool of the left – DEI truly stands for DISCRIMINATION, EXCLUSION AND INDOCTRINATION. Every rational and grateful citizen of the American project should strongly and fearlessly resist the Orwellian tool of the left’s DEI and explain to their children, families and friends the grievous damage this agenda has done to every level of our society. Just open one’s eyes and see the results with wide open borders, exploding crime, civil discord and division, imploding educational quality, corporate insanity, decay of our military and national security, and so much more. 2024 should be the year and the acceleration of widespread national resistance and destruction of the DEI woke virus infecting our children and America’s future.

While the “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” plague is still with us, pushback is mounting.

While it certainly hasn’t been done away with, the anti-quality, anti-fairness, and anti-American “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” hustle is taking some hits. This ugly form of tribalism pits men, whites, and the rich (oppressors) against women, blacks, and the poor (the oppressed.) With a language all their own, the DEI-ists have wormed into just about every facet of American life. The government – notably its schools – the military, and corporations have all embraced the sect.

Of late, Jews have been targeted. After the savage attack on innocent Israelis by Hamas butchers on October 7, Jews have been branded as oppressors, and Israel was deemed a “genocidal, settler, colonialist state” in the minds of the DEI tribe. One former DEI official explained that “criticizing Israel and the Jewish people is not only acceptable but praiseworthy” and “if you defend them, you’re actively abetting racist oppression.”

Bari Weiss sums DEI up perfectly, explaining that it is an “ideological movement bent on recategorizing every American not as an individual, but as an avatar of an identity group, his or her behavior prejudged accordingly, setting all of us up in a kind of zero-sum game.”

Ultimately, standards are lowered, personal responsibility is eliminated, quality suffers, and acrimony toward various ethnic groups is sanctioned.

The country’s students have been heavily indoctrinated in DEI, and are directly acting on their brainwashing. For example, earlier this month, students at the exclusive Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA) protested school policies relating to DEI, notably listing specific punishments they wanted to be added for “bias incident reports,” including alerting future colleges.

Parents Defending Education released a video in mid-December, which showed a group of robot-like students at an IMSA protest rally chanting their frustrations. Students complained loudly about their preferred names and their pronouns not being used at school, and that “uneducated people” were allowed to work there. The list of student demands includes a “public outline of the possible consequences for students following a bias incident report” and those consequences must have concrete impacts for the offender,” which include “detentions, removal from leadership positions, suspensions, expulsions, and notification to parents and potential future colleges.”

“You see our pain. You hear our voices. Then do something,” chanting students can be heard in the video.

Clearly, educational quality has been negatively affected as a result of DEI measures. Many states have abandoned high school exit exams as a graduation requirement for their students as standardized tests are becoming passé.

Sadly, policymakers in New York, New Jersey, and Florida – three of the nine states that still require students to pass certain exams to graduate – have introduced measures to make the tests optional or do away with them completely. And Massachusetts is moving in the same direction.

In Chicago, Mayor Brandon Johnson has decided to eliminate the city’s 11 selective public high schools, which use standardized tests to determine student admissions.

But now, there is pushback starting to kick up over DEI, in part due to a Supreme Court decision in June.

*****

This article was published by the Heartland Institute and is reproduced with permission.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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The West Mourns Jihadis, Not Jews or Christians

By Catherine Salgado

Woke Westerners—and even some conservatives—are weeping and wailing over the “Palestinian” jihadis and terrorist-loving “civilians” killed in Gaza. But where is the mass outcry over the attempted genocides of Jews and Christians around the world?

On Oct. 7, more Jews were killed in a single day than at any time since the Holocaust. Christians are viciously persecuted in many countries, with outright genocide in Nigeria. Yet only Jew-hating Gazan Muslim jihadis have triggered an international movement of support, based largely on lies about Israel and the so-called “Palestinians”.

As I have repeatedly highlighted, Nigeria is the most deadly nation for Christians. Israeli Hananya Naftali tweeted on Dec. 28, “NIGERIA: More than 52,000 Christians were massacred by radical Islamist groups over the last 14 years. Where is the international community?” Where indeed?

Countries with persecution of or violence against Christians include North Korea, India, Lebanon, Iran, China, Armenia, Sudan, Pakistan, Eritrea, Algeria, Indonesia, Congo, and Azerbaijan.

Hundreds of thousands of Christians face discrimination, hatred, abuse, torture, imprisonment, and even death every day globally. Anti-Semitic hate crimes are going up around the world, and Jews are the number one religious group targeted for hate crimes in America. Yet Westerners, even many Jews, and Christians, are so gullible or political or prejudiced that they only pay attention to the terrorist propaganda about Gaza, where the majority support jihad against Israel and even children are trained as terrorists, while totally and willfully ignorant of the persecution of Christians and Jews. Why? Why do Nigerian, Iranian Chinese, and Israeli lives not matter?

You will notice that many of the countries that are the most dangerous for Christians are also majority Muslim (just as the Muslims are trying to wipe out Israelis). But there are far more Westerners who care about Islamophobia than who care about persecution of Christians. It’s shameful.

The West needs to wake up to the reality of attempted genocide against Jews and Christians, instead of simply spreading lies about “Palestinians.”

*****

Catherine Salgado is an accomplished writer and investigative reporter who publishes daily in her Substack column, Pro Deo et Libertate (For God and Liberty). This superb column provides news and opinion pieces from an honest, common-sense perspective in the spheres of culture, politics, liberal arts, and religion. The Prickly Pear is grateful for her permission to reproduce her public writings and recommends that our readers subscribe to Catherine’s superb Substack column. Please consider a paid subscription for full access to all of her excellent and informative writings.

Image Credit: YouTube screenshot

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Family Estrangement

By Bruce Bialosky

Editors Note:  The holidays have come and gone and now we face the New Year. Although these sentiments frequently surface during periods of holiday family interaction, the problem can last well after the holidays, even spanning years. Healing such alienation within families seems like a worthy goal to us for starting the new year. Families are rare enough as it is today. We don’t need to wreck them through division.

A friend was visiting that I only see on occasion. After talking about our common interests, he told me he was currently splitting his time between where he lived and where he grew up. That was because his 90-year-old father needed to have a family member nearby. After commending him for doing the right thing in taking care of his aging parent, I asked whether he had any siblings who could help. He stated he had one who was no longer in communication with him or his father. His answer as to why was because his father and the sibling fought five years ago. Shocked by the statement I inquired of him “You mean to tell me your sibling got so upset with an 85-year-old man that they no longer communicate?”

The idea of estranged relatives has destroyed me for a while now. Along with parents divorcing, family members refusing to interact with their parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles or cousins just drives me crazy. We have enough problems with broken families and families that never fully formed. We have shrinking families due to fewer children per family already. What we do not need are family members deserting each other due to perceived grievances.

Family estrangement is the physical and/or emotional distancing between at least two family members in an arrangement which is usually considered unsatisfactory by at least one involved party. We can all think of situations where separating from your family is justified. For example, if your mother killed your father. But how frequently do things like that happen? Most of the time when you hear someone’s story about why they no longer speak to a family member, you just shake your head with wonderment about how things disintegrated to the point of abandoning any communication.

Just about everyone experiences feelings of despair from dealing with some family members. There were many times when my mother was alive I wanted to strangle her. There were times when I just could not speak with her for days. But cutting her off was never an option.

My son and I fight like – a father and son. He wants to assert his individuality and I want to help him from stepping into a pile of dung that he can easily avoid. Though he solicits both my wife’s and my advice often, sometimes matters degenerate into a battle. Once when he was in college, he cut off communication for a couple of days (which with my son and I is an eternity.)

When we spoke, I made clear to him that he could yell at me or call me foul names. But one option he could never do was go silent. Since that time, he has never pondered that path again.

It is often stated that the worst thing that could happen to a parent is for them to outlive a child. Then the second worst thing is for the child to become estranged. Whenever I hear these stories, I focus on two things. First, what could have possibly transpired that would cause a child or a parent to cut off communication from each other? Second, what pain the parent must be going through because in a way their child has died.

I have not experienced the challenges of a mother-daughter relationship, but I am well aware of the challenges of such especially during the teenage years. A relative once told me prior to my own daughter becoming a teenager that once a daughter reaches the age of 13, she goes to another planet and returns as a human being five or six years later. Mothers and daughters can fight over a bevy of things that males don’t even begin to comprehend. None of that justifies excommunication.

My wife often spoke of how her mother tortured her in her teenage years and even into her twenties. She and her two sisters often started a call by saying “Guess what your mother did now.” But when her mother grew older my wife called her every day and spoke to her about many things. She still complained at times of the ‘crazy’ things her mother said. But once her mother passed on, she missed those daily talks and still does nearly eight years later.

We all know of someone who is estranged from a family member. You might be yourself. Take this Christmas season to end this needless destruction. If you have not spoken to someone close to you, just pick up the phone and say “Hi.” It will not be as painful as you might think. If you have a close friend estranged from a family member, offer to drive them to rekindle the relationship. If you care for your friends, even jump on a plane with them and go break the fruitless stalemate.

You only have so many relatives. You only have one mother or father. Short of some grievous crime, the parting of the ways really is just a matter of false pride. Make this the Christmas season you end this sadness. Listen to this advice and you will thank me for a long time. More importantly, you will be a much happier person and so will I.

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When a Sportswoman Dies at the Hands of a Male-Born Trans Athlete, Will Congress STILL Call Me a “Transphobe”?

By Riley Gaines

When someone resorts to name-calling, it’s usually because they know they’re fighting a losing battle.

They childishly attack their opponent, rather than trying to argue with clear facts.

But to witness – and be the target of – such low-level mudslinging in Congress, the beating heart of American democracy, was especially shocking.

At a committee hearing on the impact of male inclusion in women’s sports earlier this week, Democratic ‘Squad’ member Summer Lee launched an extraordinary preemptive attack in her opening remarks.

‘We’re likely to be forced to listen to transphobic bigotry,’ she warned nonchalantly as if her one-sided opinion was indisputable truth.

I was appalled.

How dare a sitting member of Congress trash as hateful bigots those who had come to speak about their own experiences and stand up for women’s rights – despite the grave risk of death threats and physical violence.

And so, when I was eventually allowed to talk, I responded.

If I was ‘transphobic’, then Lee’s opening monologue – defending the right of male-born individuals to compete in and take women’s sporting titles –made her a ‘misogynist’.

It was a quick quip in self-defense, but it is also painfully true.

Lee and the rest of the Democrats in the room went into a tailspin.

She dramatically stopped the hearing and demanded my response be struck from the record – typical of the one-way censorship demanded by trans extremists.

As well as excluding us from our own sports, must women now also be erased from the debate entirely?

Thankfully, Lee’s request was unsuccessful. Congressional records still show she is a misogynist.

How has it come to this?

Why is it more politically expedient for those on the Left to prioritize the whims of the trans lobby – a tiny but vocal minority – over the rights of millions of women and girls in every arena from sports to safety in prisons, domestic violence shelters, changing rooms and health settings.

Far too few are willing to take a public stance. I don’t blame people. The daily harassment I have received since I first started speaking out against trans swimmer Lia Thomas in earlier 2022 has been tough to weather.

But I refuse to stay silent. I’ve shelved plans to become a dentist and have instead committed myself to defending women for as long as it requires.

Though why, you might fairly ask, should it take a 23-year-old woman to hold our leaders to account when so much is at stake?

Why, for instance, isn’t the world joining in round condemnation of that shocking cycling podium this week?

Two males – Tessa Johnson and Evelyn Williamson – unashamedly masculine and standing proudly in first and second place of the women’s Single Speed category at the Illinois State Cyclocross Championships on Sunday.

The only female on the podium won bronze.

Is this what the feminist movement fought for?

Because two males atop a women’s podium seem to me like the perfect embodiment of the oppressive patriarchy that leftists love to scream about.

What hope is there for young sportswomen – like I once was – who have spent their whole lives training tirelessly, missing social events, eating carefully, paining for success within a tiny window of opportunity?

How can their mothers and grandmothers look them in the eye and tell them truthfully that hard work pays off?

Many people will know my story by now, tying at the NCAA Championships last year with 6’4′ Thomas, who had swum three years prior on a men’s team.

I was denied the trophy and told it was crucial that Thomas be seen holding it in front of the cameras. Despite achieving the exact same time, I had to go home empty handed.

Would I have sacrificed so much had I known that my success would be so cruelly snatched from me? Absolutely not.

But this isn’t just about unfairness, it’s about a grave danger to women’s safety.

In non-contact sports like swimming – as with much of cycling – competitors remain in their own lanes, posing little risk to each other. Perhaps that’s what makes it so easy for hardliners like Rep. Lee to sneer at my Congressional testimony.

But what about contact sports?

Already, the troubling headlines are trickling in.

In 2021, footage of trans MMA fighter Alana McLaughlin holding Celine Provost in a chokehold, Provost’s blood smeared on the floor, shocked the world.

In 2022, 18-year-old Payton McNabb suffered debilitating head and neck injuries after a trans student hit her in the face during a volleyball game in North Carolina.

More than a year later, McNabb is still recovering – suffering impaired vision and partial paralysis.

When will it be enough?

How many female athletes must suffer at the hands of biological males? If injuries like McNabb’s won’t stop this forward march of insanity in its tracks, must we – God forbid – suffer a death for our cause to be heard?

In less than a month we will once again be in an Olympics year. And as we look to Paris in July, I am in no doubt that we will bear witness to many more trans athletes like Laurel Hubbard – the New Zealand weightlifter who competed in a women’s category at the delayed Tokyo 2020 games – taking the places and podiums of real women.

All polling shows an overwhelming silent majority understands and sees this madness for what it is.

My appeal to women everywhere is that silence now means complicity. It is time we all called out the misogynists.

*****

This article was published by The Independent Women’s Forum and is reproduced with permission.

Image Credit: Gage Skidmore

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The People Of Arizona Should Stop Any Efforts To Allow Abortion Up To Birth

By Ed Steele

The abortion lobby has made it clear. It wants to erase every pro-life law and enshrine abortion up to birth in the Arizona Constitution. If it’s successful, that would mean:

  • No more requirement to inform women of the risks of abortion.
  • No requirement to inform women of options other than abortion.
  • No requirement for ultrasounds prior to abortion.
  • No 24-hour waiting period.
  • No requirement for parental consent for minors.

That last one is particularly shocking. It would open the door for sex traffickers, sex abusers, and other sexual predators to force women and underage girls into abortions. This is the terrifying reality that could be facing our state.

Right now in Arizona, the abortion industry is hard at work to collect the 383,923 valid signatures they need to put this constitutional amendment on the General Election ballot next November. While this may seem like a daunting task, they are well organized and well-funded, receiving support from the likes of Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, and NARAL. Perhaps you’ve seen them at libraries, coffee shops, or the dollar stores asking you to help “protect women’s healthcare” or “support the right for women to make their own decisions about healthcare.” But here’s an interesting fact. The initiative never mentions “women.” It only mentions “pregnant individuals.” So, what are they really pushing?

It’s important to make the distinction between the old abortion debate that’s been raging for the last 50 years and the fight we face today. In the old abortion debate, everyone had a place on the spectrum regarding when it’s ok to take the life of a baby during pregnancy—from the moment of conception all the way up to birth. Both sides were in a constant battle to determine the inflection point where their side had the most support.

But this fight is completely different.

In this ballot measure, Arizona for Abortion Access (the group seeking this constitutional amendment) has drawn the inflection point for allowable abortion right up to the child’s birthday. That means anyone who signs this measure is actively supporting the end of a baby’s life right up until the moment that he or she is born.

Based on polls across the country, a vast majority of the population is not okay with abortion up to the moment of birth and should reject this initiative. But that’s why it’s so important that the general public know what they are being asked to sign.

This initiative is written with intentionally vague language which will allow “healthcare professionals” to use loopholes to perform abortions right up to the moment of birth. But don’t just take it from me. Look at the initiative petition itself, which says that the state cannot act in a manner that:

DENIES, RESTRICTS OR INTERFERES WITH AN ABORTION AFTER FETAL VIABILITY THAT, IN THE GOOD FAITH JUDGMENT OF A TREATING HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONAL, IS NECESSARY TO PROTECT THE LIFE OR PHYSICAL OR MENTAL HEALTH OF THE PREGNANT INDIVIDUAL.

“…in the good faith judgment of a treating healthcare professional…”? Who gets to define “healthcare professional”?

“…is necessary to protect physical or mental health…”? What about pregnancy could be so dangerous to a mother’s mental health that it could be used to justify abortion up to birth? You can see where this is heading…

There once was a time when Planned Parenthood and the abortion lobby repeated the slogan that “abortion should be safe, legal, and rare”? But this is where they were always heading—abortion up to birth and for practically any reason.

Arizona, it’s time to wake up and show up. We need to educate our friends and relatives with the truth about the abortion initiative petition. We need to wake up our church communities, so that our congregations can be properly informed. And we need to stand up anytime we see abortion activists collecting signatures for this petition to let potential signers know that their signature could allow abortion up to birth. (To get an information packet about this effort to share with your pastor, you can email AZdeclinetosign@gmail.com.)

This is literally a matter of life and death. Which side will you choose?

Ed Steele is a husband, father, grandfather, and Mesa resident who is helping to lead the Decline to Sign – AZ Abortion Act Movement. You can find out the latest by following this movement on X (Twitter) @declineabortion.

*****

This article was published in AZ Free News and is reproduced with permission.

Image Credit: Pixabay Royalty Free

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1 in Every 39 Americans Will Die of a Drug Overdose at Current Rate

By James D. Agresti

Editors’ Note: The number of deaths is truly shocking. Our present approach to drug usage is not working. We have more addiction, more homeless, and more deaths. Those are objective facts. Why do so many people today seek chemical answers to life problems or simply for “recreation”? As a society, we need to figure that out. It has long been assumed that each person would figure that out. How is that working? The argument has been made to “de-criminalize” what is a “victimless” crime. It is no worse than alcohol they said, although alcohol addiction is terrible as well. From a libertarian perspective, we had some sympathy with that viewpoint. Adults should be able to control their body and what goes in to it. But what if people don’t act like adults, even if they qualify in age?

There seem to be plenty of victims, not only fatalities but wrecked lives plus the loved ones and families they leave behind or burden. The fact that drug use is no longer illegal does not obviate the moral crime of killing yourself or others. Nor do your “rights” to “recreational use” give you special dispensation for ruining neighborhoods or the lives of relatives. The assumption was that with “freedom” rational decision making would take place, but the addictive nature of drug dependency seems to overwhelm what shreds of rationality most people have left. Most of our homeless are not without housing because of the cost of shelter, but rather because of their chosen drug-dependent state.  It certainly is true that the law did not stop people from using, but it does appear that the lifting of all societal sanctions (you see, it is a chosen “lifestyle”) has made matters much worse. Maybe our grandparents were much smarter than we thought.

Despite the passage of state and federal laws that were supposed to reduce fatal drug overdoses, the annual U.S. drug overdose death rate has quintupled over recent decades:

chart

Over the most current year of available data, more than 110,000 people in the U.S. died of drug overdoses, a rate of 33 per 100,000 population.

In order to measure these deaths in clear, relevant terms, Just Facts enlisted the expertise of a licensed actuary and a Ph.D. mathematician to calculate, double-check, and triple-check the average lifetime odds of dying of a drug overdose.

The shocking result of these calculations is that 1 in 39 people will have their lives cut short by drug overdoses if the rate of such deaths stays at the current level. Those odds will become far worse if the rising trend continues.

Context & Data Sources

The lifetime risks of tragic events are much more revealing than the raw numbers or annual rates commonly reported by government agencies and the media. This is partly because the U.S. is the third-most populous nation in the world, so tens, hundreds, or even thousands of events may amount to a very low risk.

The other reason, which is less obvious, is explained by a 1987 Department of Justice report on the likelihood of being a crime victim:

Annual victimization rates alone do not convey the full impact of crime as it affects people. No one would express his or her concern by saying, “I am terribly afraid of being mugged between January and December of this year.” People are worried about the possibility that at some time in their lives they will be robbed or raped or assaulted, or their houses will be burglarized.

Each month, the CDC estimates drug overdose deaths based on data reported by the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The latest estimates, which include deaths up through June 2023, show that 111,877 people died of a drug overdose in the prior 12 months.

To place such figures into the broader context of the U.S. population and people’s lifespans, Just Facts asked a licensed actuary to develop a method for calculating the average lifetime risk of death from various causes. The actuary used two separate methods, both of which yielded the same results. To further ensure accuracy, Just Facts had a Ph.D. mathematician check the formulas.

Applying this methodology to the CDC’s latest estimates of overdose deaths, roughly 1 in every 39 people will die of drug overdose if the rate of such deaths stays at its current level. (The data and calculations are available in this spreadsheet.)

Breaking down these deaths into major categories:

  • 92% of fatal drug overdoses are accidental.
  • 4% are suicides.
  • less than 1% are homicides.
  • 84% involve illicit drugs like fentanyl, heroin, cocaine, and meth.
  • 23% involve prescription drugs like codeine, hydrocodone, tramadol, and amphetamine.
  • males are more than twice as likely to die of drug overdoses than females.

Other than males and females, the categories above don’t sum to 100% because some overdose deaths are of undetermined intent and some involve a combination of illicit and prescription drugs.

Considered over the course of a lifetime, the average lifetime odds are currently about:

  • 1 in 42 for accidental drug overdoses.
  • 1 in 937 for suicidal drug overdoses.
  • 1 in 46 for illicit drug overdoses.
  • 1 in 171 for prescription drug overdoses.
  • 1 in 29 for males.
  • 1 in 64 for females.

Years of Life Lost

Beyond lifetime risk, another important measure of a mortal danger is the years of life that it robs from its victims. Because humans cannot prevent death but only delay it, there is a material difference between the tragic premature deaths of a 20-year-old in the prime of her life and a 90-year-old in poor health.

Although some leading medical scholars ignored that vital fact during the Covid-19 pandemic, a 1983 CDC report about fatal accidents explains that the “the allocation of health resources must consider not only the number of deaths by cause but also by age.”

The average age of people who die of drug overdoses is about 43 years, while the average U.S. lifespan is about 77 years. In contrast, the average age of people whose deaths involved Covid-19 is about 75 years. Yet, government officials locked down entire states for extended periods to prevent the spread of Covid, causing multitudes of collateral deaths. This likely included overdoses, which soared in the wake of these measures.

One of the most sinister elements of drug overdoses is that a single night of youthful indiscretion can end an otherwise promising life. This occurs when partygoers take what they believe to be a prescription pill that—unbeknownst to them—is laced with a highly toxic drug like fentanyl.

As explained by the authors of a 2022 paper in the Journal of Adolescent Health:

Adolescents are at a greater risk of death from substance use due to increased risk-taking behaviors, lack of experience, lower tolerance levels, and an optimistic bias that they are invincible to overdose.

******

James D. Agresti is the president of Just Facts, a research institute dedicated to publishing facts about public policies and teaching research skills. This article is reproduced with permission.

TAKE ACTION

As we move through 2023 and into the next election cycle, The Prickly Pear will resume Take Action recommendations and information.

Weekend Read: Imprimis – Inside the Transgender Empire thumbnail

Weekend Read: Imprimis – Inside the Transgender Empire

By Christopher F. Rufo

The following is adapted from a talk delivered on September 12, 2023, at the Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship on Hillsdale’s Washington, D.C., campus, as part of the AWC Family Foundation Lecture Series.

The transgender movement is pressing its agenda everywhere. Most publicly, activist teachers are using classrooms to propagandize on its behalf and activist health professionals are promoting the mutilation of children under the euphemistic banner of “gender-affirming care.” The sudden and pervasive rise of this movement provokes two questions: where did it come from, and how has it proved so successful? The story goes deeper than most Americans know.

In the late 1980s, a group of academics, including Judith Butler, Gayle Rubin, Sandy Stone, and Susan Stryker, established the disciplines of “queer theory” and “transgender studies.” These academics believed gender to be a “social construct” used to oppress racial and sexual minorities, and they denounced the traditional categories of man and woman as a false binary that was conceived to support the system of “heteronormativity”—i.e., the white, male, heterosexual power structure. This system, they argued, had to be ruthlessly deconstructed. And the best way to achieve this, they argued further, was to promote transgenderism. If men can become women, and women men, they believed, the natural structure of Creation could be toppled.

Susan Stryker, a male-to-female transgender professor currently at the University of Arizona, revealed the general thrust and tone of transgender ideology in his Kessler Award Lecture at the City University of New York in 2008, describing his work as “a secular sermon that unabashedly advocates embracing a disruptive and refigurative genderqueer or transgender power as a spiritual resource for social and environmental transformation.” In Stryker’s best-known essay, “My Words to Victor Frankenstein above the Village of Chamounix: Performing Transgender Rage,” he contends that the “transsexual body” is a “technological construction” that represents a war against Western society. “I am a transsexual, and therefore I am a monster,” Stryker writes. And this monster, he continues, is destined to channel its “rage and revenge” against the “naturalized heterosexual order”; against “‘traditional family values’”; and against the “hegemonic oppression” of nature itself.

It is clear from this and from other transgender scholarship that the transgender movement is inherently political. Its reconstruction of personal identity is meant to advance a collective political reconstruction or transformation. Some trans activists even view their movement as the future of Marxism. In a collection of essays titled Transgender Marxism, activist writer Rosa Lee argues that trans people can serve as the new vanguard of the proletariat, promising to abolish heteronormativity in the same way that orthodox Marxism promised to abolish capitalism.

“In a different era,” Lee writes,

Marxists spoke of the construction of a “new socialist man” as a crucial task in the broader process of socialist construction. Today, in a time of both rising fascism and an emergent socialist movement, our challenge is transsexualising our Marxism. We should think [of] the project of transition to communism in our time—communisation—as including the transition to new communist selves, new ways of being and relating to one another.

This is the great project of the transgender movement: to abolish the distinctions of man and woman, to transcend the limitations established by God and nature, and to connect the personal struggle of trans individuals to the political struggle to transform society in a radical way.

From the Fringes to the Center

The trans movement was hatched, then, on the fringes of American academia. But how did it move so quickly to the center of American public life? Like many other things, it began with a flood of cash, as some of the wealthiest people in the country began devoting enormous sums of money to promote transgenderism.

One of these people is Jennifer Pritzker, who was born James Pritzker in 1950. After serving several years in the U.S. Army, Pritzker went into business, having inherited a sizable part of the Hyatt hotel fortune. In 2013, he announced a male-to-female gender transition and was celebrated in the press as the “first trans billionaire.” Almost immediately, he began donating untold millions to universities, schools, hospitals, and activist organizations to promote queer theory and trans medical experiments.

This money was allied with political power, as Pritzker’s cousin, Illinois Democrat Governor J.B. Pritzker, signed legislation in 2019, his first year in office, to inject gender theory into the state education curriculum and to direct state Medicaid funds toward transgender surgeries. Speaking before an audience of trans activists, he proclaimed:

[O]ur state government is firmly on your side, on the side of every gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer person in the state of Illinois. . . . Those of you in this room know better than anyone that marriage equality was never the endgame. . . . We’re gonna make sure that all transgender Illinoisans are ensured their basic human rights and that healthcare services are provided to them so that they can thrive.

Here’s an example of how this combination of well-funded activism and political influence works in practice: Pritzker-funded activists at Lurie Children’s Hospital (the largest children’s hospital in Chicago) provide local schools with training, materials, and personnel who promote gender transitions for children, using the hospital’s reputation to give their ideology a scientific veneer. And the more one investigates, the worse it gets. Children are exposed, for instance, not only to trans ideology, but to concepts such as “kink” (unusual tastes in sexual behavior), “BDSM” (bondage, domination, submission, and masochism), binders to flatten breasts, and prosthetic penises.

Lurie Children’s Hospital, through its outreach presentations in Chicago public schools, encourages teachers and school administrators to support “gender diversity” in their districts, automatically “affirm” students who announce sexual transitions, and “communicate a non-binary understanding of gender” to children in the classroom. The objective, as one version of the presentation suggests, is to disrupt the “entrenched [gender] norms in western society” and facilitate the transition to a more “gender creative” world. School districts are encouraged to designate “Gender Support Coordinators” to help facilitate children’s sexual and gender transitions, which, under the recommended “confidentiality” policy, can be kept secret from parents and families.

In effect, this results in a sophisticated school-to-gender-clinic pipeline. Teachers, counselors, doctors, and activists on social media and elsewhere—many of whom are employed or subsidized by members of the Pritzker family—push children in the direction of what Chicago-area “detransitioner” Helena Kerschner, recalling her own experience, calls “the trans identity rabbit hole.” And despite frequent claims to the contrary, this is not a temporary or reversible process. Of the children who begin puberty blockers, the medical literature suggests that approximately 95 percent move on to cross-sex hormones, and that 50 percent of the females who begin cross-sex hormone treatments move on to “trans-affirming” surgeries.

The Synthesis of All Oppressions

Another place my investigation of the trans movement has taken me is Highland Park, Michigan, a city of roughly 9,000 residents located about six miles north of downtown Detroit. Highland Park has been plagued by poverty, violence, and crime for decades. Many of its homes and businesses have been abandoned or demolished. It is teetering on the edge of insolvency, yet it is home to one institution that is overflowing with funds: the Ruth Ellis Center, metro Detroit’s central laboratory for the synthesis of transgender science and politics.

The Ruth Ellis Center’s marketing pitch is an amalgam of all the usual euphemisms: “trauma-informed care,” “restorative justice,” “harm reduction,” “racial equity,” and “gender-affirming care.” In the name of these things, the Ellis Center and its partners conduct large-scale medical experiments on a population of predominantly poor black youths.

Dr. Maureen Connolly, a pediatrician at Henry Ford Health, leads the Ellis Center’s medical partnership, providing puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and surgical referrals to scores of Detroit kids. Here’s how she describes the child sex-change process:

Transitioning is an umbrella term to describe the process that someone goes through to bring their external self more closely into alignment with their gender identity. For some people that might mean changing their gender expression and the clothes that they wear or how they wear their hair. It might mean using a new name and different pronouns. And that’s wonderful. For others, it can involve taking medication to make their body more closely aligned with how they identify in terms of gender—typically, that’s masculinizing or feminizing medications or hormone therapy. People can also choose to pursue gender-affirming surgeries, which are surgical interventions to bring their body more closely in alignment with their gender identity.

Keep in mind, again, that in the context of her role at the Ellis Center, Connolly is not talking here about the affluent, educated, male-to-female trans individuals who serve as the public face of the trans movement. She is mostly talking about kids from the Detroit ghetto who suffer from high rates of family breakdown, substance abuse, mental illness, and self-destructive behavior. As such, one might suppose that they are especially vulnerable to the claim that gender transition will solve all their problems.

“My name is Righteous, first and foremost,” says an Ellis Center patient who now identifies as non-binary and uses they/them pronouns:

I think I might have been about eight years old when I remembered or that I recall having any thought of being transgender or gender non-conforming. . . . It felt like I was an outsider to this whole world of America. On top of not being, you know, a European-American, I was black. . . . Most of my dysphoria comes from people misgendering me. With gender-affirming care, I could get the hormones I needed for free.

Righteous is thus a perfect example of the new synthesis of transgender science and politics. She works as an activist not only for the trans movement, but also for a broader intersectional coalition (i.e., a coalition of oppressed and marginalized groups), including, for instance, the movement to abolish the police. She represents the identity of the oppressed by both nature and nurture and marshals this unique “positionality” to advance the full suite of left-wing social policies. 

Frankenstein Redux

In 1818, Mary Shelley wrote the famous novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. The premise of the book is that modern science, stripped from the constraints of ethics and nature, will end up creating monsters. “Trans-affirming” doctors are the post-modern version of the book’s protagonist, Doctor Frankenstein.

According to survey data, up to 80 percent of trans individuals suffer from serious psychopathologies and one-quarter of black trans youth attempt suicide each year. “Gender-affirming care” largely fails to solve these problems, yet the doctors use these failures to justify even more extreme interventions up to the final one: genital reconstruction.

Dr. Blair Peters is a plastic surgeon (he uses he/they pronouns) who performs trans genital surgeries at the publicly-funded Oregon Health & Science University and whose specialty is creating artificial sex organs. “I think what we’re becoming very known for at OHSU is genital surgery,” he says. “A prime example of that is a procedure called phalloplasty, which is the creation of a penis. And we now have a robotic vaginoplasty program [that] has been a kind of game changer for patient care.”

As I have previously detailed in City Journal, the process for robot-assisted vaginoplasty is gruesome:

According to a handbook published by OHSU, surgeons first cut off the head of the penis and remove the testicles. Then they turn the penile-scrotal skin inside out and, together with abdomen cavity tissue, fashion it into a crude, artificial vagina. “The robotic arms are put through small incisions around your belly button and the side of your belly,” the handbook reads. “They are used to create the space for your vaginal canal between your bladder and your rectum.”

This procedure is plagued with complications. OHSU warns of wound separation, tissue necrosis, graft failure, urine spraying, hematoma, blood clots, vaginal stenosis, rectal injury, fistula, and fecal accidents. Patients must stay in the hospital for a minimum of five days following the procedure, receiving treatment for surgical wounds and having fluid drained through plastic tubes. Once they are home, patients must continue transgender hormone treatments and manually dilate their surgically created “neo-vagina” in perpetuity; otherwise, the tissue will heal, and the cavity will close.

The castration business is booming. According to Peters, the gender clinic at OHSU has “the highest volume on the West Coast”—and with the help of the robot, his team can perform multiple vaginoplasties per day. The phalloplasty program has a 12-to-18-month waiting list for consultations and an additional three-to-six-month waiting list for surgical appointments.

A less common but more symbolically apt surgery performed by Peters and his colleagues is known as “nullification,” in which a smooth, continuous skin covering from the abdomen to the groin is created following a castration or vaginectomy. In other words, the genitalia are replaced by nothing. Nullification surgery is the perfect symbol for the ideology behind the trans movement: the pursuit of the Latin nullum, meaning “nothing”; or the related nihil, the root of the English word “nihilism.” Trans ideology is animated by a profound nihilism that denies human nature and enables barbarism in the name of progress.

***

The future of transgender medicine is in flux. Major American institutions have rallied to its support, with the major medical associations going so far as to call on the federal government to investigate and prosecute its critics. At the same time, some cracks are showing. Detransitioners, a group comprised of mostly young women who have accepted their biological sex after transitioning to various degrees, are going public about the dangers of gender medicine in deeply affecting personal terms. Organizations such as Do No Harm have filed lawsuits and launched advocacy campaigns to curb transgender procedures on minors. And increasing numbers of doctors, who had previously been cowed into silence, are beginning to speak out. State legislators have also taken notice. Earlier this year, I worked with whistleblowers at Texas Children’s Hospital to expose child sex-change procedures that were being conducted in secret. The exposé attracted the attention of Texas lawmakers, who immediately passed the final version of a bill to ban such procedures.

Jennifer Pritzker, Maureen Connolly, Blair Peters, and their ilk occupy the heights of power and prestige, but like Doctor Frankenstein they will not be able to escape the consequences of what they have created. They are condemning legions of children to a lifetime of sorrows and medical necessities, all based on dubious postmodern theories that do not meet the standard of Hippocrates’ injunction in his work Of the Epidemics: “First, do no harm.” Although individuals can be nullified, nature cannot. No matter how advanced trans pharmaceuticals and surgeries become, the biological reality of man and woman cannot be abolished; the natural limitations of God’s Creation cannot be transcended. The attempt to do so will elicit the same heartbreak and alienation captured in the final scene of Mary Shelley’s novel: the hulking monster, shunned by society and betrayed by his father, filled with despair and drifting off into the ice floes—a symbol of the consequence of Promethean hubris.

A doctor at a major children’s hospital had this to say about what puberty blockers do to a child’s mind, body, and soul:

This medication is called a “gonadotropin releasing hormone agonist” and it comes in the form of monthly injections or an implant. And because it simulates the activity of this hormone, it shuts down the activity of the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is this almond-sized structure in your brain, it’s one of the most primal structures we have, and it controls all the other hormonal structures in your body—your sexual development, your emotions, your fight-or-flight response, everything. . . . And I always think that if someone were to ask me, Where is it that you would look for the divine spark in each individual? I would say that it would be somewhere “beneath the inner chamber,” which is the Greek derivation of the term hypothalamus. To shut down that system is to shut down what makes us human.

This is why we must fight to put the transgender empire out of business forever.

*****

Christopher F. Rufo is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a contributing editor of City Journal, and a distinguished fellow of Hillsdale College. He is the director of four documentaries for PBS and the author of America’s Cultural Revolution: How the Left Conquered Everything.

Imprimis is a publication of Hillsdale College. It is published 10 times a year. Imprimis and the extensive archive library can be accessed at imprimis.hillsdale.eduTo subscribe for reception by home mailing and/or emailing of Imprimis, click here.

TAKE ACTION

As we move through 2023 and into the next election cycle, The Prickly Pear will resume Take Action recommendations and information.

Weekend Read – The Gem of Unplanned Pregnancy Options: ‘Open’ Adoption thumbnail

Weekend Read – The Gem of Unplanned Pregnancy Options: ‘Open’ Adoption

By Terri Marcroft

Editors’ Note: The following essay is the third of three by Theresa Marcroft published in The Prickly Pear. This series is an important contribution addressing the crisis of unplanned pregnancies in America. The first essay, Weekend Read: How Abortion Hurts Women, presents the very real long-term physical and mental health dangers prior abortion causes, largely ignored and denied by pro-abortion advocates. The second essay,   Weekend Read: The Harsh Reality Behind Single Parenting, discusses the very difficult job of raising a child or children without a spouse, predominantly as single mothers. The high percentage of poor outcomes for children of single mothers, i.e., fatherless homes, is tragic and a major factor in the breakdown of America’s social and cultural fabric. The Prickly Pear is proud to publish Ms. Marcroft’s presentation of a win-win solution, truly The Gem of Unplanned Pregnancy Options: ‘Open’ Adoption.

This article is very timely in that November is National Adoption Month – truly a celebration of life and the essential role of loving families in the lives of all children. 

Introduction

Each year, almost three million American women face an unplanned pregnancy. When a pregnancy is unwanted, and those involved are not ready, willing or able to parent, that is a dilemma with no perfect solution.

The obvious options for one facing an unplanned pregnancy are abortion, parenting and adoption, but few among us know much about the pros and cons of those three options. Let’s explore that third option.

Adoption Practices of the Past

What most people know today about adoption is based on preconceptions rooted in the past. Before the 1990s, most US adoptions were ‘closed’: the woman who gave birth was not allowed any information about the adoptive family. She was not permitted to have any ongoing relationship with her child, and vice versa. In many cases, the adoption and the very existence of this new person were carefully guarded secrets, and all involved shared an unspoken pact never mention it again.

Some adoptions were closed as a way to protect the privacy of the birth mother, as well as the birth father and their families. Closed adoption meant no fear that the child could someday find them and ask questions or interfere with their lives.

In those days of closed adoption, the decision to place or to parent typically was not made by the pregnant woman herself: She was often forced into choosing adoption by her own parents who didn’t want the embarrassment. “What would the neighbors say?” The pregnant girl was sent far away to live with a distant relative until the baby was delivered and “given up.” Then things could return to “normal.”

Sometimes a closed adoption was the preference of the couple adopting because they wanted to pretend that the child was theirs from conception onward. The adopted child was often not told that they were adopted. He or she grew up assuming—or being told—that their story was no different than any other child born to any other couple. But the adopted child knows that something is off. It’s just hard to pinpoint exactly what. Since families are not good at keeping secrets, the adoptee would usually learn the truth eventually. With that revelation comes a tidal wave of feelings of betrayal: “My whole life has been a lie!” “My parents did this to me??”

Secrecy was the hallmark of closed adoptions. And secrets are nearly impossible to keep.

Whether the closed aspect of the adoption was the will of the birth family or the adoptive family, it was a path often chosen out of fear—a fear that being honest would somehow result in rejection, shame, confusion or disapproval. For a myriad of reasons, the adopted child’s true story was buried and replaced with a carefully crafted tale.

As a result:

1. The woman who placed her baby was never able to grieve. Imagine going through the trauma of parting with your child and never being able to talk it out, receive needed help, or heal. She was not able to know the next chapter in her baby’s life or to stay in touch and see how her baby fared in the new family she made possible. Nor did that new family even acknowledge her—or the gift she gave them.
The story just ended, abruptly and without any closure.

2. Many adopted children eventually feel a desire to find and connect with the birth parents. All children want to know where they came from. It is an innate curiosity that causes children to want to know their story. For many, some milestone in their lives sparks the search. It might be their wedding, the birth of their first child, or the marriage of a child. Many search and wonder for years; many never find any results or closure. Many adoptees only find their birth parents after a great deal of research and effort. That long and painful search is a by-product of closed adoptions.

The search often leads them to sealed adoption records. Each state has different laws about opening these records. Recently, several states have chosen to “unseal” records. Other states do not allow adoption records to be unsealed and released. Sometimes the records are forever lost—destroyed in fires or moves. In these cases, the curious adoptee is left with many unanswered questions that can be painful for the rest of his/her life.

That is trauma layered on top of trauma. It’s no wonder that adoption horror stories abound.

We have come a long way since then.

We now know the harm that was caused by the practice of forced, closed, secret adoptions. Thank God those days are gone! Adoption has successfully evolved into something entirely different today.

A massive shift has taken place. The practice of adoption has completely flipped — from the closed adoptions of the 1950s, 60s and 70s to the almost entirely open adoptions of today. If there is such a thing as a “typical” infant adoption scenario in the US today, that new norm nationwide is called open adoption.

What does open adoption really mean?

It is actually a continuum of openness: Each family navigates the waters until they find the balance of contact and distance that works for them. Visits and privacy are a tradeoff, and geographical distance between the parties will require more work and planning to stay connected. Some want more contact, gathering regularly to celebrate holidays in person. Others are satisfied to exchange letters, photos, or social media posts.

At the core of open adoption is a world of possibilities. There are an infinite number of ways to structure any ongoing relationship. And adoption is no different. A continuum of options are possible. And when a family structures these new relationships in the way that works for all, inside the limits of their comfort zone, they know it. They can feel it.

Open adoption means ‘possibility’…

For the Birth Parents

Open adoption means peace of mind. The birthparents can rest assured, knowing that their child is thriving with parents who overcame many hurdles before welcoming their new child into the family. Ideally, the transparency and openness of the adoption allows the birth parents to stay informed about the child’s progress. It often includes ongoing communication between the birth family and the adoptive family. In some cases, this is worked out gradually and informally. If both the birth parent and the adoptive family want an increased level of contact and visits, they can arrange that. In other cases, adoption agencies actually require a set schedule for birth family visits to be included in the adoption contract. Sometimes there are negative experiences when the birth family and adoptive family have different expectations and cannot find a compromise. Open adoption works best with open communication.

For the Adoptee

Open adoption means that the child’s questions are answered.

The child will first ask, “Why did my mom choose adoption for me?” The reasons for that choice are as different as each woman who places her child, but the theme running through those stories is that the birthmother was not able to parent at that time in her life, and she loved her child so much that she wanted the best for him or her. She chose to place the child’s best interests above her own. It’s a brave and selfless act of pure love. Learning that the decision was extremely difficult and made from a place of love is very reassuring for a child.

For the Adoptive Parents

Open adoption means information.

Some adoptive parents are lucky enough to share the last few months of the pregnancy with the birth parents—they get to know them and gather some insight into their stories. They can also access genetic and medical information to best care for their child in the future. They will be able to provide doctors with fuller history so they can then choose the right course of treatment. It’s also possible to gather and preserve cord blood at the birth. It’s also helpful to know ancestral histories of various medical and genetic conditions and proclivities, such as alcoholism, asthma, arthritis, diabetes, heart conditions, and certain types of cancer. All of that can be very helpful.

There is no ideal level of openness. As with any ongoing relationship, work and communication are required in order to strike the balance that works well for the adoptive family and the birth parents.

The basic idea underlying open adoption today is transparency. In most cases today, children are aware of their background stories. They know they were adopted and why they were adopted. Their birth mother chose adoption at a time in her life when she felt she could not parent; she was not ready, willing, or able (perhaps all three) to parent well. So, she made the very difficult decision to go forward with her pregnancy, then thoughtfully chose parents for her baby, and then intentionally placed her child with them. The reward for making that huge sacrifice is knowing that she has helped to create a family, and being able to watch her child grow up, maybe even be treated like a member of the family.

Even when a woman doesn’t face pressure to place her child and the adoption is 100% her decision, it’s still quite challenging. Most birth mothers describe adoption as the most excruciating, difficult decision they have ever made, but one that they knew, with all their heart, was right.

These women go on to describe the rewards of seeing their baby raised in a happy, stable family. The ability to stay in touch and remain a part of the child’s life is one of the key benefits of open adoption. Observing the child’s upbringing is also a large part of the healing process for birth parents. After a necessary initial grieving period, the visits and other forms of communication can be helpful to both the birth mother and birth father, knowing that their child is well-loved.

In addition to providing transparency, another pillar of open adoption is ongoing communication. The open relationship makes this possible, but whether or not all parties opt to communicate regularly is up to those involved. This usually evolves over time. Some need distance in the first few years after the birth; some bond quickly and become a new extended family sooner. There are many possible scenarios, and there’s no “right” way to do this. Each open adoption is as unique as the humans that comprise it.

The bottom line is open adoption offers options. It offers connection. It offers answers. The people involved can forge the path and set the new traditions that work for them because everything is possible. Staying in touch is possible. Communication is possible. Loving relationships are possible.

And in this world, who would turn down one more person to love them? And one more person to love?

Summary

Current US culture presents two choices for women with unintended pregnancies with two choices and paints an unrealistic picture of both: abortion as a safe, quick, painless answer, and (often single) parenting as a glamorous, empowering adventure. Then we dupe women into believing this mirage of “solutions” by withholding the rest of the story.

But there is another choice!

More widespread education about open adoption is needed to enlighten the public so they can better advise, assist, and advocate for open adoption. Understanding the upsides of adoption done well, and openly is key. It has changed drastically in the last three decades and is a much healthier practice today. Understanding the downsides of both abortion and single parenting is another piece of the unplanned pregnancy puzzle.

The women and men who choose adoption for their babies do so out of a powerful love. They do work through the difficult times and often emerge stronger on the other side, proud of themselves and ready to embark on life’s next journey. Often the birth parents are happy that their child is being raised by people who are ready, willing, and able to parent well. And, they are often quite happy to become a part of the family they’ve helped create.

*****

Terri Marcroft is an adoptive Mom to her 24-year old daughter. Terri is the Founder and Executive Director of Unplanned Good, an organization dedicated to promoting open adoption for women facing unplanned pregnancy.

For more information, please see unplannedgood.org/. The article above is a condensed excerpt from her book Pro-Choice Pro-Adoption: It’s Time for a Loving, Positive Response to Unplanned Pregnancy published in 2022.

Photo Credit: Pixabay Free Stock

TAKE ACTION

As we move through 2023 and into the next election cycle, The Prickly Pear will resume Take Action recommendations and information.

Weekend Read: The Harsh Realities Of Single Parenting thumbnail

Weekend Read: The Harsh Realities Of Single Parenting

By Terri Marcroft

Editor’s Note: The following essay is the second of three by Terri Marcroft. We refer you to her first essay published in September in The Prickly Pear: Weekend Read: How Abortion Hurts Women. The issue of single mothers and fatherless children is a major cause of poor outcome for millions of children and the following essay is important for Americans to understand and to address.

Each year almost three million US women face unplanned pregnancy. Most believe their decision is between abortion and parenting. And most are single.

And the rise in births to unmarried women is celebrated.

The stigma surrounding single motherhood used to discourage women from choosing that option. The message from Hollywood is that single moms are the personification of female liberation and independence. Article after article inspires awe for the woman who triumphs as a single mom, from Parenting Magazine to Ranker.com.

Bucking the trend, popular magazine Evie published “The Celebrity Lie Of Single-Mom Life As Glamorous And Empowering” in May 2021. In that article, Lisa Britton described “. . . numerous starlets [are] flaunting their solo-motherhood lifestyles on Instagram, making things seem glamorous and easy,” while avoiding posting anything negative about their situations. Hollywood is framing solo motherhood as a form of female empowerment. One woman boasts on social media: “Week 2 of solo parenting and you can pretty much call me superwoman now, LOL. . . .”

Hollywood is framing solo motherhood as a form of female empowerment.

When Hollywood refers to single parenting as ‘glamourous’ or ‘fun’, they are speaking mainly about wealthy, slightly older women with established, successful careers. Of course, Angelina Jolie and Sandra Bullock can do it! But that’s very different from the teen who chooses to parent without a partner, without an education, and without a career.

Now for a dose of reality.

More Children are Living with a Solo Mother

Once largely limited to poor women and minorities, single motherhood is now becoming a new “norm.” This is due in part to the growing trend of children born outside marriage—a societal development that was virtually unheard of just a few decades ago. And more than 80 percent of single-parent families are headed by single mothers. Those single mother households are far more likely be low income and food insecure and nearly a third live in poverty.

In an effort to highlight this growing problem in America, then-Senator Barack Obama drove the point home in his June 2008 Father’s Day speech in Chicago when he said:

“Of all the rocks upon which we build our lives, we are reminded today that family is the most important. And we are called to recognize and honor how critical every father is to that foundation. They are teachers and coaches. They are mentors and role models. They are examples of success and the men who constantly push us toward it.

But if we are honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that what too many fathers also are, is missing—missing from too many lives and too many homes. They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it.

You and I know how true this is in the African American community. We know that more than half of all black children live in single-parent households, a number that has doubled—doubled—since we were children. We know the statistics—that children who grow up without a father are:
– Five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime;
– Nine times more likely to drop out of schools;
– Twenty times more likely to end up in prison.

They are more likely to have behavioral problems or run away from home or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it.”

The Reality of Single-Mother Households

Single-mother households are far more likely to be poor than married-couple households. That is the reality. The poverty rate for single-mother families in 2018 was 34%, more than five times higher than the rate for married-couple families, which was only 6%. Nearly three-in-five (58 percent) of all poor children lived in families headed by unmarried mothers. And one-in-three single moms spend over 50% of their income on housing, while 27% struggle to afford shelter. Forty percent of single moms in the U.S. have jobs that provide low wages and no paid leave. Almost one-third of single-mother families are food insecure. Two out of three single moms receive reduced price or free meals. Among the homeless families in America, more than 80% were headed by single women with children.

It’s a grim picture of a hard life. Yet, it’s reality for those who don’t have the resources of someone like Angelina Jolie or Sandra Bullock.

The Effect on the Children

Parents who get and stay married tend to be different in many other important respects from single parents—including having more time, education, and income—and it may be these differences that lie behind the gaps in their children’s success, rather than the fact of marriage itself.

It’s not only the adults who pay the price of single parenting. The Brookings Institute research shows that family structure plays a big role in the success of children at various stages of life, as evidenced by their data. Children at every age have a greater chance of success in a home where the mother is married, and a lesser chance of success in homes of never-married mothers. Children raised by married parents typically do better in life on almost every measure.

In the United States, 24.7 million children live in a home where their biological father is not present. That equates to one in every three children in America. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 85% of children who exhibit some type of behavioral disorder come from a fatherless home, as do 90% of youth who decide to run away from home. In addition, 75% of the long-term correctional facility inmates are from father-absent households.

Boys from Fatherless Homes

According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, 93% of our prison inmates are male and more than half of the youth in prison grew up without their father. Children who live in a single-parent homes are more than twice as likely to die from suicide.

In his article, “Why Young Men Become Shooters,” Park MacDougald writes, “Whatever the nominal motivations behind them, rampage shootings are nearly always a product of wounded masculinity.” He quotes Ralph Larkin, a criminologist at John Jay College who has studied mass shootings for decades: “They are the most masculine of crimes.” Warren Farrell, author and chair of the Coalition to Create a White House Council on Boys and Men, states, “There’s common denominators among mass shooters. The most obvious is that they’re male—98 percent are male.”

A second common denominator is that they’re almost all dad-deprived males, Farrell continues. “What we think of when we think of mass shootings is the people who are hurt. We don’t realize that all of these people are hurt by boys who are hurt, who are deprived of their dads, who are feeling neglected and depressed.”

Fathers are an important component in helping young males grow into productive men.

Girls from Fatherless Homes

Girls need their dads too. Daughters from fatherless homes are four times more likely to get pregnant as teenagers And twice as likely to suffer from obesity. They’re far more likely to struggle with bad relationships, eating disorders, and depression. These glaring statistics paint a dreary, difficult picture of single motherhood for their children.
As with all our options, there are also downsides to single parenting for the mother. Furthermore, if a woman drops out of school to have and raise a child, the picture is even more bleak. Single parenting is challenging—and even more so if one’s education ends, undermining career and job growth opportunities before they’ve begun.

Summary: Let’s Be Honest about Single Parenting

One thing is certain: The women who choose to raise a baby on their own, thinking it will be glamourous and ‘fun’ to have baby at home, are starting on a long, arduous road. There may or may not be extended family support. There may or may not be a steady income for life’s necessities. Almost all will find that life as a single mom is an unimaginable amount of hard work — exhausting and expensive.

Most women find a way to make it work, mustering more strength and resolve than they ever knew they possessed. (We are resourceful that way!) Many will beat the odds, rise to the challenge, and become some of the best mothers ever. It is doable, just not glamourous or fun.

The child, too, faces an uphill struggle, but not of his or her own making. Through no fault of his own, the child begins life with disadvantages to overcome, just by the nature of the family structure. The solo parent household cannot offer all the benefits and advantages that a two-parent household can offer. That’s the harsh reality. Two adult parents in the home means there is more of everything to go around – not only money and other resources but also one-on-one time and attention.

We could not have predicted this massive shift toward single parenting, or the significant disadvantages that would result from it. The last few decades’ revelations about single parenting and how those children are doing over the long-term are worth consideration.

When faced with an unplanned pregnancy, many could think that parenting is a noble choice. With complete information, however, we might reconsider. Is it really the best decision for the child? Is it in his best interests? This is one situation where we can get a glimpse into the future and allow that new-found knowledge to affect our choices today, as well as the choices we encourage others to make.

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Terri Marcroft is an adoptive Mom to her 24-year-old daughter, Founder and Executive Director of Unplanned Good, an organization dedicated to promoting open adoption for women facing unplanned pregnancy. For more information, please see unplannedgood.org/. The article above is a condensed excerpt from her book Pro-Choice Pro-Adoption: It’s Time for a Loving, Positive Response to Unplanned Pregnancy published in 2022.

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Top Pro-Life Leaders Slam Trump for Calling Heartbeat Protections for Unborn ‘Terrible’ thumbnail

Top Pro-Life Leaders Slam Trump for Calling Heartbeat Protections for Unborn ‘Terrible’

By Mary Margaret Olohan

Former President Donald Trump is drawing fire from pro-life leaders for describing Florida’s heartbeat protections for the unborn as “terrible.”

“I think what he did is a terrible thing and a terrible mistake,” Trump told NBC’s new “Meet the Press” host, Kristen Welker, in an interview that aired Sunday. The former president was referring to Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signing state legislation banning the abortions of babies after a heartbeat has been detected.

Georgia, Ohio, South Carolina, and Iowa all have passed similar laws, though Ohio’s and Iowa’s laws are held up in court. Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia have almost completely banned abortion with limited exceptions, such as for preserving the life of the mother.

And to the chagrin of top pro-life groups, Trump also would not say whether he would support protections for babies after 15 weeks of gestation, suggesting that he would seek solutions to the abortion debate that both Republicans and Democrats could embrace.

“What’s going to happen is, you’re going to come up with a number of weeks or months,” Trump said. “You’re going to come up with a number that’s going to make people happy.”

While Trump’s recent remarks have provoked concerns from pro-life groups that he does not support strong legislation protecting life, he has previously been heralded as the most pro-life president in American history—and he will always have the lasting legacy of appointing three of the Supreme Court justices who overturned Roe v. Wade.

Trump also made history as the first president to attend the national March for Life in person, for appointing a slew of pro-life federal judges throughout his four years as president, for signing an executive order protecting infants born alive through botched abortions, and for significantly cutting Planned Parenthood’s federal funding.

But his newest comments sparked a strong response from pro-life leaders.

“Laws protecting the unborn are not a ‘terrible mistake,’” Alliance Defending Freedom CEO and President Kristen Waggoner said Sunday. “They are the hallmark of a just and moral society. Governors who protect life should be applauded, not attacked. And while we’re at it, men can’t become women. This is also based on a simple biological reality and one necessary for a just and moral society.”

Live Action’s founder and president, Lila Rose, decried Trump’s remarks as “pathetic and unacceptable” in a Sunday post on social media.

“Trump is actively attacking the very pro-life laws made possible by Roe’s overturning. Heartbeat laws have saved thousands of babies,” she said. “But Trump wants to compromise on babies’ lives so pro-abort Dems ‘like him.’ Trump should not be the GOP nominee.”

The pro-life organization Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America called for “every single candidate” to be “clear on how they plan to” save “the lives of children and serving mothers in need.”

“It begins with focusing on the extremes of the other side, and ambition and common sense on our own,” SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said. “Anything later than a 15-week protection for babies in the womb (when science proves they can feel pain) as a national minimum standard makes no sense.”

CatholicVote President Brian Burch said that the former president’s remarks have “sparked concerns among Catholics over whether he is committed to leading on this issue in the way he did during his first term.”

“Pro-life Catholic voters helped deliver him the White House in 2016, and a record number of votes in 2020,” Burch warned. “He cannot expect to win again without these same voters. Any Republican presidential hopeful must draw a clear contrast to the extreme, taxpayer-funded, unlimited abortion agenda of [President] Joe Biden.”

Some, like American Principles Project’s Terry Schilling, pushed for conservatives to hold their fire and wait to hear what type of protections for the unborn that Trump supports.

“Let’s at least see what national limit he backs before the hysterical takes,” Schilling said in a tweet pointing out that Trump had appointed three of the Supreme Court justices who overturned Roe v. Wade.

Daily Wire host Michael Knowles similarly suggested that Trump has “been extremely pro-life (e.g., Dobbs, 1st POTUS to speak at March For Life)” and has “proved himself capable of winning at least 1 general election.”

“Doesn’t excuse bad answers, but actions speak louder than words,” Knowles said.

Bob Vander Plaats, a prominent pro-life activist and president and CEO of The Family Leader, argued that “when a leader doesn’t have convictions on the most basic right of all, the right to #life, this is what you get.”

“Ugh,” he continued. “The ‘let’s make a deal’ message isn’t a win for babies, and it won’t win the #POTUS.”

The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh described Trump’s remark as “an awful answer from a moral perspective” and also “stupid politically.”

“You can’t win over Democrats by going squishy on this issue,” Walsh said. “Republicans have tried that brilliant strategy for decades and accomplished exactly nothing by it. Defend life clearly powerfully and unequivocally. That’s the only way.”

Trump did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Daily Signal. His former vice president, Mike Pence, told The New York Times on Sunday: “Donald Trump continues to walk away from the pro-life legacy of our administration.”

“There’s no negotiating when it comes to the life of the unborn,” Pence said. “We will not rest, we will not relent, until the sanctity of life is restored to the center of American law in every state in the nation.”

And DeSantis responded to Trump’s remarks in an interview Monday with Radio Iowa.

“Donald Trump may think it’s terrible. I think protecting babies with heartbeats is noble and just and I’m proud to have signed the heartbeat bill in Florida and I know Iowa has similar legislation,” the Florida governor said.

“I don’t know how you can even make the claim that you’re somehow pro-life if you’re criticizing states for enacting protections for babies that have heartbeats,” he added.

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This article was published by Daily Signal and is reproduced with permission.

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As we move through 2023 and into the next election cycle, The Prickly Pear will resume Take Action recommendations and information.